Archive for the tag 'op-eds'

A waiter takes an order at El Greco. Photo by Ned Berke.

A waiter takes an order at El Greco. Photo by Ned Berke.

by Sam Shokin

In this Age of The Foodie, where words like “microbrewery” and “cronut” are colloquial terms, and “gentrification” has been buzzwordified to the point of mass semantic satiation, the people of Southern Brooklyn have but a few classic eateries left standing in their midst. And by the end of this week, they will be down another: El Greco Diner.

My friends, this place isn’t just a diner. El Greco is an institution. It is one of the last bastions of unironic, untrendy diners in this town; a place for locals to congregate over mediocre food, to rejoice in the spirit of community, and to cope with life’s trials and tribulations by inhaling fistfuls of cheesecake. It is one of those special places that get bestowed the title “greasy spoon” as a term of endearment. With its two-and-a-half star Yelp rating, its urban legends of rat infestations and brash mockery of portion control, El Greco has managed all these years to shrug off foodie culture while consistently drawing in people in droves — until now.

I can’t say that I blame you, Mr. Venetoklis. Thirteen million dollars is no paltry sum. I come from a family of small business owners myself. I get it. But when I read last week’s headline, I was shocked. All of us were shocked. It’s like reading about the death of a celebrity you haven’t thought about in a while, but who’s been a household name since before you were born. El Greco was the place we local kids would stumble into after-hours before we were old enough for bars or cool enough for fake IDs. It’s where I drank bottomless two-dollar coffee with my parents while people-watching outdoors or in. It’s not a local haunt; it’s not just a mainstay — El Greco is Sheepshead Bay.

El Greco, the fact that you’re on Facebook makes me cringe the way I do when anyone over 60 speaks of “the Twitter.” You’re not about that. You were never about that. You were open, 24 hours a day, to harbor poor souls braving the Bay’s frigid winds in mid-January. Your landmark location, the corner of Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road, will forever be emblazoned in my memory as as a community cornerstone; the place where so many of us came of age. Hell, even my parents ate here when they first came to this country over 30 years ago. The diner is practically family.

El Greco, with your complimentary heaps of slaw and canned bean salad (the poor man’s antipasti); your oversized plastic menus and your (mostly) darling wait staff  – you are the greasy connecting thread between the many cultures, religions, and age groups of this diverse community. Everyone in this town has a “3am at El Greco” story. Some people visit you religiously; others, ironically. There are people who swear by your gyro platter. For me, growing up in Southern Brooklyn, ridiculing this place was basically a right of passage. But I’ll still be sad when you’re gone – razed to the ground to make way for more condos.

But such is life, and such is gentrification (there’s that word again). So, El Greco, I guess this is goodbye. Thank you for all the good times.

Samantha Shokin, is an essayist, singer, and former resident of Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach (the latter of which she wrote about here.) Her writing has appeared in Vice, the Village Voice and Thought Catalog, among others. Read more of her work at www.samshokin.com

Photo by Ned Berke

Photo by Ned Berke

by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Back in 2008, my Assembly colleague, Alec Brook-Krasny, and I were able to secure $10 million in capital funding for the repair of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. The purpose of this money was to give the Boardwalk the rehabilitation it deserves and ensure that generations of New Yorkers will have the opportunity to enjoy this iconic wooden structure.

One thing this money was not supposed to do was destroy the Boardwalk as we know it. That’s why I’m outraged by the city’s decision to rebuild the Boardwalk out of concrete and plastic, effectively turning our Boardwalk into a sidewalk. To repurpose the money and change the scope of the project is an underhanded misuse of funds by this administration, and it’s something I won’t tolerate.

Since the start of this new Mayoral administration I have attempted to open a dialogue and stress the need to rebuild the Boardwalk out of wood. Unfortunately, the city has chosen instead to fast-track the destruction of our iconic landmark and has been unwilling to listen to the people of our communities. We’re the ones who have a vested interest in the Boardwalk. We’re the people who know how badly the concrete sections were damaged during Sandy. Clearly this is not a material that promises flood resiliency.

The contract for the funds I allocated is set to expire on December 31, 2014. The city is hoping to extend this contract but I have other ideas. I am committed to doing everything in my power to block the extension of the contract and rescind the money that was allocated.

Thank you for your letters, emails, tweets and calls. My confidence is strengthened with the knowledge that I have the support of my community and activists like you.

Please remember that I’m here to help you with any issue or problem and I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas. My district office is located at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road and we’re open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays until 5 p.m. Feel free to call me at (718) 743-4078 or email cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us.

Steven Cymbrowitz is the 45th District’s representative to the State Assembly, representing the Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Gravesend.

In an image from the 1950s, the Rockaway Beach Rail Line used to run from Rockaway to Rego Park. Source: The Forum Newsgroup

In an image from the 1950s, the Rockaway Beach Rail Line used to run from Rockaway to Rego Park. Source: The Forum Newsgroup

THE COMMUTE: Now that Queens College has released its year-long study of the feasibility to rebuild and reactivate the long dormant Rockaway Beach Line between Rego Park and Howard Beach, momentum to reuse the line for transit purposes is gaining traction. The New York Daily News is now a supporter. Other alternatives include the building of a High Line-style park named “Queensway,” and doing nothing. According to the study, restoration would cost between $600 and $900 million and would generate as many as 500,000 daily riders.

