Friday, October 26, 2007

Breast-feeding mom steamed after pressured to move


Thursday, October 25th 2007, 4:00 AM

The mother of a seven-week-old infant is steamed after workers at Floyd Bennett Field swooped down when she began breast-feeding, the woman said.

A female manager and a male security guard pressed Jessica Richards, 31, to stop breast-feeding her infant son, Liam, in public and move to a filthy bathroom - before she was pressured to move into an isolated corner, Richards said.

"I was humiliated," she said of last Thursday's incident at the Aviator Sports and Recreation Center. "They made me feel like I was some pervert putting on a show."

Richards' ordeal began last week when the Bay Ridge resident took Liam and his brother, Eamon, 3, to the Flatbush Ave. recreation center to play in a children's gymnasium.

When Liam became hungry, Richards sat down within view of a surveillance camera and began breast-feeding the baby - only to be stopped by the female manager and a male security guard.

"Just a little into the feeding, a woman manager came over and said, 'You are offending our security guard,' and suggested I move into the bathroom," Richards said.

When Richards refused to move to the bathroom, which she described as filthy, the guard moved her chair into an isolated corner outside of a surveillance camera's view.

"I felt like they were trying to put me in the naughty chair in the corner," said Richards, a stay-at-home mom.

An attendant at Aviator Sports and Recreation Center reimbursed Richards for the $4 admission fee after she left the gymnasium in a huff, with Liam still unfed.

A New York law passed in 1994 allows women to breast-feed in public places.

Lucy Koteen, a member of La Leche League, a breast-feeding advocacy group, said Floyd Bennett Field owes Richards an apology - but stopped short of calling for a boycott.

"If someone has an issue with the way she feeds her child, it is their issue, not hers," said Koteen, who was among more than a dozen furious parents to weigh in on the incident on parenting message boards.

"Asking her to go into the bathroom is unacceptable. Do they eat their lunch in the bathroom? They need to be educated on the law."

Aviator spokeswoman Christine Nicholas said that employees were being courteous by telling Richards she was on camera.

"The management only suggested she might want to find a less public place because the camera was picking it up and they were trying to help her," said Nicholas. "Aviator is concerned about the well-being of breast-feeding mothers."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bay Ridge losing hold on heritage

By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
October 25, 2007
What good is neighborhood integrity if no one can afford to enjoy it?

That is the question facing residents of Bay Ridge who are coping with the loss of several beloved structures that have recently fallen prey to developers. The issue is hardly unique to Bay Ridge, but the ongoing debate has been amplified in the close-knit community that cherishes its deep sense of tradition and is also dealing with a serious housing shortage.

For most residents, the thought of losing the familiar structures trumps the housing woes being experienced by the many renters and those looking to become new homeowners.

"If you look at what is happening to our community," said preservationist Victoria Hofmo, "eventually we are going to wake up one morning and find Bay Ridge beyond recognition."

First came the news that the Bay Ridge United Methodist, the 107-year-old structure on Fourth and Ovington avenues, will soon be torn down to become condos. Then earlier this month, preservationists looked on in horror as three of the few remaining Victorian homes, located on 74th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, were demolished without warning to make room for three three-family townhouses.

The destruction launched the creation of grass roots movements bent on reversing the trend through further zoning measures in the already heavily zoned community. "We have to do something; the trend isn't going to reverse itself," Hofmo said.

But preservation also has its price. The increase in zoning that restricts development has transformed this once blue-collar enclave that John Travolta tried to dance his way out of only 30 years ago in "Saturday Night Fever," into a community of million dollar homes and millionaire landlords.

While much of the increase can be attributed to broader trends in New York real estate, curbing the housing supply in a community where more people want to rent or own has also contributed to soaring prices.

But for City Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge), who has been a leading voice in preservation issues, the idea of having to choose either housing or development is a false dichotomy.

"We can satisfy the need for housing while preserving neighborhood integrity if we are just a little creative," said Gentile. "There are still underutilized areas, and we must accept a pro-growth attitude, but apply that belief into our infrastructure contextually."

