Chuck Schumer in the 1960s, competing for James Madison High School on the It’s Academic television quiz show.

In the wake of extraordinary rate hikes during the winter, Senator Charles Schumer has requested the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a government organization meant to protect consumers, investigate New York area power companies to make sure the increases were not a result of corruption or gouging.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which provides similar oversight of power and energy suppliers, has already launched an investigation into electric companies including Con Edison.

Schumer is pushing the FTC to coordinate with FERC, and provide them with resources for the investigation.

“I write to urge that the FTC directly support ongoing investigative efforts led by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),” Schumer writes, “to determine whether any wrongful conduct or uncompetitive practices took place this winter as record cold temperatures drove up natural gas and electric prices to record levels.”

In the same press release, his office explains that the rise in energy costs is suspicious.

“Utilities throughout the state have attributed the increase to record-low temperatures and high demand for natural gas, but Schumer said that the size of the rate increases were so high that he is concerned it outpaced the actual increase in wholesale energy costs for utilities.”

His office has requested that the “entire wholesale electric and natural gas markets” be investigated to make sure that customers were not being improperly overcharged. Schumer would also like to see electricity rates come back down.

To illustrate this rise, Schumer pointed to examples like a Brooklyn Con Ed customer who was charged 13.82 cents/kWh in February 2013 and 20.52 cents/kWh in February 2014. In New York, most electricity is generated with natural gas, so the price of natural gas has an outsized impact on electricity bills.

Earlier this year the New York Post reported on this rise and pointed out that the “supply charge” is the reason for an increase in price.

The supply charge, which covers the cost of actually generating electricity, is the source of this winter’s power-bill misery.

Con Edison’s electricity supply charges are adjusted daily, the company says. The number that shows up in bills is an average of the daily prices.

A Con Ed customer with a billing period from Dec. 30 to Jan. 30 paid an average supply charge for the month of 23.1 cents per kilowatt hour — a shocking 83 percent boost over the 12.6-cent charge during the same period last year.

Schumer has previously asked federal regulators to investigate the price increase. Syracuse news reported earlier this month that Schumer sought a federal probe into the matters.

They wrote:

Schumer said he has no evidence of wrongdoing but sees no good explanation for why consumer electric bills jumped 60 percent or more compared with last winter.

“Like you, I’m concerned that utilities are using the cold weather and the demand for natural gas to justify skyrocketing rates,” Schumer said today. “We can’t let those factors protect these multibillion-dollar dollar companies from scrutiny.”

Schumer also questioned whether wholesale energy companies manipulated electric or gas markets by withholding capacity to drive up prices.

Source: Murdock Solon

Source: Murdock Solon

A real estate management company linked to the owner of one of the city’s leading necktie manufacturers and wholesalers has taken over a swath of Kings Highway real estate, with plans to redevelop the property into a five-story retail and office development.

Several stores on the northern side of the corridor, from East 16th Street to East 17th Street, have shuttered in recent months, including the area’s McDonald’s restaurant. The building appears to still be owned by Kingsway Realty, according to city records, which has had its name inscribed on the facade since taking over the property in 1973.

1601-1607 Kings Highway, where several stores have shuttered in recent months to make way for redevelopment.

1601-1607 Kings Highway, where several stores have shuttered in recent months to make way for redevelopment. (Photo by Ned Berke)

Now plans are being considered by the Department of Buildings to tear down the two-story structure occupying the 17,880-square-foot lot, originally built in 1930, and replace it with a brand new facility, anchored by two floors of retail shopping and three floors of office space.

The building is being designed by the architectural firm of Murdock Solon. Renderings on their website show an ultra-modern design, featuring large bulked-out windows, a patterned facade and setbacks with rooftop gardens to be viewed by the office workers on the upper levels.

With escalators drawn into the middle of the retail space, it appears the developer may be aiming to attract a large retail tenant to occupy the bulk of the space.

There is parking for 25 vehicles and five bicycles in the basement level of the property, according to documents submitted to the DOB. The new building will stand 79 feet tall, and have 67,355 square-feet of space.

Although Kingsway appears to still be the owner of the property according to ACRIS, the online database of the City Register, the plans were submitted to the DOB on behalf of Lake Realty Inc., naming Walter Schik as the officer.

Schik is an Austrian-Jewish immigrant who fled Nazi persecution. Resettled in New York, he founded Bentley Cravats in 1947, which manufactures neckties, bow ties and other neckware.

