Friday, November 16, 2007

Curtis Sliwa considering a run for city public advocate

Friday, November 16th 2007, 4:00 AM

He's about to be booted off his morning radio gig in favor of Don Imus, but Curtis Sliwa is thinking about his next job - a run for city public advocate, the Daily News has learned.

If he wins the 2009 race, Sliwa says he will do the booting.

"My first day of office would be to tell everyone to pack up and go to the employment line because there is no more public advocate," Sliwa told the Brooklyn Young Republicans at Peggy O'Neill's in Bay Ridge.

"This is a declaration of war, and the battle must begin," he said. "This is a useless position, and we are just wasting taxpayer money."

It's not the first time a candidate has vowed to abolish the office. Candidate Jim Lesczynki was trounced in 2005 by a margin of 745,035 to 17,034.

Matthew Lysiak

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Legislation is for the birds

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Bay Ridge’s pigeon man can be found most summer days on the corner of 79th and Third Avenue selling used books off a fold up table. When the guy spots a family walking by, he calmly extends his hand up in the air and moments later a pigeon swoops down and sits on it.

Of course, the guy isn’t the reincarnation of St. Francis, he just hides some breadcrumbs in his hand or something, but while the act may be a little tacky, it shouldn’t cost him a $1,000, which could become a reality if one local pol gets his way.

This anti-pigeon measure is the brainchild of Councilman Simcha Felder (D-Bensonhurst), who on Monday unveiled an ambitious plan to outlaw the feeding of pigeons. His goal, he says, in to cut down on that feared social menace: pigeon droppings.

“The people of New York are sick and tired of dodging pigeons and their droppings as they walk around the city,” Felder said. “The government needs to take responsibility for this issue and end the free reign of pigeons in our city.”

Felder is well known to readers of The Brooklyn Paper. This is the Othodox Jewish man who hid in a City Council men’s room rather than vote for openly gay Councilwoman Christine Quinn for speaker (even though he supported her!). And this is the same member of that esteemed body who started crusading against flyers and handbills after his mother got a litter summons for an errant circular.

This time, at lease, Felder has identified one of the true horrors of city living. Everyone has had that moment, usually during a nice summer day, when something hits the top of your head and after reaching in your hair with hopes that what you felt was an acorn or anything but the pigeon guano now in your hair and hand.

Inconvenient, yes, but is this really the reason we elect our public servants into office?

Yellow Hooker may not be a scientist, but on face value, the concept of trying to stop pigeons from pooping on us comes across as slightly insane. Pigeons don’t survive in the city because we feed them. They survive here because there is garbage all over our streets that they eat. We already have laws against garbage and everyone just ignores those.

I mean, no one can seriously believe that this city needs more bureaucracy in the form of a pigeon czar (that’s right, a pigeon czar!) any more than we need more reasons for law enforcement to ticket residents, or more reasons for neighbors to call 311 to report 9-year old girls throwing bread crumbs on her stoop.

What’s next? Are we going to sponsor legislation to outlaw rainy days or cursing cab drivers?

St. Francis, the 12th-century friar who was known for preaching to birds, wouldn’t have lasted two hours in this environment.

There are prices of city living that we all must deal with and the occasional pigeon poop in the hair is one of them. Local pols who are oblivious to the limits of their own powers are another.

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

The Kitchen Aink
Credit where due: Blogger “Left in Bay Ridge” told me the news: A Starbucks is opening up at 85th Street and Third Avenue, raising the community total to four. …

Last week, Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) joined former patients of Bay Imaging to announce the release of thousands of medical records held hostage by the radiological facility during an 18-month fight. Woman who need access to their records are encouraged to call Gentile’s office at (718) 748-5200. …

Watch out Gentile: Speculation is heating up that state Sen. Marty Golden’s able aide, John Quaglione, is eyeing a run for City Council. Gentile is not term-limited until 2013. …

You, too, can sue the Metropolitan Transportation Authority! In an effort to give a voice to commuters, Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) is urging residents to e-mail complaints about driving since the start of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge construction, which Fossella will submit to a judge as part of his lawsuit against the MTA. E-mail testimonials to …

CNBC’s Lawrence Kudlow was the guest of honor at the Brooklyn Conservative Party’s Nov. 1 dinner at Rex Manor on 60th Street and 11th Avenue. In addition, Sgt. Nick Badolato received the Jim Ryan Award for Longtime Service to the conservative cause. The party’s county chairman Jerry Kassar was also on hand, along with state Sen. Marty Golden and New York State Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long. And it’s not exactly lions lying down with lambs, but Kings County Republican Party Chairman Craig Eaton was also there.

