"The Garden Spot on The World Wide Web"
Est. 1994

"The Brooklyn neighborhood leading the way through cyberspace to the
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Revision: July, 7, 2005
Most Current Story: June, 7, 2005
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Homeless man charged in warehouse blaze
June 7, 2006

Greenpoint Fire

A homeless metal scrapper was charged with setting a warehouse fire that tore through a Greenpoint warehouse complex on May 2nd

The 10 alarm fire burned for five days, totally gutting a historic waterfront complex. Now a homeless man is behind bars for sparking the flames.

A homeless man, is responsible for the huge fire, police say. On May 2nd, in the early hours, this historic Brooklyn warehouse was charred after a 10-alarm fire broke out. Officials say the homeless man and at least one other man tried to ignite the insulation protecting copper wires found inside the warehouse. They planned to later sell the metal.

Nicholas Scoppetta, NYC Fire Commissioner: "The fire was a very large one that they created trying to burn a lot of insulation at the same time. It spread, it got out of control and they fled."  The 10-alarm fire took more than 36 hours to control. It was the largest fire in the city since 9/11. The warehouse was, for the most part, abandoned.

The Brooklyn DA announced charges against the property owners, Joshua and Jack Gutman, for failing to maintain the waterfront property. Meanwhile the homeless man was charged with arson, burglary, reckless endangerment and petit larceny. He was later arraigned at Brooklyn court.

Louis Garcia, Chief Fire Marshall: "It was cooperation between our two agencies, NYPD and the fire department, the fire marshalls, that brought this to a successful conclusion."

Police tell us they do not believe the homeless man acted alone. They are still looking for other people.

Images courtesy of AP News and other sources:

Image 1 | Image 2 | Image 3 | Image 4 | Image 5 | Image 6 |

Three-Alarm Fire Sweeps Through Three Brooklyn Homes
WCBS-TV New York
March 23, 2005

A three-alarm fire late Wednesday afternoon on Huron Street at McGuinness Blvd, has forced a number of families from their homes in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Three hours after the fire broke out, firefighters were still battling the stubborn blaze. “In the building, everybody was yelling fire! fire!” said Crystal Ramos who was evacuated.

It was an alert that helped evacuate over a dozen families from three homes. The fire neighbors say was caused by an electrical problem. That sparked flames that spread to the attic and then to two adjacent buildings.

“The whole back building went up in flames. My cousin tried to put it out but EMS took him,” said Jason Torres who was evacuated.  There is now concern for the man who was taken away after trying to put out the flames. Also, two other people were injured in this blaze.

New York Post
March 14, 2005

TODAY should see progress in one of Mayor Bloom berg's least-publicized top initiatives — revitalizing the north Brooklyn waterfront.

Greenpoint-Williamsburg has been in decline for so long that only the oldest New Yorkers can remember when it thrived. For decades, mayors either ignored it or made things worse. (Giuliani officials, for example, proposed Greenpoint as a destination for the porn industry they were trying to evict from Times Square — saving Manhattan at Brooklyn's expense.)

Bloomberg saw the enormous potential lying beneath the rubble when he took office in 2002, designating the waterfront a top redevelopment priority. Today, the City Planning Commission will vote on the administration's proposals to rezone Greenpoint-Williamsburg — permitting residential development, which has been outlawed since 1961, and opening new parks and esplanades.

The commissioners will almost surely pass the plan, as they should, though with some dissent. But then the debate moves to the City Council, where it may get acrimonious.

Yet the Bloomberg plan's merits are enormous.

First, by authorizing new residential development on the waterfront the plan will correct the injustice of the Wagner administration's 1961 rezoning.

Untilthen, the citysensibly treated housing as a beneficial use, to be built anywhere. But Mayor Wagner's planners, in a disastrous (and futile) effort to save manufacturing jobs, not only extended manufacturing zoning deep into existing residential areas but also forbade any new residential development on the waterfront.

Second, Bloomberg's rezoning recognizes and encourages Greenpoint's energetic mixed-use character. The zoning sets height limits to encourage new buildings to fit into their surroundings. It allows light-industry and commercial uses to co-exist with residences — which is how Greenpoint-Williamsburg developed historically.

Third, the plan will make the now-cut-off waterfront accessible to the public, providing a continuous esplanade along the East River.

Finally, the rezoning is sensitive to the neighborhood's low-rise character, siting lower buildings inland, thus encouraging a smooth transition in scale and style. And while taller buildings will be on the water, building heights will vary — discouraging the monumental, repetitive look of late-20th century architecture.

