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Source: eivey2 via flickr

Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial initiative to ban large sugary drinks sold at fast food joints, movie theaters and sporting events goes into effect March 12. Bloomberg is so certain that the ban will curb the epidemic of childhood obesity that he is calling for the state to enact the same measures he has set for the city, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

State officials like Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate Republican Leader Dan Skelos have yet to comment on Bloomberg’s desire to extend the large sugary drink ban across the state.

Bloomberg’s remarks come a few weeks before restaurants, food carts, stadiums, movie theaters, delis and arenas are banned from selling sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. Establishments that ignore the ban will be subject to heavy fines – though it’s worth noting that convenience stores and venues not overseen by the city Department of Health are exempt.

The mayor has taken a lot of heat after putting forward his plan to limit sugary drink sizes from lobbyists from the American Beverage Association (ABA) who don’t buy that city-sponsored portion-control will do anything to promote public health.

“The soda ban is exceedingly unpopular with New Yorkers. It increases the cost of doing business in the city and will have no impact on the mayor’s stated goal of reducing obesity. New Yorkers can decide for themselves what to eat and drink,” Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for ABA told the Journal.

Bloomberg has not backed down.

“Kids, once they get obese, they will be obese as adults. And this year, for the first time in the world, in the history of humanity, more people will die from overeating than from under-eating,” the mayor said. “So, we’re trying to do something here.”

We were wondering what our readers think of the looming large soda ban. Do you think it goes too far? Do you support it? Share your thoughts.

Hookah-loving residents of Bensonhurst, rejoice, for a new hookah lounge has opened up at 1412 86th Street.

Between 14th Avenue and Bay 7th Street, Sababa Lounge has already racked up three five-star reviews on Yelp.com.

Their website doesn’t offer much, except some music you can’t stop (business owners, please stop doing this), but some photos there suggest they’ll also have Middle Eastern foods including hummus.

Sababa, as anyone who went on a Birthright trip to Israel will tell you, is Israeli slang for “cool.” And, for Arabic speakers, it means “urge for a lover.”

Check out Sababa Lounge, and let us know which definition is more fitting.

Source: Facebook via NY Politicker

Yesterday we tipped you off to the brewing controversy over Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s Purim costume, in which he dressed as a basketball player, which, of course, means he was in blackface and an afro.

Defiant at first, the ensuing media reaction has forced Hikind to apologize, we think, while more local politicians have joined the chorus condemning Hikind’s insensitive costume and remarks he made defending it.

Hikind’s apology, relayed in the New York Daily News, expressed regret at offending people.

“I’m sorry people were offended,” Hikind said at a news conference outside his home. “In hindsight, I should have picked something else. It never crossed my mind for a split second that I was doing something wrong.”

Hours later, Hikind went on radio WSNR and repeated his apology to host Zev Brenner, but added a remark about gay people that did little to help his cause.

“If I was doing it all over again? I would look at, you know, additional alternatives, because my real objective is — it’s not about being a black person or Indian, or maybe I would be a gay person…by the way, would that be okay, Zev? If I played a gay person next year?”

Reaction by fellow New York politicians has been strong and swift.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a press release calling Hikind’s costume “tasteless,” reflecting an “unintentional lack of judgement.”

Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams sent a searing letter to Hikind, explaining for him why his costume choice is objectionable to African-Americans.

Your costume is offensive to a significant segment of this borough for its connection to the sordid history of blackface in American theater. People associate blackface with offensive African-American stereotypes popularized in minstrel shows and vaudeville, stereotypes such as laziness, stupidity and cowardice. In fact, this same art form negatively depicted other communities, including the bigoted portrayal of Jews as corrupt and conniving.

The Daily News also reported Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, also an Orthodox Jew, of decrying the outfit as “inappropriate and offensive.”

 

City Councilman David Greenfield. Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is a press release from the office of City Councilman David Greenfield:

Councilman David G. Greenfield is inviting all Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst residents to take part in the ongoing participatory budgeting initiative in the 44th Council District, which allows all citizens ages 16 and older to vote on how $1 million in government funds will be spent on specific projects right in their neighborhood. Residents can get involved in this exciting experiment in open government by attending an upcoming expo on Wednesday, February 27th at P.S. 205, located at 6701 20th Avenue, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. to learn more about each project that will appear on the final ballot in April.

Over the past few months, volunteer budget delegates from around the community have been reviewing all of the neighborhood improvement projects submitted by residents. This review includes coming up with a cost estimate for the project and checking to make sure that it is feasible and allowed under New York City’s regulations and restrictions for public funding. At Wednesday’s project expo, residents can view informational displays about each project and provide input on ways to revise and improve the ideas before the final vote, which will be held at locations around the district during the first week of April. All eligible district residents, from high school students to senior citizens and everyone in between, are urged to attend the expo and then vote on their favorite project this spring.

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Source: Aaron Durand / Inhabitat.com

Here is a rundown, which may make you feel run down after reading it, of subway service changes in your area. If any of these changes affect your travel plans, make sure you plan accordingly and give yourself some extra time.

