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Anthony Bianchi. (Source: homereporternews.com)

Anthony Bianchi. (Source: homereporternews.com)

It can be difficult to get elected to a political position in this country, sure. Well, if it seems a daunting task, you can always hop-skip-and-jump to the other side of the globe and get elected to the city council of a small Japanese municipality.

According to a story by the Home Reporter, this is the true tale of Bensonhurst native Anthony Bianchi, who is currently serving on the City Council of Inuyama, as the first elected American in Japan’s history.

The Home Reporter describes how Bianchi’s improbable story began in Bensonhurst and somehow ended up on the other side of the world:

His journey has been a long and successful one. After graduating from Xaverian in 1976, Bianchi attended New York University. Ever since he was young, his goals reached far beyond Brooklyn. “I was interested in Japanese culture a long time ago,” he said. “I had a chance to visit Japan in 1988 and I decided it would be interesting to live in a foreign country.”

Shortly after graduating from NYU, interest developed into reality. Once he moved to Japan, Bianchi joined The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, which aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations. He also became an English teacher in 1988.

Eventually, Bianchi wanted to get explore the political sector of Japan. “I decided that I needed to get things done and to do something from a different perspective,” said Bianchi. “So I decided to run for city council and left it up to the voters.” Bianchi won the election and became a councilmember in 2003, making history in the process.

Incredible. Right now, as Bianchi’s final term is coming to an end, he is working on a book about Japanese politics and the importance of being politically engaged in one’s community.

Source: SheepsheadBites.com

Source: SheepsheadBites.com

City Councilman-elect Mark Treyger expressed concern that muni-meters could be the target of identity thieves bent on stealing money from unsuspecting motorists. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that Treyger wants the Department of Transportation (DOT) to install additional security around muni-meters in light of an identity theft scam that targeted the meters on Long Island.

As the world gets increasingly more digitized, the risk of identity theft grows as credit cards are flashed for the most mundane tasks. The Daily Eagle relayed the details of a New York Times report that proves this point:

Earlier this month, police on Long Island arrested five suspects, including a husband and wife, who allegedly planted cameras in ticket vending machines at Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) stations hoping to record customers’ credit card numbers as they purchased tickets.

The New York Times reported that authorities discovered the hidden cameras hidden in several LIRR ticket vending machines. As soon as the attempted identity theft was discovered, authorities quickly warned LIRR customers to check their credit card and debit card accounts for signs of unauthorized activities…

The identity theft ring was busted when two of the suspects returned to an LIRR station in Sea Cliff to retrieve the hidden camera, authorities said.

The suspects who were allegedly behind the scheme, Valer Zaharia, 38, his wife Teodora Zaharia, 27, Niculae Petre, 45, and Dorin Husa, 37, have been charged with identity theft and could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The cameras were also found in Metro-North stations in Westchester.

The news of this particular identity theft scam has led Treyger to leap into action, demanding that the DOT increase security around the meters.

“When New Yorkers use their credit card on city muni-meters, they need to be confident that the city is doing everything possible to protect them,” Treyger told the Daily Eagle. “Identity theft is a serious crime, and it can happen to literally anyone. You can never be too careful. Criminals are getting smarter and smarter, and we must be using cutting edge technology to our advantage to protect New Yorkers.”

In the meantime, whenever using your credit card in public now, I recommend that you squish your body as close as possible to the machine to make sure that no camera or other tricky onlookers get a clear view of your digits.

While it is difficult to find those silver linings in events as destructive as Superstorm Sandy, stories of bravery and heroism have surfaced, centering on people saving lives in the face of horrendous circumstances. The New York Daily News is reporting that a group of MTA employees helped rescue a group of residents and themselves in the storm’s worst moments last year.

The amazing acts of heroism involved the rescue of four transit workers trapped in a Coney Island facility, a man and woman who had abandoned their car on Neptune Avenue, and an elderly lady gripping on to a fire-alarm box who was submerged up to her neck in water. The New York Daily News described the rescue effort undertaken by a determined group of MTA workers:

All would escape, thanks to a rescue operation that started with signals division maintenance supervisor Michael Watt and superintendent Eric Williams answering a radio call for help from their four trapped colleagues…

Watt and Williams had just evacuated the signals facility and arrived at another transit building on Bay 50th St. when the emergency call came in.

“We have to get out of here,” superintendent Steve Miller said from his office. “You have to come back and get us.”

Watt and Williams jumped into their MTA Suburban. By the time they reached Neptune and Stillwell Aves., the water was up to the SUV’s door handles. “It had to be moving 15 mph,” Watt said. “It was fast and dangerous.”

