Archive for the 'News & Features' Category

clothing-bins

Clothing donation bins are nothing new to the area, although the handful of organizations behind them place them with varying degrees of legality.

One company in particular appears to have thrown caution to the wind, with several placements around Southern Brooklyn that are blatantly illegal. These bins may not be placed on public property, as it is in the photo above, but we’ve seen these pink boxes from Narciso Recycling Company doing just that from here to Bensonhurst.

And it’s not just us. The Manhattan Beach Community Group took notice, too, sending the following note to their members:

In case you haven’t noticed there are a growing number of pink clothing boxes being place in and around Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and elsewhere. These boxes are illegal, the owners, we are told, take the clothing and sell it!

The Department of Sanitation will remove the boxes. All you have to do is call 311 and report the location of a box you see.

MBCG President Judy Baron told Sheepshead Bites that the bins have been spotted on Shore Boulevard, at a construction site near Girard Street. The one above is on Ocean Avenue and Shore Parkway.

The New York Times looked into these bins earlier this month and found that they were not only illegal, but have become a burden to taxpayers.

A growing number of companies — many of them based in New Jersey — are illegally placing used-clothing bins throughout New York City, blocking sidewalks and serving as magnets for litter and graffiti. The receptacles typically have signs that indicate donated goods will go to the poor or, in some cases, to legitimate charities. But, city officials said, the needy do not benefit from much of what is collected. Instead, the clothing is often sold in thrift stores or in bulk overseas, with the proceeds going to for-profit entities that can be impossible to trace, or even to contact.

“They have become the bane of our existence,” Kathryn Garcia, the city’s sanitation commissioner, said. “We have seen a significant uptick in the number of clothing bins placed illegally on public sidewalks. A dramatic increase.”

City law bans such bins from being placed on sidewalks and streets; they are legal on private property with the consent of the owner.

We do want to note that not all companies place their bins illegally. As the excerpt above notes, if it’s placed on private property, it’s okay – although it’s up to donors to determine if their clothing will go to a good cause.

City Councilman Vincent Gentile introduced legislation earlier this month that could expedite their removal, and see the companies fined for placing it on public land.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is backtracking on details of an overseas trip in which he spent more than $1,300 in campaign funds at a hotel, three restaurants and a gift shop in Barcelona and Germany, bringing guffaws from good government advocates.

The local pol’s European spending, first reported by the New York Observer, covered a three-day spree in February. Cymbrowitz’s campaign finance disclosures show he spent $189 at a souvenir shop in Munich, which he filed away as “office expenses.” In Barcelona, the assemblyman spent $819 at the five-star Hotel Majestic, and nearly $300 over four visits to three restaurants, including the top-rated tapas bar Cerveceria Catalana.

Asked about the spending by Sheepshead Bites following the Observer article, Cymbrowitz spokesperson Adrienne Knoll forward the following statement which was also sent to the Observer:

As the child of Holocaust survivors, I promised my parents I would do everything in my power to help Holocaust survivors and to not let our world fall into the destructive grips of fascism ever again. In keeping that pledge I made more than 50 years ago, I visited Munich, Germany, and had an opportunity to visit the Dachau memorial site, where more than 32,000 Jews and non-Jews were killed. During my visit I was reminded of the fact that one in four of the approximately 140,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States – 38,000 of whom live in Brooklyn, the majority of them in my district – are living at or below the poverty line.

After a number of Russian-speaking survivors in my district were denied benefits from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany due to bureaucratic snafus, my office intervened. To advocate on behalf of these Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors, I met with a board member from the Claims Conference during my trip to Munich, as well as with a number of board members back here in the U.S., in order to rectify the situation and to ensure that some small measure of justice is achieved.

I also met with city officials in Munich to discuss the issue of Neo-Nazism and how the German government works on putting together programs for the Jewish community to help Jewish seniors and children. As the state legislator with the largest Sephardic Jewish population in the state, I was invited to Barcelona to meet with city officials and members of local, prominent Jewish organizations.

The spokesperson added the following, “[Cymbrowitz] went with other legislators. [The Observer] made it sound like a solo excursion and that wasn’t the case.”

However, after follow-up questions asking Cymbrowitz’s office to specify legislators were also on the trip, the spokesperson reversed course on that assertion.

“One correction….he didn’t go with other legislators. Sorry,” Knoll said, via e-mail.

In response to our request for details on his being “invited” to Barcelona, we received another e-mail stating, “He was not invited to Barcelona. That was an error. As the assemblyman who represents a large Sephardic community with roots in Spain, he went to Barcelona to meet with the remaining members of the Sephardic community to talk about the rise in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism.”

