Thursday, July 19, 2007

D’oh! Day-old donuts dunked

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A Bay Ridge Chock Full of Nuts was recently shut down after it was discovered that the popular coffee franchise was selling stale donuts acquired from a competitor.

The shutdown occurred on July 9, three months after the rogue coffee shop’s nefarious ways earned it a mention in The Brooklyn Paper’s “Yellow Hooker” column. With the word out, the big wigs at Chock Full of Nuts’ main offices investigated whether the store on Third Avenue near 79th Street was indeed selling stale Dunkin Donuts products to unknowing customers.

So franchise executives sent in a spy to verify the allegation, according to a donut source, who wished to remain nameless.

What the spy discovered was stranger than fiction, according to the source: The Chock Full owner had befriended a Dunkin Donuts owner and arranged for leftover Dunkin cruellers, twists and other treats to escape the trash and go instead to the display case at Chock Full.

“They were selling humus, strange cookies, and pizza. It was a disaster,” the source said. “The higher-ups got word of the situation, shut the guy down, and handed it to someone they knew was reliable.”

That someone is new owner Frank Monteners, who took over the café with partner Joe Fama.

“Let me just say the former owner was not in compliance with the Chock Full of Nuts,” said Montenes, who runs three successful Chock Full of Nuts in Staten Island.

“It is no secret that they were selling Dunkin Donuts, but I can’t comment” further.

“The response since we reopened [last Saturday] has been great,” Montenes added. “But it was clear when I took over that part of my job would be damage control.”

Indeed, no one was fooled by the confectionary bait-and-switch — certainly not the donut savvy residents of Bay Ridge.

“I knew that it was Dunkin Donuts from the minute I bit into a croissant,” said local resident and pastry fan Lisa Tizzishillo. “It was so obvious; Chock Full of Nuts even left the Dunkin Donuts labels on their display case.”

Tizzishillo also didn’t like the fact that the donuts were stale — but is willing to give the new owner a fresh start.

“The place looks like it has been cleaned up now,” she said.

Skunk on Ridge attack

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Bay Ridge is starting to really stink, and I’m not just talking about the traffic on the Verrazano Bridge every weekday around 4:15 pm. I mean, Bay Ridge is starting to stink, literally.

Nature is both determined and unforgiving, and city life has a way of creating the illusion that we are insulated from her wrath, but every so often reality bites — or in this case sprays.

No sooner have Bay Ridge residents gotten accustomed to humming toadfish, raccoons and stroller moms, they now must make room for another intrusion of Mother Nature: the skunk.

This story sounds more Tom Sawyer than Pepe LePew: a Bay Ridge man was innocently taking his garbage out in front of his Fourth Avenue apartment building late one mid-July night when he heard a rustling amongst the banana peels and coffee grinds.

“I thought it was a rat,” said the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous out of embarrassment over what follows. “Living in Brooklyn, I have seen my share of rats, so I didn’t treat the noise with any special urgency.”

He soon did. First, he heard a squeal that sounded “almost like a baby-cry.” Then, he found himself being attacked by a striped culprit.

“At first, I thought I was pepper-sprayed,” said the victim. “After hearing the squeal, my eyes and mouth began to burn.”

Full disclosure: after a night on the town, let’s just say our source didn’t begin this encounter with all of his senses at peak performance, so when the spray came, he dropped the rest of his garbage and ran back to his apartment and hopped in the shower.

“I never did get a look at the skunk,” the victim said. “I guess I must have scared it or something, but it isn’t exactly something I am looking out for in Bay Ridge.”

Lesson learned. But residents should consider themselves forewarned. The skunks are here, at least according to one expert, and they are here to stay.

“We deal with city skunks every day of the week,” said Matt Liola of Anytime Pest Removal, which removes pests nationwide. “There is nothing special to us about skunks in Brooklyn, except people’s surprise that they live there.”

Liola said that skunks rarely attack, and pointed out that they give lots of warnings (like stomping their feet and squealing) before spraying their powerful scent (which can travel up to 15 feet and burn an attacker’s eyes) as a purely defensive maneuver.

“Skunks aren’t aggressive animals,” said Liola. “If you see one by your garbage late at night, just leave it alone and you won’t get sprayed.”

Or better yet, maybe next time sober up before taking the garbage out at 2 am.

“I really should stop drinking anyways,” said the victim, who said he had to trash that night’s outfit. “If getting sprayed by a skunk doesn’t wake me up, I don’t know what will.”

