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Source: wheany/Flickr

Source: wheany/Flickr

I have already visited the beach at Coney Island many times this year and what has struck me the most is how much cleaner it appears to be than in years past. Previous to my many sojourns to the shore this year, I had last been two summers ago and my striking memory was how gross it was. Garbage littered the sands and the ocean. The experience was so bad that it kept me away for a long time.

But the question remains, how clean is the beach exactly? Well, Gothamist recently reported on a Natural Resources Defense Council study that yielded surprising (or unsurprising, depending on your level of cynicism) results about the beaches at Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

In the study, beaches across America are graded on a five-star scale, and the beaches between Brighton 6th Street and Ocean Parkway, and Ocean Parkway to West 8th Street - the area most people except scientists, apparently, refer to as Brighton Beach - received four stars , though this scoring was not uniform as you can see in the chart below.

Source: nrdc.org

Source: nrdc.org

In examining the numbers, the good news is tempered by stretches of the beach where the percentage of water samples exceeding national standards for cleanliness has increased over the past three years. Those areas? Coney Island.

Beaches cannot have more than three stars if they exceed five percent of the national average, which is the case from West 8th Street, heading west. If you’ve got a phobia of particle matter that may or may not be human waste or manufacturing waste or some other waste… your best bet is to stick to the four star areas between Brighton 6th and Ocean Parkway.

The biggest cause of pollution comes from sewage overflow. According to Gothamist, New York City experiences 30 billion gallons of sewage spillover each year. Superstorm Sandy accounted for five billion gallons of sewage spillover when it trashed the city late last October.

While that news is disgusting, Brighton Beach is still your best bet for summer ocean swimming as it was the highest ranked of all New York beaches with the ‘good stretch’ of it being no more polluted than any other beach in America. As for Coney Island, well, it could be worse – but, hey, this still ain’t bad compared to we might imagine water conditions to be after all of Southern Brooklyn’s trash and street chemicals washed into it in October.

For those wondering, by the way, there was no accounting for Manhattan Beach in the report.

Where do you prefer to take in some sun and brave the waters?

Source: Phil_Parker/Flickr

Pretty much a quiet week for local subways, except, of course, because there’s always an “except,” the little tweaks. Here are this week’s subway service advisories:

D LINE

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

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

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday and Friday, 205 St-bound D trains run local from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 145 St.

N LINE

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

From 11:45 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday, there are no N trains between Queensboro Plaza and Ditmars Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service,

From 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, Ditmars Blvd-bound N trains are rerouted via the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Av to Canal St. Use nearby 4 stations instead.

F LINE

From 11:45 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, 179 St-bound F trains run express from W 4 St to 34 St-Herald Sq.

Maimonides Medical Center

Maimonides Medical Center

A 3-year-old boy died of mysterious causes after being dropped off at a child day care center in Bensonhurst. The New York Daily News is reporting that Andy Li lost consciousness before being rushed to Maimonides Hospital.

After Li’s parents, who live in Homecrest, dropped him off at a properly licensed day care facility on 65th Street near 21st Avenue in Bensonhurst last Saturday, he began foaming at the mouth around 3:25 p.m. After being taken to Maimonides Hospital, he was soon pronounced dead.

Police stated that the child showed no signs of trauma and that an autopsy would be conducted to determine cause of death.

Lin McKeon, a family friend, told DNAinfo that the parents haven’t drank or eaten anything since their boy’s death.

“He loved his mother (Hua Li) and would kiss her on the lips whenever he saw her,” McKeon told DNA Info. “He was a happy, healthy child. He loved Angry Birds and toy cars.”

Besides dealing with the unfathomable tragedy of their son’s death, McKeon stated that the family’s dire financial situation has put into doubt whether or not a funeral can be held.

“They are so poor they cannot afford to pay for a funeral. I hope they find a way to raise the money,” McKeon said.

The family also has a 10-year-old son.

Source: Eyeline-Imagery/Flickr

The bodies of two people who went missing this past Thursday were discovered by a police rescue team at the bottom of a Coney Island waterway. NBC News reported that the pair had been jet skiing without life jackets when the tragedy occurred.

Willie Tom, 44, and Celine Fu, 29, were last seen jet skiing on the waters by West 31st Street and Neptune Avenue at 8:00 p.m. on July 4. Off-duty police officers and an off-duty Coast Guard member saw Tom leap off his jet ski after Fu apparently fell off, attempting to save her. After seeing that both Tom and Fu failed to resurface one of the off-duty cops dove in to find them but also had to be saved by rescuers.

The Coast Guard then conducted a 17-hour search, finding two bodies that they believed to be Tom and Fu at 1 p.m. the following Friday. The Coast Guard and police warned that this tragedy highlighted the importance of wearing life jackets whenever anyone takes to the deep waters.

Source: Glabb via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Glabb via Wikimedia Commons

Facing a torrent of criticism from local politicians and union steel leaders, the MTA issued a thorough defense of their plans to use Chinese steel products in their Verrazano-Narrows Bridge  renovation project. MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast wrote a letter defending the agencies actions to the New York Daily News.

