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Every summer, neighbors come together and plan block parties. It gives them a chance to hang out, form a camaraderie and celebrate the summer by truly owning the block.

Sunday, August 19, on West Street between Avenue U and Avenue V, the orange cones prevented any cars from going down the road. The kids danced and twirled their neon light necklaces and toys while the DJ played Michael Jackson. Their parents relaxed on folding chairs, knocking back cans of Coors Light.

From block to block, block party to block party, it doesn’t seem like there are many differences between the parties of now and 10 years ago. Well, that’s not exactly true.

“Don’t even get me started on the curfew,” said one of the moms in attendance. She is referring to the 9 p.m. mandatory shutdown time. In previous years, the curfew was later. No one recalled the exact time, but they all said it must have been around midnight.

The other issues that got people talking were the few cars that somehow managed to drive past the barricades and make it down the street filled with kids playing.

And finally, the biggest gripe was with neighbors who did not participate in the event. Whether it was because of financial concerns or otherwise, no one knew. However, most agreed that it dampened the efforts of the others.

“I just wish everyone acted like neighbors, not just people living near each other,” said another mom, before she dashed after her son.

Image courtesy of NYSenate.gov

State Senator Marty Golden’s most recent gun bill has received early support from Mayor Bloomberg, as the issue takes center stage in the campaign to keep his seat.

Golden plans to stiffen penalties against people who plant “community guns” – weapons hidden in locations for use by gang members and other criminals.

“Today you have a person or a gang that will have one gun that all its members use and know where it is,” said Golden. “Gun sharing is the latest tactic used to get illegal firearms in the hands of criminals and this necessary legislation will hold accountable not just those people who commit the crimes, but those make the illegal guns available.”

The bill would bring felony charges against anyone who shares a gun that is later used in a violent crime. Prosecutors have difficulty bringing charges in such cases because they must prove the person knew the shared gun was going to be used for a crime.

Senate Republicans plan to support the bill when the Legislature begins session in January.

Democrats have been pushing their own gun-control bills, while State Senate Candidate Andrew Gounardes recently issued a press release criticizing Golden’s “complete failure to pass common sense gun laws.”

Gounardes points out that a 2010 bill on microstamping failed to come to a vote after Golden left the Senate room to take a phone call. Microstamping is a process which imprints bullet casings with the make, model, and serial number of the gun from which they were fired.

Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have been pushing politicians, including both presidential campaigns, to address the issue of gun violence.

In March, Senator Golden sponsored two bills that were passed by the Senate. One bill increased the penalties for criminals who display a gun during a crime and the other bill lengthened the jail sentence for criminal sale or possession of a weapon at a residence of a child or in the presence of a child.

Source: MTA

Underrated? Underrated by who? I don’t feel underrated and I’m sort of sick of these “poor little southern Brooklyn” routines.

Take this article in Brooklyn Exposed titled, “What To Do In 9 Underrated Brooklyn” (what does that title mean, anyway?).

It’s meant to be a mini-travel guide to exotic locales in Brooklyn and their special brand of charm.

Among other places I love, like Mill Basin, the author lists:

Gravesend – Pour on The Au Jus

You may not have too many reasons to visit this South Central Brooklyn neighborhood, but once you taste the kick-ass melt-in-your-mouth Roast Beef sandwich at Brennan & Carr you will feel justified to visit again and again, and again.  Still not convinced?  Then don’t just take our word for it – this tasty delight served with heavenly au jus gained national fame when Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food stopped by and Adam Richman deemed it one of his “favorite Brooklyn foods”.

This isn’t about hisptersdom. In fact, I banned myself from using the word the first time I ever heard it. I’m not a hater. This is about respect.

Neighborhoods where thousands of people live cannot be “underrated” because we don’t subscribe to a rating. We’re cool like that without even trying.

In fact, most places outside of Southern Brooklyn are overrated. And another thing, don’t call us underrated again or we’ll really get Brooklyn on you.

Source: house.gov

Ofer Biton, a top fundraiser for Congressman Michael Grimm has been arrested by the FBI. He stands accused of of lying on his immigration documents.

The New York Times reports:

According to the complaint, Mr. Biton deceived the government in June 2010 about the source of $500,000 that he claimed to have put into a new business that was to make him eligible for a permanent visa.

