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Lou Powsner (Courtesy of Community Newspaper Group, Dan Bush)

I didn’t know Lou Powsner, but in the six years of reporting local news around Southern Brooklyn, his name has rolled off source’s tongues and echoed in public meetings more times than I can recall. As a longtime community activist, he made his mark, and it was hard to find a story that he didn’t have some degree of entanglement in over the years. It was always kind of strange that we never met, and always on my to-do list.

Unfortunately, I’ll never have the opportunity. Powsner, a Coney Island native who later moved to Avenue P, passed away on April 6 at the age of 93.

Carmine Santa Maria, head of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council and Courier Life columnist, penned a tribute to Powsner, with whom he worked with both on community issues and at the newspaper.

A haberdasher whose storefront on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island lived through the tumultuous decades of the ’60s through the ’80s, Powsner fought successfully for brighter street lights to help halt nighttime crime, and battled the city over parking meters he said gave suburban shopping malls an unfair advantage over his beloved mom-and-pop and all those that peppered what was then Brooklyn’s dying commercial streets.

His fights for the working man led him to become a member of Community Board 13 in Coney Island, a president of the Coney Island Board of Trade, a member of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council, and a president of the Joint Council of Kings Board of Trade.

… Louis W. Powsner was born on June 14, 1920 in Crandon, South Dakota. He was brought to Coney Island as a toddler, and grew up above his father’s storefront on Mermaid Avenue, his bedroom facing Our Lady of Solace’s — then a large wooden church at the corner of West 17th Street.

He attended Lincoln High School, and was a staff sergeant and member of “Kelly’s Kobras,” the 64th Bomb Squad Army Air Force during World War II from June 1942 to 1945.

He married the former Irene Hallote in April of 1946, and the two stayed together until her death in 2008.

He attended reunions with his Army pals yearly until two years ago, when the gatherings were canceled because, as Lou said, “there was no one else left.”

And while I never got to know Powsner, Sheepshead Bites’ transit columnist Allan Rosen did. He shared the following fond memories:

This is what I remember about Lou. When [I worked at the Department of City Planning] we had to make a visit to Community Board 13 in 1974, City Planning’s Brooklyn office liaison instructed me to show the Mermaid Avenue commercial district prominently on our wall map, although the entire street was pretty much burnt out at the time and Lou’s store was one of the few still remaining standing. If we didn’t show Mermaid Avenue we would hear it from Lou, because in his mind Mermaid Avenue was just as vibrant as ever. I complied and Lou was satisfied.

The next time I saw Lou was several years later when it was time to present our proposals. Again I was warned. “There is this man in Coney Island who hates every proposal we make. When he rips your proposals apart, I don’t want you to feel bad.” Well guess what happened? Not only did Lou not rip apart the proposals, he stood up to commend them. He said, “I’ve been hearing proposals from the City for twenty years now, and everything I have heard…has been ridiculous. This is the first proposal that makes perfect sense to me and I wholeheartedly endorse it.” I thought the gentleman who warned me would pass out. About 25 percent of those proposals became the Southwest Brooklyn bus route changes of 1978, but Lou liked them all.

This time I remembered the name Lou Powsner. Fast forward thirty years. I see Lou at one of the early Select Bus Service meetings for the B44 SBS, and make a mental note to reintroduce myself, although I doubted if he had any inclination we had met before. But Lou leaves early and I miss the opportunity. Wondering if our paths would ever cross again and not sure how to contact him, I feel sorry that I just didn’t stop what I was doing and go over to him when I had the opportunity.

But fate is a strange thing. I did not have to wait another thirty years. About three days later, I am near Sheepshead Bay Road and for some reason look to my left and notice a parked car and inside is Lou Powsner. I politely knock on his window calling out his first name, naturally being a little nervous. Would he even acknowledge me not having the slightest idea who I was? He immediately reaches over to open his door and invites me inside his car to join him.

We talk for a while and of course he does not remember me but is willing to listen to my stories. He tells me that he is driving everyday to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in upper Manhattan to visit his terminally ill wife. Realizing that he is now in his upper 80s, his story makes me realize how unfair tolling the East River bridges would be, which was all the rage in 2008. I ask myself why should someone like him who has paid his dues be forced to make that trip by subway each day or pay $13 a day extra to visit a sick wife?

Then last year while speaking to Todd Dobrin who unsuccessfully challenged Mark Treyger for City Council in Coney Island/Bensonhurst, Lou’s name came up in conversation. I ask Todd for Lou’s phone number. I was anxious to find out how he was doing. He answered the phone as he always did, “Lou Powsner here.” I told him who I was and asked him how he was doing. He responded by saying, “How would you like me to help you?” I told him that I was not calling for any advice or favors, but just wanted to know how he was. He said he was doing fine but repeated, “What do you want me to do for you?” That’s just the type of person Lou was. Someone who would welcome a stranger who knew his name into his car, and who was always willing to help others.

