Photo courtesy of the Brian Merlis Collection / www.Brooklynpix.com

From all of us at Sheepshead Bites, to all of our readers – have a Merry Christmas! Even if you don’t celebrate, we hope you have a fantastic day.

For those sticking around the neighborhood, here’s a list of government offices, services and more that’s open, closed or operating with special hours today and tomorrow.

As for us, we’re taking the rest of today and tomorrow off, and we’ll see you again Friday!

Source: splityarn/Flickr

Now that winter has made its official debut this week and we brace ourselves for plummeting temperatures, we wanted to pass on some tips to make your heating bill a little less scary during these coming months.

From adding a couple blankets to your bed and turning your thermostat down at night to sealing air leaks, there are free and inexpensive ways to make sure you’re not forking over an arm and a leg to heat your home – and National Grid just released these suggestions on how to be more energy efficient this winter:

  • Turn that thermostat down! We know it’s cold out there, but put on those flannel pajamas and curl up under a bunch of blankets after lowering your home’s temperature at night – for every one degree you set it back, you can save one to three percent on annual heating costs. Plus, you can also turn it down while you’re away at work or gone for a couple of hours – it takes less energy to warm up a cool house than to maintain a warm temperature all day and night.
  • As you wear more layers yourself, do the same for your home. Insulating your attic, your windows, your ceilings, and your floors can save you big bucks. You can use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet to keep cold air from seeping through your windows, or install some tight-fitting drapes. See more about window treatments and coverings that can improve energy efficiency on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.
  • Take advantage of the sun and open your curtains during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home. Just make sure to close them at night!
  • Seal those air leaks. You can caulk windows and weatherstrip around door frames, as well as replace any broken panes on storm doors and windows. If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed (unless, of course, you have a fire burning). You can find more tips on making sure your fireplace is energy efficient here and here. Also, remove any air conditioning units in windows, or, if this isn’t possible, cover the inside and outside of the unit with plastic.
Photo by Richard Resnick

Photo by Richard Resnick

Photo by Richard Resnick

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

Recchia-grimm

Those who reelected Congressman Michael Grimm on the expectation that he would be convicted of tax fraud and forced to resign might be getting their wish this Christmas.

Grimm changed his plea to guilty in his federal tax evasion case, reports the New York Times - a surprising turn of events considering how adamant the congressman was about his innocence during his reelection campaign.

If you recall, Grimm campaigned on a promise to resign if he was convicted of the 20-count tax evasion charges related to an Upper East Side fast-food restaurant he ran before starting his political career. He won reelection against Democrat Domenic Recchia, who managed to fumble during several media appearances.

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Grimm is expected to plead guilty to a single count of aiding or assisting in the preparation of a false or fraudulent tax return, said one person with knowledge of the matter, who, like the two others, spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been announced. If he does plead guilty, he will most likely face 24 to 30 months in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Pamela K. Chen of United States District Court. His lawyers can also seek a lesser sentence, including one with no jail time.

Observers expect that it will be difficult for Grimm to hold on to his seat in Congress (an editorial in the New York Daily News already celebrates Grimm’s departure). Still, Grimm told reporters that he would not resign following his courthouse appearance this afternoon, and, in fact, would only be required to resign if he receives a prison sentence.

However, it is unlikely that Grimm will end up serving any jail time, experts told the Staten Island Advance. They predict that Grimm’s military and FBI history will work in his favor:

A defendant’s entire life is evaluated, to include his criminal history, employment history and family circumstances, said Duval.

Also considered are the severity of the crime, its impact on the community and the need for further deterrence.

Grimm’s lack of criminal history bodes well for him; however, the amount of money he allegedly withheld from the government could work against him, said Fonte.

While public officials are typically held to a higher standard, experts said that wouldn’t apply here, because the tax evasion occurred before Grimm ran for office.

Instead, Grimm will likely be forced pay the government a fine and restitution.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Thursday, December 25 is Christmas, and if you’re headed out of town, here’s hoping your travels are safe and easy despite the crummy weather.

If you’re sticking around the neighborhood, note that Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24, is not an official city holiday, so all city government offices, including courts, are open.

Here’s some information you might need to know for the holidays this week:

Government Offices, Parking, And Sanitation

All government offices are closed on Christmas Day, including courts.

There is no mail delivery.

All NYC public schools are closed Wednesday, December 24 through Friday, January 2, 2015, for Winter Recess. Students return to school on Monday, January 5, 2015.

