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“On the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.” (Source: AiyaHMPH/Flickr)

It’s here! It’s here! Halloween is here!

Sorry, I get excited about Halloween. I don’t really understand why this holiday isn’t considered to be on par with the big national holidays, like July 4 and Thanksgiving. It sort of trumps them both, after all. When do you feel more thankful than when full of free candy, given by strangers? When do you feel more free than when three months worth of sugar is coursing through your blood stream? I propose a new holiday, Thankhallowfourth, in which we don costumes and jam M-80s up the rears of candied turkeys, and scrape the delicious gunk off the walls for dinner.

‘Merica.

But, this Halloween, as all Halloweens, we should remember to be safe. Aside from my crazed fantasies, it appears this holiday is actually wasted on geared towards children. And wherever the nexus of “children” and “strangers” meet, especially when candy is involved, we ought to take special precautions. Here are a few tips we’ve cobbled together from the local NYPD precincts and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office to ensure you have a safe and happy Halloween.

  • Trick-or-treaters should always have adult supervision, even if they are traveling with a group of friends.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times; be familiar with the neighborhood you plan on visiting.
  • Avoid poorly-lit areas and homes of people you do not know.
  • Avoid displaying your valuables or electronic devices.
  • Thieves will use this holiday to hide behind a mask to commit crimes.
  • Do not use your cellphones when crossing streets.
  • Place emergency identification information discreetly inside clothing of small children, in case of accidental separation.
  • Halloween treats should only be consumed if they are packaged appropriately in their original, unopened packages. Avoid homemade or unpackaged treats.
  • Avoid hallways and deserted areas that are dimly lit.
  • Do not enter a stranger’s home or car.
  •  Walk on the sidewalk and not in the street.
  • Do not wear costumes that block your view.
  • Do not wear clothing or accessories that suggest that you are affiliated with a gang. [Drats. I bought my Latin Kings outfit for nothing.]
  • Carry flashlights and wear reflective clothing at night.
  • Explain to children of all ages the difference between tricks and vandalism which could be a criminal offense.

If you feel that you are in any kind of danger, you can go into one of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Safe Stop locations for safety.  Safe Stop locations are specially designated stores or places of business where people can go in case of an emergency, where you can access help and information. Participating merchants have a decal displayed in their window, indicated that they are a Safe Stop location.  Participants are trained to know what to do in case of an emergency.

I feel obligated to add one more: if you’re the parent of a teenager in Gerritsen Beach, lock up the hammers and potatoes this year.

Source: Senator Golden's offices

State Senator Marty Golden (Source: Senator Golden’s offices)

New York Times columnist Michael Powell took State Senator Marty Golden and Sheepshead Bay’s State Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz to task for sponsoring legislation that would have directed millions of dollars to the tobacco industry, and came, Powell writes, at the behest of a campaign contributor.

The legislation in question is a bill to reform the security tax stamp placed on cigarettes that proponents said would help combat cigarette bootlegging and raise $6 million for enforcement.

But in reality, Powell writes, it would have authorized an increase in payments for cigarette wholesalers who place the stamps, raising the take from two cents per pack to five cents per pack.

When Golden was questioned during a hearing on the bill by State Senator Liz Krueger about the increase, he chalked it up to rising costs.

Mr. Golden began to mutter of higher costs for wholesalers: Con Ed, health benefits, gasoline, rent, trucks, whatever. “That’s all increased much more than the dollars that we are asking for here,” he said, a touch plaintively.

This was not true, at least percentagewise. A 1996 dollar, adjusted for inflation, is worth $1.49 today. The bill backed by Mr. Golden and Mr. [Jeff] Klein, who intently watched this debate from his desk, would more than double the revenue of the wholesale firms.

Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares power with the Republican party in the State Senate after forming an unusual alliance that shut Democrats out of leadership, co-authored the bill with Golden.

It was introduced in the State Assembly by Cymbrowitz.

According to the Times report, the bill was put forward at the behest of Leonard Schwartz, a Manhattan Beach resident and chairman of Global Wholesale Tobacco. Schwartz has been a generous contributor to the campaign coffers of Klein, Golden and, less so, Cymbrowitz.

