Archive for the tag 'brighton beach'

Seacoast Towers (Source: Google Maps)

Seacoast Towers (Source: Google Maps)

An energy service company bowed before the wrath of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz after a billing snafu caused approximately 45 residents of Brighton Beach’s Seacoast Towers, where Cymbrowitz lives, to be enrolled without their consent.

Great Eastern Energy, which has offices on Sheepshead Bay Road, distributed fliers about the availability of the service at the building in mid-February, according to the local pol. But when some residents of Seacoast Towers (1311 Brightwater Avenue and 35 Seacoast Terrace) contacted the company solely to learn more, they received postcards informing them they had been enrolled despite never having signed a contract.

“The language of the flier was not ambiguous and did not in any way suggest that the flier was a binding contract for service,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “People were hoodwinked, plain and simple.”

Cymbrowitz says he contacted the company on behalf of residents, but the president, Allan Brenner, refused to back off. Even though Brenner admitted the flier was unclear, he said they would continue to provide service to those residents, according to Cymbrowitz.

The company’s founder, Fima Podvisoky, agreed to cancel the contracts at the pol’s behest.

Action did not come swiftly enough for Cymbrowitz. He filed a formal complaint with the New York Public Service Commission, saying that the company’s practices were “deceptive and predatory.”

A third company official then weighed in last week, telling the assemblyman that all affected residents would be contacted and offered a fixed rate. If the company didn’t hear back from the residents, they would be returned to their regular service.

That official, CEO Matt Lanfear, made the offer by Facebook, including giving an apology for the “clerical error.”

“I’m genuinely sorry that you’ve had this experience with our service. It is not, and could not be less indicative of our business practices and guiding principles,” Lanfear wrote. He noted that he has contacted the Public Service Commission to inform them about the “operational oversight,” and that they’re working with the commission to rectify it.  “Some of the residents who received the flyer were enrolled prior to receiving a contract. This was a clerical error and was not meant to be deceptive in any way,” Lanfear wrote in the lengthy post.

The CEO also noted that the company had attempted to respond to Cymbrowitz directly, but to no avail.

To clarify, we’ve also made direct contact with you, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, on several occasions by phone and email. After inviting you to our offices but receiving no response, I’ve decided to come to you—in fact, I’ve contacted your office to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience. I’m hopeful we’ll get to speak face-to-face upon your return from Albany.

That post on Cymbrowitz’s Facebook page has no response from the local pol, who has been spending most of each week this month in Albany for the legislative session.

The assemblyman definitely saw the response, though; a press release was issued the next day highlighting the apology and expressing his desire to move on.

“In the end, the object is to save people money. If this company can do that, we’re happy to work with them,” he said in the release. “My goal was never to embarrass Great Eastern Energy but to protect constituents, many of them elderly and non-English speaking, who found themselves in a situation they didn’t ask for and couldn’t resolve. We’ve accomplished that goal and now we can move on.”

missing

The New York Police Department this morning issued a Silver Alert for the disappearance of 77-year-old Roza Babin, an Alzheimer’s sufferer last seen in Brighton Beach.

Babin, pictured above, is 5 feet 4 inches tall, approximately 200 pounds, with blue eyes and blonde hair. She was last seen at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday at Brighton 14th Street and Oceanview Avenue.

If seen, call 911 immediately.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

A baby harp seal was spotted on the shores of Brighton Beach on Saturday morning sunning himself.

The seal was seen at approximately 8:30 a.m. Police were called to the scene as a precaution, and they closed off the area using crime-scene tape for the animal’s safety, according to the Daily News.

The Riverhead Foundation, an advocacy organization that studies, rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals, was summoned to the scene. They transported the seal to a laboratory for medical evaluation where, according to Gothamist, they determined it was dehydrated due to parasites.

Harp seal and dolphin sightings in New York’s waterways have been on the rise in recent years as their population appears to boom amid cleaner waters and increased food stock.

Seals have been spotted in Jamaica Bay, the Sheepshead Bay marina and Brighton Beach, and one area cruise boat has launched occasional seal spotting trips.

Over the summer, pods of humpback whales and dolphins off the coast of the Rockaways made headlines. With the boom has also come some concern: dead and dying dolphins have washed up in Coney Island creek, the Gowanus canal and elsewhere.

A home in Seagate after Sandy (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Fifteen months since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in Brooklyn’s coastal neighborhoods, the city’s response has been a far cry from awe-inspiring. Sure, the numbers are staggering: $60 billion in Congressional aid to the region; $5.2 billion distributed; dozens of agencies, and a stack of recovery-related legislation with a word count yet to be assessed.

