Sunday, December 16, 2012

Councilman Levin Seeks Slowdown in Neighborhood Film Shoots

October and November this year saw a relentless stream of film crews descending on the otherwise quiet streets of Brooklyn Heights. In the past two months alone 14 different productions have brought chaos to the historic, tree-lined streets as filmmakers use this brownstone-filled area as the backdrop for TV shows and motion pictures.

“I understand and respect the fact that the movie and television industry provides revenue for the city and employs a number of New Yorkers, but residents of a single neighborhood, especially one that is primarily residential, like Brooklyn Heights, should not have to bear the burden of on-street filming on an almost daily basis,” said Councilman Stephen Levin.

“The people who live in this community should be able to freely walk down the sidewalk, park on the street, and bring their children to the local playground without constantly dodging film crews,” Levin added.

Councilman Stephen Levin
Filming requires streets to be closed, parking spaces to be absconded and other inconveniences imposed on residents, and now those residents are standing up to the onslaught with the help of Levin. The councilman, who represents Brooklyn’s District 33, contacted the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting in order to place all of Brooklyn Heights on the City’s list of “hot spots.” This listing will place a hold on filming until a more reasonable schedule for filming can be implemented which impacts less on the lives of the neighborhood’s residents.

Brooklyn Heights is not the only place the film industry has been encroaching on. Film crews have been shooting in Windsor Terrace and Kensington of late as well. Some of the major projects filming in these neighborhoods include a Vince Vaughn comedy called “Delivery Man,” a Martin Scorsese star vehicle called “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and a few TV shows such as “Elementary” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sandy’s Victims Get Helping Hand from United Cerebral Palsy of New York

Schevone Williams
Gravesend, Brooklyn resident, thirty-two year old Schevone Williams, who has cerebral palsy, lost almost everything when her apartment was inundated with flood waters from the torrential forces of Hurricane Sandy.

Using a specialized device to communicate Williams explained what happened.

"My apartment was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy,” said Williams. “I lost everything my hospital bed, my motorized wheelchair and all of my clothes.”

In addition to her specialized equipment which makes her life possible as a person with cerebral palsy, she also lost the ordinary objects everyone needs in their home, such as her major appliances including her refrigerator, stove and washing machine.

Williams, who is dependent on her $17,000 wheelchair for mobility, was at home when the flood waters entered, bringing in debris from the outside, and threatening to drown her.

“The Fire Department actually rescued Schevone, that’s how serious it was for her,” says Amy Bittinger the director of Family Support Services with United Cerebral Palsy of New York City.

According to Bittinger UCP of New York had to come to the aid immediately of many clients who were at risk during Sandy. Now there most pressing concern is finding Williams a replacement wheelchair.

“We were able to get her a loaner manual chair with proper positioning and we were able to get her augmentative communication device working again,” says Bittinger.

The Kensington branch of United Cerebral Palsy of New York has many visitors with a range of disabilities due to the popularity of their innovative “tech works” room. The room offers the latest in technology to help ease some of the challenges of having cerebral palsy or other disabilities, including iPads, which can help with communication. There is also a mobile van which visits different locations throughout the city to publicize the latest assistive technologies.

“This way we can go to communities that can’t come here and tabling events and be able to show products at those events,” says Liz Voluz, the director of Assistive Technology.

United Cerebral Palsy of New York has been answering the phones non-stop since Sandy devastated so many lives, helping people with disabilities get their lives back on track by getting their hi-tech equipment replaced. Workers at UCP New York say that Williams should have a new wheelchair before Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Environmentally Friendly Library Opens in Kensington

Brooklyn opened its most green library to date last week when the new Kensington Library opened its doors to the public. On hand to celebrate the event last Wednesday were city officials joining library staff.

The building was constructed from scratch for $16 million, the first Brooklyn library to have that honor in almost 20 years. The building is an environmentally concerned book-lover dream come true.

The building has LEED Silver certification and features some really neat features such as large front windows and a skylight to enhance the use of natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting.

Sculptures powered by the rays of the sun hang down from the ceiling near the windows, spinning around when the sun is shining brightly.

In addition the spanking new library has 24 computers for public use; three iPads; and an assortment of spaces for story hours for children and community meetings for adults.

The new Kensington Library is located at 4207 18th Avenue. Come visit and see its high-tech amenities in action.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chinese Development in NYC

Xinyuan Real Estate Company recently purchased a 216 unit condominium building in Brooklyn, NY, at a cost of $54.2m, making its first ever development in America. The firm plans to spend an additional $200m on this project. It is anticipated that sales thereafter will be between $250 and $350 million.
Xinyuan Real Estate Company is also looking for other projects in America.  The idea is to sell close to half of the units it builds to Chinese investors. According to Omer Ozden, (a partner at Beijing Capital, the private equity arm of the Beijing municipal government), Chinese investors it seems, are more likely to purchase buildings from Chinese developers in the US, than their American counterparts.  Chinese investment in American real estate has been growing steadily, with a focus on residential properties.

New York private equity is becoming increasingly popular for Chinese investors.  In recent years, the government in China has been making attempts to deflate the local housing bubble.  In order to achieve this, it has limited permission of property purchases.  Thus the Chinese who want to invest in real estate are instead turning to America.  Indeed, as the National Association of Realtors’ report noted, residential sales for the year ended in March saw $9bn in American residential sales from the Chinese.

