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Source: Flickr/shawnhoke

Source: Flickr/shawnhoke

I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is turning 50 on Friday, and there are anniversary parties happening all over the Brooklyn and Staten Island all week.

For many of us in southwest Brooklyn, the bridge is a fixture our lives. It is a landmark, a major commuting artery, a photographer’s dream, and it can often be seen from the roofs of our homes.

Here’s a fun fact: the bridge was named for the Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was the first European to enter the New York Harbor, but the extra Z got dropped off somewhere along the way. The Narrows is the name of the body of water between Brooklyn and Staten Island – hence the name Verrazano-Narrows. The bridge was built over five years and opened for traffic on November 21, 1964.

Turning 50 is kind of a big deal, so we’ve rounded up three of the best events happening this week to help you celebrate the Verrazano’s big day:

1. TODAY: Visit a statue of the original Verrazzano at John J. Carty Park

Here’s a chance to talk about the bridge’s namesake, learn a little New York history, and enjoy a brisk walk around the park. Best of all, it’s FREE.

The Parks Department unveiled a replica of a missing relief statue of Giovanni da Verrazzano and spruced up its old display at John J. Carty Park today.  The original statue of the explorer, sculpted by italian immigrant Albino Manca, was installed in 1964, but was stolen from the display in the 1980s. The relief was recast by Bedi-Makky Art Foundry, a historic, Brooklyn-based firm.

DATE: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TIME: 10am – 1pm

LOCATION: Fort Hamilton Parkway and 95th Street

2. TOMORROW: Eat cake at Yellow Hook Grill in Bay Ridge

Join the Harbor Ring and the Merchants of Third Avenue at Bay Ridge’s Yellow Hook Grille tomorrow as they celebrate the Verrazano Bridge‘s 50th birthday.

Raise a glass to the history of the campaign for a Verrazano Bridge bicycle/pedestrian path and learn about the Harbor Ring’s new efforts to make it a reality.

Tickets will run you $25 a piece, but they get you unlimited beer, wine, soda, and hors d’oeuvres, and plenty of birthday cake.

DATE: Thursday, November 20

TIME: 7:30pm – 9:30pm

LOCATION: Yellow Hook Grille, 7003 3rd Ave

3. FRIDAY: Watch the MTA’s ceremonial canons and fire boat display from shore

We saved the best for last.

On Friday, as part of the MTA’s official Verrazano Bridge 50th anniversary ceremony, there will be a 50-shot cannon salute over The Narrows (25 shots from either sides of the bridge), plenty of politicians, and a spectacular fireboat display. Because there is limited room, the actual event is invitation-only, but the public is invited to view the cannon/fireboat show from Von Briesen Park near Fort Wadsworth or Shore Road Park in Brooklyn.

DATE: Friday, November 21

TIME: Cannon and fireboat display expected to begin at 11:45am

LOCATION: Von Briesen Park near Fort Wadsworth and Shore Road Park in Brooklyn.

Source: Flickr/haagenjerrys

Source: Flickr/haagenjerrys

Once again, the MTA has announced plans to raise fares and tolls – this time by 2 percent a year for the next two years. The 30-day MetroCard will definitely jump from $112 to $116.50, but the MTA is deliberating on whether to raise the price of the single ride MetroCard to $2.75, or keep it the same, effectively eliminating the bonus on the 30-day card.

Here’s a chart via Gothamist:

111714chart1

As you can see, both options kind of suck.

Fares on the LIRR and Metro-North will also see varying increases, as will bridge tolls – including the dreaded Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll, which may jump a whole dollar. You can read more about that on the MTA website. The MTA plans to make a decision in March after hearing from commuters next month.

If you’d like to tell the MTA to take their fare hikes and shove it, be at the Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn College, 2900 Campus Road (near the Flatbush junction), on Thursday, December 11. Registration is open from 5pm to 9pm. The hearing begins at 6pm.

Comments can also be submitted online through the MTA website, or by letter to MTA Government Affairs, 347 Madison Ave., New York, 10017.

Source: Instagram/candi_cee_girl

Source: Instagram/candi_cee_girl

Some very arrogant street art. Spotted on 86th Street and 25th Avenue.

Take any photos in Bensonhurst recently? Send them to editor@bensonhurstbean.com, or tag them #Bensonhurst on Instagram, and we’ll post them here.

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Source: Flickr/44551921@N04

Source: Flickr/44551921@N04

Middle school applications for the 2015-2016 school year are now available at elementary schools across the city.

How to apply

Students in 5th grade and 6th grade (for K-6 elementary schools) can apply to middle schools in their district, as well as certain boroughwide and citywide schools. Each student will receive a customized application that includes all of the middle schools he or she is eligible for. To complete the application, students should rank schools in order of preference and return the application to their guidance counselor. Private school students in 5th grade can fill out an application at a local enrollment office.

