Coney Island YMCA Certified

January 7, 2009
Artist Rendering

Artist Rendering

By Elmer Hassan

 On Jan. 7, the Department of City Planning certified plans for a community center proposed for Coney Island, according to Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure is set to begin.

“This is a concrete step toward creating the Coney Island of our dreams, one that thrives year-round and attracts record tourists while retaining the spirit of the community,” said Councilman Recchia. 

The community center, located at West 29th St. and Surf Ave., would be a 40,000 square-foot YMCA with affordable housing units.

The center was developed with significant input from the Coney Island residents. It will include a swimming pool, a gymnasium and flexible, multi-purpose spaces for programmed activities. The $56 million project will also include about 150 units of affordable housing.

“I don’t foresee any problems with the Uniform Land Use Review,” said Chuck Reichenthal, the president of Community Board 13. “Most board members have already seen the design. I think it’s going to be wonderful.”


The Laboz (Not Toussie) Fence

January 2, 2009


A storm damaged the Manhattan Beach Esplanade.   Morgan Presswater/Brookyln View

A storm damaged the Manhattan Beach Esplanade. Morgan Presswater/Brookyln View

By Edmund DeMarche

The New York Times inaccurately reported on Dec. 26, that the chain link fence in Manhattan Beach was constructed by Robert Toussie, whose son Isaac, was pardoned and then unpardoned by President George W. Bush two weeks ago.

According to the article, Robert Toussie built the fence a decade ago to keep “rabble-rousers” away from his shoreline property, which happens to be next to the promenade overlooking Breezy Point. The location offers one of the finest views from Brooklyn.

However, an investigation by the Brooklyn View learned that it was not Toussie who built the fence. It was Jack Laboz.

About 10 years ago, Laboz, a Manhattan Beach resident who died last year, owned one of the finest homes in the area, with spatial land and large windows. These windows, however, came with the joys of seeing expansive views of the Atlanitc Ocean, the Verrazano Inlet and the occasional stranger, peering into his dining room while his family ate dinner.

He, along with others who bought homes along the esplanade, were under the impression that the promenade was there’s. So Laboz proposed the idea of erecting a fence to keep out the people who would engage in sex and other raunchy activities late at night.

“Can you blame the man for putting up the fence?” asked Theresa Scavo, the president of Community Board 15. “How would you like it if every time you ate strangers would look in at you?”

Laboz, too keep members of Manhattan Beach happy, even offered them keys that would give each member access to the promenade.

However, the Manhattan Beach Community Group would have none of it. Some members fought hard to stymie the fence idea. There were legal proceedings and a hefty bill. 

Mike Geller, the male Democratic leader of the 45th Assembly District, was the president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group at the time and said it cost the group nearly $150,000 to fight Laboz who had deep pockets.

“We were going bankrupt,” said Geller. “I think some members forgot what they were fighting for.”

The appellate court eventually ruled in favor of Laboz and the fence was constructed and has been there ever since. 

“The ironic thing about this whole situation is that right after the court ruled in Laboz’s favor, a nor’easter hit and wiped out the esplanade,” said Geller.

Sheepshead Bay Cabbie Dies

January 2, 2009


Police and detectives search for evidence in shooting on Ave. Z in Sheepshead Bay  Elmer Hassan/Brooklyn View

Police and detectives search for evidence in shooting on Ave. Z in Sheepshead Bay Elmer Hassan/Brooklyn View

By Elmer Hassan

 A 24-year-old livery cab driver succumbed to injuries after being shot in the head by two men who had just robbed a cell phone store in Sheepshead Bay, according to police.

Zalmai Amwari tried to break up a robbery at a cell phone store on Ave. W and Coney Island Ave. at 3:55 p.m. on Dec. 29, after two black men robbed Atlantic Ocean Eagle. According to witness accounts, the victim approached the two men after they left the store, got into a verbal altercation that ended with the victim getting shot in the head.

One resident, Jamie, who did not give her last name, said she heard three “pops” around the time of the shooting, but police could not verify how many shots were fired.

The victim was rushed to nearby Coney Island Hospital were he died two days later.