As we’ve previously reported, the MTA’s decision to employ Chinese steel fabricators on their $235 million renovation project raised the ire of State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who penned a joint letter urging the MTA to reconsider American alternatives. The MTA also took heat from US steel union representatives who accused the agency of looking for the cheapest deal possible.

To combat the growing outrage, in his letter, Prendergast claims that many of the accusations are full of falsehoods – especially the perception that no Americans would be working on the project:

The decision to use some steel from China has come under intense but unfounded criticism. I want to set the record straight, because the attacks are rife with misinformation.

The MTA tried and failed to find an American company to fabricate steel panels for this vital project. We have a long record of aggressive efforts to purchase from New York and American vendors, and we were disappointed we could not do so with these panels.

The contractor performing the bridge project is an American company. It will replace the 49-year-old bridge’s concrete deck with one made of orthotropic steel panels, which will significantly reduce the bridge’s weight while making it better able to withstand stress.

Predergast also pledged that a majority of the $235 million will be spent in America and that American workers will be racking up over one million hours in labor over a four-year span. The MTA Chairman also reiterated the agency’s belief that no American steel manufacturing plant was capable of providing the services needed and that cost was not a factor in determining that conclusion:

Not a single American fabricator had the capacity, the experience and the willingness to tackle the job. Contrary to some claims, price was not a factor in this decision. The American steel industry has not focused on the process of fabricating orthotropic steel decks for projects of this size and complexity, while fabricators in other countries have specialized in it.

With no American firms willing to commit to fabricating the orthotropic steel panels, the work was subcontracted to firms in China, which are being held to exacting safety and quality standards.

Producing the steel will cost an estimated $12 million, and fabricating it into orthotropic panels will cost an estimated $22 million. The remaining $201 million value of the contract will be spent in America.

In concluding his argument, Prendergast expressed a commitment to investing in American jobs and the economy of New York. Whether or not Prendergast’s defense will quell all the criticism remains to be seen.

A Scene From The 2013 Mermaid Parade

A Scene From The 2013 Mermaid Parade

It’s amazing that only eight months ago, most of Coney Island was under water, and half destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. It’s doubly amazing that following that catastrophic event, Coney Island is more popular than ever. The influx of Sandy relief money has brought in new businesses, new storm-proof amenities and new blinged out attractions and along with it, millions of visitors. According to a report in the New York Daily News, all the busy activity has brought headaches to local residents deluged by the crowds.

So far, according to the Parks Department, 4.3 million people have descended upon New York City beaches this year with 2.4 million of them, more than half, visiting Coney Island. All the beach lovers have caused nightmares for locals, creating traffic jams, excess garbage, and stealing parking spaces.

Complaining about the increase in traffic and garbage, homeowner Ronald Stewart, expressed a sense of futility in dealing with the surging Coney popularity.

“We are getting frustrated. We feel powerless,” Stewart told the Daily News.

Community Board 12 Chairman Eddie Mark blamed the increased congestion on beaches still being closed in New Jersey and Long Island as a result of Sandy.

In addressing the lack of parking, Mark has petitioned the MTA to transform the train yard behind the Avenue X subway station into a 1,000 space parking lot.

MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan shot down Mark’s ideas with the following statement.

“We have no plans to build a parking deck above our Coney Island subway maintenance facility and/or train yard,” Donovan told the Daily News.

To deal with the traffic, the Department of Transportation is considering to change the traffic signal timing along Neptune Avenue.

Click to enlarge

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.

Get ready for a summer of free music courtesy of State Senator Marty Golden and the West Brooklyn Parks Task Force. Throughout July and August, a series of free concerts featuring diverse music will be put on in Gravesend, Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge.

In a press release, Golden invited Brooklyn residents to enjoy the shows all summer long.

“This summer, I am proud to host another great line up of concerts and invite music lovers and neighbors to be a part of these great evenings of music. It’s time to grab a beach chair, or a blanket, and head to our local parks on most Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Golden said in the release. “The music of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, dance, classic rock, and more will be sure to get you dancing under the stars. Frankie Marra, Carl Thomas, Brooklyn Keys, City Sounds  and more acts will make our local park alive with the music that we have come to enjoy and love.”

Here is a list of shows that will be held in throughout the area.

July 9: Head Over Heels (Bay Ridge Party Band) and Headin’ South (Classic Southern Rock) – 79th Street and Shore Road

July 16: Radio Daze (70’s & 80’s Party Music) and Whippoorwill (Classic hits from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s) - 79th Street and Shore Road

July 23: Brooklyn Keys (Oldies through 90’s) – Dyker Park (86th Street and 14th Avenue)

July 24: Generation Gap (60’s through 90’s) – Avenue U and Van Sicklen Street

July 30: Love Funk (Funk & Disco Classics) - 79th Street and Shore Road

Aug. 13: Frankie Marra (Classic Rock Party Band) - 79th Street and Shore Road

Aug. 20: Sha Doobie (Rolling Stones Tribute Band) and All Fired Up (Pat Benatar Tribute Band) - 79th Street and Shore Road

Aug. 27: The Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Parade presents “Irish Night on Shore Road” “John Rafferty” and the “Canny Brothers” - 79th Street and Shore Road

Aug. 28: Family Day (Rides,Games,Karaoke, etc ) – McKinley Park (75th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway)

All concerts are free to the public and begin at 7 p.m. For more information you can call Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044.

