Friday, November 2, 2007

More affordable TriBeCa? Dream on

By Matthew Lysiak
Special to amNewYork
In the idealistic vision dreamed up by officials in TriBeCa to put affordable housing in a location renowned as one of the priciest in the world, something
had to give.

Now, local officials are learning a lesson renters and prospective first-time buyers learned long-ago: TriBeCa may be the last place to look for affordable housing, but not for a lack of community support.

“Everybody wants affordable housing in TriBeCa,” said Community Board 1 Director of Land Use and Planning Michael Levine. “The demand is there, and the rezoning proposal could accomplish it on a moderate scale.”

The idea to add belowmarket housing in the northern part of the neighborhood east of Hudson Street has been years in the making and was finally approved by the board last
month. But the plans have since been shelved in a case of not enough carrot and too
long a stick, at least as far as developers are concerned.

That’s because to be eligible for the increase in floorto- area ratio — a type of allowed building space that the board is offering to lure developers to incorporate cheaper housing — other restrictions apply. Rules on allowed height, coupled with the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s demands that all structures conform to the neighborhood’s 19th century framework would cut heavily into developer’s profits, ultimately hindering the project’s viability.

But there will be no development without cheap housing, says Councilman Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan). “The City Council has made it clear that any rezoning must have an affordablehousing component,” said Gerson. “It is unconscionable to let the current
trend persist, especially when you consider that TriBeCa has always had a significant economic mix.”

The idea of affordable real estate in TriBeCa strikes many as an oxymoron. At $1,242 per square foot, space here is among the priciest in the city. Last year, Forbes magazine ranked the 10013 zip code as the 12th most expensive in the U.S., but that
wasn’t always the case.

TriBeCa was once an industrial district dominated by warehouses before a major revitalization saw warehouses converted into loft apartments and new businesses
emerged. Now the area is a fashionable, trendy residential neighborhood.
The local push for affordable housing is part of an effort to keep whatever remains of TriBeCa’s blue-collar roots.

“TriBeCa is not just for the very wealthy,” Gerson said. “Our community is at its best when we have a good mix of all the folks.”

The syringe don’t fit

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Now that several weeks have passed since our community was tabbed the “steroid capital of the world,” at least one thing is clear, Bay Ridge deserves some answers.

Lowen’s Pharmacy and Dolphin Fitness have been named by authorities in the ongoing steroid probe, yet only one charge has actually been filed, no one has been jailed, and even more inexplicably, all three remain open for business.

Am I the only one wondering if we’ve learned nothing from Richard Jewel? Of course, you remember ex-security guard Richard Jewell, who was accused of bombing the 1996 Olympics, yet was never charged. He then underwent a trial-by-media before he was eventually exonerated – then sued several media outlets and got millions.

But almost 12 years later, government officials are still chirping like birds. In May, state agents raided Lowen’s, whch is at the corner of Bay Parkway and 69th Street, pulling out $200,000 in steroids, they claimed. A second raid on Oct. 16 yielded $7.2 million in human growth hormone, they claimed again.

After the second raid, law enforcement wasn’t as tight-lipped as it usually is.

“It was a closed circle,” once source told the Daily News. “Lowen’s processed thousands of prescriptions a month from a stable of doctors. Customers found out about these doctors … through the gyms.” That newspaper — and others — said that sources identified Dolphin Fitness, on Bay Ridge Parkway, as a roid-referral service.

I admit the innocent-until-proven-guilty thing has become a dated concept in this day and age, but imagine the daunting task of running a business, in a small close-knit community like Bay Ridge, amid charges that haven’t even been formally made.

After all, if there isn’t enough evidence to shut down these places after at least five months of investigating, how is there enough to publicly point the finger?

Maybe the charges are true, but to this columnist, that’s a hard sell. So far, there’s been months of investigation that have revealed, at best, that a few consenting adults have chosen to hurt themselves (or potentially heal themselves, if you believe Suzanne Somers, who swears that human growth hormone is the fountain of youth).

