Props go out to any submitting photographer who comes up with the headline for me.
Photo by Gennady Favel
Props go out to any submitting photographer who comes up with the headline for me.
Photo by Gennady Favel
After a busy week, here’s a chance to catch up on some of the news happening outside of our neighborhood! We’ve pulled together some of our favorite recent stories from our site and our sister sites, as well as some other fascinating pieces that are worth a read this weekend:
A fire on Flatbush Avenue killed a 24-year-old man and injured 16 others. [Ditmas Park Corner]
Aperitivo, a popular 5th Ave restaurant, closed after seven years. [Park Slope Stoop]
A new cafe on 6th Ave brings cozy coffee and Scottish shortbread. [South Slope News]
Looking for a new place to call home? Sheepshead Bites has got you covered. If you’re house hunting, our open house roundup is a new feature to help you plan your weekend. And if you know of a great place on the market or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.
One Bedroom in Sheepshead Bay
Viewing: November 23, by appointment only
Location: 2711 Avenue X
Description: Are you looking for a dream home that you can build all your wants and desires in? Well, too bad. You’ll have to settle with a co-op. So why not this one? At least it has some natural light.
Contact: Jeff Surowska, Abacus Properties, (718) 284-4400
One Bedroom Co-op in Gravesend
Viewing: All weekend, 12pm – 2:00pm
Location: 526 Avenue Z
Description: You’re not just near a beach in this apartment, you’re near “historical Coney Island.” The hardwood floors aren’t just new, they’re glistening like those body-builders after being rubbed down with butter or whatever.
Contact: Angela Friedman, Fillmore Realty, (917) 916-4418
Two Bedroom Condo in Sheepshead Bay
Viewing: All weekend, 12pm – 2:00pm
Location: 2511 Ocean Avenue
Description: This building is so fancy that the indoor parking is heated (nice touch in this weather) and the building itself even has a name: Casa Bianco Condo. The place also has “Eastern exposure,” which either means great views of the sunrise or nasty looks everyday.
Contact: Loretta Nastasi-Rivera, Fillmore Realty, (718) 259-1600
Three Bedroom Condo in Brighton Beach
Viewing: November 9, 2pm – 4:00pm
Location: 2801 East 11th Street
Description: Here you only get the best in this “super condition” abode. Top of the line appliances, parquet floors, parking and an elevator. I say you buy the place and then strip it all and sell the goods.
Contact: Albert Wilk, Wilk Real Estate, (347) 377-0906
If you know of a great place on the market or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.
CompStat reports are produced by the New York Police Department on a weekly basis. We summarize the week’s statistics for the 61st Precinct reports every Friday. The 61st Precinct is the police command responsible for Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Kings Highway, Homecrest, Madison, Manhattan Beach, and Gerritsen Beach.
Southern Brooklynites are set to have their commutes bungled for the next two weeks, as the B, Q and F lines all see major service suspensions in the area while the MTA replaces a critical track switch at West 8th Street.
For two consecutive weeks, beginning at 11:00pm tonight and lasting until 5:00am Monday, December 1, the following changes will be in effect.
The suspension are in effect s.o that the MTA can replace a critical track switch just south of the West 8th Street station, necessary for the safe operation of trains along the Sea Beach (F line) corridor. The switch was installed in 1987. There will also be maintenance work that includes new track panels along the elevated structure, all as part of New York City Transit’s Capital Rebuilding Program.
“We appreciate the community’s patience as we complete this important switch replacement project, and necessary track maintenance work. Our goal is to complete this work as quickly and efficiently as possible,.” said NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco in a release.
Sheepshead Bay has a new, fully stocked beer and beverage center, offering wholesale prices on beer to the public.
The Beer & Beverage Discount Center at 3769 Nostrand Avenue has been open since September, but the business finally received its beer license on Friday. As of this Monday, shelves are now filled with foreign and domestic suds, including a number of hard-to-find craft brews and imports.
The shop is the brain child of two Sheepshad Bay business veterans: Konstantin Urman, co-owner of Eye Appeal (1508 Sheepshead Bay Road), and Tommy Grupman, who ran Pravda Media on Coney Island Avenue before turning it into an online-only business.
