Thursday, November 8, 2007

Trust kills the evil superbug

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

When a student at PS 101 was recently diagnosed with the feared “supervirus,” a notable event happened in our small corner of Brooklyn — communication.

It was fast as it was efficient: the parents of the infected student learned of their kid’s diagnosis of MRSA, a “superbug” resistant to most drugs, on Oct. 26 and soon after informed the school’s administration, who quickly passed the knowledge along to the city’s Department of Health and the rest of the school’s parents. It all happened within 48 hours.

Principal Greg Korrol should receive a standing ovation for the profound lack of noise — as in the absence of panic, public outcries, or rioting parents that followed the news.

Sounds easy, right? Well, apparently not. The rest of Brooklyn should take notes from how Bensonhurst handled this threat to public safety and it begins and ends with an environment of trust.

By contrast, in Canarsie, the Health Department knew that PS 211 seventh grader Omar Rivera had died of the virus more than five full days before parents were informed. No one can ever be certain of anyone’s intentions, but the move did more than anger a lot of people. It also exposed something about the relationship between the school and the community best described by one pol with a knack for clever one-liners.

“What did they know and when did they know it?” asked Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie).

Rhetoric aside, the actual threat to schools appears to be miniscule. The Health Department says the vast majority of serious cases occur in hospital settings, and that healthy people are likely to heal on their own or with little treatment. Better yet, officials are reporting that the Bensonhurst student is on the road to a fast recovery.

In the aftermath of the Canarsie debacle, local schools are now taking common-sense precautions, like at Coney Island’s IS 239, where the PA system frequently reminds kids to wash their hands.

Of course, washing hands, keeping cuts clean, and avoiding too much skin-to-skin contact with sick people is a good idea no matter what viruses are floating around, but in any crisis (or potential crisis), the most-effective weapon is the free exchange of information, which only happen in an environment of trust among parents, students, and the administration.

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

The Kitchen Sink
A big thanks to Mrs. Lauren’s pre-K class at DGK Holy Cross School, located at 8502 Ridge Blvd., for welcoming The Sink in to her class to speak about the exciting life of a reporter as part of the school’s career day. Favorite question: Do you get to speak to firemen? …

Ladies be on the lookout! Last Friday a woman on the Bay Ridge Parents message board reported a flasher struck while she was waiting for the B16 at 92nd and Shore Road. …

To the nice cashier at Associated Market, at 7918 Third Ave., please refrain from wiping your runny nose with your sleeve before handling our spy’s produce. …

Where is WABC radio host Curtis Sliwa going after the news that he is being replaced by Don Imus? To Bay Ridge, of course! Sliwa will be the guest speaker on Nov. 14 at the Young Republicans meeting at Peggy O’Neill’s on Fifth Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets at 7:30. …

Our pal Dolores Keeler wants you — but only if you’re a graduate of Bay Ridge High School, the center of learning now known as the High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology. Keeler is trying to revive the Alumni Association, so if you fit the bill, call Anna at (718) 837-1807. …

Our friends at the Rankin-Healey VFW, on Fourth Avenue near 93rd Street, had an awesome Oktoberfest. Making the scene were Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny and Councilman Vincent Gentile. Our spy sent us photos, but they were all blurry — an indication that everyone had a great time.

Vito’s V-Z suit driven from court

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Road-raging pols have dropped the legislative pens, called in the lawyers, and now must wait, wait, and wait some more.

That’s was the news this Monday after Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman James Oddo (R–Dyker Heights) filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to temporarily halt reconstruction work on the Verrazano Bridge.

Judge Phillip Minardo rejected the lawsuit, but directed both pols to return to court on Nov. 27 to see what steps the quasi-state agency will take to minimize congestion on both sides of the bridge.

The judge’s implication was clear: if the MTA doesn’t improve the congestion faced by commuters, the door is wide open to future legal action.

Fossella and Oddo took the rare step of seeking the temporary restraining order to prevent the MTA from beginning the next phase of the project, which they say has so far been a mismanaged nightmare, until they come up with a better way to move traffic.

Pols were in a rush, so to speak, because the Phase II, which will shift the reconstruction work from the right lane to the left, is set to begin — and once it does, it would be harder to halt.

The ruling didn’t succeed in halting the work, but it achieved a well-trafficked compromise, at least according to Fossella.

“The lawsuit succeeded in forcing the MTA to develop a series of initiatives today to improve the daily commute and reduce commute times,” said Fossella. “This is the first time that the MTA has come to the table with serious proposals to fix this problem.”

Fossella is referring to several concrete proposals the MTA must now come up with to minimize the impact of the project, which will be presented to his office on Monday.

The MTA also welcomed the judge’s ruling as an opportunity for more negotiations, but cautioned that scrapping the plans altogether, as Fossella has suggested, would only result in more delays, according to agency spokeswoman Joyce Mulvaney.

