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Source: Met Council

Source: Met Council

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty helped 600 needy families celebrate the Passover holiday with free kosher food packages yesterday.

Reps from the organization doled out the kosher meals at the Bensonhurst COJO Sephardic Nursing Center at 2266 Cropsey Avenue.

“For most of us, Passover is a time for festive family seders. But for too many of New York’s Jewish needy, the festival of our freedom is, ironically, just the opposite – yet another painful reminder of the oppression of poverty,” said David M. Frankel, CEO and executive director of Met Council, in a statement.

The event was part of a citywide Met Council initiative, in which they distributed an estimated 2.1 million pounds of food ahead of the holiday, helping a total of 50,000 families in need.

The packages included holiday staples such as matzah, tuna fish, gefilte fish, carrots, potatoes and apple sauce.


by Kaara Baptiste

Shootings in the NYPD’s 60th Precinct, covering Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Gravesend, jumped nearly 85 percent last year, spiking to 24 incidents from 13 in 2012. The incidents included two fatal shootings in Coney Island within 48 hours of Christmas Day. Community leaders soon met to discuss collaborative anti-violence efforts, including a “violence interrupter” program, modeled after ones in Chicago and other parts of Brooklyn, to keep feuds from erupting into bloodshed.

The so-called “interrupters” stay close to the streets to diffuse conflicts and steer youth toward a productive path. The Coney Island Step Up program, as it is tentatively called, just received a $15,000 grant from the city.

Ronald Stewart, a Coney Island resident since 1955, is one of these interrupters. Stewart, 63, is a New York State parole officer, serving in Brownsville since 1992. He founded Men United for Change, a mentoring program for adolescent and teen boys. Here, he shares his thoughts on Coney Island’s violence and why intervention is crucial.

Coney Island has long had a reputation for crime. What’s different about the latest spate of shootings?

Coney Island is a unique place. Crime happens everyday here, like other places. But because Coney Island is so small, the deaths are really magnified. The violence happens in intervals, not consistently. It’s mostly young people. They might have a beef; it may be drug related. But ours is much different than other parts of Brooklyn, like Flatbush, Brownsville, because those are bigger places and crime is more consistent. So we’re trying to take some of what [organizations such as Man Up!, in East New York, and Chicago Interrupters] are doing and develop it to something that fits Coney Island.

Violence interrupter programs rely on relationship-building to reach at-risk youth. Why would the young people in Coney Island listen to you?

[These young people] will talk to me before they talk to their mother. As we developed Men United for Change, I realized that we don’t talk to our youth. Other cultures have communication between young and old. But we’ll walk by our young people and not say anything to them. We feel intimidated. We see their pants sagging down; they look tough, they look mean.

I have developed a certain amount of respect among them because I never talk down to them. James Baldwin, the great writer, once said young people don’t listen to what you say, they watch what you do. This generation is quick to tell you, “Don’t preach to me!” They want you to communicate with them.

What kind of intervention does the team of interrupters have in mind?

We’re going to concentrate on doing street walks. We will target the different places where young people congregate – street corners, lobbies in project buildings, McDonald’s, the Chinese restaurants. We’ll pass out fliers with imagery and a few bullet points about what violence does to the community. The message is: “This is your community.” But we also plan to talk to them, just “What’s up? What’s going on, man?” Black males feel so vulnerable because no one talks to them. Then we want to go into the junior high schools.

Why target junior high schools?

These are the age groups where beefs are starting to happen. They’re at the crossroads of their life. They’re very impressionable and easily distracted. We’d like to do assemblies, even bring in former gang members, to let them know violence is not the way to go.

How did community work become such a consistent theme in your life?

In my adolescent years, Coney Island was in transition due to urban renewal. My mother was involved in community work and would take me to the meetings. There’d be a lot of shouting, people organizing protests, making sure people were involved. I was involved with Coney Island Youth Development program, and I became a member of the Nation of Islam in 1965. At the time, the Black Panthers and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were active. Then Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and that caused a movement! And I was part of all that. It gave me a sense of consciousness and activism. And it was a lot of fulfillment for me.

Why did you become a parole officer?

I saw the ad in the Amsterdam News [in 1990] and read the description and qualifications. It talked about dealing with ex-offenders and bringing them back to the community, helping them be better citizens and making the community safe. That’s part of what I did anyway [as director of the Carey Gardens Community Center, at one of Coney Island’s housing projects], so I said “Ohhh…”

How did Men United for Change start?