There’s another jaw-dropping number: zero. That’s the amount of money that has reached property owners through New York City’s $644 million Build it Back program.

Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Gravesend, Coney Island, Bensonhurst and Sea Gate, is hoping to use the newly formed committee he chairs, the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, to reboot the process and get residents and business owners the help they need.

Near the top of his agenda is an effort to reopen the application process for Build it Back, and expedite payouts to encourage confidence in the program.

“It’s absolutely crucial that they reopen the process and do a better job at outreach,” Treyger told this publication. “The low number of applicants and the fact that zero people have been helped so far, that’s just unacceptable.”

Treyger said he sat down with Build it Back representatives last week for a status update on their work. They reported to him that the 11224 area code that covers Coney Island and Sea Gate only saw between 800 and 900 applicants – a far cry from what he said is thousands of homes impacted by the flooding.

The recently inaugurated councilman said he believes the city failed in its outreach efforts.

“I was amazed by that number because I know in that zip code there were thousands of people impacted by Superstorm Sandy. And that spoke volumes because it shows that the city did not do adequate outreach into diverse communities in our city. And that’s just one zip code,” he said.

The polyglot district he represents has high numbers of Russian, Chinese and Spanish speakers that the city didn’t do well in reaching, he claims.

“They must reopen but this time we really have to get this right. We have to partner with community organizations, local media, they have to reach out to different language media. We really need to do a much better job of reaching the diverse communities of our city,” he said.

Treyger is currently drafting a letter to the de Blasio administration officially requesting the process be reopened.

But the local pol also acknowledged that “recovery fatigue” among homeowners may cause them to be reluctant to apply, coupled with the latest headlines that money is not yet flowing.

“I think once money starts flowing and people see progress with their applications, that will instill confidence in applying. Some folks have no faith and were discouraged, and once they see progress I think that will motivate people to apply,” he said.

The administration is currently in the midst of the comment period for its fifth amendment to the proposed action plan for community development block grants for disaster recovery, the federal program funding Build it Back. While the plan includes an increase in funding for Build it Back, representatives present at a public hearing last night at Sheepshead Bay High School could not say if more would be needed to reopen the process as Treyger proposes. The mayor’s office has not yet returned a response to our inquiry.

Build it Back aside, Treyger is hoping to use his role as chair of the Council’s Recovery and Resiliency Committee to make Sandy recovery a top priority for the de Blasio administration.

The committee will hold its first-ever hearing in Coney Island on Thursday, February 27, at 10 a.m. at the Carey Gardens Community Center (2315 Surf Avenue). He said he hopes holding it in a Sandy-impacted zone will boost resident participation.

But the agenda at the first meeting is more pressing than reopening Build it Back. It will focus on a plan to replace temporary boilers at dozens of NYCHA buildings affected by the storm.

According to the councilman, NYCHA residents have been hooked up to temporary systems for 15 months, suffering from mechanical breakdowns that left them without heat on some of the most bitter cold days of 2014.

Treyger said he has been told the city pays in the ballpark of $50,000 per boiler per month, but they are faulty. Some of the boilers, he said, were not built to withstand low temperatures, causing the breakdowns they saw at housing projects like O’Dwyer Gardens, a six-building NYCHA complex in Coney Island that’s home to more than 100,000 residents.

To cope with the cold, some residents heated their homes with their home ovens, putting families at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He believes the city is dragging its feet in figuring out a permanent plan, as FEMA is requesting critical infrastructure like boilers be placed above ground-level to avoid damage in future floods. But for those in the houses, a year is too long to wait, he said.

“It shouldn’t take us a year to figure that out. We’re having this meeting now because it’s still winter weather and I don’t want it to continue to be a lingering, ongoing problem. The money should be there, and that’s another part of this hearing and we need to track that money,” he said.

Build it Back will be on the agenda for their March meeting, Treyger said. He also hopes to persuade the administration to appoint a “Sandy Czar” to coordinate between city, state and federal recovery initiatives, as well as to spur reform in the handling of New York City’s co-operative housing schemes for disaster recovery. Co-ops are viewed by the federal government as businesses, not primary residences of homeowners, and so were not eligible for FEMA funds in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Overall, the local pol is hoping that his committee will help reboot the process, and open the funding spigots for residents.

“This is an oversight committee. But oversight to me means we’re listening to people on the ground, listening to the residents living the day-to-day trauma resulting from Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “I will judge this recovery by those people, families, homeowners, business owners. We want to see progress. Quite frankly, I’m tired of seeing more Powerpoint presentations than progress on the ground.”

The author of an upcoming cookbook took up temporary residence in Brighton Beach to work on the project, and her experience spurred her to declare the seaside neighborhood “one of the world’s best places to write a cookbook” in Food & Wine magazine.

