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Source: wallyg via Flickr

Councilman Vincent Gentile attended a November 28 toll hearing in Staten Island regarding the proposed MTA Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll hike.

Gentile put forth a fiery statement opposing the hike. His major point of contention is that the city would not budge in waiving the tolls when Hurricane Sandy relief workers needed to get to and from Staten Island with aid and supplies.

He writes:

Never before has a $13 round-trip toll on a bridge not connected to Manhattan seemed more insanely prohibitive than in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as first responders and volunteers racing to help realize they can’t afford to make the necessary trips back and forth to transport supplies.

Earlier this month, in a letter to MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Jim Ferrara, I demanded that MTA Bridges and Tunnels immediately suspend tolls on the Verrazano Bridge for relief workers.

He goes on to criticize the MTA for spending their revenue on the LIRR and Metro-North lines.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the MTA must change its funding formula so that more fare and toll revenue goes to city buses and subways, instead of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, which serve the suburbs.

Back in June, just days after Governor Cuomo struck a deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to give Staten Island residential E-ZPass holders a big toll break, I turned to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and demanded: ‘What about Brooklyn?!’

Gentile also hones in on the inequality between Staten Island residents receiving a discount and Brooklyn residents not receiving one to travel the same distances.

Seven days a week my constituents travel across that bridge to and from the College of Staten Island, Wagner College, to see their parents or spouses in nursing homes, or to work or shop. The residents in these zip-codes surrounding the bridge have to pay between $3.84 to $5.28 more than their Staten Island neighbors each time they cross the Verrazano Bridge. At $13 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.

For local people who need to cross the Verrazano Bridge on a daily or frequent basis, the same discount on the bridge should apply as the discount given to Staten Islanders.

He concludes by urging the MTA to stop the proposed toll hike and to finally allow relief workers the benefit of free travel across the bridge.

Gentile is not the only one furious about the MTA’s unwillingness to give Staten Islanders in need and relief volunteers a hand. Brooklyn resident Jason Hernandez, an independent protester, has put out a petition demanding the MTA donate one day of fare collections to Sandy relief. Currently the petition has 50 signatures.

Source: Husky via Wikimedia Commons

When considering immediate relief for those devastated by Sandy, things like food, shelter and clean drinking water come to mind, and rightly so. However, there are other things that may be important too. For kids, the act of playing can be a way to work out any traumas caused by Sandy. Also, it’s a way for them to feel like regular kids amid the stress. One Borough Park toy store owner felt the same way, so he donated over $10,000 worth of toys to kids impacted by Sandy.

Yonasan Schwartz, owner of Toys to Discover (5504 18th Avenue) prepared about 600 packages filled with toys and gave them to kids whose homes were hit hardest by the storm.

“After reading about all the ruins and how much people are suffering after the hurricane, I decided I had to do a little sharing,” Schwartz told JTA. “Everyone has been contributing a lot to the hurricane relief, we’ve seen a lot of kindness in the Jewish community, and this was the best way I thought I could contribute, since I can give out what I actually own.”

He made an announcement on Twitter and Facebook, as well as taking an ad out, stating his intentions to help. Then, Schwartz gave the packages to anyone who came into the store and asked.

He said that lots of volunteers came in and took the toys down to Seagate and the Far Rockaway communities.

“People have been so thankful for this contribution,” he said. “One person came to pick up a few parcels for an area in Far Rockaway where 52 families lost their homes.”

People in need came into his store well after all of the packages had been given away so Schwartz now offers deep discounts to those trying to rebuild their lives.

“I’ve been in the toy business a long time, and I know how attached kids get to their favorite toys,” he said. “It’s sad to see how much children have lost when their families have lost their entire homes; they don’t have anything to play with. I hope they can become attached to these new toys fast.”

Source: Lioni Italian Heroes

Fan favorite and local deli Lioni’s Heroes (7803 15th Avenue) has decided to name a sandwich after Senator Martin Golden.

According to a Brooklyn News story, “The tribute was in celebration of Mr. Golden’s commitment to the community, the city and state.

“The Marty Golden” consists of breaded chicken cutlets, roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and Lioni’s homemade fresh mozzarella. How’s that for chewing your senator’s ear off? Wait, that might be a gross image.

Either way, it’s reported that Golden stopped by the eatery and enjoyed his namesake sandwich.

Toys’R’Us set up a tent storefront to continue sales throughout the holiday season.

