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Image courtesy of David Cohen

Food Stuffs is a new column examining the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything even remotely related to food because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.

Some foods make me feel all patriotic and nostalgic. They remind me of when I used to watch the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks on my parent’s Panasonic TV. Or the first time I went to see those same fireworks, standing in the crowds on the temporarily closed FDR expressway. These feelings of summer and Brooklyn and sticky nights come back to me with that refreshing, bright red fruit, the watermelon.

As my adventures in pickling continue, I was drawn to the watermelon. It is a comfort food for so many of us. It brings people together. A friend of mine, who I lived with while traveling in India, made a watermelon song. It goes like this, “Watermelon, watermelon – I love you love” and repeat. Now, even the most cynical and Brooklyn-to-the-core readers may have appreciated that hippie music sampling. I certainly hope so.

Looking at the big chunks of watermelon in the pickle brine, I could only appreciate how flexible a fruit watermelon is. In the Middle East, folks save and roast the seeds and eat fresh watermelon with feta cheese. In the South, people pickle the brine with all sorts of sweet and salty flavors. Across colleges all of the country, rowdy students intoxicate the watermelon with liquor to get themselves a bit looser. And if you really want a summer treat here in Brooklyn, find yourself a watermelon-flavored Italian Ice.

I re-used a plastic fruit bag, much to the chagrin of the market cashier and paid for the two chunks of melon, one for me and one for my companion. As we left the market on 86th Street searching for a place to savor the bright pickles, I noticed a September 11 mural across the way with bright stars and stripes and an eagle reminding us to “Never forget.”

There, I thought, that’s the place to eat pickled watermelon.

We stood proudly against the mural, imagining that we were welcoming summer a few weeks before Memorial Day. Somehow, this is as close as we would get to military service.

As I bit into the tip of the watermelon triangle, I enjoyed the mixture of sweet and pickle. The first bite tasted like watermelon with a vinegary salad dressing. I was into it and continued my way down to the rind. The rind is really the best part of this pickle. Generally, when eating watermelon you would ignore the rind, but here you savor every pickled bit. The rind is firm and crunchy yet full of flavor and refreshing, salty moisture. I found myself wanting to eat through the rind to the skin, but I stopped myself, as the pickled goodness had not permeated the protective layer of the melon. This watermelon is as tough as Bath Beach.

Standing on the corner, by the 9/11 mural, eating my pickled watermelon, I looked forward to more pickles, more murals, fireworks, chants of USA and more Bensonhurst treats.

Cherry Hill Market, 2278 86th Street at 23rd Avenue, (718) 373-4900.

Is there a restaurant or specific dish you think we should check out? Let us know!

Click to enlarge

CompStat reports are produced by the New York Police Department on a weekly basis. We publish the week’s statistics for the 62nd Precinct reports every Friday. The 62nd Precinct is the police command responsible for Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.

Source: Councilman Greenfield

From the offices of Councilman David Greenfield:

Councilman David G. Greenfield met last week with top officials from Consolidated Edison to get answers on issues that have plagued residents and businesses of Boro Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst for years, including manhole fires and the blackout earlier this summer that left part of Boro Park crippled for several days during a brutal heat wave. Greenfield also discussed issues constituents have contacted his office about – such as delays in getting power restored following the recent incidents – and toured Con Edison’s emergency command center in Downtown Brooklyn. During the meeting, Con Ed officials committed to improving and repairing critical infrastructure throughout areas of Boro Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst that have been hit hardest by outages in recent years.

“It’s easy to complain when there’s a blackout. My goal is to make sure that a blackout never happens again. I explained to Con Edison the rapid growth that my district is experiencing. After reviewing the information that I provided them with, Con Ed agreed to make the necessary upgrades to try to prevent blackouts in the future,” explained Greenfield. “Residents and merchants need to have confidence that Con Ed can handle the growing demand on its infrastructure. That’s why I am working closely with utility officials to make sure this area receives the upgrades it needs. I was pleased to discuss so many pressing issues with top company officials, and I am confident that they understand how important it is to prevent future blackouts from occurring in Southern Brooklyn, especially in Boro Park,” said Greenfield.