Lake Realty Management LLC, which appears to be the official name of the company as registered with the state, manages a handful of properties in Brooklyn and Manhattan, including a nearby apartment building at 1233 East 19th Street.

Calls to Schik’s office were not returned.

The plans for the new five-story building were rejected in March, with the Department of Buildings stating that the drawings were incomplete. Calls to Murdock Solon for a status update were not returned.

Photos via Murdock Solon.

The Holocaust Memorial Park in Sheepshead Bay, where Remembrance Day will be held. (Source: Dr. Vladimir Gressel)

This Sunday, April 27, is Holocaust Remembrance Day and to commemorate the multi-ethnic and religious genocide the Stop Anti-Semitism Foundation is sponsoring Remembrance Day with a ceremony in the Holocaust Memorial Park in Sheepshead Bay.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. by the newly formed non-profit organization, and it will coincide with a day that is commemorated around the globe. The organization is dedicated to fighting hatred and violence against Jews and other religious and ethnic groups. And in keeping with the spirit of the event members of religiously oppressed people will also be attending the event. There will be Holocaust survivors and children of survivors, and leaders from the Jewish, Coptic Christian, Azerbaijani, Korean, Serbian and African-American communities, according to a press release.

The event hopes to reflect the diversity of the victims of Nazi persecution, which targeted gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witesses and numerous other minority groups in addition to the Jewish peoples. For the event’s founder, Dr. Vladimir Gressel, that’s an important point to recall when considering present-day persecution.

The Brooklyn Eagle spoke to Gressel:

While the Holocaust took place more than 70 years ago, violence and terror are still being used today by people who hate others simply because of their nationality or religion, said Dr. Vladimir Gressel, the organization’s founder. “Remembering the horror of the Holocaust and honoring its victims requires us to speak out against the violence and terror victimizing ethnic and religious groups today, he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“One of the lessons we learned from the Holocaust is that silence is not an option,” said Gressel, a Jew who emigrated from the former Soviet Union several years ago.

As well as commemorating a very dark period in humanity’s history, Gressel and his organization will use the event as a way of raising awareness against current oppression and hatred.

In the press release, the organization writes that they have “become alarmed by the violence and intimidation directed towards Christian communities in the Middle East, Africa and other locations around the world.” And that these “situations that have not received adequate news coverage in the national and international press that remind us of the silence preceding the Holocaust.”

City Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger will also be there, along with State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblyman Brook-Krasny.

Featured performances will include a gospel choir of young singers, poetry recited by local children and a string trio. The event will conclude with a solemn ceremony honoring victims of the Holocaust.

(Source: Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood)

New York City, New York State and New Jersey may have to compete for more than $1 billion in promised Superstorm Sandy relief that the federal government is now looking to redirect to victims of other natural disasters.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is considering sending off $1 billion of an as-yet unspent $3.5 billion in Sandy relief funds to other parts of the country that are dealing with their own natural disasters. This decision could leave New York City short of funds at a time when there is a renewed effort by local politicians to pick up the pace on programs like Build it Back, potentially throttling the program just as it’s poised to hit its stride.

When Superstorm Sandy hit, Congress set aside about $60 billion in 2013 for Sandy aid. More than $15 billion went to HUD for distribution on the local level to help relief efforts and get people back in their homes. Since then, about $10.5 billion has been spent, leaving $3.6 billion still available, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports:

HUD officials recently briefed members of Congress on a proposal that would create a national resiliency competition to more widely distribute about $1 billion to $2 billion of the remaining Sandy aid to areas that have recently suffered disasters. It would be the first time HUD held a national competition for federal disaster money. The contest would reward projects that make communities more resilient against future disasters, according to people familiar with the plans.

Senator Charles Schumer said yesterday that he will fight any attempt to take money away from the region’s aid relief.

“We will fight to ensure that every one of New York’s needs are met before a national competition sends a single Sandy relief dollar elsewhere,” Schumer said via Bloomberg News.

And Schumer isn’t the only one who said that he will fight this possibility. Bloomberg News writes:

Representative Michael Grimm, a New York Republican whose district includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, has been in “constant contact” with Donovan [the Secretary of HUD] to stress his district’s needs, said Nick Iacono, a spokesman for the lawmaker.

Grimm and other Congressional representatives sent a letter yesterday to HUD’s Secretary Shaun Donovan asking for more information about the proposed reallocation, The Journal reported yesterday.

The letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was signed by 13 members of the House of Representatives. They expressed “concern with the lack of consultation and briefing between HUD and members of the House and their staff on this issue.”

