The following was submitted by Ed Jaworski, president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association and director of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance. Looking to get involved? E-mail Jaworski.

There was the fictional town of Mayberry in the popular 1960′s TV series, “The Andy Griffith Show.”  Who decided that Mayor Stoner would run to succeed Mayor Pike? Were Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife elected or appointed by some never-seen political boss?

Since Mayberry was a small, one traffic sign town, picture ordinary people, rather than a “political machine,” making these decisions.  Perhaps conversations first took place among neighbors at the barber shop or general store, and then solidified at a town hall gathering.  Certainly such citizen participation is what was intended by this country’s founding fathers when town meetings took place in colonial–era churches

The U.S. Constitution begins with “We the people.”  It doesn’t refer to party leaders, or political clubhouses, or backroom deals, or following party rules. It probably envisioned neighbors openly getting together so that they might decide on representatives.

So, where do “We the people” fit into the process of selecting candidates for vacant elected posts – especially Anthony Weiner’s seat in Congress?

Probably about where our Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods were last winter in the snow removal debacle: Buried under excuses, wondering who to trust.

Keep reading Jaworski’s op-ed on returning government to the people.

You cannot deduct medical marijuana from your taxes. But, if you're a stoner, are you really going to remember to keep the receipt anyway? (Source: Dank Depot/Flickr)

Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.

Benjamin Franklin famously declared that the only things certain in this world are death and taxes. Luckily, in America, trying to stave off the former can save you some money on the latter. To help you out, I’ve compiled a couple of important things you should know regarding your healthcare and the tax code.

Continue Reading »

A message from the NYC Department of Education:

Round 2 of the pre-kindergarten admissions process will begin on Monday, July 18. On that date, pre-k directories and applications will be available on the pre-kindergarten admissions web page and at enrollment offices. The directory will include a list of available seats by program. The deadline to submit a Round 2 application online is 11pm on Sunday, July 31.

If you would like to complete a paper application, you’ll need to visit an enrollment office. The deadline to submit the paper application to an enrollment office is 3pm on Friday, July 29. Offer letters will be sent to families in late August.

Key Dates

  • July 18: Directories and applications available online and at enrollment offices
  • July 29 at 3pm:Deadline to submit a paper application to an enrollment office
  • July 31 at 11pm: Deadline to submit online application
  • Late August: Offer letters sent to families

Where could this sign have come from? And is there any truth to it?

A reader sent us the iPhone photo you see above along with the following text:

Voorhies ave by the train station. fence guarding the empty lot.

Having, thank heavens, no personal experience with poison oak, I took to the vast pages of Wikipedia to learn me some more:

Toxicodendron diversilobum, western poison-oak or Pacific poison-oak (syn. Rhus diversiloba) is in the Anacardiaceae family (the sumac family) and is a plant best known for its ability to cause allergic rashes after contact. Western poison-oak is found only on the Pacific Coast of the United States and of Canada.

It is extremely common in that region, where it is the predominant species of the genus; the closely related Atlantic poison-oak (T. pubescens) occurs on the Atlantic Coast. The hyphenated form “poison-oak” is used, rather than “poison oak” to clearly indicate it is not a variety of oak, just as “poison-ivy” is not a variety of ivy.

So my question is, or rather questions are:

  1. Why is poison oak allegedly shmeared all over this fence, guarding the empty lot, near the Voorhies Avenue entrance to the Sheepshead Bay Road train station?
  2. If, indeed, there is poison oak around there, who would take the time to announce that grim news by painting such a pretty, antique -looking sign? I don’t know about all of you, but I would definitely hang that sign up at my place. It’s artfully done and matches my drapes.

Has anyone else seen this sign? Is there any truth to it? What is the dealio with this poison oak craziness?

Some amazing colors captured here. Photo by Randy Contello.

Toni-Ann Restivo, 25, is a former hookah smoker who won a top prize at a national competition for her research on hookah smoking and it's effect on health.

Restivo (Source:

A Bensonhurst native has put together a study that could fuel the efforts of local politicians to ban hookah sales to minors, and even prohibit them from indoor establishments.

The 25-year-old graduate student at New York City College of Technology, Toni-Ann Restivo, has produced research some say shatters the myth that smoking a hookah is healthier than smoking cigarettes.

The Daily News explains:

Restivo took third place in a national competition sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association this month for her report on the effects of smoking hookah and a rolled tobacco cigarette called bidi.

Despite popular belief, scientists have recently discovered that hookah smoke contains at least two cancer-causing elements – and can be just as addictive as cigarettes, says a recent Harvard Medical School study.

“Basically, the carcinogens that are found in hookahs are irritating all the tissues found in the mouth,” said Restivo, a Staten Island College graduate. “Basically they believe soon they’re going to find a direct link to oral cancer.”