Alternate side parking regulations are suspended and parking meters do not have to be paid on Christmas Day. Additionally, no stopping, no standing, and no parking regulations are suspended, except where those regulations are in effect at any time or seven days a week.

There is no sanitation collection on Christmas Day. If Thursday is your regular garbage or organics day, place your items out after 4pm on Thursday, December 25. If Thursday is your regular recycling day, wait until after 4pm on January 1 to put out your recycling.

Subways And Buses

The New York City Subway will operate on a regular weekday schedule on Wednesday. New York City subways and buses will operate on a Sunday schedule (which means no B train).

Libraries

All branches of the New York library systems are closed on Thursday for Christmas. Select branches of the Brooklyn Public Library system will be open on Wednesday from 9am-1pm, including the Kings Bay and Kings Highway branches.

toymax

Finally, a toy store in Sheepshead Bay! It’s been a long time since those of us who like to shop close to home could pick up some building blocks and action figures without hopping in a car, but now ToyMax is open at 2460 East 17th Street, just north of Avenue Y.

Stocked with several aisles of toys and baby products, ToyMax has served as a wholesale operation for a decade. Three weeks ago they opened to the general public as a retailer.

The store is the brainchild of husband and wife team Regina and Mark Shprinzes, parents with two daughters, who took the plunge into kiddie goods 10 years ago on a whim.

“It started as a joke, and then it just kept going,” said Mark, a former pharmacist. “I quit my job. Then [Regina, a former IT pro,] quit hers.”

The store focuses in hard to find specialty toys and products for newborns and toddlers, and items range from small gifts for just a couple of bucks to a Barbie doll that runs into the thousands of dollars. We noticed a fairly large number of toys and games to bolster developmental and critical thinking skills.

“It’s a lot of stuff. A lot of different stuff that other people don’t have,” said Mark.

Best of luck to the Shprinzeses and ToyMax!

 

Gas prices at a Knapp Street gas station. Photo by Neil Friedman

Gas prices at a Knapp Street gas station. Photo by Neil Friedman

BETWEEN THE LINES: The law of gravity dictates that whatever goes up must come down. But, when it comes to consumer prices that rule seldom applies. Even so, for the time being, it is relevant.

For weeks, drivers have received a premature holiday gift every time they fill their vehicle’s gas tank, as prices have dramatically dropped to the lowest level in years. According to some analysts, motorists are saving an estimated $270 million per day on gasoline compared to a year ago.

Almost seven years ago, a gallon of gas peaked at an all-time high of $4.11. Indeed, rising fuel costs were a campaign issue in 2008. Republicans labeled President Obama irresponsible when he called for an end to generous oil company tax breaks and subsidies, and vowed to re-direct those revenues to develop clean-energy fuels. Newt Gingrich, a contender for the GOP nomination, pledged to roll back prices to $2.50 a gallon — if he was elected.

Mercifully, Newt didn’t get elected, or even nominated. Yet, here we are, more than six years later, and a gallon of gasoline in Brooklyn — with our triple tier of federal, state and local taxes — is flirting with prices ranging from $2.65 to $2.85. Depending on your point of view, we should be grateful that we don’t live in Alaska or Hawaii where the price is more than $3.00.

Actually, as of Tuesday, in parts of 13 states, the price-per-gallon dipped below $2.00.

In the weeks after Obama’s re-election, the average national price per gallon dropped to about $1.66. When it did, Americans — from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters (to borrow a lyric from folk legend Woody Guthrie) — rejoiced after months of shelling out $70-$100 to fill gas tanks. Prices were even projected to hit $5.00 that summer as the campaign heated up. But, fortunately, that plateau was never reached.

With gas prices currently plummeting, which benefits consumers, why did the stock market simultaneously fall? Shouldn’t lower pump prices give drivers a little more capital to spend at the retail level, which would boost the economy? But, on the other hand, the volatility of the stock market — like last Thursday’s biggest surge in four years — depends on many factors, such as the falling price of crude oil that affect the global economy, not just America’s.

According to an economist quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “…every one-cent drop in gas prices means a $1 billion annual decline in energy spending by Americans.”

Yet, it seems that this current boon for the consumer is not good for business. I guess that’s the price — and it’s often a heavy one — we pay for living in a free market, capitalist society.