But no matter what happens, the truth is that residents will always view Dolphin Fitness and Lowen’s with suspicion — and in a small town like ours, reputation is one thing you can’t get back.

If Lowen’s and Dolphin Gym are ultimately vindicated (not that they’ve even been charged yet!), then this columnist hopes that at least they learn a thing or two from the Richard Jewel case — the lawsuit part of the case, that is.

Matthew Lysiak is a freelance writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Give that man a raise: Even though Gov. Spitzer announced his U-turn on the illegal aliens’ driver’s license proposal, state Sen. Marty Golden’s spokesman, John Quaglione, had a press release in our “In” basket the same day. That’s a hard-working public (or, more accurately, Golden) servant. …

A stretch of homes on 84th Street between Colonial and Third avenues were spooked out for Halloween and looked fantastic. …

Best deal in Bay Ridge? A generous bag of date sweetened yogurt-covered pretzels for under $2.50 at Appletree on Third Avenue near 80th. …

This week’s cold spell means the Shore Road basketball courts, at 79th Street and Shore Road, are unofficially closed for the summer. We had a good run, but now it is time for The Sink to balloon up on Peppino’s Vodka pizza (which is our winter tradition). …

Anyone notice less dog poop on Ridge Boulevard lately? We have!

New Utrecht Church turns 330!

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Once you hit 330, that’s when everything really goes down hill.

More than 100 residents showed up last Saturday at the New Utrecht Reformed Church to celebrate the old parish’s 330th birthday with an old-fashioned church dinner, followed by worship and stories chronicling three centuries of enduring the elements.

“It’s the third-oldest continuous structure in Brooklyn,” said local history buff David Elligers. “In 1790, George Washington even paid a visit, staying at a local farmer’s inn at the corner of 84th Street and 16th Avenue.”

The historic church, which is now at its “new” location at 18th Avenue and 84th Street, was founded in 1677 and is considered by historians to be among Brooklyn’s most-cherished structures, especially the New Utrecht Parish House with its magnificent stained-glass windows.

The main church building and sanctuary located next door dates back to 1828 and has had to undergo extensive repairs just to keep it standing.

The Friends of New Utrecht, a group of residents whose goal is church preservation, have helped to raise enough funds to complete a roof-restoration and are currently raising more in hopes of next renovating the walls and the interior.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Stepping Stones day care parents rip $115 parking ticket


Wednesday, October 31st 2007, 4:00 AM

It's almost like stealing candy from babies.

Furious Bay Ridge parents say they are being slapped with $115 double-parking violations by NYPD traffic enforcement agents while picking their kids up from day care - even when they're only briefly out of their cars.

"I turned around, and three minutes later they scanned my car," said Dede Leone, of Bay Ridge, the mother of C.J. Leone, 4, who attends Stepping Stones day care center.

"I went crazy on the [agent], but I can't tell you what I said because my kids are here."

Parents' complaints have escalated to the point where the 86th St. center's owner changed dismissal times and handed out homemade windshield placards pleading for leniency.

"This kind of harassment is just insane," said Dawn Ortiz. "It is just inexcusable that they are targeting parents who are dropping off their toddlers."

The agents have been increasingly issuing parents tickets since September 2006, she said.

"They run out real fast when parents are standing at cars and hit the area with four or five tickets in one shot," Ortiz said. "I don't know exactly how many have been issued, but it is a lot."

Parent Jessica Corbin, who has been ticketed twice, called it a perfect parking storm.

"They say to find a space, but it is impossible with four schools located within these two blocks," Corbin said.

Victor Gomez, another parent at Stepping Stones, said that with parking impossible to find, it could take up to an hour to walk to the school and drop his kids off and then walk back to his car.

"Today everyone has a car, and if you don't double-park, the reality is that my kid is going to be late for school and I'm going to be late for work," Gomez said.

Community Board 10 Chairman Dean Rasinya confirmed that police are targeting double-parking parents at schools - as a matter of public safety.

"Double-parking is dangerous and unacceptable," said Rasinya, a former cop. "Youngsters walking to school are being put at risk by doubleparkers."