'merica (courtesy of rsvlts.com)

‘merica (courtesy of rsvlts.com)

The staff of Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean wishes all our readers a very happy and safe Fourth of July! Enjoy your hot dogs, fireworks and freedom!

We’ll see you tomorrow, because we’re taking the day off. Because… ‘merica!

There was always something to do on the streets of Bensonhurst, even when “something” meant “nothing.” (Source: Whiskeygonebad via Flickr)

The following is a guest post from Bensonhurst native Marco Manfre, an author, editor and former public school teacher. He has written two novels set in the Bensonhurst of his childhood, following the quirky characters who define so much of the neighborhood’s fabric. Find out more about his stories at the end of this post.

When I was growing up in Bensonhurst, oh so many years ago, there was always something to do right in the neighborhood. My friends and I never had to plan with each other or arrange to have our parents drive us to places for entertainment or socializing. During the summer, the sidewalk, the street, and the local schoolyards were always filled with children and adolescents and adults, and something exciting was always in progress. At other times, we walked to the local movie theaters—the Marboro, the Highway, the Oriental, or the Benson, where, for pocket change, we could spend hours in temperature-controlled comfort. Of course, this was during the pre-Internet, pre-computer, pre-smartphone era, when people spent much of their time outdoors during nice weather actually interacting with each other. In fact, it was before any of us had air conditioning in our homes or even color televisions.

On Independence Day, the thing to do was to attend a  backyard barbecue or go to the beach. While barbecues were nice, as far as I was concerned, nothing could compare to a trip to Coney Island or Brighton Beach, which were only a short subway ride away. Since we lived on 79th Street, between Bay Parkway and 23rd Avenue, my friends and I alternated between the N (which used to be called the Sea Beach Line) and the D train (which used to be called the BMT) to travel to the beach.This was before any of us knew about skin cancer, so, during those first few weeks of summer, we burned and peeled and burned and peeled over and over again. We thought of that as shedding our old wintertime skin and replacing it with the summertime version.

One Fourth of July in particular stands out in my memory for being that perfect example of always finding something exciting in the neighborhood, even when least expected. This is the story of one of the best Fourths of July of my life.

July 4, 1959.

I was 12 years old; actually, a bit closer to 13. It had rained and cleared up and rained over and over again all day. Now it was 2 p.m., and the skies still looked threatening, with a gentle drizzle coming down.

Nobody was barbecuing or heading off to the beach, and the older boys who would normally be setting off firecrackers of various sorts were nowhere to be found (I always wondered where they bought them; I was strictly forbidden to ever touch those dangerous objects). My friends and I, reluctantly accepting the fact that it was not going to be a beach day, decided to go to the movies to see Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

It was not how we wanted to spend the Fourth of July, but we figured it was better than sitting in someone’s house playing Monopoly.

As we walked to the Highway Theater, we heard, in the distance, the distinct sound of a bass drum.

Cue the high-pitched blare of screechy brass instruments.

As we looked down Stillwell Avenue, we could just make out, through the warm, misty, drizzly air, the tops of flags. After a minute or so, the music became louder and more distinct. It was a pounding, rhythmic marching band version of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The steady percussion and trumpet bleats became louder and the music vibrated through the air and up from the sidewalk and energized us.

Finally, the band came into view.

Actually, it was two bands—a combined Boys Scouts and Sea Cadets ensemble proudly bearing dozens of American flags and pounding out their martial music as they smartly marched down the street.

As the parade approached where we were standing and as dozens of onlookers cheered, we saw that Mr. Petrosino, one of the teachers from our school, Seth Low Junior High, was leading it. We called out his name. He turned and waved at us to join the parade. As the line of marchers passed, my friends and I looked at each other, each one waiting for the others to make a move.

Aaron Levy dove in first. Then Vinnie Balducci ran to catch up to the procession. I joined them, followed by Jamie Maniscalco and Bruce Goldstein.

Even though we did not have flags or musical instruments, we marched in step at the end of that parade for miles in the light rain, eventually stopping at a park (the name of which is lost in the mists of time and memory). Dozens of people were there. The band played a few more songs. Some girls from the Lafayette High School Twirling Team put on an exciting, flawless performance. We all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem. Then, right after some man in a suit completed a speech about patriotism and the meaning of Independence Day, the skies cleared.

As the crowd broke up, we bought lemon ices.

Walking home in the late afternoon sunshine, my friends and I agreed it had been the best Fourth of July ever.



marcoMarco Manfre is an author, editor and former teacher. His novels, set in the Bensonhurst of the 50s through the 70s, include
The Outcast Prophet of Bensonhurst and Returning to the Lion’s Den: Life in an organized crime family. You can purchase his writing in paperback or e-book format, including his short stories, on Amazon.