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Soruce: Claudio Forquina

Soruce: Claudio Forquina

Every New Year’s Day, dozens of bold (crazy) people flock to the shore to join members of the Coney Polar Bear swim club and plunge into the frigid ocean, all for a chance to feel what it is like to have ice cold water lap against their private parts. What a lot of people don’t know is that the New Year’s Day swim, which anyone can participate in, is only one in a series of otherwise exclusive icy swim outings undertaken by the Polar Bears all winter. Amusing the Zillion is reporting that the Polar Bear’s are accepting new members and are employing a lottery system to divvy out the open spots.

While the media makes it seem that the Polar Bears are out only on January 1, the club has an active schedule all winter. Every Sunday at 1 p.m., from November 3 until April, enthused Coney Polar Bear members gather to brave the frosty waters of the Atlantic, refusing to deny themselves ocean splendor until the hot summer months.

If this sounds like your idea of a great time, you can join them by registering for a lottery that will select 10 lucky people. Amusing the Zillion broke down what is expected of selected new members:

To register for the lottery, you must sign up here and will be notified of the results by November 9th. Selected applicants are required to pay a $25 application fee (non-refundable), participate in 12 swims within a single season between November and April and be voted in by a majority of the membership. The club has approximately 150 full-time members with about 100 coming out for weekly swims…

You can also join the Coney Polar Bear Club for one guest swim. Just show up at the Bears “Clubhouse” at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Coney Island Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing.

On the registration page, I found the last perk to be the most interesting one promised to members:

The privileges of membership:

  • Participation in our weekly swims and other Club activities
  • Use of our changing facilities
  • Full voting rights
  • The right to own and wear the official Club patch
  • Bragging rights to your wimp friends

Yes, your wimp friends will have no choice but to bow down to your official Polar Bear club patch all while you brag about the time you flung yourself into 12 degree water last February.

Anyway, their swims on New Year’s Eve, which are open to all, are done to raise money for Camp Sunshine and other charities for children with life threatening diseases. According to Amusing the Zillion, the Polar Bears pull down $20,000 annually for their causes, which is amazing and should be applauded.

Anyway, the Polar Bears are announcing their new members on Saturday, November 9, so if you want a shot to join them, you best register quickly. Good luck!

One of Berger’s 45 cats. Photo by Katherine Gonzalez

The Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella (BRU), which has been doing TNR (trap, neuter, return) and animal rescue and adoption assistance since March 2011 after they became involved in the rescue of 45 cats from Brighton Beach resident Barbara Berger, will be holding two adoption events:

  • The Over the Hump Wednesday Adoption Event at Pet Delight, 300 Kings Highway between West 6th Street and West 7th Street, is taking place tomorrow, November 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • The Adoption Event and Sidewalk Sale will be held this weekend, November 9 and 10, also at Pet Delight, to help raise money for BRU’s vet bill.

Among the furry friends available for adoption are a “gorgeous and healthy” Superstorm Sandy cat still waiting for his forever home, and Misu, a faithful companion to an elderly woman, is also waiting for her very own faithful caretaker.

BRU reports that they still have about five more cats that previously belonged to Berger left to adopt. “We don’t give up on these guys,” BRU’s Josie Marrero told us in an email about the event.

“Some of these cats are in dire need of homes of their own — they’re not getting any younger,” Marrero said.

To learn more about BRU, what they do, and to keep updated on their events, check out their website, and visit them on Facebook.

Family photos of Jorge Cabello, 24, who has Down Syndrome, showing what his family alleges was an attack on him while he was being cared for at Heartshare Human Services in Brooklyn, in September 2012. Jorge came home that day with a blackened eye and fractured face, and his family wants to know how it happened. The agency says it turned up no signs of abuse.

A photo taken by the family of Jorge Cabello that shows some of his injuries (via

HeartShare Human Services, a nonprofit serving the disabled headed by the chairperson of Bensonhurst’s Community Board 11, was slapped with a lawsuit that alleges a worker abused a developmentally disabled man, and that the organization gave the runaround when family came looking for answers.