Before deciding on a school, it’s always a good idea for families to check out these middle school directories, contact schools of interest, and attend any open houses and information sessions that are offered. This middle school admissions checklist might be helpful.

Also check out the 2015-2016 Charter School Directory for information on the city’s 197 public charter schools.

Deadline

  • Applications must be submitted no later than Tuesday, December 2.

For more information see the Department of Education website.

Coat Drive, via New York Cares

The 26th annual New York Cares Coat Drive kicks off today and runs through December 31. There are more than 280 locations around New York City where you can drop off a clean, gently used coat to help neighbors in need — let’s warm our city up! Here’s where you can donate locally:

NYPD 66th Precinct (5822 16th Avenue)

  • All hours, every day

NYPD 62nd Princinct  (1925 Bath Avenue)

  • All hours, every day

Life Quality BMW (9326 4th Avenue)

  •  Monday-Saturday 9am-8pm; Sunday 11am-4pm

61st Precinct (2575 Coney Island Avenue)

  • All hours, every day

Organizations interested in hosting a public collection site or setting up a drive of your own for the New York Cares Coat Drive should register online; coats will need to be delivered to their warehouse by December 31, 2014.

There are also ways beyond coat donations to help the drive. Volunteers are needed at several upcoming coat distribution events, and there are some benefit events, as well. Also, New York Cares estimates that for every $50 given, 16 coats can be dispersed. Financial donations can be made here.

Image via New York Cares

dave-frieder-verrazano

This week, a tourist was arrested for climbing the Brooklyn Bridge illegally. But not everyone who’s scaled a bridge in New York City has been busted for it — just ask Dave Frieder, the man who climbed and photographed every one of the city’s bridges from the top.

With the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge coming up on November 21, I asked Dave to send us a few of his favorite photos of the longest suspension bridge in the United States and share his story.

Verrazano-b-and-w

Frieder, who was born in Queens and raised New Jersey, became interested in photography at seven years old, when his parents bought him his first Kodak Brownie camera. As an adult, Frieder moved to New York where he serviced and installed x-ray equipment for a living, but he kept taking photos as a hobby.

Then, one day, a photographer who was mentoring Frieder suggested he find a subject that he was passionate about. Inspired by a breathtaking photo from the top of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Frieder set about climbing and photographing every bridge in New York. To gain access to the bridges, Frieder reached out to city officials — and his persistence paid off.

“After all the begging, the pleading, the phone calls, the letters, I had eight years of unprecedented access to all the bridges in the city,” Frieder says.

Unfortunately, all that came to an end on September 11, 2001, when New York stepped up its security measures.

verrazano arch

Here’s how Frieder describes climbing the Verrazano:

Wearing a hard hat, gloves, and harness, Frieder would take one of the Verrazano’s four elevators to the top of the arch.

Usually the sound of the elevator upset the peregrine falcons that nest in the cables, and they immediately started squawking and pecking with razor sharp beaks at the elevator walls.

“They just sit there and squawk at you, but theres nothing they can do,” Frieder says. “Of course the bridge wasn’t designed for them, but they think it is.”

Verrazano Narrows

Once he managed to fend off the falcons, Frieder would scale two long rung ladders to get onto the bridge’s cables.

Walking along the cables — which measure three feet in diameter — Frieder would then take photos of the bridge from every angle.

VERRAZZANO-water

The view from the top is “magnificent,” says Frieder.

“One thing I will never do is go digital,” he adds. “It doesn’t convey what I see and feel when I take a photograph.”

Verrazanno-top

Frieder plans to self-publish a coffee table book with his photographs of New York’s bridges by next year.

All photos courtesy of Dave Frieder, used with permission.

Bensonhurst-dental-thanksgiving

On Sunday, November 23, from 10am-6pm, the folks at Bensonhurst Dental Care (1872 80th St) will be providing dental services free of charge to New York City’s police, firefighters, EMTs, military personnel, and their families.

“We have a unique opportunity to show our men and women in uniform that we are incredibly thankful for their hard work and dedication to the people of this great city,” said Dr. Daniel Rubinshtein.

At the full-day event, Bensonhurst Dental will provide oral cancer screenings, checkups, emergency treatments, as well as kid checkups, fluoride, and cleanings. There will also be a raffle in which one lucky winner will receive a full smile makeover by cosmetic dentist Dr. Marina Rubinshtein.

Food and giveaway bags will be provided.

HOUSE

Hansel and Gretel totally live in this house. Guess the block correctly and we’ll send you a cookie.

