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grimm

Ofer Biton, an Israeli man who may have illegally raised $500,000 for Michael Grimm’s congressional campaign in 2010, pleaded guilty to visa fraud in Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday. The New York Daily News is reporting that as part of a plea deal, Biton will receive three years of supervised release and is now likely to face deportation proceedings.

Last year, in August 2012, we reported on Biton’s arrest at the hands of the FBI, who accused Biton of lying on his immigration documents. U.S. law allows foreigners who invest $500,000 in American businesses to be granted special visas, as long as the cash comes from a legitimate source. The FBI charged that $400,000 of Biton’s money came from extortion and embezzlement. A report by Politico elaborates on the nature of Biton’s shady finance dealings:

FBI agents claimed that $400,000 used by Biton for the visa application came from an unnamed “co-conspirator,” and not a personal loan as Biton had claimed.

Biton is a former aide to a prominent Israeli rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who has a large following in New York. Grimm — with Biton’s help — raised more than $500,000 from Pinto’s followers, including alleged improper cash donations or contributions from non-U.S. citizens. Biton reportedly sought help from Grimm in obtaining a green card.

It is not yet known if Biton agreed to cooperate in the Department of Justice investigation, which centers around Grimm allegedly accepting illegally raised campaign funds, as part of his plea deal. When Biton was arrested last year, he had refused to cooperate with the FBI.

Biton has been serving under house arrest for 10 months but is now likely to face deportation hearings that could send himself, his wife and two children back to Israel.

Grimm, a former FBI agent, has remained adamant in his innocence, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees over the matter.

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Sea lions and tigers and walruses, oh my! Castles, and ladies and coasters, and even the Predator, too!

The sands of Coney Island had it all – nay, became it all – this weekend at the 23rd annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Competition on Saturday.

Over the weekend, Sheepshead Bites editor Ned Berke and I took a trip to Coney Island to check it out and found that the beauty of the weather was matched by the talents of the sand carvers.

The sculptures were so good that it drew a crowd of thousands, causing us to fight our way through for a view of all the magnificent designs. The first sculpture that struck me was a large brain sprouting from the sand, reminding me of the 60s pop art featured in the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie. I was then wowed by a sculpture of the New York Aquarium which featured an incredibly realistic looking walrus and sea lion.

Continuing the Coney Island theme were two sculptures that both captured the Cyclone roller coaster, both rendered in glorious detail. And, yes, there was a man patiently smoothing a nude woman laying on her stomach with her perfectly rounded derriere on full display. Less attention was paid to her cartoonish face.

On the kid friendly side, we saw Sponge Bob Square Pants roasting in the sun, a dinosaur, some beautifully crafted lions and a Hershey’s Kiss tribute. You could tell the kids were loving the contest as many were running to patches of unused sand to create their own impromptu castles, and some proved very talented. I’m sure we’ll see them in a few years as the future contest winners.

All in all, it was a beautiful day with the contest inspiring tremendous happiness on part of the massive crowd.

Check out an awesome video of the day and our photo gallery after the jump.

Source: KooKoo Bear Kids/Flickr

Back to school time isn’t only stressful for kids who are devastated that summer is ending, but also stressful for parents forced to buy their children new supplies and clothes. For some parents, that obligation is more trying and they can use all the help they can get. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that Reaching-Out Community Services Inc. (7708 New Utrecht Avenue) is holding a “Big Backpack Giveaway” event for families in need of new school gear.

Reaching-Out Community Services is a non-profit organization that provides vital services to struggling community members, including helping them apply for Social Security, Medicaid and also serving as a food pantry. The Daily Eagle described their latest effort in getting school supplies to families who need them:

Donations are being accepted to enable Executive Director Tom Neve and volunteers to purchase backpacks and school supplies for 400 children whose families are registered with Reaching-Out Community Services.

The organization is asking residents to sponsor a child for the school supplies program. Information about the backpack giveaway can be found on the group’s website, rcsprograms.org.

The backpacks will be presented to the children at the giveaway event on Aug. 24. New York City public schools open on Sept. 9.

This year marks the third annual backpack giveaway held by Reaching-Out Community Services.

“We’re trying to ease the pain for parents who can’t afford to buy school supplies for their kids. When you can’t afford to buy food to feed your family, you can’t afford to get school supplies,” Neve told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

“We’re also doing it so that kids can feel like they can fit into society,” Neve said.”It’s hard enough to be a kid and to see your parents going through hard times. It’s worse when you go to school and see all of the other kids with everything they need. You feel left out, apart from everybody,” he said.

