Friday, October 19, 2007

Victorian era ends in Ridge?

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Local activists are asking if the destruction of three beloved Bay Ridge Victorian homes is the beginning of a broader trend. Well, this columnist has an answer — let’s hope so!

And while were at, let’s take down the whole Victorian mindset!

For those of you who don’t spend your free time trolling through the blogosphere, the controversy centers around the destruction of three beautiful Victorian homes on 74th Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

Residents were shocked — and for good reason.

That’s because the Basile Builders Group, which purchased the three properties at 318, 326, and 334, told the public last August that they had no appetite for destruction, but were only intent on restoring the Victorians to their former glory.

That was, of course, before last week when the company demolished all three — which is when this dust-up predictably went nuclear.

Mushroom clouds sprouted all over city blogs, many predicting doom.

“A community that isn’t organized enough to make a stink is what killed these Victorians, plain and simple,” posted one blogger on Curbed, a real-estate site. “The neighborhood will continue to be prey until the residents get together and pester the elected officials to get some protection placed on the area.”

A call was out for government intervention.

But while residents were busy pointing the finger at greedy developers, buyers, sellers and local pols, one community official blamed something else — that pesky little document called the Constitution.

“A lot of people called and were angry that we weren’t doing something to stop the demolition,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “But we checked that the owners [got] the proper permits, so there isn’t anything else we can do because it is private property.”

What a concept!

That’s right, private property gives owners the right to destroy their own property, even if we really really don’t want them to. This law even applies in Bay Ridge, where anti-development attitudes still rule.

That’s why this columnist finds reason to gloat in a rare case where the mob loses and freedom wins.

It’s not that Yellow Hooker is a heartless monster or that he gets satisfaction out of other people’s misery (seriously, I don’t). But I do happen to believe that property rights are more important than almost any other freedom.

It is also noteworthy that the vast majority of residents who oppose development are the ones who already own property. This means they are the ones who stand to gain financially by curbing the housing supply.

Meanwhile, renters and those looking to own — the two groups with little power in such matters — have learned the painful lesson of economics: the less housing available, the higher the prices for it.

The good news is not that the Victorians are gone, but that more housing will rise from their rubble. That’s progress.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer living in Bay Ridge. Please send your inevitable hate mail to

The Kitchen Sink
CB10 has approved a co-naming of the corner of 13th Avenue and 77th Street after firefighter Joey Graffagnino, who died in the Deutsche Bank blaze. The corner was chosen because it is near the Salty Dog pub where Graffagnino used to bartend. Rep. Vito Fossella supported the co-naming and put out the first press release on the issue: “No words or actions can ease the pain felt by his family, but this street naming will provide an eternal reminder of his heroism, bravery, and sacrifice,” Fossella said. …

More from Vito! Fossella, in partnership with the merchants of 18th Avenue, has arranged for a mammogram van. Free breast cancer screenings for women age 40 will be offered all day on Oct. 30. Pre-register by calling (800) 564-6868. …

A Sink welcome to Councilman Vince Gentile’s new spokesman, Kwame Patterson, who is filling the big shoes of Eric Kuo. We have two pieces of advice for the newcomer: a) Always return our calls, and b) Convince your boss to ditch the red ties. He’s a Democrat, for Kitchen Sink! Kuo now works for Councilman Simcha Felder, who is expected to run for citywide office in 2009. …

Earlier this month, Marchese bakery, at Third Avenue and 71st Street, closed. The owner better watch out, the Italian cookies were a hit with Tony Sirico, who played tough guy Paulie Walnuts on the Sopranos. …

Anyone else notice the unmarked blimps roaming around Bay Ridge lately? Our source tells The Sink that the blimps have been spotted all over the last three weeks hovering low to the ground with no identifiable marks. Would love to know more. …

Poly Prep Country Day wants your junk! For the first time, the Bay Ridge private school will be collecting old computer and electronics equipment, which are considered highly toxic to the environment and, worse, highly likely to be taking up too much space in your house. Bring the junk to the school’s back parking lot on Seventh Avenue, just south of 92nd Street, on Oct. 29 and 30. For information, call Shelley Ruchti at (718) 836-9800 x3230.

Townhouses KO Ridge Victorians

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Talk about an extreme makeover!

Three elegant Victorian homes on 74th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, beloved by locals for their simple beauty, have been reduced to rubble — and will be replaced by five three-family townhouses, according to the Basile Builders Group, which owns the property.

“The townhouses should be done by the summer of 2008,” said Basile spokesman John Longardo. “There is a real demand for housing in Bay Ridge.”

When asked about the design of the new buildings, Longardo said similar townhouses can be found on 90th Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

Given Bay Ridge’s strong — though not always successful — impulse towards preservation, not everyone was happy to hear about the demolition of the three Victorians.

“They were totally beautiful and charming homes that the community is going to miss,” said local preservationist Victoria Hofmo. “Residents are absolutely devastated and have been coming up to me all the time asking why these homes had to be torn down. It is a shame.”

Basile is building “as-of-right” and does not need city variances. As a result, the company did not need to see local community board or City Council approval.

Lowen’s raided — again!