Cymbrowitz’s office did not respond to additional questions about the “city officials and members of local, prominent Jewish organizations” he met with while in Barcelona, and declined to provide an itinerary or appointment calendar.

His office also declined to explain why $189 was spent at a souvenir shop and listed as “office expenses” for the campaign.

The expenses did not involve taxpayer money, and campaign finance regulations allow funds to be spent at the candidate’s discretion, so long as they can explain how it relates to their office they’re running for.

Cymbrowitz’s spending, though, has brought criticism from Common Cause, a good government group that advocates for tighter controls of campaign spending as well as publicly financed campaigns.

“This kind of conduct, using campaign dollars to stay at five-star hotels, to buy expensive souvenirs in exotic places, simply fuels the public cynicism about elected officials and campaigns,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause. “There should be clear delineation between what is and isn’t a campaign expense, especially since so many public officials don’t seem to have their own guidance system about what’s appropriate.”

Lerner said Cymbrowitz’s explanations – and back-tracking – doesn’t pass the sniff test, and reflects poorly on Albany culture.

“It’s kind of amazing. He’s trying to come up with justifications [for travel spending] after the fact. It just seems to be egregious to justify the spending at five-star hotels and restaurants in the interest of Holocaust survivors. It’s really kind of unbelievable,” she said.

She added that she doubted his claim of visiting Barcelona’s small Jewish community to discuss antisemitism, since most contemporary incidents are in central Europe.

“There seems to be tenuous connection [between visiting Spain and his duties as an office-holder] and there should be a full accounting of the facts and a precise record of his activities. Then voters can decide for themselves,” she said.

Signage for bus lane enforcement (Source: DOT)

Signage for bus lane enforcement (Source: DOT)

The B44 Select Bus Service route on Nostrand Avenue became the latest in the city to feature camera-enforced bus lanes, but a snag in mailing out violations and the functioning of the cameras themselves has caused drivers unaware of the new restrictions to receive dozens of violations months after the incident.

The Department of Finance and Department of Transportation conceded that the agencies had failed to send out the tickets in a timely manner, catching drivers unaware and allowing them to repeat the mistake.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch won the concessions from the agencies, who are now agreeing to suspend mailing and to review all violation that occurred on the route between March 17 and July 25. Motorists will still be fined, but only for the first violation they received, and refunds will be issued to those who have already paid.

“When people get a violation, it’s to educate them that they did something unlawful and they have to stop,” Deutsch told Sheepshead Bites. “Having it come to them three or four months later doesn’t serve that purpose. Given that it’s the newest SBS bus lane, a lot of people still don’t understand how it should be used even though there are signs posted.”

Deutsch said the cameras were also taking multiple photos of the same vehicles, causing additional violations for the same incident. He said the DOT has corrected that problem.

During active hours, a vehicle may only enter the bus lane to make a right turn, drop off passengers, or make or receive a delivery. More about bus lanes can be found in this DOT handout.

The violation carries a $125 fine, but with motorists unaware of the changes and not receiving the summonses promptly, they were fined multiple times. Deutsch said one constituent received approximately $7,000 in fines. He added that about two dozen constituents have already reported this problem to him, “but there’s a lot more.”

Camera enforcement on the route will remain in effect, but the agencies said they will go through their records and contact those who received multiple violations. If you think you’re one of them, you can speed up the process of having the summonses tossed or receiving a refund by calling Deutsch’s district office at (718) 368-9176.

accident

A tow truck driver allegedly slammed into five parked cars on Ocean Avenue and Avenue Y before fleeing the scene early Thursday morning, according to CBS News.

Police told the outlet that they tracked down the 26-year-old driver, Igor Lyakhovetsky, arresting him with charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and leaving the scene. Lyakhovetsky allegedly ditched the truck and fled on foot.

The truck appears to have been owned by Dependable Towing, although the company denies that it or its vehicles were part of the incident.

The station reports:

[CBS] stopped by the address for the towing company to ask about the driver and the company’s reaction to the story. A man who identified himself as the manager said CBS 2 had the wrong company and that his company had nothing to do with it.

However, all phone numbers trailed back the address. The phone number that was seen on the tow truck itself was prominently displayed on the wall outside the business, and a dispatcher who picked up the phone when [CBS] called said that the business was indeed “Dependable” and confirmed the address.

The damage to some of the vehicles was extensive, according to CBS. The car above was involved in the incident and is now parked on a nearby street, with both its rear and front ends crushed by the tow truck.

Source: onesevenone/Flickr

B LINE

From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, B service ends early each night.