Rest in peace, Lou. I wish I had the chance to meet you.

A sincere “thank you” to Community Newspaper Group for granting permission to use the above photo.

Source:  Tamaki Sono / Flickr

Source: Tamaki Sono / Flickr

State Senator Martin J. Golden will host simultaneous free shredding events, this Saturday, April 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at both of his district offices: 7408 Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, and 3604 Quentin Road in Marine Park. Those attending should bring as many personal documents as they wish to shred.

A press release issued by Golden’s office states that, “Recent reports indicate that identity theft affects over 9 million Americans every year, is the fastest growing crime in America, and is the most reported consumer fraud complaint.” To that end, Golden is partnering with the community in protecting residents against identity theft.

“We all have a pile of papers in our house that we hope to one day get a chance to shred,” said Golden. “This is a great opportunity to stop by my office and get rid of those forms, bank statements, receipts and more in a safe way. Shred those papers so to make sure you have taken every precaution against the crime of identity theft.”

Golden introduced legislation (S. 6551-A) that would require credit card companies to issue New York State residents cards enabled with smart chip technology. Additionally, Golden has sponsored S.6826, which would increase the penalties for various levels of identity theft.

To learn more, contact Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044 or email

Chuck Schumer in the 1960s, competing for James Madison High School on the It’s Academic television quiz show.

In the wake of extraordinary rate hikes during the winter, Senator Charles Schumer has requested the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a government organization meant to protect consumers, investigate New York area power companies to make sure the increases were not a result of corruption or gouging.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which provides similar oversight of power and energy suppliers, has already launched an investigation into electric companies including Con Edison.

Schumer is pushing the FTC to coordinate with FERC, and provide them with resources for the investigation.

“I write to urge that the FTC directly support ongoing investigative efforts led by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),” Schumer writes, “to determine whether any wrongful conduct or uncompetitive practices took place this winter as record cold temperatures drove up natural gas and electric prices to record levels.”

In the same press release, his office explains that the rise in energy costs is suspicious.

“Utilities throughout the state have attributed the increase to record-low temperatures and high demand for natural gas, but Schumer said that the size of the rate increases were so high that he is concerned it outpaced the actual increase in wholesale energy costs for utilities.”

His office has requested that the “entire wholesale electric and natural gas markets” be investigated to make sure that customers were not being improperly overcharged. Schumer would also like to see electricity rates come back down.

To illustrate this rise, Schumer pointed to examples like a Brooklyn Con Ed customer who was charged 13.82 cents/kWh in February 2013 and 20.52 cents/kWh in February 2014. In New York, most electricity is generated with natural gas, so the price of natural gas has an outsized impact on electricity bills.

Earlier this year the New York Post reported on this rise and pointed out that the “supply charge” is the reason for an increase in price.

The supply charge, which covers the cost of actually generating electricity, is the source of this winter’s power-bill misery.

Con Edison’s electricity supply charges are adjusted daily, the company says. The number that shows up in bills is an average of the daily prices.

A Con Ed customer with a billing period from Dec. 30 to Jan. 30 paid an average supply charge for the month of 23.1 cents per kilowatt hour — a shocking 83 percent boost over the 12.6-cent charge during the same period last year.

Schumer has previously asked federal regulators to investigate the price increase. Syracuse news reported earlier this month that Schumer sought a federal probe into the matters.

They wrote:

Schumer said he has no evidence of wrongdoing but sees no good explanation for why consumer electric bills jumped 60 percent or more compared with last winter.

“Like you, I’m concerned that utilities are using the cold weather and the demand for natural gas to justify skyrocketing rates,” Schumer said today. “We can’t let those factors protect these multibillion-dollar dollar companies from scrutiny.”

Schumer also questioned whether wholesale energy companies manipulated electric or gas markets by withholding capacity to drive up prices.

Have you seen Truman? No, not the movie; the semi-famous parrot of Bensonhurst.

The cape parrot who served as the understudy for the star of The Late Show with David Letterman segment “Stupid Pet Tricks” is now missing. The Daily News reports:

Bensonhurst bird trainer Michael Sazhin said Truman, one of three parrots he has owned for years, flew the coop around 11 a.m. during a walk in a Bensonhurst park near 16th Ave.

Sazhin, 27, has been circling the neighborhood and calling out the name of his beloved parrot, but he made an urgent appeal to any fellow bird-lovers who might lend a wing.