Delving into Ridge stench

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

So the foul smell wafting from the Owls Head sewage treatment plant may stink, but it’s not going to kill us.

That big news was dumped on residents by the environmental consulting firm R.J. Lee Group at last Monday’s meeting of Community Board 10. But while local pols were busy hiring expensive consulting firms to tell residents what they already knew — that the smell of poop stinks but doesn’t kill — the problem remains unsolved.

Everyone who has ever traveled near the 69th Street Pier knows that stench, especially on hot summer days when the breeze is blowing inland. Some residents even surmised that any smell that bad had to be toxic.

The odor paranoia even provoked Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) to pony up $13,000 in public funds to alleviate the toxic fears and hopefully assist in containing the odor.

R.J. Lee’s conclusion: that the gag-inducing stench is something we will have to live with — literally.

That’s because the study revealed that the odor can’t be completely controlled.

“The simple truth is that there is no way to completely stop the odors,” said R.J. spokesman Farrell Melnick. “Sewage just stinks.”

So, where does this leave residents of Bay Ridge? Stewing in other people’s poop, that’s where.

Owls Head ingests the poop of 758,007 Brooklyn residents, most of whom do not live in Bay Ridge (forever doing away with the conventional wisdom that whoever smelt it dealt it).

That much poop in one place has to stink, right? Wrong. Fortunately, modern science has given us another option that gets closer to the actual source of this smelly dilemma.

But it would take a big push, not to mention $17.99 plus shipping.

That’s the cost of the exciting new drug on the market known as “Whiff,” an extract from the Jerusalem artichoke and chlorophyll that its inventor claims completely deodorizes human fecal matter by changing the way intestines process the odor producing compounds found in your poop (read more at

Of course, by now you have to see where this is going.

If Bay Ridge could somehow convince the rest of Brooklyn to take two “Whiff” pills a day, residents who live down by the shore could begin to crack their windows again.

The ideas are endless (my favorites are to dissolve “Whiff” in Brooklyn’s water supply or pass a poop-surcharge on all meats, which contain the compounds that make poop smell the worst). But any way you twist it, the existence of such a drug should forever reframe the problem of the Owls Head stench from a Bay Ridge problem, to a Brooklyn problem.

In that vain, defecators who continue to choose to let their poop stink (yes, stinky poop is now a choice), should just do the right thing and take the pills and spare Bay Ridge’s noses.

Of course, this is America, and if people want stinky poop it is their God-given right, but this columnist can see no reason why Bay Ridge’s nasal passages should be forced to continue to pay the price.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Oh the irony: Community Board 10 member (and former chairman) Craig Eaton was recognized on Monday for his perfect attendance — but Eaton wasn’t on hand to receive the kudos! …

The board also renewed the sidewalk cafe permit for Paneantico Bakery CafĂ© on Third Avenue near 91st Street. What a surprise — Paneantico’s supplied board members with free coffee, marble cake, and other snacks at the meeting! …

The Brooklyn Young Republican Club has begun an online petition drive to stop Gov. Spitzer’s controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Opponents of the governor are encouraged to go to Supporters of the governor should start their own petition drive. …

Question: which player in this year’s World Series is from Brooklyn? (Answer: The Red Sox’s Julio Lugo, who played for Fort Hamilton HS.) …

Rosemarie Russo, a longtime community activist, died on Oct. 10 after suffering a brain aneurysm at 93. Russo will be remembered as one of Bay Ridge’s founding mothers whose many civic deeds made our community what it is today. The Sink sends condolences to friends, family, and everyone else who was touched by her work. …

Fort Hamilton commander’s, Col. Tracey E. Nicholson, was awarded a New York State “Women of Distinction” medal during a ceremony on Oct. 18 at the base. Nicholson is the first female to command Fort Hamilton in its 182 years of existence and one of the first African-American females to command an installation in the United States. Talk about distinction! State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) made the presentation.

Owls head stinks, but it won’t kill

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The odors coming out of the Owls Head Water Pollution plant may never fully be contained — but the good news is that the smell won’t kill you!

Those are the main findings of a $13,000 study unveiled at last Monday’s Community Board 10 meeting.