Jill Donenfeld’s forthcoming cookbook is about toast, which she calls “the perfect meal,” making her immediately suspect in my book (c’mon, pizza is the perfect meal and toast is just the thing you shove in your facehole when you’re rushing to work). But I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt because she knows Southern Brooklyn is awesome.

Anyway, Donenfeld locked herself up in an apartment abutting the boardwalk for three months to write the book.

“I like the feeling of being a foreigner,” she told the magazine. “It’s very quiet within, even though there is so much new stimulation. It’s a great recipe for inspiration.”

Among the things unique to the area that helped her get work done was the proximity to the boardwalk, where she could run and clear her mind, and the accessibility and affordability of smoked fish, with all its “brain-boosting omega-3s.”

She also found inspiration exploring the Eastern European influence of the area, including discovering kvas and a vegan pate called mtsvane lobio (I’ll have to try that one – any recommendations?).

Oh, and banyas… where, post-sauna, she was stuffed with more smoked sturgeon.

morales

Police say they’ve caught the man responsible for a pair of burglaries in Brighton Beach that targeted the elderly.

We first told you about the hunt for the perp on January 24, writing that cops were seeking a suspect in two burglaries in which the perpetrator gained the confidence of his victims before stealing their cash and jewelry.

Now they’ve arrested Salvador Morales, 58, of Washington Heights, and charged him with burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession on Friday.

In the two incidents, Morales allegedly followed the seniors to their buildings in Brighton Beach.

NBC reports:

[Morales] told them he was their upstairs neighbor and that water was leaking from his unit into their apartment, according to police.

He said he wanted to inspect the damage so he could pay for them, police said. He then asked the victims for change for a $100 bill so he could leave $50. While in the apartment, he took jewelry and money.

The victims include an 89-year-old woman robbed on December 24 and an 88-year-old woman this past Sunday. The suspect took about $2,400 in cash and several items of jewelry from both. No one was hurt.

Source: Google Maps

Source: Google Maps

An 82-year-old handicapped woman perished in an early morning fire on Saturday, after a heroic but unsuccessful attempt to pull her from the Brighton Beach apartment.

The fire broke out at 3111 Brighton 7th Street at approximately 2:40 a.m.

Feyga Geyman and her husband, Sukher, were asleep when a tangle of electrical cords beneath their bed sparked the second-floor fire, authorities believe. The bedroom quickly caught fire.

Home health aide Gulruh Rahmonova, 27, who was staying there the night, sprang into action, aiding Sukher out of the building. But she struggled to help Feyga, a wheelchair-bound woman suffering from diabetes and a heart condition.

Rahmonova called for help, and their fifth floor neighbor Oleg Dubrovsky ran into the apartment to find that Geyman had made it to the couch in the living room.

The Daily News reports:

“She was on the couch screaming, ‘Help me, help me!’ in Russian,” the shaken neighbor said. “I couldn’t get in. The smoke was too deep. I tried to get on my hands and knees (to get to the woman), but the ceiling was starting to collapse. The air was too hot. It was burning my throat. … I couldn’t do nothing. She burned before my eyes.”

Dubrovsky said Rahmonova, the panicked aide, made a last-ditch attempt to save Geyman.

“The home attendant was running around with me,” he said. “She was trying to go back in. I pulled her out.”

The entire building evacuated as the ordeal unfolded. Firefighters were on scene and extinguished the blaze, but found Geyman dead.

Six residents and one firefighter were treated for minor injuries. Sukher Geyman was taken to Staten Island Hospital to burns with his hands.

Our thoughts go out to the Geyman family.

Yehuda Sadok (Source: LinkedIn)

Yehuda Sadok (Source: LinkedIn)

Yehuda Sadok, the Brighton Beach man accused of posing as an Israeli secret spy to swindle an elderly widow in an international jewelry deal, has filed a counter-suit against the widow’s daughters in an effort to clear his name.

Going by the moniker Oody Geffen, Sadok was accused by the widow’s daughters of romancing their wealthy, jewelry-dealing mother in order to get her to fork over $20 million worth of inventory for a shady deal with a Saudi sheikh.

The daughters’ suit said he claimed to be a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and dined with Robert DeNiro.

But now Sadok is saying it’s all hooey and the daughters are just bitter that they were written out of the will for being rotten to their mother.

The New York Post reports:

But Sadok denies to Page Six that he ever claimed to be a Mossad agent, and says he met Martin through a mutual friend and ex-FBI agent who asked him to track down an Israeli who’d stolen $1 million in jewels from her. They became friends when he recovered $850,000 of the gems.

