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A raccoon that died after attacking a litter of feral cats on the 7800 block of 16th Avenue tested positive for rabies, a city Department of Health spokesman has just informed us.

The raccoon may have exposed the feral cats, and at least two litters of kittens, to rabies, and the Health Department said it’s working to identify the cats so they can undergo testing as soon as possible.

“It’s important for members of the community to be aware that feral cats in the area have potentially been exposed to rabies, and we are urging people to avoid feeding or handling any stray or unfamiliar animals,” Health Department Deputy Press Secretary Levi Fishman wrote to us.

Residents are reminded to immediately seek medical attention and call 311 or Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 if they are bitten by a stray or wild animal.

Fishman noted that only two other animals in Brooklyn – both raccoons – have tested positive for rabies this year. For more information on rabies, you can go here.

To help prevent the further spread of rabies among cats, dogs, and other household pets, the Health Department said to take the following steps:

  • Get your cat or dog vaccinated for rabies. It’s the law.
  • Check with your vet to see if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations. Pets need a rabies booster shot every one to four years.
  • Call 311 or visit and search for “rabies” for information on rabies.
  • Always keep cats, even vaccinated cats, indoors and supervise your dog when it is outdoors. Cats and dogs that roam could come into contact with a rabid animal, get infected – and then expose you.
  • Avoid wild, stray or unfamiliar animals. Keep children and pets away from them too.
  • Avoid any wild, stray, sick, or injured animal, no matter how helpless it looks. Even stray cats can be dangerous.
  • Raccoons, skunks, and bats are more likely than other animals to have rabies. Be careful around them—especially if they appear sick or behave strangely. Strange behavior includes normally tame animals, like cats, acting aggressively, or wild animals acting too friendly; night animals, such as raccoons, walking around during the day; or animals having difficulty walking around.
  • Call 311 and ask for Animal Care and Control to find out what to do.
  • Keep garbage in tight containers to avoid attracting animals.
  • If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water immediately, consult a doctor, and call 311 or Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 to report the bite. Talk to a doctor right away to see if you need a tetanus shot or a rabies evaluation. If you don’t have a regular doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.

Photo via Tambako The Jaguar.

Former Councilman Domenic Recchia, who is challenging embattled Congressman Michael Grimm, released his campaign’s first television ad this week. The message appears to be an attempt to boost his Staten Island credentials.

The ad, called “Saturday,” follows the Democratic candidate on what it claims is a “typical Saturday.” He heads to Staten Island to take care of mom, back to Brooklyn to shuttle his daughters around, returns to the Island for a nephew’s ballgame, then Brooklyn again, then the Island, then… you get the idea.

If you were hoping the ad might have something about his stance on federal issues like, say, military spending or corporate tax incentives or a federal marriage equality proposal – well, keep hoping. It ain’t in this ad. Instead it says he’ll fight for lower tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – a state issue – because he doesn’t want to go broke spending all that time in Staten Island.

But, hey, there’s a lot of Staten Island in there. That’s probably a response to the often-touted political wisdom that a Brooklyn candidate can’t represent the Island, which has made us wonder whether an Island rep can represent Brooklyn.

It’s not the only campaign advertising going around. Grimm, a Republican, seems to be short on the ad front, which probably has something to do with his mounting debt and fundraising issues. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is piling on with a video ad that’s been bombarding my Pandora account, called “Charges.” It looks like a pretty good flick.


The anniversary of Yusef Hawkins’ death will fall on Saturday, August 23, marking 25 years since the tragic incident nearly set the city on ablaze in racial tensions, and became enmeshed with Bensonhurst’s reputation to this day.

The Daily News ran a series of articles revisiting the incident this week, speaking to the reputed ringleader of the mob who killed the 16-year-old, the man convicted of firing the bullets that took his life, and Hawkins’ mother.

Circumstances around the incident remain muddled, but on August 23, 1986, four shots were fired from a crowd of teenagers who confronted Hawkins’ and two friends. Two bullets landed in Hawkins’ chest and he died.

The crowd had gathered at 9:00 p.m. on 20th Avenue at the behest of Keith Mondello, who earlier in the evening was threatened by a “local girl with a crack habit named Gina Feliciano,” according to the News. Feliciano told Mondello she would gather a group of black and Hispanic teens to settle a score with Mondello.