As well as searching the neighborhood, Sazhin is also shown in a YouTube video, (above) where he seems distraught and his usual trim beard seems to have been neglected.

Sazhin has made a name for himself by producing many parrot training instructions. He has many training videos on YouTube and a site for those who share an interest in parrots. He also published a book called The Parrot Wizards’ Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots, which delves into the intricacies and subtleties of parrot keeping.

We can’t help but wonder if the parrot wizard has an entry on making your parrot disappear, ’cause he appears to have nailed that trick.

Sazhin is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone who finds and returns Truman. You can reach Sazhin at (917) 318-6394.

Last year, three-year-old Andy Li mysteriously died after foaming at the mouth while under the supervision of a day care center in Bensonhurst. The boy’s parents are now suing the day care, claiming that the center was uninsured and that the workers are to blame for his death by taking him outside during a heat wave.

Maimonides Medical Center

Maimonides Medical Center

According to reports, the day care – which is on 65th Street near 21st Avenue – workers took the child outside because he was crying and disturbing the other children during nap time on July 6.

While outside, the boy was exposed to what the lawsuit called “dangerous heat wave conditions,” and he began to foam at the mouth and was taken to Maimonides Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, the New York Post reports.

They continue:

Andy Li’s parents – both Chinese restaurant workers who spoke to The Post through a translator – have also filed a $10 million notice of claim against the city for allowing the center to remain open despite numerous violations.

“All of Andy’s stuff is still in our house. Every time we look at his belongings, we think of him. Every time we see a child his age, we think of him. Every time we visit a park and see children play, we think of him,” said father Wen Hai Li, 39.

“I just hope that no one else has to go through what we did,” mom Jin Hua said tearfully.

The suit names day care operators Li Chan Wu, Wen Xian Lin, and Kevin Lin as defendants.

Photo: GREAT NEWS!! PO Rosa Rodriguez who was critically injured in the arson on April 6th opened her eyes yesterday for the first time and saw her children and gave them a thumbs up as they were talking to her. Please continue to keep Rosa and her family in your prayers as she continues to fight!!

Source: Courtesy of the New York Police Department Hispanic Society

Rosa Rodriguez, one of two police officers who responded to a Coney Island fire on April 6, is showing signs of improvement, according to the New York Police Department Hispanic Society.

The group posted on Facebook that Rodriguez “opened her eyes [Friday] for the first time and saw her children and gave them a thumbs up as they were talking to her.”

Her partner Dennis Guerra fared worse, making citywide headlines when he succumbed to his injuries three days after the fire. Sixteen-year-old Marcell Dockery is accused of starting the fire in 2007 Surf Avenue’s high-rise building because he was bored, and he has been indicted.

According to Brooklyn News 12, Dockery is the sole suspect in the case and faces charges of second-degree murder, assault in the first degree, arson in the fourth degree and reckless endangerment charges. If convicted, Dockery faces a maximum sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison.

Rodriguez is not expected to leave the hospital any time soon since “she continues to fight” her injuries, according to the Hispanic Society.

Source: Patricia Basile Realty via Zillow

Source: Patricia Basile Realty via Zillow

Looking for a new place to call home? Bensonhurst Bean has got you covered. Our rental roundup is a new feature showcasing some of the deals on the market now. If you know of a great place available for rent or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact nberke [at] bensonhurstbean [dot] com. And if you live in or near one the places below, let neighbors know what you think in the comments.

One Bedroom in Bath Beach
Price: $1,150
Location: Bay 31st Street
Description: Looking to move into the world-renowned Bath, with its restorative powers on your constitution? Well then you’re on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean. This apartment is on the second floor of a three-family building and it has all the comforts of home – minus a good-sized bathroom and kitchen.
Contact: Daniel Gallogly, Patricia Basile Realty, (718) 449-0505

Three Bedrooms and a Shadow Box Window in Dyker Heights
: $1,900
Location: 1051 78th Street
Description: Located on the first floor, this apartment has five rooms in total and something called a shadow box window. Utilities are not (completely) included but the whole apartment has been renovated, and it’s pet friendly.
Contact: Barbara Pulice, Excelle Realty Group, (718) 680-3900

Three Bedrooms With “Floating” Floors in Bensonhurst
Price: $2,200
Location: 81st Street and 21st Avenue
Description: What can be said about this apartment except that it has floating wood floors, a fad that is all the rave these days. Now for the reality check: there’s a heap of bills you have to pay up front – one month security deposit, first month rent and one month broker’s fee. Floating wood. Keep saying it to yourself.
Contact: Andy Fung, New Century Realty Group, (646) 637-1836

If you know of a great place available for rent or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact nberke [at] bensonhurstbean [dot] com.

