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Sarah Zorn (Photo by Sharon Kunz of Globe Pequot Publishing)

Sarah Zorn (Photo by Sharon Kunz of Globe Pequot Publishing)

When Bath Beach author Sarah Zorn set out to write Brooklyn’s Chef Table, she wanted to string together her love of Brooklyn, her love of writing, and her love of food into a published work that fittingly featured all three.

Her goal was to highlight a recipe from as many neighborhoods as possible — from Bensonhurst to Sheepshead Bay; Red Hook to Borough Park.

“It’s a coffee-table book. It’s a great history of Brooklyn,” she says.

The cover of Brooklyn Chefs Table

The cover of Brooklyn Chefs Table

And, unlike so many cookbooks already on the market, Sarah decided to use her experience as a writer (she’s the food editor for Brooklyn Magazine and the L Magazine) to tell the second, parallel story of the chefs, pastry-makers, and pitmasters often richer than the food itself.

With narratives from Southern Brooklyn interspersed between the 50-plus featured recipes, Sarah spotlights the buttermilk nage, bucatini pie, pupusas de queso, and winter white pearl sangria — to name a few — that make Brooklyn’s food attitude so unique. From the get go, she says that her dream was not only to produce a book, chock full of pictures, about the chic-and-happening restaurant boutiques of Williamsburg. She wanted to write about the other guys, too.

“I never wanted to create a hipster book,” she says.

Sarah, a born-and-raised Brooklyn girl, and avid reader of former Village Voice food critic Robert Sietsema, says she used to pick up the paper and read Robert’s column on the train first, to ward off creepy train-men from talking to her, and shortly after, because she began to adore their shared obsession for food.

And when Amy Lyons, editorial director of Globe Pequot Press, called and asked her to write a cookbook about Brooklyn restaurants, Sarah (upon realizing it wasn’t “a prank call”) set out to do just that.

In a book that profiles what Sarah calls “amazing food porn” she interviews renowned chefs and pinpoints their favorite recipes.

“I want it to say to the home-cook, ‘It’s gorgeous and it’s food and you can do it at home,’” she says.

Rather than instructing which meal to showcase, Sarah says she asked the restaurant owners for their most beloved works.

“Telling restaurants what I wanted would be a real injustice,” she says. “I’d tell them, ‘Give me something that you think really represents the heart and soul of your restaurant.”

Among her favorite foods, (“Don’t make me choose!”) are four meals from L & B Spumoni Gardens (2725 86th Street), Southern Brooklyn’s hometown staple for Italian-food addicts. The pisan farmhouse pasta, dueling pork chops, sardinian-style shrimp, and baccala-style lemon sole a la Romana are among the coveted recipes.

Chef and co-owner of L & B Spumoni Gardens, Lenny Kern, and his team especially stood out to Sarah. Unlike many of the other celebrated chefs in the book, Kern didn’t share his classic recipe via Word Document. He wrote it on the back of a napkin.

When they invited Sarah to the restaurant for a traditional four-hour Italian dinner, she says they told her, “We’ll feed you and write these down together.”

“They’re that kind of people. Their recipes come from the tips of the fingers and the depths of their souls,” Sarah says.

It was that authenticity that she fell in love with.

She adds, “It was such an experience. It was the true representation of food and love.”

Another author-favorite is the A.L.C. Grocery on 3rd Avenue. Modeled after Bensonhurst’s famous salumerias, like D. Coluccio & Sons, Sarah says current A.L.C. owner Louis Coluccio is modernizing the industry while preserving his family’s business.

“What he’s doing is expanding upon the tradition,” she says. “It’s not just a continuation of his family’s business, but a representation of where his family is today.”

Stories like this one, of an air-dried salami bodega in Bensonhurst that gave birth to the A.L.C. Grocery in Bay Ridge, are woven into the pages of Sarah’s book.

Brooklyn’s Chef Table hits bookshelves on December 2, 2013.

Source: assembly.state.ny.us

Source: assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s activities involving his radio show and Maimonides Medical Center is being investigated by the Moreland Commission. The New York Daily News is reporting that Hikind is being investigated for potential conflicts of interest and discrepancies surrounding $65,000 he received from the medical center in 2012.