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Five months after drug enforcement authorities raided Lowen’s, the popular pharmacy at the corner of Third Avenue and 69th Street, state investigators pounded down the doors again on Tuesday, this time seizing enough raw powder to make nearly a million doses of human growth hormone.

And cops arrested one worker at the pharmacy, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

ESPN magazine reported that investigators found 90 grams of raw human growth hormone, worth an estimated $7.2 million, in the Tuesday raid. They also found quantities of three popular steroids, testosterone, nandrolone and stanazolol.

One of the 20 boxes hauled away by officers contained prescription requests from the Palm Beach Life Extension Clinic, where the New York Daily News reported that St. Louis Cardinals star Rick Ankiel received his HGH, according to ESPN.

The records are being turned over to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for further investigation. Twenty computers also were seized by the NYPD.

On Wednesday, Browne confirmed that six officers are being investigated “for the possible improper use of prescriptions to obtain anabolic steroids for non-medical, personal use.” He said he anticipated no arrests of any cops, though the use of steroids “could result in disciplinary action.”

Lowen’s has presented the image of the picture-perfect mom-and-pop store on Third Avenue for decades. But the store is actually owned by Julius Nasso, who was sentenced to prison in 2003 for conspiring with Gambino crime family members to extort money from the actor Steven Segal.

The quiet image of the store was shattered back in May, when state investigators made their first raid and hauled out $200,000 in steroids and growth hormones, The Brooklyn Paper reported.

Residents expressed shock — again — that Bay Ridge could be at the heart of a Major League Baseball and NYPD steroid investigation.

“Steroids coming out of Bay Ridge and going to cheating Major Leaguers — are you kidding me?” asked baseball fan Chad Nardine. “I have always liked Lowen’s, but this is getting quite strange”

It’ll get even stranger for customers.

On Wednesday morning, Lowen’s was closed with only a sign posted on the door reading: “Due to mechanical problems, we are temporarily closed.”

Rogue sidewalk sale vexes Ridge

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Two local merchants are under scrutiny for the “disgusting” display in front of their stores — they’re using the sidewalk as part of the selling floor, officials say.

Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann said her office has been in touch with law enforcement and the Department of Sanitation in its struggle against After School Rules, on the corner of 88th Street and Fifth Avenue, and GK Department Store, on 86th Street near Fort Hamilton Parkway, both of which appear to be violating city vending laws by selling items on the sidewalk, Beckmann said.

After School Rules even has shelves against its outer wall to display merchandise.

“It is illegal, not to mention it just looks sloppy,” Beckmann said. “You just can’t build shelves on the side of your store.”

Another resident was more succinct. “It is disgusting how they just let their property all over the sidewalk,” said Sis Thomas. “Someone needs to do something about it before other stores follow their lead.”

Beckmann has personal reasons for opposing the allegedly illegal sidewalk sale at GK Department Store — it’s only a few feet from the CB10 office.

“It’s annoying,” said Beckmann. “We have that white Styrofoam stuff coming over, but every time [we] ask them, they just claim it is deliveries.”

GK’s manager, Rafi Kabu, insisted that his store’s sales strategy is kosher.

“We are allowed three feet and as you can see everything is well within that range except for a few pieces of furniture, and those are all for deliveries,” said Kabu.

A worker at After School Rules refused to comment.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We know where you are, now shop

New technology keeps tabs on habits — and location
By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNew York
October 17, 2007
It is a scene straight from a science fiction novel.

Imagine walking down Fifth Avenue and as you approach 66th Street getting a text message for 20 percent off a made-to-order dress shirt at the Brooks Brothers just around the corner.

Well, the future could be now if Acuity Mobile, a mobile marketing content provider, gets its way. That's because the cyber-marketer now has the technology to use a cell phone user's location, the time of day and spending habits to deliver customized marketing messages directly to cell phones for users who download the application.

But while some tech-savvy speculators are counting on phone-ads to be the greatest marketing tool since Google Adsense, others worry that this kind of targeted advertising crosses the privacy threshold and runs the risk of further alienating an already over-commercialized consumer-base.

The secret to balancing innovation and annoyance is respecting the consumer, according to Acuity CEO Gregg Smith.

"Unlike other annoying pop-up ads that focus on the ... advertiser, we create a positive experience for the consumer," said Smith. "The content arrives only when the downloaded application is running on the user's phone, and the offers are specifically targeted to the individual receiving them."

The cell phone advertising may represent an untapped market waiting to explode, because unlike more traditional mediums like television and print, cell phones are with their owners wherever they go. "You have the perfect storm now with the wireless networks being built out with ubiquitous coverage and speeds to get information," said Smith. "Just as cable television started off as an ad-free medium that migrated to an ad-supported revenue model, you will see wireless fall into this pattern."

Not everyone is a fan of customized ads. Some groups want to altogether end people monitoring.

"If you can be tracked for the purpose of advertisements, you can be tracked for anything," said the Electronic Privacy Information Center Associate Director Lillie Coney.

Still, another group that often advocates on behalf of consumers over privacy issues sees no harm in the ads -- as long as it's consensual. "I don't see any privacy issues, because users are voluntarily agreeing to install and run the application," said the Libertarian Party's Serf City Editor Jim Lescyznski.

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!
Lysiak exposing the lack of security at the Towers pipeline