“The odors are not a source of dangerous chemical or biological emissions,” said Farrell Melnick, a spokesman for R.J. Lee Group, the consulting firm that did the report, which was funded through a grant obtained by Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

“But I don’t think the stench can ever be completely eliminated.”

Residents have been complaining for years about the odor wafting out of the plant, and in particular, the “grit and scum” building, where solid waste is strained from liquid and the “primary setting tanks,” the open-air containers closest to residential buildings.

Many also believed that anything that smelled that bad had to be toxic, so they were relieved to discover that they were only inhaling harmeless human waste.

But that good news didn’t stop some residents from fuming.

“I think it would only be right if Councilman Gentile was refunded the $13,000,” said CB10 member Allen Bortnick. “I am not sure how much this benefits any of us.”

Bloomy fills Golden’s chest

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

October surprise for state Sen. Marty Golden — but he sure raised a lot of money.

Mayor Bloomberg was the guest of honor at an Oct. 17 fundraiser for Golden (R–Bay Ridge) at Gargiulo’s in Coney Island — and the $500-per-plate dinner raised a whopping $300,000 for Golden’s still-undeclared candidacy.

But those looking for an indication of what office Golden will seek were left with more questions than answers.

“The city would be lucky if he ran for mayor, but we haven’t made a decision yet,” said Golden spokesman John Quaglione.

Mayor Bloomberg didn’t endorse Golden, but he also didn’t disappoint the heavily Republican crowd, speaking at length about Golden’s leadership ability.

Golden then took the stage and offered a “state of city politics” address that touched on the need for “real reform.”

Afterwards, the audience let him know how they felt about possible run, as Golden exited the stage to chants of “Mayor Marty.”

As we reported last March, Golden has definitely dipped his toe in the Republican-light mayoral waters for 2009, but he hasn’t fully jumped in. His flirtation with a run for City Hall led some — including this reporter — to speculate that Golden would announce his candidacy at the fundraiser with the current mayor.

But, alas, the evening turned out to be merely an expensive fundraiser for Golden’s re-election campaign next year, a race that won’t to put much of a dent in his $800,000 war chest.

Graffiti busters on 7th

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

More than two-dozen activists joined officers from the 68th Precinct to fight the scourge of graffiti along Seventh Avenue near 80th Street on Saturday — and in doing so, drew a strong distinction between the real thing and the sidewalk chalk drawings made by that cute 6-year-old from Park Slope.

Two weeks after graffiti “vandal” Natalie Shea received her now-infamous warning letter from the city, the Bay Ridge volunteers tackled painted-on scrawls on storefront gates lining the avenue.

“It is really terrible to see our doors all messed up like that,” said hair salon owner Barbara Caporimo, thanking the volunteers.

The anti-grime team was the brainchild of Officer David Gallo, who decided in 2005 that the time had come “to make a statement about how we feel about our community,” he said. “We take all acts of vandalism as a serious charge.” But not all acts of vandalism are created equal.

Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann was on hand to clean up the mess, but admitted that she had no problem with graffiti of the chalk variety.

“If residents see chalk drawings, they should just look and enjoy them, not call 311,” said Beckmann. “I will even admit that I have two sidewalk chalk artists in my own home.”

DOT considers Ridge ferry

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

One resident’s against-the-tide crusade to return ferry service to the 69th Street pier may finally be hitting smoother waters.

On Oct. 1, transportation activist Heather McCown sent Mayor Bloomberg a 1,400-signature petition that demanded a ferry from the 69th Street pier to Lower Manhattan — and last Wednesday, the mayor’s office responded with a message of its own: Give us eight weeks.

The Department of Transportation told McCown that a final decision would be made “by the end of December, 2007.”

McCown’s effort got another boost from Community Board 10 last Monday, when the board voted unanimously in support of a city-subsidized ferry service.

“Bay Ridge is one of the most underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn,” said McCown, who began circulating the petition in July, despite working full time and taking night classes.

Her crusade faces an uphill climb, since she is looking to succeed where local pols have already fought and failed.