All the backpacks distributed will be filled with pens, pencils, notebooks and paper. Neve, a former city worker, described why he founded Reaching-Out.

“I was working for the city and I saw there was so much need out there. People were really hurting. They still are,” he said. Over the past 10 years, he has seen a large increase in the number of people coming to the organization for help. “A lot of people don’t even know that hunger exists in their community. But it’s here. People are hungry,” Neve told the Daily Eagle.

The non-profit group is also organizing a Walk Against Hunger march on September 28. The walk will start at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 1305 86th Street at 11 a.m. Registration for the walk begins at 9:45 a.m.

Best of luck to the Reaching-Out Community Services for their effort and all their great work.

UPDATE: 8/22/13 (8:53 a.m.): The giveaway starts this Saturday, August 24, at 11 a.m. at 7708 New Utrecht Avenue. The following is a message from Reaching-Out’s Executive Director Tom Neve:

Reaching-Out Community Services will be distributing over 400 Back Packs with school supplies to children of need. This is not a hand out, its charity with intelligence. How we know the children need it, it’s a no brainer… the kids are recipients of our emergency food pantry program. So we know they need the help.

Source: Joseph Teeter/Flickr

D LINE

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday to Sunday, and 11:45 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday, Coney Island-bound D trains skip DeKalb Av and run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.

N LINE

All times until October 2014: No trains running between Court St, Brooklyn and Whitehall St, Manhattan. Late night N and weekend R trains are rerouted via the Manhattan Bridge. Use alternate service and stations on the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, or C instead.

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday to Sunday, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday, Coney Island-bound N trains skip DeKalb Av and run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.

R LINE

All times until October 2014: No trains running between Court St, Brooklyn and Whitehall St, Manhattan. Late night N and weekend R trains are rerouted via the Manhattan Bridge. Use alternate service and stations on the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, or C instead.

From 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 71 Av-bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to 71 Av.

From 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Bay Ridge-bound R trains skip DeKalb Av and run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.

F LINE

From 11:45 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Coney Island-bound F trains are rerouted via the M after 36 St, Queens to 47-50 Sts.

From 11:45 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Queens-bound F trains skip 75 Av, Van Wyck Blvd, and Sutphin Blvd.

Quaglione speaking at the rally. (Source: johnquaglione.com)

Last weekend’s rally against the proposed Southwest Brooklyn Marine Waste Transfer Station near Ceasar’s Bay may have been a unifying experience for many in the community, but one City Council candidate who took a rhetorical swing at his opponent during the event is now coming under attack by the rally’s organizer, Assemblyman William Colton.

While elected officials and political candidates of all stripes largely kept their statements to their opposition of the proposed station for health and safety reasons, John Quaglione, an aide to State Senator Marty Golden and a Republican candidate looking to unseat Councilman Vincent Gentile, took a swipe at the incumbent, as we reported yesterday.

“This is totally ludicrous. If you are waiting for Christine Quinn to get here, you’re going to wait a long time,” Quaglione said during the rally, according to the Home Reporter. “Every Brooklyn City Council member voted for this proposal, except for Domenic Recchia. Remember that when you vote in November.”

Quaglione reiterated his criticism on his Facebook page, this time naming his opponent.

I was surprised to see my opponent, Councilman Vincent Gentile at the rally against the Waste Transfer Station approved for Bensonhurst, because in 2006, he voted to support this very same waste transfer station. I don’t understand how in his right mind, he could even show up at a rally, and better yet, address the audience as those he is on their side and against it.

Flip flopping on this issue is a failure of character, and if the plan goes through, Mr. Gentile will have to explain why the people of Southwest Brooklyn must face a new series of serious quality of life and health concerns.

I have and remain opposed to this plan, and look forward to working with Assemblyman Bill Colton and others to stop this before it’s too late.

Since the initial post, Quaglione made several other posts to the social networking site to similar effect.

Colton fumed that Quaglione dared turned the issue into a divisive one, issuing an all-caps e-mail statement condemning Quaglione’s behavior, although he refused to name the candidate.

