Archive for the tag 'advocacy'

Photos of the staging area at the Fountain Avenue landfill. (Source: GooseWatch NYC)

Photos of the staging area at the Fountain Avenue landfill. (Source: GooseWatch NYC)

Another day, another animal in the cross-hairs of the wildlife gestapo.

In the wacky world of wildlife preservation, we’ve seen battles rage over swans and cats in the past few weeks, and now concerns are being revived about the annual plans to round up and euthanize Canada geese.

The latest comes from GooseWatch NYC, an advocacy group that since 2010 has been sounding the alarm on the city’s annual goose culling. They say that members have spotted USDA Wildlife Services agents, which the city and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey contracts to manage the swan population, setting up a staging area at Canarsie’s Fountain Avenue Landfill (which has been folded into the wildlife refuge and is in the process of $20 million ecological restoration). Trucks with the USDA logo were photographed, along with kayaks, crates and corral gates used to round up the birds before carting them off for lethal gassing.

Such culling usually happens around this time every year, as Canada geese go through their molting period, hampering their flying ability and making them easier to capture.

The group is outraged, as they are every year, especially since the area is now part of the wildlife refuge. They also say that, following the 1,000 goose culling over the last two years, there are just a few dozen remaining in Jamaica Bay, suggesting that the agency seeks total annihilation and not just population control.

“It’s now obvious that the USDA intends to kill every last Canada goose they can at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a supposed safe haven for these creatures,” said David Karopkin, GooseWatch NYC’s founder, in a press release. “There is no need to kill these birds. It’s obscene and tragic, and the public has a right to know what our government is doing.”

The annual goose slaughters began in 2009 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The population reduction is being done to reduce collisions with jets at local airports, including JFK airport, located adjacent to the wildlife refuge, although critics say alternate methods, including radar upgrades, could do the trick more efficiently.

GooseWatch is also taking issue with the current mayor, who they say is walking back his campaign promise to seek out more humane ways to manage the population and reduce air strikes.

“Mayor de Blasio committed to put every approach on the table and work with independent experts and animal advocates, but now instead we’re learning that the cruel and ineffective goose removals will continue in NYC this summer, and perhaps for years to come,” said Karopkin.

A petition has been launched to end the lethal culling of geese in New York City. Another group, Friends of Animals, is planning a protest outside of the Port Authority’s headquarters (225 Park Avenue South) on Thursday, June 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Kushner and son.

Kushner and son.

Seth Kushner, a Sheepshead Bay native now living in Bay Ridge with his wife and 5-year-old son, was diagnosed last month with an aggressive Acute Myeloid Leukemia, sparking an urgent search for a bone marrow donor who may help save his life.

If Kushner’s name is familiar to readers, it’s because we’ve shared his work here before. An accomplished artist and photographer, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek and elsewhere, he’s also the fellow who penned an ode to Southern Brooklyn’s old comic shops back in 2012. And we’ve also featured a bit of his photography on Bensonhurst Bean.

Kushner’s parents still live in the neighborhood, and are working hard to get the word out about his need for donors. He remains in the hospital until a match is found. From his bed there, he speaks with his son on FaceTime and draws superheroes for him daily.

Help become a hero to Kushner and his family by registering to become a bone marrow donor with Delete Blood Cancer. It take less than five minutes to fill out a registration form and have you cheek swabbed with a Q-tip.

The donor drive is being held on Saturday, June 14, from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Temple Beth Emeth (83 Marlborough Road, corner of Church Avenue). It’s a 15-minute ride on the Q train from Sheepshead Bay to Church Avenue, and a two-minute walk from the subway, heading west.

You can also register as a donor online.

Here’s a fact sheet about becoming a marrow donor:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

An attendee requested support programs for special needs families. But that's not what the meeting was for.

An attendee requested support programs for special needs families. But that’s not what the meeting was for.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch has touted his “participatory governing” approach as an alternative to participatory budgeting, but his first attempt – a governing workshop held last week - provided the best argument yet for why we need an open, community-drive budgeting process.

The Thursday, May 27 meeting, held at Cunningham Junior High School, was billed as an opportunity for residents to propose legislation. The ideas were proposed before a diverse panel of locals from across the district.

It was a well-intended endeavor, but the approximately 35 people in attendance seemed to miss the point. They approached it as they would any town hall, using the opportunity to gripe about quality of life issues and suggest improvements they would like to see in the district. No one, including this reporter, seemed to have any idea what the panel was there for; they never spoke following their introductions.

When the first few attendees took the microphone and began discussing their concerns, the councilman attempted to steer the meeting back to its intended purpose, cutting them off by asking if they had legislation to propose. They did not.

