Year in Review


Preliminary talks about bringing a casino to Coney Island were rehashed by local and state government officials in early January. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to bring “logic and strategy to gaming operations in the state over the next two years” by redeveloping relevant state legislation with the help of New York’s State Senate and Assembly. Borough President Marty Markowitz pushed for Coney Island as a location for any potential casinos, calling it a “natural location” that should “be part of the mix when considering possible sites.

Revolutionary Commander George Washington revisited his old stomping grounds during a visit to New Utrecht reformed Church on February 7. Washington, played by re-enactor Michael Grillo, arrived flanked by two of his men. He spoke to the crowd of 100 attendees about his experiences in and around Brooklyn and New York City.

A number of concerned city entities have begun drawing up plans for the redevelopment of Fourth Avenue, which Borough President Marty Markowitz has reimagined as “Brooklyn Boulevard.” The Department of Transportation, New York City Transit, and the Fourth Avenue Task Force were all involved in planning changes affecting the avenue’s streetscape. Some have already gone into effect, such as a reshuffling of bus ending and starting points between 86th and 87th Streets.

The New York Giants fought their way to a Super Bowl victory on February 5 of 2012 against the New England Patriots. The city erupted in joy, and Bay Ridge was strewn with makeshift confetti – thanks to the many fans watching the game in area watering holes, as the clock ran down to 0:00 in the fourth quarter, leaving the score at 21 to 17 in the Giants’ favor.


“Brooklyn 11223,” a T.V. series that followed the lives of two Brooklynites and their “crews” in southern Brooklyn began and ended its controversial life in one season. The show, which was cancelled after a few episodes, drew the ire of business owners and residents in Bay Ridge who believed that “Brooklyn 11223” would give viewers a negative perception of Brooklynites and Italian Americans. Outspoken critics included State Senator Diane Savino, who called for a boycott of businesses that allowed the show to be filmed in their establishments.

After-school programs, including the popular Beacon program at McKinley Intermediate School, were endangered when Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented a city budget that included huge cuts to after-school and child service programs. Reaction began almost as soon as the cuts were announced in the early part of 2012, and culminated in a massive rally of parents, students, teachers, and civic organizations on June 12. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who voiced very vocal opposition to the proposed cuts, said at that rally that “we should not be balancing the budget on the backs of working parents and children – the last people you want to hurt are the ones who need help the most. After many protests and widespread opposition, Bloomberg redrafted the budget, taking out many of this proposed cuts.

A number of statues were found vandalized on the grounds of Visitation Academy on the morning of March 22 when students arrived for classes. Two were tipped over and one statue of a lamb was decapitated. Many community members thought the act especially egregious as it occurred around Lent.

The Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults lost one of its two vans on March 27 when it was hit by a stolen car speeding along Colonial Road with police in pursuit. Fortunately, no one in the van was seriously injured; nonetheless, seniors and activists spent much of the rest of the year working to raise the necessary money to replace the totaled vehicle, something which came about at the end of the year when State Senator Marty Golden allocated the necessary funding to purchase new wheels for the center.


Bay Ridge’s 69th Street Pier is getting its own Eco-Dock. Two docks, which will be affixed to the pier, will service small boats, like kayaks. The plans were finalized in mid-April, with Councilmember Vincent Gentile a major force behind securing the $750,000 in funding. Construction, which was scheduled for the end of fall 2012 didn’t begin on time. This, however, proved to be a good thing as the Eco-Dock would have likely been destroyed during Hurricane Sandy.

The Salam Arabic Church, located on Ovington Avenue near Third Avenue, was demolished in early May, after being purchased by a contractor. A residential building will be constructed on the grounds. The sanctuary, which was opened in 1942 and modeled after the cathedral in Copenhagen, was the second house of worship to be demolished on the block in the last few years: the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, known affectionately as the Green Church, which stood on the corner of Fourth Avenue for over 100 years, was knocked down in 2008. A public school is currently being developed there.