Hawkins and his friend had gotten off the N train and were headed to a Bensonhurst home to buy a used car when they passed the mob. They were followed by the bat-wielding mob, which reportedly shouted racial epithets at them. Someone opened fire.

Twenty-five years later, Mondello said he’s still haunted by that day.

“That kid was shot for no reason at all. It was completely senseless,” Mondello said. “Did I know that then? Yes. I know it even more now.”

“I would do anything to give Yusuf Hawkins his life back,” he added. “This is not something for you to report to make people think that, ‘Oh, I’m some kind of good person.’ I mean it honestly from my heart.”

He also had some words of wisdom for would-be tough guys.

“I wish somebody could have grabbed my shoulders and shook me and said, ‘Keith, what are you doing? What are you, crazy? This is not the right thing to do even if you’re just gonna get into a fight and you have golf clubs and bats and whatever.’

“’For what? Because you’re gonna protect your block, or protect your schoolyard? This macho bravado thing,’ ” he added. “That’s really what the night was about.”

Mondello was paroled from prison in 1998 after serving eight years. He lives in Staten Island.

The same can’t be said for Joey Fama, the reputed gunman who fired the shots that killed Hawkins. In a separate article, he told the News that he was there, but he didn’t fire the weapon – and that prosecutors railroaded him to ease racial tensions.

“The charge didn’t fit the crime,” said Fama, wearing a dark green polo shirt and glasses. “I was there but I didn’t shoot the guy.

“I lost 25 years of my life,” added Fama, who’s imprisoned at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate Dannemora. “Mere presence is not guilt. There were 20 to 40 people there. Nobody else is doing 32 years to life.”

… Days after testifying that he saw Fama pull the trigger, the state’s key witness, Franklin Tighe, admitted he wasn’t even at the scene. The judge barred the new testimony. Still, the jury deliberated for 10 days before convicting Fama.

“They didn’t care who they convicted,” Fama said, referring to prosecutors. “They just wanted a conviction.”

Fama won’t be up for parole until 2020, and said he constantly thinks about the events of that night.

On that, he wouldn’t be alone. Two and a half decades later, Hawkins’ mother Diane still sheds tears on her son’s days of birth and death.

“I look at his picture every day,” said Hawkins, 60.

“Even though it has been 25 years, it feels like it just happened. It’s like it’s never gonna go away. It just can’t go away for me.”

“I feel like there’s an empty space in my heart,” she added.

… Told that the suspected shooter Joey Fama and the accused ringleader Keith Mondello have expressed remorse, Hawkins shook her head.

“I can’t forgive anybody,” she said. “I can’t do it.”

When Hawkins goes to sleep at night, she said, she still finds herself wrestling with a series of heart-wrenching questions.

“I ask myself, ‘Why? Why did this guy have to do this? For what?’ ” she said. “My son didn’t bother anyone.”

The incident, which for months spurred marches by Al Sharpton and others through the neighborhood and garnered national headlines, remains one of the most prominent episodes of racial violence in post-Civil Rights era America. It’s been invoked in the recent deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, as well as that of Treyvon Martin.

And while the neighborhood has long since changed, it remains one of the most enduring marks on Bensonhurst’s reputation, though it’s a neighborhood increasingly populated by various peoples of color. Gothamist, for example, brought it up as context in an article about anti-Muslim fliers appearing in Bath Beach, suggesting Bensonhurst residents still have a long way to go before it can put the incident behind it.

Sunny Skies

Source: Sunny Skies

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the preliminary recipients of $340 million in pre-kindergarten funding yesterday. While none are in the Bensonhurst area, there are two in Borough Park - Mothers Love and Sunny Skies DC Corp.

Provided state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli approves the awards, Mothers Love (1681 49th Street) will land $214,287 from the state and Sunny Skies DC (4228 10th Avenue) will receive $500,000 as part of a program that is awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for 81 school districts and community-based organizations across the state.

The funding, which is included in the 2014-15 state budget, is the first installment in the governor’s commitment to invest $1.5 billion over the next five years to build a statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten program.

The city Department of Education is slated to land nearly $300 million to build its universal pre-kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds in the city – which stems from Cuomo’s promise to pay for such a program in lieu of Mayor Bill de Blasio raising taxes to pay for it, as the mayor had originally aimed to do upon taking office.