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The famed Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, which connects Queens and Manhattan. Source: Wikipedia

The famed Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, which connects Queens and Manhattan. Source: Wikipedia

THE COMMUTE: In Part 1, we asked if the real purpose for the new 25 MPH speed limit is increased safety or increased revenue. If the city is as concerned with increased safety as much as it claims, let us look at some traffic safety hazards the city has not been paying adequate attention to.

It took more than two years to repair the lighting on the Belt Parkway between Flatbush Avenue and Knapp Street after Superstorm Sandy. Dark dangerous stretches of highways with non-reflective exit signs were a problem long before Sandy, and will continue to be a problem.

Street markings are allowed to virtually disappear before being repainted. Lanes mysteriously merge into each other without any notice, and left and right turn lanes appear out of nowhere, forcing motorists to try to switch lanes in heavy traffic or make a turn they didn’t want to make in the first place, and risk getting lost. These are accidents just waiting to happen.

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A car accident at Emmons Avenue and Bedford Avenue (Photo by  Tom Paolillo)

A car accident at Emmons Avenue and Bedford Avenue (Photo by Tom Paolillo)

BETWEEN THE LINES: Beginning last Friday, New York City motorists, and anyone passing through the jurisdiction, are required to drive at a leisurely 25 miles per hour on most streets or face the consequences. It’s even slower — though more fitting — at 20 mph near schools.

Kind of brings to mind the opening line from the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Feelin’ Groovy”: Slow down, you move too fast.

I’m a safety proponent, especially when I’m behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound vehicle. I drive more cautiously as I age, as I’m fully aware my response time has correspondingly diminished. Yet, I regularly see drivers carelessly and, occasionally, recklessly motoring along local streets, which is likely the principal intention for the speed limit reduction. And, ultimately, to save the lives of pedestrians and motorists.

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Source: NYC.gov/DOT

Source: NYC.gov/DOT

THE COMMUTE: The 25 mile per hour (MPH) default speed limit is now the law. What proponents of this legislation fail to realize is that with a 30 MPH speed limit, the average speed limit on city streets is only 20 MPH or less. A maximum speed limit of 25 MPH will bring the average speed limit down to 12 MPH in most cases. That means that your average automobile and truck trip (yes, we forget about trucks, don’t we?) will now take almost twice as long. That is if everyone complies, and of course few will.

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Source: changeschanging / Flickr

THE COMMUTE: Last week, a one-and-a-quarter-mile afternoon trip took my friend one hour and 20 minutes using two buses. He waited 28 minutes for the B68 and another 30 minutes for the B82 in Coney Island. Three B68s came at once, and he just missed the B82. BusTime obviously is not being used to regulate the buses. What the MTA is doing, however, to help buses adhere to their schedule is putting pressure on bus drivers not to be late. What other explanation could there be for the following?

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The MTA's East Side Access plan. Source: mta.info

The MTA’s East Side Access plan. Source: mta.info

THE COMMUTE: The big news headlines this week were that subway ridership reached a new record level on September 23rd, with more than 6.1 million paying swipes, and the budget shortfall in the MTA’s new capital plan. (Notice I did not say paying customers as the MTA did, because I consider a customer as someone making a round trip. The correct term for someone making a one way trip is “passenger.” However, the MTA refuses to use that term as if it were a dirty word and now considers everyone a “customer.”) The headline only refers to subway riders; bus ridership reached its peak ten years ago.

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Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

THE COMMUTE: New Yorkers must wait until 2023 for the completion of East Side Access, a project that will improve LIRR access to Manhattan, free up trackage at Penn Station to improve rail service to the Northeast Bronx, but degrade LIRR service for Brooklynites. It is a project first conceived in the 1950s and will have taken 70 years to complete by the time it opens. Its budget, originally $4.3 billion, now exceeds $10.8 billion. The scaled back Fulton Transit Center, a project costing $4.2 billion $1.4 billion is also way behind schedule and should finally be fully completed in December of this year.

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Click to enlarge

THE COMMUTE: In parts 1 and 2, we specifically discussed routing deficiencies in Brooklyn and hinted at similar deficiencies in Staten Island and Queens that are even more severe. This week, we will discuss…

Routing Problems In Borough Park And Bensonhurst Go Back To The 1940s!

There has been a need for through Fort Hamilton Parkway and 13th Avenue routes since the 1940s. Instead, one route fulfills the need for two. However, there was an obstacle that prevented a through 13th Avenue route. There was no bridge over the Sea Beach cut at 62nd Street until 1937, which separated the two portions of 13th Avenue. A trolley line operated over the former B1 route along 86th Street, 13th Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue to access the ferry to Manhattan since the 1890s. The B16 bus route was added in the early 1930s along Fort Parkway and 13th Avenue to Ocean Avenue, a logical route back then. Israel Zion Hospital, a small institution located at 49th Street and 10th Avenue, did not require a north-south bus route. However, during the last 70 years it has greatly expanded, serving all of southern Brooklyn and changed its name to Maimonides Medical Center. Still, it has no north-south bus service.

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