Archive for the tag 'east 21st st'


Galina and Lev Berenshteyn in front of Lady Liberty

A retired limo driver from the former Soviet Union is building a 16-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty in his East 21st Street front yard as a tribute to his adopted homeland.

Lev Berenshteyn, 68, began working on Lady Liberty approximately two weeks ago. It’s built of a 7.5-foot-tall replica they picked up from a business in Southampton, Long Island. It sits atop a custom 8-foot-tall concrete base that Berenshteyn is sculpting himself.

If it seems unusual, the purpose appears to perplex even Berenshteyn’s wife, Galina, 65.

“Why [build it]? I don’t know. Just because my husband wants to do this,” she said.

Her husband gave a more definitive answer.

“Why? America. I like it,” he said.


The 16′ tall statue towers over the fence, a beacon of freedom for anyone passing by on Shore Parkway or East 21st Street.

The two became part of the huddled masses to which Lady Liberty beckons when they fled the portion of the former Soviet Union that is now Uzbekistan. Stateside, she worked as a computer programmer, while he was a limousine driver that frequently shuttled passengers to the Circle Line ferry that serves the Statue of Liberty.

The Berenshteyns purchased the rustic corner house at East 21st Street and Shore Parkway in 1996, and are now working on that part of the American Dream in which you build 16-foot-tall statues of French women in your front yard.

And it isn’t cheap: Galina Berenshteyn said it has cost them about $3,500 so far. Soon the statue’s torch will shine, and they will install lights at the base to illuminate the statue, catching the freedom-loving eyes of passersby on Shore Parkway.

“Lights, everything, soon we will make like original. We’ll finish, a couple days it will be nice,” Lev Berenshteyn said. “It looks like the original because we made many, many pictures of the original and made it like that.”


The couple say they still have a few more days of work before it’s completed.

The real Statue of Liberty, dedicated in October 1886, was a gift to the United States from the people of France. A beacon of freedom and welcoming signal to immigrants, it has a long history of inspiring duplicates, including in Paris, the U.K., Germany, China and Israel, among others. The oldest replica in New York City, at approximately 114 years old, is a 55-foot-tall statue that originally stood at Liberty Warehouse, and has since been moved to the Brooklyn Museum.

Little do the Berenshteyns  realize, just around the corner on Voorhies Avenue is the former home of the Circle Line’s founder. Where Sheepshead Bay once brought visitors to the Statue of Liberty, now, thanks to the Berenshteyns, the Statue of Liberty comes to us.


Loehmann’s discount clothing store at 2027 Emmons Avenue closed for good on Wednesday, wrapping up its seven-week-long closeout sale.

We first announced the impending closure of Loehmann’s in early January, after the retailer filed for bankruptcy and won a court decision permitting it to sell of inventory and holdings.

Thirty-nine stores in all are now closed, ending a nearly 100-year-long presence in the borough where it all began.

The Sheepshead Bay Loehmann’s opened its doors in the 1990s after a long and bitter battle between the property developer and locals who feared it was an inappropriate use of waterfront land. A special zoning district was enacted for the Sheepshead Bay waterfront in the 1970s, reserving the land for waterfront- and tourist-related activities.


It looks like the controversial and eponymous tenant of the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza building on Emmons Avenue will soon vacate, following approval from a bankruptcy judge to sell off inventory and holdings.

The discount designer apparel retailer is shutting its doors after filing for bankruptcy in December. A judge on Tuesday gave the green light to conduct at “Going out of Business” sale of merchandise at the retailer’s 40 locations across 11 states.

In Sheepshead Bay, it means a prime waterfront commercial space at 2027 Emmons Avenue will now go vacant, after being one of the strip’s prime attractions for local shoppers. It also means that nearly 100 employees at the local location will be looking for work, an employee told Sheepshead Bites over the phone today.

The storefront is set to close its doors for good some time in March, the employee said. Until then, shoppers can enjoy bargains between 10 and 40 percent off, with the sale kicking off today.

The Sheepshead Bay Loehmann’s opened its doors in the 1990s after a long and bitter battle between the property developer and locals who feared it was an inappropriate use of waterfront land. A special zoning district was enacted for the Sheepshead Bay waterfront in the 1970s, reserving the land for waterfront- and tourist-related activities.

