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November’s Community Board 11 meeting focused on three main points: the gas crisis, the N train, and the continuing Hurricane relief effort.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate, Councilman David Greenfield and Councilman Vincent Gentile all attended Thursday’s meeting at the Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare to give their thoughts on these key issues.

The Gas Crisis

The odd/even rationing system went into effect on Friday. Abbate, Greenfield, and Gentile all said that they fought to get the rationing system in our community. Doing so, they said, would help to shorten the gas lines in Brooklyn.

Why did the lines get so bad in New York to begin with? It’s something Councilman Greenfield attributed to “panic buying.” He explained that residents would go out to gas stations and refuel when they still had more than half a tank of gas left. Many would fill multiple containers as a precaution. But Abbate stressed the hazard of keeping full gasoline containers in the garage or basement.

“It’s very dangerous,” Abbate said. He urged the public to hold off on usual gas purchases and to fill up limitedly, at least while the community gets back on track.

The N Train

At Thursday’s meeting, there was no straight-forward answer about when the train service would be fully restored. According to Abbate, “It was a serious blow we took in the neighborhood.”

But, as of this week, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the MTA restored service to the stretch of the N line service along the Sea Beach Line in Brooklyn.

And while Community Board 11 Chairperson, Bill Guarinello said that the MTA did a “Herculean job” with restoring service in the neighborhood, he also said that the community still needs answers.

“The general public has to get better information,” Guarinello said, regarding the time-frame with subway construction and tunnel repairs.

Councilman Gentile added, “All we’re asking for is honesty. We just need better info all around.”

The Hurricane-Relief Effort in Bensonhurst

Though Hurricane Sandy ripped through New York a little more than two weeks ago, many neighborhoods are still continuing to feel the aftershock today.

The general statement from the Board was that we, as a community, were “very, very lucky.” Comparing us to Staten Island, Gentile added, “We’ve been spared.”

Still, these leaders are unhappy with the lack of communication between the government and New York locals.

“There was a lack of planning in New York,” Greenfield said. “The pressure really needs to be put on the federal government. Obama needs to help New York State.”

What should we, as a community do, moving forward?

“I think we need to do two things now – demand action from our leaders and hold people accountable,” Greenfield said.

Gentile added that we should continue to give back to those who were struck hardest by the storm.

Anyone who still wants to donate is encouraged to contact Councilman Gentile’s office directly at (718) 748-5200. The most needed provisions are blankets, pajamas, winter coats, baby supplies, and new (still packaged) underwear.

Other Announcements

There have been a few cases of looting around the 86th Street and Caesar’s Bay area. Officers from the 62nd Precinct suggest steering clear of the area in the evenings, particularly for night jogging, for the time being.

On Thursday, there will be a Participatory Board Meeting at P.S. 205, 6701 20th Avenue, at 7 p.m. With one million dollars to split between Brooklyn communities, Councilman Greenfield, who is spearheading the effort, said, “Every neighborhood is guaranteed a project.” He invites Bensonhurst locals to get involved. “You’re making a difference,” he said.

The community Greenmarket ends November 18th. Councilman Gentile wanted to thank Bensonhurst for bringing one of his “biggest dreams to life.”

Anti-Semitic graffiti has been found on the fourth floor of a building on 85th Street.

Authorities state that the hallway and cieling were filled with scrawl such as “Forever Live Hitler” and a swastika. The criminals used a lighter to sear the hateful words.

An apartment resident reported the crime to authorities, according to Brooklyn News.

When investigators arrived, they found similar graffiti on the fifth and sixth floors of the building as well. Other messages found near the swastikas include the words “Young Crook” and “Lox A/275.”

Police have not yet released any information regarding the identities of the vandals.

Source: David Shankbone via Wikipedia Commons

To the dismay of nature lovers, many of our neighborhood’s oldest trees were uprooted and had to be cut down after Sandy. Residents who see these green giants as a major part of our neighborhood landscape wrote in asking what the city will do to replant the trees.

We spoke to Andrew Newman, the Program Manager for MillionTreesNYC to ask about the future of our trees.

According to Newman, his organization has received more than 20,000 notifications through the City’s 311 information and reporting system and the Parks website regarding uprooted trees. Staff members have been working 12 hour days to meet the needs of each affected area.

“We have actually completed the task for inspecting all uprooted trees throughout the city (including size, species, location, and condition) through our internal Forestry Management database via our official inspections. We do plan to replant these trees wherever possible using existing capital funds associated with MillionTreesNYC,” said Newman.

The group, working alongside Con Edison, the Parks’ Central Forestry division, Parks Borough Forestry divisions and other city and federal agencies to complete over 6,600 work orders to deal with the fallen trees.

