Archive for the tag 'oceana'

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Design of the new elevated comfort stations. The ramps and stairs are designed to detach in the case of an extreme weather event. (Source: NYC Parks)

The New York City Parks Department will present revised plans this Thursday for the controversial bathroom and comfort station slated for the Brighton Beach boardwalk in response to outcry from Oceana condominium residents and local leaders.

The public hearing on the new draft environmental impact statement will take place at the Shorefront Y (3300 Coney Island Avenue), from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

It’s the second public hearing on the site’s bathrooms, which are identical to 35 others along the Riegelmann Boardwalk and elsewhere in the city – all replacements to facilities damaged in Superstorm Sandy. At the November meeting, residents of Oceana and other nearby buildings lambasted the proposal for the 20-foot-tall structures, with complaints ranging from blocked views and claims that it would attract the homeless, to concerns about the stability of the structure.

The Parks Department previewed seven different alternatives for the placement of the New Brighton location – the formal name of the site in front of Oceana near Coney Island Avenue – at City Hall in February. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz gave favorable, though tepid, reviews of the new plans.

“Some alternatives are clearly better than others, but what came across is that this is a new administration that has expressed a real willingness to listen to what the community has to say,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “It is a very hopeful sign that the [draft environmental impact statement] includes the options that were raised by residents at the Parks Department’s public scoping meeting last November. I believe this is an important step in an ongoing dialogue and it shows that the city is trying to be responsive to the community’s needs.”

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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Sweet living room.

When we wrote last month about a Craigslist post advertising a penthouse apartment at the Oceana Condominium & Club up for rent for the low, low price of $6,500 a month, we were a little disappointed that the listing didn’t have any photos.

At $6,500, the listing is easily the most expensive rental unit we know about in Southern Brooklyn. And, having seen some fairly swanky units at the Oceana – like this everything-Versace penthouse, or this surprisingly classy duplex - I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of the interior. Would there be the ubiquitous Italian marble and cherrywood floors? Would there be top-of-the-line appliances? How about a purple theme with gold trims, that much-loved color combo of royalty?

Alas, no. A new post is out on Craigslist, this time with photos. It’s rather pedestrian. Regular ol’ parquet flooring and a kitchen that looks like it’s out of any of the $150,000 co-ops available int he area.

Still, it’s a pretty nifty space. A $150,000 co-op isn’t likely to have a balcony with a sweet ocean view and an impressively-sized living room.

But for $6,500 a month? Can we at least get a petite lap giraffe with that?

Oh, and if you’re just looking to test out life in the luxurious Oceana building, there’s a two-bedroom unit on AirBnB for just $150 a night.

Check out the rest of the photos.

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Design of the new elevated comfort stations. The ramps and stairs are designed to detach in the case of an extreme weather event. (Source: NYC Parks)

A group of long-time Brighton Beach advocates seized the opportunity of Monday night’s hearing about the Oceana comfort stations, telling the Parks Department that they ought to give equal consideration to all of the elevated bathrooms already installed – and not just those near the condominium complex.

The packed hearing, which drew approximately 130 residents to the Shorefront Y (3300 Coney Island Avenue), was called by the Parks Department as a result of a court order, which requires them to produce an environmental impact statement (EIS). The hearing was an opportunity to address the scope of the planned EIS and suggest that Parks consultants evaluate additional aspects of the project.

However, it was ultimately a cathartic expulsion of rage and frustration by residents miffed with government bureaucracy and the perceived threat to their quality of life.

A small crew of residents from around the neighborhood urged the Parks Department to produce similar studies for the already-completed comfort stations further down the boardwalk and citywide, or at least extend its conclusions to those structures.

Keep reading, and view video from the heated hearing.

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is the latest elected official to enter the fray over the new bathrooms slated for the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, which residents of the Oceana condominium complex have vocally opposed.

Jeffries is on the boardwalk today holding a press conference, calling for the Parks Department to forever abandon its plans to place the bathrooms in Brighton Beach, officially dubbed the New Brighton Comfort Station. That would leave the next nearest public restroom on the boardwalk more than seven blocks away.

Oceana residents opposed the placement of the bathrooms, saying the 20-foot-tall structure would impede their oceanfront views, attract drug dealing gangbangers, and create a bad scent.

Jeffries joins Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and Senator Charles Schumer in siding with Oceana residents. It was also an issue in the recent City Council race, where opposition was embraced by candidates including David Storobin and Ari Kagan.

The last we checked in on the story, city officials suffered a setback when a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ordered that the agency produce an environmental impact study and scoping process, which includes a public hearing that will take place tonight (details below).

None of the other three comfort station on the Brighton Beach – Coney Island boardwalk, nor any of the other 10 locations throughout New York City, are being subjected to the same process. That’s because the type of project doesn’t typically trigger the state requirement for an environmental impact statement when building in a coastal erosion hazard area –  a requirement that, somewhat ironically, Cymbrowitz had sought to strike down for all future projects. He said these bathrooms changed his mind.