The lawsuit claims that 24-year-old Jorge Cabello, who has Down syndrome, returned home from a HeartShare affiliate in Bed-Stuy with a facial fracture, black eye and other bruises on September 7, 2012. When the family went looking for answers, they were told he was hurt “walking into a door frame.”

The Daily News reports that the suit notes bruises on his knees and injuries “signaling that he was punched, kicked, his hands were held behind his back and he was beaten.”

Additionally, the facility removed his clothing, washed it, and sent him home with the wet clothes in a bag and no explanation.

As the family followed pressed further for additional information, Cabello was booted from the program without explanation.

The Daily News reports:

[The Cabello family's attorney Robinson] Iglesias plans to go to court next month and compel HeartShare to reveal what happened to the 24-year-old.

HeartShare — which reported gross receipts of $92 million in its 2011 tax filings — receives funding from the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities as well as the New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education.

The flush nonprofit is run by William Guarinello, who is also the longtime chairman of Community Board 11 in Bath Beach and earned about $530,000 in total compensation in 2011, according to HeartShare tax documents.

… The agency would not comment on the lawsuit or explain why Cabello was thrown out of the program, but said it did launch an investigation into his injuries.

“In the incident involving this individual, multiple levels of investigations did not find that any abuse occurred,” a HeartShare spokeswoman said in a statement.


Voters get amp’d at St. Mark School

The benefit of working in the neighborhood you live is that while all of you suckers have commuted to work or school or whatever, I get to go vote with no lines, no hassle. Suckers, indeed.

Still, it was unusually busy when we stopped by the St. Mark School poll site in Sheepshead Bay today at approximately 10:15 a.m., no doubt because of the mayoral elections. Poll workers agreed that they were seeing much higher morning turnouts than they have in recent years, and estimated that more than 300 people had so far cast their ballot at that one poll site.

We haven’t heard much in the way of problems yet today, though there were some lingering questions (as there always are) about the proximity of nearby electioneers. It is illegal to hand out campaign materials at the door to a poll site, so if you see something call 311 and inform the poll workers inside. Strangely, for the first time in the years I’ve been covering campaigns, I didn’t see the signs at the poll site indicating the distance electioneers must keep. And, more strangely, there were absolutely no electioneers at my poll site. Campaign workers for City Council candidates David Storobin and Chaim Deutsch were stationed more than a block away.

Of course, we tend to hear the most complaints of abuses and voting problems as the day wears on. Make sure to send any tips to nberke [at] bensonhurstbean [dot] com.

Polls are open until 9:00 p.m. tonight. You can find your polling site here.

Councilman David Greenfield

Councilman David Greenfield

Councilman David Greenfield wants to stop a dirty practice that is costing New Yorkers millions of dollars a year at restaurants across the city. The New York Post is reporting that Greenfield wants to enact heavy fines for eateries that deal in the tricky ‘double tipping’ practice.

Restaurants that con people into tipping twice do so by including the “suggested” gratuity in the bill and also add a tip line at the bottom of the credit card slip. Unassuming patrons then add on an extra tip, unaware that they have already been charged one. The Post described how the practice first saw the light of day:

Earlier this year, Manhattan tennis pro Ted Dimond sued a half-dozen restaurant chains – including Red Lobster and The Olive Garden – for regularly adding tips of 15 percent or more to the tabs of small dining parties.

His class-action suit cited a 2009 Post investigation that found that dozens of businesses had been caught engaging in illegal tipping practices.

Greenfield, who has proposed fining restaurants $250 who partake in the scam, spoke to the economic impact of the practice and the need for action:

“By our account, this is literally an in issue that is costing restaurant-eating New Yorkers millions of dollars every single year,” Greenfield told The Post.

“We’re not looking to hurt the hard-working waitstaff at restaurants,” he added. “But at the same time, we don’t want you to trick people into tipping you twice.”

The law would be enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs, and require a disclosure on both the bill and the credit card receipt, in a font-size to be determined by the agency.

The bill has been referred to committee for hearings.

Screenshot from the NY1 debate.

Screenshot from the NY1 debate.

Tomorrow is Election Day, and while many of the City Council elections were determined during September’s primary, Bensonhurst remains the scene of one of the most heated general elections in New York City.