In July, we reported on the revelations that Hikind’s dealings with Maimonides were raising eyebrows. Hospital executives revealed they paid Hikind $65,000 to promote their center on Hikind’s popular radio show. Initially, Hikind reported no extra earnings in 2012. When prodded over the matter, he noted that his company, DYS Productions, received somewhere between $5,000 to $20,000, with little indication as to where the rest of the money went.

Controversy also surrounds Hikind potential abuse of his role as a lawmaker while serving as a Maimonides pitchman. A Crain’s report from July highlighted possible conflict of interest:

Mr. Hikind, who has spoken at ceremonies honoring Maimonides officials, frequently promotes the hospital in his governmental newsletter. Maimonides, which has thrived as other nonprofit hospitals have struggled financially, has touted its ties to elected officials who help secure funding. But hospital officials said Maimonides’ payments to Mr. Hikind’s company pose no conflicts on their end, and that it advertises on his show to reach local residents. Borough Park is a famously insular community.

Dick Dadey, executive director of good-government group Citizens Union, said it makes sense for Maimonides to buy time on Mr. Hikind’s program. The problem is that the assemblyman repeatedly failed to make his outside income public.

“The fact that he didn’t disclose it raises the question of why he didn’t,” Mr. Dadey said. “If there’s no conflict, why not disclose it?”

The issue has now come to the attention of the Moreland Commission, an independent investigative committee created by Cuomo after lawmakers in Albany dragged their feet on creating legislation to seriously police themselves. According to the Daily News, Maimonides has received a subpoena from the commission and promised to cooperate with authorities.

“I am not going to deny the existence of that subpoena,” Moreland Commission Co-Chairman William Fitzpatrick told the Daily News, refusing to comment further.

Hikind has not yet commented on the matter.

by CubaGallery via Flickr

(Source: CubaGallery via Flickr)

City Council candidate John Quaglione (R) wants to bring order to the commercial streets of Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is reporting that Quaglione is requesting that the Department of Transportation (DOT) sets clear parking spaces on commercial streets near muni-meters.

The confusion over parking began once the DOT removed the old parking meters that used to delineate parking spaces along commercial streets. The poles were removed so drivers wouldn’t try to pay an out-of-date meter and instead head to a newer muni-meter. Quaglione was one of the advocates who called for the removal of the old parking meter poles but has now realized, like many other drivers, that the removal of clear parking identification has led people to take up more spots than needed.

Quaglione, who is challenging incumbent Vincent Gentile (D) for his seat in the 43rd Councilmanic District, summed up the chaos that has resulted since the old parking meters were removed.

“Muni-meters were designed to create additional parking spaces and ease the burden along our commercial avenues. However, we have each experienced times when you pull up on a spot and realize that if only the person would have moved up or moved back, you would have been able to park your car,” Quaglione told the Daily Eagle, “Efforts have been made to establish parking courtesy, but I believe the markings will go a long way in making a difference.”

According to the Daily Eagle, the candidate has petitioned the DOT over his idea to paint lines near muni-meters and the idea is currently being reviewed by the Parking Operations and Highway Design units.

Source: CeCILL via Wikimedia Commons

Source: CeCILL via Wikimedia Commons

Borough Park and Midwood are getting $1 million in security cameras installed on its streets in the coming months, and some are questioning whether taxpayer money should be diverted to an area with low crime rates. Gothamist is reporting that Orthodox leaders like Assemblyman Dov Hikind are defending the installation in light of the 2011 abduction and murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky.

The money earmarked for security cameras in Borough Park and Midwood is being funneled to Agudath Israel, who according to Gothamist, is a Haredi umbrella organization that has a contract with SecurityWatch24, a private security firm. According to an Associated Press report, police and neighborhood groups would have access to the cameras only after a significant crime and only after a formal request is made to SecurityWatch24. What exactly Agudath Israel would be monitoring in the meantime is unknown.

Previously, we reported that the million dollar camera program, dubbed the Leiby Kletzky Security Initiative, came on the heels of Kletzky abduction in 2011. Hikind, who spearheaded the initiative, also attributed the need for cameras due to the prevalence of anti-Semitic crimes committed in his district.

“It’s not that we have more crime than another community, but being that it’s a Jewish area, there’s probably at least the potential for more anti-Semitic acts,” Hikind said.