The announcement comes at a time when city officials are paying renewed attention to relief efforts. Initiatives like the Build it Back program, which had been in a lull until recently, have become the center of attention. The program is partially funded by HUD money and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently announced intentions to repair the homes of all those who qualify, rather than just the financially neediest applicants – greatly increasing the estimated cost of the program.

The Journal reports:

In the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has set an ambitious goal of getting 500 Sandy-damaged homes rebuilt by the end of the summer; currently only nine homes have started construction. City officials have said they need $1 billion in additional federal money for the Sandy recovery, and even more to complete a city resiliency plan.

“We’re working closely with HUD and our federal partners to ensure that we have the resources to fully recover and rebuild. It’s vital that funds get to the NYC homeowners and public housing residents who need them,” a city spokeswoman said in an email.

De Blasio has criticized HUD’s decision. “The legislation was passed to serve the needs of people in New York and New Jersey who were devastated by Sandy. And it was about both getting people back on their feet and providing the resiliency we need for the future,” de Blasio said via the Daily News.

The feds, however, expressed puzzlement at the reaction, saying that the bill authorizing the $60 billion aide package explicitly stated that a portion of the funds could be redirected to other disaster zones, and that the Sandy region should never have relied so heavily on the third and final round of funding. The Journal notes:

Federal officials said the city and states have overestimated their remaining needs. They said local representatives shouldn’t have expected the third round of funding to provide a significant infusion of new funds based on how the $60 billion Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill passed in 2013 was written.

In the three years covered by the Sandy aid bill, 208 major disasters have been declared by the federal government. A person familiar with the proposal said 48 states would be eligible for the national competition, along with Puerto Rico, District of Columbia and 18 other areas including New York City and Joplin, Mo., which was hit by a tornado in May 2011.

A portion of the third round of funding would also likely go to Rebuild by Design, a regional resiliency competition that HUD launched with much fanfare. Secretary Shaun Donovan, a former New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner, is said to have been inspired by his work under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had a propensity for holding competitions to generate excitement around government work.

Location of greatness: Kingsborough’s radio station, WKRB. (Source: WKRB)

Kingsborough Community College’s radio station, WKRB, received the honor of being named the best community college radio station in the nation. The announcement was made during the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System‘s 74th annual news conference in New York City.

In 2012, the radio station completed major renovations to their recording studio. The team has been putting it to good use since then, as this award shows. The station, which claims to be “Brooklyn’s Only Dance Music Studio,” holds a series of different music hours like “Alternative Avenue” and “The Metal Meltdown.” The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System is a not-for-profit education corporation founded in 1940.

They also feature student disc jockeys. One of these DJs, who is also the program director and senior college lab technician, Elissa Nieves, received the award for “Best Specialty Show” for her program Freestyle Fridays. And students Malcolm Smith and Kenya Fredericks, who host a show called The Bizzy Mizz Diversion, were finalists for “Best Talk Program” and “Most Creative Program.”

“This is not only an honor for all of the hard work that our students do throughout the year at WKRB, but a reflection of the support and dedication of the faculty and administration of KCC. It’s what makes this campus one of the best in the nation,”  WKRB General Manager Rob Herklotz said in a press release

WKRB is completely student-operated, FCC-licensed radio station. The station can be heard in Brooklyn on 90.3FM or on their website.

Congrats to the station for the recognition!

Photo by Ella Rabinovich

Morning Mug is our daily showcase of photographs from our readers. If you have a photograph that you’d like to see featured, send them to photos@sheepsheadbites.com.

Photo: GREAT NEWS!! PO Rosa Rodriguez who was critically injured in the arson on April 6th opened her eyes yesterday for the first time and saw her children and gave them a thumbs up as they were talking to her. Please continue to keep Rosa and her family in your prayers as she continues to fight!!

Source: Courtesy of the New York Police Department Hispanic Society

Rosa Rodriguez, one of two police officers who responded to a Coney Island fire on April 6, is showing signs of improvement, according to the New York Police Department Hispanic Society.

The group posted on Facebook that Rodriguez “opened her eyes [Friday] for the first time and saw her children and gave them a thumbs up as they were talking to her.”

Her partner Dennis Guerra fared worse, making citywide headlines when he succumbed to his injuries three days after the fire. Sixteen-year-old Marcell Dockery is accused of starting the fire in 2007 Surf Avenue’s high-rise building because he was bored, and he has been indicted.

