Archive for the tag 'department of health'

Ariel Jasper is leading the fight to legalize ferret ownership. (Photo by Vanessa Ogle)

by Vanessa Ogle

There are dog people. There are cat people. And, now, there are ferret people.

For the first time since 1999, New York City is considering reversing a ban on ferret ownership in all five boroughs. Though ownership is legal throughout the rest of the state, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani enacted a citywide ban, which the Bloomberg administration defended.

But that hasn’t stopped residents from secretly owning ferrets.

So Sheepshead Bay resident Ariel Jasper, 23, was excited when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. De Blasio, who seeks to ban horse drawn carriages from city streets, has already earned a reputation from animal rights activists as a more compassionate mayor for animal rights than his predecessors.

“Growing up, I had an interest in ferrets,” Jasper told Sheepshead Bites. “They were adorable.”

She’d been eager to stop the ban but didn’t feel that the Bloomberg administration would have been receptive. In early January, after de Blasio took office, she launched a petition that now has more than 380 supporters. Now Jasper, a master’s student at Brooklyn College, is the frontlines activist to overturn the ban and credited with prompting the change at City Hall.

On Tuesday, officials from the Health Department confirmed they would support lifting the ban.

Ferrets, though commonly misidentified as rodents, are actually part of the weasel family. They have a lifespan of between five and nine years and they have the same bite incident as a cat or dog.

“We allow very powerful dogs in our society,” Jasper said. “I don’t understand the double standards.”

Jasper feels that with ferrets—like all animals—it comes down to responsible pet ownership.

“You never leave any child unsupervised with any animal,” she said.

Her only concern about the legalization of ferrets revolves around impulsive pet store customers.

“Ferrets have an initial cuteness,” she said, but adds that they shouldn’t be purchased on a whim. “They need space and they require special care. They are not cage animals.”

Legalization could take place anytime between June and December. And when it does, Jasper plans on owning a ferret.

“Once everything’s legal,” she said.


Legendary Midwood establishment Di Fara Pizza (1424 Avenue J) took to Facebook late last week and over the weekend, vowing to fight a $1,600 fine from the Department of Health for having too many chairs in the notoriously seat-strapped storefront.

Maggie DeMarco, daughter of famed dough-tosser Dom DeMarco, took to the social media site to explain a recent health inspection that left them with a B rating, saying that they had extra folding chairs in the kitchen.

Maggie wrote on Thursday:

A few years ago we purchased extra seats as we do get very crowded most of the time. We were always kind and would bring out an extra chair if someone asked … Those folding chairs caused us to get a B grade. As someone who has been doing this a very long time, I want people to know not to panic when they read grades on food service businesses . It rarely ever means anything hazardous to the public … At this time, we will no longer have anymore than 19 seats at all times.

According to city regulations, restaurants with 20 or more seats must have a public, handicapped-accessible bathroom. Di Fara does not. Their bathroom is behind the counter, in the kitchen.

On Saturday, Maggie updated Facebook fans on the developments. The city sent the business a letter offering to settle the case for $1,600 or spend a day attending a hearing. DeMarco suggested it’s a racket, and one she won’t stand for.

A business tends to settle just to avoid the inconvenience of attending the hearing. I , however will attend the hearing as I want the 19 seat rule explained to me clearer as we can not continue to pay fines for unexpected violations.

She also expressed her wish that the Department of Health assign dedicated inspectors to each restaurant, allowing them to build relationships and be subject to uniform standards on each visit – the inconsistent interpretation of regulations being a common complaint from restaurant owners.

DeMarco returned to Facebook again late last night, noting that the inspector appears to be a little ignorant of the laws. After some research, she discovered that the bathroom requirement is only applicable to restaurants opened after 1977. Since Di Fara Pizza opened in 1965, the eatery should be grandfathered in.

The hearing for Di Fara’s appeal is scheduled for March 18.