“This kind of thing is nothing new for this area,” said Jack Cohen, a resident in the area for 45 years. “We get all these people that take the bus here from the Nostrand Projects. You never rob people in your neighborhood—you go somewhere else.”

The brazen, mid-day shooting occurred three blocks from the 61st Precinct. Police flooded the scene and later released a bloodhound to familiarize itself with the scents of the criminals. “We’re gonna get these guys,” said one police officer, confidently.


Amwari, had just begun working for R & B Car Service and was considered by police to be a Good Samaritan. He attempted to thwart the robbery after hearing the commotion.


Police are looking for the gunmen who fled in a gold colored vehicle.


Weiner of Arabia

December 23, 2008

Travis Bonilla/Brooklyn View

Congressman Anthony Weiner visited the troops last week. Image: Travis Bonilla/Brooklyn View

By Edmund DeMarche

Somewhere in “The Art of War” it must read:  “To divide an army comprised of New Yorkers, distribute Yankee and Met hats to forces on the ground.”

Congressman Anthony Weiner did just that.


Weiner, who has visited Baghdad before, was flanked by fellow congressman Steven Israel and Governor David Paterson on a trip last weekend to Iraq. The three distributed both Yankee and Mets baseball caps for troops from New York. “We got such a rise out of the guys,” said Weiner. “They got into debates about which team was better.”


Weiner, a critic of President Bush’s foreign policy, said he saw improvement in the war-torn country, but admitted that the base of his ratings scale was low.


“This period in time is as good and we are as optimistic as we’ve been in some time,” said Weiner in a conference call while he was stationed in Kuwait. “Clearly troops are safer—but far from safe.”


Weiner gave an example of the volatile situation. He said he could hear bombs detonating “within earshot” during a meeting earlier in his visit.


“You can tell the soldiers who were from New York,” said Weiner. “Troops from Kentucky and Oklahoma were quite, and troops from New York brought their confidence with them. They were opinionated and loud.” He said he was optimistic about President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to redeploy troops, and hoped the upcoming elections on Jan. 31 marked the continuation of the Iraqi government working for its people as well as the Iraqi police picking up where the American troops left off.


“Our troops have done an amazing job here,” said Weiner, also taking the opportunity to criticize President Bush’s “perhaps deceitful” war.


Reports indicate that officials have been planning the trip for months. Weiner and Israel were the two main organizers. The trip was so hushed up, the press was unaware Paterson had left, until he was on the ground in Iraq.


Man Living on Boat in Sheepshead Bay Gets Evicted

December 5, 2008


A man is living on these two boats in the middle of Sheepshead Bay

A man is living on these two boats in the middle of Sheepshead Bay

“Like painted kites, those days and nights – went flyin by

The world was new, beneath a blue – umbrella sky

Then softer than, a piper man – one day it called to you

And I lost you, to the summer wind”

By Edmund DeMarche

He came in with the Summer Wind, both figuratively and literally.

Three months ago, Louis Pascale navigated a battered, old lobster boat, the Summer Wind, into Sheepshead Bay.

He never left. 

Pascale makes trips on his rowboat back and forth to the piers where he buys food and other essentials, reported witnesses.

Sheepshead Bay is considered a mooring field. The U.S. Coast Guard designates these harbors as anchorage areas. A requirement for a moored vessel is that it comes with a permit. According to the Coast Guard, Pascale was denied a permit months ago. Now, after being served an eviction notice, he will be forced to sail off to another harbor.

Pascale must vacate the bay by Dec. 21, said Phil Abramson, a spokesman from the New York City Parks Department. If he does not comply, the city will remove the boat at the owner’s expense. Police and the National Parks Service are working together to assure a smooth departure.

“We have the situation under control, and we’re taking the steps needed to enforce the rules in place,” said Abramson.

Recently, the Summer Wind, a vessel most likely named after the Frank Sinatra ballad, began to lift, a nautical term indicating a boat tilting to its side. This forced Pascale to tie it to a second boat, Barbara Ann, assumingly named after the Beach Boy hit. Now two nondescript boats sit in the middle of the bay.

The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched investigators in September to examine the boats. Although they are not the fittest boats, they were deemed seaworthy. If the inspectors noticed faults on the boat, they would have forced Pascale to terminate his voyage and dock his boat. The only violation Pascale received was for illegal fishing gear, said a spokesman from the Coast Guard.

