8/28/15

NYC Rents Soar as Incomes Decline

According to a new report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, rents have skyrocketed citywide over the past 12 years, as New Yorkers' incomes have fallen.

Brooklyn leads the City in rent increases. In gentrified Brooklyn Heights and gentrifying Fort Greene, median rents have risen by 58%, from $933 to $1,474 a month. A two-bedroom apartment in gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant that rented for $920 a month in 2012 now rents for $1,993 a month.

Stringer's office found that, since 2000, median residential rents across the City have risen by 75% -- outpacing all other American cities by 31 points.  During this same period, New Yorkers' median real incomes have declined by nearly 5%.

These statistics, Stringer said, are the source of the City's "affordability crisis", which has left many working New Yorkers of modest means shut out of "affordable" units because they're over-income.

Stringer's announcement comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio prepares to release his plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments in New York City over the next 10 years.  Problem is, according to Stringer, that, against those 200,000 affordable new units, the City has lost 400,000 units that once rented for $1,000 a month or less.

The city's affordable units are under siege, said Manhattan City Council Member Dan Gorodnick, by predatory equity firms looking to purge rent-stabilized tenants from long-neglected buildings and replace them with market-rate rent-payers.

The Daily News article.

8/27/15

Bay Ridge Tennis Instructor Charged with Sexually Abusing Poly Student

Bay Ridge resident John Kantar, a 24-year-old part-time tennis instructor at exclusive Poly Prep Country Day School in Dyker Heights, has been arrested and charged with commission of a criminal sex act, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a minor.

A 15-year-old Poly student reported to the NYPD on August 15 that Kantar allegedly had sex with her at her home between July 6 and July 31. 

A graduate of Xaverian and CUNY, Kantar worked for the Bayview Racquet Club, Poly charity event host, as a part-time instructor. He met the girl through Poly's tennis coach when she was just 10 years old, and had been giving her private tennis lessons since then.

A Poly spokesperson denied that it had ever employed Kantar, saying he worked for an independent tennis camp that leased court space at the school during the summer.

Arraigned yesterday, Kantar, member of a local Punk band called "On the 50", walked out of the courthouse on bail bondsman Ira Judelson's $10,000.

8/25/15

Auditions for Brooklyn's Senior Idol at Xaverian

If you're an aspiring Brooklyn Senior Idol, you'll want to mark your calendar for the auditions scheduled at 4 PM on Monday, September 14 at the Xaverian High School auditorium, at 7100 Shore Road in Bay Ridge.

All Brooklyn residents aged 50 and over are eligible for the competition. Please bring a CD with your musical accompaniment to the audition.

Entrants selected on September 14 will perform in the Brooklyn Senior Idol contest at Xaverian on Saturday, October 3 at 7 PM, when a panel of judges and audience votes will determine Brooklyn's next Senior Idol.

Call State Senator Marty Golden's office at 718-238-6044 for additional information or to register for the September 14 audition. 

Kaparos: Protected Religious Expression or Sidewalk Slaughterhouse?

Every year in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, an estimated 50,000 chickens are trucked into New York City to be slaughtered in the Orthodox Jewish ritual of atonement known as Kaparos.

The chickens are bought wholesale by a group of nonprofits that then retail them to religious Jews as a fundraiser. 

During the Kaparos ritual, Orthodox men and boys grab live chickens by the wings and swing them over their heads three times before slitting their throats and discarding them, in the belief that their sins are thereby transferred to the birds. 

Kaparos defenders say the carcasses are donated to the poor.

In the days before they are slaughtered, the birds are left sitting, often without food or water, in crates stacked up on the sidewalk. In 2013, thousands of crated chickens in Borough Park suffocated to death after being left out in the hot summer sun

Orthodox opponents of Kaparos say it violates tsa'ar ba'alei chaim, the Jewish mandate to treat animals with compassion. It also violates Article 26 of the state's anti-cruelty law.

Most Orthodox observers have abandoned chickens as Kaparos, substituting coins, as symbols of charitable giving, during the recitation of prayers for peace and mercy on Yom Kippur.

This year, opponents of chickens as Kaparos, led by activist group  The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaparos, have filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court seeking to stop the annual slaughter, naming as defendants a group of Orthodox rabbis and Yeshivas in Brooklyn's Crown Heights and Borough Park neighborhoods. 

Now under consideration by State Supreme Court Justice Debra James is plaintiffs' application for an injunction and a court order directing the City Department of Health to enforce the local public health ordinance against unlicensed sidewalk slaughterhouses.

Justice James' decision is due on Sept. 10. 

