Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is backtracking on details of an overseas trip in which he spent more than $1,300 in campaign funds at a hotel, three restaurants and a gift shop in Barcelona and Germany, bringing guffaws from good government advocates.

The local pol’s European spending, first reported by the New York Observer, covered a three-day spree in February. Cymbrowitz’s campaign finance disclosures show he spent $189 at a souvenir shop in Munich, which he filed away as “office expenses.” In Barcelona, the assemblyman spent $819 at the five-star Hotel Majestic, and nearly $300 over four visits to three restaurants, including the top-rated tapas bar Cerveceria Catalana.

Asked about the spending by Sheepshead Bites following the Observer article, Cymbrowitz spokesperson Adrienne Knoll forward the following statement which was also sent to the Observer:

As the child of Holocaust survivors, I promised my parents I would do everything in my power to help Holocaust survivors and to not let our world fall into the destructive grips of fascism ever again. In keeping that pledge I made more than 50 years ago, I visited Munich, Germany, and had an opportunity to visit the Dachau memorial site, where more than 32,000 Jews and non-Jews were killed. During my visit I was reminded of the fact that one in four of the approximately 140,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States – 38,000 of whom live in Brooklyn, the majority of them in my district – are living at or below the poverty line.

After a number of Russian-speaking survivors in my district were denied benefits from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany due to bureaucratic snafus, my office intervened. To advocate on behalf of these Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors, I met with a board member from the Claims Conference during my trip to Munich, as well as with a number of board members back here in the U.S., in order to rectify the situation and to ensure that some small measure of justice is achieved.

I also met with city officials in Munich to discuss the issue of Neo-Nazism and how the German government works on putting together programs for the Jewish community to help Jewish seniors and children. As the state legislator with the largest Sephardic Jewish population in the state, I was invited to Barcelona to meet with city officials and members of local, prominent Jewish organizations.

The spokesperson added the following, “[Cymbrowitz] went with other legislators. [The Observer] made it sound like a solo excursion and that wasn’t the case.”

However, after follow-up questions asking Cymbrowitz’s office to specify legislators were also on the trip, the spokesperson reversed course on that assertion.

“One correction….he didn’t go with other legislators. Sorry,” Knoll said, via e-mail.

In response to our request for details on his being “invited” to Barcelona, we received another e-mail stating, “He was not invited to Barcelona. That was an error. As the assemblyman who represents a large Sephardic community with roots in Spain, he went to Barcelona to meet with the remaining members of the Sephardic community to talk about the rise in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism.”

Cymbrowitz’s office did not respond to additional questions about the “city officials and members of local, prominent Jewish organizations” he met with while in Barcelona, and declined to provide an itinerary or appointment calendar.

His office also declined to explain why $189 was spent at a souvenir shop and listed as “office expenses” for the campaign.

The expenses did not involve taxpayer money, and campaign finance regulations allow funds to be spent at the candidate’s discretion, so long as they can explain how it relates to their office they’re running for.

Cymbrowitz’s spending, though, has brought criticism from Common Cause, a good government group that advocates for tighter controls of campaign spending as well as publicly financed campaigns.

“This kind of conduct, using campaign dollars to stay at five-star hotels, to buy expensive souvenirs in exotic places, simply fuels the public cynicism about elected officials and campaigns,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause. “There should be clear delineation between what is and isn’t a campaign expense, especially since so many public officials don’t seem to have their own guidance system about what’s appropriate.”

Lerner said Cymbrowitz’s explanations – and back-tracking – doesn’t pass the sniff test, and reflects poorly on Albany culture.

“It’s kind of amazing. He’s trying to come up with justifications [for travel spending] after the fact. It just seems to be egregious to justify the spending at five-star hotels and restaurants in the interest of Holocaust survivors. It’s really kind of unbelievable,” she said.

She added that she doubted his claim of visiting Barcelona’s small Jewish community to discuss antisemitism, since most contemporary incidents are in central Europe.

“There seems to be tenuous connection [between visiting Spain and his duties as an office-holder] and there should be a full accounting of the facts and a precise record of his activities. Then voters can decide for themselves,” she said.

Police are asking for your help in identifying and locating two males who the NYPD said followed an 18-year-old woman into her Midwood apartment building and proceeded to physically assault and rob her on Sunday evening.

According to the police, the suspects followed the victim into her apartment building’s elevator around 9:40 p.m., punched and kicked her, and stole her purse. They fled to an unknown location.

Robbery photo 2

The NYPD did not provide the exact address of where the crime took place.