Hot damn, that’s sexy. (Source: teddy-rised/Flickr)

When I sit down to eat a sloppy tower of meat by-product stacked on soggy bread with wilted lettuce and questionable “secret” sauces, the last thing I really want to know is the awful, shudder-inducing details of what I’m cramming into my facehole.

The Department of Health doesn’t like my life of blissful ignorance, however, and so they’re making the knowledge quite available to me anyway, as if the calorie counts on the wall weren’t enough to shame this shambling mess of a man.

And so they’ve launched MenuStat, a public database of nutritional information for more than 35,000 dishes served up by 66 top chain eateries.

From the press release:

The site sources data from the restaurant websites, provides historical, date-stamped information, and puts it into a format that allows for comparison across restaurants, food categories, and over time.

… MenuStat is designed to be used by researchers, food industry professionals, health organizations and consumers interested in understanding nutrition trends. Users can search items by selecting specific criteria such as the calorie content of beverages on kids’ menus or the average grams of trans fat in fried potatoes, and, assess changes in nutrition content over time such as the sodium content of sandwiches in 2012 and 2013. The website also includes a graphing function and the option to export data to a spreadsheet for analysis.

Did you know that one additional meal consumed away from home increases daily caloric intake by more than 130 calories? Yeah, I didn’t either. Now I have that fact to keep me up at night.

In just a moment of playing around with the tool, I’ve learned that Dominos occupies the top eight slots for highest calorie count in a pizza, a category that has nearly 800 entries. Their Feast Pizza has between 2,760 and 4,580 calories, approximately double that of the top entry from the second restaurant named on the list, California Pizza Kitchen, whose California Club Pizza comes in with 1,400 calories.

There are some surprising results, though. Most would think a chain like McDonald’s or Burger King would near the top of the list for calorie counts on their squishy little meat patties. Alas, no, they don’t even come in on the list of top 70. Instead, Chili’s takes that fatso cake, with the top three spots for their burgers, the best tasting most calorie-packed of which is the Big Mouth Bites Burger with Ranch, with 1,800 calories. Similar chains round out the top 20, including Friendly’s, Applebee’s and Denny’s.

Well, that’s gross. I’m eating a salad today. Just not at IHOP, because there’s a category for that, too.

And… just because:

Source: kainet / Flickr

Source: kainet / Flickr

The following information regarding pesticide spraying on September 3 to cut down on the risk of West Nile Virus was sent to us by the Department of Health:

To reduce mosquito activity and the risk of West Nile virus, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks in parts of Brooklyn on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, weather permitting. In case of bad weather, application will be delayed until Monday, September 9, 2013 during the same hours. The neighborhoods listed below are being treated due to rising West Nile virus activity with high mosquito populations.


The areas being sprayed are parts of Brighton Beach, Bergen Beach, Coney Island, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach, Homecrest, Marine Park, Manhattan Beach, Midwood, Middle Basin, Mill Island, Mill Basin, Sea Gate, Sheepshead Bay.


The boundaries are bordered by Avenue D, Brooklyn Avenue, East 36th Street, Avenue I, East 14th Street, Avenue U, Nostrand Avenue, Avenue X and 86th Street to the North; Bay Parkway and Gravesend Bay to the West; Atlantic Ocean, Knapp Street, Sheepshead Bay, Avenue X and Gerritsen Avenue to the South; and Belt Parkway, Paerdegat Basin and Ralph Avenue to the East.

ZIP Codes

The ZIP codes affected will be parts of 11203, 11210, 11214, 11223, 11224, 11229, 11230, 11234, and 11235.

For these sprayings, the Health Department will use a very low concentration of Anvil® 10+10, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health. The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  • Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

Reducing Exposure to Mosquitoes

  • Consider reducing the amount of time spent outdoors during the hours between dusk and dawn in areas with heavy mosquito populations.
  • Use an approved insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under three).
  • Make sure windows have screens, and repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
  • Eliminate any standing water from your property, and dispose of containers that can collect water.
  • Standing water is a violation of the New York City Health Code.
  • Make sure roof gutters are clean and draining properly.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers.
  • Report standing water by calling 311 or visiting

Members of the City Council unveiled a legislative package on Monday, designed to reform the restaurants inspection program and reduce the burden on business owners, who have long said the letter-grade inspection system unveiled in 2010 is just a revenue generating scheme.