Some neighborhood retailers are still struggling to catch up post-Hurricane Sandy. After getting hit hard by the storm more than a month ago, merchants from Caesar’s Bay are focusing on a resilient recovery effort. Bensonhurst’s leaders are looking to help them get back on their feet.

Community Board 11 Chairperson Bill Guarinello and District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia said the Caesar’s Bay stores have a strong hold in the economic standing of Bensonhurst.

While inland stores like Best Buy were not badly damaged by the hurricane, merchants located closer to the shore, like Babies’R’Us and Kohl’s, have struggled to fully reopen. Helping these retailers regain stability is vital to the success of this neighborhood, board leaders explained. Otherwise, Guarinello said, “Our local economy is likely to suffer.”

But simultaneously, Guarinello said that a more direct line of communication is needed with retailers. He added that merchants need to speak with the Community Board and explain what kind of aid they need most.

“If they want help, they’ve got to let us know,” he said.

Once they establish the best way to assist the area, Gaurinello said that Board leaders’ first step would be to contact the government and request more immediate relief assistance. “We can ask them to give these guys some priority,” he said.

Comparing this neighborhood to Coney Island and Sea Gate, Guarinello explained that, “Bensonhurst did not take a major hit. We had some flooding. Very little power outages.”

But, Guarinello said that Caesar’s Bay suffered badly, adding that the effects of Sandy on this shopping area will likely outlive this holiday season and carry over into 2013. “[Caesar’s Bay stores] took a hard hit. Our shoreline has been collapsing. We’re going to try to be helpful.”

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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.

Near the site of the proposed center via Google Maps

From the Offices of Councilman Greenfield and Councilman Recchia:

Councilman David G. Greenfield and Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. have joined the Bensonhurst and Midwood communities in opposing the proposal to open a drug treatment and rehabilitation center on McDonald Avenue. The Council Members formally stated their concerns and objections to One World Counseling, LLC’s application to open a treatment center at 1990 McDonald Avenue in a letter to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) this week.

Numerous residents have contacted Councilman Greenfield and Councilman Recchia in recent weeks to express their concerns about this proposal, which is also officially opposed by Community Board 11. In particular, the Council Members are especially concerned about the center’s plans to treat individuals who have criminal records or were recently released from incarceration, especially due to the location’s proximity to many nearby homes, schools, daycare centers and businesses.

“Neighbors should not have to fear for their children’s safety because of a drug rehab center. Simply put, this is the wrong location for this type of facility. This is a quiet, safe neighborhood with many homes, schools and businesses, and it’s not right that residents’ lives be disrupted as a result of this drug rehab center,” said Councilman Greenfield.

“I am deeply concerned about the drug treatment facility that is being proposed for McDonald Avenue. To place a facility that intends to serve criminals and parolees for drug and alcohol abuse treatment in such close proximity to schools and residential neighborhoods is misguided and a threat to the safety and security of the community. I strongly urge the OASAS to deny this facility’s application, so that it may find a more suitable location,” said Council Member Recchia.

Very little is currently known about the corporation seeking to open the center, including the individuals behind the proposal or specifics about services it plans to offer at 1990 McDonald Avenue. One World Counseling, LLC was incorporated with the state in August and operates out of an address in Fresh Meadows, Queens. The application with the OASAS indicates that the facility will provide youth treatment for high-school adolescents, services for individuals with a second DSM IV Axis I or II diagnosis in addition to drug or alcohol dependency, legally-mandated counseling for individuals who have been placed on parole or probation following incarceration, and as an alternative to incarceration for individuals found guilty of a crime.

“I am committed to standing in partnership with Councilman Recchia and the entire community in opposition to this facility as the state continues to review the application. This neighborhood has a great past and a bright future, and we will not stand by as our quality of life is threatened by this shortsighted plan,” concluded Councilman Greenfield.

Source:  MTA_9323 via Wikimedia Commons

From the office of Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes:

Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced the sentences of Emil Vazquez, 21, Juan Burkette, 30, and Casimiro Reyes, 21, Latin King gang members, who along with other members of the gang, were charged with planning and executing an arson of a Borough Park residence with Molotov cocktails.  Vazquez was convicted of Arson in the First Degree and sentenced on November 15 to 15 years to life in prison.  Burkette was convicted of Arson in the First Degree and sentenced today to 23 years to life in prison.  Reyes was convicted of Conspiracy in the Second Degree and sentenced today to six to 18 years in prison.  They were sentenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Albert Tomei.