… Someone who smokes a hookah for 45 minutes to an hour at a rate of two 10-second puffs per minute is inhaling 10%-to-50% more nicotine, says a 2009 study published in the Current Science journal.

That research could help push along legislation from local pols. Just two weeks ago, State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny announced the passage of legislation they sponsored that would ban the sale of hookahs and water pipes to minors, as well as herbal cigarettes, shishas, rolling paper or smoking paraphernalia. They were concerned that minors were turning to these as alternatives to smoking cigarettes.

“This legislation is vital for the protection of our children. We have made great strides in educating young people about the dangers of cigarettes. However, in our community, hookah and water pipes are a dangerous and unfortunately available alternative means for smoking tobacco,” said Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.

The bill is now under consideration by Governor Cuomo, and, if signed, will go into effect on January 1, 2012.

Meanwhile, Bay Ridge Councilman Vincent Gentile is taking attacks on hookah usage one step further, seeking to amend existing legislation to ban hookah usage wherever cigarette smoking is currently prohibited. He has introduced legislation in the New York City Council seeking to make the 2002 Clean Indoor Air Act consistent with all kinds of smoke, banning the smoking of non-tobacco smoking product inside of most restaurants and bars.

What do you think? Is hookah usage dangerous enough to warrant a citywide ban?

We’ve received a lot of e-mails asking about coverage of the murder of Leiby Kletzky, an 8-year-old Borough Park resident who went missing yesterday. Kletzky was the victim of a horrific murder, in which his body was mutilated and disposed of in multiple parts of Brooklyn. The alleged killer, Levi Aron, was found with parts of Kletzky’s body in his refrigerator.

Given that the incident is closest to the coverage area of our sister site, Bensonhurst Bean, blogger Joseph Teutonico has been covering it since Kletzky went missing, cobbling together media reports and collections of reactions from our local leaders. Check out the coverage at Bensonhurst’s news blog.

As for us, our deepest condolences go out to Kletzky’s family, friends, loved ones and the community at large. We hope justice is served swiftly and severely, and we commend the NYPD for a fast, efficient response, which resulted in Aron being apprehended. Our thoughts go out to all those involved in this brutal incident.

Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Summer in the city. Hot sticky nights. Sweltering days. Sweaty bodies. Addled minds.

It’s time to head to the water. Just as our ancestors crawled out of the sea seeking release, we complete the circle by seeking refuge from the heat in the cooling waters.

So this week, The Bite high tails it over to Il Fornetto, 2902 Emmons Avenue, for some waterfront dining and fish. Specifically, I’m getting the Trancio di Salmone. Tu capisci?

No capish? Keep reading to find out.

Source: Flickr/steverose57

It’s a rough economy, and beleaguered homeowners — some newly unemployed because of the recession — are struggling for ways to make their next mortgage payment. That’s why State Senator Carl Kruger and Brooklyn Housing & Family Services are teaming up to sponsor “Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program Day,” July 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

During the four-hour event, which will be held at Kruger’s district office, 2201 Avenue U at East 22nd Street, homeowners will be able to pre-apply for federal assistance to pay off a portion of their mortgage.

From the press release:

The Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program is a new initiative offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is aimed at homeowners who are at least 90 days late on their mortgage, and unemployed or working fewer hours because of the economy or a medical condition. The program provides eligible homeowners with assistance that pays part of their mortgage for up to two years or up to $50,000.

On July 19, homeowners who come in for the pre-application process will be asked 13 questions to determine their eligibility. Counselors from Brooklyn Housing & Family Services will conduct the pre-application interviews. Those who qualify for the emergency loan program will be notified in August.

“Many homeowners have been hard hit by the economic downturn. This federal program will assist those who need it most with the help they need to weather the storm,” Sen. Kruger said. “I encourage all homeowners who are at three months behind on their mortgage to apply.”

An appointment is required; call Kruger’s district office at (718) 743-8610.

Sales soared during the blackout inside Mother Bucka’s Ice Cream Parlor, West 8th Street, Coney Island. Source: Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

The Brooklyn Historical Society reminds us that today is the 34th anniversary of the New York City Blackout of 1977. Google “1977 blackout” and “Sheepshead Bay” and you’ll find little more than a passing reference in a NYT article commemorating the 30th anniversary of the event, which plunged all of New York City into darkness.

Ask anyone who remembers the infamous citywide power outage and they will tell you stories ranging from disgust at the subsequent looting and arson, as well as the terror stemming from the pervasive Son of Sam murders.

Ask my dad, however, and he’ll gladly regale you with his own “famous” Sheepshead Bay ’77 Blackout story.

Oh boy, it’s a good one. Keep reading!