The new plan, announced by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and a bevy of Council colleagues, seeks to reduce fines, streamline the process, create an office of the ombudsmen to field complaints, and provide more meaningful information to customers.

Here are the specific proposals:

  • Across the board fine reductions;
  • Fine waiver for restaurant owners/operators who contest an initial inspection’s findings at the Administrative Tribunal and ultimately receive an A;
  • The opportunity for restaurant owners/operators to request a consultative and ungraded inspection for educational purposes;
  • Establishment of an ombuds office to receive and address comments, complaints and compliments;
  • Development of an inspection code of conduct pamphlet that inspectors will distribute to all restaurant owners/operators prior to the beginning of an initial inspection;
  • Creation of an advisory board to ensure ongoing and systemic review of the restaurant inspection program;
  • Increased and improved reporting of restaurant inspection data; and
  • Relief from violations relating to the physical layout or structure of a restaurant

The letter grade system was introduced in 2010, and aimed to make it easier for the public to decide the cleanliness of restaurants. But restaurant owners said that it hurt their business, as a restaurant that poses no threat to the health or safety of their patrons might have a B or C grade due to some relatively minor and obscure regulation, while one with a more serious health threats did not necessarily rack up enough points to hurt their grade. They also said that inspectors were pressured to find minor violations, forcing restaurant owners to go to hearings and pay fines in order to increase their grades.

Since the letter grade system was implemented, the amount of money the city has collected has increased from approximately $30 million a year to $50 million.

Stained glass at the Cloisters shows baby Jesus’ bris, in which some accounts say he received metzitzah b’peh. (Source: pboothe/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES: As soon as the New York City Department of Health (DOH) established a regulation recently to require written parental consent before a circumcision, several rabbis and Jewish groups asked a federal court to prevent its enforcement, claiming it is safe and called the ruling an unconstitutional breach of freedom of religion.

The focus of the dispute is a specific act performed during the procedure. After the mohel, who conducts the circumcision or bris, removes the foreskin from the penis of an eight-day-old Jewish baby boy, he carries out the ultra-Orthodox tradition of metzitzah b’peh — cleansing the wound by sucking blood from the cut.

In most modern circumcisions, the mohel uses gauze or a tiny sterile pipe to remove blood during the bris.

Not being well informed about Orthodox rituals, I never heard of that explicit act and was somewhat shocked to read about it. When I get a paper cut, I often suck the wound, but I’d never ask someone else to do it.

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Source: Produnis via Wikimedia Commons

The New York City Health Department will now require parents to give written consent before a mohel can perform an obscure circumcision ritual performed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects.

The department believes that one aspect of the ritual, the “metzitzah b’peh,” in which the mohel sucks blood from the child’s penis during the circumcision, may not be safe. The ritual is common among ultra-Orthodox groups, but less common in other Jewish sects. The Department of Health now requires a consent form before allowing the practice.

“We have clearly identified that one specific procedure that is performed as part of some circumcisions, what we are calling direct oral suction, can be transmitting infections to infants that will make them seriously ill and some situations lead to their death,” said Dr. Jay Varma, of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to CBS Local.

The New York City Health Department claims 11 babies contracted the herpes virus due to the ritual. Two of the babies died.

Local Councilmen David Greenfield and Lewis Fidler have come forward to say that they’d support any parents pursuing a lawsuit against the Department of Health on the grounds of interfering with practitioners’ religion.

“I really think this is a real invasion into people’s religious freedom,” Fidler said to the Daily Jewish Forward. “It lacks a sufficient basis and justification. The evidence here supporting this decision is just not strong enough.”

Previously, Senator David Storobin also expressed opposition to the Department of Health bill.

Bug out, Marine Park! Bug out, Mill Basin! Bug out, Gerritsen Beach!