The Parks Department released their draft scope statement for the environmental study a few weeks ago. In it, they unsurprisingly determined that the proposed comfort station would have no significant impact on a slew of areas, including socioeconomic conditions, community facilities and services, waste and sanitation services, energy, air quality, public health and more. In fact, they found that it provided benefit in some of these areas.

Due to the court case, the statement says, the agency will also assess the comfort station’s impact on several additional areas, including urban design and visual resources, natural resources, neighborhood character and hazardous materials. Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity for the public to comment on the scope of the study.

If you have thoughts about the comfort station and its impact on the community, whether for or against, attend tonight’s public hearing at the Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue) from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

UPDATE (3:06 p.m.): Moments after publishing this piece, the following flier landed in my inbox. Apparently this is being distributed around Oceana.

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File:Liberty Reserve seizure.png

The screen displayed when attempting to visit Liberty Reserve after the government shut it down in May (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Vladimir Kats, a resident of Brighton Beach’s Oceana condominium complex, admitted to his role as a co-founder of a digital currency service that prosecutors say was favored by crooks, and the black-market banker pleaded guilty for his role in laundering an estimated $6 billion. Prosecutors say it is the largest international money laundering case ever prosecuted.

Kats, 41, pleaded guilty on October 31, according to United States Attorney Preet Bharara, having served as co-founder of Liberty Reserve, a digital currency service that billed itself as the Internet’s “largest payment processor and money transfer system.”

But prosecutors say Liberty was no Paypal. They 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.

“As a co-founder and operator of Liberty Reserve, Vladimir Kats served as a global banker for criminals, giving them an anonymous, online forum to hide the proceeds of their illegal and dangerous activities,” said Bharara in a press release. “With his guilty plea today, we take a significant step toward punishing those responsible for creating and running this international den of cybercrime.”

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Oceana complex (Source: Google Maps)

The owner of a penthouse unit in Brighton Beach’s Oceana condominium complex needed to market his ultra-expensive, super-luxurious fireplace-equipped “penthouse.” So he did what any high-baller would do – eschewed enlisting an agent, and placed a photo-less, typo-filled listing on the most elite real estate site he could find: Craigslist.

Screenshot of posting (Click to enlarge)

Screenshot of posting (Click to enlarge)

Here’s the description from the listing:

1800 square foot, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, huge living room, kitchen, dining room, lots of closets, Luxury Penthouse apartment on the (top) 7th floor with 800 square foot terrace, overlooking the beach, renovated, Total 2600 square feet.

Apartment includes a Washer and dryer, dishwasher, fire place, 1 parking space included right by the front entrance. Oceana community has additional parking, 2 outdoor and 1 indoor swimming pools, gym, 24 hour security in entire Community

For more details or to see apartment, contact OWNER, MARK

At $6,500 (no fee!), it’s easily one the most expensive rental units in Southern Brooklyn. In fact, that’s roughly the median price for a standard two-bedroom rental in some of the most coveted areas in Manhattan, from SoHo to the Financial District. It’s nearly twice the price of the next most expensive rental we could find in Brighton Beach, also a three-bedroom, going for $3,500 a month.

Of course, there’s really no fair value comparison for a penthouse in the Oceana, locally. After all, where else will you find bathroom tiles and gilded couches designed by Versace? Heck, it could have historic value; possibly the penthouse previously occupied by an alleged Medicaid scammer? Be careful… you never know which alleged Oceana-landlord-slash-Medicaid-scammer we’re talking about.

Source: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Source: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

The Brighton Beach bathroom pods are currently parked at the end of the boardwalk but they won’t remain there forever, much to the consternation of residents of the Oceana luxury condominiums (50 Oceana Drive West). The New York Daily News is reporting that the Parks Department is dead-set on placing the bathrooms eventually, in spite of fierce opposition.

Last week, we reported on a preliminary injunction signed by a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge that ordered a full environmental impact study to be conducted before construction can continue. Opponents of the bathrooms, including Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, hailed this decision as a victory for Oceana residents who are sickened by the prospect of staring at a public bathroom from their windows. Despite this victory, the Daily News is reporting that the city plans to continue their fight to put the bathrooms in place:

Officials have refused to provide information about the construction snafu, but a spokeswoman said the city will continue its push to install the loos.

“The petitioners’ repeated efforts to halt the new comfort stations unfortunately means that a vital facility for the greater public continues to be delayed,” Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the New York City Parks Department.

While the the legal effort put forward by Oceana residents focuses on environmental and safety concerns, comments made by residents to the Daily News reflect the notion that opposition still suggests other priorities:

“I paid so much money for an oceanview apartment,” [Alexandra Tsepenuk] added. “And to have that massive structure right in front of my window is ridiculous. My kids won’t be able to see anything.”

Other residents said the structure will attract drug dealers, gang members and other undesirables, not to mention the expected disadvantages of being next to the loo.

“I don’t want the nasty breeze from the toilets to come into my apartment,” said Olga Norman, another resident who also has an ocean-facing apartment.