Analysts and experts who follow economic trends credit several factors for lower gas prices, not the least of which is energy policies enacted by President Obama, including an increase in U.S. oil production. They also point to OPEC’s recent decision not to cut production, more fuel efficient vehicles and dwindling demand, due to sluggish economies in Europe and Asia.

I get that the global economy adversely impacts oil-producing nations, which currently includes the U.S. Yet, it’s still baffling that, as gas prices have been trending lower for a few months, there’s been no similar development at the supermarket where consumer prices have yet to budge and, in some cases, have actually risen. Aren’t fuel costs factored into many items that often drive up prices? And yet, the costs of food and dry goods have gone up, not fallen. Fresh meat, milk and milk products and eggs increased more than a month ago, and, so far, there’s been no reversal.

Accordingly, just when consumers get some relief at the gas pump and have a few extra dollars to spend during the holiday season shopping, businesses refuse to lower prices so they can mine profits to ensure their bottom lines are not disrupted.

As consumers benefit from falling gas prices, in all likelihood, they forfeit that windfall after a trip to the supermarket when they’re apt to leave with just enough to pay for filling those stockings carefully hanging by the chimney.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Photo courtesy of Cezar Del Valle

Photo courtesy of Cezar Del Valle

Cezar Del Valle has a lot going on. As an artist, a freelance writer, a public speaker and tour guide, and a longtime lover of the theatre, he’s uniquely qualified to take on the task of remembering Brooklyn’s historic film and performance venues–and he’s trying to make sure everyone else remembers them, too.

With his latest edition of The Brooklyn Theatre Index covering Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach, we asked Cezar to tell us more about his experiences covering some of the most architecturally lavish, sentimentally significant, and fastest disappearing buildings in our borough.

Brooklyn Theatre Index Volume III, courtesy of Cezar Del Valle

Brooklyn Theatre Index Volume III, courtesy of Cezar Del Valle

What first compelled you to write about Brooklyn’s historic theatres?

I started doing theatre talks and walking tours in 1996. It didn’t take long to realize that so much of Brooklyn theatre history had been lost, forgotten, or distorted.

How long does it take to conduct research and put these books together, and how many more do you expect to write?

The research for the first volume required the most work since it involved searching news clippings and microfilm in various libraries, and also a trip to the Theatre Historical Society in Elmhurst, Illinois, to study the Michael Miller collection [“The Index has its origins in two earlier surveys of Brooklyn theatres conducted independently by Dario Marotta and Michael Miller, each compiling an extensive listing of Brooklyn venues,” says a blurb on the back of Cezar’s book].

Online research for source material was also used for Volume I. By the time of the second volume, more and more data had turned up online making research easier, though some library research is still required.

When researching the third volume, even more data have become available online (including newspapers and trade journals), requiring less library work and more sitting in front of a computer. This new information was also used to update the first two volumes in 2013. Because of the all the new material available online, I am thinking of a third edition of the first volume.

Are any of the theatres in Volume III still around, even if they’re not open or have been converted for other uses?

The Lakeland (723 Brighton Beach Avenue) and The Oceana (1029 Brighton Beach Avenue) survive. The Loew’s Coney Island (1301 Surf Avenue) continues to deteriorate behind closed doors.

Photo courtesy of Cezar Del Valle

Photo courtesy of Cezar Del Valle

What’s the most interesting or even strangest thing you’ve learned/story you’ve heard about the theatres you’ve researched?

That’s a hard question. There are so many odd little theatres–especially true at Coney Island.

Pick your very favorite theatre mentioned in any of your books, or simply in Volume III, or in a volume to come. Why?

I tried hard to rescue the Bushwick–a vaudeville house designed by a noted architect–without success. I served on two panels to landmark Coney Island’s Henderson Theatre without success (the building was demolished). Those same panels also involved the Loew’s Coney Island.

Since releasing your books, have you gotten to know any other Brooklyn historic theatre buffs?

I met many local historians prior to the books. Since then, I’ve met photographer Matt Lamboss and new vaudevillian Trav S.D.

Want to learn more about Brooklyn’s rich theatre-related history? You can attend a Theatre Talks event with Cezar, or learn more about the Index series here

Photo by Dmitri Kalinin

Photo by Dmitri Kalinin

Photo by Dmitri Kalinin

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

The following is a paid announcement from il Fornetto Italian Restaurant & Caterer (2902 Emmons Avenue), Sheepshead Bay’s premier waterfront dining experience.

il-fornetto-holiday

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