Marino Photography Small Business Saturday Pop-up Studio

As part of the annual Small Business Saturday promotion in Brooklyn, professional photographer Dan Marino, of Marino Photography is offering a one-day-only pop-up Holiday Photo Studio in Bay Ridge on Sunday, November 29.

Sessions are 30 minutes long and produce from 10-15 images, plus holiday cards and other additional options.

To make an appointment, email Marino at info@danmarinophoto.com to reserve your spot. First come, first served.


New Art Studio Opens on 92nd Street in Bay Ridge

The Art Fun Studio has opened at 547 92nd Street in Bay Ridge, offering a range of programming, including drawing, painting, mixed media, collage, jewelry making and seashell art, for students of all ages and skill levels. 

In addition to scheduled day and evening classes, the studio welcomes walk-ins from 12 PM to 6 PM on weekdays and from 11 PM to 3 PM on weekends.

Founded by Bay Ridge resident Alla Baksanskaya, a professional artist, the studio seeks to address the growing need for art education as school arts programs are increasingly de-funded. 

Baksanskaya, the school's director, is the author of a children's art book,“Seashell Picasso Nautical Mosaic: 18 Art Projects with 18 Hand-Cut Templates", and leads seashell mosiac workshops for both adults and children across the country.

The mission of the Art Fun Studio, Baksanskaya said, is to enable students to discover and express their own creativity through the appreciation and creation of art.  The sheer fun of creation, according to Baksanskaya, facilitates learning and development in children and provides a great way for adults to de-stress. 

For more information, contact 718.680.0508 or alla@artfunstudio.com/.


Would Micro-Units Legitimize Illegal Home Conversions?

According to a recent Bay Ridge Courier/Brooklyn Daily article, City Council Member Vinnie Gentile has joined Bensonhurst community leaders in voicing fears that Mayor Bill deBlasio's "Zoning for Quality and Affordability Plan" proposal, by authorizing the creation of new single occupancy "micro-units", would open a path to legitimization for the illegal subdivisions plaguing southern Brooklyn.

Local critics of the proposed plan have zoomed in on a provision that would enable the inclusion of studio apartments under 400 sq. ft. in new residential construction. Gentile fears this provision would create a loophole through which illegally-subdivided one-room apartments in existing homes could be legitimized.

But the provision responds to a finding by the NYC Department of City Planning that there is a surging demand for micro apartments to alleviate the shortage of single-occupancy units in a city where 50% of all households are comprised of a single adult and developers have stopped including studio apartments in new construction.

But to critics of the zoning proposal, meeting the demand for single-occupancy units is less significant than confronting the threat of illegal home conversion. Lawyer Ross Brady, who sits on CB 11, sees the plan, by incentivizing the creation of new micro-units, as legitimizing existing illegally-subdivided units.

But would it?

On November 12, CB 11 voted in favor of the zoning amendment.

The Brooklyn Daily post.


CB 10 Rejects City's Upzoning Proposal

As reported by the Bay Ridge Courier/Brooklyn Daily last week, Brooklyn Community Board 10, on the petulant recommendation of its land use committee, vetoed the deBlasio administration's "Zoning for Quality and Affordability" text amendment by a vote of 36-1 last week.

The Board's vote is only advisory.

Members of the land use committee, which was given the summer to review the proposal, admitted that the task was too much for them, complaining that they lacked the time or expertise to read and digest the 600-page document or understand its policy implications.

That didn't stop committee members from forming strongly negative opinions, based on the portions of the proposal they had read. According to committee member Steve Harrison, he had read enough to make up his mind.

Believing that only some of the proposed zoning changes would impact Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, board members said they viewed the proposal in light of the imagined effect of higher density in contiguous neighborhoods like Sunset Park.

A companion document, titled "Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement", sheds more light on the assumption-based, highly technical zoning proposal. The proposal, it explains, seeks to implement key policy goals of Mayor Bill deBlasio's 2014 "Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan," aimed at building and preserving affordable housing in New York City.

According to the companion Draft Scope of Work document, the plan lays out policy objectives and tools aimed at addressing the city's affordable housing crisis by clearing away some of the thicket of city zoning regulations seen as standing in the way of new housing construction. The plan, it says, posits the combined impact of modern building construction techniques, changing patterns of automobile ownership, irregular lot conditions, and changing demographics on the city's existing framework of zoning regulations.

The Department of City Planning (DCP), after reviewing the Zoning Ordinance, the document says, zoomed in on a constellation of regulatory requirements that it believes need to be changed in order to facilitate the construction of affordable housing.

One of the DCP's areas of focus that would seem to have particular relevance to Bay Ridge is priority construction of affordable senior housing and nursing facilities to accommodate the city's booming senior population, projected to increase by a whopping 40%. This surging demographic -- in part due to the aging "baby boom" generation -- has already outpaced the city's stock of affordable senior housing.

