Archive for the tag 'politics'

The Parks Department says it can avoid routine maintenance by replacing wooden planks that warp over time, seen above, with concrete and plastic. (Photo by Ned Berke)

A site trailer and construction fence were installed at Brighton 15th Street this month – a first step in a controversial plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s iconic wooden planks between Brighton 15th Street and Coney Island Avenue with cement and plastic. But several elected officials are expressing outrage about the work, and at least one is threatening to cut off funding to the project.

Construction on the Coney Island Boardwalk officially began on November 11, the Parks Department confirmed, despite fierce objection from community members, advocates, and local politicians who disagree with the plan to replace the boardwalk with artificial materials.

“I remain very disappointed that the Parks Department is moving forward with this major change to the boardwalk without completing any safety studies to determine the impact it will have on the community,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger. “The Parks Department is also ignoring the will of the local state lawmakers who allocated this funding for repairs, and not for a new concrete road down the middle of the iconic boardwalk.”

The state lawmakers in question are Assembly members Alec Brook-Krasny and Steven Cymbrowitz, who together allocated $10 million to the Parks Department in 2009 for general repairs and improvements to the 2.5-mile span. The funding can be cut off at the lawmakers’ discretion – but only before the contracts are signed. That time has passed, but Cymbrowitz said he’s still going to find a way to close the funding spigot.

“I am outraged that Mayor [Bill] De Blasio and Commissioner [Mitchell] Silver have fast-tracked the destruction of an iconic landmark in southern Brooklyn. As I wrote to Mayor de Blasio, concrete and composite plastics are a poor approximation for a boardwalk. It’s a boardwalk, not a sidewalk. There are also significant safety concerns with this project since no impact study has been done,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement. “This is an underhanded misuse of the money and the mayor knows it. I will work to make sure that the millions of dollars I allocated are cut off. I fought hard for the boardwalk to be repaired, not to fund the elimination of the boardwalk as this community and all New Yorkers know it.”

He’s backed up by both Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who say that the funders’ intentions should be considered in how their money is spent.

“The money came from Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, and whoever gave the money for the boardwalk should have a voice in it,” Deutsch told this outlet.

Even though Coney Island’s boardwalk survived Superstorm Sandy relatively unscathed compared to the Rockaways’ concrete walk, Mayor Michael Bloomberg deemed all wooden boardwalks insufficient to withstand the ocean’s surges, and commissioned them to be replaced with concrete. That was the plan anyway, following a 2008 directive from Bloomberg’s office that city agencies would stop using tropical hardwoods – the type used to construct the boardwalk – for environmental reasons. The de Blasio administration has continued to press forward with those policies.

“Using tropical hardwoods could contribute to the climate change that helped destroy the boardwalk in the first place and it would be more expensive,” said a spokesperson for the Parks Department. Critics point out that there are other options, including sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak, that can be used.

But the lower cost of maintaining concrete, long a part of the Parks Department’s justification for switching to cement, does not necessarily mean it will hold up better during storms, said Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents the Brighton Beach portion of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. He, Treyger and Cymbrowitz want an impact study that considers the performance of concrete in storm surges. Other areas, including Manhattan Beach and the Rockaways, saw huge concrete chunks barrel through the streets as they broke up during the October 2012 storm.

“[This is] about what is safer with the community in case another storm comes in,” he said. “It has to be safe, not just more resilient in terms of repairs, but what’s safe in regards to any kind of surge.”

Even before the storm, advocacy groups filed a lawsuit hoping to stop the plan, demanding a full environmental review. But just weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a judge ruled that the project did not need to undergo such a study since it would not constitute a signficant change the existing structure.

The boardwalk construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2016 beach season, according to the Parks Department. Elected officials are asking the city to terminate all construction until the concerns of residents are addressed.

Here is a map of the proposed plan via the Coney Island Boardwalk Alliance:

boardwalk-map

Click to enlarge

– With additional reporting by Ned Berke.