The city of New York is also gaining popularity for Chinese investors as that is one of the places where they would like to live (along with LA, San Francisco and Miami).  Thus as Ozden noted, these investors are purchasing properties that they will seek to rent out or use as second homes or places for their children to stay while studying abroad.  In the past, Chinese investors have had a harder time locating the right property in America, as navigating US culture has not been so easy.  Thus Xinyuan Real Estate Company is now providing a great solution for Chinese looking to participate in New York private equity deals.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brooklyn Rentals Rare as Sandy Victims Look for Housing

Some of Sandy's Damage in Rockaway 

Lorraine Massoni and her three children were forced out of their Rockaway home by severe flooding in the wake of the devastation wreaked on New York by Hurricane Sandy. Since then the family has been staying with friends and relatives while they look for alternative digs for herself and her children. But so far she has only run into a brick wall.

“I have reached out to I can’t even tell you how many Realtors,” Massoni, 44, said as she drove around Brooklyn in her rented minivan with her children. “They tell you they have places, they say, ‘Let me talk to the landlord and see if they take dogs,’ then nothing. They don’t even call you back.”

Massoni recently looked at a two-bedroom flat in Kensington renting for a pricey $2,150 per month. The price is almost double the $2,495 she received from a federal relief agency to cover two months’ rent. And the Kensington place is, at 1,200 square-feet, about half the size of her Rockaway home- not big enough for her family of five. Massoni will just have to keep looking.

She is not alone in her frustrating efforts to find an alternative living arrangement that does not involve sleeping on a friend’s pull-out bed or staying in a relative’s guest room or basement. Rental vacancies in Queens and Brooklyn are about 2 to 3 percent, a low number causing heartache for many displaced New Yorkers.

“It couldn’t be worse timing,” says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Inc. in New York. The market in Brooklyn is tight partly because banks are reluctant to write mortgages, so few renters are buying a home and moving out, he said. With hotel occupancy rates at high levels, Miller said, “there are just not a lot of places to stay.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Food Co-Op May Be On Its Way to Kensington and Windsor Terrace

After Windsor Terrace’s only grocery store was bought-out by a pharmacy, people there and in nearby Kensington were left with no convenient way to purchase food. Since necessity is the mother of invention, the residents have come up with the idea of bringing a food co-op into their neighborhood as an answer to the question where will the food come from.

It appears that support for this idea has been building in recent weeks among the people of the neighborhood.  Ever since Walgreens bought out Key Food in June, organizers have been trying to get a food-buying group started. Last Tuesday night their efforts got an extra push when more than 100 people showed up for a meeting in support of the idea of a food-buying group for the residents of Kensington and Windsor Terrace.

No seats were left for meeting participants, showing organizers that their efforts have finally been rewarded.

“Going into the meeting, we were all thinking, ‘This may not sail,’ ” said organizer Jack O’Connell, 68. O’Connell added that he was “flabbergasted” by the hefty crowd that showed up at the Knights of Columbus Hall on 10th Avenue.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Listeria Found in Herring Product from Kensington

Herring Recall in Light of Listeria Contamination

A Kensington, Brooklyn food manufacture was forced to recall a herring product after it was discovered that Listeria monocytogenes were present in the food.

The company, Four Seasons Dairy, is located at 255 58th Street in Brooklyn. An announcement was made by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets that “Fillet Atlantic Recipe in Oil,” a Four Seasons herring product was being recalled.

The herring was packaged in a one-pound clear plastic tub with a white plastic lid. On the bottom of the item a label shows an expiration date of 12/11/12. The FDA says that the food product was being sold in a variety of New York City locations, but did not specify as to any names of shops.

So far no one has reported any illnesses as a result of the Listeria contamination, but the potential for harm is great. Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and even deadly infections in young children, elderly and frail people and others who have weakened immune systems.

For those who are strong or who have intact immune systems the possibility of illness is high, including fever, stiffness, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. In pregnant women the infection of Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.

Anyone in possession of “Fillet Atlantic Recipe in Oil” from Four Seasons Dairy should throw the product away or return it to the store where it was bought. Consumers with questions can call 718-567-7877.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Teens Help Animals in Kensington Pet Haven Animal Hospital

Sofia and John
Sofia Annunziata is getting a reputation as a true animal lover. The thirteen-year-old Brooklyn girl spends her Saturday’s helping out on behalf of her organization New York City Teens for Animals at the Kensington Pet Haven Animal Hospital. Her and other teens volunteer there to help rescued animals that need medical attention.

“It makes me feel so happy when the animals get better and I get to see them blossom,” 

Sofia said. Sofia was recently noticed on Facebook when she attracted 5,000 fans to her page in which she documented the nursing back to good health of a beautiful black Labrador/Pit Bull mix named John that was first discovered barely alive in Brooklyn a month ago.

NYC Teens for Animals recently collected about $1,200 to save Sunny, a golden Pomeranian that is in need of surgery on one of her back legs, and another Pomeranian called Tina.

John, Tina and Sunny are just three of the many other lucky animals that receive Sofia’s special TLC. About one year ago Sofia helped raise money to buy a wheelchair for Timmy, a Shih Tzu that is paralyzed.

“Imagine how one teen can make such a difference,” said Pet Haven veterinarian Jill Caruso.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One Year Later Rocket Still Pedaling Women Home Safely

Brooklyn Bike Patrol Celebrates One Year of Helping Women Get Home Safely
Believe it or not, one year has already passed since Jay “Rocket” Ruiz was first inspired to start his grassroots security organization, “Brooklyn Bike Patrol.” Back in September 2011 Brooklyn women were fearful after at least 20 sexual assaults had been perpetrated during a six-month period beginning in March from Bay Ridge to Park Slope. Finally Ruiz felt he needed to act to protect women and help them arrive home safely, so he hopped on his bicycle and rode to the subway station at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street and held up a sign that said: “Brooklyn Bike Patrol” with his name, phone number and e-mail address.

After a short time Ruiz had a crew of 11 volunteers escorting women from 11 subway stations so they could arrive home in peace.

