Welcome back to another “Open Thread Monday With Sheepshead Bites,” where we can grouse and gripe about how Mondays suck, but we won’t, since that’s what Facebook’s for.

Instead, make Monday — in particular, this Monday — awesome, by joining Ned and some of your Sheepshead Bites pals, friends from the nabe, and ‘Your Brooklyn Cyclones,’ at Sheepshead Bites Night, August 19 at MCU Park in Coney Island. You can check out all the deets and get your discounted tickets here.

Also, we’ve received some terrific submissions from readers for the “Pitch-To-Pitch” contest we’re holding, on why they think they should throw out the evening’s first pitch. We’re looking for more submissions before the August 10 deadline and the best part is: You don’t need to stress about it. Really. Just tell us in your own way:

It doesn’t have to be a good reason, either. It could be funny and ridiculous, or memorably heart-touching, or a Faba-esque rant. It could be good, bad or disgusting – but it has got to make an impression with us.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Write why you believe you deserve to throw the first pitch. This could be one sentence or 800 words (please don’t go over 800 words. We have other things to do!), but it has to stick in our minds.
  2. Send your submission to nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.
  3. Put “PITCH TO PITCH” in the e-mail’s subject line.
  4. Wait ’til you hear back from us.
  5. Deadline for submission is Wednesday, August 10.

So, as my friends south of the Mason-Dixon Line might say, “Git’r done!” We cannot wait to read more submissions, even if it’s something so convincingly simple as emailing us the words: “Because I rule.” (Ed. – Actually, we already received that one. Try to be a little more memorable than that.)

Looking forward to seeing everyone again, August 19 at MCU Park!

Puff Cafe In Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn

Puff Caffe (1307 Avenue Z) – a favored hangout of local 16-year-old brats illustrating their maturity by smoking hookah packed with sophisticated shisha flavors like “Sex On The Beach” and “Fuzzy Navel” – is now offering fondue. It’s right there on the sign. Hookah. Fondue. You get the point.

While they’re not the first to offer fondue in the area, it might be an attempt to diversify their post-adolescent offerings as the sale of shisha to minors is likely to become illegal in the next few months.

The lounge – er, “caffe” – is offering Swiss fondue, to be specific. They’ll have various kinds of chocolate (white, dark, milk), cheese and “special beer cheese” to dip appropriate fondue dipping stuff into.

Good for them, expanding to a new international cuisine. It’s like a regular ol’ United Nations at Puff. They use the Italian variant for “caffe” without any semblance of an Italian cafe, offer Turkish hookah and foods like hummus and, um, quesadillas, and now pair it up with Swiss cheese and chocolates.

Only in the Bay, baby.

The Brighton Finance Station at 3157 Coney Island Avenue. Source: New York Daily News

As federal cost-cutting measures continue to affect just about all aspects of our lives, uncertainty also looms for five borough post offices, one of which is in our area.

Even after the United States Postal Service signed a five-year lease last year to keep the Brighton Finance Station at 3157 Coney Island Avenue open, the station is, once again, under threat of closure as, according to USPS spokesperson Darleen Reid, “Everything is on the table as far as cost-cutting strategies.”

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The Manhattan Beach Community Group has scored a political coup (of sorts) in setting up a candidates night later this month. Republican candidate Bob Turner will face off against Democratic candidate David Weprin at a candidate’s Town Hall Candidate Night on August 31, allowing residents from across Southern Brooklyn to put their questions straight to the contenders.

The MBCG announced on its website:

In our own little slice of New York City we have the opportunity as Americans to make our voices and votes heard in Washington, around the country and maybe even internationally. You are cordially invited to attend a Town Hall Candidate Night on August 31, 8PM at PS 195 to meet the Republican and Democratic nominees of the Special Election (Sept. 13). Meet the next Congressman of the 9th.

This is a special election in many ways. You have the opportunity to send a message that will be loud and will be heard. To help you with your vote selection the MBCG is pleased to have arranged for Mr. Turner and Mr.  Weprin to meet the good people of South Brooklyn. Our neighboring community groups have been invited and many will attend.

Our job (MBCG) that evening is to make sure that everyone in attendance has an opportunity to be heard.

P.S. 195 is located at 131 Irwin Street in Manhattan Beach. This is one of the few opportunities residents will have to raise issues directly with the candidates for the 9th Congressional District before the September 13 special election.

THE COMMUTE: It’s been a busy news week for commuters.

The Port Authority has proposed to increase PATH fares from $1.75 to $2.75 and peak-hour round-trip bridge and tunnel tolls for non-E-ZPass users to $15 from the current $8.00.  A new entrance was opened at the Fulton Street transit complex.  The MTA announced they lost $31 million last year to fare evasion. The New York Times revealed more insight into the reasons MTA Chairman Jay Walder resigned his position, effective in October; it appears that he received a cool reception from Governor Cuomo.

However the most noteworthy development of the past two weeks was the release of a joint audit of the MTA from the State and City Comptrollers, their first joint audit in 10 years. The subject of the audit is Subway Service Diversions for Maintenance and Capital Projects, which are necessary and yet so annoying.