Police described one suspect as being a black male who is around 20 to 25 years old and wore a black t-shirt and multi-colored pants. The second suspect was described by police as being a black male in his late teens to early 20s, weighing about 240 pounds, and wearing an orange t-shirt, beige shorts and a backpack.

Robbery photo 3

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.

70th precinct robbery photo

Police said all calls made to them are confidential.

UPDATE (2:27 p.m.): Councilman Chaim Deutsch is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the suspects involved. The incident occurred near Avenue M and East 18th Street.

“Violent crimes such as this will not be tolerated.” said Deutsch. “I am working closely with the 70th Precinct to help bring the perpetrators to justice and I encourage people to come forward with information that can assist the NYPD in leading to an arrest.”

Photos and video via the NYPD.

– Anna Gustafson

Cafe Kashkar: lagman

THE BITE: Based on the menu alone, it’s hard to know whether you’re diving into a Uyghur dish or an Uzbeki one at Cafe Kashkar - or really what you’re getting into at all. But you won’t go wrong picking and choosing among the inexpensive dishes and sharing with a table of adventurous eaters.

This is one of the few restaurants in New York City serving food from the Uyghur region, and, as the one thing the menu does note, it’s named after the city of Kashgar, an oasis city in far western China. A predominantly Muslim region, the food focuses on lamb, noodles, and doughy breads.

Cafe Kashkar: manty

There were reminders of Tibetan momos in the manty ($6), large doughy steamed dumplings filled with lamb and onions, though without the saucy excitement (or spice, or much seasoning at all) of momos. The flavor was more reminiscent of Yemen dishes we’ve enjoyed, where the meat is the main attraction, so if you like lamb, and you like dumplings, you’ll be pretty happy.

Cafe Kashkar: lambpilaf

Because this is a basically a festival of lamb, we ordered up a heaping plate of lamb pilaf ($6), which was a straightforward meat and rice dish that won’t blow your mind, but would be plenty comforting on a chilly fall day after a stroll down the boardwalk. Much of our dinner had that appeal, the kinds of dishes you can imagine filling up on when, at last, the humidity has dropped.

You can see Marco Polo’s inspiration for pasta when a plate of geiro lagman ($6, pictured at top) is set on the table. The hand-pulled wheat noodles are topped with red bell peppers, lamb, and sauce and served up with chopsticks. The irregular noodles have a pleasant chew to them, the lamb was some of the best of the night. It was the definite favorite at our table – we’d come back for that, and would also love to try the soup version.

Cafe Kashkar: kebab

Another bite we could have had more of was the chicken (not lamb for once!) kebab ($3.50), which was juicy and nicely seasoned — though it also came with a thin sauce for dipping, which didn’t feel necessary, but introduced us to some more of the unique spices we’d come there to explore.

Cafe Kashkar: naryun

The naryn ($6) was the most unusual of the dishes we ordered, the most unlike anything any of us had had before. Cold, scrappy pieces of dough and crumbled lamb with slices of chilled sausage, it was mostly the texture and temperature (and yes, the grayish color of it all) that came as a surprise, but it grew on some of us.

Cafe Kashkar: tarragon soda

There’s no alcohol, but if you’re already exploring the food menu with abandon, grab a drink as well. The tarragon soda, a green the color of radiator fluid that seemed to sit on display like a dare, was gulped down by the youngest in our crowd, who experimented, happily, by mixing it with a bottle of mineral water — which was described by one diner who had grown up drinking it as “an acquired taste,” and perhaps unkindly but not entirely off-base, “sulfurous.” The adults agreed the tarragon soda tasted oddly familiar, a little like salt-water taffy. Skip the tea, though — steeping in a pot through the whole meal, it never seemed to get strong enough.

Cafe Kashkar, 1141 Brighton Beach Ave

Sampling a number of dishes, you get an impression of the style, something like a a cool-weather comfort food. Still, a number of fellow diners on a recent weeknight visit had come straight from the beach, and the space is so colorful and comfortable, you could easily linger a while after a day spent soaking in too much sun and sand. And once you’re filled with all that lamb, it may be hard to get up and go, anyway.

Cafe Kashkar1141 Brighton Beach Avenue, between Brighton 14th and Brighton 15th Streets, (718) 743-3832.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Source: NYPD

Source: NYPD

Cops are on the hunt for a Coney Island chain snatcher that attacked and robbed a 54-year-old woman, leaving her with lacerations to her head.

The thug was caught on NYPD-operated surveillance cameras at approximately 1:00 p.m. as he walked up Mermaid Avenue on Friday, July 18. After crossing West 31st Street, the suspect passed a bus stop where the victim was waiting in line. He walked further up the street and circled back. As he came beside her, he ripped off her necklace and caused her to fall forward as he ran off. The woman fell on her face, and had to be taken to Coney Island Hospital to be treated for cuts to her head.