“We will continue to work with elected officials on ways to ease traffic,” said Mulvaney. “This is necessary work and our goal is to get the job done and get out of people’s lives, but re-designing the project at this point would only increase the risk that the work won’t end on time.”

The first phase of the 15-month $65-million project began in June, when one lane in each direction was closed for a lower-level rehab, a complete removal and reconstruction of the roadway, parapet wall and utilities, and rehabilitation of the steel beneath.

The construction has also spilled over into the streets of Bay Ridge, where on many weekdays rush hour traffic has gridlocked parts of 86th Street to a grinding halt from cars bottlenecking at the bridge entrance.

“The bridge is a nightmare,” said commuter Mark Lillmars. “Ferry service is beginning to sound better and better every day.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Topshop: SoHo's British invasion

Chic clothing store comes to Broadway
By Matthew Lysiak

Special to amNewYork

November 7, 2007

The British are coming! The British are coming!

Topshop and its cheap, chic clothing are rumored to be invading stateside with an American flagship debuting in the heart of SoHo as early as this spring.

The location at 478 Broadway, which could be up to 90,000 square feet of retail space, would replace landmark skateboard store Yellow Rat Bastard, and further fortify the neighborhood's already strong retail blend. The move makes sense, according to one retail expert.

"SoHo is the epicenter of the New York City shopping scene, and when you think of how much space they'd need and the type of walk-through traffic they'd want, it really only makes sense for them to open on Broadway in SoHo," said Leslie Price, editor of the retail blog that broke the story.

"Topshop is more expensive than H&M and Forever 21, and they operate similarly with trend-driven clothing and rapidly rotating stock."

Philip Green, whose company, the Arcadia Group, owns Topshop along with several other British retailers, was in New York in late April to scout a site for the flagship and may have been seduced by the neighborhood's diverse retail landscape that already includes Bloomingdales, Uniqlo and Prada and cheap-chic chains like H&M and Forever 21.

Broadway below Broome Street will also be getting a boost from the upcoming opening of Muji, a Japanese enviro-minimalist household goods retailer at 455 Broadway on Nov. 16th, and Crate & Barrel's CB2 which opened yesterday at 451 Broadway.

The invasion may not be the Beatles, but by simultaneously appealing to funky 16-year-olds, sophisticated twenty- and thirty- something's and Gwyneth Paltrow (as stated on the retailer's Web site), the move has already generated significant retail buzz across the blogosphere. This week retail sites from to were glowing at the news and readers were salivating at the chance to loosen their purse strings.

But solid information has been hard to come by -- a spokeswoman for Yellow Rat Bastard wouldn't comment on any impending closure, Topshop's press office didn't return repeated requests for a comment, and building owner Vornado Realty Trust also had no comment. But the tight lips haven't transpired to the consumer end, where some shoppers have already popped the cork.

"I heard the news and I can't wait for Topshop to open in SoHo," said local shopper Sarah Millard. "I think this whole area is quickly becoming the best place to shop in the city."

Bay Ridge store gets dressing-down from neighborhood

Tuesday, November 6th 2007, 4:00 AM

It's no Century 21!

Bay Ridge residents are tossing their hangers at American Place, a bargain clothing store that opened last month that they say has become an eyesore - while local officials are questioning its legality.

"Residents don't like messes, and this place is an absolute disaster," said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

"The sidewalks are blocked, clothes are thrown all over the place and last week when it rained, we got complaints that there was wet underwear all over the sidewalk.

"This just isn't Bay Ridge," Beckmann said.

The store, at Senator St. and Fourth Ave., originally was rumored to become a Waldbaum's after a Duane Reade pharmacy there closed in August.

Talks of a long-overdue quality supermarket sparked excitement from residents.

But when the store's doors reopened on Oct. 16, instead of fresh meats and produce, shoppers were greeted by large cardboard cartons overflowing with last season's clothing, bedding and footwear bursting onto the sidewalk.

"It looks like a tacky eyesore that makes the whole neighborhood look shabby," said Tony Innocete.

"It's like a giant 99-cent store that has clothing piled everywhere."

The new storefront quickly became a hot topic for local blogs, where residents vented their fears of a broader community trend of mom-and-pop shops disappearing into an abyss of discount stores.

"It's a disgrace to the neighborhood, and I've never seen such an abomination in my whole life," said Diane Hunt, 62, who lives down the street from the new store.

"It is disgusting that officials tell us they are trying to clean our neighborhood up and then they let this place open up."

The Sanitation Department has fined the bargain outlet several times for violating the 3-foot limit stores are allowed for sidewalk displays.

The business also is violating the building code by operating on the second floor without a permit, said Beckmann, who is planning to ask American Place to rein itself in.

That effort may be futile.

"Come back in two weeks when I am finished adding my new men's department in the basement," said a man who identified himself as the store's manager but wouldn't give his name. "Unless you are here for my green card I have nothing further to say."

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