Friday, September 21, 2007

Starbucks coming to the Bowery?

By Matthew Lysiak
Special to AM New York
The fresh aroma of coffee—I wanna be sedated.
At least that’s the refrain coming out of the Bowery after word hit the blogs that a Starbucks may be taking over the former Adams Restaurant Supply store on the southwest corner of Bowery and Houston was leaked on the web.
A representative for the coffee titan, who declined to be named, wouldn’t deny the move, but was quick to add that “a lease hasn’t been signed.” The Department of Buildings Web site says the property is owned by NH Lyons Inc.
Still, residents weren’t waiting for the ink to dry to lament the Bowery’s transition from gritty neighborhood to what they fear will be just another over-commercialized city neighborhood.
"The talk of Starbucks coming is just another obvious sign of the change that is happening to the Bowery,” said Lisa Price, who is the editor of, a blog about shopping, neighborhood stores and retail. “It is depressing to watch the neighborhood moving into this homogenized way of life.”
The change has also been difficult for many long time residents to digest.
That’s because the Bowery was long regarded as a low-rent working-class neighborhood. Residents endured high-crime rates and poverty, but were united by the communities rugged reputation that held its ground even as the rest of Manhattan appeared to shift.
It was also this anti-establishment attitude that famously spawned CBGB, a punk-rock music club that became a counter-culture hot spot in the 1970s and featured bands like the Ramones belting out hits like “I Wanna be Sedated.” But last year a landlord dispute led to the club’s closing and speculation is that the spot will now reopen as a bank.
That isn’t the only change. In recent years the cost of housing has finally up with the rest of the city and local businesses were quick to reflect the new clientele. This a signaled shift away from the hotbed of kitchen and restaurant supply stores that once anchored the neighborhood.
But long time residents will tell you that despite the recent attention, the real Bowery died long ago and that gourmet coffee isn’t to blame.
“If you haven’t noticed the change around here, you’re eyes have been closed,” said Trini Millet, who has worked for 17 years at Billy’s Antiques, which is located directly across from the site on the other side of Houston. “This neighborhood took the real turn about seven or eight years ago.”
Millet thinks change was inevitable, but still mourns the loss of community.
“When there is less and less of what is familiar in life it begins to make people feel numb,” added Millet. “There just aren’t many neighborhoods left—not even at the Bowery.”

Has Ridge hum been solved?

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

City Councilman Vince Gentile thinks he’s solved the mystery of Bay Ridge’s great hum-conundrum. But this columnist isn’t ready to award him a MacArthur grant.

The lawmaker was obviously responding not only to local complaints of a hum coming from the water near the Owls Head sewage treatment plant, but also a series of columns I’ve done about the mysterious sound.

It all started in April, 2005, when chiropractor Concetta Butera noticed “this awful noise.”

The hum returned in the following summers and has been so loud that some residents blamed passing trains, the treatment plant, and even UFOs — until this humble columnist floated the theory about a humming fish.

It seemed like a good fit.

The oyster toadfish has been described as “homely” for its large protruding eyes, broad mouth, and flesh-like whiskers surrounding a short snout. To attract a mate, it produces a vocalization that some liken to a “foghorn.”

But that isn’t all.

The toadfish’s spawning season extends from April to October, which corresponds to the time when residents in Bay Ridge hear the mysterious noise. The male locates a private nesting area (often using old tin cans or decayed wood lying on the bay bottom (how romantic), and then calls out in the low, mournful “foghorn” to spawning females.

“The toadfish is Bay Ridge’s story of the century,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “Fox News was even here.”

Still, despite all the media attention, the noisy toadfish was always more fish theory than fish fact — at least until I got the call the other day.

“I think we have solved the mystery,” said Eric Kuo, who is Gentile’s spokesman. “We tracked down a marine biology professor from Staten Island and he did some tests.”

Yellow Hooker was downright skeptical. But Gentile had done his homework, and had Cornell University professor of neurobiology and behavior Andrew Bass test the waters — literally.

“He came to the pier for the morning and dropped a microphone into the water and listened,” said Kuo. “He heard fish, but they weren’t toadfish.”