The thief is described as a black male in his 30s, 5-foot-7-inches, last scene wearing a white shirt, dark short and white sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website, or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Photo by George Burshteyn

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.

Carro Center, where tonight’s meeting will be held.

Don’t blame us for the late notice. We only received it this afternoon.

The Southeast Brooklyn Waterfront (Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Georgetown) NY Rising Community Planning Committee to Host Public Meeting on Tuesday, July 29 for the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program 

New York – Community members of Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, and Georgetown are encouraged to attend a public meeting on Tuesday, July 29th to learn about the State-sponsored NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program. This program will leverage local knowledge and build upon existing local efforts to help storm-impacted Communities become more resilient through innovative community-driven plans.

When:          Tuesday, July 29, 7:00pm
Where:           Carmine Carro Community Center, 3000 Fillmore Avenue (between Madison Place and Marine Pkwy) Marine Park, NY 11229
Who:            Southeast Brooklyn Waterfront Planning Committee (including Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Georgetown), NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program
Contact:       Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, 212-480-2321info@stormrecovery.ny.gov

The New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program is one of several Storm Recovery Initiatives and was established to provide additional rebuilding and revitalization assistance to Communities severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The State has established the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program to facilitate community redevelopment and resiliency planning. For additional information, please visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/community-reconstruction-program

Forget the link above, you want this one. More specifically, you can check out a presentation they showed to the committee members, providing an overview of how the program works [pdf]. For even more information, you might want to check out the minutes from that meeting [pdf], which go more in depth.

 

Signage for bus lane enforcement (Source: DOT)

Signage for bus lane enforcement (Source: DOT)

The B44 Select Bus Service route on Nostrand Avenue became the latest in the city to feature camera-enforced bus lanes, but a snag in mailing out violations and the functioning of the cameras themselves has caused drivers unaware of the new restrictions to receive dozens of violations months after the incident.

The Department of Finance and Department of Transportation conceded that the agencies had failed to send out the tickets in a timely manner, catching drivers unaware and allowing them to repeat the mistake.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch won the concessions from the agencies, who are now agreeing to suspend mailing and to review all violation that occurred on the route between March 17 and July 25. Motorists will still be fined, but only for the first violation they received, and refunds will be issued to those who have already paid.

“When people get a violation, it’s to educate them that they did something unlawful and they have to stop,” Deutsch told Sheepshead Bites. “Having it come to them three or four months later doesn’t serve that purpose. Given that it’s the newest SBS bus lane, a lot of people still don’t understand how it should be used even though there are signs posted.”

Deutsch said the cameras were also taking multiple photos of the same vehicles, causing additional violations for the same incident. He said the DOT has corrected that problem.

During active hours, a vehicle may only enter the bus lane to make a right turn, drop off passengers, or make or receive a delivery. More about bus lanes can be found in this DOT handout.

The violation carries a $125 fine, but with motorists unaware of the changes and not receiving the summonses promptly, they were fined multiple times. Deutsch said one constituent received approximately $7,000 in fines. He added that about two dozen constituents have already reported this problem to him, “but there’s a lot more.”

Camera enforcement on the route will remain in effect, but the agencies said they will go through their records and contact those who received multiple violations. If you think you’re one of them, you can speed up the process of having the summonses tossed or receiving a refund by calling Deutsch’s district office at (718) 368-9176.

Batchelder St, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Ermagud, cat! (Source: Citi Habitats)

Looking for a new place to call home? Sheepshead Bites has got you covered. Our rental roundup showcases 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.

Three Bedrooms in Sheepshead Bay
Price: $2,700
Location: Batchelder Street and Voorhies Avenue
Description: With high ceilings, many windows, a realtor that refers to himself in the third person and a balcony, this apartment is a catch. There’s also a cat in one of the pictures, hiding in a box. You wouldn’t have noticed this if I didn’t point it out and now your life is that much better for seeing the cat.
Contact: Albert, Citi Habitats, (917) 692-6628

Three Bedrooms in Sheepshead Bay
Price: $2,300
Location: 1205 Avenue Y
Description: This apartment has French doors, giving it an open atmosphere. There’s two bottles of wine in the fridge (amount unknown), a bottle of orange juice (full) and a half-empty water bottle. All coming together to make a great apartment.
Contact: Coldwell Banker, (718) 621-2000

One Bedroom in Gravesend
Price: $1,600
Location: Ocean Parkway
Description: Using the word “flooded” in a positive way might not be the best idea for an Evacuation Zone A neighborhood. But still the realtor tries and for that you have to give her credit. And the realtor also writes that it’s rent stabilized.
Contact: Megan Kernan, DSA Realty, (917) 231-6289

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 site of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

Rendering of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

An enormous commercial development slated for Coney Island Avenue in Midwood is facing opposition for its proposal to cut out 74 required parking spaces, but its backers say it’s moving forward regardless.

