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Police have arrested Elliot Baez, a homeless man they say is responsible for vandalizing the September 11 Wall of Remembrance in Coney Island on Friday.

A surveillance camera caught a person authorities believe is Baez, 58, smearing white paint over the memorial and encircling the image of Police Officer Moira Smith at approximately 2:38am Friday.

After video was released, a tipster led authorities to Baez on Saturday afternoon even though initial descriptions suggested the vandal was a woman. Baez was charged with criminal mischief after making self-incriminating statements to police, according to reports.

The Wall of Remembrance, located at MCU Park, honors first responders killed on September 11, and has an image of each of the fallen heroes. Smith’s image appears to have been targeted, but cops told her husband Baez was “deranged” and had no apparent motive or agenda against Smith or her surviving family, according to the Daily News.

Smith was the only female first responder who perished during the terrorist attack. A survivor who worked at the World Trade Center was one of the last people to see her alive, and he has built a website detailing her courage as she helped conduct the evacuation, and has called for a public statue in her honor.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries praised the NYPD’s quick apprehension of the vandal.

“The heroes who laid down their lives to save others on September 11 deserve our reverence and respect for the sacrifice they made that day,” said  Jeffries. “The Memorial at MCU Park in Coney Island stands as an important reminder of the courage and valor displayed by American patriots in the face of unspeakable terror. The officers from the 60th precinct who tracked down this suspect should be commended for their thorough work, and the perpetrator should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Photo courtesy of Butch Moran

Fireworks rang in the 2013 season. (Photo by Butch)

Coney Island’s traditional Friday night fireworks will kick off for the 2014 season on June 20, just hours before the first day of summer and the Mermaid Parade, Amusing the Zillion reports.

The fireworks, sponsored by the Alliance for Coney Island, are free to all, taking place on the beach near West 10th Street and West 12th Street.

Friday night fireworks are fired at 9:30 p.m.

Before that begins, however, there will be several displays of burning, colored gun powder in the sky over the neighborhood. The Brooklyn Cyclones at MCU Park put on their own shows, and the site reports that this year each show will have a musical theme. The Cyclones begin their display on opening day, Saturday, June 14, and host two more post-game shows that week on June 16 and June 17.

Check Amusing the Zillion for MCU’s full fireworks schedule, which includes several Saturdays and some weekdays.

July 4 falls on a Friday this year, but the People’s Playground might defer to the East River’s blasts. A NY1 report last month claimed that the city was withholding permits to the Alliance for Coney Island for their Independence Day display. Despite multiple attempts, we have not been able to confirm the report, and will update if we hear anything different.

Here’s a little video from last year’s opening night:

It’s been a long, crazy summer by the beach. Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area, Coney Island went through a wild summer season. Like any neighborhood with a theme park at its heart, there were thrills, chills and nearly collapsing Astrotowers.

As the summer wind gives way to autumn chills, I’m reminded of some of the bigger Coney Island stories of the summer. As the boardwalk reopened, a stronger corporate presence began to entrench itself, inviting the forced jingoistic promises of fun from the likes of Applebees. With many tri-state beaches closed following Sandy’s wrath, the beaches at Coney Island were more popular than ever, enraging locals looking for parking, fighting through crowds and dealing with increased trash. As the boardwalk boomed with new businesses and a fancy new parachute jump light display, the local community was still reeling from damaged schools and medical facilities, closed libraries and sinkholes. The longstanding Astrotower was taken down after people grew worried that the whistling space needle was about to be knocked over by the wind.

Tragedy was also a common theme on Coney Island. There was murder at the Marlboro Houses (2740 86th Street) and the horrifying story of a little girl who fell out of a window at the Gravesend Housing project (3194 Bay View Avenue) after suffering signs of abuse, and a 5-year-old who suffered severe injuries on a Coney Island ride. The area also dealt with ugly racism when the Jackie Robinson statue standing outside MCU Park (1904 Surf Avenue) was defaced with hate speech. The community rallied together, cleaning and rededicating the statue on “Diversity Day,” remembering all the good that Robinson stood for. On the lighter side, Beyonce took a whirl on the Cylcone, inadvertently causing  a woman to sob in terror after being stranded in the sky on the Wonder Wheel while Beyonce’s team prepped her makeup.

Those are just a few of the stories that capped off a transformative and turbulent year for the area. The video above, produced by Tibitubu, captures the waning summer spirit of Coney Island in a short and beautifully filmed package that features a subway ride to the beach, crashing waves, music and seagulls.

Source: Glennschuck via twitter

A worker removing the graffiti (Source: Glennschuck via twitter)

A demented vandal defaced the Jackie Robinson statue outside of MCU Park (1904 Surf Avenue) with racial epithets and a swastika. The New York Daily News is reporting that the act of vandalism was discovered on Wednesday morning around 8:30 a.m.

The Daily News described horrible content scrawled on the statue:

Among the hate-filled messages written in black marker on the monument to Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese were: “Heil Hitler,” “Die n—-r,” “F–k n—-r” and “F–k Jackie Robinson.”