Of course, none of this is illegal, and the bill eventually died. But Powell opines that it’s deeply symptomatic of the pay-to-play culture that pervades Albany, wherein politicians can legally except funds from corporate interests, and then push legislation that steers large sums of money into their pockets.

Neither Golden nor Cymbrowitz commented on the bill to the New York Times. But a Klein ally, Senator Diane Savino, who represents Coney Island, went on the attack when asked about it by Politicker yesterday:

“I think people should take a step back and stop pretending to be outraged because it’s absolute nonsense,” Ms. Savino told Politicker at a Hurricane Sandy press conference in Coney Island. “You can take any issue and you can find a way to twist it to make it seem like something nefarious. In every one of these articles you see is a caveat there: ‘There’s nothing illegal about this.’ Well if that’s the case, why are you writing it?”

It’s worth noting that Savino, too, has benefited from Schwartz’s largesse. He donated $500 to her campaign in 2012, according to state campaign filings.

Powell, though, responded by pointing out that it’s his duty as a reporter to point out transactions of questionable ethics, even if it’s not against the law – especially when the subjects are those who make the law.

“If all we wrote about was the illegality in Albany without looking at all the shades of moral and ethical murk that encompass it, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs as journalists,” Powell told Politicker. “If a politician does hack work, the politician can’t really complain.”

For the Republican senator, the news comes on the heels of another alleged pay-to-play scheme, in which Golden introduced legislation that would grant large tax breaks to five luxury developments in Manhattan, saving them tens of millions of dollars. The tax breaks were intended to spur residential construction and affordable housing, but the luxury properties were included under an exception proposed by Golden in the Senate, and Keith Wright in the Assembly.

The developers had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to leadership in both parties, including Golden.

When asked, Golden could not explain who added the giveaway to the legislation, or what justified it. The Moreland Commission, charged with investigating corruption in Albany, subpoenaed the developers in August.

Photo Courtesy Of Justin Brannan

Photo Courtesy Of Justin Brannan

State Senator Marty Golden and Republican City Council candidate John Quaglione are renewing their calls for a restoration of weekend bus service on the X28 line from Bath Beach to Manhattan.

The duo sent a letter, along with “hundreds of petitions,” to the MTA calling for a full restoration of weekend service on the line, according to a press release issued yesterday.

“I vowed to help fight for this service to return, and that is why I, along with Senator Golden, visited many of the bus stops along the route on weekday mornings, to garner support for our petition efforts.  This would be a great victory for the community and a quality of life improvement for all,” Quaglione, who is also an aide to Golden, said in the press release.

“I am proud to be working with John and strongly support efforts to restore the X 28 weekend express bus service. So many people depended on this service at the time of its elimination and it is time to revive this service. There is a real need in the community to have this service restored, and I look forward to continued support from the community in the fight to bring this bus back,” said Golden.

Weekend service on the line was terminated as part of the June 2010 service cuts, with the MTA saying that the low ridership on the line did not justify the expense. When the MTA restored several bus lines in January of this year, the X28 was not on the list, despite outcry from the community.

Quaglione launched the petition drive in September, echoing a similar initiative by a coalition led by Assemblyman William Colton and Councilman Vincent Gentile. Although the elected officials are united in their request to restore service, they are working independently.

In June, the MTA told Bensonhurst Bean that there remains insufficient demand for the line, and they consider the Bensonhurst and Bath Beach portions redundant, given that commuters are also serviced by the D subway line. They said restoration is unlikely.

“The weekend X28 route had low ridership (760 customers) and duplicated D subway service,” MTA spokesperson Deirdre Parker wrote in an email to Bensonhurst Bean. “Many other former X28 customers have started using the DFNQ subways on weekends, in some cases transferring from local buses.”

Overall, though, the service is just too expensive to restore when riders have other options.

“On a cost per passenger basis, express bus service is far more costly to operate than either local bus service or subway service,” Parker noted.