The MTA employees trapped inside the facility— Miller, superintendent Sal Ambrosino, and signal maintainers Colombo Solimo and Kevin Puma — couldn’t push open the doors. The water outside was too high, the pressure too great. The building’s windows were locked from the outside, one of the men said.

Members of the group headed to the garage and opened a roll-up door. Afraid the electronic controls would short out if they waited much longer, they opened the door. The ensuing torrent into the garage was so powerful it picked up 5-foot-tall “gang boxes” easily containing more than 100 pounds of tools.

“I was walking down a narrow hallway towards the garage when a 4-foot wave comes shooting throughout the building,” Miller said. “The water’s up to my chest.”

The four fought their way to the Suburban, which was idling on a bit of higher ground on Neptune Ave. Miller waded to the building and shut the roll-down gate to protect the facility from any looters.

“There’s millions of dollars worth of equipment in there,” Watt explained.

Miller, a certified rescue scuba diver, helped the young man and woman reach the Suburban. She was hysterical, screaming “my mother, my mother,” the transit workers recalled.

“I looked down the street and I see this older lady holding onto the fire box,” Miller said. “She’s about 100 to 150 feet away, and the water’s up to her neck.”

Miller and the young man waded to the woman and, taking one arm each, pulled her back to the Suburban.

Wow. The incredible actions of the team has put them in contention for a Hometown Heroes in Transit award, a special award put together by the MTA, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the New York Daily News that honors transit workers who give extra effort in helping their communities. Best of luck to all the nominees on their amazing work.

Honestly, in a culture that makes spectacles of rewarding the accomplishments of actors and athletes, the Hometown Heroes in Transit award is an honor that actually means something. It puts into perspective what really counts in our society.

84th Street and 12th Avenue (Photo by Frank P.)

84th Street and 12th Avenue (Photo by Frank P.)

In Dyker Heights, Christmas is a time of family gathering, gift giving, peace, love and besting your neighbor by trying to outshine their elaborate decorations with your own blinding display. This year, Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura is hoping the competition will be as fierce as ever as he is personally leading a tour of eager tourists to gawk at the brilliant displays.

The holiday lights, which are a staple in Dyker Heights, bring out the creativity of homeowners across the neighborhood who are undeterred by the thought of massive electric bills. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that Scissura is leading a tour in hopes to help increase business in the area as part of the Chamber Visits series. Scissura hyped up the wonderment of the lights set to be on display this year.

“The lights of Dyker Heights are the reason why people from across New York City, and the world, come to southern Brooklyn every December. Nothing typifies Brooklyn’s holiday season more than the decorated homes of Dyker Heights,” Scissura said.

Wow, Dyker Heights residents, according to Scissura, not just Brooklyn, not just the city, but the whole world itself will be drawn like flies to the area – so you best not disappoint! This is actually not really an overstatement as in 2012, we reported that Dyker Heights was named the top place in America to see Christmas decorations.

If you are interested in joining the walking tour, the event will be held on Thursday, December 5. People are encouraged to meet at Boulevard Books & Café (7518 13th Avenue) at 6 p.m. for a cocktail party and a chance to network before the tour begins at 8 p.m.

Sounds like a merry time and as always, send us your pictures of the best houses and we’ll post them for everyone to see!

Source: jetheriot via Flickr

Source: jetheriot via Flickr

Community Boards that cover Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend want action on illegal curb cutting and are hoping that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio steps up enforcement on the issue. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that Community Board 11 Chairman Bill Guarinello is hopeful that de Blasio will provide leadership on the issue.

Curb cutting is an illegal practice where homeowners cut the curbs in front of their houses to create makeshift driveways. The problem with this practice is that it takes away parking options for the rest of the community desperate to find spaces.

In October, we reported that Guarinello was fed up with the practice and was asking the Department of Transportation (DOT) to enforce the issue more heavily. The DOT has noted that they do fine homeowners for illegal curb cuts, billing them for any repairs the city makes in correcting them. Guarinello has argued that the city rarely enforces this rule.

Guarinello is set to increase his crusade against curb cutting. The Daily Eagle is reporting that he has recently formed a task force and is hoping to recruit Brian Kieran, chairman of Community Board 10, to face the issue head on. While future action from de Blasio is not yet known, Guarinello indicated that newly reelected Councilman Vincent Gentile would be working on legislation to fight the practice.

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm is asking the federal government to earmark $600 million for the Build it Back program, the housing recovery project designed to help Superstorm Sandy victims, and take control over Sandy funds out of the hands of of local authorities, reports SILive.

While the money is already on its way as part of a larger package, Grimm wants the government to earmark that amount specifically for Build it Back and not permit New York City or state authorities any flexibility with the funds.

