Archive for the 'News & Features' Category

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.

Parking lot identified in BP Adams' affordable housing report.

Parking lot identified in BP Adams’ affordable housing report.

Several “underdeveloped areas” of Brooklyn can be used to build affordable housing – including municipal parking lots in Brighton Beach, Bensonhurst, and Midwood – according to a new report by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

The parking lots, like one facing the Riegelmann Boardwalk between Brighton 2nd Street and Brighton 4th Street, can be sold to create approximately 2,000 affordable housing units, with space leftover for shared public parking, states the report.

While praising Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to build 200,000 units of affordable housing citywide, Adams writes:

New York City, in general, and Brooklyn, in particular, can be models for government at its best: expanding opportunity and safeguarding community character, while being supportive, resilient and progressive. Brooklyn has the space to create entirely new neighborhoods by tapping underdeveloped land, exploring air rights and considering developing residential properties over existing rail yards and rail infrastructure. We have the capacity; all we need is tenacity!

Along with identifying sites to build the units, the report offers several ways to better connect New Yorkers with affordable housing, including partnering with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to create multiple tiers of income eligibility, so that a wider portion of the population can have access. Adams also proposes the HPD give preference to locals, so that residents are not forced from their neighborhoods.

The report is restating a conversation from eight years ago, and it still needs to evolve, a spokesperson for the borough president told us. When fully fleshed out, the plan will include components like doing construction in phases to ensure parking for merchants at all times, as well as building height and affordability considerations.

This is not the beep’s first bold affordable housing proposal. As we previously reported, one of the first things Adams did as borough president was explore the possibility of selling air rights in one part of the borough and using the money to to create land banks near Coney Island for affordable housing.

Read the full report here.

Carmine Carro Community Center

The Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association is holding its Annual Holiday Meeting-Party tonight, and the entire community is invited. The meeting / shindig will be from 7:30pm to 9:00pm at the Carmine Carro Community Center inside Marine Park on Fillmore Avenue between Madison Place and Marine Parkway.

Mark Chiusano, author of the new book “Marine Park,” will be on hand. Copies of the book will be on sale at the party for $15 each.

Meet your neighbors and elected officials, enjoy some refreshments, and try your luck at 50/50 and raffle prizes. Don’t forget to bring a friend, relative or neighbor.

For information, call (718) 375-9158.

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.

Source: Flickr/rene-germany

Source: Flickr/rene-germany

Thirty percent of Brooklyn households lack high-speed internet at home, keeping residents from accessing crucial resources for school, work and business, with Kensington and Borough Park being the areas in Brooklyn most lacking when it comes to the digital divide, according to a new report from city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Stringer’s report, “Internet Inequality: Broadband Access in NYC,” states that citywide, 27 percent of New York City households (meaning 730,000 homes) lack broadband internet, with 17 percent of households (533,000 homes) not having a computer at their residence. Bronx had the worst access compared to the rest of the city, with 34 percent of households lacking high-speed internet access, compared to 30 percent in Brooklyn, 26 percent in Queens, 22 percent in Staten Island, and 21 percent in Manhattan.

“New Yorkers who don’t have online access lack the tools they need to improve their education, employment and business opportunities,” Stringer said in a press release. “Just as the subway powered New York’s growth in the 20th century, high-speed broadband will power our City’s economic competitiveness in the 21st century.  If we are to remain the global city, we can’t allow our peers to speed by while New Yorkers are left on the shoulder of the information superhighway. Slow and steady does not win this race.”

Using data from the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey of households on broadband subscriptions and computer ownership, Stringer found that Kensington and Borough Park had the greatest number of homes, 47 percent, without high-speed internet access. Brighton Beach and Coney Island, had the second highest at 42 percent, and Brownsville and Ocean Hill had 40 percent.

As for the rest of Brooklyn, the percent of households without broadband connection at home are as follows:

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant – 38.7 percent
  • Crown Heights North and Prospect Heights – 34 percent
  • Bushwick – 33.4 percent
  • East New York & Starrett City – 32 percent
  • Flatbush & Midwood – 31.6 percent
  • Greenpoint & Williamsburg – 29.6 percent
  • East Flatbush – 29 percent
  • Crown Heights South & Prospect Lefferts – 26.9 percent
  • Sheepshead Bay & Gerritsen Beach – 25.3 percent
  • Bensonhurst & Bath Beach – 24.9 percent
  • Sunset Park & Windsor Terrace – 23.1 percent
  • Bay Ridge & Dyker Heights – 21.5 percent
  • Canarsie & Flatlands – 21 percent
  • Brooklyn Heights & Fort Greene – 17 percent
  • Park Slope, Carroll Gardens & Red Hook – 14.7 percent

Other findings included that individuals with a bachelor’s degree or more had far greater access to high-speed internet, with just 11 percent of college graduates lacking broadband access compared to 40 percent of individuals with less than a high school education.

The comptroller also noted that 27 and 26 percent of black and Hispanic households, respectively, lack broadband at home, compared to 21 percent of white households and 15 percent of Asian households. Younger people also appear to have greater access, with 21 percent of New York City youth (0-18 years) lacking broadband at home, compared to 45 percent of individuals over the age of 65.