Grupman said the idea came after searching high and low through Southern Brooklyn for something to meet his discerning tastes.
“Personally, I could not find a beer store with wide variety and reasonable prices. I asked around and searched on Google and could not find any [in the area],” said Grupman.
The business also sells non-alcoholic drinks, snacks and candies, as well as kegs and party supplies.
And as for that news blogger in your community? Well, they have gift buckets, too. Hanukkah is just around the corner is all I’m sayin’.
Michael Levitis, who owned Rasputin restaurant until it was seized by authorities, and who was also a castmember of the failed television show Russian Dolls, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison yesterday for a fraudulent debt collection scheme that preyed on the vulnerable.
Levitis was also ordered to pay restitution of $2.2 million to the victims, and a fine of $15,000. His company, Mission Settlement Agency, was ordered to pay a fine of nearly $4.4 million.
The Manhattan Beach resident pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and wire fraud conspiracy for his role masterminding a ploy to victimize more than 1,200 struggling people through phony debt collection services, according to United States Attorney Preet Bharara. He previously denied his role in the scheme, and even claimed to be a victim of “rogue employees” – a tale prosecutors didn’t buy.
“Michael Levitis preyed upon people across the country who, like so many Americans, were struggling to pay off their debts after the financial downturn,” said Bharara. “Through Mission Settlement Agency, Levitis lied about quick, guaranteed cures to their serious financial problems in order to trick them out of money they could not afford to lose. Worse, he created, for many people, a nightmare of spiraling debt and plummeting credit scores that plagues them to this day. With his sentence today, he has been held responsible and punished for his crimes.”
–Judge Paul Gardephe.
Levitis’ defense team previously requested a lighter sentence of just five years, but Judge Paul Gardephe balked at the request for a crime he found “extraordinary” in its cruelty.
“There is something special and extraordinary about the crimes here: the fact that they were directed at desperate people, hundreds of desperate people drowning in debt, trying to find a way out of their problems,” he said during the sentencing. “The determination to extract from these people their last few dollars makes this crime extraordinary.”
Levitis will be under home supervision until he heads to prison in February, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors say Mission offered debt settlement services to people struggling to pay off credit card debt, promising to negotiate with the lenders on behalf of clients for a lower settlement amount. From 2009 to May 2013, Levitis, 38, directed Mission’s employees – Denis Kurlyand, Boris Shulman, Manuel Cruz, Felix Lebersekiy and Zakhir Shirinov, all of whom pleaded guilty as well – to make fraudulent claims in the sales pitches to clients.
Such promises included an ability to slash their debts by 45 percent, which never in fact happened. Additionally, the company sent potential clients letters falsely suggesting that the agency was connected to federal government programs.
In the end, Mission collected more than $2.2 million in fees from more than 1,200 customers, and never paid a penny to the customers’ creditors. Instead, he funneled the funds to cover expenses at his beleaguered 2670 Coney Island Avenue restaurant, Rasputin, as well as to make lease payments on two different Mercedes cars and pay the credit card bills of his mother, Eva Levitis.
Prosecutors explicitly said some of the funds went to throw the lavish parties featured in the reality show “in which he starred during the course of the scheme,” meaning Lifetime’s Russian Dolls.
Prior to the show, Levitis already had an uneasy relationship with the law. As critics of the show feared, it did in fact portray a criminal – the same month his involvement in the show became public, Levitis had pleaded guilty of lying to federal investigators in relation to an FBI probe dating back to 2007.
That investigation explored an alleged influence peddling scheme in which Levitis was recorded telling another restaurateur that then-State Senator Carl Kruger would help him with state matters if he held a fundraiser and turned over thousands of dollars for the politician’s campaign.
Kruger is currently in federal prison after being found guilty for accepting at least $1 million in bribes in an unrelated investigation. Levitis at the time was sentenced to three years probation and fined $15,000.
Since the current charges involving Mission Settlement were made public, Levitis has attempted to maintain a profile in the community through a private Facebook page called Russian Insiders. Moderated by Levitis, his mother, and his wife, users have complained of “Putin-style censorship” on the page, in which members are banned for any mention of the multiple Levitis scandals.