During last week’s meeting at Con Edison’s Brooklyn headquarters, Greenfield was provided with an in-depth explanation of what caused the blackout on June 21 and what steps the utility company will take to upgrade local infrastructure. Con Edison has committed to a multi-million dollar infrastructure upgrade in Boro Park including the vicinity of 50th Street and 14th Avenue, which was the site of the major blackout. Greenfield also discussed the area’s sharp population growth, including the increase of multi-unit apartment buildings, which has placed new demands on the energy grid in recent years, and gained a firsthand look at how Con Ed tracks outages in its Emergency Command Center. Greenfield also discovered that Con Ed cannot always track blackouts in specific buildings right away. That is why officials noted that it is vital that the public immediately report all outages to 1-800-75-CONED and not assume the company is already aware of the problem.

Greenfield requested the meeting in response to the June blackout, which left many homes and buildings on 50th Street between 13thAvenue and 15th Avenue in the dark throughout the weekend. During that incident, Greenfield worked through the night with Con Edison officials to make sure the response was being handled adequately, and to help arrange for emergency generators and cooling buses to be brought to the scene to provide relief to businesses and residents still without power. Following that blackout, Greenfield promised impacted residents that he would follow up with Con Edison on a long-term solution.

At last week’s meeting Greenfield and his staff met with John Banks, Con Edison’s vice president for government relations, Milovan Blair, vice president for Brooklyn electric operations, Joseph Lenge, Jr., department manager for Brooklyn electric engineering, Antonia Yuille Williams, director of public affairs and government relations for Brooklyn, Phyllis White-Thorne, public information manager and several Con Edison engineers. Greenfield will continue working with Con Edison to make sure the upgrades move ahead in a timely manner, and in response to any future incidents.

“This meeting provided me with important insight into the steps Con Edison is taking to avoid many of these same problems in the future. I applaud Con Ed for working with me to resolve these issues. I look forward to continue working closely with the utility company and with residents to quickly resolve issues that arise in the future, and to find long-term solutions to the outages that have impacted the neighborhood,” added Greenfield.

Aron (Source: Facebook)

Levi Aron, the man who abducted, drugged, killed and chopped into pieces 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in July 2011 has been sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.

On July 11, Aron kidnapped Kletzky on 18th Avenue in Borough Park as the boy walked home from day camp. The community organized a large-scale search for Keltzky, and using video surveillance authorities eventually tracked down Aron.

They found portions of the boy’s dismembered body in Aron’s refrigerator in his Kensington apartment, as well as in a dumpster in Park Slope.

Aron was charged with murder after confessing to the crime. There was initially concern about whether Aron was fit to stand trial, but a judge gave prosecutors the green light after a review from a court psychiatrist. After further attempts by his lawyers to show mental instability - including that he is the victim of inbreedingAron eventually pleaded guilty.

Source: The Dyker Heights Historical Society via Wikimedia Commons

From the Dyker Heights Historical Society:

This is an image of the back fields of Poly Prep seen in 1919. The Chapel, under the clock tower, wasn’t built yet (c.1922), and the “field house” on the far left had not yet been converted to the gym which is there today (c.1930). Poly Prep had horses on campus to help cut the grass.

How’s that for a “back to school” photo? Maybe it’s a bit too “back in time.”

Source: Alex537 via Wikimedia Commons

Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., 20-year-old Alexa Conto was waiting for the D train at New Utrecht Avenue and 71st Street. She wasn’t feeling too well and fainted, falling right onto the tracks.

This story would have been tragic had three Good Samaritans not acted quickly by jumping on the tracks to rescue Conto, seconds before a train arrived.

“They took their own lives into their hands by jumping down. They saw the train coming. Not many people would do that,” Alicia Conto, Alexa’s mother said.

The rescuers alerted the conductor who stopped the train and called paramedics.