One year later “Brooklyn Bike Patrol” still has only 11 volunteers, but they manage to cover 50 subway stations in 16 Brooklyn neighborhoods including Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Sunset Park, Kensington, Windsor Terrace and Carroll Gardens, Borough Park, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bushwick and Williamsburg.

To celebrate this milestone Ruiz and his crew plan on riding down Fifth Avenue in Park Slope handing out flyers offering their free service. “Brooklyn Bike Patrol” would like to acquire cameras for each of the volunteers to wear on their helmets. Ruiz believes this piece of equipment will make the escort even safer. Each camera costs $269, but he says when traveling through some of the rougher neighborhoods having a camera recording every walk will make it safer just in case something happens along the way.

“We are grateful for all the love and communities we cover,” he said, explaining that BBP now has 117 clients. “I wanted to do this for one year, but now there are so many people calling us and we need to keep doing it. People still need us, so I want to see where we are at in five years.”

Ruiz said he feels like he is “on top of the world” to be able to celebrate one year protecting women.
But, he is humble:

“We are not the heroes, the heroes are the women who call us and trust us to walk them home,” Ruiz said.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brooklyn Residents Curating New Artists’ Show at Brooklyn Museum

Artists from all over Brooklyn will open their studios to Brooklyn residents as part the “GO,” project, the community curated studio project, organized by the Brooklyn Museum. On September 8th and 9th, between 11am and 7pm 1,812 artists will welcome visitors into their work spaces, exhibiting their creations so that Brooklyn residents who have registered to vote can examine the work and then vote on their favorite artists. The ten artists with the most votes will be included in a group show at the Brooklyn Museum on beginning on December 1st, 2012. Brooklyn Museum curators will visit the studios of the winning artists to choose which of their works will be exhibited.

Registrants will need to download a “GO” app for their iPhone, send a text message, or record the studios that they visited with paper and pen and then transfer the information to the “GO” website later in order to participate, and will also be required to visit a minimum of five studios. There is no maximum number of artists participants can visit, and they can spend the entire two days visiting some of Brooklyn’s most talented, up and coming artists.

GO project participants will be able to be part of the entire process via their online connection, and discuss and follow the putting together of the exhibition as the events unfold, thus becoming co-curators and participants in bringing great Brooklyn art into one of the New York City’s foremost museums.

About twenty of the participating artists are from Kensington and Windsor Terrace, and are hoping to see their neighbors and friends coming through their studios to see their work, and maybe even vote for them to be included in the show.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In Kensington- Dogs are Man's Best Friend

Shimmie Horn and Friend
Not long ago this lovely dog was begging and scraping just to put a tiny bit of meat on his bones. When the dog was close to death, this kind Kensington  man, took the dog into his home and his heart. Now when you ask him, Shimmie Horn says that he can't imagine life without his dog, who he named Speckle.

Monday, July 23, 2012

ARTery at Farmer’s Market this Sunday

Susan Siegel of Brooklyn ARTery
Kensington’s Farmer’s Market has a special treat for its patrons this coming Sunday, July 29, art classes.

At 10am mosey on over to the open market on Cortelyou Road and join in on a variety of classes sponsored by ‘Brooklyn ARTery,’ the brainchild of Susan Siegel of Ditmas Park. Begin with either animal balloons or mosaic murals. At 10:15am and continuing for one hour learn cartooning and book binding. From 11:30am until 12:30pm discover vegetable and fruit print-making plus making origami mobiles. The last classes of the day will be on herbs and fruit infused drinks, from 12:45 until 1:45pm.

Be sure to come early, as classes will only be offered on a first come, first served basis, with only limited space available.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Running Wild

I have recently started to get into running.  Yeah I know, it's not something that my friends would have thought of, but I decided to start keeping in shape.  Luckily my friend from work Frank Storch is an avid marathon runner and he gave me some tips. 

  • Drink lots
  • Don't try to accomplish too much too fast
  • Stretch both before and after
  • Always run at the same time everyday
  • Pick a target and don't stop until you get to it

Frank seem to have his running down.  He is infact trraining already for the Baltimore Marathon, which is in October.  I for one haven't run with him because he is in Cobble Hill and I am here in Kensington, but I hope to join him in a few weeks.  He runs over the Brooklyn Bridge and up the East Side of Manhattan.  That's a little too much for me right, now, but you never know.

Learn more about Frank Storch here!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Online Marketing and a Local Florist

I don't know much about online marketing, but I'm really starting to understand its importance. I mean, take a walk down memory lane and relive the very first steps of today's internet. It's incredible, really.

So, what made me think of this? While chatting with an old friend today, she told me that she'd recently hooked up with a company called 'Yodle.' Tess is a florist, and has been seeing a slow but definite slide in business lately, as flashier, more popular flower providers steal the spotlight. She did some research, checked out some competitors' websites, and knew what she was missing.

How she found Yodle I'm not quite sure, but I glanced at their website today and she seems to have hit the jackpot. They claim to 'make it easy for local business owners to get new customers', and their clients seem to be very satisfied.

For example, on, Barbara Levine of New Canaan said:
“As a small business owner, it has been great working with Yodle for the past two months. I have been consistently impressed with the company’s ability to generate leads that turn in to real business for me. Yodle’s local online advertising program is better than anything else I’ve tried. Yodle makes the marketing process so easy."
I'm sure Tess will make great progress as another local business, too.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Brooklyn Cyclones Remember Gary Carter

In a very moving tribute, on June 29th, there will be a tribute to Gary Carter with a pre-game ceremony before the Brooklyn Cyclones play against the Aberdeen IronBirds.  This past year, Hall of Fame catcher and Mets icon, Gary Carter, died after a long battle with brain cancer.