Happy commuting, peoples…

D Train:

From 8:30 p.m., now to February 28, 205th Street-bound D trains will be running local from 36th Street to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and stops at DeKalb Avenue.

From 9:00 to 11:00 p.m., now to February 28, 205th Street-bound D trains will be running local from 59th Street to 145th Street.

N Train:

From 11:45 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., now to Friday, March 1, Coney Island-bound N trains will be running express from 34th Street-Herald Square to Canal Street.

From 9:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., today to Thursday, February 28, Coney Island-bound N trains are being rerouted via the D express from 36th Street to Stillwell Avenue.

Please call 511 if you need help with planning your trip. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service provider or the free 711 relay. For more information, visit mta.info.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (center) with his wife and son. Source: Facebook via Politicker

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the largely Orthodox Jewish district of Borough Park, donned a black-face costume for a marathon 14-hour Purim party held inside his home, according to a report by Politicker.

The outfit, which Hikind described as a “basketball player,” did not seem like a bad idea to the assemblyman.

“I can’t imagine anyone getting offended. You know, anyone who knows anything about Purim knows that if you walk throughout the community, whether it’s Williamsburg, Boro Park, Flatbush, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, people get dressed up in, you name it, you know, in every kind of dress-up imaginable,” Hikind told Politicker.

Black people commenting on the Politicker website were less that amused by Hikind’s choice of costume.

“He hardly even looks like a basketball player, and there are white basketball players, too,” said Guilienne Rollins-Rison. “What player do u know has an afro like that? If he was dressing up as a specific individual and decided to do blackface, that’s one thing (bad enough but still)… but generally… this is unacceptable. Also, it’s not, regardless of what he says, in the spirit of Purim.”

Commenter LS Bell added: “Some people will never get it…,” while Jervonne Singletary was even more succinct in her disapproval, commenting: “Really…”

Hikind’s colleagues are also weighing in on Hikind’s questionable party attire.

Councilman David Greenfield told Gothamist, “I disagree with him. He should’ve known better.”

Assemblyman Karim Camara, chairman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said he is “deeply shocked and outraged.”

“We, as leaders have to be extremely careful that we foster understanding amongst our different cultural groups and not use the images of one as a tool for humor. In speaking with many African Americans both leaders and average citizens, the outrage is widespread,” he told Politicker.

Hikind responded to the early round of criticism by claiming that it was “political correctness to the absurd.”

As more people learn about Hikind’s costume of choice, we’ll see if he still feels in a couple of days that “It’s all worth it, I would do it again in a minute.”

Arial view of Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Gravesend. Source: Alan Cordova / Flickr

The unique history and evolution of Bath Beach is traced in a recent New York Times article that also focuses on the area’s real estate market.

A very long time ago, Bath Beach was a British waterside resort catering to yacht club aficionados. Today, it is a melting pot of working class Italians, Asians and Hispanics, and the beach part of Bath Beach doesn’t technically exist, having been paved over years ago to create Shore Parkway.

In the article, the Times explores the demographics of Bath Beach’s nearly 30,000 residents. While whites still comprised the majority of the area at 55 percent, the Asian and Hispanic imprint is blooming, up 70 percent in the past decade. Eric Chan, a local broker, explained what he feels accounts for the growth of the Asian population to the Times:

Mr. Chan says some Chinese buyers already own single-family homes in Bath Beach and are looking for places to accommodate multiple generations as their children marry describesand have families. Others are coming from Sunset Park in search of a quieter Brooklyn neighborhood, and still others are second-generation Chinese-Americans from Chinatown in Manhattan who want more space for their children and elderly parents. The neighborhood’s multifamily houses are especially sought after, Mr. Chan said.

The growing Hispanic imprint is reflected in the burgeoning presence of Mexican and Guatemalan parishioners attending Mass at St. Finbar Roman Catholic Church. The 133-year-old house of worship has taken to offer Mass in Spanish on Sunday afternoons and has recently begun a fund drive to build and erect a large statue honoring Archangel St. Michael, the patron saint of Totonicapán, a Guatemalan town where many churchgoers trace their roots to.

Also explored in the article is the general history of the community (Donald Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, played a crucial role in the area’s real estate development), and the prices of typical and higher-end houses (they range from $199,000 in the mid range to $1 million, being most expensive.)

There is also a breakdown of Bath Beach’s shopping options (The Gap, Marshalls, Caesar’s Bay Shopping Center) and its parks, with a focus on the 4.3-mile stretch of waterfront walkway space on the Belt Parkway Promenade, a haven for joggers and roller-bladers.

The Times describes Bath Beach as a neighborhood ideal for working families with young children, citing the high quality of elementary schools, availability of parking, backyard space and close proximity to the city and the Belt Parkway.

Ulmer Park Library at 2602 Bath Avenue will be closed for most of March, as Self-Check machines are installed, a feature that’s been spreading to just about every library in the system.

