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Republic City Council candidate John Quaglione. Source: Facebook

Republic City Council candidate John Quaglione. (Source: Facebook)

The race for the 43rd District of the City Council is officially underway, as incumbent Vincent Gentile (D) and challenger John Quaglione (R) are set to lock horns in a series of four debates. Bay Ridge Odyssey is reporting that since both candidates ran unopposed in their respective parties, the intensity is sure to ratchet up as Gentile seeks to protect his final term from Quaglione, the top aide of State Senator Marty Golden, who took Gentile’s State Senate seat in 2002.

Bay Ridge Odyssey listed the sites and dates of the upcoming debates, likely to be very testy in nature:

  • Wednesday, October 2 (9am) – Debate hosted by the Bay Ridge Council on Aging (Fort Hamilton Senior Center, 9941 Fort Hamilton Pkwy)
  • Wednesday, October 2 (7pm) – Candidates’ Forum hosted by the Bay Ridge Real Estate Board (Dyker Beach Golf Course)
  • Monday, October 7 (8pm) – Debate hosted by the Dyker Heights Civic Association (St. Philip’s Church Hall, 1072 80th Street)
  • Tuesday, October 22 (8pm) – Debate hosted by the Bay Ridge Community Council (Holy Angels Academy, 337 74th Street)

Hm, debates are being held across Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, but none in Bensonhurst. Here’s hoping that the two candidates remember that the 43rd District isn’t only Bay Ridge, and some local groups organize a local debate.

Source: AZY_NYC/Flickr

D LINE

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound D trains run local from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

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 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, Coney Island-bound N trains skip 28 St, 23 St, 8 St, and Prince 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.

F LINE

From 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, F trains run local between 71 Av and 21 St-Queensbridge in both directions.

Source: Darney via Flickr

Source: Darney via Flickr

A man survived a harrowing leap off the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge but later died at Staten Island University Hospital from his injuries. The New York Daily News is reporting that responders found the man unconscious in the water but managed to resuscitate  him before he eventually died.

The incident happened on Sunday around 12:30 p.m. when an unidentified man abandoned his car on the lower level of the bridge, climbed over the railing and jumped in an apparent suicide attempt. His unconscious and unresponsive body was recovered by the NYPD’s harbor unit. According to a report in SI Live, medical workers described the man, believed to be in his mid-to-late 20s, as suffering from traumatic cardiac arrest.

This latest incident marks the seventh suicide at the bridge since 2011. As we previously reported, the MTA installed six telephones connected to LifeNet, a suicide prevention hotline (1-800-LIFENET), on the bridge. The phones are located on the bridge under signs that read “Life is worth living.”

Suspected shooter. (Source: NYPD via News 12)

Suspected shooter. (Source: NYPD via News 12)

An NYPD manhunt is underway for a man wanted in a shooting that took place in Gravesend last week. News 12 is reporting that the police released a sketch of the suspect (pictured above) who is wanted for shooting a 16-year-old boy.

The shooting occurred last Thursday morning at 22-20 West 11th Street. One of the bullets fired struck a teenager in the back, sending him to the hospital. The shooting victim is said to be in stable condition.

Witnesses noted that the suspect is between 20 and 25 years old and has braided hair. Anyone with any information is encouraged to call 1-800-577-TIPS or visit the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers website by clicking here.

Councilman Vincent Gentile, Source: council.nyc.gov

Councilman Vincent Gentile, Source: council.nyc.gov

Councilman Vincent Gentile has let it be known that he may be interested in becoming the next speaker of the City Council. Crain’s New York is reporting that Gentile, who has served in the Council since 2003, has aspirations to lead the body, should he be elected to a third and final term this November.

Gentile was forthright about his desire to lead the City Council, signaling that the timing was right to cull a speaker from Southern Brooklyn.

“I think it’s time for an outer-borough candidate to be speaker, and I’m someone who’s already been around for two speakers,” Gentile told Crain’s. “And, there’s going to be a lot of new Council members coming in from Brooklyn.”

Crain’s noted several factors playing in the favor of Gentile’s potential candidacy including, as Gentile mentioned, the election of many new Brooklyn Council members who would prefer a one-term speaker and the positive reaction to Gentile by Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio. According to Crain’s, Gentile’s reign would serve as the bridge to another prominent political leader from Southern Brooklyn, Councilman David Greenfield, though none of these plans were set in stone:

One Brooklyn political insider floated the idea that Mr. Gentile could serve as speaker for one term, and then be followed in 2017 by Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield. “Seddio wants Greenfield to be speaker in 2017. So they’re trying to shoehorn Vinnie in there as a placeholder since he just has one term left,” the insider said. The scenario would be more viable if the Queens Democratic Party decides it would rather have patronage jobs and plum committee chairmanships than the speakership itself. Mr. Gentile has also been supporting the mayoral bid of Bill de Blasio, the clear frontrunner to be the next mayor.