I thought that young black males are at risk. They are, all over the country, whether it’s violence against each other or from others. So I felt we needed to have a program that addressed the needs of young black males; that’s how Men United for Change started.

In your opinion, why are black males at particular risk?

[Many are] raised in families where they see a lot of fighting but no crisis intervention. Sometimes they take that anger out on their peers or people around them. They must see themselves as being valuable in society. But they don’t see that, so they feel outside. In school, the curriculum is not about them and most of their teachers [white females] have no idea how to relate to them. So they carry a lot of pain and disillusionment. That translates into lashing out in anger and they’ll fight quicker. Even the ones [who are] going to school, trying to navigate society without conflict, feel afraid because they don’t fit in anywhere.

You plan on retiring as a parole officer this spring. What are your plans for retirement?

I want to devote more time to Men United for Change. Plus, I want to travel. I never had the chance to travel, believe it or not [outside of parole duties]. I want to visit Mexico, Brazil, Arizona, to see the Hubble telescope. I love science. I’m writing a memoir about growing up in Coney Island. It’s called The Other Side of Dreamland: Growing Up Black in Coney Island. I want to put more time into that.

2007 Surf Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

The death of NYPD Officer Dennis Guerra, who succumbed yesterday to injuries sustained from the Coney Island fire set by a “bored” teen, marked a tragic milestone for the entire city. At 6:50 a.m. yesterday, he became the first cop to be killed in the line of duty since December 2011.

Hundreds of friends, family and colleagues gathered outside the hospital looked on as approximately 100 officers stood at attention in silence as Guerra’s flag-draped body was wheeled out of the hospital and into an ambulance.

The memorial service and funeral are still being planned. His partner, Rosa Rodriguez, remains in critical condition, although her doctors are optimistic about her recovery.

Meanwhile, the family of 16-year-old Marcell Dockery, the teen who confessed to lighting a mattress in the hallway on fire out of boredom, came forward yesterday to apologize for Dockery’s actions.

“This has been a tragedy, not only for one family but for many families. So, right now we are just apologizing, openly apologizing and saying God be with those officers,” a family spokesperson told News 12.

The incident will also lead to a policy change at the NYPD, according to Commissioner Bill Bratton. Currently, the NYPD does not have a policy in place about officers using an elevator when responding to a fire, even though elevators can become deadly traps. When firefighters use them during a fire, they take the elevator to a nearby floor below the fire, and use the stairs the remainder of the way. The NYPD will assess the best way of responding in such incidents, and create a policy to better protect officers in the future.

6107 16th Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

6101 16th Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

The Bais Sarah-Educ School for Girls, a Jewish private school, applied for a construction permit that Community Board 11 will have to either approve or reject during tomorrow’s meeting.

Built in 2004, the private school holds 710 students, according to Great Schools, and the request for expansion comes at a time when the school is trying to accommodate more students.

“As with all other schools, the need has increased and they’re looking to accommodate additional students,” District Manager of Community Board 11 Marnee Elias-Pavia said.

The school is looking to build upwards and add an additional three floors. It’s currently three floors.

The school is on 6101 16th Avenue. The board will also be considering an application on 6602 New Utrecht Avenue, where there is an R&D Auto Center. The applicant is seeking to extend the term of an existing variance for 10 years.

The Board’s vote is advisory only, and will be forwarded to the Board of Standards and Appeals for a final determination.

Community Board 11 with hold its monthly general meeting Thursday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m., at Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare (1740 84th Street).

There are two public hearings on the agenda:

  • 6602 New Utrecht Avenue - The applicant is seeking to extend the term of an existing variance for 10 years
  • 6106 16th Avenue - The applicant is seeking a proposed enlargement to an existing school building

If you live near one of these locations and have concerns about their application, attend the meeting to be heard.

The Board serves as a local conduit to the government of New York City, representing neighbors’ needs and concerns. If you have a problem with a city agency or quality of life issue, the Board exists to relay your concerns and spur action.

There will be time to hear residents’ concerns and discuss various committee reports, and elected officials may be in attendance.

For more information, call (718) 266-8800.

One of the campaign's posters. Click to enlarge.