From 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, Manhattan-bound B trains run local from Kings Hwy to Prospect Park.

Q LINE

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, there are no Q trains between 57 St-7 Av and Ditmars Blvd – take the N.

From 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy.

F LINE

From 11:45 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, Coney Island-bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Van Wyck Blvd, and 75 Av.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound F trains run local from 71 Av to Roosevelt Av.

Eid a Fitr is also called the Sweet Festival for all the yummy sweets (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Alternate side parking regulations are suspended Monday through Wednesday, July 28 to 30 for Eid al-Fitr, and there will be no street cleaning on those days.

All other regulations, including parking meters, remain in effect.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is celebrated by Muslims worldwide. After fasting from dawn to sunset the previous month, Muslims are not permitted to fast during Eid al-Fitr and usually attend large celebrations full of food and gifts. It’s one of the most important festivals on the Islamic calendar.

You can download your own 2014 Alternate Side Parking Suspension calendar from the NYC DOT’s website.

Photo by Barbara Pearson

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.

Source: cgc76/Flickr

Q LINE

From 12:01 a.m. Satursday to 5 a.m. Monday, Q trains run local in Manhattan.

F LINE

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday, F trains run local in Queens.

hydrant-sprinklers

In the middle of a hot July day, we can understand wanting to do whatever it takes to cool down — just don’t waste water!

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection just launched their 2014 Hydrant Education Action Team (HEAT) program to remind people about the dangers of illegally opening fire hydrants — they release more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute and can reduce water pressure in neighborhoods, making it difficult to fight fires.

So you still want to enjoy a splash through the hydrant’s water? No problem — they can be opened legally if equipped with a city-approved spray cap, which releases only 20 to 25 gallons per minute. That keeps water pressure adequate and won’t knock down any kiddos looking to play.

Spray caps can be obtained by an adult 18 or over with proper identification, free of charge, at local firehouses. Here’s where to go:

Engine 246/Ladder 169: 2732 East 11th Street, between Shore Parkway and Blake Court

Engine 321: 2165 Gerritsen Avenue, near Avenue U

Engine 276/Ladder 156/Battalion 33: 1635 East 14th Street, near Kings Highway

Engine 254/Ladder 153: 901 Avenue U, at East 9th Street

The firefighters will come to the site to install it, and then will return later that evening to remove it. Now have fun out there!

Sean Henry (Source: Henry campaign)

State Senate candidate Sean Henry is putting issues of homelessness and poverty at the center of his campaign to unseat Senator John Sampson. For Henry it’s a personal battle, having emerged from homelessness in a story that could have been penned by Horation Alger.

The East New York resident was profiled by DNAinfo earlier this week, reflecting on his own history of homelessness growing up in Chicago.

The Sheepshead Bay portion of Sampson's district, which connects to the remainder of his district via a one block stretch. (Click to enlarge)

The Sheepshead Bay portion of Sampson’s district, which connects to the remainder of his district via a one block stretch. (Click to enlarge)

His parents split up in the 1980s and he was left in the care of his unemployed single mother. They shuffled between the homes of family members, struggled to put food on the table, and eventually landed in homeless shelters.

Throughout that, Henry worked his way through one of Chicago’s leading high schools, joined ROTC and enlisted in the Army Reserve. With help from the G.I. Bill he went on to obtain an undergraduate degree and then a graduate degree at NYU.

He began working for the city’s Department of Homeless Services, advocating for those whose challenges he knew better than most.

From the profile:

If elected, Henry said he wants to fight to eradicate homelessness, not just build new shelters in neighborhoods like East New York.

“We have a record amount of people in shelters and we have to get them out, but we have to get them out long term,” Henry said.

Rather than spend money to house families in shelters, city and state agencies should instead spend money on resources to keep them in their homes, like social workers and housing attorneys, he said.

“We’re spending the money anyway, if they’re going to a shelter,” Henry said. “So why not spend much less and keep families in their home?”

Henry also emphasizes education and more resources to the area’s impoverished schools, as well as fighting for affordable housing.

Henry blasts Sampson’s inability to represent the district while being mired in legal troubles. The pol is facing charges for allegedly stealing more than $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes to finance a political campaign, as well as separate charges for lying to the FBI about a liquor store he owned.

The charges have apparently kept Sampson busy. During the legislative session this year, he uttered just one word and introduced no legislation. And Henry said Sampson has utterly failed to obtain Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to hard-hit Canarsie.

“I’m sorry for John,” Henry told DNAinfo. “But he just has too many legal issues and can’t do the job.”

Check out the full profile.

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