Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Retailers shrug off holiday glow


Tuesday, December 18th 2007, 4:00 AM

Holiday lights? Humbug! say the merchants of Bensonhurst.

Brooklyn's "Little Italy" is darker this holiday season because the lights that usually bedeck the neighborhood's business district have apparently become a ghost of Christmases past.

In previous years, the local business group had little problem collecting cash for the lights, which usually went up shortly after Thanksgiving, but for the second straight year, many merchants are playing Scrooge. Locals say that reflects a population shift that has made Bensonhurst the city's newest melting pot.

"It used to be all Italian, but now Bensonhurst is full of different ethnic groups with different traditions," said Bensonhurst Board of Trade Executive Director Anthony Neglia, whose job it is to collect the $225 donations for the lights from businesses along the neighborhood's 86th St. shopping artery.

The percentage of Bensonhurst residents born in Italy has shrunk from 28.7% in 1990 to 12.1% in 2000, U.S. Census figures show.

During the same time frame, Chinese immigrants from Sunset Park and Russians from Brighton Beach have moved to the area in droves, along with a smattering of immigrants from Poland, Pakistan, Mexico, Vietnam, ­Ecuador, Egypt and Guatemala.

"Why would I pay?" asked the manager at the Polish restaurant Gospoda on 86th St. "I really don't care if there are lights on the streets."

One store owner said he didn't even notice that this holiday season fell dark. "I have been here for 12 years, and I have no idea what Christmas lights you are even talking about," said Baku Bakery owner Rebecca Adam.

While some say the influx of new immigrants is responsible, the merchants claim they're not the Scrooges in this tale.

"This place could use a little holiday cheer and I think the lights would be good for business," said the manager of New Ruan's Chinese restaurant, Donald Ruan. "Last year we even sent a check to the board, but it was returned back to us a few weeks later."

Board of Trade officials said they received so few donations, they refunded the merchants who did pony up the $225.

Community Board 11 District Manager Howard Feuer said he has gotten used to seeing more sushi and less ravioli in the neighborhood, and that he expected holiday shoppers to descend on 86th St., illuminated or not.

"Over the last 30 years, I have seen one change after another for this neighborhood, but lights or no lights, 86th St. will be strong," Feuer said.

Bay Ridge hospital wins death reprieve


Friday, December 14th 2007, 4:00 AM

A Bay Ridge hospital on the critical list will live another day, under state orders.

Victory Memorial Hospital is being forced to keep its emergency room open past a planned Feb. 1 closure date.

"We are waiting for them to resubmit a plan that assures us that there will be a safe transition," said Jim Clyne, state Health Department deputy commissioner.

A state report has indicated that while Victory must close by next June, a plan for an urgent care center must first be in place.

"It will stay open for now, but its future is still uncertain," said Victory President and CEO Dr. Vincent Calamia. "Everyone's priority is to deal with this situation in a safe and orderly manner."

The decision comes after the state rejected plans for Downstate Medical Center to take over emergency care services at Victory, which already has dismantled its birthing center.

Victory was one of nine hospitals around the state - five in the city - that the Berger Commission said should be closed. But neighborhood health advocates point out the hospital's emergency room is at 104% capacity.

The 254-bed hospital declared bankruptcy in November amid scrutiny of its compensation practices, which included $1.1 million in severance for departing CEO Donald DiCunto, and settled on the Feb. 1 closure date to satisfy the Chapter 11 filing.

The state indicated that it expects the emergency room to close as scheduled on June 1, much to the chagrin of officials.

"A closure of this emergency room would be devastating for this community, and it would certainly put lives at risk," said Bill Guarinello, acting chairman of Victory's board of trustees.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Bay Ridge) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) have filed a lawsuit against the Health Department to reverse the decision to close the hospital.

"Based on our efforts ... and the community's outcry, I believe the state had to take another look," said Gentile. "Though this halt doesn't guarantee anything past six months .... my colleagues and I will continue to pursue all possible measures to keep the doors of Victory open."

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!
Lysiak exposing the lack of security at the Towers pipeline