Here’s the relevant portion of that statement:

AT THE RALLY NUMEROUS COMMUNITY AND CIVIC LEADERS WERE PERMITTED TO SPEAK. HOWEVER IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTIION THAT ONE SUCH PERSON WHO HAPPENS TO BE A CANDIDATE FOR CITY COUNCIL HAS POSTED MATERIAL ON HIS FACEBOOK ACCOUNT ATTEMPTING TO TURN OUR FIGHT INTO A POLITICAL FOOTBALL. I CONDEMN EFFORTS TO DIVIDE THE COMMUNITY BY USING THIS CRITICAL ISSUE AS A FORUM OF ATTACKING OTHERS. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE WHEN THE CANDIDATE RUNNING FOR THE 43 COUNCIL DISTRICT SEAT HAD NOT WORKED WITH US IN THE PAST YEARS IN WHICH OUR COMMUNITY COALITION HAS BEEN ORGANIZING PETITIONS AND RALLIES AGAINST THIS DANGEROUS PLAN, UNTIL NOW WHEN HE IS RUNNING FOR OFFICE.  THIS PATTERN OF CONDUCT SERVES TO DIVIDE RATHER THAN UNITE THE COMMUNITY IN ITS EFFORTS TO PROTECT THE NEIGHBORHOOD FROM THE IMPACTS OF THIS PROPSOED GARBAGE STATION IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

In an interview with Bensonhurst Bean, Colton added that he’d speak out against anyone who sought to use the issue in a partisan manner, Democrat or Republican.

“I have no patience and no tolerance for anyone who uses it to attack anyone else. It should be an opportunity for all of us to unite to save the community from the environmental damage [the transfer station] will cause,” he said.

Though Gentile has already addressed the criticism, saying he voted in favor of the transfer station in 2006 because, at the time, there was no evidence of health or safety concerns, he elaborated on that statement yesterday in an interview with Bensonhurst Bean.

According to the councilman, the only community concern at the time of the 2006 vote was that it would bring traffic and congestion to the area as trucks funneled in. He said that he brokered a deal with the Sanitation Department to mitigate the noise and traffic, leading to his vote of support. But once his colleague Colton uncovered evidence of toxic sludge that could be dredged up in the bay, he changed his mind he said.

“You can’t be a stick in the mud. When new evidence comes up regarding the health and safety of the residents, it would be irresponsible to go forward and vote for it,” Gentile said.

View the full statement from Assemblyman Colton.

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The NYPD’s 61st Precinct is asking for the public’s help in hunting down a crew of alleged thieves accused of stealing wallets and purses from patrons at local department stores.

According to sources at the precinct, the thieves have hit local stores including the Sheepshead Bay Marshalls (1623 Avenue Y), the Kings Highway T.J. Maxx (1630 East 15th Street), and the  Kohl’s at Ceasar’s Bay, swiping wallets and credit cards from unattended purses. The suspects allegedly pretend to be shoppers. Victims leave their purses in their carts while browsing the aisles, and the suspects are believed to swipe the wallet out of the purses as the victim turns their back.

The police have connected at least four incidents to the suspects since the beginning of July, with the latest occurring on August 3. Surveillance video at the stores, stills of which accompany this post, have helped investigators zero in on their suspects.

The source noted that perpetrators have not racked up exorbitant charges on the victims’ credit cards, instead quickly using it for small purchases before discarding it. However, all credit card theft is considered a grand larceny.

At the time of this report, the precinct could not say exactly how many suspects they believed to be involved in the thefts, although they confirmed that there are multiple perpetrators.

The precinct is also reminding residents not to leave their purses or other property unattended in public spaces.

If you have information regarding these crimes or suspects, please call the  61st Precinct Detective Squad at (718) 627-6620 or the 61st Precinct at (718) 627-6611.

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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. 

A worker removing the graffiti (Source: Glennschuck via twitter)

A worker removing the graffiti (Source: Glennschuck via twitter)

The Jackie Robinson/Pee Wee Reese statue standing outside MCU Park (1904 Surf Avenue), which was recently defaced with hate graffiti, will be rededicated on August 19 as part of a “Diversity Day” event hosted by the Alliance for Coney Island. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that the re-dedication of the statue will be part of a series of activities designed to bring awareness to the evils of racism.

The event kicks off on Monday August 19th, revolving around a Brooklyn Cyclones doubleheader against the Staten Island Yankees. Prior to the first game’s start time at 5:30 p.m., community leaders, the Cyclones, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Jackie Robinson Little League and Major League Baseball will rededicate the statue.