The Brooklyn Daily post.

The senior housing crisis in New York City [New York Times.]


Gentile Gets Pushback on New Illegal Conversion Legislation

Council Member Vinnie Gentile, who recently announced that he is drafting a package of new legislation to make it easier for the NYC Department of Buildings to crack down on illegal home conversions, has gotten negative feedback from advocates for two immigrant groups: seniors and day laborers, who are drawn to illegal conversions in search of affordable rents.

Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Worker’s Justice Project, which operates the Bay Parkway Community Job Center, called on Gentile to include immigrant communities in the legislative drafting process. Underpaid day laborers, who feed the demand for single rooms in illegally-subdivided houses, may lack other housing options, she said.

Guallpa was joined by Warren Chan, of Brooklyn-based Asian Community United Society (ACUS), who fears that cracking down on illegal conversions would impact Asian seniors who rent rooms in illegal conversions, putting them at risk of eviction and homelessness. 

Fining landlords would be ineffective, Chan said, in resettling these tenants. The very lack of affordable housing that has driven them into illegal conversions would make it impossible for them to find suitable replacement housing. And the higher rents they would be forced to pay elsewhere would quickly exhaust the proposed subsidy, leaving these seniors un-housed, he said.

Ironically, Borough President Eric Adams, a driving force behind the push to criminalize illegal conversion to protect property values and quality of life in southwest Brooklyn, is behind the mass mobilization of legal advocates to combat the growing problem of eviction in fast-gentrifying downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The Bensonhurst Bean post


Serial Animal Poisoner At Large in Bay Ridge

I first saw the official-looking notice -- there seems to be just the one -- taped to a light pole about a block from the Rite Aid store on 4th 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge some weeks ago:
"Please be advised", it said, "that there is an Animal Cruelty Police Investigation underway in light of recent attacks on birds and cats between 88th Street and 93rd Street from Ridge Avenue to 4th Avenue. The suspect(s) have been targeting cats and birds, attempting to harm and kill them. Be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and if you see something, contact the authorities."
Problem is that the notice, which carries an NYPD logo, has no contact information at the bottom of the page. If there's an NYPD "investigation," then the investigator would be the "authority" to contact, but without a name, address or phone number, that would be impossible.

Absent significant facts like that, it just didn't look like a real investigation to me. It looked like a placebo -- a front for doing nothing. So I archived the photo and waited.

Then this week, some related information appeared in an oddly facetious article in the November 20-26 edition of weekly print publication Bay Ridge Courier ("Brooklyn Daily" online.) One or more individuals in the southwest end of Bay Ridge have reportedly been poisoning feral cats using cat food laced with poison and/or ground glass, and killing birds with a mixture of bread, sugar and insecticide.

Over the past four months, three stray cats and dozens of birds in the extensive focus area, bounded by 88th or 90th and 92nd Streets, Ridge Boulevard, and Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, have been found dead, believed to have been poisoned.   

Witnesses have reported, and the reports have been corroborated by photos, that poison and ground glass, mixed with wet cat food, have been found in yards where feral cats are known to feed; and that bread mixed with sugar and insecticide has been found on sidewalks where wild birds feed.

According to local residents Anna Scollazino and Brian Baglioni, the sources of the Courier report, the poisoner makes daily rounds, putting out the poisoned food when there are no witnesses around. 

Scollazino reports having found 31 dead birds, believed to have been poisoned using the sugar-bread-insecticide mix, near the Visitation Monastery on Ridge Boulevard. She also reports having found a slurry of bleach and cat food outside a house in the focus area.

She has a suspect, a neighbor who appears to be using the moist cat food Tender Vittles as a poison delivery medium. After she had made several phone calls to the NYPD, Scollazino said, police officers briefly detained the suspect after finding poisoned food on his property. But although they seized his supply of cat food, they released him with only a warning. The day after the suspect was detained and released, Scollazino reported finding more poisoned food on his property.

The Courier interviewed a local homeowner who had declined to get involved in the police investigation who reported seeing the suspect in front of her house one night, and the next morning finding poisoned food in her yard.

Hard to imagine that there would be no surveillance video of the poisoner.

Because dogs are known to be strongly attracted to cat food, local dog owners who have heard about the poisoner are concerned that their pets are at risk of being accidentally poisoned.

A friend who lives on 96th Street between 3rd and Marine Avenues told me earlier this year about stray cats being poisoned in her yard last winter by someone with the same MO as Scollazino has described. The poisoner's range may be bigger than reported -- or there may be multiple poisoners.

Sadly, the ASCPA has abandoned the task of enforcing animal cruelty laws in New York City, which now defaults to the NYPD.  There were concerns, when the transfer happened last year, that animal cruelty cases would go straight to the bottom of the pile at the NYPD.

The Brooklyn Daily article.

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