Democratic incumbent Vincent Gentile has faced a fierce challenge from Republican John Quaglione in his reelection bid for the 43rd District of the City Council, which covers Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

Quaglione, an aide to State Senator Marty Golden, has spent months placing blame for the perceived decline in quality of life and funding shortfalls at the feet of Gentile, as well as hitting him for his former support of the Gravesend Bay waste transfer station.

Gentile, meanwhile, has fought back, depicting Quaglione as a Johnny-come-lately who, despite having the power to address some of these issues as a Golden aide, has only turned his attention to them to win votes. He has defended the slip in funding to the district by pointing out that, as someone who has criticized Council leadership on behalf of his constituents, he’s been penalized by seeing funding for the district withheld. He claims that if reelected, his position of seniority in the Council would herald a new era of increased resources to the neighborhoods he serves.

The duo took to NY1′s Road to City Hall for a very informative debate moderated by Errol Louis. Here’s the rundown, and you can watch the entire debate here:

  • Increasing the purchase age of tobacco to 21: Gentile voted against increasing the age, noting that reducing smoking is important but that the bill would be ineffective and grow the black market at the expense of local businesses. He said he preferred investments into educating minors in the perils of smoking. Quaglione said he would have voted in favor of the bill in order to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors. He said that cigarettes serve as a gateway to marijuana and prescription drug abuse. They both said they would like to see the legal age for hookah use to be raised.
  • Superstorm Sandy: Quaglione said the storm wracked havoc on Ceasar’s Bay shopping center, a local economic and employment base in the district. He also noted that the seawall needs repairs and to be better protected. Gentile said he worked with the Parks Department to get FEMA funds for repairs to the seawall, but noted that it has taken too long. He also said that we need to look at everything that happens on the waterfront including the…
  • Gravesend Bay Waste Transfer station: Although not a question in the debate, Gentile raised the issue to hit Quaglione and Golden for being “silent on the issue” until the campaign heated up. He admitted he supported the plan prior to 2006, when it was discovered that the City withheld information about toxins in the water that could be stirred up during dredging, at which point he sided with Assemblyman William Colton to fight the station’s placement. Quaglione hit back, saying that Gentile supported it when it wasn’t part of the district, and only changed his support when the area was added into his district.
  • NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community: Gentile said that the NYPD must comply with standing laws regarding surveillance, but has noted that the NYPD did appear to violate those laws. He said he has worked with the local Arab-American community to try and bridge communication between the department and the community. Quaglione added that “there’s no room for racial profiling,” and “religious tolerance must be the priority.”
  • Independence from their political party: In response to a question from Gentile about an example when Quaglione would have voted differently from his boss, Golden, Quaglione said he would have voted different on the smoking ban in restaurants. He also said there is legislation that he would have liked to put forward that Golden did not, but did not give an example.
  • On flip-flopping: Quaglione said that Gentile has changed his position on term limits, the waste transfer station, and stipends for Council members serving on committees, and asked Gentile how he can prove he is a man of his word. Gentile responded that those were mischaracterizations of his positions on the issues, and said of term limits that he was opposed to the “legislative vote” on it, in contrast to a voter referendum. Having had it pass over his objections, he said he was “putting our community in a position of being served by the senior member of the City Council.”

Watch the entire NY1 debate.


Voting booths, on the left, in New York City, circa 1900. Source: Wikipedia

Voting booths, on the left, in New York City, circa 1900. Source: Wikipedia

Alternate side of the street parking regulations for the purpose of street cleaning will be suspended Tuesday, November 5 for Election Day [Ed. -- Don’t forget to vote!] All other regulations, including parking meters, shall remain in effect.

You can download your own 2013 Alternate Side Parking Suspension calendar — in English, as well as in Chinese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian or Spanish (all PDFs) — from the NYC DOT’s website.

Source: mercurialn/Flickr


Beginning 8:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday, Bronx-bound D trains run local from 36 St, Brooklyn to DeKalb Av.

From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Thursday, Bronx-bound D trains run local from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 145 St.