However, a separate investigation that included the National Parks Service and the NYPD Harbor Patrol, uncovered Pascale had no permit.

“It becomes dangerous at night,” said McGranachan. “When boats navigate harbors in the dark, they might not be able to see smaller crafts and that can obviously be a problem.”

Theresa Scavo, the president of Community Board 15, said she received several complaints about Pascale when he first pulled into the bay. She said it’s unfair that he’s moored illegally and is getting away without paying rent.

“It’s not right,” said Scavo. “The boats are ugly and he’s getting away with living in our bay.”

This paper tried to contact Pascale for a comment but he could not be reached.

Apparently, Pascale has been removed from marinas spanning from Connecticut to Sheepshead Bay, according to the Coast Guard. These individuals illegally moor their boats in marinas across the country, said Jim McGranachan, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard of New York. He said the exact numbers are difficult to quantify.

“You can’t just have people mooring their boats anywhere they want,” said Lt. Edward Munoz, the Coast Guard’s chief of waterway management for New York. “You need to first apply for a permit.”

Unusual for Sheepshead Bay standards, these nautical nomads that find a safe harbor and drop anchor are quite common, said a spokesman from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Sheepshead Bay Service Changes

December 5, 2008


Some commuters say station rehabs add stress to their life
Some commuters say station rehabs add stress to their life
“I think I hate the MTA.”  – Rita La Duca
By Derek Peterson

Rita La Duca stood on the Q-train north-bound Ave. U platform and sipped her small Dunkin Donuts coffee as she does every morning: one Splenda and just a “splash” of milk. Donning large-framed sunglasses worthy of Paris Hilton, she read one of those famous postings the MTA springs on its customers.

The plain white paper read “Service Changes” in bold.

“This is not a good thing,” said La Duca, an administrative assistant in the city who takes the Q-train five days a week. She read the paper and said, “I think I hate the MTA.” She walked away in a huff.

Perhaps her reaction was to be expected. The sign indicated that for one year, beginning Dec. 8, 2008, straphangers will be unable to access Coney Island-bound Q-trains at Ave. U and Gravesend Neck Road due to train station rehabilitation. (A spokesman from the MTA confirmed the announcement.)

Travelers will instead be told to use the Kings Highway or Sheepshead Bay stations to gain entry to the trains. On weekday afternoons, there will be a B3K bus at Kings Highway headed south, from 2:50 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

“If it’s going to make the station nicer, I think people won’t mind it that much,” said Stephen Beyer, a student at St. Francis College. “But it’s just going to be difficult in the cold weather.”

The MTA said it is redesigning the area around the station booths so it is easier to reach trains and there will be new canopies installed over the stairs and platforms. There will also be vandal-resistant fluorescent lighting and walls will receive a fresh coat of paint.

“A lot of people work later than 7:45, and I think it might be dangerous for people to have to walk home late at night,” Beyer continued.

Coney Food Pantry Struggles To Feed The Hungry

November 27, 2008


Rev. Debbe Santiago

Rev. Debbe Santiago



By Edmund DeMarche

The Salt and Sea Mission in Coney Island is in a ubiquitous red brick building in the shadow of the Coney Island parachute jump. There are two markings of gold graffiti on the wall with one word not suitable for a family paper.

There is a stairwell with the 10 Commandments and other drawings on the walls that lead to a run-down space filled with metal folding chairs, file cabinets and boxes.

Times are hard at the Salt and Sea Mission, a food pantry. In the past year, food prices have increased so dramatically, the supply is running out. In 19 years, the 10 volunteers, a majority of whom were once homeless, have begun to turn clients away. Or resort to giving families of four a couple of cans of soup.

“We don’t have the food,” said Rev. Debbe Santiago, the pantry’s organizer. “It’s hard to tell a family to keep praying when they’re hungry and don’t know the next time they’ll eat.”

The normal food basket’s price increased 33 percent in the last year. In these hard financial times, the pantry has never seen so many new visitors. An article appeared in a newspaper about the pantry last week that inspired three people to wish them well, but nobody donated money.