According to Brooklyn News 12, Dockery is the sole suspect in the case and faces charges of second-degree murder, assault in the first degree, arson in the fourth degree and reckless endangerment charges. If convicted, Dockery faces a maximum sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison.

Rodriguez is not expected to leave the hospital any time soon since “she continues to fight” her injuries, according to the Hispanic Society.

The next Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association meeting will be held Thursday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. inside the Carmine Carro Community Center in Marine Park, Fillmore Avenue at Marine Parkway.

The meeting’s focus will be on the search for a long-time solution to persistent sanitation concerns in the neighborhood. Along with local elected officials and 61st Precinct officers, Bruno Iciano, from the Department of Sanitation’s Office of Community Affairs, is slated to attend.

From an email we received:

The civic’s concerns include seeing a plan — covering trash, graffiti, safety, and appearance — developed for: the B/Q subway overpasses from Avenues P to Z; Avenue U from Coney Island Avenue to Stuart Street; and Kings Highway from Coney Island Avenue to Ocean Avenue, among others.

According to Ed Jaworski, the association’s president, “It appears there is a need for a comprehensive effort led by sanitation, and involving police, MTA, DOT, DOB (stalled building sites are dumping grounds), plus education. No one enjoys living or shopping on blocks that suggest blight. We’ve got to get our neighborhoods cleaned up.”

The meeting is free and open to the public; refreshments will be available courtesy of T & D Bank.

For more information, call (718) 375-9158 or email coachedj@aol.com.

This could be the crummiest apartment ever but that exposed brick wall is worth at least an extra $2,000. (Source: Oxford Property Group)

Looking for a new place to call home? Sheepshead Bites has got you covered. Our rental roundup is a new feature showcasing some of the deals on the market now. If you know of a great place available for rent or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com. And if you live in or near one the places below, let neighbors know what you think in the comments.

FEATURED: One Bedroom, by Owner, on Second Floor of Manhattan Beach Private House
Price: $1,200
Location: 77 West End Avenue
Description: A rare deal for a beautiful one bedroom apartment in a private house, with separate dining room, living room and renovated kitchen. Located on West End Avenue, it’s near local shopping and bus stops, and is just a short walk to the B/Q train at Brighton Beach or Sheepshead Bay Road. That’s not to mention it’s a one- to three-block walk in almost any direction to the waterfront. No fees!
Contact: Owner, Steve Honor, (347) 721-2543.

 

Two Bedrooms and an Exposed Brick Wall in Brighton Beach
Price: $1,650
Location: Brighton 5th Street and Brighton Beach Avenue
Description: With a massive exposed brick wall and spacious rooms, this apartment looks like a good deal. The whole apartment has also been completely renovated. The kitchen has everything you could want except, hold on a second, there’s no fridge. I’m sure they’ll get around to it before you move in. Maybe.
Contact: Chauncey Palmer, Oxford Property Group, (347) 409-7970

Two Bedroom Penthouse in Midwood
Price: $2,995
Location: Near Kings Highway and Bedford Avenue
Description: Who said you couldn’t live the high life in Midwood? If you’re in the mood to spend about $3,000 a month on rent, here is your chance and may whoever you worship bless your insecure soul. This apartment features many (useless) breathtaking amenities like floor-to-ceiling windows (do they even make blinds that big?) and a virtual doorman. (I have one of those too. It’s called a buzzer.)
Contact: Habib Arazi, Arazi Properties, (917) 400-0204

Two Bedrooms in Sheepshead Bay
Price: $1,600
Location: 2779 East 15th Street
Description: Located near the Emmons Avenue waterfront and a backyard that can be used, this apartment has all the right trappings. Heat and hot water are included and pets are allowed.
Contact: Eleanor Block, (347) 673-6807

If you know of a great place available for rent or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

The next meeting of the Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG) will be Wednesday, April 23 at 8:00 p.m. inside Public School 195, 131 Irwin Street at Hampton Avenue.

Guest speaker, State Senator Marty Golden, will discuss and answer your questions on topics including:

  • How does the New York State budget affect you?
  • Will your property taxes go up?
  • What is New York State doing to make sure your home is not flooded again?
  • Is the legislature allocating more funds for Sandy-damaged communities?

The MBCG encourages members of the community to attend and participate in their monthly civic meetings. For more, contact MBCG at (718) 200-1845 or manhattanbeachbrooklyn.org@gmail.com, or visit www.manhattanbeachbrooklyn.org.