Source: katerha via flickr

Source: katerha via flickr

The first City Council hearing on a proposed mandatory fee for plastic bags at grocery stores and supermarkets took place yesterday, and it’s already proving to be one of the most divisive issues to come before the usually lockstep Council body.

Capital New York reports:

The bill, Intro. 209, is being championed by Council members Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Margaret Chin of Manhattan and would impose the fee on all plastic and paper bags issued by grocery stores, bodegas, liquor stores and the like in city limits. The intent is to cut back on the estimated 100,000 tons of plastic bags that find their way to the rivers, streets and trees in the city and encourage New Yorkers to use reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags constitute 2 percent of the city’s waste stream.

… Supporters maintained the 10 cents does not constitute a tax as no money would go to government coffers. Store owners would keep the 10 cents on each bag.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped opponents from describing it as a tax. One of the most vocal opponents so far has been Councilman David Greenfield.

The Daily News reports:

“Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to sit here today and talk about actually raising taxes on New Yorkers,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), who said he buys 30 bags of groceries for his family every Thursday night. “Now I’m going to have to pay three bucks extra a week.”

While proponents like Lander and Chin, who represent some of the city’s tonier districts, argue that such fees have successfully reduced the use of plastic bags in cities including Washington D.C., other elected officials say that it would unfairly hurt low-income families.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is instead proposing a “recycling education campaign” to urge New York City residents to scale back on the roughly 9.37 billion disposable bags used in the five boroughs every year, most of which ends up in landfills.

“While our environmental goal should be to enhance programs which encourage recycling, the absolute wrong way to accomplish this worthwhile objective is by implementing a tax on plastic or paper bags,” said Deutsch in a statement. “I would rather support a recycling education campaign than support a tax, imposing an unfair financial burden on so many.”

Deutsch noted that though the bill’s provisions exempt food stamp recipients, not all of the city’s cash-strapped residents are on food stamps.

The de Blasio administration and Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have not taken a position on the bill.

Update (November 24, 11am) : Councilman Mark Treyger also objected to the bill when he spoke to us on Friday, November 21.

“I do not believe that 10 cents is going to change a behavior. It’s just going to place another burden on working class families in New York,” he told us. “I believe we should look at alternative types of bags that are biodegradable.”

Source: Robert S. Donovan | Flickr

Source: Robert S. Donovan | Flickr

The next meeting of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association will be held tomorrow evening, November 20, 7:30pm, at the Carmine Carro Community Center in Marine Park, Fillmore Avenue and Marine Parkway.

The meeting will feature a discussion and analysis on what the implications of the most recent election for Brooklyn mean, particularly in the southern end. Featured participants include Jerry Kassar, chairman of the Brooklyn Conservative Party and vice chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, and Lew Fidler, Democratic District Leader of the 41st Assembly District and former New York City councilman.

Additionally, Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic is concluding its Thanksgiving food drive to help its less fortunate neighbors. Residents are being asked to please donate non-perishable foods, kosher and non-kosher, that you might serve on Thanksgiving to the following places: Michael’s Bakery, JoMart Chocolates, and Pronto Pizza (all situated on Avenue R at Nostrand Avenue); Tom’s Cleaners (2917 Avenue S); the Avenue U Fish Market (2704 Avenue U), G & S Pork Store (2611 Avenue U), T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U), and the Roosevelt Savings Bank (2925 Avenue U). Food items and donations may be brought to the civic meeting on November 20 and checks to purchase turkeys, payable to “Madison-Marine Civic Assn.” can also be sent to: MMHCA, PO Box 432, Homecrest Station, Brooklyn, NY 11229.

For additional information, call (718) 375-9158.

