Photo by Knightmare6

Photo by Knightmare6

A Brooklyn court ruled that the city was not responsible for the drowning of a 10-year-old girl in 2008, saying that the city is “not an insurer” of the safety of parkgoers.

The case stems from the July 2008 drowning of Akira Johnson, who was swimming with her cousin, also 10, on Coney Island. They became distressed and a nearby lifeguard came to their aid, only saving Johnson’s cousin. The girl, lost to the water, washed ashore days later.

Brooklyn Eagle reports:

The family filed a wrongful death suit against the city with claims of negligence. A lower court judge found merit in the family’s suit and allowed the case to proceed. The higher appeals court, however, acknowledged the city’s responsibility to its park users, but held that the city’s lifeguards did not deviate from its public safety obligations.

Evidence showed that the city “had furnished a sufficient number of lifeguards, that those lifeguards were experienced and competent…that they were adequately trained and properly certified… and that they reacted to the situation in accordance with proper procedure,” the appeals court noted

The victim’s family argued that the training was inadequate as it takes place in a swimming pool.

New York Law Journal reports:

Plaintiff’s attorney Arnold E. DiJoseph argued that the lifeguards were not properly trained to handle rescues in rip currents. “Basically, they are trained in swimming pool rescues,” he said in an interview.

But a unanimous panel of Justices Ruth Balkin, John Leventhal, Joseph Maltese and Betsy Barros held the city had met its duty to maintain the beach in “reasonably safe condition,” citing the lifeguards’ prompt mobilization and the fact that they rescued Akira’s 10-year-old cousin in the same incident. At least six lifeguards responded when they observed the two children in distress.

“[The] city is not an insurer of the safety of the users of its parks, including its beaches,” the court ruled.

Photo by Arthur Borko

Photo by Arthur Borko

I think this is one of those titles that made sense in my head and no one else’s.

Photo by Arthur Borko

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 Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club after the storm.

When the sun sets tonight and the clock turns to 8:15pm, thousands of people along the northeast coast will simultaneously light candles and begin a moment of silence, remembering the destruction that swept through coastal communities courtesy of Superstorm Sandy. That moment will mark exactly two years since the high-tide breached the walls of Sheepshead Bay and began dousing our streets, our business, our homes, and claimed 125 American lives.

Like last year, contemplating a slew of “anniversary” articles is a gut wrenching endeavor, and one that I find difficult considering we still wrestle with the effects every day – and cover it nearly as often. It’s not two years since Sandy. Here in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach and Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach – and dozens of other impacted communities – Sandy is still very much every day.

But there is a need for a long view. Things are getting better. They are returning to normal, and on many fronts we are better prepared for another storm today than we were on October 28, 2012. It is the obsession of just about every citywide media outlet today, so here are some of the best, most enlightening articles published this week on the progress made, and the work still to be done.

If you feel we missed one worth sharing, let us know in the comments or at editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com and we’ll add it. And don’t forget to come to the candlelight vigil  tonight to support and be supported by your neighbors.

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CKO Kickboxing is coming to 2615 East 17th Street, just off Jerome Avenue.

The fitness franchise originated in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1997 and has since opened in more than 40 locations, mostly throughout the metro area. This will be their fifth location in Brooklyn.

The business takes over the long-empty space, which is below condominium units and a second floor office space used by AHRC, a center for adults with developmental disabilities.

There’s no word on opening date yet and no equipment has been installed, but the business’ website says it’s “coming soon.”

Welcome to the neighborhood, CKO!

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Sagdiana, a three-year-old Uzbek restaurant at 2612 East 14th Street, has given way to Azerbaijan House.

An employee of the new restaurant told us yesterday that the business changed hands about a month ago. They’ve built a website and are still working on their menu, but have a temporary roster of Azeri offerings.

Azerbaijain House is also somewhat distinct – while the number of Uzbek restaurants in Southern Brooklyn swells dramatically, there are only a handful of Azeri restaurants. Still, the employee said they would keep a number of Uzbek offerings on the menu.

Azeri cuisine is similar to Uzbek, both being nations of the Caucasus region and important stops along the Silk Road. They do have their regional differences, especially their takes on plov, of which Azeris boast of more than 40 different recipes (though the temporary menu offers only one).

Good luck to Azerbaijan House, as well as to the former owners of Sagdiana!

Photo by Jesse Coburn

Photo by Jesse Coburn

By Jesse Coburn

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the day “transcendent.” Senator Charles Schumer predicted “a glorious future” for the neighborhood. Shola Olatoye of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) dubbed the plans “a triumph.”

They sang these praises while announcing that $108 million in federal funding would go toward renovating a low-income Coney Island housing project severely damaged in Superstorm Sandy.

But some living in the Coney Island Houses have their doubts. “I don’t trust them,” said Judy Toro, 66, a resident since 1996. “They make a lot of promises.”

It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy tore through New York, but many public housing tenants are still feeling its effects. The storm caused $19 billion in losses across the five boroughs, and these low-income residents were among the hardest hit. The Coney Island Houses, a five-building complex with nearly 1,400 residents at 2410 Surf Avenue, will be the first such property damaged by Sandy to undergo major repairs, and the city now hopes to acquire roughly $1 billion in additional federal funding for similar improvements in other public residences.