Immigrants who can document that they have invested significant amounts of capital in the United States and have created jobs for Americans are often eligible for a permanent visa for themselves and their families. But under the rules, the seed money for the business has to have been obtained honestly.

In his papers, Mr. Biton claimed much of the money for his business came from a loan from a family friend.

In challenging that account, the complaint strongly hints that the money was raised through more coercive means, like extortion.

In the past, Biton was entrenched in allegations of embezzlement stemming from his work with Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Biton had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Grimm from members of Pinto’s congregation.

Prosecutor Anthony Capozzolo filed the charges against Biton. He has also been leading a probe of allegations against Congressman Grimm. The allegations state that he accepted illegal campaign contributions.

Though the complaint against Biton makes no mention of Grimm’s involvement, the link between the two has Democrat Mark Murphy, who is running to replace Michael Grimm in Congress, talking.

Later today, Murphy will hold a press conference, calling on Grimm to return $500,000 in campaign donations raised by Biton.

In his release, Murphy writes that Biton’s arrest was, “the first major arrest to happen amid the widening federal probe of Grimm’s fundraising activities.”

Biton is being held without bail.

Photo courtesy of Rocco Deserto

Local comedian Rocco Deserto took the plunge with his ladylove, Melissa Fortunato, last month. Their wedding party was extensive, with 26 of their closest friends and relatives walking with them down the aisle.

One guest, however, was a total wedding crasher. A giant plume of smoke from  nearby three-alarm fire made its way into all of the couple’s photos near the Brooklyn Bridge (see above).

A massive fire broke out across the East River at the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 at about 4 p.m., the same time the couple had stopped there for their wedding photos.

The comedian, who has been hard at work trying to make it in the business for years, became a TV sensation after the story broke.

“The day after my wedding I got a phone call from Inside Edition, that they wanted to pick up the story. I was leaving for my honeymoon the next day so I couldn’t go in to be interviewed. They asked me for my videographers information, and they actually picked him up the next day and took him to their studio to upload footage. Later that week they aired our story, and it even aired on another episode a few days later. Rumors from my family in Italy that it also ran on a TV show in Italy. The picture has made it to meme websites and a London newspaper. Long story short, I’ve been doing comedy for 2 years with no love from the media, but one wedding picture and I got the most media coverage I’ll probably ever get. I even got recognized when I went to do my insurance information at work, the lady told me “I recognize your name, you were in the NY Post right?” said Deserto of the surprising source of his new-found fame.

Poor Rocco, he gets no respect.

He does have an upcoming show at Caroline’s on Broadway on September 17 at 7:00pm.

“If you call to make your reservation tell them you’re coming to see Rocco Deserto, if you do this you get a $10 discount on the cover charge, so you will only pay $5!” Deserto says.

As for the smoke monster, Rocco will have to see if it makes an appearance at his stand-up show too.

Waste transfer station protest on August, 5, 2012

Congressman Michael Grimm sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raising concerns over the proposed waste transfer station at Bay 41st Street.

Grimm joins with Assemblyman William Colton, Andrew Gounardes and a host of other local leaders and concerned citizens in questioning the erection of the station at the edge of Gravesend Bay. It also puts him in the rather odd position of agreeing with his Democratic opponent, Mark Murphy, who seems to go through great pains to show how different from Grimm he is.

But, hey, it doesn’t get more apolitical than garbage, right?

The local representatives have noted a variety of issues pertaining to the station. For one, residents believe that the waste incinerator that was situatied in the same place several years ago is toxic and may cause cancer. Thus, dredging the water would bring up the toxic ash that has long been sitting at the bottom of the bay.

Grimm brings up the dangers surrounding unexploded ammunition that fell to the bottom of the harbor from the USS Bennington in 1954. He is requesting more information pertaining to any possible dangers surrounding the dredging.

“Safety should always remain a top priority when moving forward with any project, and the presence of unexploded munitions certainly raises strong concerns among members of the southwest Brooklyn community.  Before any action begins on the proposed waste transfer station, I am seeking assurance from the Army Corps of Engineers that any dredging will not compromise the safety of the residents, their property, or the bay.  No project is worth jeopardizing public safety, and I look forward to working with the Corps to receive its full assurance that the dredging will be 100 percent safe,” he said in a release.

