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In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): Here are some of the big stories you may have missed this week. You can keep up with what’s going on in the neighborhood all week long. Just follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for our daily newsletter. If you have any news tips, story ideas, questions or anything else, e-mail us at editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Cherry Hill-Lundy's Grand Opening

Cherry Hill opened in 2009. Photo by Ray Johnson.

(UPDATE: 3:30pm): We were just informed that Cherry Hill has been removed from the agenda for Monday and will be pushed back until January.

Original post: 

Community Board 15 is meeting Monday, December 15, at 7:00 p.m. at Kingsborough Community College  (2001 Oriental Boulevard) in the faculty dining room. The meeting is more than a week earlier than their regularly scheduled meeting so that it will not conflict with the holidays.

Among other items, the Board will consider an application for a zoning text amendment from the City Planning Commission to permit food stores with no limitation within the landmarked Lundy’s building (1901 Emmons Avenue) – an alteration requested by Cherry Hill Gourmet Market. The business currently operates in violation of the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district, which dictates the kind of businesses that can operate along the Emmons Avenue waterfront.

Food markets are currently prohibited, and the business opened in 2009 with initial plans to have both a market and restaurant. Though there is a cafe, the restaurant – which was slated to take up 70 percent of the floor space, including the second flood – never materialized. According to owners, that’s because local groups and community leaders including former State Senator Carl Kruger opposed the market use, eventually earning a Stop Work Order that impeded construction.

After five years of operation in violation of zoning, the business is now asking that their food store be allowed. They say they remain one of the building’s only viable tenants and bring jobs to the area, and the change in use will allow them to move forward with plans of establishing a second-floor restaurant. Opponents say, nice as the market may be, legalizing the use would reward a business owner who disregarded the law, and also further weaken the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district intended to preserve the waterfront for recreational use.

Aside from the Cherry Hill Gourmet Market, other items on the Board’s zoning agenda include:

  • 2311 Quentin Road - An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 1963 McDonald Avenue  – An application to legalize a variance for floor area, lot coverage, rear yard and open space regulations.
  • 1620 Shore Boulevard - An application for a special permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling.
  • 2018 East 7th Street – An application filed for “Revocable Consent” due to the open steps and garden wall encroaching 5.1 ft beyond the lot line at the front of the property.

In addition to the zoning items, the board’s chairperson and district manager will deliver their monthly reports. There will also be time to hear residents’ concerns and discuss various committee reports, and elected officials may be in attendance.

You can view the full agenda here. Refreshments will be served.

Surveillance cameras caught the thieves in the middle of the burglary. (Source: NYPD) (Click to enlarge)

Surveillance cameras caught the thieves in the middle of the burglary. (Source: NYPD) (Click to enlarge)

Three men broke into a Kings Highway storefront, breaking a front gate, smashing a window and making off with several fur coats, according to police.

The early morning heist took place Monday, November 24 at 4:00am, when the men pried open the 1310 Kings Highway storefront rollup gate and shattered the front window. They went inside and swiped several fur coats. Police did not  provide the name of the business or the value of the coats.

The suspects are described as one white male and two black males.

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 tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Photo By Erica Sherman

Photo By Erica Sherman

UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space, and hear what the current owners and some patrons will miss the most when El Greco closes.

Sheepshead Bay’s iconic El Greco Diner is set to shutter next week after the property has gone into contract for a sale, making way for a new residential tower with ground-level commercial space, sources tell Sheepshead Bites.

El Greco Diner, a waterfront staple at 1821 Emmons Avenue, will soon serve its last burger and breakfast, an employee confirmed by phone today.

“Yes, we’re closing. By the end of next week. We’re not sure yet [what day],” the employee said.

The worker added that she and colleagues were told just yesterday. She hung up the phone when asked for additional details.

The sale of the property and its closure are not yet public. Owner George Venetoklis did not return calls for comment, but sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed social media chatter, and said that the land has sold to a local developer with plans to construct a new building.

