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In news that will surprise no one, a lot of the city’s subways aren’t showing up on time — and it’s only gotten worse.

The MTA recently released some statistics that show you’re not going crazy when you think you’re waiting far too long for the next train. According to NBC New York, the report says that 25 percent of trains arrived at the end of the line five or more minutes behind schedule during the year covering October 2013 through October 2014 — which is a six percent increase from the year before.

There were 41,500 delays per month — which is, depending on the month, about 56 delays per hour. Yikes.

“The trains smell and they’re overcrowded,” straphanger John DiVito, telling it like it is to the Daily News. “They shouldn’t be slow. too.”

The MTA says all those delays are due in part to more people riding the subway, increased construction and maintenance projects (like the R train tunnel), and that they’re now doing more accurate reporting of arrivals and departures at the end of train lines.

Photo by Elise Laura Feinstein

Photo by Elise Laura Feinstein

I received this wonderful photo yesterday, after the Morning Mug had already been posted, but this was the sweet message we received from today’s featured photographer:

I would like to dedicate this photo of mine to my grandpa Abe Feinstein because I got the passion of photography from him. We still take photos together. Happy birthday to him he is 87 today.

A birthday wish for you, Grandpa Abe: A gezunteh leben ahf dein pupik (a healthy life on your belly button). And many, many more happy birthdays to you!

Photo by Elise Laura Feinstein

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.

bay-toy-drive

Bay Improvement Group did it again!

The group had its 24th annual holiday bash this past Sunday, bringing together more than 150 people to rock out to tunes and collect toys for some of the area’s neediest kids.

The do-gooders, with help from sponsors including Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Assemblywoman Helen Weinstein, as well as businesses like Jimmy’s Famous Heroes and the Baron DeKalb Knights of Columbus, raked it more than 850 brand new toys.

After the party, the toys were distributed to the group’s longtime partner, a local shelter for battered women, as well a new recipient, Coney Island Hospital’s pediatric unit, where they’ll be given out to terminally ill kids.

“The people and toys kept coming, we didn’t have time to open the many bags [at the event],” BIG President Steve Barrison wrote to Sheepshead Bites. “It was a success and all the toys were delivered to the shelters and Coney Island Hospital pediatrics!”

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As of last year, the local Toys for Tots drive has collected 55,430 toys for needy children.

The 41st Assembly District Democratic Club has organized the largest Toys for Tots drive in New York City for eight years straight, and they’re aiming to make it nine this year.

Help keep the title in Southern Brooklyn by bringing new, unwrapped toys to the club tomorrow night, from 7:30pm to 9pm at 2952 Avenue R.

Sandy the Seagull will be in attendance, and there will be food, music and lots and lots of happy kids. Also, plenty of elected officials, if that’s what does it for you.

If you can’t make it but want to make a donation to purchase toys for needy children, send a check to the address listed in the flier above.

ToysForTotsInvite

A waiter takes an order at El Greco. Photo by Ned Berke.

A waiter takes an order at El Greco. Photo by Ned Berke.

by Sam Shokin

In this Age of The Foodie, where words like “microbrewery” and “cronut” are colloquial terms, and “gentrification” has been buzzwordified to the point of mass semantic satiation, the people of Southern Brooklyn have but a few classic eateries left standing in their midst. And by the end of this week, they will be down another: El Greco Diner.

My friends, this place isn’t just a diner. El Greco is an institution. It is one of the last bastions of unironic, untrendy diners in this town; a place for locals to congregate over mediocre food, to rejoice in the spirit of community, and to cope with life’s trials and tribulations by inhaling fistfuls of cheesecake. It is one of those special places that get bestowed the title “greasy spoon” as a term of endearment. With its two-and-a-half star Yelp rating, its urban legends of rat infestations and brash mockery of portion control, El Greco has managed all these years to shrug off foodie culture while consistently drawing in people in droves — until now.

I can’t say that I blame you, Mr. Venetoklis. Thirteen million dollars is no paltry sum. I come from a family of small business owners myself. I get it. But when I read last week’s headline, I was shocked. All of us were shocked. It’s like reading about the death of a celebrity you haven’t thought about in a while, but who’s been a household name since before you were born. El Greco was the place we local kids would stumble into after-hours before we were old enough for bars or cool enough for fake IDs. It’s where I drank bottomless two-dollar coffee with my parents while people-watching outdoors or in. It’s not a local haunt; it’s not just a mainstay — El Greco is Sheepshead Bay.

El Greco, the fact that you’re on Facebook makes me cringe the way I do when anyone over 60 speaks of “the Twitter.” You’re not about that. You were never about that. You were open, 24 hours a day, to harbor poor souls braving the Bay’s frigid winds in mid-January. Your landmark location, the corner of Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road, will forever be emblazoned in my memory as as a community cornerstone; the place where so many of us came of age. Hell, even my parents ate here when they first came to this country over 30 years ago. The diner is practically family.

El Greco, with your complimentary heaps of slaw and canned bean salad (the poor man’s antipasti); your oversized plastic menus and your (mostly) darling wait staff  – you are the greasy connecting thread between the many cultures, religions, and age groups of this diverse community. Everyone in this town has a “3am at El Greco” story. Some people visit you religiously; others, ironically. There are people who swear by your gyro platter. For me, growing up in Southern Brooklyn, ridiculing this place was basically a right of passage. But I’ll still be sad when you’re gone – razed to the ground to make way for more condos.

But such is life, and such is gentrification (there’s that word again). So, El Greco, I guess this is goodbye. Thank you for all the good times.

Samantha Shokin, is an essayist, singer, and former resident of Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach (the latter of which she wrote about here.) Her writing has appeared in Vice, the Village Voice and Thought Catalog, among others. Read more of her work at www.samshokin.com

Rendering of CIH's new Ida G. Israel Medical Center.