The funds slated for private daycare operators are to fill the gap in the number of seats required to meet the need, which the Department of Education alone does not have the space for.

“Training and educating young minds is one of the smartest investments we can make as a state, as studies demonstrate that pre-kindergarten has a long lasting, positive influence on our children’s education and future success,” Cuomo said in his press release. “The state budget this year included a major investment in early education, putting New York state on the path to become just the fourth state in the nation to establish universal full day pre-K. The awards we are announcing today will enable tens of thousands of children to attend pre-K classes, and represent another step in the State’s work to prepare our students to compete in the 21st century economy.”

As part of state and city officials push for a full-day pre-kindergarten program, numerous lawmakers and educators, including Cuomo and de Blasio, stressed that studies have shown that children who participate in early education programs are more likely to read at grade level and graduate from high school than those who do not.

“We are proud to have Governor Cuomo as a strong partner in making pre-K for All a reality for the children of New York City,” de Blasio said in the same release. “This funding represents a powerful commitment by the State to build a new, stronger education foundation that will transform our schools. We are working tirelessly to make good on this opportunity to deliver new pre-K options, improve existing ones and build a high-quality system that lifts up every child.”

The full list of recipients of the $340 million is available here.

Photo courtesy of Priscilla Consolo

From a previous clean-up. Photo courtesy of Priscilla Consolo

Assemblyman Bill Colton and Councilman Mark Treyger are teaming up to sponsor their second “Speak-Up & Clean-Up” event of 2014, and they’re looking for volunteers to join them in keeping the streets clean.

The event kicks off Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. and lasts until 2:00 p.m. Volunteers will meet up at 29 Bay 25th Street, between 86th Street and Benson Avenue. They’ll head to 86th Street, tidying up from 25th Avenue to 16th Avenue, and then move on to 18th Avenue from Benson Avenue to 82nd Street. They’ll also clean the area surrounding Bensonhurst Park.

If you’d like to volunteer, just show up at the meeting time and location, or contact Colton’s district office at (718) 236-1598.

Here’s more information about the event from Colton’s press release:

Volunteers, who are local youth from neighborhood schools and organizations, have signed up to clean a large stretch of 86th Street from 25th Avenue to 16th Avenue, and 18th Avenue from Benson Avenue to 82nd Street, as well as the streets surrounding Bensonhurst Park. In addition to cleaning up, participants will also pass out flyers, in different languages, and speak to residents and businesses about sanitation rules and guidelines to encourage them to “do their part” and help keep the neighborhood clean.

This clean -up event will mark the second effort of the year for the ongoing “Speak-Up & Clean -Up” campaign, after the last event was held on May 17, 2014, also with Councilman Mark Treyger. Previously, Colton has hosted clean-up events in 2011, 2012, and 2013. In addition, this Saturday’s clean-up event will also be the fourteenth initiative for the campaign since it began three years ago.

… The list of volunteers include: members of District 9 High School Key Club, students from New Utrecht High School, members from Our Lady of Grace Teen Group, students from Midwood High School’s Key Club, students from Brooklyn Technical High School’s Red Cross Club and Key Club, students from Edward R. Murrow’s Key Club, members from Bensonhurst Cluster Youth Ministry, students from Madison High School’s Key Club, members from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School’s Key Club, members from John Dewey High School’s Key Club, among others.

Additionally, the Department of Sanitation will supply the groups with tools, gloves, and trash bags to assist them in the clean –up effort. All volunteers will receive community service hours and be treated with free refreshments in appreciation of their hard work.


Source: Lutzina

Lutzina Bar & Lounge, a posh new hookah lounge, karaoke bar, and dining venue is celebrating its one-month anniversary in Bath Beach this week.

Nesting at 2031 Bath Avenue, the lounge resembles a classy, contemporary page out of a Martha Stewart Home and Garden catalog.

Stepping in, you feel as though you’ve been whisked straight out of Bensonhurst. The pale-white ceiling above the bar resembles a cracked hard-boiled egg. The faux diamond chandeliers revive a 1920s speakeasy. The elegant white lilacs at the bar seal this entirely bizarre package with a bow and question where Lutzina came from and how long it’s planning to stay.

It sticks out in Bath Beach like a sore thumb. It’s an anomaly. It doesn’t fit in.