The building was put up for sale in March 2013 with an asking price of $17.5 million. An associate for Massey Knakel Realty Services, the listing agent, told Sheepshead Bites that the company no longer represented the property, but that El Greco’s owners had gone in-contract with a private buyer.

A source with knowledge of the pending sale said the deal hasn’t closed yet, but is in contract for between $13 and $15 million. The source requested anonymity to preserve business relationships with the owner.

“They should be closing shortly,” the source said.

No plans have been filed with the Department of Buildings, and since the deal has not closed there has been no paperwork filed notifying the city in a change of ownership.

El Greco has served Sheepshead Bay patrons since the 1970s, and has been named one of Brooklyn’s best diners. Employees were hit hard by the news of its impending closure, according to diners who visited this morning.

“My wife was there this morning and the employees were all devastated,” said Michael Goldstein, the director of marketing at Kingsborough Community College. “They also told her in secret.”

UPDATE (December 12, 2014 at 2pm): The deal officially closed this morning, confirmed owner George Venetoklis. He did not disclose the sale price or the buyer, but did add that El Greco’s last day of operation is slated for Friday, December 19.

Our bandbox bandit enters the stage upon which he commits his dastardly deed. (Source: NYPD)

Our bandbox bandit enters the stage upon which he commits his dastardly deed. (Source: NYPD)

Coppers are on the prowl for a villain of ritz and class who did indeed (allegedly) spy on a little old lady as she used an ATM at Kings Highway’s HSBC Bank, ultimately employing the ill-gotten information to steal $500 – presumably for more fresh threads and fly braids.

According to officials, the suspect entered the 1602 Kings Highway bank on Sunday, November 9, at 3:30pm. He took his place in line behind a 67-year-old woman, then, without scruples or true cunning, peered over her shoulder as she entered her pin number. Hobbled, perhaps, by faith in society due to her attachment to a bygone era, when such things could be done without the expectation of malice, our tragic victim did not log off the ATM upon finishing her transaction. The suspect put in the PIN and withdrew $500 in cash.

The suspect is described as a black man, approximately 6’0″, weighing 170lbs and with braided hair. Also, of rakish conceit.

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 tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Sure is cold out there today. (Photo by Robert Fernandez)

Sure is cold out there. (Photo by Robert Fernandez)

Bills can be a pain for any family. But for those in the most dire need, it can mean choosing between staying warm this winter or putting food on the table.

For those who struggle, help is on the way. The Heartshare Neighborhood Heating Fund is now accepting applications for their program to provide up to $200 a month to put towards keeping warm this winter.

The program was founded by National Grid in 1983 to help low-income families and individuals, and in 1993 was taken over by HeartShare Human Services. It assists more than 1,200 recipients each season, from December through March. To qualify, you must fall within HEAP income guidelines.

Locally, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’ office at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road is once again an official NHF application receiving site. Applications are available at the office now and his staff will assist constituents in his district in completing them.

The NHF program runs until funds are depleted, so residents are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

“The winter is a particularly difficult time for low-income residents who must struggle to cover their basic needs,” said Cymbrowitz in a press release. “I am pleased that the Neighborhood Heating Fund is available to lend a much-needed helping hand.”

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ office is open Monday through Thursday, 9:30am to 5:30pm, and until 5 p.m. on Fridays. You can call and make an appointment at (718) 743-4078 or just walk in.

Update (3:32pm): Councilman Chaim Deutsch’s office is also a designated application center for the NHF. His district office is at 2401 Avenue U. Call (718) 368-9176 to make an appointment.

Amen Hamdi (Source: NYPD handout)

Amen Hamdi (Source: NYPD handout)

Authorities are turning to neighbors for help in their search of Amen Hamdi, 18, a Bragg Street man who went missing on Friday.

Police say Hamdi was last seen at 10:00am on December 5. He was leaving his home on Bragg Street near Emmons Avenue wearing a black jacket with white stripes on the sleeves, a red shirt, blue jeans and blue and grey sneakers.