While he entered the Hall of Fame as part of the Montreal Expos, those in New York who love the Mets will always remember him fondly. As such, the Brooklyn Cyclones will have the ceremony before their 7 pm game against the IronBirds and they’ll be wearing special orange and blue jersey with “Kid 8” memorial patches on the right sleeve. This is the same patch that the New York Mets wore throughout the season.
What’s even more – the special jerseys will then be auctioned off throughout the game and some of the proceeds will benefit the Gary Carter Foundation, which works to better the physical, mental and spiritual lives of children who are in need.

Come out that night to support a great team, and to support an amazing cause.

 For those who don’t know the history behind the Brooklyn Cyclones, the NYC website explains, “The Brooklyn Cyclones are a minor-league baseball team based out of Brooklyn's MCU Park at the Coney Island boardwalk. Originally founded in Toronto, where they were known as the St. Catharines, the Brooklyn Cyclones (along with their principal rivals, the Staten Island Yankees) were brought to New York in 1999 by then-mayor Rudy Giuliani.”

Here is a look at the shirts that will be raffled off during the evening:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Parents Boycotting Field Tests in Protest of Over-testing

Parents and Teachers say Tests Take Away from Learning
After years of letting for-profit testing companies use their children by over-testing them to put more money into their pockets, parents representing an unprecedented 59 schools are finally fighting back.

They have decided to keep their children away from “stand-alone” field tests which have no benefit other than to provide revenue and information to the testing company.

In support of the parents the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) passed a resolution on May 31st which urges parents to choose not to allow their children to be tested. Community Education Councils (CECs) of Manhattan’s District 3 on the Upper West Side, and Brooklyn’s District 20 which includes Kensington, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Borough Park, also passed resolutions favoring the boycott.

“All this testing is out of control,” says Dani Gonzalez, a Bronx parent who is protesting the excessive testing. “Real learning happens when children can explore and experiment and do projects, when they can read books and discuss them. All this testing is crowding real learning out of the classroom. My children can’t learn when all they do is prepare for tests and take tests.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vandalizing of Painted American Flag Called Hate Crime by Artist

Scott LoBaido, the patriotic artist who paints American flags all over the country, called the vandalizing of one of his flags in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn a “hate crime” when he was told of the incident which took place yesterday.

The flag is painted on the side of a linen warehouse owned by John Gentile, resident of Tottenville in Staten Island. The flag covers a 35-foot by 20-foot wall and was painted two years ago at the request of the owner after he admired another one of LoBaida’s flags near his home.
Vandalized LoBaido Flag in Kensington

Security cameras caught video of the vandal in action. The tape shows a van pulling up to the building at about 1am on Sunday night. Gentile said, “a kid who intentionally came to do this” turned off the van’s headlights, wrote the words “Patriotism Makes Me Sick” in black paint on the flag, and then drove away. The camera was able to record the license plate number of the van.

"It's a hate message and a hate crime," LoBaido said. "Once in a while you get a punk who tags a flag. But this is more than that. This was a deliberate act. It is eating me alive."

LoBaido is presently in North Carolina painting a flag on a NASCAR vehicle, plus another flag which will be auctioned off for charity. Recently two of his flags were auctioned for $10,000 and $8,900, with the money going towards building homes for disabled veterans.

"You bet I'm going to fix it when I get back," said LoBaido.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watch Out Hollywood, Brooklyn is Coming!

Commissioner Katherine Oliver with Mayor Michael Bloomberg
It is getting more and more desirable to shoot movies in the Big Apple, while filmmaking in Hollywood is on the wane. For example, Steiner Studios, New York’s largest sound-stage venue, just added an additional 45,000 square feet to its space.

Now the home of such favorite shows as HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has a total of 355,000 square feet of filming space.

According to Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, there are now a total of 13 TV pilots filming there.

Los Angeles says there is stiff competition between filming in the Golden State and in the Empire State, blaming the struggle on about $420 million in tax breaks offered by New York. The incentive, says Hollywood, has caused an 11.5 percent drop in the number of TV dramas being filmed there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio Creates Fan Club to Save Kensington G-Train Service

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
Mayoral hopeful and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joined the grass-roots call to maintain the service of the G-train to the Kensington neighborhood in Brooklyn.

De Blasio announced the creation of a new organization to fight for the subway service, called “5 Stop Fan Club,” referring to the five train stops which the MTA is threatening to shut down. This new group joins an on-line petition submitted by the Working Families Party demanding that the present G-train service be maintained.

“These extra five stops are a lifeline that Brooklyn residents and small businesses have come to depend on,” said de Blasio. “Ending this service will have a profound effect on the community and the mom and pop stores along these five stops. I encourage every New Yorker who wants to see the G train service preserved to join the 5 Stop Fan Club and let your voices be heard.”

The five train stops in question were only added to the G-train’s route by the MTZ in 2009 to help deal with the disruptions caused by the repair of the Culver Aqueduct, a bridge over the Gowanus Canal.

Since the work on the aqueduct is almost finished, the MTA is planning on closing down the extension, which was only put in place to allow commuters from Greenpoint to travel all the way to Kensington without being forced to change trains.

Last Friday the Working Families Party inaugurated their petition on the internet, which will eventually be submitted to the MTA, hopefully dissuaded them from cancelling the train service. De Blasio is affiliated closely with the Working Families Party, which helped get him elected to his present office of public advocate.

De Blasio’s “Fan Club” has a website with several elected officials joining the movement, including Representative Nydia Velazquez, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senators Eric Adams and Dan Squadron, Assemblymen James Brennan and Hakeem Jeffries, and City Councilmembers Brad Lander, Sara Gonzalez, Stephen Levin and Letitia James.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Councilman Greenfield and Residents Demand Investigation Into Outlandish Water Bills

Councilman David Greenfield

Ever since the installation of automated meter readers (AMRs) the water bills of residents and businesses have been unexplainably high. After receiving complaints about the problem from many residents, New York City Councilman David G. Greenfield, along with six of his fellow council members took to the steps of City Hall to demand an investigation into why water bills are so high.

