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!

A unique angle of the designated New York City landmark. Photo by Laura Fernandez.

Source: Castles Made of Sand

These days, blogs are a dime a dozen and usually focus on animals being jerks to people or people being jerks to animals. But every now and then one pops up with a sense of purpose and beauty, and may prove itself historically relevant.

That’s the case with Castles Made of Sand, a photoblog created by Robin Michals to document New York City’s waterfront before inevitable rising tides and storm surges come to wipe it away.

From the website’s project overview:

Castles Made of Sand: New York Harbor Before the Flood is an elegy for the other areas of New York harbor that are vulnerable to sea level rise. While projections of the future are almost always likely to be wrong, imagining the impact of climate change is one step in the process of motivating the necessary public policy changes and modifications to personal behavior in order to avert the most cataclysmic effects of higher levels of atmospheric CO2. With almost 600 miles of waterfront, New York’s geography created its destiny. A fantastic, natural deep-water harbor, New York was in much of the 20th century until 1970, the biggest port in the world. Now at number 20 worldwide and sinking, the city’s waterfront appears more like castles made of sand as we struggle to deal with the forces of globalization and climate change.

To that end, Michals has been going around the city’s coastline, especially Southern Brooklyn, snapping beautiful photographs capturing areas that may be washed away as climate change threatens our communities. The photographer – an associate professor of photography at New York City College of Technology – even found this intriguiging historical nugget explaining Plumb Beach’s transformation into Plumb Island, before reinventing itself again as Plumb Beach:

Plumb Beach must have become Plumb Island by 1891 as the United States government bought a portion of it in order to build a fort. The fort was never built but the island was a federal property and businesses located on Plumb Island could sell alcohol and tobacco without charging local taxes. Needless to say, it became a popular place for bars and other entertainments. After New York City bought the island from the federal government in 1924, it was primarily a summer retreat for Brooklynites. In 1937, Robert Moses began work on the Belt Parkway and the island was connected to the rest of Brooklyn with landfill in 1940.

Check out Michals’ beautiful – and haunting – posts about Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Canarsie and elsewhere. Then, someone, please explain to me why the city, state and federal governments don’t seems to think this area is worthy of additional protections from rising sea levels and storm surges…

A drunk driver caused minor damage to several other cars when he flipped his own vehicle on the Belt Parkway last week, then cursed out this reporter as police took him away in handcuffs.

Keep reading for details of the accident, and more video.

State Senator Marty Golden’s annual summer concert series kicks off tonight, with New York Exceptions rocking out to hits from the 1950s to 1970s in Bay Ridge.

Golden produces the series of 15 summer concerts and events throughout July and August in local parks throughout his district, and in conjunction with the Community Emergency Response Team and the South West Brooklyn Parks Task Force.

All concerts are free and begin at 7 p.m, except Family Day, which is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The August 7 concert begins at 4:00 p.m. In case of poor weather, cancellations will be posted on the concert hotline by 5:00 p.m., on the day of the concert, at (718) 236-7547 or Senator Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044. All events are subject to change.

View Marty Golden’s 2011 Summer Series Concert Schedule.

The B64 bus. Source: Robert McConnell for The Bergen Network

THE COMMUTE: Here are my predictions about the MTA’s plan to systematically eliminate B64 service. Divide and conquer!

  1. Chop off its head and its tail;
  2. End service overnight;
  3. Severely cut its service frequency;
  4. Eliminate weekend service eroding its ridership base further, then finally…
  5. Eliminate the route entirely by directing riders to more inconvenient alternative routes.

The MTA already accomplished Steps 1 and 2 in June of 2010. Step 3 will be implemented this September. I am surmising that Steps 4 and 5 are planned along with a similar plan to eliminate the B2. More on that later.

Read more on how the MTA plans to further accomplish these steps.