The Loehmann’s space was renovated in 2010 after a fire in a neighboring restaurant caused damages. Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 shuttered the location once again, and it reopened doors to shoppers in February.

The three-story, 280,000 square foot retail center came under new ownership in 2008, setting a local real estate record with a sale price of $24 million.

Founded in Crown Heights in 1921, Loehmann’s has struggled to compete in recent years, filing for bankruptcy two previous times. It follows the trend of other discount apparel retailers, including Filene’s Basement and Daffy’s, both of which filed for bankruptcy in the past two years.

Steve Lin

Steve Lin demonstrates his Tai Chi mastery.

Looking to decrease stress and get into shape without burning out your body or wallet? A local Tai Chi master is offering free classes to neighbors on the sidewalk in front of his home.

Steve Lin, a championship-level master of the ancient Chinese tradition, gives free Tai Chi lessons every Monday at 10 a.m. in front of his home at 2672 East 21st Street. He’s been offering the classes to friends and neighbors for the past decade.

Lin welcomes students of all ages and experience, including beginners, and no special equipment is necessary.

Bay Improvement Group Acting Executive Director Laura McKenna brought the story to our attention and asked that we share it. She met Lin in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, when he came with his son and grandchildren to volunteer in the bungalow courts.

Lin and his son Moses are both Sandy survivors as well, living in a flooded home. But despite that, they pitched in to help their neighbors.

Lin continues to give back with the free lessons. Tai Chi is a low-impact form of exercise that won’t leave you sore, but is acknowledged to decrease stress and anxiety, increase flexibility and stamina, and tone up the body over time.


The proposed location for First Steps to Recovery

In the midst of the summer drama centered around a proposed drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility on East 21st Street, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz blasted the agencies involved for ignoring community input. He promised a legislative solution that would force these agencies to consider local objections in the future.

This week, Cymbrowitz made good on his promise by introducing Assembly Bill 8237, requiring that the oversight agency, the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), solicit and review recommendations from local governmental units before approving outpatient drug treatment centers.

As we learned in the attempted relocation of the Brighton Beach-based First Steps to Recovery to a residential building at 2632 East 21st Street, the under-equipped OASAS puts its faith on decision-making in the municipality. In New York City, that’s the Department of Health.

First Steps came before Community Board 15, which blasted the plan. Unfortunately, their letter of opposition was sent to OASAS – not to the Department of Health. So when the DOH gave the a-o-k, OASAS fell in line.

Cymbrowitz’s bill requires the local governmental unit (the DOH) to solicit the opinion of the relevant community board before making its final determination.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, which he chairs. In the Senate, it has been sponsored by Senator Diane Savino. As a member of the power-sharing coalition in charge, Savino’s support in the Senate is a fairly positive sign for the bill’s fate.

Here’s the full press release from Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), fresh off a victory over a controversial drug treatment center in SheepsheadBay, is introducing legislation (A.8237) requiring community input to be considered in the placement of outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities.

Currently, the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) entrusts local agencies throughout the state to review sites for outpatient drug treatment centers. In New York City, that task falls to the Department of Health. In July Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, excoriated DOH for ignoring community opposition and recommending approval of a site at 2632 East 21st Street – a “totally inappropriate” location without parking, near schools and in a residential building with young families. At Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ urging, OASAS took the unusual step of overriding DOH and denying the Sheepshead Bay site.

The bill — which State Senator Diane Savino (D-Brooklyn) will sponsor in the Senate — would amend the mental hygiene law by requiring the DOH and other local units throughout the state to solicit and include community input as part of their assessment of proposed outpatient drug treatment centers. In the city, that input would come from the community board where the facility would be located.

In a letter this week to DOH Commissioner Thomas Farley, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said that if DOH had paid attention to community concerns, “it is likely that your agency would have recognized the significant quality-of-life issues that led to the site’s eventual denial.” He said the recent case indicates “clear vulnerabilities in the existing procedure for reviewing outpatient substance abuse facilities.”