Hrm. I wonder why Avenue Y's overpass gets so messy. (Photo by John)

Hrm. I wonder why Avenue Y’s overpass gets so messy. (Photo by John)

The trash problem beneath the Brighton line subway overpasses in Midwood and Sheepshead Bay is finally going to get a little better after years of complaints from residents.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is sending $15,000 in additional funding to the Midwood Development Corporation to expand its Project Sweep Program, which is now responsible for cleaning garbage, debris and graffiti from beneath all subway overpasses spanning from Avenue M to Avenue Z. The project will also send cleaners to Sheepshead Bay Road, the Holocaust Memorial Park and a handful of other areas known to be eyesores.

The group goes out twice a week to hit several of the spots, according to information from Deutsch’s office. Cleanups began in October and will continue until the end of June.

Project Sweep employs adults with developmental disabilities who work alongside job coaches to clean commercial strips. Since 1990, they’ve been tidying up other business corridors including Newkirk Avenue, Courtelyou Road and Avenue M.

“Graffiti and litter adversely affect our quality of life, and can even cause an innocent homeowner to incur summonses due to littered trash blowing onto their property. My goal is to enhance the beautification of our neighborhoods,” said Deutsch in a press release. “I am eager to work with the leaders and members of Project Sweep on this endeavor.”

If you’d like to report an area you want to see cleaned, contact Deutsch’s office at (718) 368-9176.

Similar cleanups are being announced in other neighborhoods, including funding from Councilman Mark Treyger to local groups for cleanup initiatives on Mermaid Avenue and Stillwell Avenue.

The next meeting of the Manhattan Beach Community Group will be November 19, 8:00pm at Public School 195, 131 Irwin Street. The meeting will focus on the topic of home values with regard to Superstorm Sandy. Among the issues to be addressed are: Will new building laws affect your property values? What will Manhattan Beach look like five years from now?

Guest speakers will include 195 Principal Bernadette Toomey, who will discuss school overcrowding, what is new and exciting at PS 195, whether PS 195 has dedicated staff for art, music, and physical education, and if the community could help the school in any way, as well as Winston von Engel, director of the Brooklyn Office of the NYC Planning Department. He will discuss what is currently mandated for reconstruction/construction in Manhattan Beach, why some homes are going to be built higher than zoning allowed before the storm, whether there can there be legal basement apartments, how the Special Permit law will change what Manhattan Beach will look like, and if there should be a rule keeping the footprint of a building within certain boundaries.

All are welcome to attend. If you have questions, it is requested by MBCG that you send them in via email to manhattanbeachbrooklyn.org@gmail.com prior to the meeting.

Additionally: PS 195 is holding a holiday food drive to help less fortunate families. Canned goods are being collected at the meeting.

Igor Vaysberg, a staffer for CM Treyger, listens to ideas from community members at an October 20. Photo by Aliza Chasan

Staffer Igor Vaysberg listens to ideas from community members at an assembly on October 20. (Photo by Aliza Chasan)

By Aliza Chasan

When the small group of community members was asked if they were happy with the way the government spends their money, the room was silent. Hands shot up moments later when residents were asked what changes they wanted to see in their communities.

On November 10, Councilman Mark Treyger wrapped up the last of three community assemblies as part of District 47′s progressive participatory budgeting [PB] initiative. Treyger has allocated $1 million of discretionary funds for residents’ ideas. District 47 - which includes Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Sea Gate and Coney Island – is among 24 of the city’s 51 districts to sign up for PB.

At the meetings, residents filled yellow posters with Sharpie-scrawled ideas. They want street repairs, traffic cameras, bus and crosswalk countdown clocks, covered trash baskets, Wi-Fi and charging stations for parks, and bus shelters. Schools need technology upgrades, air conditioning, speed bumps, and stop signs.

“This exercise is really about empowering residents, so that residents have a direct say on how their tax dollars are at work,” says Treyger, who cites his experience as a high school teacher as his motivation for joining PB. “Equally as important, is that it’s been a great learning tool for the public to learn about the city budget process.”