Unfortunately, according to Newman, not all trees will be replanted as they were before.

“As you may know, the previous existence of a street tree does not necessarily guarantee that it can be replanted at the same location,” said Newman.

After the staff at MillionTreesNYC finish the task of removing all of the fallen trees, they will move to the next phase of their operations which will be to replace as many trees as possible.

Ms. Accardi’s classroom. Source: DonorsChoose.org

“Our local teachers face two kinds of challenges in the aftermath of Sandy: Dealing with classrooms that have been damaged beyond repair, and helping their vulnerable students make sense of this shocking disaster.

Luckily, teachers have been able post their needs on DonorsChoose, a website that helps educators ask for funding for projects that will eventually help them rebuild their classrooms and serve the students, according to Gotham Schools.

The website created a special page that allows teachers that were directly impacted by Sandy to post their needs. Thus far, teachers in need received over $50,000 from individual donors.

Local staff at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School at  8310 21st Avenue were the beneficiaries of the websites efficient setup. Ms. Accardi wrote an impassioned plea asking donors to help the teachers help their students. She said:

Hurricane Sandy destroyed the homes of many students at our school. As teachers, we’ve joined forces to help make things a little bit easier during this time of tragedy and loss. Won’t you please contribute to our efforts to provide our students with basic necessities as they begin to rebuild?

Our students are a diverse population, but they have one thing in common – many lived right on the beaches of NYC, where Hurricane Sandy did the most damage. They’ve been without power for a while and many are staying in temporary housing, as their buildings are unsafe and without heat and hot water. Our students need healthy, non-perishable food items like soups, cereal bars and trail mix to help get them through the next few weeks and months as their families begin to rebuild. Many we’re left with nothing and have no kitchen, so even a simple task, like cooking a meal is difficult and their families need foods that are quick and easy to prepare.

My Project: Your generous donation will make life a little bit easier for a teenager during the struggle to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Perhaps a hungry student will be able to focus in class and stay on target thanks to the breakfast bar provided through your donation. One less young person will have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Please- help us help them. Thank you.

Within days, her requests were fulfilled. She was able to collect the amoutn she had asked for from generous donors all over the country. Her thank you note read:

I can’t fully express my thanks in how generous your donations are. Thanks to your kindness, many of our students will have food to eat while they patiently wait for their heat and electricity to be restored, or for their homes to be rebuilt. You’ve given struggling kids one less thing to worry about during this stressful time. You’ve helped ensure that kids can concentrate on what matters – education, because their bellies will now be full. In reading your comments, I’m reminded that empathy for fellow man is alive and well. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

With gratitude,
Ms. Accardi

We are glad to report on this bit of good news and we thank our educators for going above and beyond their jobs in the classroom.

There are many other classrooms in Long Island and New Jersey affected, check out the DonorsChoose page to help a teacher in need.

Source: The U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons

Great Blue Heron. Source: Mike Baird from Morro Bay, USA via Wikimedia Commons

As far as birders are concerned, Sandy brought several rare species to the area around Caesar’s Bay. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not making any kind of silver lining statement; I’m just glad to share a less tragic storm story.

Apparently, for birders, seeing storm birds is a coveted thing. Birder and blogger at Citybirder.blogspot.com wrote:

Like a lot of birders around the tri-state area, I’d been watching the progress of Hurricane Sandy closely, trying to figure out a safe strategy for getting out to look for storm birds as soon as the worst passed. Emails went back and forth between a few of us, remembering the incredible diversity of seabirds that appeared locally after Hurricane Irene last year.

City birder received a text from a fellow birder stating that a Leach’s Storm-Petrels was spotted near Gravesend Bay. This is a bird that is normally only seen far off-shore.

As Shore Parkway was closed due to flooding immediately after the storm, the birders met at Bensonhurst Park:

Car access to Caesar’s Bay shopping center, which is on Gravesend Bay, was blocked off. Driving behind the park onto Shore Road we found that a small section of the road was flooded so ended up parking right there. The wind didn’t seem too bad until we walked across the parkway towards the water. Huge waves were crashing against the seawall and the bubble over the tennis courts had collapsed. With the wind blowing out of the East I suggested that we use the Toys R Us building as a windbreak and scan the bay from that location.

We had to pick our way through concrete, large boulders, bricks and other debris, much of which had been the storm protection at the very end of Bay Parkway. A chain-link fence, which would have normally prevented us from using the building as a windbreak, had been torn away by the powerful storm driven waves. Even large sections of concrete sidewalk had been lifted up and moved towards the shopping center’s main parking lot. As we set up scopes and began scanning the water I noticed curious people slowly starting to make there way down to the water’s edge.