One of the campaign’s posters. Click to enlarge.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind claims that the Department of Transportation has blocked his attempt to put up advertisements calling for the deportation of a Queens man believed to be a Nazi war criminal on bus shelters near the man’s home.

Hikind announced a campaign in early March to roll out MTA posters and ads urging the community to call for the deportation of Jakiw Palij, 91. He also launched a petition calling for the same.

The ads ask residents “Would you be a Nazi’s neighbor?” According to the pol, Palij, of Jamaica, Queens, was a guard in a Nazi labor camp, a charge the accused denies. Hikind, though, said the U.S. Justice Department has ordered Palij and others deported – but can’t do so because no country will accept him.

Hikind wants him sent to Germany.

“Germany created the Holocaust,” said Hikind in a press release last month. “They financed it. They paid for the uniforms and the gas chambers. Let Germany take responsibility for these Nazis.”

The ads never made it to bus shelters as planned, though. The pol signed a contract with the company that manages shelter advertising for the DOT in February, but the ads were never posted. The DOT could not explain the delay, according to the Daily News.

Officer Dennis Guerra, one of the two officers critically injured after rushing into a burning Coney Island apartment building to help residents, died from his injuries early this morning.

Guerra, 38, a married father or four, was first declared brain dead and on life support yesterday. This morning, at 6:50 a.m., he further slipped away and was pronounced dead at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, according to the New York Post.

“We lost a good man this morning. Officer Guerra was exemplary – he went to try to help people in need. Our hearts go out to the Guerra family – we will stand by them,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I have gotten to know his family in the past few days, a wonderful family,” the mayor said. “On behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, our hearts go out to them.”

Guerra was an eight-year veteran of the force.

His partner, Rosa Rodriguez, 36, remains in critical condition, and a family member told the Daily News that “She’s doing much better,” and that doctors believe she may make a full recovery.

The two were injured after they rushed into a New York City Housing Authority building at 2007 Surf Avenue in response to a fire on Monday. They arrived mere minutes after the call and took the elevator up to the 13th floor.

When the doors opened, thick black smoke blasted into the elevator. Rodriguez and Guerra called for backup, and were heard over the police scanners gasping for breath before becoming unresponsive to the dispatcher’s calls.

Dockery (Source: Facebook)

Dockery (Source: Facebook)

Police arrested 16-year-old Marcell Dockery, a tenant in the building who reportedly confessed to lighting a mattress on fire in the hallway because he was “bored.” The fire spread more quickly than he anticipated, and he fled to his apartment on another floor.

Dockery has been charged with two counts of assault, one count of arson, and one count of reckless endangerment.

The district attorney may tack on felony murder charges for the death of Guerra.

His mother also faces eviction from the building because of his actions.

I applaud the agent for this creative fly-on-the-wall shot. That or there is a hidden camera in that corner used to spy on you. (Source: KW/NYC)

Looking for a new place to call home? Bensonhurst Bean has got you covered. Our rental roundup is a new feature showcasing some of the deals on the market now. If you know of a great place available for rent or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact nberke [at] bensonhurstbean [dot] com. And if you live in or near one the places below, let neighbors know what you think in the comments.

One “Original Bedroom” and a Tub in Bensonhurst
Price: $1,200
Location: Dahill Road and Avenue P
Description: Bathrooms come standard in any apartment. If They (capital T) could get away with removing it they would. This realtor seems to be treading that line when he writes having “A TUB!!” to be an original feature. Some more “original features.” A “Herringbone bone style” wood floor, but the pictures just show pretty ordinary floors. There are also three full closets and one linen closet, all of which are the height of NYC originality.
Contact: Andy, KW/NYC, (347) 781-3314

Three Bedrooms and a Huge House in Dyker Heights
Price: $2,999
Location: 85th Street and 11th Avenue
Description: This listing is saturated with pictures and more pictures. Both dizzying and beautiful, going through all of the pictures gives you the feeling that you’re going to be renting a mansion (or maybe I’ve just been looking at small apartments for too long).
Contact: Renee Dorsa, Dorsa Group Realty, (718) 921-9012

Three Bedrooms in Bath Beach
Price: $2,000
Location: Bay 26th Street
Description: This agent has taken a special interest in photographing the walls in this apartment. She’s all about the walls and the not-so-sunlit windows.
Contact: Michelle Castillo, Rapid Realty, (646) 400-8966

One Bedroom in Bensonhurst
Price: $1,400
Location: 1924 Bay Ridge Parkway
Description: Meet Joel S. He’s such a bad-ass agent that he doesn’t even have a full last name. Just call him S. The S. And the apartment is equally cool and suave with renovated wood floors and spacious rooms. Now all you need to do is shorten your last name to one letter.
Contact: Joel S, Security 1 Real Estate, (718) 954-5686

If you know of a great place available for rent or are a broker representing a property you want included, contact nberke [at] bensonhurstbean [dot] com.