Rev. Santiago, a slight woman with tranquil blue eyes, has a bond with the 150 or so people who visit the pantry from across the city. She was once homeless.

For three years, Rev. Santiago roamed the streets in Coney Island. At night, she slept underneath the boardwalk. She remembers blaming God for her situation and still feels the harsh pangs of hunger. Twenty-two years later, she’s still cold from being on the streets.

“I wear a coat in the summer,” said Rev. Santiago. “I don’t think I’ll ever be warm again.”

While homeless, she promised herself that if she ever got off the streets, she would do all she could to make sure hungry and homeless people would have a place to get warm and receive some food.

“I remember feeling like a social outcast and that nobody loved me,” she said, while standing over her laptop in her green and purple-colored office, about to conduct a bible study program.

She was walking on, fittingly, Hart Place in Coney Island when she says she heard God say, “I love you.”

At that moment, she says, she decided to turn her life around. There was a local philanthropist who would offer her an extra room in his house in Luna Park, who she would often refuse. But she decided to take him up on it.

By this time she weighed 80 pounds with her liver jutting out of her stomach because of her excessive drinking. But she rebounded and made her first meal for the homeless three days after moving in.

“It was odd,” she recalls. “Because I was feeding people (homeless) who once abused me.”

The Salt and Sea Mission has been a strong presence in the community for 19 years. It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m. For the first time, the pantry was forced to close for three weeks in August. It ran out of food.

The pantry receives food from the city, City Harvest and private donors. With the increase in clients, the pantry finds itself struggling to meet the demands.

“I was at a community board meeting last Thursday,” said Rev. Santiago, a 19-year member of Community Board 13 in Coney Island. “And a woman came up to me and gave me a $5 bill, and said that was all she could do. That was so special.”

Rev. Santiago considers herself an interdenominational pastor. On Wednesday last week she held a bible study for women. Her heart is in Coney Island but she says she can’t afford the rent and commutes from Staten Island five days a week. 

“This is my life’s work,” she said. “And it’s never been more challenging.”

Any donations should be sent to Salt and Sea Mission in Coney Island at 1530 Mermaid Avenue, 11224, Brooklyn, NY.

How I Got the Manhattan Beach Light

November 26, 2008


To the Editor:


Many adages are going through my mind while writing this response regarding securing the light on Oriental and Irwin.  Too many cooks spoil the broth….You get more flies with honey….Patience is a virtue


Now that the traffic light at Oriental Boulevard and Irwin Street has been secured, due to my persistent efforts, I think that it is important for all of your readers to be aware of the steps taken to realize this long awaited improvement so that in the future we can optimize the chances for success in obtaining the mayor’s agreement to projects which we all desire.


While input from all members of the community is important to bring new issues of concern to the administration, where the issue is well known to the administration, and where the administration has rejected the request after much contentious discussion, intemperate remarks by those out of the loop can only serve to potentially derail what could otherwise be a favorable outcome.


With regard to any local issue affecting only New York City, such as the installation of a traffic light, the key players are ONLY the MAYOR and his representatives and the member of the New York City Council representing the affected area. The dynamics of city government under the City Charter are such that only these officials have the power to resolve such a matter.


After a young motorcyclist was killed at the intersection of Oriental Boulevard and Irwin Street on May 8, 2008, I sensed that the time was right to again revisit the subject and  I immediately began discussions with the highest echelons of the Mayor’s administration ( above the citywide and Borough Commissioners of the DOT).


Previously, appeals by all elected officials and community leaders to what everyone viewed as the Oriental Boulevard “disaster” were repeatedly rebuffed by the then administration of DOT. In May 2008, Janette Sadik-Khan became the Commissioner of the DOT.  I was hopeful that the dramatic impact of this tragic accident, together with the new administration at DOT, would be determinative factors in undoing a highly mistaken, but long entrenched, policy.


When my Chief of Staff Charles Kahn was asked at the Nov. 3, 2008 meeting of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association what was the status as to the request for a traffic light, he replied that the Councilman was negotiating with the administration and that discussions were at a “delicate” stage. When asked by a member of the group what this meant and how could the group help, Mr. Kahn answered that this was being worked out by the Councilman and the administration and that it would not be helpful for the community to do anything further at this time. Mr. Kahn’s remarks were based on comments which had appeared in the press insulting the Mayor and one of his commissioners (who incidentally was not the decisive factor in the ultimate decision to install the light). I believe that good manners are always important and it’s crucial in inter-personal relations to strongly disagree without being disagreeable.