The next step is for a selected group of volunteers to act as budget delegates, developing pitches into fleshed out plans and deciding which are financially feasible. Each plan will cost at least $35,000 and no more than $1 million – more expensive than replacing a stop sign, but less than building a new park from scratch. Finally, in April, constituents will vote on their favorite project.

“I want to make life easier for people in the neighborhood,” said Robert Whittaker, 40, a volunteer budget delegate. “This is the best way to do that – come here and get involved in the process.”

Another assembly goer, Maria di Graziano, 47, told us her neighborhood has been working toward PB for some time. Treyger, she said, is eager to help, which is a change from the past.

“Now it’s the community that has to get used to being present and involved and voicing their concerns,” she said.

Treyger says the goal of PB is to involve underrepresented voices in the democratic process, such as immigrants, the elderly, residents in public housing, and high school students.

Those efforts include translating flyers for the assemblies into many languages, reaching out to community organizations, and having community organizers like PBNYC and Community Voices Heard spread the word by canvassing door-to-door. Residents as young as 14 are invited to pitch ideas. To vote, community members must be 16 and have some relationship to the neighborhood, whether through work, school, or residency.

“There’s no monopoly on good ideas,” says Treyger.

To find out how you can get involved in PB, see the PBNYC website.

[With additional reporting by Rachel Silberstein]

Oberman

Oberman

The Trump Village co-op board headed by former City Council candidate Igor Oberman filed a libel suit against a tenant who established a blog to vent criticism of the board’s actions.

Oberman filed the suit against resident Yuliya Bezvoleva on behalf of the Trump Village Section 4 board last month, claiming that her website, TV4News.org, was causing financial harm by getting in the way of potential sales according to the New York Post.

The website has been active since the spring of 2012, documenting perceived violations of co-op board bylaws and other abuses. The oldest post on the site claims one boardmember was actually ineligible to hold the position, and was also bumped to the top of the list for coveted parking spaces. Such privileges for boardmembers are a frequent complaint, with another post alleging that the board used the co-op’s money to construct a personal, fenced in garage.

The site also shared news during Oberman’s 2013 campaign for City Council regarding concerns over his fundraising, which included donations from firms doing business with the board. That election ultimately saw Chaim Deutsch elected to replace Michael Nelson.

Another post took issue with co-op funds used for events on the 1,114-unit property that were open to the public. (Full disclosure: two such events, as noted on the website, were marketed with paid advertising on Sheepshead Bites. The ads were paid for by the Board.)

The lawsuit claims several of the site’s posts include false information, and specifically flags a story from October 2013 questioning why some board candidates were disqualified without explanation, and another from November of that year pointing out Housing Court cases against residents.

Oberman claims in the lawsuit that the website is scaring off potential buyers, and is also ruining his reputation.

“Several potential employers have asked me about . . . the Web site,” Oberman said in an affidavit, according to the Post. 

He declined to comment to the newspaper, but his attorney called the website’s claims “pure fabrications.”

Bezvoleva said the lawsuit is just another illustration of the board’s heavy-handed tactics against critical tenants.

“There is no freedom of speech, and there are no public meetings,” Bezvoleva told the Post. “When we do have them, we have lots of security guards. Sometimes police officers get invited to make sure nothing happens.”

Last year, as Oberman ran for Council, it was reported that the board was mired in lawsuits from former employees and critical tenants who were served eviction notices, allegedly to strengthen Oberman’s control over the board.

Bezvoleva was one of the residents fighting off an eviction notice at the time, after she launched an anti-Oberman petition drive.

Dynamic's Brooklyn facility at 1830 Coney Island Avenue. (Source: DYCInc.org)

Dynamic’s Brooklyn facility at 1830 Coney Island Avenue. (Source: DYCInc.org)

The associate director of a Midwood-based drug rehabilitation and counseling center said she was among the first to sound the alarm about an impending spike in heroin abuse in the community, and now the group is turning to the radio to bring it to an end.