Commanding Officer Eric Rodriquez of the 68th Precinct also defended the traffic agents' decision to slap the unsuspecting parents with tickets.

"How can we say it is all right for you to double-park, but it's a penalty for everyone else?" Rodriguez said at an Oct. 15 Community Board 10 meeting.

"I have children, too, and I am not asking for special exemptions."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A mall grows in Brooklyn

A mall grows in Brooklyn
City poised to approve Downtown center

An artist's rendering of the proposed Downtown Brooklyn shopping center. (October 31, 2007)

By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
October 31, 2007

Pick up your marriage license, pay parking tickets and shop for a new scarf -- all without leaving the building.

That could be a reality in Downtown Brooklyn if the plan to convert the first two levels of the Brooklyn Municipal Building into 22,000 square feet of retail space is approved by City Hall. The building now houses a Finance Department payment center and the Brooklyn office of the City Clerk.

If the plan goes through, as many expect, merchants lucky enough to land a spot would hit a retail jackpot, at least according to Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe Chan.

"The reason we proposed it is it's in one of the best retail sections in Brooklyn," said Chan, who said he talks to retailers daily and has received a very enthusiastic response. "This is a major transportation hub that receives as much foot traffic during the day as 86th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan."

Chan acknowledged concerns that shoppers may not be thrilled about going into the same building to shop after just settling a parking ticket, but said being consumer friendly was an easy fix. "At least two retailers would have separate entrances from the government section of the building," added Chan. "It would have an independent feel."

Prudential Douglas Elliman spokeswoman Faith Hope Consolo, who specializes in retail leasing, said it doesn't matter what's next to the store -- it's what's inside that attracts the customers.

"If it's going to be attractive with a great retail mix, then it will absolutely be a success," said Consolo. "Brooklyn has really blossomed in the last 18 months, from Whole Foods to Trader Joe's; it is becoming very retail chic."

But one frequent shopper still didn't like the idea of visiting the building that collects taxes and parking tickets, but agreed that she would give it a chance if the stores appealed to her tastes.

"That place always seems sort of gloomy," said Lisa Tizzishillo, who does her shopping at the nearby Fulton Mall. "It just doesn't look like a friendly place to go into a mall, but maybe that will change if I see a Bed Bath and Beyond."

E-mail? What e-mail

New tech lends self to murky morality
By Matthew Lysiak
Special to amNew York

If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain, then a new product may be for you.

That's because for professionals looking for workplace discretion and cheaters searching for a forbidden rendezvous, new technology may make life a little easier.

The new innovation, which lets senders cover up unwanted tracks, is being marketed by and is on the verge of becoming the first mainstream innovation to hit e-mail in years, especially for a consumers looking for privacy.

"Now with increased storage, your e-mails can last 40 to 50 years and our job is to serve as an automatic paper shredder to help people regain control over their information," said Darin Myman, CEO of BigString. "It is up to the individuals how they want to use it, but with divorces on the rise, how many people do you know want to see those e-mails read in court."

Myman cited high profile e-mail blunders from Charlie Sheen to Vanessa Hudgens as reasons why haunting old e-mails are firmly imbedded in the public psyche.

But by handing the author total outbox control that lets e-mail senders destroy or change messages after they're sent, Myman has also tapped into a lucrative, albeit awkward-to-advertise, market.

That's because up to 37 percent of men and 22 percent of women admit to having affairs, the majority of which are e-mail savvy and regularly visit chat rooms, according to self-proclaimed "infidelity expert" Ruth Houston. She believes the new feature will add yet another tool in the arsenal of cheaters.

"The Internet has quickly become the number one place where spouses cheat," Houston said.

Just ask Myman, who said the idea was inspired when his friend's infidelity was exposed during a divorce hearing. Myman said after the cheating e-mails were used by his wife against him, the idea was hatched.

But cheaters better not feel too secure because they are often exposed during the cover-up.

"A lot of times cheaters go overboard trying to hide," said Houston, adding that discovery of a new e-mail account may lead to suspicions. "Spouses tend to understand that a person who has nothing to hide, hides nothing."

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