Based on the atmosphere of co-operation and the mutual respect between the Mayor’s representatives and myself which resulted in the agreement to install the light at Irwin Street I look forward to continuing my discussions with the administration to replace the “blinking” light at Oriental Boulevard and Ocean Avenue with a full 3-way traffic light as well as to address and resolve all legitimate safety issues regarding the beautification of Oriental Boulevard and the repair of the Bulkhead.


By Councilman Mike Nelson


Sheepshead Bulkheads Need Work, Says CB Leader

November 21, 2008


By Helen Pointer

Oddly enough, the word “bulkhead” seems to be most familiar to people living in “Sheepshead.” Yet the two never quite seemed to go together. This is not a new trend. 

On Oct. 22, 1922, The New York Times ran a story about the improvements of the initial bulkhead project in Sheepshead Bay. In a letter to the Board of Commissioners, John H. Delaney, the commissioner of docks, asked for $1 million to be injected into the Bay, which he called, “perhaps the most naturally beautiful useful and most neglected inland waterway in the city.”

Naturally beautiful, maybe. But the bulkheads continue to be unsightly according to Theresa Scavo, who should know, since she is the chairwoman from Community Board 15, and tough critic of the newly fixed bulkhead. Scavo estimates that improvements to the bulkhead can cost $1 million. In 1921, the city paid $48,000 (about $600,000 in today’s dollars) for installing the bulkhead on the Manhattan Beach side.

If you walk towards Manhattan Beach along the bridge and look at the bulkhead to the west, you notice the structure and seawall on the Manhattan Beach side, you see newly renovated railings and structures. Conversely, if you look to the east, the same railing and crumbling structures remain.

The bulkhead project might have been completed a year early by Turner Construction Company, but Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and a Scavo are unimpressed by the old aesthetics that remain in place. Scavo contends that to an untrained eye, one could not even tell work was completed on the seawall.

EDC inspected the bay’s entire bulkhead in 2005, after a portion collapsed, bringing part of the Ocean Avenue pedestrian bridge along with it. Engineers found the condition to be so serious, between the bridge and Holocaust Memorial Park, which they fenced off the area, to safeguard pedestrians, even before they completed their inspections.  This necessitated the installation of the new seawall.

Scavo, however, said she’s concerned that the front of the new bulkhead, the remains of the old seawall and railing are crumbling, with metal rebars exposed.  Not only is this ugly, she said, but it’s only a matter of time before the stability of the railings that are attached to it is compromised.

“What if a person leaned on the railing and it gave way?” asked Scavo. “The corrections might have been done,” said Scavo. “But it’s not visible to the public.”



Starbucks in Sheepshead Gets Drive Thru Approved

November 21, 2008

By Fred Friedman

In a subdued 30 minutes, Community Board 15 approved five modifications in zoning rules at Tuesday night’s meeting that took place at Kingsborough Community College.

The first approval was for the proposed Starbucks opening up on Nostrand Avenue and Gravesend Neck Road. Ronald Mandel, the lawyer for Starbucks, requested permission to build a driveway, which would accomidate five cars in a parking lot adjacent to the store.

Some board members objected to the driveway because of potential problems with pedestrian and auto traffic in a busy thoroughfare. They also cited the lack of a traffic light on the street leading in to the proposed driveway.

“There is so much congestion already,” said Ed Eisenberg, who was opposed to the driveway. “This is going to wreak havoc on the streets.”

A woman was hit by a car and killed on Nostrand Avenue and Avenue W on Sunday, which gives weight to the argument. However, the board eventually approved the construction of the driveway.

Mandel insisted that the area is conducive to a store like Starbucks because it is heavily populated by people who enjoy going out to eat and drinking coffee. Starbucks, which has seen its stocks plummet, is attempting to reach new markets.

Theresa Scavo, the chairwoman from the board, said in previous interviews that Starbucks would improve business in the area.