Instead, almost every single attendee who spoke proposed ideas for programming or district improvements. Here’s a sampling of the ideas that were proposed:

  • Rehabilitation of Ocean Parkway’s west mall
  • Uprooting tree stumps and replanting trees
  • A local government liaison or social worker for families of special needs persons
  • Traffic reconfiguration on Avenue P
  • Increased funding to increase the hours of lifeguard duties on the beaches
  • Various beautification projects.

Many of these are the kind of proposals you might see emerge from a participatory budgeting workshop.

So what is participatory budgeting?

The process gives residents as young as 14 years old the chance to propose ideas including upgrading parks, schools and libraries, or programming and services that will benefit the community. Neighbors attend local workshops to brainstorm and suggest their ideas, and volunteers work with the councilmember and city agencies to determine feasibility of the proposals. Once a final list has been created, residents 16 years old and up have several days to stop by the elected officials’ offices or other designated locations to fill out a ballot and cast their vote for funding.

In short: everyone who shows up gets to decide what happens to $1 million of discretionary funding within the district. Aside from democratizing the process, advocates say it gives politicians one less piggybank from which to buy political support.

Earlier this week, Councilman Mark Treyger announced he is becoming the eleventh councilman of the 51-member Council to implement participatory budgeting. That means that every single district abutting Deutsch’s is now involved in participatory budgeting (Alan Maisel of the 46th District is the exception).

This was my takeaway from the meeting: the residents have ideas on how to spend money, and it appears there is demand to give them voice in determining how it’s spent.

I spoke to Deutsch by phone after the meeting to see if he saw what I saw. He didn’t. He maintained that he knows best how to spend the money by speaking to his constituents.

He insists his participatory governing  concept is an effective alternative, but conceded that it will take time for residents to adjust to the concept.

“They were a little confused about participatory governing, they’re not used to the idea that an elected official is asking them for input,” he said. But he believes that there’s already sufficient participation in budget allocations. “My way of participatory budgeting is what I have done by having town hall meetings and asking my constituents what they want, and how they want their parks, for example, to be improved. So the way they’re doing it is to have these things be improved. It’s more than a million dollars, really.”

Sure, but what about the vote? What about giving people a direct, inarguable say in how money is spent?

“I’m accomplishing it by walking out into the community, going out there, visiting the sites and seeing how the needs are. So at the end of the day, I am putting in capital money to what the needs are to the people. So I want to do more of a hands on approach, and doing the tours, and I’m considering that to be part of my capital budget.”

Sure, but what about the vote?

“I feel like I’m part of participatory budgeting by doing what I’m doing.”

Sure, but what about the vote?

The vote is the defining element of participatory budgeting, and it’s what empowers the community to determine how this money is spent. You can (and must) still fight to allocate money in the capital budget while engaging in participatory budgeting, and to suggest otherwise is entirely misleading.

It is also in stark contrast to his own statements made while campaigning for the seat. At an August 2013 candidate’s forum sponsored by the Jewish Press, Deutsch promised more transparency in the discretionary funding process:

“I would get more input from the communities. I would have these organizations come out and present how they will spend the money and what kind of services they will be doing for the community,” he said.

That doesn’t seem to be happening this year. And if he’s truly committed to transparency in discretionary funds, there’s no better solution than leaving it entirely to the community in an open and democratic process.

None of this is to say that Deutsch’s participatory governing concept is bad or ineffective. In fact, I look forward to more of these meetings, and more town halls, and more of any opportunity in which residents can interact with their elected officials and share concerns.

And I have to give kudos to Deutsch: there were a lot of faces at that meeting that I’ve never seen at other meetings, and anything that can spur more involvement from the previously apathetic is commendable. I encourage everyone to attend in the future.

But if Deutsch’s goal was to hear legislative ideas from residents last Thursday, then he failed. Instead, he showed exactly why we need participatory budgeting, and it’s about time his constituents demand it.

You can learn more about participatory budgeting here. You can tell Councilman Deutsch you want participatory budgeting in the district by e-mailing cdeutsch@council.nyc.gov, calling (718) 368-9176, or visiting his district office at 2401 Avenue U.

tete

The folks over at Tete-a-Tete Cafe (2601 East 14th Street) are teaming up with the Shorefront Y, the Kings Bay Y, the JCC of Bensonhurst and several other organizations to help raise money for area children with special needs.

From now until June 8 – exactly one month from today – the cafe will be donating 50 cents from the sale of every medium-sized latte or cappuccino.

The funds will go towards the Brooklyn Autism Spectrum Disorder Initiative (BASDI) Fourth Annual Walk for Autism, which takes place on June 8 at 11 a.m. along the Riegelmann Boardwalk. The walk helps raise money for free programs for kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, helping Southern Brooklyn families who struggle with the financial burden required to meet their kids’ special needs.