Cyclones official Billy Harner was rightfully aghast at the discovery of the hate infused garbage covering the monument to one of America’s greatest civil rights heroes.

“The statue is a symbol of tolerance. It’s an absolute tragedy that someone would deface it the way they did,” Harner told the Daily News.

While graffiti written on the bronze part of the statue was removed, workers are having trouble removing the black marker from the stone base.

Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. Meanwhile, according to a report, local politicians including Councilman David Greenfield, State Senator Eric Adams and City Council candidate Mark Treyger have offered a $1,500 cash reward for anyone who provides information that leads to a police arrest.

Greenfield, Adams and Treyger all expressed outrage over the continued rash of hate graffiti being scrawled across Southern Brooklyn.

“I am very concerned about the rise of hateful and anti-Semitic incidents here in Brooklyn and throughout New York City. The fact that a statue celebrating the historic friendship of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese was vandalized with anti-black and anti-Semitic graffiti makes this incident even more despicable. We must once again come together as a community and a city to send a clear message that this cowardly behavior will not be tolerated and that we will support the NYPD in bringing those responsible to justice,” Greenfield said.

“This action is not in the spirit of Brooklyn or in the spirit of Jackie Robinson or Pee Wee Reese. And to desecrate the statues that represent their memory and legacy is unforgivable. When the perpetrator(s) of this hate crime are caught — and I’m confident they will be, they should face the maximum penalty under the law,” said Senator Adams.

“The vandalism of the statue of civil rights icon and hero Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in the borough we are proud to call home, is a sad reminder that those who hate, hate indiscriminately. We cannot – and will not – be intimidated by such vile individuals. Everything that is great about Brooklyn, and New York City, comes from its diversity. For this to occur in Coney Island – a neighborhood known for its rich diversity – is particularly outrageous and despicable. Make no mistake, whoever committed this act of vandalism has committed a crime, and the District Attorney should prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law. We are offering a reward of $1,500 for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible,” said Treyger.

The New York Daily News has also put out a $10,000 cash reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the individual or individuals responsible for the crime.

Anyone with knowledge of the incident can also call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

Source: akdetrick via flickr

Source: akdetrick via flickr

On a whim, I hopped down to Coney Island to catch the fireworks on July 4 last year. It was hot and crowded with no good place to steal a glimpse of the fireworks show without cramming myself between a bunch of sweaty, drunk people. Luckily, for those like me looking for a better seat, you can fill up the Cyclones baseball stadium, MCU Park, for free to watch the fireworks on Independence Day this year.

The Cyclones baseball team will be out of town this year on July 4, but they are opening their doors at 4:30 p.m. to the public. Once inside, you’ll be able to scout out some choice seats, use the public bathrooms and buy food from the concession stands. That’s not all, though. The Cyclones have a litany of events all leading up to the fireworks show at 9 p.m.:

•  A pig roast presented by Thomas Joseph Catering

•  “Beers of New York” beer garden

•  A special performance by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn

•  Live music from oldies and Top 40 cover bands

•  Family activities including the “Fastest Arm in Brooklyn Competition” on the Cyclones speed pitch

The events are a joint operation between the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Alliance for Coney Island, and while admission is free, guests are encouraged to donate on behalf of the Brooklyn Public Library and Coney Recovers, an initiative of local organizations working in partnership to assist with the recovery of the Coney Island community.

This actually all sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to loosen up the traffic on the boardwalk on one of Coney Island’s busiest days.

Source: Wally Gobetz via Wikimedia Commons

The Brooklyn Cyclones have announced that they will raising moneyfor various Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts, through a new program dubbed “Meaningful Mondays.”

The way it works is that $3 out of every ticket sold at MCU Park (1904 Surf Avenue) on Mondays will go to several charities involved in the recovery process. This will start in July.

According to the press release, each week the “Meaningful Monday” will focus on a different neighborhood affected by the storm. Here is a schedule the press release provided of which neighborhoods will go with which week:

•           Monday, July 1 –Coney Island Night to benefit ConeyRecovers.org.

•           Monday, July 8 – Gerritsen Beach Night to benefit Gerritsen Cares.

•           Monday, July 22 –Nassau County Night to benefit the Nassau Hurricane Recovery Fund.

•           Monday, July 29 – Red Hook Night to benefit the Red Hook Initiative.

•           Monday, August 19 –Staten Island Night to benefit The Stephen Siller Foundation.

•           Monday, August 26 – Breezy Point / Rockway Night to benefit The Graybeards.

Cyclones General Manager Steve Cohen states in the press release, “We hope that through our Meaningful Monday efforts, we can help the countless people still struggling to recover from the storm, recognize the heroes who were leaders in their communities during their time of need, and provide a night of fun and laughter at the ballpark as we all recover from Hurricane Sandy.”

Source: Facebook

We received this release from the offices of State Senator Martin Golden:

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, announced representatives of the Department of Financial Services will be at locations in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County to help homeowners, renters and business owners with insurance-related issues stemming from damage caused by Storm Sandy.