“I cannot overstate the importance of these outpatient facilities, but appropriate placement is essential,” he said. “This common-sense legislation would ensure that the community is afforded the opportunity to provide input on the establishment of a chemical dependence facility in their area. It would also help to keep channels open among the service provider, local governmental unit, OASAS and the local community to assure a fully transparent process that remains sensitive to the needs of everyone who is impacted by these facilities.”


A fast-moving fire ripped through the backyards and garages of two residences near Avenue U before being squashed by local firefighters.

The fire began behind a daycare center at 2125 East 21st Street shortly before 4:30 p.m.. Within minutes, according to our tipster and photographer Randy Contello, who witnessed it, the fire had spread to the home’s deck, a tent, and garage.

It then crossed property lines into the garage behind it, belonging to a property owner on East 22nd Street, and then into their yard.

Contello called 911, and reports that the FDNY was on-scene within two minutes. He said it took approximately five minutes to bring under control, although fire inspectors and others stayed on-scene until later in the day.

There were no injuries caused by the fire.

Contello reports that heat from the fire was enough to crack the glass of a neighboring house, and that the flames were visible above the house itself.




The proposed location for First Steps to Recovery

The state agency charged with approving drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers has reversed course, choosing to reject a controversial clinic slated for East 21st Street after initially allowing the project to go forward.

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) on Friday officially denied First Steps to Recovery permission to move from its current Brighton Beach facility to an expanded location in a residential building at 2632 East 21st Street.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, called the move a “bold and unusual” step for the agency, and declared it a victory for the community.

Cymbrowitz, along with Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo and neighbors of the building, led the fight against the state after they initially shrugged off responsibility to the city’s Department of Health. Cymbrowitz agreed with neighbors that a residential building on a narrow residential street was no place for an alcoholic rehabilitation center like First Steps to Recovery.

“The location was completely unacceptable,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “This wasn’t a case of NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard]. The same night CB 15 rejected this proposal they approved another treatment center elsewhere.”

The owners of the clinic first approached Community Board 15 in November, under the instruction of OASAS to gain approval. The Board denied the facility on the grounds that it was an inappropriate location. However, Scavo also took issue with the owner’s behavior, which she considered rude – for which the owner has shot back, claiming discrimination.

The Board’s verdict was sent to Albany, but OASAS left the decision up to the city’s Department of Health – which never consulted the Board. Without notification to the Board or elected officials, the DOH granted temporary permits, and First Steps began renovating the new location.

Neighbors were the first to sound the alarm, which channeled back up through Scavo and Cymbrowitz, and on to Albany, ultimately leading OASAS to reverse the DOH’s decision, and leaving Cymbrowitz promising legislative changes to how such facilities win approval.

He is working on a bill that would mandate the New York City Health Department to take community objections into consideration when evaluating sites for outpatient substance abuse facilities.


The proposed location of the facility.

The owner of the controversial drug rehabilitation facility attempting to plant its flag on East 21st Street and Jerome Avenue has shot back at local leaders who’ve opposed the plan, saying that their comments mocked his own personal disability in order to score political points, and he is considering filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Igor Beregnoi, the program director of First Steps to Recovery, which ignited a turf battle as they sought to relocate from Brighton 12th Street to 2634 East 21st Street, has fired off a letter to Community Board 15 demanding that “Chairwoman [Theresa] Scavo immediately cease and desist her misleading characterizations of my disability.”

Beregnoi cited a December 10 article on Sheepshead Bites that reported on the Board’s vote to oppose the planned facility, saying that it did not belong on a residential block. In the article, Scavo was quoted saying that the owner was arrogant and disrespectful of the Board and local leaders, illustrated by the fact that he wore sunglasses throughout the meeting.

“You saw his attitude here, with the dark sunglasses, that’s how he came to a meeting trying to ask us to support, sitting there with those dark sunglasses and he wouldn’t even take them off during the meeting. And you saw his attitude here,” said at the time.

But according to Beregnoi, he suffers from a disability called photophobia, an extreme sensitivity to light, that causes him to wear sunglasses at all times. He said he sustained this injury during his military service, when a flash grenade detonated close to him.