Aside from buying some java, you can register to participate in the walk itself ($10), or donate money through the Shorefront Y’s website.

ridersalliance

Join the Riders Alliance tonight, May 8, for part two of their grassroots initiative to brainstorm strategies and help plan a winning campaign to improve public transportation throughout Southern Brooklyn. The group will be meeting from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Homecrest Presbyterian Church, 1413 Avenue T at East 15th Street.

Snacks will be provided. If you are interested in attending, you must RSVP on the Riders Alliance website. To learn more, contact Rebecca Bailin at (212) 590-9504 or email her at rebecca@ridersny.org if you have any questions.

ridersThe Riders Alliance, an advocacy organization for subway and bus riders, is launching an initiatve to bring together Southern Brooklyn straphangers to demand improved public transportation services.

To kick off the initiative, they’re holding a brainstorming session on March 27, at 7:00 p.m., at the Homecrest Presbyterian Church (1413 Avenue T). It’s an any-idea-goes kind of event.

The group has been going neighborhood to neighborhood since it formed in 2012 and setting up local, grassroots coalitions to advocate for improved service.

From their website:

We believe that lawmakers respond best to their own constituents, and that an organized group of local residents, trained and empowered to demand results, fills an important gap in transit advocacy, helping win the sustainable, long-term funding needed to fix public transit in New York.

You can sign up to attend  here. There’ll be snacks.

Ed Eisenberg at the 2010 Sheepshead Bay Memorial Day Parade

For more than 40 years he was entwined in the fabric of the Southern Brooklyn community. He was ever-present at community meetings, where he was frequently recognized for stellar attendance. He was a member of numerous civic groups; so many that no one can list them all. He rubbed elbows, and sometimes chewed out, politicians including every Brooklyn borough president from Howard Golden to Eric Adams, and too many councilmembers, state legislators and congressmen to count. He charmed with self-deprecating jokes, and had a habit of starting conversations smack-dab in the middle of it. And he loved his local parks, his waterfront and his community up until he drew his final breath.

Longtime community activist Edward “Eddie” Eisenberg passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 79 years old, after being admitted to Maimonides Medical Center with heart-related complications.

“It was just his biggest passion to have everything clean and safe around here. To the very end. Lord knows, even when he was losing it at the end, he wanted his attache case because he had the results of the previous Community Board elections in there,” said Leigh Eisenberg, 42, the younger of Eisenberg’s two sons.

Born in Flatbush in 1934, Eisenberg attended private high schools before obtaining an associate degree at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Eisenberg in Fort Ord, Salinas, California

As armistice negotiations were being finalized on the Korean peninsula, Eisenberg enlisted in the United States Army and served at Fort Ord in Salinas, California, where he worked as an information specialist from 1954 to 1956.

He returned to his home borough and began his career as a salesman of packaging supplies. He met his wife, Eileen, now 74, at a singles event and the two married in 1965. They moved to Manhattan Beach shortly afterwards.

Eisenberg took to civic involvement in his adopted neighborhood with a fervor “as soon as they moved into the neighborhood,” said Leigh. “He loved Manhattan Beach and he really just always wanted to see it well maintained and safe from the moment he moved into the area.”

No one can recall exactly when he joined Community Board 15, but the lowest estimates of his tenure from friends and family put it at 38 years, easily making him the longest-serving member of the 50-person body – and perhaps the most passionate.

“I just remember as a little kid, he was so involved taking us kids fishing at Kingsborough Community College, sharing his passion for the water around the neighborhood. He just couldn’t help out in the community enough,” said Leigh.

His chief concern, Scavo said, was in lobbying the city to invest in parks.

“He always, always wanted parks – that was his shtick in life. Not transportation, parks. That was it. Every meeting, you had to support the parks, he was very, very, very involved with Parks Department issues,” said Scavo. “He was always crazed with parks.”

Former Councilman Lew Fidler, who recommended Eisenberg for reappointment to the Board in recent years, added that Eisenberg stood out for his eagerness to go above and beyond in considering Board matters.

“He was always vocal about getting to the bottom of every land use issue that came before the Board. He was so committed that when an application came before the Board he would visit the site and talk to neighbors about what they thought about the project,” said Fidler. “It really didn’t matter to him if it was across the street in Manhattan Beach or all the way in Homecrest. It makes you wonder how good a Community Board could be if every member took it as seriously as Ed.”

Local elected officials have issued statements on Eisenberg’s passing.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz posted on Facebook:

He knew the details of every community meeting and neighborhood event, almost before they were scheduled. He was generous of spirit, always eager to help and ferociously proud of the community he called home. My condolences to his wife, Eileen, and everyone who knew and loved him. Ed, you will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch said the following in a press release:

“I’ve known Ed for a long time, and have always admired the passion he held for his favorite part of Brooklyn,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, his two sons, and all the friends he’s left behind. Manhattan Beach will never be the same.”

