Archive for the tag 'marina'

Has the neighborhood started to wear on you? The hustle-and-bustle, the strange smells, the endless parade of curmudgeonly weirdness?

I hear you. It’s time to fall back in love with the neighborhood again. Click play on the video above.

Max Bayarsky put this together. You may remember a similar video he made for Coney Island back in January. I think we should start buying up time on the airwaves for this, and watch the stream of new visitors arrive in search of a little peace, quiet and beauty.

And then we’ll sell stuff to them. It’ll be great.

Source: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there are a lot of talk about how to help Sheepshead Bay bounce back economically. A key question to most is how to make the area more appealing to visitors; a getaway for city-dwellers, and an off-the-beaten-path destination for out of towners.

One of the more promising initiatives is the Capstone project we told you about a few weeks ago, which is working on a plan to strengthen our commercial corridors and bring tourists to the area. At a workshop earlier this month, attendees were told that no idea was too big, too outlandish to be considered, and that they should run wild with their dreams.

Well, one resident just wrote in to Sheepshead Bites with his own big idea: bring Citi Bike to Southern Brooklyn’s waterfront communities. The reader, Gary, writes:

Dear Ned,
As a new transplant to Sheepshead Bay (I lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago but that’s another story) I am thinking it would be super cool if the neighborhood had Citi-bikes.

There’s probably no other neighborhood better suited for the program –so much to see and, yet we are just far enough from Brighton and Coney Island and Kings Highway and Midwood to make it a pain to walk; but on a bike – a piece of cake. Get a Nathan’s hot dog, check out Plumb beach, get a guitar pick at Norm’s, see a Cyclones game – all under 10 minutes.

I wrote to Citi-bikes and quickly got a response (below) . I’ll follow their initial advice but figured maybe ‘Sheepshead Bites’ can publicize the idea.
Citi-Bikes – not just for hipster neighborhoods.

Thanks in advance, Gary.

 

Dear Gary,
Thank you for contacting NYC Bike Share, operator of Citi Bike.

Please be advised, NYC Department of Transportation and local community boards play a major role in deciding where bike share stations will be located. Any suggestions you have concerning Citi Bike’s station locations should be submitted to NYC DOT via the community outreach and siting form, which you can find on the DOT website. Or, you may call 311 with your comments.
In time we look forward to expanding bike share to neighborhoods across New York City.

Regards,
KeAndrea R
Customer Service Representative
NYC Bicycle Share, LLC

What do you think? Should Citi Bike become a cornerstone of a plan to turbocharge business and tourism in the area?

Update: Reader Lenny M. pipes in to remind me that he called for an Emmons Avenue bike lane back in 2011, arguing in part that it would help fuel commerce in the area.

loehmanns

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: The owners of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza (2027 Emmons Avenue) have submitted plans to the Department of Building to construct a new extension to the controversial building, leaving those who fought its initial construction nearly 20 years ago in a state of shock.

The proposed extension would add a new story of commercial offices, totaling 10,000 square feet. The plans are in violation of zoning and the property’s current variance, and will soon be considered by Community Board 15 and the Board of Standards and Appeals.

One of the property’s owners, Alex Levin, confirmed the expansion.

“We’re looking to expand office space,” he said. “We’re going to bring the elevator up to [a new third] floor. We have our reasons.”

The project’s architect, Robert Palermo, declined to discuss the plans.

“It’s privileged information. When it comes before the board, it’ll be public,” he said.

There is no date set yet for a public hearing at Community Board 15, the first step to obtaining any variance. Chairperson Theresa Scavo said she had not yet been notified by the Board of Standards Appeals.

As a resident, though, she was shocked to learn of the plan.

“Speaking personally, it was against the special Sheepshead zoning district to begin with, and to add a floor is a slap in the face to the people of Sheepshead Bay,” she said. “I cannot believe that adding another floor is going to give the Bay a better look with that monstrosity there.”

The building sits within the Sheepshead Bay special zoning district, which limits the size and use of structures along the Emmons Avenue waterfront. The area is limited to waterfront and tourist-related activities, and special density and height limits govern development.

Many longtime Sheepshead Bay activists credit the development of Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza in the 1990s as the death of the special district, having won a variance that, according to those who fought it, resulted in it being 800 percent larger than legal limits. The exception was won due to the promise of the retail giant Loehmann’s as an anchor tenant, justifying jobs and commercial draw in exchange for its waiver.

Loehmann’s went bankrupt and vacated the property last month.