Self-Check machines allow patrons to borrow and renew books themselves, ideally without the help of a librarian – although, as anyone who has been to a supermarket knows, a little help is always needed.

The library closed March 2 until March 30. In the meantime, patrons can go the the newly-renovated New Utrecht library (1743 86th Street), Gravesend Library (303 Avenue X) or Highlawn Library (1664 West 13th Street).

Thanks to Steven M. for the tip and photo!

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman David Greenfield:

David G. Greenfield

Source: council.nyc.gov

Councilman David G. Greenfield is thanking the NYPD’s 66th Precinct and neighborhood Shomrim volunteers for their efforts to stem the rise in the number of vehicles broken into around Borough Park in recent weeks, especially during Shabbos, and is warning residents to be aware of this ongoing pattern. Over the past two weeks, a total of 18 vehicles were broken into throughout the 66th Precinct, with incidents spread out across Borough Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Meanwhile, officers in the 66th Precinct and the four adjacent precincts have made a total of 12 arrests of individuals caught breaking into vehicles over the past month.

After hearing from concerned residents over the past few weeks, Councilman Greenfield reached out directly to Deputy Inspector Michael Deddo, commanding officer of the 66th Precinct, to discuss increasing patrols around the neighborhood and other steps to discourage criminals from taking advantage of residents, especially during Shabbos. These incidents have occurred in nearly all sections of Borough Park, and while areas like 50th Street to 60th Street between 14th Avenue and 18th Avenue have been hit particularly hard, the NYPD warns that no block is immune from this problem.

“Even though we live in a safe neighborhood, it is important to always keep our guard up and take simple measures so that we don’t make it easy for criminals to target us. I am pleased to hear that the NYPD’s focus on this issue has resulted in several arrests, which hopefully will prevent more residents from finding their valuables missing and their windows smashed. My thanks to Deputy Inspector Deddo, the officers at the 66th Precinct and Shomrim volunteers for working hard on this problem,” said Councilman Greenfield.

Individuals have been captured on surveillance footage in several cases simply walking down a block and trying each vehicle door handle until finding one that was left unlocked. As a result, it is imperative that drivers always lock their vehicles, no matter where they are parked or for how long. In addition, Deputy Inspector Deddo is urging residents to remove all items such as electronics from view, and to not leave any bags or containers visible, even if they do not actually contain anything valuable. When possible, park in well-lit, high traffic areas, and always report any suspicious individuals to the precinct or 911.

“This is one of those crimes that takes a lot of time and effort to make arrests, but we have been getting a lot of help from the community on this. The strength of the 66th Precinct is that we have a lot of eyes watching out and a lot of people who care, which makes it a neighborhood that the bad guys don’t come into. We don’t want to see the quality of life impacted for residents, so this is a huge focus for us,” said Deputy Inspector Deddo.

Councilman Greenfield and Deputy Inspector Deddo credited Shomrim members with being instrumental in alerting the precinct of suspicious activity and apprehending several suspects. Inspector Deddo also noted that the large number of security cameras throughout the neighborhood also greatly assists police in making arrests and deters criminal activity.

Residents should always call 911 if they are the victim of a crime or witness a crime in progress. They can also contact the 66th Precinct at (718) 851-5611 and Councilman Greenfield at (718) 853-2704.

Source: FArepublicans via Flickr

A new study found the Congressman Michael Grimm may not be the die-hard Tea Party conservative his opponents make him out to be. In fact, the report says he’s right smack in the middle of the nation’s ideological spectrum.

The Daily News reports:

A National Journal study released Thursday found that Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island is at the ideological center of the House of Representatives: 217 members are more liberal and 217 members are more conservative.

In a remarkable coincidence, the lawmaker he replaced, Democrat Michael McMahon, was found to be at the ideological center in the same study of House members released three years ago.

Told of the findings, Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College, was stunned.

“I guess if you want to know where the real heartland is, you don’t go to Iowa — you go to Staten Island,” Muzzio said.

The study is based on the votes of Grimm and his colleagues on 116 bills that indicated ideological leanings. Of course, some of those bills included those for Sandy relief, which many Republicans outside of the affected areas opposed and may have pushed Grimm closer to the center.

Still, the report is great timing for Grimm, who is about to be the target of an onslaught of online ads from Democrats, painting him as an out of touch right-wing radical, whose unwillingness to compromise will cost thousands of jobs.

The Daily News, in another article, reports:

The new ad campaign, shared first with the Daily News ahead of its release, seeks to hold Republicans like Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm responsible for the billions of dollars in automatic -many say draconian – spending cuts that are set to take effect starting March 1. The ads from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are targeting a total of 27 House Republicans.

… The new ad campaign, shared first with the Daily News ahead of its release, seeks to hold Republicans like Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm responsible for the billions of dollars in automatic -many say draconian – spending cuts that are set to take effect starting March 1. The ads from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are targeting a total of 27 House Republicans.

The ad targeting Grimm is below:

What do you think? Grimm: Ideological Middle Man? Or Right-Wing Extremist?