These men not welcome in Borough Park. (Source: ifccenter.com)

These men not welcome in Borough Park. (Source: ifccenter.com)

Assemblyman Dov Hikind has taken to his bully pulpit to let it be known that fight clubs are not welcome in his district. According to a curious press release put out by JP Updates, Hikind promised to strongly oppose any attempt by the “New York City Fight Club” from moving to Borough Park.

Apparently, the “New York City Fight Club” wants to open a spot at 4930 20th Avenue, a spot across the street from a girl’s yeshiva. Presumably, the club would feature unsanctioned fights between men looking to bond through cracking each other’s teeth and possibly executing acts of terrorism aimed at corporations. Keep in mind, we have no idea what exactly this organization is or what it would actually plan to do once it plants its flag in Borough Park. That could be because the first rule about fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.

For the record, Hikind couldn’t have been more opposed to the possibility of a “fight club” opening up in his area.

“We don’t need this here and we don’t want this here. This is a quiet community centered around family life and educating our children. Members of our community are not going to participate in a fight club. It’s a frightening notion, antithetical to the peaceful culture here. Parents don’t want this type of club anywhere near their children, and neither do we want what this will attract and bring to our streets. In every imaginable way, this type of thing would impact our community in a negative way,” Hikind said in the release.

Interestingly, Hikind added one last caveat to his comments.

“This club can do what it wants, but we don’t want them to do it here in Boro Park,” Hikind said.

I’m not a legal expert but I’d have to assume that organizing a secret gathering place among men for the purposes of allowing them to brutalize each other in an unsanctioned manner probably isn’t legal, so I have no idea what Hikind is talking about when he claims that “this club can do what it wants.”

If anyone can shed some light on the mysterious “New York City Fight Club,” it’s motives and activities, and doesn’t mind breaking its precepts about secrecy, please inform us in the comment section.
Councilman Vincent Gentile, Source: council.nyc.gov

Councilman Vincent Gentile, Source: council.nyc.gov

The following is an unaltered press release from the offices of Councilman Vincent Gentile:

A year ago on October 28, I spent the day visiting senior centers, on calls with the Office of Emergency Management and touring temporary hurricane shelters that were being set up inside high schools. I spent the night like many other New Yorkers: making last minute preparations for what I knew would be a treacherous tomorrow. For days, everyone on the East Coast had been bracing themselves for what was supposed to be one of the most destructive tropical storms in recent memory. We all knew what was coming and when it was coming. But on the eve of Superstorm Sandy, no one knew just how unprepared we really were for the destruction that would be unleashed on our City the next day.

According to Mayor Bloomberg, the estimated monetary cost of Superstorm Sandy for New York City was approximately $19 billion. Even such a large number doesn’t come close to capturing the true loss that was suffered that day and in the weeks and months that followed. Breezy Point in Queens was rendered a blazing inferno—over 100 homes burned to the ground. The subway—completely flooded. Some of our City’s most treasured landmarks like the then-newly refurbished Cyclone in Coney Island were completely wrecked. Hundreds of thousands of families were displaced from their homes. Those that were lucky enough to still have a home were forced to go without power for weeks. And even now, many families throughout the City are still awaiting repairs for damage caused by Sandy.

This October 29, it will have been a full year since Superstorm Sandy wreaked this destruction on our City. But the question remains: if another storm like Sandy hit tomorrow, how prepared would we be? In the City Council, I made it my job to make sure this City never experiences that sort of devastation again.

Overhead power lines posed one of the biggest dangers during Superstorm Sandy. These lines were torn down during the storm and not only caused numerous fires but also made it difficult for the City to restore power to damaged areas. After the storm, I called on the City to bury overhead power lines underground. Underground lines are safer because they are not susceptible to heavy wind and rain and can be easily restored to full operational capacity after a power outage.

I helped pass a legislative package of 10 bills that set the groundwork for recovery as well as future preparedness. Goals of this package included protecting the vulnerable, bolstering emergency infrastructure and helping small businesses recover. Senior citizens, the sick, and children—these are the members of our community who are the most helpless when disaster strikes. Part of the package requires the Office of Emergency Management to identify households with vulnerable persons and conduct door-to-door assistance to develop disaster response strategies. In addition, OEM must also assess the operational capacity of shelter facilities. This was a huge problem last year as many emergency shelters were simply unprepared for the volume of people that needed help. The Administration is also required to develop a plan to efficiently distribute food and water to disaster-hit areas—yet another huge problem we faced last year. It is simply unacceptable for families living in one of the richest cities with one of the most developed infrastructures, to not have access to basic sustenance in emergency situations.

