Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday tree again called Christmas tree in Bay Ridge


Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 4:00 AM

'Christmas' tree on Shore Parkway and 90th St. State Sen. Martin Golden refuses to rename 'holiday tree'.
The Christmas is back in Christmas tree - at least in Bay Ridge.

After demoting its evergreen to just a "holiday tree" a year ago, Bay Ridge will let a 17-foot Brooklyn evergreen regain the lofty title after snowballing criticism.

State Sen. Marty Golden, who last year blasted the decision by a local group to eradicate Christmas, rejoiced.

"The people spoke last year, urging that in the future this tree-lighting event be known as a Christmas tree-lighting event, and the Shore Road Garden Council heard this message and willingly changed the event's name," Golden spokesman John Quaglione said.

The holiday jeer began last November, after hundreds gathered at the city-owned Shore Road Gardens Park for a tree-lighting ceremony - complete with a Santa Claus and signs announcing the "holiday tree" lighting.

"It is ridiculous and absolutely unacceptable," huffed Golden, an Irish-Catholic Republican, at last year's scene. "There is no such thing as a holiday tree."

Shore Road Garden Council Vice President Linda Allegretti said her group wasn't trying to play the Grinch - it was only intending to be considerate of the multiethnic neighborhood's Jewish and Islamic communities.

"We're trying to be inclusive," Allegretti said at the time.

Allegretti didn't offer an explanation for the retreat.

"After what happened last year, I don't think I want to make a comment," she said yesterday.

This year's celebration, advertised as a Christmas tree lighting, as part of a broader "holiday festival," appears to cover all bases, said Community Board 10 Chairman Dean Rasanya.

"If they wanted to try to widen the envelope a little bit and call it a holiday tree to be a little more inclusive, that's fine," Rasanya said. "If they want to call it a Christmas tree, that's fine, too."

Golden celebrated the switch as a victory.

"You cannot take away the fact that a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree and not a holiday tree. This neighborhood wants a Christmas tree to be called a Christmas tree - that is not too much to ask," he said.

Amid community unrest, American Place clothing store cleans up its act


Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 4:00 AM

Now, that's an American Place.

The community spoke, and American Place, a bargain clothing store that opened last month in Bay Ridge and is preparing to set up shop in Bensonhurst, listened.

A week after residents outraged by cartons of cheap clothing on the sidewalk outside the store said "not in my neighborhood," the retailer has changed course and cleaned up its act.

"The outside bins were just a promotion to let everyone know we arrived, but everything is cleaned up now," said American Place owner Raymond Smour. "We like to open with a big bang."

If creating a stir was the goal, mission accomplished. Residents flooded Community Board 10 with complaints after American Place Bay Ridge's Oct. 16 opening, saying that large cardboard cartons with clothing, bedding and footwear overflowed onto the store's sidewalk.

Smour said he was shocked by the uproar, especially since when he had opened his other five stores in the city, there weren't complaints, only consumers flocking to his 99-cent shirts and heavily discounted merchandise.

"I've never gotten a reaction like this before, but now that I know, I have made some changes."

But the timing is far from coincidental. The merchant's concession comes ahead of another anxiety-riddled American Place opening, this one on the site of what had been an 86th St. catering institution, the Oriental Manor.

To fend off problems at the Bensonhurst store, Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) intervened to let Smour know that South Brooklyn residents don't appreciate a mess.

"They have already taken all their clothing inside, painted the walls and promised to continue to keep everything orderly," Gentile said after meeting with Smour. "They just needed to be brought in line with our community's expectations."

The victory was long and grueling, especially for residents hoping the Bay Ridge spot would become a grocery.

The store, at Senator St. and Fourth Ave., originally was rumored to become a Waldbaum's after a Duane Reade pharmacy closed in August, but when the store's doors reopened, shoppers were instead greeted by the large cardboard bins that quickly became the talk of the town.

But now that American Place is taking its business inside, at least one resident, who called the new store an "abomination" is warming up to the new retailer, albeit with some reservations.

"That's beautiful news, I'm so glad they finally got all that stuff off the sidewalk," said Diane Hunt, 62, who lives down the street. "But I'm still not sure what made them think that was an acceptable way to sell merchandise in Bay Ridge."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Teachers at PS 185 in Bay Ridge fight unfair parking tickets


Monday, November 19th 2007, 4:00 AM

Some Bay Ridge educators just got schooled in the ABCs of unfair parking violations.

A number of teachers from Public School 185 whose legally parked cars were towed by city workers into illegal spots, then later slapped with $60 fines, are vowing to fight the "outrageous" violations.

"I am so upset at the unfairness of the situation," said teacher Lillian Turrugiano, who was in the middle of a lesson when she was notified her car had been towed and ticketed.

"This whole thing is one big annoying nuisance."

The trouble began Oct. 26 about 8 a.m., when four teachers thought they had lucked out in finding some open parking spots on 86th St. between Ridge Blvd. and Third Ave.

Parking has been tight on heavily congested 86th St. since May, when a sewer repair project began.

"There were no signs or workers, nothing to indicate you couldn't park," said Turrugiano.

But 45 minutes later, a crossing guard told the teachers their cars had been towed and ticketed without warning after construction crews got city workers to move the cars across the street - where they violated alternate-side parking rules and were issued citations.

Now the teachers are crying foul and vowing not to pay the violations.

"This is completely unacceptable because all of these cars were parked legally, and the staff was engaged in full activity with our children," wrote PS 185 Principal Kenneth Llinas in an angry letter to the city's Parking Violations Bureau unit on behalf of the teachers.

The steamed faculty then took their case to Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) - who gave the city's bureaucracy a failing grade in communication skills.

"This is another case of one hand not knowing what the other one is doing," said Gentile, referring to a lack of coordination between employees of the Department of Design and Construction, who had the cars moved, and law enforcement personnel, who fined them.

"It's a sad commentary that I wasn't surprised to learn that DDC personnel had knowingly moved these four teachers' cars into illegal parking spaces. It would be almost humorous if real money weren't involved."

The 18-month renovation of 86th St. is slated to be completed by next fall.

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