On June 7, the Space Shuttle Enterprise made one more historic journey, this one well within the atmosphere. It passed under the Verrazano Bridge on a barge en route to Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. The shuttle left from JFK International Airport, where it had arrived strapped to the back of a Boeing 747. It was then loaded onto the barge for the trip to New Jersey. Shortly after passing Bay Ridge, the barge and its payload docked in Port Elizabeth where the shuttle awaited transportation to its current home at the U.S.S. Intrepid.

Bay Ridge’s food vendor war continued heatedly into 2012. Opponents of street vending included businessowners around 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, the epicenter of the debate. Restaurant owners were particularly outspoken as they felt the vendors were profiting at their expense without having to pay the higher taxes and overhead that go along with being a brick-and-mortar business, as well as the area’s classification as a Business Industrial District. While vending is prohibited in the 86th Street B.I.D, food vending falls into a loophole not addressed in the law. Councilmember Vincent Gentile’s chief of communications, Justin Brannan, said on the councilman’s behalf that “we need to level the playing field. The mobile food vendors of today should be held to the same st

A sinkhole that opened up on 92nd Street on June 28 – which ultimately took months to repair — was a major quality-of-life issue for residents of the block and a drag on local businesses. Sadly, it wasn’t the only sinkhole to plague Bay Ridge in 2012; just a few weeks later, a massive crater opened up on 79th Street on August 1, partially trapping two cars and leading area residents to wonder whether they had a huge problem underground, something the city denied vigorously. The 92nd Street sinkhole was largely repaired by fall; the one on 79th Street was fixed more quickly.andards as any brick and mortar restaurant.”

A large fire that began at 170 81st Street at around 3:30am on June 21 destroyed two homes and left four families without a place to live. The fire had the potential of being much worse head it not been for rapid response by the Fire Department and the efforts of other residents, who woke neighbors and hosed down burning debris in their own backyards. Subsequently, Ridgeites banded together to aid the families, raising money and collecting necessities to help them in their time of need.


Bay Ridge’s first Summer Strolls along Third Avenue were widely hailed as a success. With the strip between 82nd and 89th Streets closed to vehicular traffic, pedestrians were invited to browse the thoroughfare, enjoying everything that local businesses have to offer as well as a wide array of locally-sourced entertainment on three Friday nights in July and August . (A fourth was canceled because of rain.) The community turned out in droves, and businesses responded by providing a large number of unique games, giveaways, and entertainers.

A string of murders in South Brooklyn left local shop owners on the front line in what turned out to be a serial killer’s rampage. Responding to the murders of three Middle Eastern shop owners with the same gun – the first, Mohamed Gebeli, was killed in his Fifth Avenue place of business in early July, and the second, Isaac Kadare, in his Bath Beach store in August — police began a massive manhunt. Salvatore Perrone, caught on video surveillance cameras in the area of the final murder, of Flatbush storeowner Rahmatollah Vahidipour, was arrested and charged with three counts of first degree murder on November 22 for killing the shopkeepers.

Bay Ridge residents were shocked when a vacant house on Ovington Avenue collapsed in the early morning hours of July 16. The house had been an eyesore on the block for a long time and neighbors quickly questioned why the building’s owner, Mousa Khalil, had been allowed to let the house fall into disrepair. Questions were also raised about the numerous other properties Khalil owns in the area even as Khalil arranged for the demolition of the old home.


Residents of southwest Brooklyn are already mourning the loss of Maple Lanes, at 60th Street and 16th Avenue, which is planned to be replaced by housing, with construction projected to begin in 2014. Owners of the 52-year-old recreational facility have contracted to sell the property to Fairmont Funding, a corporation which plans to build 112 units of market rate housing and a synagogue on the site. Because the development is not as of right, it began a lengthy public review process this autumn. However, doubts as to the future of the site were raised in December, with word that Fairmont had fallen into default on its payments to the owners of Maple Lanes. The closing is scheduled for April, 2013.