It is so important that we learn from our response to Hurricane Sandy in order to prepare for the next storm. To that end, my colleagues and I in the New York City Council are continuing our efforts – and our promise – to find ways to strengthen our city’s infrastructure following the storm. Together we can ensure that our City is even better prepared to meet Mother Nature’s next challenge.

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

A new poll suggests that a majority of New York City residents support changing the amendment to add seven new casinos somewhere in New York State, but don’t want to see it in the five boroughs, the New York Times reports.

The poll, conducted by the New York Times/Siena College, found that six in 10 likely New York City voters said they would vote for the amendment, when asked using the rosy, skewed language that highlights unproven benefits of casino gambling, such as job growth and funding for education. But 50 percent were opposed to seeing a full-scale casino in New York City, with only 42 percent in favor.

The ballot measure that would amend the constitution will lead to three new Las Vegas-style casinos to be created upstate as part of “first phase.” The second phase, which will roll out seven years later, will see four more casinos – at unspecified locations. Most observers believe a New York City casino is likely.

The poll also found that voters are fairly well informed about both the positives and the drawbacks of expanded casino gambling:

In the new poll, New York City residents said they expected both positive and negative effects from expanded casino gambling.

Seven in 10 said they thought it was quite likely that the casinos would bring in significant new revenue for government.

“Just in my apartment building alone, twice a month they have buses come and take people to Atlantic City,” Albert Perrotto, 55, from Far Rockaway, Queens, said in a follow-up interview. “If they take them to upstate New York instead, it would be a shorter ride, and people would go upstate, and the revenue would come here instead. It makes a lot of sense to me.”

At the same time, six in 10 city residents said they thought it was most likely that new casinos would increase societal problems such as crime and compulsive gambling

Quin Stratton, 23, who works for a credit-card processing center and lives in the Bronx, said she supported the amendment but would not want to see a full-scale casino developed in New York City. “If it’s in the city, it will attract people who don’t have a lot of money, and they will blow their whole paycheck,” she said.

“If the casinos are upstate, or far away, it’s harder,” Ms. Stratton added. “They would have to actually get into a car and would have to make that decision. If it’s in the city, then someone who gets off work will walk by and say, ‘Hey it’s a casino!’ and blow everything they just made.”

Still, the numbers are a good sign for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is closely linked with the initiative. As much as 40 percent of the state’s voters live in New York City, and the five boroughs are expected to have higher turnout due to the mayoral elections.

Good government advocates, including the Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause NY, continue to oppose the language and politicking of the ballot measure, although a lawsuit to have it reworded has failed.

A Times Union report notes that PIRG is urging media to use neutral language when describing the proposal. Common Cause NY, meanwhile, has put out a bulletin pulling back the veil on the larged pro-casino PAC – NY Jobs Now – which is funded almost entirely by gambling companies.

Hayon, left, and Greenfield, right.

Hayon, left, and Greenfield, right.

We told you last week about Councilman David Greenfield’s defense of Hasidic store owners, who are being targeted by the Human Rights Commission for demanding customers dress modestly.

The business owners hung signs from their windows demanding customers adhere to a dress code, which spurred the commission to file suit against the Williamsburg-based businesses. Greenfield recently argued that it’s an example of New York City bureaucracy getting in the way of religious tolerance, and that it’s no different than nightclubs banning baggy jeans or high-end restaurants requiring jackets.

Greenfield’s opponent, Republican candidate Joseph Hayon, went into a tizzy over the news, wondering why Greenfield had failed to come to the rescue of out-of-district business owners sooner.