Much of the lack of access stems from financial reasons, according to the report, with the Comptroller noting in a press release that consumers in cities across the country and around the world—from Seoul and Paris to Kansas City and Chattanooga—can spend less than $70 per month for a one gigabit connection, but the top speed available for most consumers in New York City is half the speed of those cities (500 megabits), at a cost of more than four times that ($299.99 a month).

Stringer’s report was released just before the Franchise & Concession Review Committee held a hearing on Monday on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to convert pay phones across the five boroughs into free Wi-Fi kiosks. While a number of civic and tech leaders have thrown their support behind the plan, others, including Stringer and the city’s borough presidents, previously criticized the proposal, saying they were concerned it would unequally provide high-speed Wi-Fi, with more attention being paid to Manhattan than Brooklyn or Queens – as well as allocating very few resources to the Bronx.

It does, however, appear that some of these concerns have been addressed in the interim between a Daily News report that said the mayor’s plan would shortchange poorer neighborhoods and yesterday’s hearing. The Gotham Gazette reported that, “a representative from Stringer’s office read a statement from the comptroller at the hearing which mentioned—without going into specifics—some ‘flagged issues,’ but including that his office was ‘working with City Hall to resolve’ them. He did not recommend voting against the contract.”

The Franchise & Concession Review Committee will meet tomorrow, December 10, to vote on the Wi-Fi plan.

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.

Photo courtesy of Lisanne Anderson

Photo courtesy of Lisanne Anderson

As we reported last week, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) had planned to remove 98 sites from its list of potential landmarks today, an effort to clear a backlog of applications. On the list for almost 50 years was the historic Lady Moody’s House in Gravesend. Fortunately, thanks to pushback from politicians and preservationists, the vote was postponed until after January. Lady Moody’s House remains safe on the calendar – for now.

In the meantime, we’ve reached out to historian Joseph Ditta, author of “Then & Now: Gravesend, Brooklyn” and a reference librarian at the New-York Historical Society, and asked him to share the history of the house, how it acquired its name, and why it is worthy of protected status. Here’s what he told us:

The house at 27 Gravesend Neck Road has had many names in its long history. Although it stands on property that originally belonged to Lady Deborah Moody (c. 1586-1658), the founder of the Town of Gravesend, there is no definite proof that the house is the one she occupied. Continue Reading »

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.

800px-Coney_Island_Boardwalk-2

Can our beloved boardwalk be saved?

Councilman Mark Treyger asked the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to make Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk an official “scenic landmark” yesterday, an effort to block the city from replacing its planks with concrete and plastic, reports the New York Daily News.

“This is a globally recognized iconic structure that draws millions of visitors each year,”  Treyger told us. “Many New Yorkers recall stories from their childhood when their families took them to the boardwalk. We strongly believe that the boardwalk is worthy of being designated a city landmark, and is worthy of the same designated services every other piece of our local infrastructure has.”

As we previously reported, the city began construction to replace the boardwalk this month, despite fierce protests from residents, politicians, and activists, who say the concrete will ruin the walkway’s historic character and who question the environmental impact of the project. Shortly after Superstorm Sandy, activists filed a lawsuit demanding a full environmental review of the boardwalk project before construction commenced, pointing out that concrete has not necessarily proven to be more resilient against extreme weather, but a judge ruled against them.

Now the boardwalk’s fate is in the hands of the LPC. The landmark approval process is notoriously sluggish, and it will likely take at least a year for the boardwalk to reach the panel, but Treyger believes the move will put increased pressure on the Parks Department to halt the project.

“Money has been allocated [by local politicians] to make changes to the boardwalk instead of replacing it. This is very much counter to what the community desires,” Treyger said.

The boardwalk’s tropical wood planks have been around since the 1920s. If approved by the LPC, the boardwalk would become Brooklyn’s fourth scenic landmark. Currently, only Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway, and Ocean Parkway are protected scenic sites.

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Prosecutors filed a request for a “Curcio hearing” in Congressman Michael Grimm’s tax fraud case Friday, likely targeting his recently hired legal counsel, reports the Staten Island Advance.

It was not revealed who was named in the request, but the motion comes after attorneys Stuart N. Kaplan – who once worked with Grimm at the FBI – and his partner Joseph Sconzo joined Grimm’s legal defense team in November. Named for a landmark case in which a lawyer represented two brothers in separate criminal cases, a “Curcio Hearing” is typically requested when there is a conflict of interest for the defendant’s counsel.

The pair also represented Grimm’s ex-girlfriend, Diana Durand, when she was charged with illegally contributing $10,000 to the congressman’s congressional campaign. In that case, a similar “Curcio hearing” was requested, and prosecutors argued that Kaplan’s friendship with the congressman would compel him to advise Durand to withhold information from federal authorities that could incriminate Grimm in the tax fraud case but help Durand during sentencing. Durand eventually accepted a plea deal that did not require her to cooperate in the case against her former beau.

Kaplan and Sconzo deny that there was a conflict of interest in their representing Durand, according to the Staten Island Advance:

Shortly after joining Grimm’s defense team, Kaplan told the Advance, “My loyalties were strictly and solely in her best interest.”

He said that if Ms. Durand could have helped the government’s investigation, “I would have urged her and I would have supported her and I would have counseled her to come forward … This woman had zero, nothing to offer.”

The Law Offices of Kaplan & Sconzo did not get back to us in time to comment on this story.

Grimm was indicted for 20 counts of tax fraud in April for under-reporting payroll expenses and income from his Upper East Side restaurant, which he owned before running for congress.

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