Karen Carlini, associate director of Dynamic Youth Community at 1830 Coney Island Avenue, told PIX11 that she knew there was a crisis on the horizon and was warning parents, community leaders and law enforcement more than a decade ago.

“We saw it happening every year,” Carlini told the outlet. “And we tried to tell people what we saw happening.”

Carlini, who has worked in the substance abuse field for 40 years, said she realized what was coming when she saw the nature of abuse change in the 1990s. While, nationally, heroin abuse cases were declining, she saw a rise in opiate painkiller abuse – pills with similar properties to that of heroin.

New painkillers, like Vicadin and Oxycontin, were liberally doled out to patients in the 1990s. Prescribed for cases ranging from a pulled tooth to severe cancers and injuries, leftover pills found their way into home medical cabinets. That gave easy access to teens, and the highly addictive drugs made an impression.

The state has spent the past decade tackling the problem, and a slew of legislative reforms over the past few years have cracked down on abuse. Addicted teens turned to heroin, an increasingly cheaper alternative.

Dynamic, which operates an intensive, in-patient rehab facility in Fallsburg, New York, called Dynamite Youth Facility, now works closely with community leaders to help meet the problem head on – including with local Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, chairman of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee.

The pol launched a partnership with Dynamic this summer, as well as with the Kings Bay Y, to tackle the issue with an emphasis on the Russian-speaking community. They’ve established a regular segment on Russian-language DaNU Radio to reach out, saying that there are limited options for the Russian community because of language barriers and stigma.

“Many families don’t recognize the signs of addiction, are unaware of the help that’s out there, or are reluctant to address their child’s addiction because of feelings of shame,” said Cymbrowitz in a press release announcing the initiative. “We need to break this deadly cycle of addiction – and the only way to do that is by pooling our expertise and resources and working together.”

Some of the goods collected from a previous drive.

The Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association gathers a literal ton (give or take) of food for the needy before Thanksgiving every year, and is now accepting donations for the 2014 season.

The group is collecting both kosher and non-kosher items from now until November 20. They’ve placed collection bins in cooperating businesses around the Homecrest and Marine Park area, and hope you’ll drop off some non-perishable foods that you might serve on Thanksgiving.

Drop off locations include:

  • Avenue U Fish Market, 2704 Avenue U
  • G & S Pork Store, 2611 Avenue U
  • T & D Bakery, 2307 Avenue U
  • Roosevelt Savings Bank, 2925 Avenue U
  • Michael’s Bakery, 2923 Avenue R
  • JoMart Chocolates, 2917 Avenue R
  • Pronto Pizza, 2928 Avenue R
  • Tom’s Cleaners, 2917 Avenue S

There will also be a one-day collection event at Key Food on Gerritsen Avenue and Avenue U, on Saturday, November 15, from 10am to 3pm.

Additionally, food items and donations can be brought to the group’s last-day collection party on Thursday, November 20 at 7:30pm at the Carmine Carro Community Center in Marine Park.

Want to give money so the group can buy turkeys for those who need it? Make checks payable to “Madison-Marine Civic Assn.,” also mailt to: M.M.H.C.A., PO Box 432, Homecrest Station, Brooklyn, New York, 11229. For more information, call (718) 375-9158.

grimm2

It was mostly a predictable day at the polls yesterday when it came to Southern Brooklyn races, including the reelection of two lawmakers currently facing federal charges.

The most high-profile race, of course, was that of the 11th Congressional District, in which incumbent Michael Grimm, who faces a 20-count indictment for tax evasion, staved off a challenge from Democrat Domenic Recchia.

Grimm came ahead with a 13-point lead, according to preliminary results provided by the Associated Press. He won 56,221 of the district’s Brooklyn and Staten Island votes, or 55.4 percent, to Recchia’s 42,786 votes, or 42.1 percent. A Green party candidate, Henry Bardel, picked up 2.5 percent.

