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Photo by Erica Sherman

The entire team at Sheepshead Bites wishes our readers a happy, healthy and latkas-filled Hanukkah.

If you choose to send us gifts during the next eight days, we will not complain. Well, actually, I guess that all depends on the gifts…

Happy Hanukkah!

Carl Kruger's district office, taken 1.5 hours after the pol resigned

The shades are drawn and some of the gates are down at former State Senator Carl Kruger’s 2201 Avenue U district office, just an hour-and-a-half after the disgraced pol resigned and pleaded guilty to four corruption charges this afternoon.

It’s an unusual condition for an office with floor-to-ceiling windows, known for being brightly lit and with the innards on display – even at night. After all, it’s one of the most lavish district offices in the State Legislature, so much so that it has sparked headlines for the expenses that have gone into it.

Last year, Courier-Life reported that the pol had spent $90,000 in campaign funds renovating the location, with such questionable expenses as:

  • More than $23,000 on office furniture
  • Nearly $1,000 for plumbing in his office bathroom
  • $288 on bathroom supplies
  • $540.65 on door mats
  • $4,700 for paint and wallpaper (two of the walls have floor-to-ceiling windows)
  • $4,844 on tiles (his office is carpeted)
  • $545 for landscaping (the office has no lawns or gardens)
  • $10,500 to a “New Jersey air conditioning and heating system company with two different addresses — one of which doesn’t exist”

Meanwhile, across the street (and slightly down East 22nd Street), the Friends of Carl Kruger campaign office is looking, well, like it could use a friend:

UPDATE (4:23 p.m.): Looks like it’s not the only bit of Carl Kruger territory that’s looking barren. Colin Campbell of just tipped me off to the State Senate District 27 legislator page, which has been scrubbed clean of Kruger and now reads, “This Senate seat is currently vacant.” You’ve never seen the state legislature move so quickly!

Clarification: The office is still open. People were inside working. But they clearly ain’t looking for any attention right now.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent the last 15 years as a features editor at Canarsie Courier. Aside from reporting, he did public relations work for brands including Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes occasional columns on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

These lyrics to “War is Over” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono are particularly timely this Christmas.

So this is Christmas and what have you done,
Another year over, a new one just begun.
A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.
War is over if you want it, war is over now.

There were no celebrations. No parades. No dancing in the streets. No soldiers kissing girls in Times Square. The war in Iraq, AKA Operation Iraqi Freedom, sort of turned out like the month of March — it came in like a lion (Shock and Awe) and went out like a lamb.

While we should be thankful the Iraqi conflict is officially over, we must not forget the thousands of American combat and support troops still engaged in a war in Afghanistan — that one’s for Enduring Freedom — where they face death and danger every day. For them, there’s nothing to cheer. And though the Iraq War may officially be over, American soldiers, diplomats and other civilians remain to face the wrath of certain Iraqi factions.

Continue Reading »

Provided by Liz Benjamin of Capital Tonight:

Kruger, Carl and Turano, Michael – Plea Agreements

From the New York Post:

Chocking back tears as he confessed to corruption charges, an emotional State Sen. Carl Kruger pleaded guilty today to four criminal counts that included bribery and influence peddling.

The 62-year-old Brooklyn lawmaker unfairly helped a developer, a lobbyist and two hospital executives as part of the massive bribery scheme, federal prosecutors said.

With his voice cracking at times, Kruger wiped away tears as he entered a guilty plea before a Manhattan federal court judge.

“I apologize if I’m a little emotional over this,” he said.

Kruger added, “I accept responsibility for my actions and I’m truly sorry for my conduct.”

By entering a guilty plea, Kruger would automatically be expelled from the state Senate, where he’s served since 1994.

Kruger resigned from office earlier today ahead of his plea deal.

He will be sentenced April 26. He faces 108 to 135 months behind bars.

Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature announced earlier this month that the state will consider a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling to put money in state coffers.