Attorney David Jaroslawicz, representing one of the defendants, Rabbi Shea Hecht, has moved to dismiss, ridiculing the lawsuit as the hysterical ravings of a bunch of vegetarians. 

The New York City Corporation Counsel sides with the Orthodox rabbis, who have threatened, if the City bans the sidewalk slaughter, to move it onto private property. 

As described by Nora Marino, attorney for the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaparos, and 19 Brooklyn residents who live near the slaughter locations, neighbors have to endure the horror, stench and filth of the barbaric ritual for ten days each year. Some have filmed it.

To the rabbis' argument that the chicken slaughter is constitutionally-protected religious expression, the plaintiffs counter that the First Amendment does not nullify local public health laws and state agricultural regulations. 

The Brooklyn movement to end chickens as Kaparos has grown over the past several years, even attracting the attention of animal rights advocacy organization PETA. Last year, The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaparos hosted a protest rally on Eastern Parkway, urging the substitution of money for the chicken slaughter.

The Alliance is a project of the not-for-profit United Poultry Concerns, formed in New York City in 2010 to promote the compassionate treatment of domestic fowl. You can learn more about the Alliance and its objectives here.

The Daily News article.

Brooklyn Assembly Member Dov Hikind, an Iran hawk who opposes detente doesn't have a problem with chickens as Kaparos [Forward.] But then, Hikind didn't have a problem with blackface at a Purim party, either [New York Times.]

Slideshow: Kaparos in Crown Heights [Huffpost.]

8/24/15

The PCP Connection

Thirty-three-year-old actress E'Dena Hines, step-granddaughter of film star Morgan Freeman, was found stabbed to death at around 3 AM on Sunday, August 19 in front of her West 162nd Street apartment building in Harlem.

Police responding to a 911 call found Hines laid out on the sidewalk with at least 15 stab wounds in her chest. She was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital.

Arrested and charged with second degree murder in her stabbing death was her longtime boyfriend, 30-year-old Lamar Davenport, still at the scene.

George Hudacko, a 65-year-old neighbor who witnessed Hines' murder, reported that Davenport raged, as he repeatedly plunged a hunting knife into her chest: "Get out, devils. In the name of Jesus Christ, I cast you out." Other witnesses and law enforcement sources described her murder as an "exorcism."

In police custody under psychiatric hold, Davenport was arraigned from his hospital bed at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. The aspiring actor, former NYU student and rapper, with six prior arrests in two states for marijuana possession, is the father of two children.

According to People magazine, Davenport has a drug-related criminal record going back more than ten years.

Lamar Davenport's bloody "exorcism" murder of E'Dena Hines on a Harlem sidewalk echoed the staggering violence of Sheepshead Bay resident Maksim Gelman's 2011 rampage. After he had stabbed her mother to death, Gelman left former flame Yelena Bulchenko bleeding out on the sidewalk with 11 knife wounds in her face and torso. And his jaw-dropping orgy of murder and mayhem was far from over.

Like Gelman, Lamar Davenport was a known user of once-infamous street drug Phencyclidine (PCP.)  PCP has a host of street names, including "Angel Dust", "Water" and "Zombie Weed". A ghetto drug since the 70s, PCP lost the spotlight to crack and crystal meth in the 80s and 90s. It has now made a comeback in big cities, particularly among young, disaffected people who have never heard about the drug's terrifying reputation.

The New York Times noted New York City's PCP resurgence in 2003.

In 2013, the federal government's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) announced that emergency room visits related to PCP use had shot up more than 400%, from 14,825 to 75,538, between 2005 and 2011, the most recent available data.

PCP's chief appeal is that it's relatively cheap: a small bag good for a 6-8 hour high sells for only about $20. Most users smoke the drug by dipping joints or cigarettes into liquid PCP, often cut with embalming fluid. Some dealers market the "wet" joints as high-grade pot, because the PCP enhances the THC in the marijuana.

Depending on the dose, users of PCP, originally developed as an anesthetic but abandoned by the medical profession because it made patients psychotic, can become impervious to pain and hyper-aggressive. PCP has long been associated with the over-the-top levels of violence that characterized the bloody crimes of Maksim Gelman and Lamar Davenport.

PCP in upstate Syracuse (ABC News; in Harlem (Daily News; in Manhattan (New York Post; in Jersey City (NJ.com.) High on PCP and behind the wheel of a car on Whitehall Street [DNA Info.] High on PCP in the back of a taxi at St. Patrick's Cathedral [CBS Local.]