AMRs Causing the Trouble?

Beginning in 2009 AMRs began to be installed into homes and businesses throughout the city as part of a $250 million project whose goal was to make it easier to measure water usage and bill residents for that usage. Instead it appears the AMRs are causing havoc; not only in New York, but in other cities there have been complaints of major problems with the technology as well, in some cases leading to huge audits and customer refunds.

New York customers have complained about getting bills many times greater than their bills immediately prior to the AMRs installation.

“These meters are unquestionably producing suspect readings that need to be investigated immediately. Like many of my neighbors, the new bills show my family using water in amounts far in excess of what is actually taking place in our home, and the city urgently needs to get to the bottom of this situation. In addition, the process to determine if we had a leak was frustrating and onerous. I am relieved that Councilman Greenfield is fighting on our behalf, and I am hopeful that he can help get some answers on this issue,” said Kensington resident Mordechai Lev, who was overbilled by approximately 400% after his new meter was installed.
 Fix the Problem Before it Gets Worse
“After I received a bill that was much higher than ever before, I was told only that all charges were valid after I requested the city review my case. We need real answers concerning this problem before more residents receive incorrect bills, especially since we don’t know how many other people are impacted by this. My thanks to Councilman Greenfield for demanding that the city address this problem instead of simply insisting that its meters are functioning correctly,” said Borough Park resident Toby Schwartz, whose bills tripled as a result of her new water meter.

“This issue has caused me and my family much frustration as we tried to get answers from the city. I am pleased that this ongoing problem is getting the attention it needs, and I am hopeful that as a result of Councilman Greenfield’s efforts, we will finally get to the bottom of this. The city needs to take these concerns and complaints regarding water bills seriously so that the public is assured the meters are functioning correctly,” said Borough Park resident Joseph Reichberg, whose bill spiked to $2,800 according to the new meter.

Demanding Investigation

Councilman Greenberg and his colleagues went to City Hall to request from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) an immediate investigation into the issue with a thorough examination of the meters and the overpriced bills, including a complete explanation of what is causing the spikes in the bills and other inconsistencies and irregularities.

“The complaints I have been hearing from residents and business owners regarding their water bills are shocking and need to be investigated immediately. We need to be sure that this technology is reliable and that customers are not being overcharged. I urge the DEP to take these complaints seriously and look into this matter so that the public can be confident that the bills they receive are accurate. I thank my colleagues and constituents for joining me today, and look forward to resolving these issues with the DEP,” said Greenfield.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kensington Residents Helping Workers Get the Wages They Deserve

A wage battle is gaining momentum in Kensington as ten workers enlist support of neighborhood residents to fight for the wages they say are owed to them by the Golden Farm Grocery.

The ten men claim that they did not receive minimum wage from their boss, store-owner Sonny Kim, until last year when the workers began organizing with New York Communities for Change and filed a law suit. They say that until that time they were only paid $4.86 per hour for 72 hours of work per week, with no increased pay for overtime. Kim has refused to pay the back wages the workers say he owes to them.

“We are looking to get back all the years he stole from us,” said Nicandro Martinez-Rodriguez, 48. He worked in the produce department of Golden Farm of 12 years, earning only $350 per week for working 12 hour days 6 days per week.

Kensington residents have been supporting the men’s efforts to recoup their money by protesting in the store, signing petitions, going door to door to get support, and informing more people on-line.

There are even some people who are boycotting the grocery store, including sending notes to Kim explaining that they will not come back to shop there until he pays the workers what he owes them.

“I just don’t feel comfortable continuing to shop there knowing that the workers weren’t being respected,” said Brian Pickett, 33, an adjunct professor who has also handed out info sheets to customers leaving the store.

“I’d like to resume shopping there once the owner accepts his responsibility.”
 But store manager Steve Kim disagrees with the accusations. “We keep American rules and regulations 100%” he said. “The Spanish guys don’t know English writing and reading. How would they know American labor law?”

 Roberto Ramirez, 40 has been employed at the Golden Farm Grocery for six years. He says the encouragement that he received from the store’s customers gave him the courage to take a stand.

“They treated us like slaves,” Ramirez said. “I am seeing that the community is supporting us...They are the ones who had actually been motivating us to do this.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kensington Animal Shelter's Sean Casey Ready for Just About Anything

Last week Sean Casey and his volunteers from his Animal Rescue Shelter in Kensington went looking for a group of vicious pit bull dogs who have been terrorizing dog owners in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Casey says he has already searched for the wandering dogs, which have already killed one small dog and mutilated another, over thirty times, but he promises, however, not to rest until he has the evil dogs in his custody.

  “The difficulty is that these dogs are potentially roaming,” noted Casey, who says he and his staff have been setting traps and checking the Long Island Rail Road tracks around Brooklyn College two to three times a day. “But we’re pretty confident we’ll have them soon.”

 There is no question that Casey knows his pit bulls. There are dozens of them holed up now in his shelter on East Third Street Shelter near Caton Avenue. Casey says it’s a problem that people just don’t understand these animals.

 “Pit bulls can be the greatest dog in the world or they can be monsters — they can be whatever their owner wants them to be,” said Casey, who owns a pit bull himself. “But in this case, some idiot probably didn’t take his responsibility seriously and this is what we end up with.”

 Don’t think that Casey’s shelter is just for wayward dogs. The chances of finding 20 cats, 40-50 dogs, (the vast majority pit bulls), 10 snakes, 10 turtles, and 20-30 hamsters and guinea pigs at any time in his small animal shelter are high. Once Casey even handled the rescue of an alligator who was abandoned by his owner.

