Joe Savarese, with son Christopher and Mocha the bear. Photos by Erica Sherman

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” ― Fred Rogers, who would have been 84 years old today.

On St. Patrick’s Day, lifelong Marine Park resident Joseph Savarese, 39, rose before dawn on a foggy Saturday morning to quietly get his head shaved at Lucky’s Place barber shop on Quentin Road and East 31st Street.

He has done this every year for the past seven years.

The annual ritual of shaving his head is Savarese’s way of showing solidarity with children who suffer from cancer, part of a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven cancer charity.

And this year it had a very personal meaning.

Last month, many years after being diagnosed with the disease, an uncle of whom the soft-spoken Savarese was particularly fond, succumbed from the ravaging effects of cancer.

“He was battling two forms of cancer for the past 13-15 years. The cancer shattered his left leg last year,” Savarese said in an email, and, in early February, doctors discovered that his uncle’s spine also “had hair line cracks in it.”

See more photos and find out more about Savarese and his fundraising efforts.

Reader Allan Shweky tipped us off to this school bus versus truck accident that happened this morning, at around 7:45 a.m.

Police responded to the Oceanview Avenue and Ocean Parkway scene, Shweky noted, adding that it didn’t look like anyone was hurt – though we haven’t confirmed that.

Shot with (I am assuming) a 50mm prime lens on a Nikon D3100 body at 1/320, f/9, ISO-100.

Photo by Amanda Ardito

Okay, so the latest special election – pitting Democratic City Councilman Lew Fidler versus Republican attorney David Storobin for former State Senator Carl Kruger’s seat – has been a particularly hard-fought one. And most of that fight was below the belt.

We’re not going to get into details. Mainly because we’re as disgusted as most of you at seeing what should have been a race on local issues turn into a klustersuck of identity warfare, dividing or alienating significant portions of this community.

But that doesn’t mean we should take the all-too-tempting path of turning our backs on the process altogether. In fact, a careful consideration of the campaigns’ direction could lead one to conclude that the reason it got as twisted and dreary as it did is because too many of us – sane, unaffiliated moderates that comprise the district’s majority – are not only disengaged at the local level, but that our voting rates during special elections are so low that it forces campaigns to play to radical bases that vote as a bloc.

So, no, turning our backs on the process is no longer a solution to this problem, but an enabler of it.

So if you want a better performance next time around – which isn’t very far away, given that the winner will again be up for election this November – make sure to vote tomorrow, and prove to the powers that be that their communities are more diverse than their campaigns suggest.

Find out if you live in State Senate District 27 and where you can vote in tomorrow’s special election.

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, which has jurisdiction over compulsive gambling issues, has voiced his concern, in an address before the Assembly, that increased casino gambling opportunities in New York State will lead to a serious rise in problem gambling.  Earlier this week the Assembly passed a concurrent resolution to put an amendment before voters in November authorizing as many as seven full-service casinos, at locations yet to be determined, throughout the State.

(Don’t forget to take Sheepshead Bites’ poll: Do you think New York should legalize gambling?)

“These new casinos have the potential to bring in millions of dollars for New York State, but it must not come at the cost of adding additional gamblers to the ranks of the problem gambling population.  Once the additional roulette wheels are spinning and the craps tables are functioning it will be too late to take preventive action.  Now is the time to plan on having the necessary programs in place to prevent problem gambling and provide treatment for those who have a gambling problem,” Cymbrowitz stated.

“The statistics are alarming.  According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, gambling addictions increase by approximately ten percent within a 50-mile radius of casinos and bankruptcy rates are about 18 percent higher in communities with casinos.  This issue affects everyone, as University of Georgia researchers pointed out, a problem gambler costs society $13,586; other studies put that figure as high as $52,000 annually.  Add to this a myriad of public health problems including drug addiction, domestic violence, divorce, child abuse, suicide attempts, and crime and it becomes obvious that allocating money for problem gambling prevention programs is an investment not an expense,” Cymbrowitz explained.                                                      

“New York State already has one million problem gamblers. Offering New Yorkers additional gambling venues will surely add to this number.  As we move ahead, I look forward to working on a comprehensive proposal that includes a prevention and treatment component,” Cymbrowitz said.

Cymbrowitz, who voted for the concurrent amendment earlier this week, has been calling for a proactive plan to prevent an increase in problem gambling since the amendment was first proposed last August.  In a letter to Bennett Liebman, New York State’s Deputy Secretary for Gaming and Racing, he called for a percentage of revenue generated from any new gambling offerings in New York State to be dedicated to prevention and treatment of problem and compulsive gamblers.

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, Chairman of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee and sponsor of the concurrent resolution has committed to allocating funding for compulsive gambling prevention and treatment programs.  The details will be worked out next year when the enabling resolution will be deliberated and written.