Can’t we all just get along? (Source:dtanist/Flickr)

Crain’s New York Business Journal turned its gaze to Bath Beach, making the less-than-subtle observation that “Chinese replace Italians as area’s dominant force.”

M’kay. Not exactly a newsflash to those that live around here. But it opened with some interesting history:

Bath Beach, a neighborhood in the far reaches of southern Brooklyn that runs along the Belt Parkway, just inland from Gravesend Bay, gets the first part of its name from the famous English spa town. And though it’s hard to believe—looking at the area’s main drag, gritty 86th Street—a century ago it had its own alluring stretch of sand that served a similar function for New Yorkers as the Hamptons serves today.

The beach disappeared in the building boom following World War II, as a wave of Italian immigrants moved in. Now Bath Beach is seeing another monumental shift.

While there were some rather obvious remarks about business signage and census data that we’ve delved into before, the writer spoke to St. Finbar Catholic Church’s Reverend Michael Gelfant, who noted that the demographic changes were causing the old-school businesses to struggle.

The problem for them is that many of the area’s new Chinese residents are opting to shop in Sunset Park. That neighborhood, just a mile and a half north, in recent years has become the home of Brooklyn’s largest Chinese population, one that boasts a retail and restaurant lineup to match. For many of Bath Beach’s Chinese residents, language barriers make it hard to shop locally.

“There’s not a lot going on at a lot of the Italian- and Irish-American businesses, but that’s because of a lack of communication,” Father Gelfant said. “They’re not [shopping elsewhere] to be rude—they just can’t communicate.”

Gelfant said a number of local Irish and Italian businesses are on the market.

The piece also briefly touched on the tension between long-time residents and the various new immigrant groups, including Russian and Gautemalan. The write-up went much like our comments section, with people grousing over “Beijinghurst,” and more sensible readers pointing out… well, let’s allow Father Gelfant to say it:

“A few of the Italian parishioners were complaining to me,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Don’t blame those people that moved in. Blame all the people that sold their houses.’”

And to those who still grumble over their new neighbors? Well, it’s New York City. Wait seven years and you’ll have a whole new set of neighbors to complain about.

2007 Surf Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

Police arrested 16-year-old Marcell Dockery yesterday, charging him with setting the fire on the 13th floor of the Coney Island apartment building at 2007 Surf Avenue that left two cops fighting for their lives.

Dockery (Source: Facebook)

Dockery (Source: Facebook)

Dockery was also charged separately yesterday in connection to the armed robbery of a 60-year-old neighbor.

The Daily News reports:

Dockery, 16, was hit with two counts of assault, one count of arson and one count of reckless endangerment, officials said.

And if either officer dies, he could face felony murder.

“He said he was bored,” a police source said. “He’s a firebug.”

Dockery, whose rap sheet includes a previous arrest for lighting a fire, started the inferno Sunday by torching a mattress in the 13th floor hallway of the NYCHA building where he lives, police said.

When the flames became too fierce, Dockery tried to stomp them out and then ran to his cousin’s pad on the same floor for help, according to cops.

They returned to the burning mattress, but the fire was burning out of control so they ran downstairs to Dockery’s 12th floor apartment and called 911 for help, the sources said.

Dockery confessed to the crime after the arrest.

Later in the day, cops tacked on robbery and grand larceny charges after a 60-year-old neighbor told police she recognized Dockery as the teen who threatened her with a razor blade and stole $10 on March 7.

The New York City Housing Authority plans to terminate Dockery’s mother’s lease as a result of her son’s actions, although she could be given a reprieve if she signs a document barring Dockery from the property for life.

The two officers critically injured in the blaze, Rosa Rodriguez, 36, and Dennis Guerra, 38, continue to fight for their lives in the hospital.