Archive for the tag 'activism'

In celebration of the fourth anniversary of “Mary Powell Memorial Day in Brooklyn, USA,” folksinger Danny Quinn will perform traditional Irish and contemporary music Wednesday, March 19, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Carmine Carro Community Center, 3000 Fillmore Avenue in Marine Park.

Powell, the long-time president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, passed away on February 12, 2010. The Brooklyn native set an example of dignity and dogged determination that was inspirational to all who knew her throughout her 91 years.

The public is invited to celebrate the legacy of this civic leader, whose lifetime of dedicating herself to her community inspired the creation of the Mary Powell Foundation, which encourages and promotes community service.

The Mary Powell Foundation will also be celebrating the roots of their organization and showing appreciation to donors and supporters, many from Brooklyn and Marine Park, whose generosity helped to fund four scholarships and awards in 2013 to deserving students at Columbia University, a Brooklyn high school and two Marine Park junior high schools.

Please RSVP by calling Richard at (856) 630-9089 or emailing rssle@yahoo.com. If you are unable to attend, but would still like to learn more about and help the Mary Powell Foundation, visit www.marypowellfoundation.org. You can also “like” them on Facebook.

Participants took the stage as the winners were announced. (Photo by Yuval Kagan)

Participants took the stage as the winners were announced. (Photo by Yuval Kagan)

Remember that awesome SING! competition we told you about last month? Brooklyn Sings!, an inter-SING event in which students from Midwood, Madison and Murrow high schools competed against each other for best student-created stage production, took place this past Saturday and students raised more than $20,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society.

According to organizers, the event made history as the largest one-night fundraiser for the Bergen Beach, Mill Basin and Marine Park Relay for Life team, with that boatload of money raised through ticket sales, raffles and direct donations.

Edward R. Murrow High School’s team won the event, with a show that brought seniors and freshman together to defeat an evil villain in “MurrowWarts.” Madison entertained with a trip to Toyland, and Midwood took the audience 10 years forward for a terrifying reunion. Every bit of the production was student-created.

A huge hurrah for the students at these three schools. They all worked hard, and for a great cause.

Photo by Brian Hoo

In a rare victory for Southern Brooklyn wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced on Friday that it will revise its plan to eradicate the state’s 2,200 mute swans and consider non-lethal methods to keep numbers down.

The reversal came on the heels of community outrage at their initial plan, which called for rounding up and euthanizing thousands of the birds across the state in an attempt to eliminate the population entirely.

According to the agency, the DEC received more than 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, as well as more than 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on various petitions. Several lawmakers also spoke out against  the proposal.

“We appreciate the strong response that the draft plan received, and it’s clear that New Yorkers recognize the importance of a comprehensive mute swan management plan that balances the interests of a diversity of stakeholders,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release. “The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York.”

The agency will release new plans and reopen the commenting period, which originally closed on February 21. In what may be a nod to areas like Sheepshead Bay, where the mute swan is considered an iconic part of the waterfront environment, the agency conceded that deploying one plan statewide did not respect the differing statuses the birds have in their respective communities.

In the DEC press release, the agency pushed a new approach:

In revising the plan, DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state.

The new plan is expected to be released in the spring, and a 30-day comment period will follow.

“This is hopeful news and a sign that things are moving in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sought to protect the swans  by introducing legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s original proposal. “Sheepshead Bay wouldn’t be the same without the mute swans. They’re synonymous with grace and beauty. Yes, they may hiss sometimes, but this is New York, so they’re entitled.”

Photo by Erica Sherman

Three major Southern Brooklyn high schools are banding together to hold the first-ever inter-SING! competition, called Brooklyn Sings!, to benefit the American Cancer Society.

As any Brooklyn public high school graduate knows, SING! competitions can dominate school culture, bringing in students at every level to plan and produce a musical-production based on a different theme each year. The grades compete against each other for bragging rights.

What many may not know is that SING!, now a phenomenon at high schools across the greater New York City area, is a distinctly Southern Brooklyn creation, first established at Midwood High School in 1947 by music teacher Bella Tillis. The 1989 film Sing is based on the Brooklyn traditions, and SING! alumni include Barbra Streisand, Paul Simon, Tim Robbins, Paul Reiser and Neil Diamond.

