Friday, November 30, 2007

Cops help deliver baby in Bay Ridge


Friday, November 30th 2007, 4:00 AM

DeCrescenzo for News

Rebecca Encalada Williams with her baby boy, Christian Jaden.
Two quick-thinking cops delivered a baby boy who came unexpectedly above a popular pizza parlor in Bay Ridge.

Police Officers Vito Viola and Lance Sigman came to the aid of Rebecca Encalada Williams, 27, after she went into labor on the floor of her Fifth Ave. apartment Monday.

"It is the craziest story, and I wouldn't believe it if it didn't happen to me," said Williams.

Her labor actually started on Sunday, when she began to feel pains. She had her husband, Sharif, take her to Methodist Hospital, where staff examined her and then sent her home.

"They told me I had some time and I didn't feel a lot of pain, so it made sense to me," said Williams.

When the next morning came and the pain subsided a little more, she thought it was safe to send her husband off to work. But only minutes later, something began to feel different.

"I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, but then I felt the baby's head," said Williams. "I knew that once it starts coming out it doesn't go back in, so I called 911 right away."

Minutes later, she opened the door for the officers, who quickly took control, first ordering her to lie down. They got towels from her bathroom, slapped on latex gloves and instructed her on how to push.

Three pushes later, out came the baby.

The officers carried Williams down the four flights of stairs and past the Pizza Wagon, which occupies the ground floor of the building.

"When the officers delivered my baby, it felt like a miracle," said Williams.

The baby, named Christian Jaden Williams, tipped the scales at 5 pounds 6 ounces despite arriving five weeks ahead of schedule. He was held at Maimonides Medical Center a few extra days as a precaution.

"We just had the baby shower, and no one was expecting this to happen so soon," said Williams.

Williams will have one great story to share with Christian - and maybe something else.

"My baby will probably always have an urge for pizza and not know why," she said, "but I like pizza too, so that works for me."

Sliwa to city: Elect me!

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The lines between politics and entertainment are always hard to distinguish, but things got a whole lot blurrier on Nov. 7, when radio host and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa threw his beret into the political ring by announcing that he is considering a run for city public advocate.

If he wins the 2009 race, Sliwa says he will abolish the position.

“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 on Fifth Avenue.

The news that such a high profile name had formally dedicated himself to the Republican cause had the crowd cheering as if their hair were on fire (then again, what else is Sliwa supposed to do, given that he’s about to lose his WABC morning show to the “reformed” Don Imus?).

But more than running for any specific office, Sliwa spoke to the mostly middle-aged Young Republicans in a broader context of reclaiming the conservatism grassroots base — rooted in a philosophy of individualism — a message that many of today’s Republicans have shunned.

But whether Sliwa is a Conservative purist or a self-aggrandizing hack, as his critics allege, isn’t as clear.

This is the same Sliwa who admitted he had staged publicity stunts to get media attention for the Guardian Angels, including having his older sister pose as a mugging victim whose purse was returned to her by an Angel.

It is also worth nothing that Sliwa’s Angels, which he founded in the late 1970s while the Brooklyn Prep HS dropout was working as a night manager at a Bronx McDonald’s, have also made the city safer.

Whatever the case, Sliwa’s famed rapid-fire speaking style held the Youngish Republicans in thrall. He walked back and forth with the sort of tense, tightly coiled energy that suggested a snake about to strike.

Of course, he had to know that his red meat message of shrinking government would be well received.

“He came to our little bar in Bay Ridge and spoke to our group like he was speaking to the hundreds of thousands of listeners he is accustomed to speaking with every day,” said club Vice President Britta Vander Linden. “We were glad to know he was serious about getting involved.”

Maybe. Maybe not. One bad sign (at least according to this free market, school voucher, gold-standard-loving columnist) was that the one time Sliwa interrupted his fire and brimstone was to plug his upcoming “reality show” about his Guardian Angels patrolling New Orleans that is going to be taking the slot left open on A&E cable with the demise of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

“They can’t keep me down,” Sliwa told the crowd.

That might be true, but the months ahead will determine whether Sliwa is serious about embedding himself with the Republican cause or if Bay Ridge is just another stop in his own personal reality show.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Fresh from their joint appearance at a rally for Victory Memorial Hospital last week, rival pols state Sen. Marty Golden and Councilman Vince Gentile dedicated a new “multi-purpose room” at McKinley Park School last Thursday. But don’t necessarily believe that these guys are starting to like each other; the dedication at the Seventh Avenue school is in memory of two of New York heroes, Police Officer Kevin Lee and Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino. …

The sale of Griswold’s restaurant, which is located on Third Avenue near 78th Street, is rumored to be on hold, but unfortunately, it looks like the chances of the Sink’s favorite rib shine reopening are between slim and none. …

The Dyker Heights Civic Association just honored our pal Ilene Sacco with a luncheon at the Bay Ridge Manor. Sacco, a lawyer, got her plaque from the group’s current president, our other pal Fran Vella-Marrone.