Who gets the bugs out? (Department of Health, Health, Health). What get’s the bugs…

Okay, I’m done. The point is, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks to reduce risk of West Nile virus activity in and around our coverage area tomorrow, August 23, between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., weather permitting.

The areas to be sprayed are:

  • Parts of Canarsie, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Georgetown, Marine Park, Mill Island, Mill Basin, Paerdegat Basin, Spring Creek and Starrett City.
  • The boundaries of spraying are Linden Boulevard, Rockaway Parkway, Ralph Avenue, Flatlands Avenue and Greenwood Road to the north; Nostrand Avenue and Gerritsen Avenue to the west; Belt Parkway to the south; and Spring Creek and 78 Street to the east.
  • The zip codes affected are 11207, 11208, 11210, 11229, 11234, 11236 and 11237.

The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure to the pesticide:

  • Stay indoors during spraying, especially if you have asthma or other respirator conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, but you should close the vent or choose the re-circulate function.
  • Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment or toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water.

In case of bad weather, spraying will be rescheduled for Monday, August 27 during the same hours.

Mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is making attempts to reduce the fines the city presents to restaurants with health violations, reported the Daily News.

Quinn is now in the process of drafting legislation to change New York City’s restaurant-grading system, and thereby help restaurants forced to empty their cash registers due to the large fines they have encountered.

According the News, City Hall expects to collect $48 million in restaurant fines this fiscal year. Records indicate that this reflects a 50 percent increase from fines collected in 2009.

“They are definitely working on the bill,” said the counsel to the New York City Hospitality Alliance, Robert Bookman to the Daily News. “There’s a universal feeling among the City Council that something must be done to rein in the Health Department.”

Sources told the News that the bill is set to induce changes in fines that include issues not pertaining to food, put appearance. The legislation is also expected to waive fines for restaurants that appeal a low inspection grade and then receive an A.

Quinn declined to comment on the details of the bill, but in the past, she asked the Department of Health to modify its inspection system to copy the simplistic, 100-point system used in Los Angeles. New York City restaurants are currently graded on a complicated 1,200-point system, said the News.

The move comes less than a month after another mayoral candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, announced he would sue the mayor’s office for data on small-business related fines, which have ballooned from $485 million in the 2002 fiscal year, when Bloomberg was elected, to a whopping $820 million in this past fiscal year. Both efforts reflect the role small businesses will play in next year’s mayoral elections, as candidates seek to gain the support of small business owners who say they’ve seen their bottom lines diminish under increased regulation during the Bloomberg Administration.


Several local businesses routinely express frustration to Sheepshead Bites about the number of fines the city has doled out, whether it be for trash, health inspections or obscure signage regulations. And, according to the complaints we get, it seems inspectors of businesses are unfamiliar with many of the regulations and sometimes apply them inconsistently.

But though it may seem like the city is cracking down and issuing more fines as the city struggles with the economic recession, data on the number of fines given out has been hard to come by.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is trying to fix that. He has announced his plans to sue Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city agencies in order to force them to reveal information regarding the amount of fines given, and the income generated from those fines.

Currently, there are 20 agencies involved in small businesses-related regulations. According to an analysis performed by de Blasio’s office, cited by the New York Times, fines collected by these organizations have jumped from $485 million in the 2002 fiscal year, when Bloomberg was elected, to a whopping $820 million in this past fiscal year.

De Blasio told the paper that he has been pushing six of the offices involved in regulating small businesses to release information about these fines for several months now. He said that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Consumer Affairs told him they were in the process of compiling a response. The Transportation Department, Sanitation Department, Buildings Department and Finance Department failed to reply to his requests.

“We’re just not going to stand for it anymore,” de Blasio told the paper.

Marc LaVorgna, Bloomberg’s spokespman said the city will respond to de Blasio and provide this information soon. He argued that the main source of rise in fines over the past 10 years is driving tickets. The fines have increased for parking tickets and moving violations, while more tickets for running red lights have been distributed, as the city installed more cameras by traffic lights.

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