The fact that Borough Park and Midwood crime rates are low relative to the rest of the city is rankling those who believe that taxpayer-funded security cameras should be installed in areas that really need them, like Bed-Stuy or Brownsville:

Tony Herbert, a longtime community advocate in Brooklyn, said that the resources were coming to Midwood and Borough Park and not the more crime-riddled areas of Brownsville or Bed-Stuy because their officials held more sway in Albany.

“It’s who you know and who you can get to pull the purse strings to come to your rescue. All we can do is jump up and down and make some noise to put a fire under the feet of our elected officials.”

In a Sheepshead Bites report, we noted that since 2004, $42 million had been set aside for cameras to be installed in various New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings but not a single camera has been installed in the subsequent nine years. In the meantime, a string of shootings and murders have plagued NYCHA complexes across the city. Yet Borough Park and Midwood have managed to receive funding and installation of such cameras in just two years.

Source: Glabb via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Glabb via Wikimedia Commons

A man tried to jump off the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge but was successfully talked out it by the NYPD. SI Live is reporting that the incident caused several lanes of the upper-span of the bridge to be closed while police talked the man off the ledge.

The man in question was described as a Brooklyn resident in his 50s. The incident marks the second time this week that someone tried to take their own life by leaping off the bridge. On Monday, we reported on a 29-year-old man, since identified as Michael Caiazzo, who jumped off the bridge on Sunday afternoon. The fall did not kill the man immediately but he later died as a result of his injuries at Staten Island University Hospital.

When it comes to digging through the archives of the forgotten newsreels of the 1940s, Coney Island has some of the best gems. On our sister site, we marveled at the “Lady Lifeguards of Manhattan Beach,” undergoing a series of military-like drills to keep the waters of Southern Brooklyn safe. We then found footage of Coney Island’s Modern Venus Beauty Contest of 1939, wondering how the guy measuring the busts of the contestants landed his job.

Our newest blast from the past, uploaded by ChiTownView on YouTube, features the remarkable wonders of the venerable Coney Island Freak Show peddlers. For the price of a “small thin dime,” you were promised a look at fat ladies, thin ladies and Zip and Pip the (insensitively named) “pinheaded people.” I was also fascinated by the sight of posters featuring Madam Zenda, the fortune teller, Professor Frank Graf, a tattoo artist in swim trunks, and Marian the “Headless Girl.”

Great stuff. If you have links to any other archival footage like this, please direct it our way – we love it.

Source: azipaybarah via flickr

Source: azipaybarah via flickr

Sal Albanese’s third run for mayor ended in defeat, but the veteran Bay Ridge Democrat isn’t ready to quit fighting for what he believes in, namely campaign finance reform. Brooklyn Daily is reporting that at age 62, Albanese is still passionate about the issues, and attempting to get people motivated to reform the political system, which he believes is broken.

In March, we reported on the former councilman’s long career in city politics and his abrupt 15-year departure from the political scene. Albanese immigrated to the United States when he was 8-years-old and got elected to the City Council as a liberal Democrat in the traditionally conservative areas representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, serving these areas from 1982 to 1997. Albanese won the love of his constituents because of the high level of attention he paid to people in his district who came to him with their problems. After leaving politics in 1997, he spent 15 years in the private sector before climbing back in the ring for the 2013 mayoral elections. His disconnect from the world of politics may be the reason that his campaign never got the momentum it needed to put forth a serious challenge, but Albanese believes the problem is more systemic.

“I’m convinced more than ever, that the system is broken and needs to be overhauled. When you’re an outsider, when you’re not indebted to lobbyists and special interests, it’s hard to get ahead,” Albanese told Brooklyn Daily.

Albanese said that a politician who refuses to take cash from corporations and special interests will always be left on the outside of the winner’s circle, burdened with a serious cash disadvantage that he believes is nearly impossible to overcome if the system isn’t radically changed. Albanese also partially attributed the problem to voters left apathetic in the face of a broken system.

“Most people know the system is broken, but unfortunately don’t know how to fix it. The question is, how do we engage people, how do we get them to look at our political system, which is not a sexy thing?” Albanese said.