“She was a lovely, simple . . . lady who was like my grandmother,” Sadok said. He added that Martin confided she had “two spoiled daughters” she’d lavished with “the best schools, the best clothes,” but they’d “become ‘two devils.’ They were very mean and rude to their mother.”

… Sadok also denied he ever said he was pals with Russian leader Putin (“I wish I was”), or that he claimed to know Robert De Niro, as the suit alleges. He contends that a friend who was a regular on “The Sopranos” was casting a film and trying to get De Niro for a role, and that he’d introduced that TV actor to Martin at her office. “That’s how they got this idea I was a producer,” Sadok said, “and came [up] with this nonsense about De Niro, [who] I never met in my life.”

Surveillance still, or Rorschach test? You tell us.

Surveillance still, or Rorschach test? You tell us.

The police are hunting a suspect believed to have robbed several elderly women in Brighton Beach.

The thief is described as a black male in his late teens or early 20s, of a light to medium build and between 5-foot-6-inches and 5-foot-9-inches, last seen wearing a white scarf obscuring his face.

The suspect is believed to be behind four purse snatchings in Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach since January 21, with all female victims aging in range from 61 to 79 years old.

Here’s a rundown of the incidents as well as some tips from Councilman Chaim Deutsch’s office:

The suspect began his robbery spree on January 21st, when he followed a 62-year-old woman into an elevator inside of a Brighton 12th Street building between Corbin Place and Oceanview Avenue at 3 pm.

The victim heard the suspect say, “It’s freezing out here,” before he snatched the purse from her shoulder.

On January 24th, the suspect followed a 75-year-old woman into a Brighton Third Street building between Brighton Beach Avenue and Bridgewater Court at 2:30 pm, running up behind the victim, before yanking the purse off her shoulder.

On January 25th, the suspect attacked a 61-year-old woman on Brighton Third Street near Brighton Beach Avenue at 9:30 pm, taking her purse.

… A more recent incident occurred on February 5th, only this time the suspect attacked a woman in Manhattan Beach, within the confines of the 61st Precinct.

The victim, a 79-year-old woman, told police that she was on Beaumont Street near Hampton Avenue at 3 pm, when the suspect approached and grabbed her hand bag, before making his escape.

… In addition, Councilman Deutsch is providing the public with tips in order to help them avoid theft and also to help the public provide police with information in the event that theft occurs.

•     The suspect is targeting elderly women, and usually operates during the late afternoon, or early evening. If you feel that you’re being followed, or you notice anything suspicious, call police immediately.

•     If you have been the victim of a robbery, do not hesitate to call police. If your phone has been taken from you, or you do not have a phone, go to a neighbor or nearby store.

•     Do not struggle with the suspect, or incite him to violence in any way.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website, or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Source: ah zut/Flickr

The founder of digital currency service Liberty Reserve, who once lived in Brighton Beach and whose alleged accomplice lives in the Oceana condominum complex, said that the United States government kicked off a witch hunt against the company’s owners after they refused to turn over the source code for their proprietary system.

Source: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network via Financial Times

The Liberty Reserve bust is being painted by prosecutors as the largest international money laundering case ever prosecuted. Authorities  allege that it was created, structured and operated to help users conduct illegal transactions anonymously, aiding them to launder the proceeds of their crimes. Liberty had more than one million users worldwide and conducted approximately 55 million transactions before it was shut down in May 2013. It served to launder more than $6 billion in suspected proceeds of crimes, including credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography and drug trafficking.

The founders of the service included two Brighton Beach residents, Vladimir Kats and Arthur Budovsky.

Kats, 41, was arrested in May 2013 and pleaded guilty in October to his role in laundering the estimated $6 billion.

Following previous charges against the two for a similar but unrelated operation, Budovsky fled the country to Costa Rica and renounced his American citizenship. There, he incorporated Liberty Reserve. According to US and Costa Rican investigators, Budovsky used shell companies in Costa Rica, Cyprus, Russia, Hong Kong and other countries to hide the business’ operations.

In an internationally coordinated bust, Budovsky was arrested in Spain last year, while others in the case were arrested in Costa Rica and New York and several properties on different continents were raided.

Now, Budovksky is fighting extradition from Spain to the U.S., telling a Madrid court that the investigation is a witch hunt resulting from his refusal to turn over the source code that made their system function.

“I refused. It’s like asking Coca-Cola for their secret formula,” he told the court, according to the Associated Press. “The truth is that the U.S. wants to protect its monopoly on financial transfer platforms.”

He also claims that he sold his share of Liberty Reserve in 2007, and only served as a consultant. According to American authorities, Budovsky was the principal operator of the service, with Kats as his second in command until a falling out in 2009.

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