“The City of New York needs to take a better look at how they’re allocating their resources. It’s not their money to just allocate as they see fit. This is the people of Staten Island’s money — that was the intent of Congress. And they need to be stewards to that money,” Grimm said.

Thus far, the billions in federal aid money flowing into city coffers has come in the form of Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) and has allowed the city to be flexible in the way it spends it. In a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Grimm advocated that the city needs an additional $600 million just for housing alone, and that the city should have no say in how this cash is spent.

“I don’t have faith that the city will do the right thing for the people that I represent in Staten Island,” Grimm said.

Source: Barterink.com

Source: Barterink.com

Of all the objects we own in life, none are as permanent as our own behinds (although, I suppose, advances in cosmetic surgery are changing that). Using that logic, it makes perfect sense to trade an autographed Mickey Mantle baseball for a picture of Mickey Mantle’s face on your ass. News 12 is reporting that this is the guiding business philosophy of local Bensonhurst tattoo artist Shawn Ortolano, a.k.a. Shawn Ink, who barters quality tattoos for things he needs.

Ortolano’s business, Barter Ink, is located at 1767 Bath Avenue and provides alternate means of payment for ink if you are out of cash or simply want to get rid of some stuff clogging up your closet. Barter Ink has accepted guitars, watches, iPads and furniture for tattoo work, providing a novel service for both Ortolano and his clients.

“It benefits a lot of people,” customer Vinnie Sagistiano told News 12. “People that can’t afford things but have a lot of things to get rid of, they can do.”

According to News 12, Ortolano came up with the idea when he was looking to furnish his apartment. When he managed to do this, he was inspired to keep offering up special trades for his services. His ultimate goal is to trade a tattoo for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Now, according to this motorcycle website, Harley’s are pretty expensive, ranging anywhere from $8,000 to $32,000 for a 2014 model. Ortolano is either going to have to tattoo the Sistine Chapel on someone’s back or provide tattoos for a family the size of the Brady Bunch to get his hands on one. Bensonhurst Bean wishes him good luck in his quest!

Source: extrabox via Flickr

Source: extrabox via Flickr

Sadly, too often we write about the latest suicide or suicide attempt committed on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Earlier this week, we told you about the latest incident involving a 39-year-old man who was heroically rescued after attempting a leap from the iconic bridge.

Obviously, committing suicide by jumping off the Verrazano Bridge is nothing new, evidenced by this incredible photograph posted by Flickr user “extrabox.” Extrabox described where the dynamic and harrowing photograph originated from:

A scan from my magazine collection showing the dark side of my beloved Verrazano Bridge. It’s from the July-August 1965 issue of SPRING 3100 which was a magazine for NYC cops (named after the telephone exchange number for the old Police headquarters building on Centre Street). The caption for this image: “Ptl. Erik A. Olsen, ESS 5, finds himself on edge of iron girder high up on Verrazano-Narrows Bridge grappling with a would-be jumper before pulling the man to safety. Olsen’s partner, Ptl. George Sica, ESS 5, secured other end of safety rope.” This was less than a year after the bridge opened in November 1964.

Unbelievable. The only prevention measures available on the bridge at this time include general surveillance and patrols, and signs that read “Life is worth living” with phones that link directly to suicide hotlines. With the rash of suicides and attempts in the last few years, some have argued that more has to be done to keep people from jumping.

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

I’m convinced that everything great that ever happened in the universe happened somewhere in Coney Island. The proof is in the seemingly never ending supply of incredible photographs and movies taken at Coney Island over the decades that come across our desks.

The latest amazing photo collection comes courtesy of photographer Stephen Salmieri and his portfolio capturing the joyful, life affirming and bizarre in a series of remarkably beautiful shots. The photographs were taken between the years of 1965 to 1970. While we’ve presented a few of his photographs here, be sure to click on the link above and peruse the dozens of incredible images he captured through his gorgeous black and white photography.

Thanks to Stephen Salmieri for his wonderful work.

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Stephen Salmieri

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

The New York Football Giants were off to a historically lousy start this season, beginning their 2013-2014 campaign with six straight losses. Recently, things have looked up for the Eli Manning-led Giants as they have squeaked out three victories, stirring talk of an improbable run to the playoffs.

According to a report by News 12, the Giants’ recent run of success might be all thanks to the Bensonhurst-based preschoolers at Kind Start Preschool (7702 New Utrecht Avenue) and their adorable good luck dancing.

Every Friday, the children at Kind Start dress in their Giant blues and perform the infamous “Michael Strahan Stomp” a dance made popular by the Giants following their improbable Super Bowl victory in 2008. For all their hopping and stomping around, the Giants sent the children team photos and pencils, delighting the cute little tots to no end.

You can see the kids perform their hilarious little dance by clicking here.

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