8/22/15

September 11 Commemorations in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, DUMBO

14th Annual Memorial 9/11 Remembrance at 69th Street Pier

State Senator Marty Golden will host the 14th Annual Memorial Ceremony remembering the tragedy of September 11, 2001, at 7:30 PM on Friday, September 11 at American Veterans Memorial Pier (69th Street Pier), at Bay Ridge Avenue (69th Street) and Shore Road in Bay Ridge.

The program will include a selection of patriotic music, a candle-lighting ceremony, a 21-gun salute, and a moment of silence for the victims.

"We Remember" at OLPH

On Friday, September 11 at 7 PM in Sunset Park, "We Remember", a September 11 tribute featuring Jay Siegel's Tokens ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), Stan Zizka's Del Satins ("Teardrops Follow Me"), Still in Style, and special guest Rosalie Commentucci O'Hara, debuting her single "United as One: Ode to September 11", will be presented at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School Auditorium at 5902 6th Avenue.

Tickets are $55 (reserved) and $80 (VIP). For information and to reserve tickets, call 888-540-8880. You can also buy tickets online at Brown Paper Tickets or at the OLPH Rectory at 526 59th Street.  (No credit cards accepted.)

Free September 11 Concert at Bargemusic

At 8 PM on Friday September 11, Bargemusic, at Fulton Ferry Landing in DUMBO, will host a free Memorial Concert. Seating is unreserved. Doors opens at 7:30 PM.

The program includes works by Bach, Beethoven, Bottoms, Schlefer, Barber, Walton, Scriabin and Chopin.

Featured artists include the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, conducted by Eli Spindel; violist Mark Peskanov, shakuhachist James Nyoraku Schefer; pianist David Bottoms and pianist Rita Sloan.

Danielle Aronsen Killed on Bay Ridge Parkway

Danielle Aronsen and Andrew Berkowitz
Twenty-nine-year-old Danielle Aronsen, raised in Sunset Park and the mother of a two-year-old son, was left for dead on Bay Ridge Parkway on Thursday by her longtime boyfriend Andrew Berkowitz, 35, after falling out of the back seat of his 2002 GMC Envoy.

Berkowitz didn’t stop, returning to the scene only after circling the block. When police then stopped him at the scene, Berkowitz refused a blood alcohol test (authorities later obtained a warrant for a blood test) and told cops that the back door of the SUV was broken.

Aronsen was rushed to Lutheran Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 2:54 A.M. The apparent cause of death was head trauma. 

According to witnesses at the Bean Post Pub at 7525 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge, Aronsen and Berkowitz, (after whom her son Andrew is named) had been drinking when they came into the bar on Thursday night and got into an argument before leaving at around 11:30 PM. 

For unknown reasons, Aronsen got into the back seat, with Berkowitz at the wheel. Witnesses reported the SUV then swerving wildly down Fifth Avenue with Aronsen’s door, which she may have forgotten to close, flapping open.  When Berkowitz then took a sharp turn onto Bay Ridge Parkway, Aronsen was sent flying onto the pavement. 

After he showed up at Lutheran, Berkowitz was arrested and taken to the 68th Pct.  He now faces an array of charges including manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene, driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.

Aronsen, who worked as a Starbucks barista, was a dedicated Rangers fan and followed metal band Slayer.

On August 21, Aronsen’s cousin mounted a GoFundMe site to help her family raise her two-year-old son, Andrew, according to Brooklyn Daily.  The page has raised more than $12,000 since it went live.

You can donate through the page here.  Also keep an eye out for benefits by area bands.

8/21/15

Norwegian Stand-up Comedian Alan Drop at Vesuvio

The Scandinavian East Coast Museum invites you to an after-dinner show by Norwegian stand-up comedian and storyteller Alan Drop, in the back room at Vesuvio Restaurant, 7305 Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, at 8 PM on Friday, August 28.

Drop will perform "Roads Less Travelled," a funny, thoughtful and provocative journey through his extraordinary life. This collection of real-life stories is by turns entertaining, funny, sad, thought-provoking and inspiring.

Not to worry about translation: Drop performs in English.

Dinner will be served at 7 PM. The all-inclusive price (including tax and gratuity) for the evening is $35, which includes a salad, choice of entrees (salmon, chicken parmesan or pasta), and coffee and dessert.

To reserve tickets, call The Scandinavian East Coast Museum at 718-748-5950 or email Victoria Hofmo at VictoriaHofmo@aol.com. (If you're paying by check, it should be made payable to the Scandinavian East Coast Museum and mailed to Arnie Bergman at 966 57th St., Brooklyn, NY 11219.

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