Midwood, Madison and Murrow are all well-known for their grandiose productions that can involve hundreds of students.

Brooklyn Sings!, the inter-school event, is being created to benefit the American Cancer Society. It was conceived by the Bergen Beach, Mill Basin and Marine Park Relay for Life team and one of its organizers, Joe Gillette.

“Our Relay for Life team is so thankful to each of these amazing schools for taking on BROOKLYN SINGS!  We know this event will be great for all the talented students, the schools and the community as a whole as we all unite and give of ourselves for a worthy cause,” Gillete said in a press release. “We encourage anyone who wants to get involved with our Relay for Life organization to join us as we strive to make a difference in our schools and community.”

“SING began in Midwood in 1947.  Mrs. Belle Tillis (who passed away last year 15 days shy of her 100th birthday) is credited with bringing SING to Midwood,” said Midwood Principal Michael McDonnell. “For the last 60 + years, our student body has sung, danced and acted their way towards winning the annual SING competition.  In fact the organizers of all the schools’ SINGs were Midwood students who had participated in Midwood SING.  So it is with great honor and responsibility that along with the help of Relay for Life, we get to “throw down the gauntlet” to our neighboring schools.”

Anyone interested in supporting one of the school’s fundraising efforts for the ACS can make a tax deductible donation by visiting the team page of their favorite school.

For Midwood visit http://main.acsevents.org/goto/midwoodsings;
For Madison visit http://main.acsevents.org/goto/madisonsings
For Murrow visit http://main.acsevents.org/goto/murrowsings

The event will be held March 8 at 6 p.m. at Edward R. Murrow High School (1600 Avenue L). Tickets will be sold through each school, and go one sale February 24.

Today's snow, as seen from West 4th Street near Avenue T (Photo by Michael Louis)

Today’s snow, as seen from West 4th Street near Avenue T (Photo by Michael Louis)

A staffer in one of our elected officials’ offices pitched me an idea earlier today: start a registry on our website of volunteers willing to help elderly and disabled residents dig out from the snow storm.

The staffer told me that they’ve been receiving calls all morning, but that their office couldn’t do anything – including recommend a pay service, since such a recommendation from a public office would be inappropriate.

But why should I create a registry? The City of New York already has one.

It’s right here on the New York City Service website. I knew that but the staffer didn’t. Because the city has done a shoddy job publicizing it.

And, as a result, it’s totally useless at the moment. I called the most local partner listed on the website, the Brighton Neighborhood Association, and the one person in the office – who was closing up shop – said they never once had a volunteer come through it. And so I called the number at City Hall to register as a volunteer just to see how the process went – and they, too were closed.

With the number of snow storms we’ve already had in 2014, it might be time for the city to reactivate that program and make a big push. The point is to help elderly and disabled residents – both by ensuring they have a clean path to walk on, and also to prevent them from receiving fines from the city. That’s a great goal, and with virtually no cost to taxpayers.

My hope is that this post spurs a few kind, generous individuals to register for service in future snow storms, and also to get local elected officials’ offices to sign up as partners to help direct and mobilize the volunteers. It’s not unheard of – Bronx Councilman James Vacca and Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis both use their offices in this way.

I look forward to seeing our local elected officials join that list very soon, and also help in the recruitment of local volunteers. If they do, this site commits to publicizing the registry in future storms. How’s that for a deal?

Students from St. Mark School served as Santa's little helpers at the event, piling the donated toys and greeting guests.

Students from St. Mark School served as Santa’s little helpers at the event, piling the donated toys and greeting guests.

The Bay Improvement Group’s  23rd annual concert and toy drive on Sunday saw hundreds of toys piled on stage as Vince Martell of Vanilla Fudge jammed for the crowd.

The 225 toys collected will go to a shelter for battered women and their children located in the heart of Sheepshead Bay. It’s a toy drive in our community that ensures toys stay with the needy of our community, said BIG Executive Director Steve Barrison.