But that’s also part of its charm.

Continue Reading »

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

Improv Everywhere, the group behind the no pants subway ride and Frozen Grand Central gags, returned to Coney Island for the 5th Annual Black Tie Beach event on Saturday.

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

Hundreds of the group’s acolytes gathered on the shoreline in their best formal wear – gowns, tuxedos, top hats, monocles – before plunging into the water fully clothed.

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

Meanwhile, those not in on the gag, which would be just about anyone else hanging around Coney Island or Brighton Beach, let loose a series of guffaws as they tried to figure out what was going on.

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

The group’s website has several photo collections from the event posted already, and they’re working on a video. In the meantime, here’s last year‘s video:

Did you catch the black tie crew? What was your reaction?

All of the photos for this post were taken by Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography, who generously posted them with a Creative Commons license on Flickr. Check out his photostream for more.

Photo by Elle Spektor

Photo by Elle Spektor

Beachgoers on Saturday were dazzled by dozens of sand sculptors who carved up the shore for the 24th Annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest.

The event, hosted by Astella Development Corporation and Brooklyn Community Services, saw the creation of everything from the amusing and bizarre to touching tributes, including one of Ground Zero and another to the U.S. Army.

A favorite of our two tipster-photographers, Avi Salzman and Elle Spektor, was a sand likeness of what may be your humble editor, an overweight man passed out on the sand, hat over his eyes and Nathan’s Famous cup in hand.

Arizona Iced Tea sponsored the event, giving away complimentary iced teas to and crafting their own logo in the sand.

Check out the photos.

Source: onesevenone/Flickr


From 11:15 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday to Friday, there are no D trains between 205 St and Bedford Park Blvd. D service operates between Coney Island and Bedford Park Blvd. Free shuttle buses operate between 205 St and Bedford Park Blvd stations. Transfer between free shuttle buses and D trains at Bedford Park Blvd.

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.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, Manhattan-bound D trains run express from 36 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr and skip DeKalb Av.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, Ditmars Blvd-bound N trains run express in Brooklyn from 36 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr and skip 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 (11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and weekend R trains operate via the Manhattan Bridge. No service at Jay St-MetroTech, Court St, Whitehall St, Rector St, Cortlandt St, and City Hall. Use alternate service and stations on the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, or C instead.


From 11:45 p.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday to Friday, there are no R trains in Brooklyn between 59 St and 36 St—take the N. R trains run between Bay Ridge-95 St and 59 St, Brooklyn.

All times until October 2014: there are no N or R trains running between Court St, Brooklyn and Whitehall St, Manhattan. Late-night N (11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and weekend R trains operate via the Manhattan Bridge. No service at Jay St-MetroTech, Court St, Whitehall St, Rector St, Cortlandt St, and City Hall. 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 F trains skip 23 St and 14 St.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound F trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.

A clothing donation bin illegally placed on public property at Bay Parkway and 66th Street.

A clothing donation bin illegally placed on public property at Bay Parkway and 66th Street.

A bill to give the boot to clothing donation bins on illegally placed on public property continues to gain steam in the City Council, where it’s now set to have a public hearing on September 8.

We reported earlier this month that the bill, introduced by Councilman Vincent Gentile, had racked up the support of 20 sponsors in the Council as well as the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The New York Post reported yesterday that a public hearing on the bill has been added to the Council schedule.

The bill will authorize the Department of Sanitation to immediately remove clothing donation bins illegally placed on public property, including sidewalks, city-owned lots and streets. It also gives the agency the power to issue a $250 fine to first-time violators and $500 fines for repeat offenders, in addition to hauling off the offending bin.

According to the Post, complaints about the bins have been skyrocketing and the mischievous bin operators have taken advantage of the city’s leniency thus far.

The illegal containers are multiplying exponentially. In July alone, city inspectors tagged 670 bins — 11 times more than the 59 illegal bins they tagged in all of 2009. The city has marked more than 2,000 bins for removal so far this year.

… The illegal bins are installed in the dead of night, officials say. And even when sanitation inspectors quickly tag them, the bins’ owners take advantage of regulations giving them 30 days to haul them away.

They remove them on the 29th day and usually set them up around the corner.

The legislation would also create a registry of legal bins, where operators would be required to quantify the collected donations by weight.