Borough President Eric Adams issued a statement as well:

My sincerest condolences go to out to Ed’s wife, children and relatives, as well as the larger South Brooklyn family that knew and loved his commitment to the community. From his service to our country to his deep civic engagement, Ed left a legacy for all of us to admire. He was the epitome of the volunteer spirit, an example for Brooklynites today and tomorrow to follow.

Eisenberg’s idiosyncrasies and sense of humor will be as well remembered as his advocacy.

“Ed was, if nothing else, a unique character,” Fidler remembered. “And for whatever else people want to say about Ed, he really cared about his community and his family. He used to speak about his son in Australia all the time. Quirky, of course, but you couldn’t really question where his heart was. Community was his whole life outside his family.”

Scavo remembers the costumes, stuff of legend among those involved in local civic life. Eisenberg kept a closet full of costumes, which he donned at annual gatherings over the years.

“Night Out Against Crime was always the Keystone Cop. When it came to Memorial Day, he always used to pull out Army uniforms. He always had Halloween masks and costumes, and no matter what he had a costume to go with that occasion,” she said.

His quirks did not escape his family’s notice, and they remain fond memories in the wake of his passing.

“Everyone knew him. Lord knows the man was eccentric but he had a heart as big as the moon and everyone knew it,” said Leigh Eisenberg.

Eisenberg is survived by his wife, Eileen; his eldest son, Glenn, 46, who with his wife Simone gave Eisenberg a grandson, Aaron, 2; and his youngest son, Leigh, who with his wife Jill gave Eisenberg two granddaughters, Raya, 11, and Anissa, 9. Eisenberg is also survived by his sisters Marianne and Lisa, and his brother Steve.

A service will be held for Ed Eisenberg on Tuesday, March 4, at 1:00 p.m. at Parkside Memorial Chapels (2576 Flatbush Avenue, at the corner of Avenue V). The family has chosen not to direct donations, saying that Ed had cared for too many things to pick just one, and requested that anyone wishing to make a donation send them to any community-oriented charities or groups.

Update (March 3 at 2:30 p.m.): A statement from Borough President Eric Adams was added to this post.

Earlier this month we published an article on the feral cat situation in Coney Island, especially around the boardwalk. Josie Marrero, a local who founded a cat rescue program called Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, spends much of her time taking care of the cats in the area. But as winter sets in and Sandy- and development-related construction in the area continues, her job has gone from maintaining a population to saving them. We previously wrote:

But now, they face an additional problem. Several abandoned Coney Island parking lots – a favored home of many feral felines – are in the process of being bulldozed, and with the winter chill in full-swing, many of the stray cats that have made these lots their sanctuary will again have to relocate. Already, the bulldozing has started at Surf Avenue and West 33rd Street.

All of which, Marrero explains in the video above, has turned the area into a “killing field” for the hundreds of cats. We put together the video above to chronicle Marrero’s efforts.

A traditional Passover seder table. Source: Wikipedia

Five hundred needy people and seniors will join the Be Proud Foundation and friends during the fourth annual Passover Food Distribution at Aqua Health Rehabilitation Center, 2753 Coney Island Avenue, Thursday, March 21 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

According to Raisa Chernina, founder of the Be Proud Foundation, a non-profit organization started by immigrants from the Russian-speaking community:

“Passover is the best time for us to show that we care about our neighbors. By giving out food we are going to share our happiness with those people who count on us more than ever in this current economic climate.”

Destitute individuals looking to make a Passover seder will receive matzos, considered to symbolize salvation and deliverance, as well as other Passover foods.

To learn more, contact the Be Proud Foundation at (718) 788-7773.

Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is from an email we received from the Met Council on Jewish Poverty about Kosher for Passover food distribution this year:

For Brooklyn communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy, celebrating Passover will be a struggle this year. That’s why the Met Council on Jewish Poverty will deliver more than 2.5 million pounds of Kosher Passover food to families in need.

Many families can no longer afford the expensive Kosher food for their Passover seders and the holiday’s eight days. Last Passover, Met Council served 55,000 households — this year, following Sandy, the need is even greater.

Here are Kosher for Passover food distribution sites you can visit in our area:

  • Kosher Food Distribution at JCC of Greater Coney Island, 3001 West 37th Street, Wednesday, March 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • Kosher Food Distribution at Shorefront JCC, 3161 Brighton 6th Street, Thursday, March 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

An RSVP is required for both food distribution events. To RSVP or learn more about Met Council’s food program, call (718) 763-5318, email food@metcouncil.org and visit them on the web.

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