So I was wrong all along? We can now rule out these aquatic adventurers?

Not exactly. Turns out, there are some problems with the test performed by Bass (if that’s really his name).

Not only was the test performed near the end of the fish’s mating season, but also it is a well-known fact that these gilled Casanovas prefer to mate on hot summer nights. So why did Bass perform the test on a morning in September?

Of course, there is nothing about this mystery that has an easy explanation.

“I placed an underwater microphone into the water at several locations off of Pier 69 and heard no signs of toadfish sounds,” Bass told me, sticking to his story. “It is highly unlikely that any of the noise that residents are complaining about have their origins from fish.”

But if it isn’t the toadfish, then what is making the noise?

Like many great mysterious, every answer gives us more questions — and another column down the road.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
They call that “express”? Sources tell The Sink that residents are up in arms over overcrowding on the express bus, particularly the X37 from Brooklyn into Manhattan. Residents say that not only are the buses late, but finding a space to stand, much less to sit, is impossible. Maybe it is time to rethink the water-taxi idea. …

Hippies beware! Apple Tree natural market, at 7911 Third Ave., may be the local go-to spot for organic health foods and everything natural, but their tie-dye-wearing clientele may need a heavy dose of nag champa after hearing conservative shock-jock Michael Savage blaring through the store radio speakers. “I guess it is kind of strange, but we always turn the channel if people complain,” said one employee. …

Time to stock up on pitchforks and torches. Look for a local group of concerned citizens to begin storming local meetings in an effort to force the hand of community officials into action against a suspected crack house, on 93rd Street between Third and Fourth avenues. …

Earlier this month, Bay Ridge Neighbors for Peace held a rally outside of Rep. Vito Fossella’s Bay Ridge office to protest his support of the War in Iraq — but someone forgot to tell them they were supposed to at least pretend to support the troops. Fliers scattered all over Bay Ridge depicted American soldiers intentionally targeting innocent Iraqi civilians. …

Congrats to Ridge resident Isabella Noonan, who was recently accepted into the United States Naval Academy, where she is also a member of the crew team. Noonan graduated from Our Lady of Angels in the Class of 2006.

Masked bandits caught! Screaming raccoons pushed this Dyker man to the limit

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

We tolerate them going through our garbage and roaming the streets at night, but when they start screaming at the kids, someone has to draw a line.

That someone is Michael MacIntyre, who fought back after raccoons started verbally abusing local children.

“For some reason, this year the raccoons are particularly aggressive,” said MacIntyre, who lives on 84th Street in Dyker Heights. “I had nine of them are running around, screaming and yelling and chasing local kids and I just couldn’t let that stand.”


“Yeah, they kind of yelp aggressively,” MacIntyre explained.

Last month, a fed up MacIntyre purchased a raccoon trap and it resulted in quick dividends — he caged two critters — but getting rid of the raccoons that proved far more difficult than catching them.

He called 311, but the dispatcher sent the police, who showed up, looked at the raccoons, and shrugged.

So instead, MacIntyre did what any raccoon-fearing local would do: contact Mr. Raccoon Fighter himself, Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

Gentile promptly contacted the Animal Control Office, which came by hours later to pick up the critters and deposit them in a local shelter.

But situations like this are nothing new for the councilman, who has become the local go-to-guy for raccoon problems all summer.

Last spring, Gentile began handing out supplies of “Critter Ridder,” a humane raccoon repellant — but demand quickly exceeded supply.

“We have run out,” Gentile said, “but we encourage people dealing with raccoons to purchase repellent at local hardware stores.”

As reported in The Brooklyn Paper, the garbage-eaters have been popping up in a broad belt stretching from Cobble Hill to Prospect Park and down to Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

The cuddly (looking) critters are considered wildlife and cannot be killed (like rats and mice) unless they are obviously rabid (in such cases, the normally nocturnal beasts will be walking around during the daytime like drunks, experts said).

Alpine: It’s back to future

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Local concern that the Alpine Cinema’s heralded four-star rescue would be a box office bomb appears to be much ado about nothing.