Bay Improvement Group Steve Barrison, one of the development’s most vocal opponents, said the new application is history repeating itself.

“It’s the same thing all over again. The use exceeds the zoning by 800 percent. It was granted specifically for Loehmann’s and Loehmann’s went out. So that’s it. Unbelievable,” he said. “We’re talking about a special district. We’re talking about the waterfront. We’re not talking about any where else in the community. It’s disgusting.”

Barrison added that there’s little legal justification to allow the variance simply for office space. According to the law, a developer must show that they suffer from certain hardships, as found in section 72-21 of New York’s Zoning Resolution.

“It’s insensitive to the whole community after Sandy,” said Barrison. “All of the people who haven’t moved in or are still rebuilding and trying to get their lives together. Now [this developer] wants to go and build and increase zoning some more when people can’t speak up.”

If Bay Improvement Group decides to fight the variance, they’ll be fighting a different developer than they did in the 1990s. The building was sold to Levin in 2008 for $24 million, a local real estate record at the time.

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 Brian Hoo

Queens State Senator Tony Avella has introduced a bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eliminate 2,200 mute swans – the same scenic species that populates Sheepshead Bay’s marina. Local Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will follow suit with an Assembly version, having previously spoken out on the issue.

The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate’s environmental conservation committee.

The news was announced last week in a press release by Friends of Animals, an animal protection organization. From that release:

“I was horrified to learn that our state wildlife agency would make such an extreme, unfounded proposal, and do not believe that the DEC has provided evidence to justify the elimination of these beautiful swans,” Avella said. “The public outcry has been severe—many New York residents do not want to see mute swans eliminated and animal advocacy organizations, wildlife experts, rehabilitators and others have also joined the chorus of opposition.  In addition, to imposing a two-year moratorium, my bill requires DEC to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

… Donald S. Heintzelman, ornithologist, author and authority on Northern migratory swans and mute swans states,  “My professional opinion is that these public disputes about mute swans are overblown and unnecessary. These birds do not cause catastrophic damage, although most state wildlife agencies have engrained in their official mindsets the notion that mute swans should be destroyed merely because they are non-native species that might compete with native tundra swans and more rarely trumpeter swans. In fact, tundra swans very rarely are seen in New York State (and hence are irrelevant to the agencies’ mindsets).

“As for the few trumpeter swans living at two locations in the state, they are geographically far removed from Long Island and thus are not impacted by mute swans on Long Island. Certainly, mute swans are not pushing out New York’s small population of trumpeter swans. Furthermore, arguments that mute swans are aggressive, and also consume large amounts of submerged aquatic vegetation, are greatly overblown—and represent bad science.”

Cymbrowitz’s office issued a release this afternoon confirming that he would be the Assembly sponsor. From their release:

“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Also, while it makes for a good anecdote, there is evidence that nary a human has been attacked by a mute swan, he said. While the graceful birds may hiss in an effort to protect their young, experts said the swans are rarely if ever moved to unprovoked aggression against people.

He noted that three other states – Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut – currently use non-lethal methods to control their mute swan populations. Only Maryland exterminates the birds, “which demonstrates that the precedent is there for using a humane alternative,” he said.

The community can comment on the DEC’s plan until February 21. To do so, write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

IMG_0075

Down by the water on Webers Court, swans have become a common sight, unless the state changes that.
Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Paige Strackman has lived for eight years in her home on Webers Court, a bungalow-lined private street off Emmons Avenue that ends in a sandy lump on the water’s edge. It’s a haven for the area’s mute swans, who live alongside their human neighbors in what may be the most intimate cohabitation between the waterfowl and city dwellers.

Strackman has come to regard the big white birds standing about or looking for food on the waterfront as a part of her community, where there is usually a group of 10 or more . But if the state gets its way, the birds will vanish from the landscape.

The state recently released plans to kill and remove all of New York State’s mute swans. According to a report released by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), mute swans like the one in Strackman’s community are a problem. We recently summarized the department’s justifications:

  • Swans destroy aquatic vegetation
  • Swans can be aggressive towards people
  • Swans are territorial, and displace native wildlife species
  • Waste produced by swans can upset the chemical balance of waterways like Sheepshead Bay

Strackman doesn’t know anything about the plans, nor does she agree with the characterization of swans being aggressive or territorial.

“For us, they’re part of a landscape.” she said. “It seems like they’re a natural part of the environment.” But the DEC categorizes the swans as an “invasive species.”