From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, no D trains between 205 St and 161 St – Take the 4 instead. Bronx-bound D trains skip 155 St. D service operates between Coney Island and 161 St.

Travel alternatives:

  • Take 4 service to/from nearby stations instead.
  • Transfer between D and 4 service at 161 St.
  • Free shuttle buses provide connecting service between the 205 St D and Mosholu Pkwy 4 stations only.


All times until October 2014: There are no N or R 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.

Beginning 8:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday, Manhattan-bound N trains run local from 59 St to DeKalb Av.


All times until October 2014: There are no N or R 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 9:45 p.m. to 12 midnight, Tuesday and Wednesday, R service is extended to the 179 St F station.


There are no scheduled service advisories at this time.

Councilman David Greenfield (Source: Facebook)

Councilman David Greenfield (Source: Facebook)

In an attempt to decrease traffic-related fatalities, Councilman David Greenfield has proposed legislation that would reduce the speed limit on residential streets citywide. According to a press release, Greenfield argued that lowering the speed limits on residential streets would save lives.

Greenfield’s proposed legislation would reduce the speed limit on all residential streets in the five boroughs to 20 mph. At a Council hearing to debate his proposal, Greenfield laid out his case.

“It is clear that we must do much more to make our streets safer for everyone, especially pedestrians. Barely a day goes by without another New Yorker being seriously injured or killed by a speeding or reckless motorist. This is a problem that impacts every community and everyone who walks our streets. One of the simplest things we can do is reduce the speed of drivers traveling through our residential and side streets,”Greenfield said.

Backing up Greenfield was Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. White expressed his support for Greenfield’s plan and the release cited statistics put out by Transportation Alternatives that point to the seriousness of the issue:

“Traffic deaths are preventable. We know the decisions people make that contribute to fatalities, and we know what actions to take to help people make better decisions. We must decide whether we are willing to take the action necessary to eliminate traffic deaths,” testified White. “We should make 20 miles per hour the default New York City speed limit. This is a reasonable approach to saving lives.”

According to Transportation Alternatives, a drop in average speed of 1 mile per hour on urban, pedestrian-heavy streets leads to a 6 percent decrease in traffic fatalities. That means the implementation of this legislation would save lives every year in New York City, which is home to the most pedestrian-dense streets in the nation. Last year, at least 270 people died in traffic-related incidents across the five boroughs, which was the highest number since 2008. Of those, 148 who died on city streets were pedestrians. During his testimony, White noted that every week last year, 1,262 people were injured, 58 lost a limb or suffered serious life-altering injuries, and five New Yorkers were killed in traffic crashes. Councilman Greenfield’s legislation is especially important given that a person has an 80 percent chance of surviving being hit by a car traveling 30 miles per hour, and a 98 percent chance of survival when hit by a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour.

Unsafe driving, accidents and traffic fatalities have clearly become a huge issue in recent years so lowering the speed limit on residential roads might go a long way to help save needless injuries and deaths.

A map showing the location of every pay phone in the city. (Source: Independent Budgeting Office)

A map showing the location of every payphone in the city. (Source: Independent Budget Office) Click to enlarge

Public payphones, once a ubiquitous part of the city landscape, have become a rarer commodity in recent years, especially in Brooklyn. The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) compiled a map and graph detailing the number of active payphones left in the city and their revenue.

Every red dot in the map at right represents the location of a working payphone in the city. While it may seem that they are still everywhere, the number of active phones are plummeting. Here is the break down from the IBO:

In January 2013 there were 11,249 working payphones in public locations citywide, a decline of almost
50 percent since 2008.

  • The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have seen decreases of  about 60 percent.
  • The number of payphones has fallen 33 percent in Manhattan and 52 percent in Queens.

It is clear that the decline in demand for public payphones is likely because everyone owns a cellphone. Still, it is surprising that the city still reels in tens of millions of dollars from calls made by the public. According to the IBO study, the city makes over $15 million from advertising on the phones, despite the fact that since 2008 revenue from the calls placed themselves have dropped dramatically.

I was wondering, outside of you losing your cellphone and needing to make an emergency call, do any of our readers use public payphones? If so, what do you use them for?