“I am quite embarrassed by my impairment, and try to bring as little attention to it as possible. Unfortunately, Chairwoman Scavo’s forgetfulness and vocal insensitivity forces me to discuss my private health information in a very public forum,” he wrote in the letter, which he copied Sheepshead Bites on.

He also alluded to a potential complaint to the Humans Rights Commission, describing the comments as a possible “disability hate crime.”

“Friends, family and patients who are aware of my condition, are extremely angered by Chairwoman Scavo’s apparent misrepresentation of my need to wear sunglasses indoors, and are threatening to report this behavior to the Human Rights Commission as a disability hate crime,” he wrote in the letter.

Beregnoi claims that the accusations were not made in ignorance: he said he “explained briefly” that he suffers from the condition during his first meeting with Scavo and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz.

Still, he said, he hoped that Scavo was making the statements “based on forgetfulness and not malice.”

Scavo, though, said she could not have forgotten something she was never told.

She claims that he never offered an explanation for the sunglasses, and that calling that first meeting a “meeting” is very generous.

“He was sitting there and when Steve started talking about the complaints of people loitering outside [of his Brighton facility], he called us liars, got up and walked out. That was it. That was the whole meeting. There was no meeting,” she said.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz was not available to corroborate the account to Sheepshead Bites.

Still, if indeed Beregnoi does suffer from a disability, Scavo said she’s regretful of her previous comments.

“Of course. I feel horrible and it’s a terrible thing. But what has that got that to do with anything? He wants an apology? I had no idea he has any kind of eye affliction,” Scavo said.

She added that, disabled or not, she still opposes the facility and that his affliction has little to do with placing a rehabilitation center on a residential street, in a building packed with children.

“This is a very convenient way of sidestepping the issue,” she said.

View the full letter from Beregnoi to Community Board 15 after the jump.


Proposed site of First Steps to Recovery

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and the local community scored a huge victory last week, forcing the Department of Health (DOH) and the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to issue a cease-and-desist against a planned drug rehabilitation center on East 21st Street.

The clinic, First Steps to Recovery, sought to move its existing operations from Brighton 12th Street to 2634 East 21st Street. Despite being opposed by Community Board 15, Cymbrowitz, and vocal neighbors, the Department of Health issued a “contingent approval” allowing the facility to begin construction – and they never notified community leaders. In response, Cymbrowitz demanded a meeting with DOH and OASAS officials, at best described as “heated,” where he chewed them out for their negligence and threatened legislative regulations to force them to get their act together. You can read all about that here.

Following that meeting, Cymbrowitz sent a testy letter to DOH Commissioner Thomas Farley. Sheepshead Bites has obtained a copy of that letter, published in full at the end of the article.

Here’s a highlight for anyone too lazy to click through:

Even more disturbing were the numerous failures committed by your agency. At the meeting in my office, it became immediately apparent that your representatives were unaware of any issues surrounding this inappropriate location. They had no idea that the drug treatment center would occupy space in a residential building with children (a simple site visit by your agency would have revealed children’s toys on the terraces), that an elementary school is located right across the street, and that the street is too narrow to accommodate vehicles dropping off clients.

Your agency would have been aware of all of these negatives if it had paid the slightest attention to the vehement opposition expressed by Community Board 15, which echoed residents’ feelings.

Read the letter.


The proposed location.

A proposed East 21st Street drug rehabilitation center is feeling the heat, after community opposition and pressure from local leaders succeeded in getting city and state agencies to halt construction until its plans have been reexamined.

The clinic, First Steps to Recovery, is seeking to move its existing operations from Brighton 12th Street to 2634 East 21st Street. But after a heated Tuesday afternoon meeting between Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo and representatives from the city’s Department of Health and the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, a cease and desist was issued and the agencies agreed to reevaluate the proposed location. Cymbrowitz chided the agencies for “screwing up” and ordered them to review their application procedures – or face legislative solutions through his position as the chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

“The process is wrong. They apologized about miscommunications, but it wasn’t just miscommunication, it was a total screw up on their part and they agreed. They say they’d do better in the future but that’s not acceptable,” Cymbrowitz told Sheepshead Bites. “They didn’t do their homework, and whoever gave the landlord permission was totally off base and was wrong.”

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