High rents at root of tree price hike

By Matthew Lysiak

Special to amNewYork

November 15, 2007

You better hope that eggnog is spiked ‹ the priciest Christmas trees in the world just got even pricier.

That¹s because the soaring cost of Manhattan real estate is seeping through to the sidewalks, where tree dealers are already feeling the holiday pinch. This translates into bad tidings for city consumers already accustomed to paying unprecedented pine prices, although just how large the increase will be is yet to be determined.

³It¹s unbelievable, the cost of renting the space to sell my trees has quadrupled since I began,² said Scott Lechner, whose Winnebago will be parked next week on Sixth Avenue and Spring Street at the site of one of the world¹s most prominent tree stands. ³The rising cost of the real estate on top of the increases in fuel has created a real problem for us and all tree dealers.²

It wasn¹t always this complicated. In 1982, when Lechner began his journey into the forest of sturdy Canadian Balsams and the more fragrant Balsam Firs, setting up a stand in the city was a lot simpler ‹ and cheaper. But in today¹s Manhattan, nothing comes cheap ‹ not even the sidewalks. In the past few years, the rent at his spot in SoHo has increased from $2,500 to $12,500, according to Lechner, who plans to offset the expenses by selling more trees at the same price.

³We try to internalize the increases because I believe the tree stand is one place where there should never be sticker shock.²

The sheer volume of Lechner¹s fresh-cut inventory might help him absorb the rising fees, but the numerous small dealers scattered throughout the city won¹t be as fortunate.

That means for most residents, tree prices will keep rising, but don¹t expect residents to stop paying.

The tree market appears to be insulated from the rising fees of Manhattan sidewalk real estate prices, at least in part, by a captive audience intent on carrying on a cherished tradition no matter what the price.

Most will keep choosing to pay $250 for a 10 foot Frasier fur at the local stand when the same tree can be picked up at a nearby Home Depot for a fraction of the price because, at least for some locals, the act of haggling with a disheveled salesman and dragging a 100-pound tree 12 city blocks in inclement weather isn¹t just a tradition, but a moral duty.

³There is something wrong with taking your kids inside a department store to pick out the family Christmas tree,² said long time SoHo regular Andrew Dalton. ³I am willing to pay these ridiculous prices once a year to abstain from that sin.²

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trading stromboli for sashimi

Asians dominating larger part of Bensonhurst¹s Little Italy
By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
November 14, 2007

It¹s official ‹ sushi now rules over ravioli 32-22 in Brooklyn¹s Little Italy of Bensonhurst.

A recent walk down the famed Christopher Columbo Boulevard between 60th and 86th streets now tallies 16 Italian restaurants versus 17 Asian eateries.

The count along 86th Street from 15th to 24th avenues has Italians outnumbered by a margin of 15-6.

Asians dominating larger part of Bensonhurst¹s Little Italy Lenny¹s of ³Saturday Night Fever² fame serves a large Asian demographic. Photo
While outsiders may be shocked at the news, locals view it as the inevitable culmination of a demographic tidal wave years in the making.

³This is supposed to be Little Italy, but everyone here knows that all the Italians moved to Staten Island,² said La Bella Pizza owner Mohammed Haman, who says he bought the 86th Street pizzeria six years ago from an Italian family who crossed the Verrazano.

The new merchants are also quick to point out that Italians didn¹t get the boot, but instead fled to greener pastures with Chinese from Sunset Park and Russians from Brighton Beach filling the void. For the most part, the transition has been seamless.

³Now Bensonhurst is a diverse community and everyone has embraced us,² said New Ruan¹s manager Donald Ruan, whose Chinese restaurant recently opened at 1955 86th St.

Officials aren¹t shocked by the result, but are surprised over just how quickly the retail face of the community ‹ once dubbed the ³real Little Italy of New York² by travel writer Eleanor Berman ‹ has transformed. The number of Italians in the neighborhood, down to 59,112, is a little more than half that of two decades ago, according to the 2000 Census. Since 2000, that number has likely fallen farther.

On 18th Avenue, the site of the Feast of Santa Rosalia, Chinese novelty stores and beauty parlors now line the streets once dominated by espresso toting old men. Along 86th Street, headless chickens hang upside down outside one Chinese storefront only a block from Lenny¹s pizza, where Manero of ³Saturday Night Fever² famously ordered a slice of double- decker pizza.

Lenny¹s manager Nick Cerra says that while the changes may be hard to accept for many longtime residents, the ³Little Italy² within Bensonhurst will endure, albeit in a littler version.