“We have a battered women’s shelter down the block and they were not getting anything [from other drives]. And that’s really the heart of it,” Barrison told Sheepshead Bites at the event, which took place in the Baron DeKalb Knights of Columbus (3000 Emmons Avenue). “We’ve got to fill the need right here in our own community, and we know where the toys go.”

The event started 23 years ago, when Barrison and Martell, who previously met at a diner, decided to spend the holiday season driving around in a limo, popping out at random places and singing to pedestrians for donations for children’s toys. Since then, the event has moved around the neighborhood, including the old Lundy’s restaurant, various local businesses, several years at St. Mark School and now, for the first time, at the Knights.

One of Fidler’s elves at last year’s toy drive.

Councilman Lewis Fidler’s Democratic Club, the 41st Assembly District Democrats, is putting out the final call for toys as the grand finale party nears on Thursday.

Now in its 13th year, the annual toy drive has grown to become the largest Toys for Tots drive in New York City for seven years running. Last year, they collected more than 9,000 toys, a record they hope to beat again this year.

Their efforts have been helped by several smaller “feeder” drives, including one done by the Kings Bay Y and another by the Be Proud Foundation (Be Proud’s collection event is today, at 6:00 p.m. at Signature Restaurant [2007 Emmons Avenue]. Those interested in donating can stop by with an unwrapped, unopened toy or a check made out to Be Proud Foundation).

The event culminates with a massive party at the clubhouse at 2952 Avenue R on Thursday, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. It’s a great time for kids, who get to mingle with Mr. Met and Sandy the Seagull, and is capped off with an “elf show” and the loading of toys into the U.S. Marines’ 18-wheeled military cargo truck. Last year’s loading took more than an hour.

If you’d like to make a donation or have questions about the drive, call Bryan at (917) 846-1944.

Seigel with staff and volunteers during the turkey raffle.

Seigel with staff and volunteers during the turkey raffle.

A CIH community affairs member with a patient during the turkey raffle.

A CIH community affairs member with a patient during the turkey raffle.

Eleven years ago, a doctor at Coney Island Hospital (2601 Ocean Parkway) decided to do more than heal his patients, he wanted to ensure they had full stomachs on Thanksgiving eve. So Dr. Warren Seigel, chairman of the hospital’s pediatrics department and director of adolescent medicine, kicked off an annual tradition of raising money to raffle off turkeys and halal chickens to his patients in need.

Seigel and his team raised enough money this year to distribute 102 turkeys and halal chickens before the holiday. Most of the funds came from employees at the hospital and support from Metroplus.

The tradition began 11 years ago when Seigel was surprised to find that many of his patients would not have a traditional holiday turkey. At first he thought it was a cultural difference – the hospital’s patience cover the gamut of Brooklyn’s diversity – but later learned that many couldn’t afford the holiday fowl.

Seigel, though, didn’t want to simply hold a turkey giveaway for needy patients.

“We were very sensitive to the fact that people don’t want to receive a handout,” he said. So he turned it into an event with movies, face painting and other entertainment for his adolescent patients, and held a free raffle for the turkeys and chickens as part of the event. “So it’s not like we just gave them something; they won something,” he said.

No one left the event empty-handed, he noted, saying that toys and treats were also distributed.

Although the event was born 11 years ago, this was only the 10th time they did it. Superstorm Sandy squashed the plans last year.

“When Sandy hit we had no electricity. We had no way to do this. We couldn’t even pick up the turkeys because there was no gas in our cars. It made us feel bad because it was the time when people needed it the most,” Seigel recalled.

But the return of the tradition, and the enormous amount they managed to distribute this year, signaled a welcome return to normalcy.

“It’s just wonderful. It makes [our patients] feel so wonderful and it reminds all of us how lucky we are,” Seigel said.

kings-plaza

Eleven people turned out at a rally in front of Kings Plaza on Saturday to protest what they’re calling “Justice Reversed,” following the news that hate charges were dropped in a recent case in which black teens allegedly assaulted a white couple while shouting racial epithets.