Peter Feeds The Swan

Peter, a local landlord, attempts to herd a stray swan back to Webers Court by feeding it bread. Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

While Strackman was talking about the swans, a landlord for an Emmons Avenue apartment attempted to herd a stray swan back to Webers Court and its sliver of beach head. The landlord, Peter, didn’t want to reveal his last name. As he led the swan away from the car-filled streets with bread, he explained that every so often swans get lost and end up on the avenue away from their group.

Aware of these dangers, Strackman said, “I worry more for their safety. It’s an urban environment and you have the cars that could hit them and then there’s the problem with polluted water.”

The DEC traces the swan’s history back to the late-1800s, when they first began to appear in North America. Since then the population boomed to more than 2,220 across the state. But 25 years ago, swans were not as common of a sight as they are today in Webers Court and Sheepshead Bay, according to Strackman’s neighbor, Cliff Bruckenstein.

“I don’t see them destroying anything,” said Bruckenstein, who has lived on Webers Court for 25 years. Bruckenstein went on to challenge the DEC’s claim that the mute swan can be bellicose. “They’re really not an aggressive species. They only get protective around their nests.”

Among the many things the department plans on doing if the plans aren’t altered is to kill and capture them, as we previously reported. If approved, the agency would conduct mute swan control on any accessible public or private lands in the state – including Webers Court and the Sheepshead Bay marina. Any swans removed will be euthanized. Nests will be destroyed, and eggs will be oiled or punctured.

“They want to kill a species that has been bred into [New York State],” Bruckenstein said in response to the plans. “I think it’s very much the wrong thing to do when there are many other things to do.”

“They’re no longer an invasive species,” he said. “They’re good neighbors.”

The Department for Environmental Conservation is taking comments on the draft plan. Deadline for comments is February 21. You can write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

Photo by Brian Hoo

We recently published an article announcing New York State’s newest plan to eliminate mute swan, the iconic species the dot the Sheepshead Bay waterfront, from the state. Many of the news reports – including our own – were somewhat vague about the plan, so we read through it and compiled a list of things you should know about the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State” released by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The document can be read in full here.

It may seem like New York State only recently began picking on these swans that have become a part of Sheepshead Bay and other areas. But the state has had its sights on these big white birds since 1993 when the conservation department adopted a mute swan “management policy.” The newest plan only intensifies the state’s efforts to remove mute swans from the whole state by 2025.

Let’s start with why the DEC wants to eliminate mute swans. The overarching concern is that the swans, which are an invasive species brought here from Europe, live a damaging lifestyle that causes harm to the habitat of native species. Here are some of the details mentioned in the report:

  • Swans destroy aquatic vegetation
  • By eliminating vegetation, swans reduce cover and habitat for native marine life, altering their population balance
  • Swans can be aggressive towards people
  • Swans are territorial, and displace native wildlife species
  • Waste produced by swans can upset the chemical balance of waterways like Sheepshead Bay

Below is a list highlighting “the management strategies” the environmental department plans to implement. We’ve left out some that are unlikely to be implemented locally, like allowing hunters to take swan as game:

  • Capture and kill them.  This, of course, is the plan that has received the most attention. This plan is simple enough: authorize the DEC to conduct mute swan control on any accessible public or private lands in the state. This plan will be emphasized downstate, in the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, and especially near airports – making Sheepshead Bay a prime target. Any swans removed will be euthanized. Nests will be destroyed, and eggs will be oiled or punctured.
  • Feeding is bad. User “sadeyes” commented on the last article and wrote that “the problem is not the swans, but the humans who constantly overfeed them,” a sentiment that is similar to the government’s. In the DEC’s plan, they write that part of the mute swan problem is that people provide them “with supplemental feeding,” and the DEC hopes to combat this with a public information campaign, and new laws that prohibit the feeding of swans.
  • Prevent flight and sex.At 20 to 25 pounds and a wing span of nearly seven feet, adult mute swans are the biggest bird in the state, according to the DEC. They often migrate and the DEC wants to prevent that by removing a bone in their wings to prevent flight, a process known as pinioning. With over 2,200 swans in the state that they would have to pinion, pinioning seems a little too resource intensive to be used for the majority of the population. They also seek to pursue sterilization, and egg oiling.
  • No more selling a swan. The DEC wants to make it illegal for people to sell and buy swans. This goes back to ultimately eliminating wild swans by preventing people from releasing bought mute swans back in the wild.
  • Allow for the adoption of free-ranging mute swans. While pursuing a ban on the importation of mute swans, the DEC is also proposing that those who wish to own them obtain a license and capture them from the free-ranging population. Adopted swans would then have to be pinioned or sterilization, and permanent markings.