The Daily Eagle described the activities set to take place after the game, including a special screening:

Following the ceremony and baseball game, there will be a special screening of the Warner Bros. movie “42” as part of the “Flicks on the Beach” Series presented by Alliance for Coney Island, Rooftop Films and NYC & Company.  Guests will be invited to watch the critically-acclaimed film on a 40-foot screen on the sand of Coney Island near West 10th Street.

“We are proud to be screening the monumental film ‘42’ which provides a biography of Brooklyn hero Jackie Robinson. A silver lining to this offensive act is that Coney Island can band together and commemorate Robinson’s legacy during Diversity Day, and celebrate the strength of our community and the history of Brooklyn,” said Johanna Zaki, Alliance for Coney Island Director of Operations.

This is a great job by the Alliance for Coney Island, the Cyclones and all others involved to turn an ugly event and transform it into an enlightening and fun day for the purposes of spreading messages of tolerance, brotherhood and community harmony.

Source: Quaglione campaign

Source: Quaglione campaign

City Council candidate John Quaglione went after Councilman Vincent Gentile over his initial support of the controversial Gravesend waste transfer station. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that at the rally held by Assemblyman William Colton this past Sunday, Quaglione attacked Gentile’s record on the transfer station in front of the protesting crowd.

Earlier in the week, we reported on the protest of the waste transfer station organized by Colton over the Department of Sanitation’s (DOS) plans to build a waste transfer station behind the Caesar’s Bay Shopping Center (1640 Shore Parkway). Colton, who waged an unsuccessful lawsuit against the city to halt the construction of the station, has not given up his quest, arguing that the facility would be an environmental disaster for the community. The rally drew both the presence of Gentile (D) and Quaglione (R), both professed opponents of the transfer station and both locked in a bitter race for the 43rd Council District seat.

Quaglione, who also spoke at the rally, went on to remind would-be constituents that Gentile voted for the station when it came up for a vote in 2006:

“I don’t understand how in his right mind, he could even show up at a rally, and better yet, address the audience as though he is on their side and against it,” Quaglione said.

“Flip flopping on this issue is a failure of character, and if the plan goes through, Mr. Gentile will have to explain why the people of Southwest Brooklyn must face a new series of serious quality of life and health concerns. I have and remain opposed to this plan, and look forward to working with Assemblyman Bill Colton and others to stop this before it is too late,” Quaglione said.

Gentile responded by pleading that had he known of the alleged environmental impact of the station, he never would have voted for it in the first place.

“I was compelled to reexamine the plan to build a waste transfer station at Bay 41st near Gravesend Bay after reviewing startling new information uncovered by my friend and colleague Assemblyman Colton. I would not support any plan that would put our health, quality of life or environment at risk,” Gentile said.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted that approval for the station, which was apart of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Solid Waste Management Plan, was nearly unanimous in the council, receiving only four votes of opposition.

Source: Whiskeygonebad via Flickr

Source: Whiskeygonebad via Flickr

The 18th Avenue Feast has had trouble getting off the ground in recent years, and it appears permit problems risk preventing the festival from happening again – although no final decisions have yet been made. Reports indicate that the city has rejected street closure permits from Santa Rosalia Society, the feast’s organizers, over failure to provide certain tax documents.

In the latest hiccup, the city is claiming that the social club failed to include critical tax documents in their request for street closure permits. The Santa Rosalia Society says that a clerk in the city offices must have lost them.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that the feast, which has run for more than 30 years, has had trouble swinging into action. In 2011, the feast was canceled due to permit problems and last minute organizing difficulties.

The paper’s report might have kicked up a bit of hubbub among those afraid the feast won’t go forward, but Councilman Vincent Gentile sought to temper people’s worst fears, writing on his Facebook page, “Don’t believe the hype! Bensonhurst’s annual Festa di Santa Rosalia a.k.a. the ’18th Avenue Festival’ has NOT been canceled.”

Of course, it looks like it could go either way at the moment. With declining enthusiasm for the event, the ever-shrinking Italian population in Bensonhurst, and paperwork problems facing the Santa Rosalia Society, the past few years have proved to be a bit of a crap shoot when determining the festival’s fate. 

As of right now, the status of the feast remains in question. We’ll let you know as soon as it becomes certain.