Conto was taken to Lutheran Hospital and treated for a broken foot and stitches in her head.

“There was my daughter all bandaged up. She fell, she cut open her head, it was a nightmare,” said Alicia.

One of the heroes, Brittany Cruz, left her cell number at the scene of the incident, but the rest left before police could get names or their information.

Now, the family wants to find the rest of the group and properly thank them.

“I want people to know that there are good people out there that will step up and help another person,” added Alicia.

Thanks to the anonymous heroes who saved Alexa from death, it really is great to know that there are strangers out there willing to help one another.

Source: Google Maps

Police responded to reports of a body Sunday evening at Shore Parkway and Shell Road. They arrived to find that a homeless man had been murdered.

The victim was 46-years-old and  had been stabbed in the head. Police charged Louri Kouzrine with the killing. Kouzrine has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1995.

The name of the victim has not been released.

Photo by Howard Weiss/

A new fruit and vegetable store will be slinging melons at 8501 85th Street and Bay Parkway.

The produce store replaces H&E Kosher Grocery, which had been there for quite a long time.

Photo-taker Howard Weiss posted the above photo along with this caption, “Oh joy, a 24-hour fruit store.”

With the abundance of green markets on 86th Street, it’s hard to imagine the need for another. What do you think, too many fruit markets or there’s always room for more?

Image courtesy of Izabella C.

We received a note from a local resident regarding a long-standing abandoned home near on her 78th Street block. Izabella C. mentioned that many of her neighbors had been wondering what the story was.

“There is this abandoned house with cemented windows and doors,” she wrote. “I’ve been wondering what’s up with that. Many are asking questions and perhaps that would be a interesting story.”

Izabella also said that there is trash piled up in the backyard and a feral cat colony squatting there.

When a home on our streets stands abandoned for a while, naturally questions arise. Will this home ever be repaired, does it devalue the price of my home and is it a blight on the block?

After some digging through public records, we were able to uncover some of the story, though certainly not all.

Here’s what we’ve got:

The home, located at 1638 78th Street was built somewhere around 1920. It is a  it’s a 20×70 foot two family, two-story building. It has no recent sales records attached to it, thus meaning that it may have been in the hands of a single owner for a lengthy period of time.

In May 2011, there were complaints made to the Department of Buildings of  that the home was vacant, but not properly sealed. The doors and windows were not boarded up. Shortly after, the site was inspected and deemed unsafe. The owners of the property were served with a violation.

Currently, there is no repair work planned, thus the house may continue to be as is for an undetermined amount of time.

If you’ve seen this home or others like it in the neighborhood, let us know what your thoughts are. Are abandoned homes a concern?

“Jeirani” Dance. Source: The Dancing Crane Studio

A new cultural experience has taken root in Bensonhurst. Dancing Crane Studio opened its doors at 6401 20th Avenue in order to foster Georgian language, literature and the arts.

The Dancing Crane company has existed since 1996. Now, they have extended into a full studio and center for teaching and performances.

It is run by Artistic Director Victor Sirelson and includes choreographer Vladimer “Dato” Goderidze, the Mgzavruli Music Ensemble led by Vano Goderdzishvili, New York’s first and only Georgian theater company called the “Georgian Theater of New York” with director and playwright Lia Bakhturidze Sirelson and a children’s choreographic ensemble called “Pesvebi” with director and choreographer Shorena Barbakadze.

The staff at the school write:

Our work involves practicing, presenting and transmitting to others the living cultural legacy of the folk arts. All dances and music are performed with strict adherence to the traditions, evolved over centuries. At the same time our work is part of the living tradition and includes contemporary interpretations by traditional artists.

The studio offers Georgian dance classes, music, theater, modern disciplines like hip-hop dance and more for both children and adults.

Hopefully, the studio puts on a public performance in Bensonhurst Park or the like so that we get a chance to see what Georgian language, dance and music is all about. Otherwise, how will I ever learn to say “good luck” in Georgian?