The construction site at 1504 Coney Island Avenue, at Avenue L, is to be the largest retail development in the neighborhood, according to boasts from its leasing team. Councilman David Greenfield is calling it a “mega development,” saying it will feature more than 160,000 square feet of space. Zoning requirements call for a minimum of 346 parking spaces, but the owner has requested permission from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals to scale that back to 272 spaces.

The site of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

The site of the proposed development. (Source: CPEX Retail Leasing)

That’s unacceptable, according to the pol. The intersection is already home to one of the neighborhood’s most popular markets, Pomegranate, and adding more development without sufficient parking would bring that stretch of Coney Island Avenue to a standstill.

“I frequently drive by Avenue L and Coney Island Avenue and am stuck among double and triple-parked cars. It’s really ridiculous that anyone would suggest that the lack of parking is not a problem in this neighborhood. That is why I am fighting to make sure the community gets the required amount of parking for this new mega development,” Greenfield said in a press release.

The project’s developer expects the site to be a shopping destination, with a 50,000-square-foot department store as its anchor, with 25,000 square feet of additional retail and 3,400 square feet of office space. A 56,000-square-foot section of the building will be set aside for ambulatory medical care, and another 28,000 square feet will serve as community space and home for a non-profit, the developer’s representative, attorney Howard Goldman, explained during a meeting last week of the BSA. (The BSA is empowered to grant waivers to zoning regulations if the situation meets certain conditions.)

The parking would be underground, served by an entrance on Coney Island Avenue, and the building will use a robotic system to store and retrieve vehicles. According to Goldman, the system won’t requiring any on-street queuing which would otherwise lead to congestion.

Greenfield, who is also chair of the City Council’s powerful Land Use Committee, and Community Board 12 District Manager Barry Spitzer, who is also Greenfield’s deputy chief of staff, testified against the developer’s application, saying that the parking just isn’t sufficient in the neighborhood. Greenfield spokesperson Jane Carey, who testified on behalf of the councilman, and Spitzer both focused on double parking and truck traffic caused by Pomegranate, which only has 40 parking spaces. Though that may be Pomegranate’s fault, the BSA should enforce the parking minimum at the new, unrelated development to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Their plea appears to be in vain. Goldman said they’re going forward with the stated amount of parking whether or not the Board approves it – they’ll just reduce the medical office’s square footage, which requires more parking than other uses.

“If the request is not granted by the Board, it doesn’t mean the project won’t be built. What it means is that instead of the medical office, we will have the non-profit office space,” he said before the BSA. “So, matter of fact, it’ll be the same amount of spaces but a different mix of uses.”

Goldman added that, for all the bellyaching about parking, the new project will help ease the burden created by Pomegranate.

“This is a congested intersection. And the reason it’s congested is because there’s a very popular supermarket across the street called Pomegranate,” Goldman said, noting that their analysis showed congestion was worst on Thursday evenings and Friday afternoons. Pomegrenate’s parking “is really insufficient. Our garage’s excess capacity can handle some of that excess overflow from Pomegranate and the net result will be a benefit to the neighborhood, not a detriment to the neighborhood.”

The developer submitted a letter of support for the project from Pomegranate’s owners. The BSA has another hearing on the development scheduled for September 9.

Source: .v1ctor Casale/Flickr

A good Samaritan caught a man accused of rape, and a beating, on Sunday on the shores of Coney Island beach.

Fuat Sarieminli suffered a fractured cheekbone, several loose teeth and seven staples in his head after he grabbed a 20-year-old man attempting to flee the area as a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her.

The woman reportedly cried “rape” at approximately 11:30 p.m., pointing at the suspect.

“Her pants were ripped and her underwear was sticking out, and she was screaming, ‘Help me!’ ” Sarieminli told the Post. (Sarieminli was not identified by the paper, but a Daily News report names him).

Sarieminli continued to tell the paper that the suspect was approaching the woman, so he intervened asking “What happened, bro?” The man said he didn’t do anything and turned to flee, when Sarieminli grabbed him.

As the two struggled, the suspect pulled off his belt and wrapped it around one hand and began pummeling Sarieminli in the face.

The suspect was arrested by police at West 20th Street and Surf Avenue.

He was charged with second- and third-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon, according to the Daily News. The woman did not press charges for rape, but prosecutors are still investigating.