“My house is falling apart, little by little before my eyes, and I don’t see anything being done.”

 

–Coney Island Houses resident.

But decades of strained relations with NYCHA have left some tenants deeply suspicious of the beleaguered city agency, causing even good news to be met with wariness.

Toro’s tenth-floor apartment overlooks Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk, but the interior doesn’t quite match the view. Black mold grows in her bathroom, plaster is crumbling in the living room, and she said roaches and spiders have infested the kitchen walls. “My house is falling apart, little by little before my eyes, and I don’t see anything being done,” she said.

Problems like these have long afflicted public housing, but Toro said that they’ve only gotten worse since Sandy. A large water stain on her grandson’s bedroom floor provides a blunt reminder of the storm, which left residents of the Coney Island Houses without heat and electricity for 22 days.

The long list of outstanding repairs in Toro’s apartment is symptomatic of the ailments plaguing the housing authority, the largest such provider in the nation, with 334 developments that accommodate more than 400,000 tenants. Its 2014 projected deficit is $191 million, due largely to a steady reduction of federal funding. And though the backlog of work orders has decreased greatly in recent years, it still runs in the tens of thousands.

Superstorm Sandy only exacerbated these chronic issues. The storm affected more than 400 public housing buildings across the city and left more than 80,000 residents without basic amenities for weeks. The Coney Island Houses is one of many properties still relying on temporary boilers two years after the storm.

“The funding, design, and implementation challenges [of NYCHA's Sandy-related repairs] are unparalleled,”

 

–Nicholas Bloom, an urban historian.

As part of the renovations, NYCHA will install back-up generators, build an elevated structure to house new boilers, and replace numerous mechanical, electrical and architectural features damaged by the storm. It also will install new surveillance cameras to provide everyday security and to allow authorities to monitor the property in the event of another storm. The funding will not, however, cover repairs for storm-related damages in apartments like Toro’s that are above the first floor.

A NYCHA spokesperson said work should begin next summer. If successful, this approach to implementing Sandy repairs, which relies on funding from FEMA, may serve as a model for renovations in at least 15 other public housing developments that sustained heavy damage in the storm.

According to Nicholas Bloom, an urban historian and professor at the New York Institute of Technology, the sheer magnitude of damage at some properties has made it uniquely difficult for the authority to carry out repairs. “The funding, design, and implementation challenges are unparalleled,” he said. As for the two-year wait for extensive Sandy-related renovations, Bloom praised the city agency for not “rushing a fix.”

An authority spokesperson echoed the need for patience: “Very early on in the aftermath of the storm, once we made temporary repairs to restore critical utilities, we made a determination that it would be irresponsible to simply repair in place and rebuild for short-term expediency instead of long-term sustainability, which could potentially compromise our infrastructure and leave our residents vulnerable.”

But this protracted wait has left some residents skeptical of the authority’s ability to care for its aging buildings. “When I see it, I’ll believe it,” said Carmen Gonzalez, 61, of the planned renovations. “They’re always promising.”

Amelia Riviera has called the Houses home for more than three decades, and the 57-year-old said the problems facing the buildings predate Sandy. “We had to wait for a storm to get help like this?” she asked, mentioning longtime issues like faulty elevators, broken security cameras, and trash on the facility’s grounds. “The buildings were already corrupt.”

Photo by Jesse Coburn

Photo by Jesse Coburn

The Coney Island Houses consist of five 14-story towers that accommodate 1,398 low-income residents. The buildings were completed in 1957—one of many high-rise, low-income developments built on the outskirts of the city.

Cheap land, low population density, and preexisting poor communities made places like Coney Island and the Rockaways seem like logical places to put these new housing blocks. Since then, however, these beachside locations have proven a mixed blessing, as residents are isolated both geographically and economically from the rest of the city. Crime continues to trouble the neighborhood, although it has significantly improved in recent decades. And the area’s median household incomeremains among the city’s lowest.

But as the 2012 storm made painfully clear, natural phenomena count among the most serious threats to the neighborhood and its almost 10,000 public housing residents.

The city has received pointed criticism for its response to public housing impacted by Sandy. In “Weathering the Storm,” an independent report by a group of community advocacy and research organizations from 2013, the authors wrote: “The City’s response to Superstorm Sandy was slow and communication to residents before, during and after the storm was inadequate.”

But the report saw promise in the wave of progressive politicians and officials who have arrived in local public office in recent years. Chief among them is Mayor de Blasio, for whom housing is a central concern. And according to Judy Toro, the authority’s response time to work orders has improved in the past few months. Recently she received a new refrigerator, three years after submitting her request.

For residents like Toro, however, such developments will have to become the norm rather than the exception if perceptions of the authority are to improve. The upcoming renovations could represent such a sea change. But Toro is less than certain: “I’m not holding my breath.”

Photo by Carol Ragab

Photo by Carol Ragab

Is there any particular reason that they are all facing the same  direction?