Matthew Lysiak is a writer based in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Not my greatest moment. Minutes after Community Board 10 voted 30–11 to approve of developer Andrew Kohen’s residential housing plan last week, the meeting came to a crashing halt as my camera smashed to the ground. To all those concerned, I am happy to report the camera is all right, though the same can’t be said of my ego, which took another hit minutes later, when I received a call telling me that I’d left my wallet behind. Rival reporter Helen Klein found it on my empty chair and turned it in, not even stealing the $8 inside! That Helen is a paragon of integrity. …

The Sink wants to give a shout-out to the David Lind Band for giving a shout-out to 69th Street in its new catchy single “Bay Ridge Avenue.” …

Look out Rudy! Bay Ridge for Ron Paul is here. For information go to, where else?, …

Wipe that off your crystal ball: Our source tells us that the new “Spiritualist,” who hangs out on Third Avenue between 80th and 81st Street was battling a nasty stomach virus — in full view of the public (you know what I mean). If you’re speaking to the dead, please ask them to escort you to the bathroom next time.

Not-so-great wall halted

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Mr. Cunningham, stop building those walls.

That was the order from the Department of Buildings, which halted the construction of a controversial house extension that nearly caused a neighborhood revolt.

The unneighborly spat goes back more than five years, but the cold war went nuclear two months ago after Robert and Cheryl Cunningham began building a 60-foot-high cinderblock wall at their home at 123 87th St. The wall is only inches from their neighbors at 127 87th St., Matthew and Jean Gershon.

At the time, neighbors of the quiet tree-lined block stormed Community Board 10 to demand answers from the Department of Buildings, which approved the application.

Sure enough, two months later the permit was revoked.

But the walls aren’t the first neighborly indiscretion, only the most recent.

“The Cunninghams have aggressive dogs, which defecate on our property, and are rude at every chance they get,” said Gershons.

Like most good feuds, this one also has some mystery.

The man who lives at 123 87th St., told The Stoop that his name was not Cunningham, but “John Moore.” Department of Finance records show that “Moore’s” property is indeed owned by the Cunninghams. There is no mention of a John Moore in city records.

Like the walls, this saga isn’t over, only on hold. Gershon believes the “stop-work” order is a good first step, but would also like to look out his kitchen window again.

“It is good that they stopped working, but I won’t be happy until that wall comes down,” added Gershon.

The stop-work order remains in effect until “the building owner” fully addresses the Department of Buildings’ “objections,” said agency spokeswoman Kate Lindquist.

The Cunninghams could not be reached for comment.

New charges against Club Shadows

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Club Shadows, the embattled Fourth Avenue nightclub that pleaded not guilty to four violations earlier this year, now wants to make a deal after getting hit with a new set of charges.

Three accusations have been leveled against the club, all stemming from a fight on June 5.

The specific charges filed by the Liquor Authority on June 5 alleged that Shadows owners with “permitting the premises to become disorderly,” “permitting an altercation or assault to occur,” and “failure to exercise adequate supervision over the conduct of the licensed business.”

Or in the words of Bill Crowley, a spokesman for the State Liquor Authority, there was barroom brawl.

“There was a fight and the cops had to be called,” said Crowley.

Details of the fight remain unclear, but the new allegations came only days before Shadows offered to settle earlier State Liquor Authority charges, the most serious being that the club did not have a proper liquor license.

“Not having [it] could possibly result in revoking the license,” Crowley said.

The less-serious charges include not registering the name “Club Shadows,” and the discovery of flies in one booze bottle, according to Crowley.

The terms of the deal are confidential until the board can review it and make its determination.

“It isn’t uncommon that a deal is made to settle charges like these,” said Crowley. “These are serious charges and the board will make a determination based on the evidence.”

The new charges are a separate matter, which means another trial, according to Crowley.

“The plea is only relevant to the old charges,” said Crowley. “They haven’t pleaded to the new charges yet, which are very serious.”

Shadows had until July 11 to respond, according to the summons.

Club Shadows, which is between 90th and 91st streets, got on the community radar screen in November, when a sign featuring the silhouette of a curvy woman was installed.

The sign also promised “exotic dancers” at the Nov. 30 opening.

The strippers never materialized, but the troubles were only beginning.

Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) brought SLA inspectors to the opening, and the agency hit Club Shadows with the four original violations.

Shadows lawyer William Spanakos could not be reached for comment.

Century 21 parking lot approved by CB10

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The parking lot that claimed the life of a much-loved bowling alley on 87th Street is one step closer to reality.

Community Board 10 signed off on Century 21’s plan to build a six-story parking garage capable of accommodating 279 cars on the former site of the Mark Lanes bowling alley.

The lot could help ease parking congestion during daytime shopping hours and also at night, as Century 21 has promised to allow local restaurants to use the lot for valet parking, freeing up space on the street.

“There is a lot of congestion caused by cars circling around the block looking for parking spaces,” said Melanie McMurray, a company representative who spoke at CB10’s July 11 meeting.

Parking would not be free, unless shoppers buy something at Century 21 and get their parking ticket validated, according to McMurray.

In addition to the parking garage, Century 21 hopes to add a level of retail space on 87th Street and plant six trees on the roof, according to architect David Nicholson.

Despite the overwhelming community board support, the extra parking was condemned by at least one constituency: bowling fans.

“The bowling alley was here for 50 years and my heart was destroyed when they tore it down,” said local bowling fanatic Tom Brice.

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