Take any photos in Bensonhurst recently? Send them to editor@bensonhurstbean.com, or tag them #Bensonhurst on Instagram, and we’ll post them here.

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Courtesy of CM Treyer

Courtesy of CM Treyger’s office

Our elected officials are taking on 86th Street’s chronic trash problem.

Councilmen Mark Treyger and Vincent Gentile were joined by Assemblyman Bill Colton as they announced funding for a major cleanup of 86th Street between Stillwell Avenue and 18th Avenue on Friday, November 14. The politicians were also joined by the Department of Sanitation, the Doe Fund, and several other community organizations.

“One of the most important aspects of any thriving neighborhood is a clean, welcoming and inviting commercial area that is a positive reflection on our community,” Treyger said in a statement. “This funding represents a great partnership between the city, the Sanitation Department, the Doe Fund, local organizations and merchants as we work towards cleaner and litter-free streets across my entire district.”

Treyger allocated $28,800 for the Department of Sanitation to fund additional workers and trash pick up along 86th Street – with an extra focus on intersections that are hotspots for litter, such as Bay Parkway, 20th Avenue, 23rd Avenue, and 25th Avenue. An extra $6,540 will go towards 12 new high-end litter baskets for 86th Street. In addition, the Doe Fund has received $8,000 from Treyger, and $8,000 from Gentile for three trainees to clean 18th Avenue between 68th Street and 86th Street twice a week.

Gentile, who funded a similar initiative for Bay Ridge in September, said he was happy to lend his support.

“Clean streets are a source of great community pride. Everyone deserves a clean and safe place to live and work. Indeed, the backbone of our neighborhoods are the mom and pop shops that line our main thoroughfares. These folks need and deserve all of our support, every day,” said Gentile in a statement.

For the southern portion of the district, the Alliance for Coney Island received $15,000 to expand its ongoing cleanup program to include the Mermaid Avenue and to extend through the fall and spring. In addition, the Coney Island Beautification Project was allocated $10,287 towards its efforts to make the area from Stillwell Avenue to West 37th Street more attractive.

Igor Vaysberg, a staffer for CM Treyger, listens to ideas from community members at an October 20. Photo by Aliza Chasan

Staffer Igor Vaysberg listens to ideas from community members at an assembly on October 20. (Photo by Aliza Chasan)

By Aliza Chasan

When the small group of community members was asked if they were happy with the way the government spends their money, the room was silent. Hands shot up moments later when residents were asked what changes they wanted to see in their communities.

On November 10, Councilman Mark Treyger wrapped up the last of three community assemblies as part of District 47’s progressive participatory budgeting [PB] initiative. Treyger has allocated $1 million of discretionary funds for residents’ ideas. District 47 – which includes Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Sea Gate and Coney Island – is among 24 of the city’s 51 districts to sign up for PB.

At the meetings, residents filled yellow posters with Sharpie-scrawled ideas. They want street repairs, traffic cameras, bus and crosswalk countdown clocks, covered trash baskets, Wi-Fi and charging stations for parks, and bus shelters. Schools need technology upgrades, air conditioning, speed bumps, and stop signs.

“This exercise is really about empowering residents, so that residents have a direct say on how their tax dollars are at work,” says Treyger, who cites his experience as a high school teacher as his motivation for joining PB. “Equally as important, is that it’s been a great learning tool for the public to learn about the city budget process.”

The next step is for a selected group of volunteers to act as budget delegates, developing pitches into fleshed out plans and deciding which are financially feasible. Each plan will cost at least $35,000 and no more than $1 million – more expensive than replacing a stop sign, but less than building a new park from scratch. Finally, in April, constituents will vote on their favorite project.

“I want to make life easier for people in the neighborhood,” said Robert Whittaker, 40, a volunteer budget delegate. “This is the best way to do that – come here and get involved in the process.”

Another assembly goer, Maria di Graziano, 47, told us her neighborhood has been working toward PB for some time. Treyger, she said, is eager to help, which is a change from the past.

“Now it’s the community that has to get used to being present and involved and voicing their concerns,” she said.

Treyger says the goal of PB is to involve underrepresented voices in the democratic process, such as immigrants, the elderly, residents in public housing, and high school students.

Those efforts include translating flyers for the assemblies into many languages, reaching out to community organizations, and having community organizers like PBNYC and Community Voices Heard spread the word by canvassing door-to-door. Residents as young as 14 are invited to pitch ideas. To vote, community members must be 16 and have some relationship to the neighborhood, whether through work, school, or residency.

“There’s no monopoly on good ideas,” says Treyger.

To find out how you can get involved in PB, see the PBNYC website.

[With additional reporting by Rachel Silberstein]