Rendering of CIH’s new Ida G. Israel Community Health Center. Source: CIH

Coney Island Hospital (CIH) is all set to reopen its Ida G. Israel Community Health Center in Coney Island this spring.

The building, pictured above, will be constructed at a new address located at 2925 West 19th Street. The original clinic – which provided crucial healthcare access to residents on the West End of Coney Island – was wiped out by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The community on the West End of Coney Island has been without healthcare service for two years, and CIH is excited to provide healthcare service in an area where it is needed most,” said Malorie Ginsberg, a spokesperson for CIH.

Prior to Sandy, the Ida G. Israel clinic provided health, dental, and drug rehabilitation services to approximately 40,000 patients per year, many of them on medicaid or uninsured. For the last two years, West End residents have been trekking to CIH, which is difficult to access by mass transit and is separated from the West End by the Belt Parkway and a large bus depot.

As we reported last year, CIH was initially searching for higher ground on which to rebuild the clinic, to ensure that it would not be destroyed by floodwaters again, but instead the hospital has opted to build the new clinic with a raised floor foundation.

“When deciding where to rebuild the new Ida G. Israel Community Health Center, CIH attempted to find a vacant 2nd floor of an existing building in the West End, but was unable to find a vacant 2nd floor location. The best option was to build a new structure above the 100-year flood plain,” said Ginsberg. “The new Ida G. Israel location is the closest location to the West End community that was available.”

But don’t expect to see any construction at the new address for several months. The modular structure is being built by contractors in Pennsylvania, and when it is complete, the building will be delivered in parts and reassembled at the site, Ginsberg told us. Currently, the exterior brick phase is 60 percent complete, the interior walls are completely framed out, and the mechanical and electrical work is well underway.

Source: CIH

Construction on the new Ida G. Israel Community Health Center. Source: CIH

Source: Flickr/yourdon

Source: yourdon/Flickr

The city has approved a plan to replace a total of 7,600 outdated pay phone booths with sleek public WiFi kiosks in all five boroughs, including 586 in Brooklyn that will be completed by 2019.

The city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee signed an updated version of their contract with LinkNYC Wednesday – which initially proposed a two-tier system for rich and poor neighborhoods – following a push from City Comptroller Scott Stringer to provide more equitable distribution of high-speed WiFi access throughout the city. (It was not the first time the city faced criticism for inequitable distribution of public WiFi locations.)

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports:

The LinkNYC system is funded by advertising revenue. As originally proposed, ad-supported kiosks in wealthy neighborhoods, mostly in Manhattan, would average super-fast Internet speeds of 1 gigabit — ten times faster than kiosks in most locations in the outer boroughs.

This disparity fed into concerns Stringer has expressed about unequal access to the Internet across New York City, as described in a Dec. 7 report.

The new contract increases the number of ad-supported hotspots throughout the city, and also requires more transparency and communication with communities about the locations of kiosks and performance issues.

Stringer expressed approval for the new plan yesterday.

“LinkNYC’s proposal to put high speed WiFi kiosks throughout the City will not by itself eliminate the digital divide, but marks an important step toward bridging that gap,” he said in a statement. “Just as the subways powered New York’s growth in the 20th century, high-speed broadband will drive our City’s economic competitiveness in the 21st century — and we need to make sure all our neighborhoods have the tools to meet that future.”

Here’s a map of the projected WiFi coverage, via I Quant NY:

Photo by Gennady Favel

Photo by Gennady Favel

Photo by Gennady Favel

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.

Source: Hanukkah-gifts.com

Source: Hanukkah-gifts.com

This evening at sundown (4:13pm) will begin the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah — aka Chanukah, or חֲנֻכָּה — the joyous eight-day “Festival of Lights,” which recalls the miracle of the oil and ancient rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the revolt of the Maccabees. You can learn more about Hanukkah by going here or here.

A reminder to readers who mistakenly think that Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas because there are presents involved: It’s not. But yay, presents! What does that mean for you? Well, all parking regulations, including metered parking and alternate side of the street parking, remain in effect; garbage collection continues as usual; the post office and other government offices will be open, and (drum roll): you still have work on Wednesday.

To all of our readers: Sheepshead Bites wishes you a warm and festive Hanukkah. And Erica, the author of this post who for some reason decided to break into third person, wants you to send her more Morning Mug photos to photos [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com!

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Preliminary rendering of the new building to replace El Greco at 1801 Emmons Avenue. The view is from Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Source: Sergey Rybak)

Preliminary rendering of the new building to replace El Greco at 1809 Emmons Avenue. The view is from Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Source: Sergey Rybak)

EXCLUSIVE: A seven-story condominium building with ground-level retail, abundant parking and a 9,000-square-foot landscaped public plaza will soon be constructed at Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue, replacing El Greco Diner, the new owners told Sheepshead Bites in an exclusive interview.

Buyer Sergey Rybak detailed his preliminary plans following the $13 million sale of the 1809 Emmons Avenue property on Friday, which he purchased with partner Jason Reznik under the name 1809 Emmons Avenue LLC. Rybak’s company, Rybak Development, is overseeing construction.

Rybak Development already has a track record in the area. The company is part owner of the MatchPoint NYC sports complex on Shell Road, and is developing several luxury condominium projects in the area, including 3041 Ocean Avenue and 104 West End Avenue, as well as commercial projects like 1810 Voorhies Avenue. Their roster of developments is almost exclusively in Southern Brooklyn.

At the moment, all plans shared with Sheepshead Bites, including the plaza and the layout of the building, are subject to change. The final project, he hopes, will be as-of-right, meaning no approval from the Community Board or Board of Standards and Appeals will be required – but that can change, too.

See more renderings, and learn details of the plan for 1801 Emmons Avenue.