It was a subdued protest that drew far fewer participants than anticipated, with more than 100 people saying they would attend the event on Facebook, yet less than a dozen showed. The group stood by the Flatbush Avenue entrance, guarded by nearly as many police as there were protesters, and commiserated about the perceived injustice and the safety of the community.

“I missed the [assault] by five minutes. I was walking home with my daughter and it could have happened to anyone,” said Linda Baker, the Mill Basin native who organized the rally. “It’s a hate crime. They screamed racial slurs and it goes both ways. In this neighborhood and in society it just seems to be only recognized when hate is against a minority and hate is not recognized against the white race. It’s ridiculous already.”

The protesters quietly and peacefully handed out fliers to passersby of all backgrounds about the attack, declaring in big, bold font “HATE CRIMES HAVE NO COLOR!!!!”

The group took issue with the news the week before that a grand jury decided to drop hate crime charges against Kashawn Kirton, 18, and Daehrell Finch, 17, two suspects that police arrested in connection with an assault of a couple near Kings Plaza on October 14 that authorites believed was racially motivated.

Kirton and Finch, along with two minors, were arrested shortly after the attack, in which Ronald Russo and his wife, Alanna, were attacked by a large group of black teenagers. The couple, both white, were reportedly subjected to racial epithets, with the suspects allegedly yelling “Get those crackers!” and “Get that white whore!”

The incident happened as the victims, stopped at the intersection of Avenue U and East 58th Street in their car. The group of African-American teenagers was crossing the street against the light, and Russo honked his horn. After one of the teens kicked the car Russo got out to assess the damage, and that was when he and his wife were attacked.

Although frustrated by the dropped charges, Baker and others at the event agreed that the details of the case were unclear, and that the grand jury may have had good reason to drop the charges. But they said they were bothered more by the lack of media coverage and outrage from elected officials about similar cases, and said it was indicative of what they believe is an unfair application of bias charges.

“We don’t know the whole story. Maybe they dropped the case because the guy got out of the car and started screaming racial epithets. And if he did then all bets are off as far as I’m concerned,” said John Lore, a Marine Park resident. “I’m very disappointed towards the lack of coverage. This Barney’s thing,” he said, referring to the tabloid frenzy over alleged discrimination at Barney’s and Macy’s retail outlets, “as far as I’m concerned, nothing’s been proved, everything’s an investigation. But what happened with these two people was real, that was very real, and it was deeply personal.”

“If the roles were reversed I’m quite sure this would’ve made headlines and it would have been on the cover of the Daily News. That Barney’s situation is minuscule compared to this,” Lore said.

Many at the rally said they had hoped elected officials would attend. Assemblyman Alan Maisel walked past the protest and talked to police officers, but did not stop to speak with protestors. Sheepshead Bites caught up with him, and he said he was unaware of the group, noting that he was there to attend a rally for Bill de Blasio that occurred earlier in the day. He was not recognized by the protesters.

Asked about the case, Maisel expressed confusion at its cause, or why protesters wanted to hear from elected officials.

“I didn’t bring the case to the grand jury. I didn’t see the evidence. I recommended they try to reach out to the district attorney,” Maisel said. “But what the police say is that the individuals that were attacked did not report any bias when they were questioned initially.”

He added: “I’m not sure what they’re protesting against. Certainly, I don’t know why they’re protesting here. They should protest on Joreleman Street or Adams Street,” where the courthouse and district attorney’s offices are located.

The victims in the case, Ronald and Alanna Russo, were invited to the protest. Baker said she was told through others that they did not want any publicity in connection to the case.

Calls to the district attorney’s office had not been returned as of this writing.

Cleanup060

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey brought together more than 80 students and their parents from Manhattan Beach’s Mazel Day School for a cleanup of Holocaust Memorial Park.

Aside from tidying up the place, the event was held to commemorate the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which left Mazel’s former Brighton Beach location in tatters.

“This was a great lesson for the children,” Cymbrowitz said of the event, via a press release. “After destruction, there can be new life.”

Supplies for the event were provided by the Parks Department, and the children planted tulip and daffodil bulbs, leaving the park free of litter and weeds.

Cleanup0144

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