The attorney for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Frank Carone, said that Mr. Seddio had not made any decisions about which candidate to back. “The party has not decided to support any candidate, including Vincent Gentile, though it’s certainly possible that would eventually happen,” Mr. Carone said. “We’re evaluating many quality candidates.”

Despite the potential preference of party bosses, Gentile’s road to Council speaker isn’t guaranteed. First, Gentile has to win reelection against Republican opponent John Quaglione, an aide of powerful State Senator Marty Golden, who himself unseated Gentile from the State Senate in 2002. Gentile admitted that defeating Quaglione isn’t in the bag and that serious talk of him becoming speaker is premature.

“All of this is just bar-stool talk at this point,” Gentile told Crain’s.

The prominent position would also open up Gentile’s history, both political and private, to closer scrutiny, as Crain’s details:

Despite his long tenure in the council, he has not been a particularly powerful legislator, and years ago he was ridiculed by tabloid stories, notably after voting against the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act as a lame-duck state senator. Attorney Tom Shanahan told the Gay City News that in 1994 he had had an affair with Mr. Gentile, saying he made it public because he felt the politician’s vote had betrayed the gay community. Mr. Gentile, who represented a conservative district, denied being gay. In 2004, a 26-year-old male member of his staff accused the councilman of sexually harassing him. A council ethics panel cleared Mr. Gentile. As a councilman, he has supported gay-rights measures.

A Gentile bid would also face political challenges. The Brooklyn Democratic Party is fractured between members of the Progressive Caucus and those loyal to Mr. Seddio. One of the members loyal to the Brooklyn machine, Sara Gonzalez, lost her Democratic primary election bid to the Progressive-backed Carlos Menchaca. The party may end up backing a candidate from another borough, such as Manhattan’s Dan Garodnick or Annabel Palma of the Bronx.

Source: See-ming Lee/Flickr

D LINE

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday, Coney Island-bound D trains run local from 145 St to 59 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. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Manhattan-bound N trains are rerouted via the D from Stillwell Av to 36 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Coney Island-bound N trains skip 49 St.

From 4:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., Sunday, Coney Island-bound N trains skip 30 Av, Broadway, 36 Av, and 39 Av.

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 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Bay Ridge-bound R trains skip 49 St.

F LINE

From 11:15 p.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 11:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Coney Island-bound F trains run express from Jay St-MetroTech to Church Av.

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. 

Source: atomische via flickr.com

Source: atomische via flickr.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo took time recently to remind agitated Verrazano-Narrows Bridge commuters that bringing toll relief is still a priority. SI Live is reporting that despite the challenges of bringing such a deal to fruition, Cuomo expressed his belief that it will happen.

Earlier in the week, we reported on an SI Live editorial that claimed mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota have ignored the Verrazano toll issue in their campaigns and have thus far offered little in the way of solutions. Speaking at a post-Sandy rebuilding initiative, Cuomo announced that he had not forgotten the issue and that it remained a priority for his administration:

A toll break on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for Staten Island residents remains a “priority,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Noting his administration has “come up with alternative solutions for Staten Island before” when it comes to bridge tolls, Cuomo said that when it comes to the V-N, “We’re working to do that.”

“I am confident we will get there,” said Cuomo, calling it “complicated” and “expensive.”

In March, we reported that it appeared all but certain that a deal would be struck between lawmakers that would cut the tolls by 50 percent but it never materialized, leaving commuters to swallow the high toll costs until a solution is reached in a future legislative session.

Source: Facebook

Representative Michael Grimm (Source: Facebook)

Representative Michael Grimm is no stranger to bad press and controversy, so it might come as no surprise to anyone that he has again landed on the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) list of most corrupt members of Congress. In their newest report, CREW slams Grimm for the third year in a row, detailing his alleged dealings with Ofer Biton, an Israeli national who recently pleaded guilty to visa fraud and who may have illegally raised $500,000 for Grimm’s campaign.

This isn’t the first time Grimm has landed in CREW’s report. In 2011, we noted that Grimm’s inclusion seemed a bit unfair considering the relatively minor charges being levied against him. At the time, CREW lambasted Grimm for using FBI and Marine Corps insignia on his campaign literature and for appearing in a promotional video for a private security firm after being elected. The latest charges brought to attention by CREW are far more serious.