Owner Nicolas Nicolaou is making good on his promise to restore the run-down Bay Ridge landmark to its 1920s-era glory. Like all good things, it just takes a little time, according to the owner.

“You must understand that I am committed to clean up the Alpine from the guts,” said Nicolaou. “So please be patient.”

But patience isn’t a virtue for many movie going residents of Bay Ridge.

Earlier this summer, Nicolaou took his lumps from residents who thought the repairs were taking too long. This week, he told The Brooklyn Paper that he understands the community’s impatience, but the $1-million project is just so big.

“I deserve some credit for undertaking a very expensive job that really no other prior operator cared to invest for this theater,” said Nicolaou, who bought the 85-year-old moviehouse for $6 million in 2006. “We are continuing the work in all other areas, seats, electrical, plumbing and basically getting ready to redo lobby and backstage.”

New renovations, which include a new lobby ceiling, a new lobby carpet, and an entirely new electrical infrastructure for the 86-year-old theater are already underway and the new air conditioning was installed in June.

Now that the repair work is starting in earnest, even former critics have given Nicolaou two thumbs-up.

“It looks like the owner is in it for the long-run, and that is very important,” said former Alpine critic and Alpine moviegoer Tom Brice. “This community needs the Alpine to do well.”

One moviegoing pol even chimed in.

“Knowing that Mr. Nicolaou has the commitment to make the Alpine a five-star theater, and seeing the renovations moving forward, I am confident that the Alpine will continue to operate for many years to come,” said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge). “The Alpine Theater is a clean and safe one that I frequent regularly with my family, to enjoy an afternoon or evening and see the latest movies on the big screen.”

Hardball for Ridge dynasty

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Move over, 1960s Boston Celtics, 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, and 1400s Ming — there’s a new dynasty in town.

A group of ordinary men representing Areo restaurant has become the stuff of legend by winning the Bay Ridge Restaurant and Bar Softball League Championship for the seventh consecutive year.

Like most paths to greatness, this one was fraught with peril.

In Game 1 of the best-of-three championshp series against their bitter rivals, the Blue Zoo Lounge, Areo was taken to the brink of defeat.

The turning point in the game between these arch rivals (it’s like the Red Sox and Yankees, except those rivals don’t share a block of Third Avenue like these guys) came in the seventh. Trailing 6–5, the Areo heroes tied the game on a bases-loaded walk. Then, in the eighth, Areo won the game on an Andrew Lardaro single that sent co-MVP Michael Ventra racing home.

A picture-perfect, Jackie Robinson-esque slide by Ventra got the game-winner home.

Game 2 was a slugfest, with the Blue Zoo going up 3–0 in the first. The score see-sawed until Areo went ahead for good on a two-run double by co-MVP John Sacco in the fifth.

Blue Zoo chipped away at that 10–7, but it was too little, too late for the lounge lizards, who did manage to get one run, but lost 11–8.

When the final out was recorded, the Areo champions returned to the restaurant for a well-deserved plate of the eatery’s famed baked pasta and a few bottles of red.

“I can’t put into words how proud I am to play for a great restaurant like Areo,” said Glen Young, the team’s skipper and star. “But this team, these players, have become such a family. It’s that bond that keeps us successful in these hard-fought games.”

Areo’s amazing success wasn’t always fun and games: it began with a stunning defeat.

Areo, an always-busy Northern Italian joint at the corner of 85th Street, started its title run in August, 2001 — one month before the attacks on the World Trade Center claimed the life of star player Joseph della Pietra.

The league’s games have been played each year in memory of della Pietra’s, whose still jersey hangs in the clubhouse.

One teammate says della Pietra is always on everyone’s mind.

“We definitely play to win,” said Young, an original member of the team. “But we also play every game in Joe D.’s memory.”

The league includes 101 Restaurant, Yellow Hook Grill, Canteena, Bay Ridge Honda, Pippin’s, the Kettle Black and Salty Dog, and is under the direction of Commissioner Al Marietta. The games are played in local parks and fields throughout the summer.

Anyone thinking eight-peat?

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