“Restrooms are great, but why can’t they put it further down the boardwalk? I’m scared about drug deals taking place under the structure, and all the homeless people that will gather there.”

Source: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Source: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Opponents of the planned construction of the new public bathrooms in front of the Oceana luxury condo buildings (50 Oceana Drive West) scored a victory as the Brooklyn Supreme Court signed a preliminary injunction blocking the city from continuing construction, at least until a detailed environmental impact study has been conducted. In a press release, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz hailed the decision as a “preliminary victory” for residents who do not want a bathroom blocking their ocean view.

When we last visited the bathroom saga, Cymbrowitz had demanded that the city just give up their plans to go ahead with construction altogether. The planned construction met controversy when Oceana residents initially complained that the bathrooms would be a hotspot for the homeless and rambunctious teenagers looking to cause trouble. Their complaints were ignored but the plans were halted when builders hit bedrock in their construction, forcing a reexamination of their plans. The delay in construction allowed Oceana residents to hire lawyers and petition political heavyweights including Senator Charles Schumer.

Cymbrowitz expressed hope that this preliminary victory was a sign that the bathrooms will never be built.

“After a long, hard battle, this preliminary decision marks a satisfying victory for Oceana residents as well as vindication that the city erred in not conducting the necessary environmental review before bulldozing the beach,” Cymbrowitz said in the release. “There’s still a long road ahead, but this is a promising first step.”

Personally, I want this situation to be resolved, one way or another, so I can finally stop writing about rich people and their toilet problems.

Source: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Source: NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz wants the city to admit defeat on their plans to erect public bathrooms in front of the Oceana luxury condominiums (50 Oceana Drive West) and just forgo the plans completely. Cymbrowitz’s announcement comes on the heels of reports that similarly installed stations on Far Rockaway have already begun rusting and leaking.

The controversial bathroom project, which also include lifeguard shacks and maintenance structures, was approved in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and put up quickly to be ready for the summer beach season. The construction and installation of the 35 units, spread out over Staten Island, Rockaway Beach, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, cost an estimated $105 million. The structures were built by Triton Construction and designed by Garrison Architects with the intention of meeting all of the latest FEMA specifications and guidelines. According to DNAinfo, the units installed along Rockaway Beach have already started to deteriorate:

But while the shacks were intended to be strong enough to withstand the next superstorm, those who have used them say they are already falling apart — including at least one structure that has duct tape securing its railings for the handicapped-accessible ramp.

“I look at it now and I say, ‘Is this going to last the winter?’” said one lifeguard assigned to Far Rockaway, who asked not to be identified. “There’s leaks right next to the equipment closet. They left it half-done and now there’s problems. The job was done like people didn’t care. It’s a monstrosity. It’s a debacle.”

Photos shared with DNAinfo show the units — some of which are public bathrooms and others that are lifeguard stations — lined with rust and beginning to show wall cracks before the summer has even finished.

“The insides are starting to rust and they leak all over the place,” said another lifeguard who works out of a shack on Rockaway Beach.

While the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) did admit to using some temporary materials in the construction of the lifeguard stations and bathrooms, they defended against the notion that the buildings were beginning to rust:

On Friday afternoon, the DDC sent DNAinfo New York a video showing a department employee scrubbing a portion of a unit with a Clorox wipe and a sponge. They said the cleaning shows it’s “not rust, just dirt — which likely adhered to adhesive left behind from when the pieces were wrapped in plastic for delivery,” a spokesman said.

In our area, complaints over the new units were most vocal from tenants living in the Oceana condominium complex. Original reports had them most concerned over the idea that the bathrooms would wreck their views of the ocean and attract homeless people and teenagers looking to cause trouble. Fearing that their initial complaints were not being taken seriously, Oceana residents used their political heft to get politicians like Cymbrowitz and Senator Charles Schumer involved, and the opposition evolved to include concerns about cost overruns and safety issues.

The bathrooms scheduled to be built in front of the Oceana still remain parked at the end of the boardwalk because workers hit bedrock in their effort to lay the foundation, forcing a delay in construction. As the summer season is fast ending, Cymbrowitz is calling for the city to just give up in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“It is evident that the tens of thousands of people who visited our beautiful beach this season managed to survive just fine without having a comfort station in front of the Oceana. That said, it’s high time for the city to pack up its pail and shovel (along with the cement piles still sitting near the Oceana), clean up the mess it made on our beach, and go home,” Cymbrowitz wrote.

Cymbrowitz asked the city to involve the city residents in any future plans regarding the boardwalk.

“The only fair solution to this protracted boondoggle is for the city to start from square one, keep an ear firmly tuned to the community’s wishes and build the comfort stations further west on the Boardwalk,” Cymbrowitz said.

Despite the calls of Cymbrowitz and others, the Parks Department is still planning to install the last of the units in the fall. The DDC also told DNAinfo that they are committed to keeping the units spiffy after Labor Day.

“We will also be performing some cosmetic work, including refinishing portions of the stainless steel surfaces on the modular units,” a DDC spokesman said.

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