 “A lot of people buy these creatures when they’re young without realizing its going to grow up,” said Casey, who was able to find a safe home for the alligator in Pennsylvania, since it was against the law for the animal to remain in New York.

 Due to New York law Casey must turn down requests to save monkeys, boa constrictors, iguanas, ocelots, sharks and other exotic animals because according to the city’s laws New Yorkers are not allowed to own wild animals, including alligators.

 “He’s like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with volunteers,” said Kensington resident Allen Kirson. Casey helped Kirson look for Captain, his beloved parrot, when it flew away. Casey was even willing to climb a ladder standing between two vans to try and reach the bird, which turned out in the end to not be Captain after all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Have a Shvitz Like in the Old Country

Brooklyn is not so far from Russia and Turkey after all, especially if you are hankering for a good old fashioned shvitz, and happen to be in Kensington. Mosey on over to Brooklyn Banya, the “Best Russian-Turkish Bathhouse” in all of Brooklyn.

At 602 Coney Island Avenue, between Beverly Road and Avenue C, you will find over 10,000 square feet of “pure luxury sweat.” There are three saunas, a steam room, a bath, an ice cold pool and a therapeutic Jacuzzi for whatever and wherever it aches. You can have a birch leaves treatment, guaranteed to ease all that worries you; or try one of Banya’s specialties, a salt body scrub, and a stress-relieving massage.

When the sweating and soaking are all over you will leave Banya feeling at least ten years younger, with the softest, smoothest skin- just like when you were a baby. No doubt you will come back.

The hours of operation are: Monday through Friday 9am to Midnight; and Saturday through Sunday 8 am to Midnight. For more information call: 718-853-1300.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Police Looking For “KISS” Fan After Williamsburg Church Vandalism

After an act of vandalism that Assemblyman Joe Lentol labeled as “malicious mischief,” the police in Brooklyn are searching for a KISS fan, because of the nature of the defacing.

Two religious statues were defaced outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Williamsburg, while a third statue was overturned last Tuesday evening. The defacement consisted of drawing the famed facial masks worn by the 1970s rock group KISS onto the faces of the Madonna and child in an effort to make them look like rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, the names behind KISSes’ extravagant make-up.

The nature of the vandalism is so far the only lead the police have.
“We are looking for a KISS fan,” said Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson, the commanding officer of the 94th Precinct. 
In an outpouring of support, many people have offered to pay for repairs, said Pastor Joseph Calis. The Pastor is referring all inquiries to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

 Democratic Councilman Steve Levin, who also plays bass guitar and described his religious affiliation as “praying at the temple of rock and roll,” also condemned the defilement of the church.
“I have no kind words for whoever did this — they are in very serious trouble if they get caught,” said Levin. “They do a real disservice to rock and roll.”
 Representatives for the KISS bassist Gene Simmons did not comment on the event, but it is interesting to note that Gene Simmons attended the Williamsburg religious school Yeshiva Torah Vodaas which subsequently moved to Kensington.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Founder of Brooklyn Bike Patrol Jay “Rocket” Ruiz Protects Brooklyn’s Women

Brooklyn Bike Patrol
Jay Ruiz was watching the news with his wife on September 13th, 2011 when suddenly video footage of a woman being attacked in Park Slope came on the air. Ruiz was shocked by the violent assault, her terrifying screams, and most disturbingly, the lack of anyone coming to her aid.

Not the type to take such an event in stride, Ruiz was inspired to do something about it.

“What if every woman was safely escorted home?” he said to his wife in their Prospect Heights home.

The next night that is exactly what Ruiz did: he jumped on his bike and pedaled over to the subway station at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street with a friend and held up a sign saying: Brooklyn Bike Patrol, including his name, phone number and e-mail address.

“At first people thought we were crazy and didn’t know if we were good guys or bad guys up to no good,” said Ruiz a ten year veteran of the bike messenger business.

As luck would have it, a News 12 van drove up and interviewed Ruiz about the Brooklyn Bike Patrol. Then only a few minutes later a reporter for the New York Daily News exited the train. She took a picture of Ruiz and wrote and accompanying story.

Since then the BBP has become a reliable service, helping women to be and feel safe as they walk in their neighborhoods at night. The service began with 11 volunteers at 11 subway stations, but now they have enough bikers to cover 35 locations is many Brooklyn neighborhoods, including:  Bed-Stuy, Carroll Gardens, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, Kensington, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Sunset Park, and Windsor Terrace. As of January 30th BBP added Borough Park to their area of coverage, including five of the stations along the D train line.

If you or someone you know would like to coordinate a safe and secure walk home at night you can call: Tel: 718-744-7592; e-mail:; go to Facebook:; Twitter: @BKbikepatrol
Volunteers to ride with the BBP can also get in touch. The hours of service are: Sunday through Thursday, 8 p.m. to midnight. Friday through Saturday, 8 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Search of Captain: Lost Parrot Inspires Play in Brooklyn

Allen Kirson with Captain
Since last Thanksgiving Allen Kirson, resident of Kensington has been desperately searching for his pet parrot, Captain. His beloved pet for six years, Captain was no ordinary parrot. Known far and wide for her ability to sing arias as well as folk songs, Captain’s lose has inspired Kirson on a true mission of love.

Kirson has searched all over South Brooklyn, plastering neighborhoods with fliers offering a $1,000 reward for Captain’s return. (Non-musical Amazonian parrots are valued at between $500 and $1200.) Last weekend Kirson followed a lead from an animal rescuer that a green-and-yellow parrot matching Captain’s description was spotted high up in a tree in Owls Head Park in Bay Ridge. Unfortunately as soon as Kirson placed a ladder against the tree to get the bird, it flew off. Kirson says that the bird in the tree was not Captain anyway.