These strategies are supported by the field research of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from 2004-2007. The underlying reasoning is that mute swans live a damaging lifestyle.

Our community seems to have a lot to say about these swans. There are a number of petitions going around, but the best way to be heard on this issue is to directly comment on the plan using the Department of Environmental Conservation’s methods.

Deadline for comments is February 21. You can write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

Photo by Brian Hoo

The water gently lulls as the seagulls echo each other and the swans create the soft ripples that circle outwards towards idyllic sidewalks filled with baby strollers and joggers wearing winter gloves.

The picturesque Sheepshead Bay waterfront might lend itself to such poetry now, but if the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gets its way, we might have to omit those iconic swans.

The DEC issued a report in December 2013 called the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State,” in which the particular species of swan – mute swan, hailing from Europe – are considered “invasive species.” Although they have been in North America since the late-1800s, and failed to garner much complaint from pretty much anybody, the agency has instituted a timeline for their removal.

In the more than a century that they’ve been here, the mute swan population has flourished in Sheepshead Bay, and even become a much commented upon icon of its waterfront. Statewide, there are about 2,200 mute swans, according to the report.

The DEC claims that the mute swans have caused problems “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

But some New Yorkers, like these involved with a Change.org petition feel this is “wrong—it is cruel, and not how New Yorkers want our taxpayer dollars spent.”

The Change.org petition notes that the DEC’s “outline for management seeks complete and total decimation of the species by the year 2025.”

This announcement follows the euthanized geese at Jamaica Bay and the decision, since reversed, to shoot Snowy owls out of the sky around New York airports.

You can sign the petition here.

– Vanessa Ogle

watercolor

John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was also a watercolor enthusiast, and produced a painting of our beloved Sheepshead Bay waterfront while campaigning for the presidency.

Entitled “Sheepshead Bay, NY,” it and two other canvasses will be sold at auction by John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury, MA,  tomorrow, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

An avid sailor and yachtsman, Kennedy painted the waterfront and one of his favorite subjects – a sailboat – while seeking out votes in New York City in 1960.

If not for the historical importance of its painter, the canvasses themselves probably wouldn’t be worth much. Kennedy was just a hobbyist, after all, and even those behind the sale note that where he excelled in politics, he came up short in artistic talent.

“I don’t think he was necessarily the most talented person in the world” joked Dan Meader, the director of John McInnies. “When you look at the paintings in person, you can actually see how he water colored them and changed them.”

For President Kennedy, painting was not a solitary hobby and often involved his family, friends and close political advisors.

“He usually did it as a group thing with Jackie standing right over his shoulder,” Meader said, adding that the painting was in fact titled and dated by Mrs. Kennedy since the President’s script was notoriously illegible. “That’s actually Jackie’s handwriting,” he pointed out.

Meader said bidding on the painting of Sheepshead Bay will start at about $5,000 to $8,000.

The artwork, along with family photographs and other personal items, was brought to John McInnis by a longtime friend of the Kennedys who asked to remain anonymous.

The three-day auction will kick off at 3:00 pm on November 22, marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.

– Steven Volynets

bridge

Contractors for the Department of Transportation were at the Ocean Avenue footbridge today, putting a layer of primer down on the 132-year-old span – the first time it’s been splashed with paint since the structure was rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy.

It’s a welcome sight. Passing that bridge frequently, the unpainted portions wore on my heart, reminding me of how, the morning after the storm, I came to find it in tatters, with railing ripped off and planks long gone. As our Erica Sherman wrote at the time:

Thrashed by a combination of violent waves during the storm’s high tide, and the terrifying howl of 90-MPH winds, which sent untethered boats crashing wildly into the bridge’s structure, passersby were shocked the next morning to see huge portions of blue wooden handrail either dangling into the water or completely washed away, one of the more high profile symbols of destruction that trounced our area.

Thankfully, an anonymous reader texted me today, alerting me to the fact that the crew was there, working on it.

By the time I stopped by this afternoon and took the above shot, the crew had gone home. But the bridge is almost completely covered in brown primer, which will (hopefully soon) receive a layer of blue paint on top.

Today being the anniversary of the storm, it seemed especially fitting. I’m looking forward to seeing the work completed.

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