Getting people engaged in the political process so that they might fix it is Albanese’s new aim. Brooklyn Daily listed some of his ideas to mend the system:

The former school teacher, attorney, and financial advisor said he is looking to start or join a good government group that would push new campaign finance laws granting matching funds to any candidate with 1,000 donors behind them. He said he would also like to fight for non-partisan elections — which would abolish the Republican and Democratic primaries and replace them with a single general election — and an end to the gerrymandering of council districts. And he wants to eliminate the discretionary funds the city gives councilmen to dole out to organizations of their choice.

At age 62, with three mayoral defeats in his rear-view mirror, Albanese told Brooklyn Daily that he is nowhere near the end of his political struggle.

“I’m a pretty healthy guy, thank God, and I’ve got a lot of energy,” Albanese said. “I’m not the sort of person who retires.”

The future site of 7-Eleven

The future site of 7-Eleven

Two gas station/food mart combos are opening one week apart, one block apart, in Bath Beach.

The first, a 7-Eleven/Shell Gas Station, at 20th Avenue and Cropsey Avenue is scheduled to open in one week.

The second, an A-Plus/Sunoco, standing at 19th Avenue and Cropsey Avenue, is opening its doors the first week of October.

Both stores will be open 24/7.

Altaf M., the manager of the A-Plus, said that he’s excited to be back in business in Bath Beach. After 13 years managing the former shop at the same address, he said that he missed the “nice customers” of the neighborhood.

He said that the A-Plus will offer fresh coffee, hot dogs and nachos, and icy drinks, adding that the store will have promotions for Bensonhurst locals during it’s grand opening.

The 7-Eleven project manager was unavailable for comment, but his team told us that they were excited to bring the franchise to the Bath Beach community.

When did a little friendly competition ever hurt anybody? Welcome to the neighborhood, fellas.

The future site of A Plus

The future site of A Plus

Source: ebbandflowphotography via flickr.

Source: ebbandflowphotography via flickr.

In 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration raised the fees for residents looking to use City-run recreational facilities, including ball fields and tennis courts, looking for a bump in revenue. According to an exhaustive report by the Independent Budget Office (IBO), the increased fees not only failed to increase revenue but drove down membership across the city.

The numbers laid out by the IBO starkly portray the failure of Bloomberg’s bet that increased membership fees would increase revenues. The City was projecting that increasing fees would lead to $6.3 million in extra revenue but in the end, they only ended up with $1.1 million in extra revenue and decreased athletic facility activity across the city. The IBO laid out the specifics:

• With considerably higher fees at the start of the 2011 tennis season, the number of adult seasonal tennis permits sold by the city fell from 12,774 in 2010 to 7,265 in 2012, a decline of 43 percent. Single-play permits fell 46 percent, from 23,512 to 12,755 over the same period.

• Despite the decline in the number of adult permits sold, there was an increase in revenue because fees doubled for these permits. The city collected a total of $2.1 million from the sale of adult, junior, and senior tennis permits in 2012, but the revenue fell $1.3 million short of the projected increase.

• The number of recreation center memberships sold in 2012 declined by 52 percent to 46,047 with the doubling of membership fees for adults and seniors at the start of the fiscal year.

• With the decline in memberships, recreation center revenue remained flat in 2012 at $4.8 million, about $4.0 million below the Bloomberg Administration’s expectations.

• Although the number of permits sold for ballfields also fell in 2012 in response to the rise in fees, the resulting increase in revenue exceeded expectations by nearly 5 percent.

The full IBO report, which you can read in detail by clicking here, presents the fascinating insight into how the fee increase, in their opinion, ultimately ran counter to Bloomberg’s much publicized health initiatives:

The parks department raised its fees for tennis permits, recreation center memberships, and the use of ballfields as part of a citywide effort to close projected budget shortfalls. While anticipating some fall-off in usage, the city still projected that the new fee schedules would raise $6.3 million in additional revenue in 2012. The decline in sales of tennis permits and recreation center memberships was far steeper than expected, however, and the gain in revenue totaled roughly $1.1 million—a fraction of what had been expected.

Perhaps equally troubling, the sharp drop-off in parks usage runs counter to the Bloomberg Administration’s anti-obesity and other health policy initiatives.

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.