Source: Erik H. via Yelp

I plead ignorance on this latest post, thus I am turning to my faithful bakery-loving readers to help me out. Rispoli, an Italian bakery, which used to be located at 72nd Street and New Utrecht Avenue closed down a few years ago. This, I can recall.

Now, I’m getting reports that the famed bakery is back at a new location. Here’s a Yelp review written by Erik H. that I’m using as evidence:

Rispoli is back!!!

They used to be located in a larger Bakery over on 72nd street and New Utrecht Ave.  Now, they have a small shop on 78th street that just has the Italian Ices that everyone has grown to love.  When I say small, I mean small but they now have more flavors than ever.
I have already been here a few times and the Vanilla Chip is still as awesome as I remember it.  If anyone remembers the original Rispoli, you need to come here and experience it all over again!

O.K. that’s as official as it gets, Rispoli is back in a smaller space at 1306 78th Street, between 13th Ave and 14th Ave, now serving just homemade ices.

You can never have too many Italian ices joints, that’s what I always say. Welcome back Rispoli.

Marty Golden with Campanella. Image courtesy of Maria “The Ice Cream Girl” Campanella’s Facebook page

Sunday in Bensonhurst is jam packed with awesome family events. From the Puss in Boots showing at Seth Low Park to an ice-cream eating contest with everyone’s favorite ice-cream girl, Maria Campanella, get ready to enjoy the last days of summer.

State Senator Martin  Golden and Maria “The Ice Cream Girl” Campanella, are inviting local residents to participate in the Fourth Annual Ice Cream Eating Contest this Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. at L & B Spumoni Gardens at 2725 86th Street.

Stuff your face full of ice cream, wash it down with an L&B square and head to the park to watch an animated movie. This is livin’.

Those who want to participate in the ice cream eating contest must be 18-years-old or older and bring their identification.

Participants must not have had or currently be allergic to nuts, nut oil, milk or milk products. They will also be required to sign a waiver and release form.

And for an added detail, representatives from The Frankie Loccisano Memorial Foundation will be in attendance to help raise awareness for children with cancer.

For more information, contact Maria Campanella at (917) 578-6374 or Senator Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044.

An early congrats to the big eater. Who needs the hot dog eating contest when soft serve ice cream is so much better.

Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

From the offices of Councilman David G. Greenfield:

Councilman David G. Greenfield is inviting families, children and the entire public to a free viewing of the acclaimed animated film “Puss in Boots” on Sunday, August 19 in Seth Low Park at 8 p.m. sharp as part of his “Movies in the Park” series. Residents are invited to bring a chair or blanket to the park, located on W. 12th Street between Bay Parkway and Avenue P, before the movie begins at 8 p.m. The event is free and open for all residents to attend, and complimentary popcorn will be available for children while supplies last.

“I hope that many local families and residents will join me for this great neighborhood event. This is a chance for neighbors to come together and relax at one of Bensonhurst’s great parks before the summer ends. My thanks to the New York City Parks Department for their help in organizing this fun-filled evening on behalf of our community,” said Greenfield.

The “Movies in the Park” series is supported by funding Councilman Greenfield secured in the New York City budget as part of his ongoing effort to bring additional programs and services to the Bensonhurst portion of the 44th Council District. “I am thrilled to have been able to secure greater funding and services for our community, including family-friendly entertainment like this,” added Greenfield, who has quadrupled the amount of funding that Bensonhurst receives in recent years and has worked hard to improve the quality of life through initiatives such as the recent “Bay Parkway Cleanup” event he hosted.

For more information, contact Councilman Greenfield’s office at (718) 853-2704.

I’m going to drop a little knowledge I picked up at college regarding Jingdezhen. It is a city in China that is often referred to as the “Porcelain Capital” because of its long tradition of pottery production. Now, Jingdezhen has made it’s way to 86th Street by way of an imported porcelain shop.

Jingdezhen at 2351 86th Street specializes in giant vases, awesome looking dragons made of jade and other, smaller art and household items.

The owner said business has been slow to pickup, but he hopes things will be moving along. This store is probably not related to recent porcelain shop which opened on Avenue U with a similar name. Maybe it is. Jingdezhen.