His search has led Kirson to consult with Rabbis and even animal astrologers, but so far nothing has helped.

“I’m still shocked she left me,” Kirson said, recalling his green-and-yellow comrade. “We had real conversations. Most pet owners have psychic connections with their pets [and] she was my companion for six years.”

“I feel in my gut that [Captain] is in somebody’s house in the area,” added Kirson.

In an added effort to find his long lost bird Kirson has written a play about his search, called “The Moveable Feast:Searching for Yehuda Bird.”

The play is “60 percent scripted and 40 percent improvised,” says Kirson, who will stage previews of the play on Thursdays at 8 and 10pm at Congregation Sheves Achim on Avenue H in Midwood beginning now until the end of February.

“You lose a pet, you suffer for at least a year,” Kirson said. “I’m going to keep looking for a year. If by next Thanksgiving I haven’t found the parrot, then I’m going to give up.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Antique Row Pride of Kensington

Picture Credit 
If you live in Kensington then you know how proud the residents are of Antique Row, a stretch of shops along Howard Avenue which specialize in antique furniture, rugs, vintage toys, used books and other nostalgic objects from days gone by.

In one of those shops, The Antique Market, at 3776 Howard Avenue you can find a really fun collectible from baseball history. Wouldn’t you love to have a cover from the magazine ‘Our World’ featuring a photograph of the first African-American major league baseball player in American history, Jackie Robinson. In 1947 Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, and one year later Roy Campenella became the second black man to play for the Dodgers. The magazine cover was shot in 1948 with Robinson, Campenella, and Dodger’s manager Leo Durocher standing between them.

The cover is for sale for $185. If you would like to make inquiries about the cover, or anything else having to do with The Antique Market, call Judy Sanders at 301-942-4440.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Facebook Styled Website Matches Sabbath Guests with Hosts

Looking for a nice place to have a meal on the Jewish Sabbath? Try, which has a user base of about 25,000 members, 6,000 of whom are ready to play the host to strangers whose acquaintance they have only just met on the internet.

Benzion Klatzko is the founder of

“Why not show the world that we are a welcoming people? “I want to highlight the openness that we have,” he states.

Although the guests can range in religious observance from completely non-observent to “very orthodox,” there is a careful screening process which takes place before anyone is allowed to join the website.

Klatzko and a group of volunteers searches the for the prospective member on Facebook and Google before allowing anyone to join, and if everything checks out, that person can become a member, either as a host or as a guest, or even as both.

The majority of members come from Brooklyn, a city with a large concentration of Jews among its residents. Flatbush, Midwood, Kensington and other Brooklyn neighborhoods are the most popular destinations for sharing Sabbath meals.

“It’s made life a lot more interesting,” said Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein, who, with his wife Feige, have served dozens of strangers during the past year in his home in Kensington.

 “Our kids started moving out; the house was getting emptier and emptier. Shabbos is supposed to be fun. We started looking around for people,” said Goldstein, who has shared his Sabbath table with visitors from as far away as France.

Some hosts prefer to only have fellow Jews for guests, but there are people from other religions also on the site.
Klatzko said that there are even Catholic priests and other non-Jews who are religion-friendly on the site.

“Our site is open to every denomination: religious, not religious, single, not single,” Klatzko said.

Recently married Mordy and Zina Genut owe their marriage to Both were recently divorced, and each one had two small children. One Sabbath they were both just looking for a meal and not necessarily a new spouse. But they met at the Sabbath meal that they both found through, and were engaged two months later. They now live in Marine Park.

This is a great social scene,” said Mordy Genut, 28. “People give you food. A complete stranger. You don’t see that in the world. Most people say, ‘Get out of my house. Or I will shoot you.’ ”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Disguised Thieves Rob Elderly Women in their Homes in Brooklyn

Pretending to be utility workers, two thieves were able to gain entrance into an elderly woman’s Borough Park home, stealing jewelry and cash.

Joe Rushford is the son of 90 year-old Gloria, who was at work on Tuesday while he mother was at home by herself.

“I’d like to wring their neck. I’d like to invite them out in the street here, me and them. Have some fun. You know you pick on a 90-year-old lady,” he told CBS 2′s Kristin Thorne.

“They watch the house and they prey on elderly people and it’s not going to happen again,” he added.
Robbery Suspect /Photo Credit NYPD

The police said that surveillance cameras captured a video of a man in uniform coming up to the Rushford home, with a woman joining him several minutes later. They were able to enter her house by claiming that they were there to carry out some work, but once inside they robbed her of cash, jewelry and some sensitive documents.

The pair of thieves then went to another home of 89-year-old Rose in Kensington.

Rose says that she was sitting on her front porch when what she thought was a worker for Con Edison came up to her. The man told Gloria that he was there to do some work in her house. Soon after a woman joined them; and while the woman distracted Rose, the man entered her house and robbed her.

“Oh God, I can’t take this. I didn’t sleep all night. I’m afraid,” she said. “They took all my money, took all my jewelry. Everything.”

The police have reason to believe that the suspects escaped in a four-door sedan, color green. The female suspect is about five-foot-five and weighs about 140 pounds and she has dark brown hair. The man is estimated to be about six-feet tall and has blue eyes and light brown hair.

Anyone with information should call police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or visit

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kensington Recording Studio Systems Two

Surprisingly, Systems Two does not have a web site, but apparently there seems to be no need. This Kensington, Brooklyn based recording studio has been doing just fine without the luxury of a presence on the internet. Founder and engineer Joe Marciano puts it this way: “We’ve been blessed, literally from the first day that we opened. We just haven’t had a second to even think about putting a website together.”
Systems Two Live Room

Systems Two began 37 years ago as small room in Sheepshead Bay. From those humble beginnings as an 8-track studio the operation expanded through two recessions until it reached its present state: a giant, three-room space in the heart of Kensington, and as many argue, one of the best places for jazz recording in all of the US.