Last year, we had reported on the arrest of Ofer Biton, a top Grimm campaign fundraiser on charges of lying on his immigration documents. Recently, Biton pleaded guilty to visa fraud but is also under investigation for allegedly receiving improper cash donations from non-U.S. citizens to help finance Grimm’s campaign. It is not yet known if Biton has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation that is looking into the allegations that Grimm illegally raised funds for his campaign. Culling information from an AP article, the CREW report highlights direct allegations that puts Grimm at the center of illegal activity:

Several of Rabbi Pinto’s followers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Rep. Grimm told donors there were ways to evade campaign finance laws.

One person alleged Rep. Grimm had requested a $20,000 contribution during the summer of 2010, and set a meeting near the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) building in Lower Manhattan. As instructed, the follower met Rep. Grimm and gave him $5,000 cash in an envelope. A week later, the same person gave Rep. Grimm another $5,000 from a friend. After receiving the second payment, the congregant said Rep. Grimm repeatedly called him demanding an additional $10,000 donation. “Every day, he used to call me, over and over,” the follower told the Times. He added that he ignored the requests.

Another Rabbi Pinto congregant said when Rep. Grimm came to his office to pick up a legal contribution, Rep. Grimm mentioned there were ways to circumvent campaign finance laws and described a scheme involving straw donors.16 According to the congregant, Rep. Grimm “wanted you to supply the money, and if someone wants to give and cannot give, you have to find a friend to give it through.” He added, “Let’s say someone is not legal to give because he’s not American. Grimm wants this guy, Joe A, to give the money to Joe B so Joe B can make the contribution to the campaign.”

A third follower of Rabbi Pinto said Mr. Biton asked him to pick up $25,000 from an Israeli citizen for Rep. Grimm’s campaign. The congregant said he did so and gave the checks to Mr. Biton, who passed them on to Rep. Grimm. The follower said the money was then listed falsely in Rep. Grimm’s campaign disclosure filings as having been contributed by at least five
other individuals.

As we have noted in our own reports on these allegations, Grimm has maintained an adamant insistence of his innocence, piling up legal fees in excess of $500,000 to defend himself. CREW’s report also details other actions they consider improper, like the inclusion of a link to a C-SPAN broadcast of a House floor speech on YouTube. Accusations such as these might technically be improper, but seem awfully minor in light of the other allegations.

To explore the extent of the charges laid against Grimm in the CREW report, including allegations that he assisted Biton in obtaining a green card in exchange for his fundraising help, you can do so by clicking here and scrolling to page 68.

bridge

The borough of Brooklyn has a serious bridge problem, as 240 of them, which is more than half, need serious repairs, according to a new report. The New York Daily News is reporting that some of the worst bridges in the borough include the seven bridges along the Belt Parkway that are in the process of rehabilitation.

Of the 240 Brooklyn bridges cited for serious repair, 15 were designated as “fracture critical” and “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration. Bridge expert Barry LePartner told the Daily News that analysis such as this spells bad news.

“Every time you see a bridge classified as structurally deficient and fracture critical it means that bridge could fall at a moment’s notice,” LePartner said, ““It’s extremely dangerous for people going over these bridges.”

The Daily News reported that in the time of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reign as mayor, the federal government has given New York City $6 billion for bridge repair with an estimated $1 billion designated for Brooklyn. A majority of that money has gone to the Brooklyn Bridge ($500 million) and the seven bridges of the Belt Parkway ($365 million) but experts say that more money and effort are needed to repair and restore many of the crossways, many of which were built over 70 years ago:

A large number of the bad bridges date back to the 1930s and 40s, and take years to fix.

For example, it has been four years now since the city undertook a $365 million project to rebuild seven crumbling bridges along the Belt Parkway. Those crossways carry an estimated 150,000 cars a day through Brooklyn and Queens to John F. Kennedy Airport and Nassau County to the east, and to the Gowanus Expressway and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the west.

Those bridges are located at the Paerdegat Basin, Gerritsen Inlet, and by Bay Ridge Ave., as well by the Fresh Creek Basin and Rockaway Parkway in Queens.

Councilman Lew Fidler told the Daily News that the city was working to repair the bridges but that the issue is serious and costly.

“We all know those bridges are the worst of the worst. Those bridges have launched the careers of so many personal injury lawyers,” Fidler told the Daily News.