Photo by Carol Ragab

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.

Sampson (File photo)

Sampson (File photo)

State Senator John Sampson’s defense team has taken a rather bizarre approach, practically admitting that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of foreclosed homes - but that he did it too long ago for him to be prosecuted.

The pol appeared in court on Thursday to have two of the 10 counts against him dismissed, arguing that the funds were embezzled earlier than prosecutors said. According to a New York Times report, the issue revolves around the definition of embezzlement. The prosecution’s charges are based on when Sampson spent the money; Sampson’s defense said it should have been on when he moved it into an escrow account he controlled.

The paper reports:

The defense agreed, for the purposes of the motion, that the embezzlement took place in 1998 and 2002, when Mr. Sampson transferred the money to escrow accounts he controlled.

It is “extraneous” and “irrelevant” how and when the embezzled funds were spent, his lawyer, Nathaniel H. Akerman, said in court on Thursday.

A prosecutor, Alexander A. Solomon, argued that embezzlement was “not complete until the defendant used the funds in the escrow account,” which occurred within the five-year window.

The judge said the pol’s failure to return the money “shows some intention,” but also noted the prosecutor’s logical flaw that, if the money was not returned but also never spent, then the pol could never be prosecuted.

The case stems from two incidents in 1998 and 2002, when Sampson, a lawyer, was appointed the referee in foreclosure proceedings. He was to oversee the sale of the homes, pay off the debts, and return the surplus funds to the state within five days. According to the prosecution, and now apparently the defense as well, he did not return those funds and instead began using them for personal benefit in 2008.

The judge will rule on the motion by the end of the month, according to Capital New York. Sampson faces eight other counts for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to federal prosecutors.

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Sheepshead Bay Road’s Global Wholesale Market may reopen two years after it sold its last apple, as the building is currently undergoing major renovations.

The building at 1414 Sheepshead Bay Road sat silently since the business’ closure in September 2012, nearly a decade after it first opened. But, as any straphanger using the Sheepshead Bay Road subway station has noticed, workers have been on the roof installing new steel support beams.

Photo by Eugene Zhukovsky

Photo by Eugene Zhukovsky

According to paperwork filed with the Department of Buildings, it’s a renovation of an “existing supermarket” with plans to replace the storefronts, reinforce the roof (via the steel columns), and excavate beneath the building to create a cellar.

In terms of usable space created by the new cellar, the building is expanding from 18,350 square feet to 21,600, the maximum allowed by zoning.

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That’s not all. The oddly-shaped lot currently has storefront space on East 14th Street, adjacent to CVS’ parking lot. This will be torn down, according to the plans, and replaced with an 18-car parking lot.

The plot diagram submitted to the Department of Buildings. It will remain a one-story supermarket, but they're adding parking and digging out a basement.

The plot diagram submitted to the Department of Buildings. It will remain a one-story supermarket, but they’re adding parking and digging out a basement.

There’s no word on when the work will be done. The owners – the same as under Global Wholesale Market, according to the paperwork – were not available to comment when we called.

Apparently they’ve gotten into a bit of trouble, though:

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A Department of Buildings spokesperson confirmed that the Stop Work Order is still active, and was issued on September 29 because some demolition and the installation of the structural steel was being done without permits. The only work they’re currently allowed to do is back-fill behind the building, and by hand only. The spokesperson noted that any other work witnessed at the site should be reported immediately to 311.

While we’re sure that will slow down the work, we’re still happy to see this space being put back to use. We’ll keep you posted if we hear back about an opening date.

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Atlas’ current storefront on 18th Avenue (Photo by Anna Gustafson)

Gravesend is about to get a new butcher in Atlas Meat Market, an acclaimed Kensington business that is moving to Avenue X in early November.

The news comes via our sister site, Ditmas Park Corner, which writes that shop is leaving its 4311 18th Avenue location and taking over 387 Avenue X, which was most recently the call base for Prestige Car Service.

Since its opening just last year, the business has built up a loyal following in that neighborhood for quality cuts and knowledge of meat.

Ditmas Park Corner previously profiled the business, writing that owner Andrey Nevelskiy, a Borough Park resident, learned his trade during a 15-year stint in the Meatpacking District from seasoned veterans with more than 50 years of experience. As that neighborhood began to give way to gentrification and the fashion industry, he sought to revive the profession in Brooklyn.

“I know meat very well,” Andrey says, pointing to a board on the Kensington shop’s wall that spells out customers’ options for meat, a list far too dauntingly long to list in its entirety but which includes chuck roast, ribs, sirloin steak, brisket, hamburger meat, and so on. “I know every muscle, everything about it. I can give advice on anything we sell, whether you want to cook for 15 minutes or you want to cook for two hours.”

…“I live in this neighborhood, and I never saw a butcher shop like this,” Andrey says, explaining why he and [co-owner David Khanateyev] wanted to open their business in the area. “The whole point of this place is fresh meat. I cut the meat in front of the customer, so they can see it’s fresh. I can marinate the meat, and I’ll put it on in front of the customer.”