On March 1, 2010, the Latin Kings street gang’s “Borough Park Homicide Squad” set fire to the Borough Park residence in an attempt to kill a former gang member.  In July 2010, the three defendants, along with 15 other gang members who were also involved in the planning, were indicted.

The target of the arsons, Juan Kuang, 19, had been “stripped” of his Latin King status, over disagreements with the Borough Park Homicide Squad’s leaders.  After constant harassment by the Latin Kings, Juan Kuang stabbed Latin King member Norman Vado, 21, the brother of the gang’s leader, or “First Crown”, Roger Vado. Juan Kuang is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for the stabbing of Norman Vado.

Roger Vado and the Borough Park Homicide Squad members were charged with setting the fire at Juan Kuang’s residence in retaliation for Norman Vado’s stabbing.

On two separate occasions, the gang members threw Molotov cocktails at two different Borough Park homes, where they believed Kuang was living at the time.  One building, which was a multi-family unit where young children and an elderly woman lived, was completely destroyed.  The other targeted building was an apartment complex, of which the exterior, rear wall was scorched and damaged.  Nobody was injured in either fire.

The case was investigated by the NYPD Gang Division’s Brooklyn South Gang Squad and the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation’s Citywide South/Special Investigations Unit.

The case was prosecuted by Anita Channapati, Deputy Bureau Chief, and Leila Rosini, Assistant District Attorney, of the Gang Bureau. Deanna Rodriguez is Chief of the Gang Bureau.

Source: Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection/ Google Maps

Had this Home for Delinquent Girls been around when I was growing up, there is no doubt that my mother would have sent me there. I shudder to think what kinds of lives some of these young ladies led.

This photo, taken May 26, 1929, showcases 8220 12th Avenue in Dyker Heights. The home still stands, however, it’s now a bright and beautiful residence.

Source: Angela Schmeidel Randall via Wikimedia Commons

Congressman Jerrold Nadler wants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test for mold and environmental toxins in areas hit by Hurricane Sandy.

“Given New York’s recent history with environmental hazards caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center, we know all too well the danger presented by indoor contamination,” Nadler wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, according to The Hill.

He also sent a similar letter to Craig Fugate, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We must not repeat the same mistakes of 9/11 by leaving people to their own devices to clean up complex toxins without proper guidance or assistance from the federal government,” said Nadler.

When floodwater rose, it is said that to maybe contain raw sewage, industrial chemicals and oil, which may all be dangerous for residents. Mold, which develops after long-term moisture is trapped in homes can cause respiratory conditions such as asthma and other health issues.

So far, no response from FEMA or the EPA has been reported on.

The House of Ethics Committee put a halt on their investigation of recently reelected Congressman Michael Grimm and deferred it over to the Department of Justice.

“The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to defer consideration of this matter and the Committee, following precedent, unanimously voted to defer consideration of this matter at this time,” said the a statement, issued by committee Chair Representative Jo Bonner and member Representative Linda Sanchez. “At least annually, the Committee will make a public statement if it continues to defer taking action on the matter. The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”

The investigation centered around allegations that Grimm asked for and accepted illegal campaign donations and falsified financial reports. Also, several individuals connected with Grimm’s fundraising campaign have seen their share of allegations of improper spending and falsified documents.

According to the New York Daily News:

The independent Office Of Congressional Ethics closed its own inquiry into Grimm in July, having referred the case to the HEC [House of Ethics].

Specifically, the HEC said the referral questioned whether Grimm “may have violated federal campaign finance laws by soliciting and accepting prohibited campaign contributions, caused false information to be included in campaign finance reports, and improperly sought assistance from a foreign national in soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for offering to use his official position to assist that individual in obtaining a green card.”

While the HEC is retaining the right to jurisdiction over the matter, the body has agreed to stand down while DOJ [Department of Justice] does its work.

“Today’s announcement by the House Ethics Committee comes as no surprise. We appreciate the Committee’s decision to defer consideration of this matter while we continue to work with the Department of Justice to favorably resolve the false allegations against Congressman Grimm,” said Grimm’s lawyer, William McGinley to Politico. “Any fair and objective review of all of the facts in this matter will conclude that Congressman Grimm engaged in no wrongdoing. We are confident that the Department of Justice and the Ethics Committee will reach that result.”