Though the win itself was predictable – Recchia’s campaign gaffes became a national joke, and Siena polling showed Grimm with a 19-point lead in the days before the race – the margin is a significant victory for Grimm. In 2012, before the incumbent made headlines for the criminal charges, threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony, or having a romp in a bar bathroom, he had just shy of a six-point victory over then challenger Mark Murphy (the race was 52.6 to 46.4).

It appears the bad headlines has made Grimm even more popular among voters, or Recchia was just that much more unlikable than Murphy.

Once the dust has settled, we’ll take a look at how the vote broke down geographically to see just how much Brooklyn factored into Grimm’s reelection.

Sampson (File photo)

Sampson (File photo)

But Grimm was not the only Southern Brooklyn pol facing federal indictment to win re-election. After besting several challengers in the Democratic primary, State Senator John Sampson, who represents parts of Sheepshead Bay, Mill Basin and Canarsie, took in 86.1 percent of the vote in last night’s general election.

Sampson is facing embezzlement charges, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of foreclosed homes. Just days before the election, the pol’s legal team practically admitted to the swindle in a pre-trial hearing, but argued that it occurred outside the statute of limitations. It apparently did not hurt his electoral prospects, as he took home more than 10 times the number of votes as the second place contender, Republican Elias J. Weir.

Source: Brook-Krasny’s office

Source: Brook-Krasny’s office

If there were any surprises in local races on election night, it might be the showing of Republican Stamatis Lilikakis, who challenged Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny. The district, which spans Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and a sliver of waterfront connecting those neighborhoods, churned out a nail-biter as returns came in from poll sites. For the first half of the count, Brook-Krasny hovered between 50 and 51 percent. But as the night wore on, he took a dramatic lead, with 58.3 percent of the vote to Lilikakis’ 41.7.

This is another race we’ll be checking the geographic breakdown of, as it’ll be interesting to see which parts of the neighborhood snubbed Brook-Krasny.

Here’s how the rest of the races in Southern Brooklyn shook out:

Congressional

  • Congressman Hakeem Jeffries took home 91.9 percent of the vote, to Republican Alan Bellone’s 8.1 percent. Bellone did not actively campaign.
  • Yvette Clarke took home 89.5 percent to Republican Daniel Cavanagh’s 10.5 percent. Cavanagh did not actively campaign.
  • Jerrold Nadler won 87.6 percent of the vote to Conservative Ross Brady’s 11.9 percent.

State Senate

  • Senator Martin Golden had a strong showing against Democratic challenger James Kemmerer, with 69-to-31 percent of the vote. That’s significant growth compared to results in 2012, when Democrat Andrew Gounardes pulled in 41.9 percent to Golden’s 58.1 percent.
  • Senator Diane Savino did not have a challenger.
  • Senator Simcha Felder did not have a challenger.

State Assembly

  • Sheepshead Bay’s Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein took in 87.3 percent of the vote to Conservative challenger Sura Yusim’s 12.7 percent.
  • Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz bested his challenger, Ben Akselrod, with 54.4 percent of the vote to Akselrod’s 42.3 percent. This is the fourth race in a row that he’s defeated Akselrod, after winnin in both the 2012 primary and general (Akselrod ran as a Democrat, then as a Conservative) and this year’s primary and general (he ran as a Democrat, then as a Republican).
  • Bensonhurst Assemblyman Bill Colton beat Republican challenger Joseph Baranello 71 to 29 percent.
  • Borough Park and Midwood Assemblyman Dov Hikind defeated Republican Nachman Caller 78.4 to 21.6.
  • Assemblyman Peter Abbate, representing Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, received 76.2 percent of the vote to Republican Henry Lallave’s 23.8 percent.
  • The 59th Assembly District, representing Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park and Mill Basin, and vacant since Alan Maisel resigned to take a seat in the City Council, was secured by Democrat Roxanne Persaud, who bested Republican Jeffrey Ferretti 73.8 to 26.2.

For all results from last night’s general election, check out WNYC for AP results.

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