Staying safe online during the holidays

By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork

More Americans than ever are expected to congest the information superhighway this holiday in search of that elusive perfect gift, but those looking to play cyber-Santa better may soon discover that even the Web has a Grinch.

That's because online consumers shouldn't expect good will from spammers and viruses whose plan is to decorate computer screens with an unprecedented assault of potentially harmful spam. Of particular concern is phishing, an attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a legitimate message from a trustworthy site. eBay, PayPal and online banks are common targets.

"We typically see an increase in phishing activity before a regular two-day weekend, but the volume of phishing sites and corresponding e-mail in just this past 24 hours (after Black Friday) is quite astounding," said Dean Drako, president and chief executive of Barracuda Networks, an industry leader in e-mail and Web security. "We expect this blitz to continue."

Drako reported a more than 10-times surge in phishing sites created and three times the number of phishing e-mails sent out since the Friday after Thanksgiving. The increase means that scammers and their criminal networks are working feverishly to cash in on the holiday blitz -- at your expense.

But careful shoppers face little risk, so long as they follow the usual virus-protection advice -- meaning don't click on anything you don't recognize, according to Matt Sergeant, an anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, a market leader in Web security.

"Only shop at stores you know about or have previous knowledge of, or stores that have a well known reputation," Sergeant said. "Don't buy anything from emails you receive, unless they are offers from companies you have a previous relationship with."

And one more thing: Just don't ever, ever, open that Christmas greeting card attachment from an unexpected friend no matter how jolly it may appear.

"Don't open greeting cards from people you don't expect them from," said Sergeant. "The volume of these is likely to remain about the same over the holiday season, but expect them to take on a more Christmas-y feel."

Towering threat over LES supermarket

Pathmark feels ripple effects of shift in NY grocery store scene

By Andrew Lisa and Matthew Lysiak | STAFF WRITER and special to amNewYork
November 29, 2007

Olivia Henderson doesn't know where she'll shop if there's any truth to the speculation that the Lower East Side's Pathmark will soon be demolished for a skyscraper.

"It's not like there's nowhere else to go," she said, motioning to her home at the Rutgers Houses just across from the supermarket's parking lot. "It's just that there's nowhere closer -- and nowhere cheaper."

The blog-fueled talk began when a sales brochure revealed that the site is on the market for $250 million, and detailed the owner's two proposals -- one for a 55-story building to be built atop the Pathmark's current location -- and the other for two towers, each more than 50 stories -- to rise above the grocer's parking lot.

The talk of the latest behemoth building fits a larger pattern of gentrification of the Lower East Side and underscores the changing face of the New York grocery business.

"Throughout the city, smaller grocery stores -- neighborhood stores -- are getting pushed out by stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's," said Stuart Elliott, editor of The Real Deal, a New York real-estate publication. "Gristede's and Pathmark and those types of places are becoming fewer and fewer." And nowhere is the speculation more believable than on the Lower East Side, where enormous shifts have recently occurred.

"The retail mix is changing," Elliott said. "Varvatos replaced CBGB. You're seeing an influx of boutique hotels. What's been happening in the Bowery might affect some of the future of the housing there. Nonprofits are looking to cash out on their holdings there. The Salvation Army has been selling some buildings."

Pathmark had no comment on the future of the site at 227 Cherry St., nor did city officials and the organization behind the brochure, Developer Resource Group. No matter what, the Pathmark may well become the next victim of local stores succumbing to rising rents and intense competition from high-end chains. "There is no information yet," said Susan Stetzer, district manager for Manhattan Community Board 3, which encompasses the Lower East Side, "but it's clear that there is going to be some development."

She conceded that her office has been inundated with calls regarding the demolition of one of Manhattan's last local supermarkets with a full parking lot. The supermarket's popularity was unmistakable on a recent rainy Sunday a few weeks ago, with the lot jammed with cars and more waiting to get in. And the Pathmark's value to residents is also borne out by a startling fact: More than 95 percent of food stores in the city do not qualify as traditional supermarkets, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Like many of the shoppers who rely on the Pathmark, Marcus Davis brings his own shopping cart. Although the Cherry Street resident hadn't heard of the plan, he wasn't surprised.

"What's it mean? It means I'll have to pay twice as much at the bodega unless I want to get on a train to go buy food in Brooklyn. But what else is new? They keep building, we keep moving away."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

High hopes for high-tech Barbie doll

Mattel aims for status as must-have toy
By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
November 28, 2007

Hey, Ken! Get off the laptop already!