After lengthy legal battles and mixed public opinion, the Barclays Center officially opened in late September, becoming Brooklyn’s only professional sports arena. While many still protest the arena, plans have moved forward: along with being the home of the Brooklyn Nets, hosting numerous sell-out concerts and world class boxing bouts, it was announced shortly after the arena’s opening that the New York Islanders would also be calling the Barclays Center their home.

Fort Hamilton High School Principal Jo Ann Chester retired after 42 years of working in the city school system in late September, only days into the new school year. While she did not specify a reason why she had stepped down in an email to this newspaper, she did deny allegations that her retirement came in the wake of a payroll scandal, in which she was rumored to have kept substitute teachers for extended periods of time, to avoid paying them a full-time salary for the lengthened hours. She was replaced by Interim Acting Principal Kaye Houlihan. Houlihan comes from a specialized art background and was assistant principal at LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts and Edward R. Murrow High School.

Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast on October 29, causing unprecedented damage, leaving response and recovery services scrambling. Thousands were left without power and much of the city remained under water in the following days. Especially hard-hit places included Coney Island, Long Island, Staten Island and the Rockaways. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel was closed to traffic for days after the storm, and subways returned only gradually to full service, with the R train the last local line to be restored fully, just last month. Power would not be restored to many people until weeks after the storm, and recovery efforts are still in full-swing months later.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas passed on September 13 and within six months, establishments such as movie theaters, restaurants and stadiums will no longer be allowed to sell soft drinks larger than 16 ounces. However, larger quantities will still be available in supermarkets and stores. The ban does not include beverages that are less than 25 calories per eight ounces, contain more than 50 percent milk, or are 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. The ban was met with much animosity in the city with residents like Patricia Velloza saying “It’s also ironic how the person who put this soda ban in effect out of concern for our health is also the one who promotes National Donut Day in the city.

After lengthy legal battles and mixed public opinion, the Barclays Center officially opened in late September, becoming Brooklyn’s only professional sports arena. While many still protest the arena, plans have moved forward: along with being the home of the Brooklyn Nets, hosting numerous sell-out concerts and world class boxing bouts, it was announced shortly after the arena’s opening that the New York Islanders would also be calling the Barclays Center their home.

November/ December

In the first weeks after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, New Yorkers were faced with a severe gas shortage. Signs reading no gas and lines of cars waiting outside of gas stations for blocks became commonplace, until alternate gas shipments from neighboring states were worked out and an even-odd rationing system instituted. There were also charges that some gas stations price-gouged their gas-hungry customers.

But, the profit motive wasn’t the only force in play. Federal, state, city and private relief efforts jumped into motion after Sandy tore through New York City. Donation drives were just the beginning, as private citizens did what they could to help those who had been most hard-hit. Many people volunteered in the afflicted areas, helping to clean up homes and streets. Along with organizing emergency food and supply shipments, salvaging homes ravaged by floodwaters, and removing all sorts of debris, it was also necessary to compile mountains of paperwork for insurance and relief purposes. These efforts are still ongoing in the hardest hit areas.

Election Day, November 6, brought with it a second term for President Barack Obama. Closer to home, incumbents on both sides of the aisle fared well, with Congressmembers Michael Grimm, Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler, State Senators Marty Golden and Diane Savino, and Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis, Alec Brook-Krasny, Bill Colton, Peter Abbate and Felix Ortiz all winning re-election.

Sandy victims were not forgotten as the winter holidays approached. Besides the plethora of beautifully lighted homes in Dyker Heights and beyond, residents in southwest Brooklyn included residents of hard-hit areas such as Coney Island, the Rockaways and Staten Island, in their holiday giving, taking up collections of toys for the children who lost their homes to Sandy among other things. The families of members of the military were also remembered during the Christmas season.

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