Legalization could raise as much as $2 billion, but legalization would happen no sooner than 2014. The amendment would need to be approved in 2012 and then again in 2013, and, finally, would need to be adopted by voters during a 2013 referendum.

Currently, casinos are restricted only to five Native American reservations, which oppose legalization.

The move, though, would not be without its pitfalls. Cuomo has urged caution, and told proponents to use the next two years to iron out a solid plan for implementation.

Locally, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is requesting that any plan include funding to address gambling addiction. Cymbrowitz is chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, which has jurisdiction over compulsive gambling.

“With the current limited availability of gambling opportunities in New York State, nearly one million New Yorkers are problem gamblers. Additionally, a survey of 7th through 12th grade high school students found that ten percent, or 140,000 of these students, showed signs of problem gambling in the past 12 months. These are sobering statistics. If we are considering increasing the number of casinos, we must also consider the toll it will take on New Yorkers prone to gambling addiction and do everything possible to insure that they are protected,” Cymbrowitz said. “If the Legislature moves forward with the process of approving additional casinos it is paramount that we have a comprehensive plan in place to prevent an increase in compulsive gambling and also bolster existing problem gambling treatment programs.”

What do you think? Should gambling be legalized in New York State, or does it bring too many problems?

Ever since corruption charges against State Senator Carl Kruger surfaced on March 10, 2011, City Councilman Lew Fidler’s name sat at the top of the list of possible replacements. So we checked in with the Councilman to find out his thoughts on the matter.

He wrote:

Today is a sad day on so many, many levels. Once again our confidence in government has been jolted. For the past several months, I have carefully refrained from disrespecting the United States Constitution and the rights of the accused. In doing so, I have promised that at the appropriate time I would comment fully. Today is not that day as it would seem appropriate to let the events that have occurred resonate fully without political commentary. I do however promise to comment on and make my plans known in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Fidler has not yet announced a run in the special elections, but is widely believed to be the Democratic nominee, and the mention of revealing his “plans … in the very near future” certainly hint at his intention to run.

Just minutes before heading into court for an expected guilty plea, State Senator Carl Kruger sent out the following letter to the Secretary of the State Senate.

“I hereby resign my office as state senator for the 27th District, Kings County, effective immediately,” Kruger wrote in the letter.

As the Daily News points out, Kruger would have lost his seat once he admitted to a felony.

Bratman (Source: Facebook)

With the last of the American troops set to be pulled out of Iraq in the beginning of January, current Kings Bay Y Community Center employee Ilya Bratman remembers what it was like being in the war.

In the beginning of his military career, Bratman was stationed in Korea and Germany. But that soon changed after the events of September 11; his squad was one of the first to get called into the Middle East.

According to the Jewish Daily Forward, at least 37 Jewish men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces had died in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bratman could have been number 38, but a series of coincidences kept him safe – though just barely.

Here is an account of his near death experience in the Jerusalem Post:

“We were taking off from Baghdad International Airport in a Hercules C-130 when the pilot began maneuvering wildly,” he said. “It’s a cargo plane – there are no seats – so we were thrown around inside hitting the walls. Some people were knocked out and many others were screaming.”

Bratman grabbed a net and, through the window, saw two bright lights narrowly miss the aircraft. They were surface-to-air missiles fired by insurgents.

Had they hit the plane, which carried 150 soldiers, it would have been the worst U.S. military disaster in Iraq. The pilot released flares to draw off the missiles.

“We spent the rest of the flight to Qatar in perfect silence,” Bratman said. “We were in such a state of shock.”

He avoided death once more when he wasn’t allowed to rest and recuperate because he was needed on a mission. The helicopter he was meant to board ended up getting shot down, with no one surviving the crash.

After being honorably discharged in 2004, Bratman has worked at the Kings Bay Y Jewish Community Center (3495 Nostrand Avenue) and volunteered with Limmud FSU.