Earlier this year, Councilmen Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) secured $500,000 to transform the 69th Street pier into a ferry-ready dock. But the Department of Transportation has not spent the money to do the job — yet.

New York Water Taxi, the company that operates “taxi” boats all over the city, is warm to the idea of providing that long-dreamed-of 12-minute ride from Bay Ridge to Manhattan.

“We would certainly consider the possibility,” said company rep Robert Pandolfo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Plaza shops around

Historic hotel fails to draw major retailers
By Matthew Lysiak

Special to amNew York

October 24, 2007

As the Plaza Hotel celebrated its 100-year anniversary with a surreal fireworks show and grandiose remembrances of the century that earned it its reputation as the brand name for Manhattan luxury living, the spirit of Eloise must have been dancing to the festivities.

But now there are few corks left to be popped and the much-hyped $400 million lobby-to-roof renovation that promises to redefine elegant living ‹ not to mention unprecedented costs ‹ is nearing completion. Eloise¹s family may find the top floor a bit pricey, but at least she will have a place to shop.

That¹s because the famed hotel¹s retail landscape is in for a big change. The luxury stores more suited to the Plaza brand name are nowhere to be found while some relatively anonymous merchants are moving in.

Call it over saturation in the luxury retail niche, according to one expert. ³The Plaza is faced with a really big challenge in trying to attract high-end retail because most of the brands they are looking for already have their stores a few blocks away,² said Leslie Price, editor of retail blog ³Now they are trying a different concept by getting lesser-known and up-and-coming brands.²

Price is talking about the big names that many associate with luxury, such as Gucci, Prada, Burberry and Hermes, which are notably absent. The Plaza is mum on their view of the overall retail picture, largely because there are still many pieces left to the puzzle.

More than half the 64 spaces remain available, but if the current trend holds as many expect it to, you won¹t see any tears from Eloise, at least according to Plaza historian Ward Morehouse III.

³In an odd sense, more affordable shopping is in keeping with what the Plaza was intended to be,² said Morehouse, author of Inside the Plaza. ³It came into existence to serve the average family, not the Trumps.²

Cell phones to get Foxy

Mozilla to take popular Internet browser mobile
By Matthew Lysiak

Special to amNew York

October 19, 2007

It is official: Mozilla's popular Firefox browser will be coming to mobile phones in 2008.

Mozilla's transition into the mobile market has been the subject of much speculation in recent years, but after citing an increase in consumer demand and the success of the iPhone, the tech titan has decided that now is the time to finally expand into the mobile-Web market.

"People ask us all the time about what Mozilla's going to do about the mobile Web, and I'm very excited to announce that we plan to rock it," Mike Schoepfer, vice president of engineering at Mozilla Corp. wrote in his blog. "The user demand for a full browsing experience on mobile devices is clear. If you weren't sure about this before, you should be after the launch of the iPhone."

A company rep wouldn't give an exact date for release, but did confirm it would be in 2008.

The move means Mozilla will add mobile devices to the next platform set for Mozilla2, the next-generation browser technology also due next year. Schoepfer wants to make clear to the mobile market that it has his attention.

"We will make core platform decisions with mobile devices as first-class citizens," Schoepfer wrote. "We will ship a version of Mobile Firefox which can, among other things, run Firefox extensions on mobile devices and allow others to build rich applications."

An industry expert predicts the move will make a big splash with consumers. "The main competitors, Opera and Internet Explorer, have a reputation for being more problem-prone and Firefox is already very popular with consumers," said Sarah Anderson, editor of Laptop magazine. "Mozilla has gained a lot of ground and consumers are going to be real happy about this move to mobile."

Mozilla has yet to determine what their target platforms will be, but says it would distinguish itself from the iPhone, where Safari has exclusive rights to its browser, by being an open source product that is not proprietary for any hardware device.

The announcement comes after the release earlier this year of a new version of Minimo, a Mozilla-based mobile browser for Windows Mobile devices.

Anderson said that any way you shake it, there is no downside to the news. "Simply put, this is a good thing that will benefit everyone looking to become part of the growing mobile information market," added Anderson.

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