Sources have also said he frequently uses the page to disparage Sheepshead Bites as “anti-Russian,” presumably because of this outlet’s extensive reporting on his unscrupulous activities.
Opened on November 21, 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, so we’re honoring the occasion by looking at some of the statistics, quirks, and interesting bits of info that make up the massive crossing’s history. From parachuting off its tower, to a cameo in Saturday Night Fever, to nearly 22 dozen light bulbs, here are 25 things you may not have know about the bridge.
1. It could have been a tunnel, instead. The original discussion for crossing the Narrows began in 1888 — but that was for a tunnel. After a bridge was proposed and the design nixed, they went back to the tunnel idea, and actually began digging. The abandoned tunnels, which only went 150 feet but still remain, were nicknamed “Hylan’s Holes” after then-Mayor John F. Hylan, who championed the failed project. It went back and forth between tunnel/bridge until talk about a bridge, under the recommendation of Robert Moses, became serious in 1946.
2. It was built in five years. It took 16 years to build the Brooklyn Bridge (completed 81 years before the Verrazano), and one year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building (completed 33 years before the Verrazano).
4. The cost to build the bridge, in 1964 dollars, was $320 million — which would be around $2.45 billion today.
5. About 7,000 people were displaced in Bay Ridge to make room for the bridge, including dentist Henry Amen, whose office was leveled, but who found a new one nearby — he is still practicing there today at age 88.
6. The length of its central span, which made it the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened, is 4,260 feet, the equivalent of just over 14 football fields. It lost that title in 1981, and is currently the eleventh longest in the world; but it’s still the longest in the United States.
7. About 12,000 men worked on its construction, and three men died in falls. Workers walked off the job for four days, demanding safety nets, which they got, and which, afterward, caught and saved three more workers who also fell. None of the workers were invited to the opening; instead they attended a mass for the three victims.
8. Nobody is buried in the structure’s foundation, like they claim in Saturday Night Fever. In the film, the bridge symbolizes freedom and a better life…in Staten Island. The film was released 20 years after the groundbreaking of the bridge — that year, 1959, the population of Staten Island was 220,000; by 1980, it was 352,000, so Tony wasn’t alone in these thoughts.
The first City Council hearing on a proposed mandatory fee for plastic bags at grocery stores and supermarkets took place yesterday, and it’s already proving to be one of the most divisive issues to come before the usually lockstep Council body.
Capital New York reports:
The bill, Intro. 209, is being championed by Council members Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Margaret Chin of Manhattan and would impose the fee on all plastic and paper bags issued by grocery stores, bodegas, liquor stores and the like in city limits. The intent is to cut back on the estimated 100,000 tons of plastic bags that find their way to the rivers, streets and trees in the city and encourage New Yorkers to use reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags constitute 2 percent of the city’s waste stream.
… Supporters maintained the 10 cents does not constitute a tax as no money would go to government coffers. Store owners would keep the 10 cents on each bag.
That, of course, hasn’t stopped opponents from describing it as a tax. One of the most vocal opponents so far has been Councilman David Greenfield.
The Daily News reports:
“Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to sit here today and talk about actually raising taxes on New Yorkers,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), who said he buys 30 bags of groceries for his family every Thursday night. “Now I’m going to have to pay three bucks extra a week.”
While proponents like Lander and Chin, who represent some of the city’s tonier districts, argue that such fees have successfully reduced the use of plastic bags in cities including Washington D.C., other elected officials say that it would unfairly hurt low-income families.
Councilman Chaim Deutsch is instead proposing a “recycling education campaign” to urge New York City residents to scale back on the roughly 9.37 billion disposable bags used in the five boroughs every year, most of which ends up in landfills.
“While our environmental goal should be to enhance programs which encourage recycling, the absolute wrong way to accomplish this worthwhile objective is by implementing a tax on plastic or paper bags,” said Deutsch in a statement. “I would rather support a recycling education campaign than support a tax, imposing an unfair financial burden on so many.”
Deutsch noted that though the bill’s provisions exempt food stamp recipients, not all of the city’s cash-strapped residents are on food stamps.
The de Blasio administration and Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have not taken a position on the bill.