Here’s the full statement he put out:

Back in February 2013, the NYC Human Rights Commission notified several store owners in Williamsburg that they will sue them for posting signs asking customers to dress modestly. Then on October 24th, 2013, my opponent, David Greenfield, issued a press release calling it an outrage and requesting that the HRC drop the lawsuit. The bigger outrage here is WHERE WAS THE ONLY ORTHODOX COUNCILMAN HIDING FOR MONTHS, where was Mr. Greenfield all these months while the trial was getting closer and closer? We heard no outrage on this issue from Mr. Greenfield until two weeks before he stands for re-election and is facing a stronger than anticipated challenge.

The Jewish community deserves a pro-active councilman that is responsive to our concerns and takes immediate action. While he rightfully called this issue an outrage, Mr. Greenfield could have also introduced legislation to allow such modesty signs throughout the city so no other business falls victim to the anti-religious Bloomberg Human Rights Commission but Greenfield failed to introduce any such legislation. Why?

Unfortunately, being asleep at the switch is a pattern Mr Greenfield tends to follow and proves that Orthodox concerns are hardly a priority for him. When the Bloomberg Administration announced the Metzitzah B’peh regulation a year ago, Mr. Greenfiled only announced legislation banning Bris Milah regulations in September of 2013, more than a year late. Where was David Greenfield?

Why didn’t Greenfield address these issues months ago?

This is Hayon’s first run for City Council after two failed bids to unseat incumbent assembly members in Sheepshead Bay and Flatlands. He first ran against Sheepshead Bay’s Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in 2010, and Flatlands’ Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein in 2012. In both campaigns, he attacked the candidates for not being sufficiently Orthodox. He blasted Weinstein for her support of same-sex marriage, and sought to appeal to religious Jewish voters by mis-characterizing a bill Cymbrowitz voted for as forcing religious schools to “teach Kindergarten children to ‘tolerate’ or sanctify same-gender relationships.” Hayon also made headlines in 2010 when, as a student at Kingsborough Community College (2001 Oriental Boulevard), the school banned him from handing out pro-life literature on campus, a decision the school eventually overturned.

Source: Andrey Gatash/Flickr

D LINE

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound D trains run local from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

N LINE

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 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound N trains are rerouted via the D (express) from 36 St, Brooklyn to Stillwell Av.

R LINE

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.

F LINE

No scheduled service advisories at this time.

banksy1

I was beginning to feel a little sore that the much ballyhoo’d month-long residency of Banksy, perhaps the world’s most famous graffiti artist, did not include a single visit to Southern Brooklyn.

Then the son of a gun proved me wrong. On day 28 of his 31-day visit, he struck Coney Island, painting the above image on a wall at Stillwell Avenue and Neptune Avenue.

Color me happy.

The piece is the latest in a (short) string of internationally recognized street artists hitting Southern Brooklyn. Late last month, Zed1 and Phlegm, two European street artists, did a pair of fantastic murals on Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay.

Photos via BanksyNY.com.

banksy

MTA MetroCard Bus. Photo by Trevor Logan, Jr. Source: TransitTalk / Transportation Media Group

MTA MetroCard Bus. Photo by Trevor Logan, Jr. Source: TransitTalk / Transportation Media Group

Assemblyman Peter Abbate. Photo by Erica Sherman

Assemblyman Peter Abbate. Photo by Erica Sherman

Assemblyman Peter Abbate will be bringing the MTA MetroCard Bus to his Community Office, 6605 Fort Hamilton Parkway, tomorrow, October 29 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

If you are 65 years of age or older or have a disability that qualifies, you are eligible to receive Reduced-Fare MetroCard discounts (a reduced fare is half fare).

The MTA Reduced-Fare MetroCard is personalized with your name and photograph and works the same as a regular MetroCard. You can buy unlimited rides or you can pay-per-ride.

Reduced-fares are also available with any of the following forms of identification: NYC Department of the Aging ID card, Access-A-Ride ID card, Medicare card, or an MTA Reduced-Fare ID card (pre-1995).

You can apply for the Senior Half-Fare MetroCard and receive one right on the spot, provided you are the proper age (65 years and older) and have the appropriate forms of identification with you.

For further information, call Assemblyman Abbate’s Community Office at (718) 232-9565.