The victim of February’s false arrest, in which an officer allegedly lied saying the man attempted to run him over with his car, confronted Deputy Inspector Georgios Mastrokostas, commander of the 61st Precinct, last week demanding to know if the precinct can be trusted in the future.

John Hockenjos took to the floor of the 61st Precinct Community Council to face the precinct’s commanding officer, expressing shock about the incident and stating that he fears relying on the city police in the future.

The erroneous charges, which were dropped by the district attorney, could have put Hockenjos in prison for seven years. His wife still faces 15 days, and charges against her have not yet been dropped.

“I was facing, if convicted, seven years in prison, losing my livelihood, losing my property, losing everything I had, my finances and my freedom. Two officers planted themselves in my driveway. I could not even move my car,” a visibly distressed Hockenjos told Mastrokostas. “I want to know: is this a culture in the 6-1?”

Hockenjos added that the allegedly false charges weren’t the only thing that went wrong that evening. He said the police officers refused to tell him why he was being arrested until after he was held at the precinct. In previous instances in which they called police regarding their two-year feud with a neighbor over property, they said the officers refused to take a report, including in one case where his wife was assaulted.

The experience has caused him to distrust the local precinct, already dissuading him from calling 911 for vandalism and alleged gang activity on his property.

“I feel unprotected. I’m now afraid to call 911 … I’m afraid for my life,” Hockenjos said. “I can’t protect myself, commander. I can’t do it. All I can do is take pictures.”

On February 5, the 55-year-old East 23rd Street resident was arrested and charged with first and second degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving after police at the scene claimed he attempted to run them over with his car as they stood in his driveway.

The charges were dropped days later after Hockenjos revealed surveillance video suggesting the officer fabricated his report, which stated that Hockenjos drove into his driveway “at a high rate of speed,” which forced Officer Diego Palacios “to jump out of the way to avoid being hit” by the four-door sedan. The video showed Hockenjos slowly pulling into the driveway and stopping several feet before the police officers – who didn’t budge.

Diego Palacios and another officer are currently under investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, have been relocated to a different precinct and are no longer on patrol, Sheepshead Bites is told.

Mastrokostas nor Hockenjos declined to discuss specifics of the case. Mastrokostas cannot comment on ongoing investigations, and Hockenjos has been advised by his lawyer to keep mum until the court matters are settled.

Still, Mastrokostas noted that he expects the most of his officers, and that Hockenjos and other members of the community shouldn’t hesitate to report crimes in the area.

“As far as the officers in the 6-1, I expect them to behave with the utmost professional attitude. We’re here to do a job – protect the community that we work in,” Mastrokostas said. “You shouldn’t feel hesitant about calling the police department. If the police respond and you feel they’ve acted inappropriately or did something wrong, I encourage you to call [Civilian Complaint Review Board] or the Internal Affairs Unit. It’s as easy as calling 311.”

Source: changeschanging / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: Given the choice, most people would choose to take a train rather than a bus, unless they have a problem with stairs or walking. That is because the train is more reliable and much quicker. However, in most situations, one does not have that choice. If it is a short distance, the choice is usually to take the bus or walk. For longer distances, it is bus or car service. Yes, there are those who bike or skateboard, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I am also referring to those without access to an automobile, since that will probably be your mode of choice, unless parking is limited at your destination or origin.

Continue Reading »

UPDATE (11:53 a.m.): NBC is reporting 12 hurt, nine with serious injuries.

UPDATE (11:39 a.m.): NYBuff.com is reporting that 10 people were hospitalized in all, none with life-threatening injuries. Daily News photographer Todd Maisel reports 11, and also has some photos in his Twitter stream.

NYBuff.com adds that the cause of the accident is under investigation, and it’s unclear if the bus struck (or was struck by) any vehicles before hitting the building.

UPDATE (11:21 a.m.): The other vehicle involved in the crash was a Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA) home deliver truck. There was also at least one other car involved – a black four-door sedan. That makes this a three-vehicle and one-building accident.

Keep reading to see the original story and additional photos.

Commuters felt the first stretch last week of what they’ll be facing for the next eight months, as the MTA continues to replace tracks serving the Brighton line’s B and Q trains.

According to the MTA’s website, the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. work, which sees disruptions of service at Gravesend Neck Road and Avenue U, will continue through November 16.

The work means that Coney Island-bound Q trains skip Avenue U and Gravesend Neck Road between the hours above, and that Manhattan-bound B trains will be running local between Sheepshead Bay Road and Kings Highway.

For south-bound straphangers looking to get to those stops, you will need to continue your trip until Sheepshead Bay Road, transfer to the northbound platform, and take either the B or Q back up.

Ginger Rose on Sheepshead Bay Road. Shot with a Leica M6 and Arista Premium 400 film. Just sublime.

Photo by Boris Shekhman