Hamdi is described as 5’7″ and weights 170 pounds.

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

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

While a rainy day for most of us is just a pain in the neck, it’s an absolute hazard in the Sheepshead Bay courts – the bungalow colonies lining the eastern end of Emmons Avenue.

The below-street-level communities, which date back about 100 years, have long been prone to flooding. Neighbors are getting fed up, today sending us photos and video to illustrate just how bad it is.

Today’s nor’easter was forecast to bring about three inches of rain to the area. But due to runoff from the streets, Lake Avenue – a court just east of Nostrand Avenue between Emmons Avenue and Shore Parkway – was four inches under water by noon, according to resident Missy Haggerty.

“Flooding always happens during heavy rains. So do the other six courts,” said Haggerty. “It has gotten worse since [Superstorm Sandy].”

The problem is that the streets – which are pedestrian only and approximately eight feet wide – is not that they are just below the city’s street level, it’s that there’s no real drainage to speak of. There are small drains peppered throughout the blocks, but they go down into a shallow dirt well. They were never connected to the city’s system when it was laid out in the first half of the 20th century, also when streets were raised.

Another Lake Avenue resident, Ellen Chang, filmed the flooding as she attempted to take her dog for a walk. Without rain boots, the walkways are positively dangerous and her pup – not a small dog at all – is submerged nearly up to his chest:

Cheng said in the video that she was never informed of the flooding issue when she bought the house 14 years ago.

“I didn’t know my house had flooding like this when there’s heavy rain. All the neighbors are suffering,” she said.

Cheng and other neighbors are calling on the city to construct proper drainage connected to the city’s sewer system.

“I pay taxes. I have a right to a sewer system, and the government didn’t do anything,” she said.

“All we need is to just dig a sewer connection to Emmons Avenue sewer system. That won’t cost the city a lot of money,” she added by e-mail.

The problem is that the city considers these streets private – a justification they’ve also given for not replacing worn out street signs in the area – and in the past has claimed that residents need to band together and pay for it themselves.

The unique layout of the courts has also caused Sandy recovery issues. Build it Back chief Amy Peterson said at a Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting last week that the narrow streets, lack of vehicle access and close proximity of houses is causing delays in the construction process, and leading the agency to explore a neighborhood-wide approach.

We’ll be pinging city agencies to see if they have an approach in mind to address the ongoing flooding concern, and will update you when we hear back.

nypd-1

The 61st Precinct Community Council Meeting will meet at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, December 10, at YDE School, 2533 Coney Island Avenue.

The Community Council is comprised of concerned residents and top brass from the 61st Precinct, and offers neighbors an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about crime and safety issues in the area. The monthly meetings are attended by the commanding officer of the precinct, who will present a report on incidents and trends in the neighborhood, and speak face-to-face with neighbors about specific concerns.

For further information, or if you have questions or comments concerning Community Affairs, call (718) 627-6847.

Source: woodleywonderworks/Flickr

A new website created by the New York State Attorney General’s office aims to help homeowners easily identify and avoid mortgage rescue scams, while also providing direction on how to reach housing counselors and legal services organizations if additional assistance is needed.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman says AGScamHelp.com was developed to keep homeowners who are behind on their mortgages from getting deeper into debt by becoming victims of any number of scams.

“Easily accessible from smartphones, tablets, and other devices, AGScamHelp allows users to quickly search the name of any organization offering mortgage modification assistance,” he wrote in a piece of the Huffington Post. “The app will show that an organization is ‘Trusted’ if it is part of the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program, or has been approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

If the organization has not been approved by HUD of the AG’s office, you’ll be advised to use caution since it’s not government-vetted. They’ll also provide info on how to spot a possible mortgage rescue scam, who to contact nearby for counseling or legal services, and how to report potential scammers so the AG’s office can investigate them.

According to a recent report from the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the average New York homeowner who falls victim to a scam loses about $4,187, almost $900 more than than the national average.

Check out the site at AGScamHelp.com.

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