The report has received much criticism. Called pointless by Ben Kabak in SecondAvenueSagas.com, and misguided and petty by the Daily News, I thought I would take a look for myself.

Keep reading to see what I found.

A man drowned in Gravesend Bay on Sunday, after a freak accident left him helpless in the waters.

Police believe Florijan Kasumovic, 73, of New Jersey, may have fallen overboard just before 1:00 p.m., getting his leg caught in the railing. He dangled over the side of the 21-foot-vessel with his head submerged in the waters, unable to pull himself back up.

Kasumovic was dead when police arrived, and authorities towed the boat back to a Sanitation Department pier in Bath Beach.

[Daily News via Bensonhurst Bean]

I shot the above photo with my first digital camera on February 13, 2005, at 1/128 of a second, ISO-100, and f/3.2, before I knew what shutter speed, ISO and an f-stop even meant.

Since I used Google Translate, it is probably a literal translation. Apologies to the native Spanish speakers who are appalled by my ignorance. Photo by nolastname. Or, in españolsin apellido.

Diane Keaton, Woody Allen and Tony Roberts in a scene from Woody's 1977 masterpiece, "Annie Hall." Source: http://pakbote.blogspot.com/

I have never made a secret of my deep, abiding love for, admiration of, and decades-long crush on Woody Allen (who I, incidentally, also share a birthday with) — I think he is just the greatest! So I may just pop on over to Coney Island, Monday night, August 8 to see the EPIX Free-For-All screening of Woody’s pièce de résistance, Annie Hall, the 1977 masterpiece, written and directed by Woody Allen, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

According to EPIX and Rooftop Films, which are partnering to present the screening:

Annie Hall struck a chord with audiences outside of erudite Manhattan film houses-and with good reason. Sure, we get the standard dose of neurotic Woody-isms, but we also get a sweet, sad, hopeful tale that reminds us love is sweet, love is sad, and if we’re lucky, love is downright funny.

Even though I’ve seen “Annie Hall” more than 100 times, one more time will not make it any less wonderful. And it won’t be just any old, ordinary film screening, either. EPIX tells us that The Coney Island History Project will be on hand to discuss the history of Coney Island and the role it played in the filming of Annie Hall.

Well, doesn’t that sound like fun? And, we are told, the evening will also feature a Woody Allen Impression contest [RELATED: “The 8 Best Woody Allen Impressions We Found On The Internet”] with prizes. To enter, email woody@rooftopfilms.com or go to http://freeforall.epixhd.com/.

Really can’t wait to see that. The schedule for the evening is as follows:

  • 7:00 PM Live DJ
  • 8:30 PM Rooftop Films presents Kristen Lepore’s short film Bottle
  • 8:40 PM Annie Hall

All the excitement happens on Coney Island’s beach at West 12th Street. EPIX will be giving away prizes and swag at the event and also via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and online. Learn more at http://freeforall.epixhd.com.

And Woody, if you’re reading this — I love you, man!

Jason Koppel

Jason Koppel (Source: NYPost.com)

Who knows, maybe crime does pay? After all, the chief of staff for State Senator Carl Kruger that allegedly organized bribes from Russian-American nightclubs and restaurants is pulling in the highest salary of any state legislature staffer.

WNYC’s The Empire blog got the scoop:

The state senate released its twice-a-year report on expenditures today. One of the most interesting things that popped out? Embattled Senator Carl Kruger’s chief of staff, Jason Koppel, was by far the highest-paid staffer for any individual member, raking in just over (like, literally, by one cent) $81,000 for his services.

Wowzer; $81,000 despite getting caught for setting up the alleged bribes. I wish I got paid that much for screwing up.

Of course, that’s actually a pay cut. The New York Post found in April that Koppel was pulling in $162,442 a year, after a slew of raises gave him a 40 percent salary hike in 16 months – the same 16 months as feds were stepping up their investigation into Kruger and Koppel. After the Post’s report, Kruger’s office told the paper that they’d be slashing Koppel’s salary down to size. Still, he remains the highest paid staffer in the state legislature.

Just to refresh your memory, Jason Koppel – who also serves as Kruger’s campaign treasurer – was the supposed go-to person in the first (recent) bribery case involving Kruger and Rasputin-owner Michael Levitis. That probe, dating back to 2007 but first came to light in June 2010, explored an alleged influence peddling scheme in which Levitis was recorded telling another restaurateur that the state senator would help him with state matters if he organized a fundraiser for his political campaign. The FBI set up a sting, recording Levitis requesting $3,000 from the restaurateur, saying $2,000 would go to Koppel (as Levitis’ contact for the state senator) and $1,000 to Levitis for arranging the deal.

Levitis was arrested last summer for his alleged role. He plead guilty in February and earlier this week was sentenced to three years probation and a $15,000 fine. (Money he’ll likely be able to pay off with proceeds from his role in Russian Dolls, the Brighton Beach reality show.)

Kruger, meanwhile, appears to have escaped unscathed. Until, that is, another FBI probe alleged an even broader bribery-racket involving millions of dollars, gay lovers, profiting off of death (okay, only kinda-sorta), and all that jazz.

But, hey, Koppel is making some nice coin for his public service…