The Department’s representatives will be available to meet with residents inside the agency’s Mobile Command Center, which will be stationed at these locations:

Brooklyn

  • Saturday, Jan. 5 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jamaica Bay Home Depot, 5700 Avenue U.

Brooklyn

  • Tuesday, Jan. 8 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bergen Beach / Mill Basin Shopping Center, 6620 Avenue U.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 9 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Coney Island, MCU- Parking Lot, 1904 Surf Ave.

Department representatives will help citizens contact their insurers if they have been unable to do so and answer questions about homeowners’, renters’ and business owners’ insurance coverage.

Citizens unable to go to the Mobile Command Center are encouraged to call the Department’s storm hotline (800) 339-1759 which is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily including weekends. Insurance information is also available on the Department’s website, www.dfs.ny.gov.

Photo by Erica Sherman

The Alliance for Coney Island is a new partnership between the city and the several well-known establishments in Coney Island’s business community. Today marks the official launch of their organization.

Originally, the organization was going to focus on tourism, marketing and other means of maintaining Coney Island’s popularity. Now, after Sandy, they’ve decided to switch gears and focus on recovery efforts in the badly damaged area.

The badly-damaged Shore Hotel sign. Photo by Erica Sherman. Click to enlarge

“Hurricane Sandy has left Coney Island looking like a Cyclone hit it – devastating its seaside amusement district, officials say, with tens of millions of dollars in damage alone,” wrote the New York Post.

“We have a lot of work on our hands,” said Dennis Vourderis, the Alliance chairman and owner of Deno’s Wonderwheel Park.

Formerly, the Coney Island Development Corporation was managing the area. Now, the Alliance will inherit $630,000, which was due to go to the CIDC in the next two years. Business owners in the area will also contribute money to help the organization grow.

A new website has been established for the Alliance at Coneyrecovers.org in order to help direct volunteers, collect donations and help the neighborhood in any other relief efforts.

While the business owners are busy helping others, they know that they will also have to contend with repairing their own damaged Coney Island locations.

According to the Post:

All of Coney Island’s seaside rides need to have their electrical and motor systems overhauled. Deno’s suffered roughly $3 million in damages, while Zamperla USA, which oversees Luna Park and the Scream Zone, faces about $8 million or so in repairs.

MCU Park – home of the Brooklyn Cyclones – was also badly damaged. Its field was covered in water during the storm, and the locker rooms and souvenir shop were badly damaged.

The New York Aquarium also suffered extensive damage. It is trying to partly reopen by Memorial Day.

Neighborhood staples like Nathan’s Famous and Gargiulo’s Restaurant were also among the area businesses hardest hit. Nino Russo, an Alliance board member and Gargiulo’s owner, said his business suffered more than $1 million damages and is “working hard to re-open” by Christmas.

It’s heartwarming to read about neighborhood institutions like the Aquarium and Gargiulo’s taking such care to help the local residents while they have their own repairs to deal with. This is community involvement at its best and we hope that business owners meet their goals of reopening soon and locals benefit from their efforts.

Some of the damage in Sea Gate, at the tip of Coney Island, left by Sandy. Photo by Erica Sherman

A news report is shining a light on Coney Island residents still left in the dark with no power, and in some cases with no heat or hot water. Public housing buildings right by the boardwalk got smashed by Sandy – flooding basements, pouring sand into building lobbies, and totaling cars – leaving elderly residents vulnerable, and causing increasing dismay as each day passes.

“Cold, no water, can’t flush my commode, I have to come downstairs and bring water up, ice, my refrigerator is not working because I have no electric. We need help,” told a Coney Island tenant to NY1.

As Sheepshead Bites’ own Laura Vladimirova previously reported, the situation on Coney Island is dire, and the area is in desperate need of supplies and volunteers like her and Bensonhurst Bean’s David Cohen, who both graciously offered their time to help out. If you are looking to donate, Laura recommends the following items: water, matches, candles, flashlights, canned goods, blankets, and clothing.

The Red Cross, FEMA, and the National Guard have set up emergency services in the area to help residents in the area with food and supplies. If you are a Coney Island resident in need of relief services, you can head to Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue until 4:00 p.m. Services are also being offered at West 25th Street and Surf Avenue until 4:00 p.m., and FEMA will be at the MCU Ballpark until 5 p.m.

More information can also be found on the Twitter pages of local pols, including Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, and Assemblymen Alec Brook-Krasny, both of whom are supplying up to the minute status reports and updates from Coney Island in an effort bring the area back from the abyss.

Weiner is requesting money to implement long term solutions to Plumb Beach erosion

There will soon be less trash scattered around Plumb Beach and Gerritsen Beach, as New York City and the Environmental Protection Agency launch the “Clean Streets = Clean Beaches 2012″ program, bringing volunteer cleanups to our shores.

Find out how to get involved, and more about Clean Streets = Clean Beaches.

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