That could be the new marketing cry if the virtual world of Mattel¹s new Barbie Girls -- the doll, MP3 player, and interactive computer game rolled into one -- is as big a retail hit this season as the company hopes.

Barbie Girls is a slim, immobile doll that plays music and connects to a computer -- and an online virtual world where girls can create a personalized avatar, design their own apartment, shop at a virtual mall, and chat live with other kids.

It may be getting tagged as this year's hot new Christmas gift, but whether young girls are tech savvy enough to fulfill the marketing hype remains to be seen -- or could be a forgone conclusion, if you ask Barbie Girls marketing rep Rosie O'Neill.

"It will absolutely have appeal," said O'Neill. "Kids this age are already going online and have familiarized themselves with this kind of process." But will it become the hot, must-have toy of the shopping season?

Employees at Toys "R" Us in Times Square said sales were brisk, but a representative said it won¹t be known until a Dec. 12 report if it will be the toy that single-handedly drives traffic into stores, like Tickle Me Elmo and Furby did in years past.

Although its made it to the top five of nearly every "must-have toys of '07" list, including Toys "R" Us' own list and that of the National Retail Federation, Barbie isn¹t exactly a trailblazer for interactive toys.

Bella Sara, Shining Stars, Ty Girlz and the popular Webkinz were all targeting preteens long before Barbie came on the scene, but Mattel¹s entry does raise the bar.

"It distinguishes itself with its richness of play in creating a 3-D character that walks around, talks and lets the girl be the ultimate fashion designer," said O'Neill.

But others aren't so sure that 6 year olds -- or parents -- are ready to be introduced to a new virtual world this Christmas. "It is a very sophisticated doll for a young girl," said Barbie expert Bradley Joseph, of the United Federation of Dolls, an organization devoted to the study and collection of dolls. "It may end up being only a niche item that appeals to really tech-savvy kids."

Its success or failure could serve as a litmus test for the limitations (or lack thereof) of selling previously adult technology to a younger consumer base.

But if early indications are a barometer, then maybe Barbie has a fighting chance at a seat next to Elmo in the pantheon of great Christmas hits, at least according to Kelly Disque Cullen, the public relations manager at Toys "R" Us Times Square.

"The item fits into one of our big trends for this holiday season, Internet connectivity, and it blends the real world with the virtual world for girls who love music," Cullen said.

"That sounds pretty cool, they should have one for boys" said Yanni Gouras, 7, who was eyeing the display at the Times Square Toys "R" Us, where it sells for $49.99. "But I don't really care. I mean, dolls are for girls."

Bay Ridge residents use Internet chat room to crackdown on crack house


Tuesday, November 27th 2007, 4:00 AM

A group of Internet-savvy Bay Ridge residents has punched through the gray world of HTML-code anonymity and is trying to clean up its neighborhood.

Local business owner Jason Miller was joined by a group of fellow cyberactivists in an effort to push officials into action against a suspected crack house allegedly located on quiet, tree-lined 93rd St. between Third and Fourth Aves.

Miller, in a speech at Community Board 10's October meeting, went short of directly naming the location or even calling it a "crack house," as do many in the community, instead spelling out his concerns as a local resident and business owner.

"I have personally witnessed suspicious activity," said Miller. "Not only does this alleged activity pose a direct threat to the safety of community members, but local businesses in our area have had to tolerate acts of vandalism, panhandling and customer harassment from the people who frequent the location."

The group, who met several months ago on chat site, has used the chat room as a launching off point in hopes of instigating real world change.

But residents of the house in question have a different story and say they are the ones being harassed. A man named Joe, who says he owns the property, dismissed the chat- room-group-turned-activists' talk as cyberbluster.

"There are rumors going around about everyone's house, I don't know what to tell you," he said. "We're not bothering anyone."

The inside of the house, which is currently for rent, appeared orderly during a recent visit, with no outward signs of drug use; the few people there appeared affable. The owner added that he is currently in transition and hopes to sell the house shortly.

Tax records list the owner as A. Terrone and show the property as three years behind in its taxes, a total debt of about $24,000.

The police wouldn't discuss any ongoing investigations, but CB 10 Chairman Dean Rasinya made clear that officials are addressing the issue.

"We are aware that this has been an ongoing problem," said Rasinya. "This board has been speaking to the 68th Precinct and they are taking this matter very seriously."

Miller's speech was months or maybe even years in the making, he said, and came as a culmination of local frustrations over the often-speculated-about crack house.

Miller, who lives directly behind the house, said he got the ball rolling several weeks ago after realizing that many others on the local chat board shared his concerns.

A neighbor of the home applauded the group's effort.

"This house has been a nuisance for over a year now," said one neighbor. "Everyone on the block knows what's going on. Someone needs to step in before somebody gets hurt."

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