Francesca Leobowitz, Middle School English teacher at Poly Prep. (Source: Courtesy of Aliza Eliazarov)

Brooklyn-based photographer Aliza Eliazarov has put together a series on the lives of teachers in New York City, which features many teachers from schools in Borough Park and Dyker Heights.

While there are many aspects to focus on in a teacher’s life, Eliazarov looked at the moment she calls “the calm after the storm,” when students have left school for the day and the teacher is given a minute of reprieve. It’s a rare glimpse into that moment few other professions may experience, the moment when a person goes from stewards of youth and molders of the future to being… regular people again.

Eliazarov was inspired by her own experience as an elementary school teacher, a job she left to pursue photography full time. She writes of the series:

After school is a poignant time in a teacher’s day. It’s one of both reflection and preparation – exhaustion and relief, concern and contentment. This portrait series is a glimpse in to the world of the challenging life of today’s educator.

Among the teachers Eliazarov finds for the set, titled “NYC Teachers After School,” are three Poly Prep Country Day School (9216 7th Avenue) teachers. 

Francesca Leobowitz, featured above, left a career in advertising for a profession where she says she’s inspired by the students. ” I have to say I have the best job. I love, love, love what I do,” she told Eliazarov.


Josina Reaves, a high school level teacher at Poly Prep, is the subject of one of the most compelling photos in the series. She sits at a student’s desk, “exhausted,” while pens and other detritus on the floor tell the story of the just-left students. The teacher was asked about the highlight of her day and she responded, “I read some fantastic student poems – some were really thoughtful, well done and revealing.”

Another cool-yet-totally-unrelated thing about Reaves? She made an appearance on the show “Who Wants To Be A Millionare?” last year. Reaves may know all about writing compare-and-contrast essays, but when it comes to Nostradamus’ predictions she fell short and lost her chance to win a million dollars. (Then again, her answer was totally sensible. But few should expect sense from Nostradamus).

There was also an elementary school teacher from P.S. 164 in Borough Park named Peter Mancini who talked about conducting his student band to play a Star Wars song. Sure beats the Titanic theme I suffered through in school band.


Check out all 12 awesome photos from Eliazarov’s “NYC Teachers After School” series.

Source: Riverhead Foundation

Source: Riverhead Foundation

It was not too long ago that a baby harp seal was spotted on the sands of Coney Island last month. The seal had parasites and was underweight, but last Saturday it was released back into the Atlantic Ocean after receiving treatment from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

The foundation, a non-profit, was called in soon after the seal was discovered, and since then the organization has been working to restore the baby’s constitution after it was found to be dehydrated due to parasites. And, finally, this Saturday it was healthy enough to be released into the Shinnecock Bay off Long Island.

On top of receiving antibiotics and fluids through a tube to restore her weight, the seal also received the name Nellie. #FreeNellie.

Newsday reported,

Nearly 200 people watched as Nellie made her way 100 feet across sand and seaweed before splashing into the bay.

“She belongs back in the wild,” said Rob DiGiovanni, executive director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which nursed the seal back to health.

While Nellie is still a pup at only one year old, she will eventually grow to be 255 pounds and officials believe she originally came from Canada before gracing us with her cute presence.

The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating the following person who was reported missing on April 18, 2014 from within the confines of the 68 Precinct.  Details are as follows.

Soon after the boy went missing, this photo was released. (Courtesy of the NYPD via Daily News)

The nine-hour search for Daniel Ghabra that began Friday afternoon ended on Saturday when the autistic boy was found unharmed in Sheepshead Bay, four miles away from home.

Like Avonte Oquendo, Ghabra is 14 years old with autism and cannot speak properly. The boy went missing from The Good Day Laundromat on 6214 Eleventh Avenue in Dyker Heights, near where he lives with his mother. But unlike Oquendo, Ghabra was safely found on Saturday.

When the Dyker Heights resident first went missing, police quickly released a photo of the boy, according to CBS Local.

A New York Police Department van drove through the neighborhood the night he went missing, according to the Daily News, with a message from Ghabra’s mom.

On Friday night, his mother’s heartbroken voice called out to Daniel from an NYPD Crime Stoppers van touring the neighborhood.

“Daniel, we are looking for you,” she pleaded. “Please come to Mom.”

Grim-faced cops set up a command post near the laundry Friday night and were looking for surveillance video and checking the nearby Fort Hamilton Parkway/62nd St. subway station for any clues.

Details on what led to his safe recovery in Sheepshead Bay were not immediately available.