Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pot war in Brooklyn!

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

It’s the dude versus the narc.

Two Brooklyn lawmakers — one a former Soviet engineer, the other a former police officer — are hashing it out over a bill to make marijuana legal for medicinal use.

Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) have pushed themselves to the front of the debate, only days after the Assembly passed the legislation.

The Democratic Assemblyman believes that marijuana is so good as a painkiller that it must be available to New Yorkers who need it.

“This carefully crafted legislation reflects our compassion for those [with] chronic pain and suffering,” Brook-Krasny said. “Many controlled substances that are legal for medical use, including morphine, Valium and steroids, are otherwise illegal. It is inappropriate to allow physicians to prescribe powerful opiates, but not marijuana, to relieve pain.”

Golden disagrees: “It’s inappropriately timed,” said the former cop, who hit a morning talk show on Tuesday to get the message out.

“It’s the last five days of [the legislative] session and the last thing we have to be discussing here is medical marijuana.”

Other opponents say that patients already have access to legal drugs for pain and nausea, and worry that this bill would make it too easy for the drug to slip into the wrong hands.

But Brook-Krasny charged Golden with focusing on politics instead of the people.

“How can this be ‘inappropriately timed’ when there are seriously ill New Yorkers with life-threatening medical conditions?” an aide to Brook-Krasny asked. “If not now, then when would be the right time?”

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D–Manhattan), would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other severe illnesses to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to 12 plants. Patients must be certified annually by a physician and register with the state.

The Senate was expected to vote it down on Thursday, after this edition went to press, much to Brook-Krasny’s disgust.

“Medical marijuana can be beneficial and effective for patients who don’t respond well to other medications,” he said.

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has been approved for medical use by the Federal Food and Drug Administration since 1986, though only in synthetic pill form. Consuming the drug in its natural form is more effective, but remains illegal under federal law.

New York would be the 13th state to approve a medical marijuana program. A similar measure recently passed the Connecticut legislature but was vetoed this week by Gov. Rell.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, but in New York, the bill could be nothing more than a puff of smoke. Even its staunchest supporter doesn’t think it will pass the Senate.

“No, this bill probably won’t become law,” said the Brook-Krasny aide. “But it is tremendous progress that is has even gotten this far.”

What’s Chinese for screw-up?

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The Department of Education failed the exam, but an innocent student will pay the price.

That’s the strange case of Nicole Colca, an eighth-grade graduate who was denied entry into her first choice high school, only to be placed in an Asian-language school.

There’s one problem: Colca does­n’t speak Chinese.

The trouble began shortly after she graduated from the Gateway City Academy, a middle school. Her good grades convinced her that she had a good shot at landing at her number one choice, the High School of Economics, so she was disappointed to discover she was assigned her last choice, Fort Hamilton HS.

That’s when the real craziness began.

The Colca family appealed the decision, and was pleased to receive notification from the Education Department that her appeal had been granted. And then she learned where she had been assigned: the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies.

Of course Colca never applied for the Asian language and culture school. The mistake looks to be the result of a simple tying error. The code for Telecommunications HS (her real second choice) is “K59A” while the code for Asian Studies is was “M59A” (the K is slightly above the M on the standard qwerty keyboard).

The Asian Studies school Web site makes clear that the young student, whose primary interests are economics and accounting, will spend less time on the Laffer curve and more time studying Chinese.

“Daily instruction in English and Chinese will be provided to every student,” the school’s site says. “English Proficient and English Language Learn­ers will be integrated during instructional times and are expected to comprehend, speak, read and write in English and Chinese by the time they graduate.”

Colca didn’t want her future goals changed just because someone in the Education Department couldn’t type, so her family brought the typo to the attention of the Office of Student Enrollment and Operations.

But changing this typo took more than Wite-Out.

The Colca family suddenly found itself in the midst of a bureaucratic nightmare of unreturned calls. Eventually, the family was told that the error could not be repaired because it was their error.

“The family didn’t get the school of their choice and decided to file an appeal,” said Neil Dorosin, director of the enrollment office. “But when they filed the appeal, they mistakenly requested the Asian Studies class.”

What’s Chinese for “huh”? Colca says she didn’t make the mistake, and she has the paperwork to prove it.

“I still have all the forms and anyone can clearly see that we marked down the appropriate class,” Colca said. “They are 100-percent lying.” The Colcas then turned to Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who wrote a letter urging the Education Department to reverse course.

“Her placement at the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies would be almost humorous if not for the random and determined fixation by the DOE to place a motivated student like Nicole into a program that fails totally to engage her interest or enthusiasm,” said Gentile.

Gentile’s intervention appeared to pay off (a little): the enrollment office agreed to let Nicole attend Fort Hamilton HS — her original last choice.

Dorosin continued to defend his agency. “Since they filed the appeal incorrectly, we did everything we could,” he said. “We reversed the appeal.” Justice served, right? Wrong.

Colca believes justice will be served only when her initial second choice — Telecommunications HS — is granted.

“Just because they made a mistake with our appeal shouldn’t mean it gets thrown out,” said the student’s mother, Madeline Colca.

Colca and Gentile say they won’t give up, and are hoping that the Department of Education sees the light, but until then, Colca remains scheduled for Fort Hamilton HS in September.

In the meantime, they can take comfort in a famous Chinese Proverb.

“Like weather, one’s fortune may change by evening.”