Occasional wind driven cold rain and high waves crashing against the seawall chased some folks away, but as the morning progressed, more and more people came down to survey the results of the storm. I was amazed by the daring (or stupidity) of some people who would walk right up to sections seawall where there were waves crashing up onto the promenade. Folks don’t realize the force behind a wave of this size. Unfortunately, some people have probably lost their lives during this storm underestimating the power of water.

The trip was worth it for the birding crew, as many varieties of birds were flying around the area. They spotted Northern Gannets, Laughing Gulls, a Black-legged Kittiwake, a Royal Tern, Red-throated Loons, a Great Blue Heron, a tropicbird, a Red Phalarope and more. In total, they counted about 25 species of birds in the area.

Check out the full report, including some more information about the rare species that were seen in the area here.

While online and print publications kicked up their heels about the L train and G train being out of commission after Sandy, little was said of the N train. It’s not that we in Bensonhurst aren’t loud, it’s just that for whatever reason, there have few solid announcements from the MTA regarding the progress of the repair work.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s offices released a statement saying that the N line was back in commission as of Friday. Here’s the text:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has restored service to the stretch of N line service along the Sea Beach Line in Brooklyn. N trains are now running from Coney Island-Stillwell Ave. to 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, restoring full service on the N from Coney Island to Ditmars Blvd. in Queens.

N trains resumed service to and from Coney Island within the last hour. The entire corridor sustained serious damage to signals and other infrastructure. MTA crews worked around the clock to replace and inspect 10 train stop mechanisms, 20 relays and other vital train detection equipment.

“Our workers continue to work hard to restore service and provide our customers with additional travel options,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “However, much work remains to restore service in the Rockaways and other parts of the system which were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.”

However, we’ve been hearing rumors that the train did not run as planned over the weekend. The change in commute has been a massive pain in the neck for residents who rely on the N line and for their sake, we hope that the train is running as Cuomo’s offices state.

“I can’t take one more day of having a three hour commute each way,” wrote Jenn, a Bensonhurst local.

Folks out there, if you catch an N train, please let us know. Otherwise, we’ll have to keep pestering the MTA for information.

From Councilman David Greenfield’s office:

Councilman David G. Greenfield is thanking Mayor Michael Bloomberg for finally instituting a gas rationing plan to help alleviate the ongoing gas crisis, something he called for nearly a week ago. Yesterday, Greenfield publicly took the Mayor and Governor to task for not doing enough to solve the gas crisis. Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that gas rationing goes into effect at 6 am Friday, November 9, 2012.

“I am glad that the mayor has recognized the severity of this gas crisis, especially in areas like Brooklyn, where it has become the biggest issue for many residents. This situation has quickly gotten out of control over the past week, making it imperative that government take immediate action to reduce lines at local gas stations. While this decision to institute gas rationing in New York City should have come days ago, it is a relief that the mayor is finally taking much needed action on this issue,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield.

As of today, if you have a license plate with an odd number you can fill gas on an odd day and vice versa. So for example, today is November 9th. Nine is an odd number, so you can only fill up tomorrow if the last number on your plate is odd, Greenfield explained.

A Facebook invite appeared on the Worker’s Justice Project (Proyecto Justicia Laboral) page inviting laborers to meet and discuss the state of their industry and rebuilding the community.

According to their bio, “Worker’s Justice Project is a democratic, worker-led organization committed to empower low-wage workers to gain a voice at workplace and create sustainable economic opportunities through the power of organizing.”

Here is the text of the invite:

Atención: Esta reunión de emergencia hace un llamado a todos los miembros del centro de Bay Parkway y Jornaleros de la área de Brooklyn para tratar el futuro de nuestro centro que fue afectado por el Huracán Sandy y como reorganizarnos para reconstruir nuestra comunidad juntos, unidos y organizados.

¡No Faltes!

Participá: tu presencia es importante!

El Tren D hasta Bay Parkway.

I used my rudimentary Spanish to translate it to something like:

Attention: This emergency meeting calls on all members of central Bay Parkway and laborers in the Brooklyn area to discuss the future of our institution that was affected by Hurricane Sandy and reorganize and rebuild our community together, united and organized.

Not to be missed!

Participate: your presence is important!

The D Train to Bay Parkway.

Police in Bay Ridge are looking for a man wanted for sexually assaulting a victim and then trying to rape her.

The man wanted is described as a black male, approximately 25-years-old, 5’7 inches and weighing 200 pounds. He is described to have a medium-dark complexion and a long goatee. He was seen wearing a black hoodie.

The alleged rape occurred on Saturday, November 3 at 3 a.m.

According to the Brooklyn Spectator, the assault happened “within the confines of the 68th Precinct.”

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or incident should notify Detective Velazco at the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad at 718-230-4421.