“Maybe half the people who call us want to see a website,” says Joe Marciano. System Two’s studio manager is Joe’s wife, Nancy, and according to Joe, she is “very old school.”

“She wants to get people down here: To smell this place, to see it, and to get into the vibe of it. That’s the big attraction point. As soon as we get them in here, that’s it, they’ve found a home sold.”

“Then there’s the other half of people who say ‘Hey man, you don’t have a website? That’s so hip. I had to find you. I had to look at records and ask around’.”

Marciano laughs. “Well, I don’t know if it’s hip or not, but between repeat clients and our relationships with the labels, we’ve been so fortunate and so swamped that we just never needed to build one. I mean, I’m still working with people that I first worked with 35 years ago.”

For more information Contact: | (718) 851-1010

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Furry Fireman’s Friend Featured as February Pin-Up

Nikki Poses For The February Pin-Up
Not many in Park Slope can brag about being featured as the February pin-up in a calendar for the New Year, but Nikki sure can.

Park Slope firehouse mascot, Nikki, is a friendly, furry chow mix beauty, always ready to pose for a photo op, or just roll over and go to sleep. Nikki loves to impress the kids in the neighborhood with her specialty, stop-drop-and-roll; but her own personal favorite is riding in the fire truck, head out the window, wind blowing in her face, as she heads out to daytime calls.

“She doesn’t go when it’s late at night. She likes to sleep,” said retired Capt. Jim Wallace of the Engine Co. 220/Ladder Co. 122 house on 11th Street.

And now Nikki is going to be famous. She appears as Miss February for the 2012 Silver Shield Foundation charity calendar, which also includes three other darling doggies.

The firemen who adopted the pooch in 2006 are thrilled with Nikki’s sudden claim to fame.

“We all got a kick out of it,” Wallace said.

The calendars help to support the Silver Shield Foundation, an organization which provides for children of firefighters and police officers who are killed in the line of duty. Calendars can be purchased for $25 each from the foundation.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Its official; seventeen year veteran Yankee catcher Jorge Posada is to retire from baseball this year. Although the 40 year old Posada will be sorely missed, many believe it is the right decision for him:

“It’s upsetting but he’s a lifetime Yankee,” said Boris Fridkin, 29, an accountant from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

“It’s the best decision he could have made.”
Jorge Posada

Another fan, Humberto Perea, said that Posada was probably “One of the top catchers of all time.”

“I’m going to miss him,” said Perea, a purchasing agent from Borough Park. “Now we have to worry about who’s next. We’ve never had to worry about who’s playing catcher.”

Posada was never anything but a Yankee, which also makes a lot of fans feel nostalgic for him already.

“I’m so happy he retired as a Yankee. I couldn’t picture him playing for another team,” said Lorraine Orlando, a 43-year-old administrative assistant from Kensington, Brooklyn.

“He’s such a part of the Yankees, not seeing him in the lineup or hearing his name announced in the starting lineup is going to be weird.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kensington Composting and Native Plants Garden Transforms Vacant Lot

When Louise Bruce moved into Kensington last spring, she saw an ugly vacant lot strewn with garbage at the corner of East 8th Street and Newkirk Avenue. Not one to let things lie, Bruce asked permission to develop the lot, which ultimately proved to be a wonderful way to help her neighbors and herself.

Today the lot has been transformed into an oasis of beauty and environmental awareness as a home to a garden of native plants and a compost center.
Brooklyn Native Plant Garden

Composting is a wonderful way to reduce trash output, but also to create a highly usable soil-like substance which is like a magic fertilizer for plants. People in the neighborhood bring their organic trash, like banana peels, coffee grounds and  potato skins, to a pile in the lot. There the trash is transformed through natural processes into "compost" to be used to grow plants.

"In essence, it becomes really rich plant food," said garden volunteer Kate Grace-Mitchell. "New York City pays something like one million dollars a day to truck out garbage, a large percentage of which can be composted right here in our backyards."

Grace-Mitchell explained the importance of having a garden with native plants.

"If we don't have native plant gardens providing habitats for native insects, which pollinate our plants, our food gardens are useless. We'd love to educate the community about the importance of these less obvious things," said Grace-Mitchell. "And of course, create a nice aesthetic too."

Compost can be brought to the garden on Sundays and Thrusdays from 3pm to 6pm, and the residents are thrilled to have it.

"I've been looking for a place to compost forever," said resident Laura Helton, beaming as she dumped three large freezer bags full of compost material into a large, not-too-smelly bin. "I've been dragging my frozen kitchen scraps to Union Square for three years now."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Visit the Living Torah Museum in Kensington

Terracotta Incense Burner
For those who are steeped in the study of the Bible (Torah) the Living Torah Museum brings to life objects which are mentioned but are often difficult to imagine due to the immense amount of time which has elapsed since the events described in the Bible took place.

On exhibit are many authentic ancient artifacts from the Biblical period; there are also items which are mentioned in later works from Jewish history, such as the Mishnah and the Talmud. There is also a display of the 39 special categories of activities which are prohibited on the Sabbath, illustrated in a way to make them easier to understand, with an explanation of how they were performed in ancient Israel at the time of the wandering in the desert of Sinai and the conquest of the land of Israel.

An additional exhibit depicts several of the leaders throughout Jewish history who have made an impact on the Jewish people felt even to the present day.

Located at 1601 41st street in the heart of Borough Park, Brooklyn.
For more information call (718) 851-3215 ‎