The Kitchen Sink
Is spitting in someone’s face legal? It apparently is, that is unless you get proper identification first. A Ridge woman told The Stoop she got spat at during a traffic dispute, and alertly jotted down the spitter’s license plate number. But cops said she can’t file charges unless she also gets the spitter’s name, too. Sufferin’ succotash! …

On June 16, the Canny Brothers, a Dyker Heights musical band of brothers, threw a CD release party at Three Jolly Pigeons at 6802 Third Ave. …

Schnitzel Haus, located at 7319 Fifth Ave., has a great beer selection, but the veal in our source’s schnitzel tasted re-heated. We’ll let it slide this time; after all, they do have 10 beers on tap! …

Last Saturday, Northfield Bank opened its first Brooklyn branch, at 8512 Third Ave. The ribbon-cutting was attended by local politicians including possible mayoral rivals Borough President Markowitz and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge). E-mail

Developer defends "Depot"

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper
A Bay Ridge developer showed off his proposal to build a new Home Depot--and hundreds of units of even-more-lucerative housing--along a vacant Bay Ridge rail yard, but activists quickly trashed the plan as too big for the surrounding neighborhood.
Developer Andrew Kohen made his case at a public hearing hosted by Community Board 10 on Monday night, where he asked the board to green-light an 11-story complez that will include 216 apartments (43 of which will be below-market-rate), office space and a 100,000-square-foot Home Depot, in the rail yard at 62nd Street and Eight Avenue.
The commercial land has already been cleared, but Kohen needs a zoning change to include the profitable residential homes in the complex.
And winning over the packed room was no easy task. Kohen began by stating his Brooklyn credentials.
"When I came to this neighborhood, many, manymoons ago, it was frequented by prostitutes and drug addicts," Kohen said. "But we improved the neighborhood one building at a time, and I want to continue that work."
And he reminded residents the he agreed to include the below-market-rate units in the project after CB10 asked for them.
He also pointed out that the manufacturing zone on 62nd Street between Seventh and Eight Avenues is currently an empty hole--one he would like to fill.
"We can take this empty hole and fill it with hundreds of new jobs," he said.
But the plan met resistance from many who believe the existing infrastructure can't support the growth.
"The traffic is horrendous already," said preservationist Victoria Hofmo. "The bulk of what this would be, which is three city blocks, is unbelieveable---and there is nothing comparable in our neighborhood."
Other residents shared Hofmo's concern about traffic on already busy streets that may not be able to handle double-parked trucks making deliveries, but a handful of residents did speak in favor of the project.
The developer took the critics in stride, and patiently answered all questions in a slow and deliberate manor.
"I have learned that nothing in life is perfect," said Kohen.
"If you measure all of the good with all of the bad, you will come to the conclusion that this project would be a good thing for the community."
Kohen is optimistic that any increase in traffic will be offset by the benfits the project will bring to what he called a blighted area.
The standing-room audience remained divided most of the night.
"There have been mixed reviews so far," said CB10 Distrcit Manager Josephine Beckmann. "The developer and his team have been very forthright in answering all of our questions and concerns, but this is a real big issue and wiull take some time and some more discussion
Community Board 10 will have two more meetings on the subject. The board's zoning and land use committee will meet on June 26th, at 7pm, at teh CB10 office (621 86th Street between Fort Hamilton Parkway and the BQE). The full board will follow up on July 11, location to be determined. Call (718) 745-6827 for information

Hansel and Gretel meet Bay Ridge.

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

“Everyone calls it the Gingerbread House,” said local conservationist Victoria Hofmo. “That house looks just like the Gingerbread House from ‘Hansel and Gretel.’”

It is officially called the Howard E. and Jessie Jones House, after the original owners had architect J. Sarsfield Kennedy build it in 1916.

And its fame stretches across oceans.

“I was traveling in Prague when I came across a display of the most-beautiful places in the United States,” said Hofmo. “I was shocked to see the Gingerbread House was one of the top 10 — in Prague!”

It’s not just beautiful from the outside. This candy-coated dreamhouse is sweet on the inside, too.

A real-estate source familiar with the property told The Stoop this week that the house “has a bowling alley in the basement and a revolving garage door. All they have to do is push a button, and the entire garage floor shifts so they never have to back out.”

He estimated the value of the property at “well over $5 million,” though in reality, it’s probably priceless.

“You just can’t put a value on a home like that,” he said. “It really is Bay Ridge’s best-kept secret.”

The current owners may just want to keep it that way, never answering the door no matter how many times we knocked.

New 68 Cap’n rolls into town

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

New 68th Precinct commanding officer Eric Rodriguez parked the NYPD’s mobile command post on the eastern side of his precinct last week — and promptly got an earful from hundreds of residents who took advantage of his visit.

But he didn’t mind.

“You are not going to find many communities like Bay Ridge,” said Rodriguez, who was promoted from sergeant last October. “Everyone had questions and concerns, and we think it is really great.

But Rodriguez may not have been the main attraction.

That’s because the command post on wheels is a hi-tech RV that can function as a police station (albeit with a smaller holding pen).

The flashy RV may have brought the people, but the idea was to give locals who may not have the chance, an opportunity to get to know their local law enforcement a little better, and their new Captain.

“Since our headquarters is all the way on 65th Street and Third Avenue, there are a lot of people we serve who don’t have an opportunity to get to know us,” said Rodriguez. “We stationed the command center in a place that is convenient for those people.”

The pimped-out ride was parked at the corner of 13th Avenue and 75th Street from last Wednesday through Friday.

During the 72-hour stretch, dozens of residents stopped by, some out of curiosity, others to give a piece of their mind.

Rodriguez was there to listen.

“Bay Ridge is very pro-police and that makes everyone’s life easier,” said Rodriguez. “But residents also don’t have a problem telling us what we are doing wrong, and sometimes that can be just as useful.”

Plus, it’s nice to show off the new car.

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