³Over time, everything changes, but one thing society can¹t live without is tradition,² said Cerra. ³The Chinese are going to keep moving in while the Italians keep moving out, but Lenny¹s is going to be around forever ‹ even Asian people love pizza.²

Time capsule relics unearthed 47 years too early


Tuesday, November 13th 2007, 4:00 AM
A Bay Ridge time capsule unearthed 47 years prematurely may finally find a new resting place - back in the same old hole.

The unlikely scenario of the beleaguered time capsule, which had to be disinterred after its burial site was unexpectedly sold to a developer only three years into its time travel, has taken another bizarre twist as officials push to have it buried back in the original plot.

"It may sound strange, but I would love to see the capsule back in that spot," said Bay Ridge Sesquicentennial Committee coordinator Peter Killen. "That location has historical significance and is easily accessible to everyone in our community."

The capsule could use a good rest after the past few months it has had.

It was originally buried in 2003, during an elaborate ceremony, on the front lawn of the Bay Ridge Funeral Home at 7614 Fourth Ave., but was dug up in February 2006 to make room for condos after the owners sold the property to developers Nizar Khoury and Moussa Khalil.

"I was absolutely furious," said committee co-chair Ted General. "No one informed us that the capsule was going to be disturbed, and for a few days we didn't even know its whereabouts."

The capsule was resting undisturbed in Khoury's garage, but when committee members discovered its location, they arranged for it to be housed at the Fort Hamilton Harbor Defense Museum, where it will stay until a permanent home can be found.

"We'll store it for as long as you like; it's our pleasure," Col. Tracey Nicholson, commander of Fort Hamilton, told the committee at a ceremony.

Of course, it wasn't supposed to be this complicated.

The original idea was to preserve a piece of the past as a way of commemorating Bay Ridge's 150th anniversary.

The group collected newspapers, pictures, photo books, menus and just about everything to help future generations understand what life was like in the year 2003.

Construction on the favored site won't be completed for another two years, but if the capsule ends up going back into the same grave, the developer promised it will have a much deeper slumber.

"We would like to see the capsule on our property and it is our desire to make that happen," said Khoury. "A seven-story building is going up in that spot, and I can promise you those buildings won't be moving an inch before 2053."

South Brooklyn's still hungry for a pizza the past


Tuesday, November 13th 2007, 4:00 AM

Mom-and-pop pizzerias may be giving way to pizza franchises in the Midwest, but in Tony Manero's old stomping grounds in South Brooklyn, customers still hunger for a slice of nostalgia.

"I just don't understand how people can eat Domino's or those other pizza chains," said Filippo Giuffrie, who next month is opening up his own brick oven pizzeria on Third Ave. "I know that in Bay Ridge people appreciate a quality pie as much as in any other place in the country."

Giuffrie's pizzeria - which will be named Zio Toto, after Giuffrie's uncle Salvatore - replaces a usually successful franchise outlet, Cheesesteak Factory, which closed its doors at the 84th St. location last August after only a few months of business.

Giuffrie said his new pizzeria will succeed where the franchise failed because it will be a family affair.

"My mom is even going to be in the kitchen making the gnocchi fresh," said Giuffrie, who came to the U.S. from Italy and lives in Bensonhurst.

Southern Brooklyn's apparent insulation from the national trend of franchise pizza joints squeezing out mom-and-pops may in part be due to the downright hostility many locals feel toward their corporate counterparts.

John Miniaci Jr. of Johnny's Pizza in Sunset Park, whose father, John Sr., founded the neighborhood pizzeria in 1968, even started a petition drive in hope of blocking the opening of a Papa John's franchise outlet from moving to his block.

His anti-Papa John's petition went to the pizza titan's corporate office in Kentucky with 2,200 signatures. Papa John's didn't respond to the petition and opened as expected last month, but Miniaci insisted there was no noticeable drop-off in his business.

"It actually really burns my customers up that they tried to piggyback off the little guy, but my business hasn't missed a beat," said Miniaci. "This part of Brooklyn is very family-oriented and they expect fresh, not frozen, ingredients."

Food critic Adam Kuban, who runs the pizza-centric Web site, said the secret to southern Brooklyn's invulnerability to chains is all about familiarity.

"Most of Third and Fifth Aves. are lined with true mom-and-pop restaurants and businesses, and the owners and customers have real relationships with each other," said Kuban. "Bay Ridge also seems to have a fairly strong Italian presence, too - and they're not going to take a shine to chain places."

That's a slice of wisdom Miniaci takes to heart.

"I know you are supposed to try the competition, but I am just not ready to put that bitter taste in my mouth," he said.

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