This is a heroic undertaking, for waterfront development is neither easy nor cheap.

* The area has been industrial, so infrastructure for residential development — streets and utilities — is missing.

* Property previously used for heavy manufacturing is invariably polluted, sometimes seriously. But the polluting industries — and their owners — are long gone, leaving it to government to clean up the mess.

* Because the waterfront is far from subways, many residents will want to own cars. But the East River's high water table prevents underground parking garages, so most parking will have to be above ground.

The most contentious debate by far, however, is over "affordable" housing in the plan.

For the last two decades, housing advocates have pushed inclusionary zoning — IZ. This lets developers build larger market-rate buildings than would be permissible under standard zoning, provided they also put up extra low- and moderate-income units.

In theory, the affordable units are subsidized by the greater density allowed the project. But — as with so many of the advocates' theories — it too often doesn't work that way in the real world.

Because they know they may have to carry the low-end units when the market slows, developers tend to build only high-end units in "their" part of the project — so housing at moderate rates gets squeezed out.

For that reason and others, the Bloomberg administration wanted to avoid IZ on the waterfront; it reluctantly embraced some as a compromise with political necessity. Developers will be able to build towers as high as 350 feet on the water in exchange for making 25 percent of the units affordable. Advocates, including Greenpoint-Williamsburg's community board, say they want 40 percent.

That would be a calamitous mistake. The neighborhood is an untested market for the high-priced market-rate housing that's to subsidize the affordable units. Even at 25 percent, the plan risks trouble the next time New York's volatile real-estate market hits a downturn. At 40 percent, if developers and planners overestimate how many households are willing to pay top dollar to live across the river, the whole plan will be jeopardized. Worse, as lawyer Howard Goldman notes, it's a very short step from this plan to the assumption that the city should mandate affordable housing in every district.

Bloomberg's genius has been to see value where previous mayors saw waste. This rezoning will be the start of something good — if the City Council lets it happen.


Mag publisher electrocuted by third rail
NY Daily News
March 10, 2005

A promising young magazine entrepreneur was electrocuted early yesterday while walking across the G train subway tracks from one platform to another, police said.
The body of Patrick Elasik, 26, of Far Rockaway, was found at 1:35 a.m., lying across the third rail at the Nassau Ave. station in Greenpoint.

Elasik was the co-founder and co-owner of Mass Appeal Magazine, a bimonthly urban lifestyle publication based in Brooklyn.

He was on his way home from a friend's birthday party when he entered the station from the wrong side, said his longtime business partner, Adrian Moeller.

Because changing platforms required leaving and reentering the station, he apparently decided to simply cross to the other side - but touched the electrified rail and died.

"He ran through the tracks and got killed," Moeller said. "It was an unfortunate accident."

Moeller and Elasik moved here from the Washington area in 1996 and opened the magazine, which chronicles graffiti art, urban music and hip fashion. The magazine has a circulation of about 100,000.

"Things were going really great for him," Moeller said. "He had a great heart; there's not a bad bone in his body."

An avid surfer, Elasik recently bought a house near the boardwalk in Far Rockaway, where he lived and took on the waves for years.

"He loved New York and just enjoyed life," his father, Ronald Elasik, said in a phone interview from McLean, Va. "It's devastating, just devastating."

Elasik's death was ruled an accidental electrocution by the medical examiner. His body will be flown today to Virginia. He was survived by his parents and a 19-year-old sister.

At the magazine's Fort Greene, Brooklyn, office, employees mourned the sudden loss of a successful entrepreneur.

"It's hard for everybody," Moeller said.

Carousel maker's ride over
NY Daily News
March 2, 2005

Brooklyn's famed Fabricon Carousel Co. - one of a handful of custom merry-go-round businesses left in the country - has been sold and its founder has moved to Miami.
The company, now smaller, has been renamed Brooklyn Carousel Co. and been moved from an enormous East New York industrial space to a Greenpoint shop.

"I owned it by myself, and it was just too much," Marvin Sylvor, 71, the company's founder, said from his home in Florida yesterday.

New owner Chris Tabeek continues to make carousels but, because business has become increasingly sporadic, he also is selling individual animal characters.

Sylvor, a father of two teenage girls, decided last fall it was time to sell.

"The incentive for me was to do less," he said.

And, he was running out of money.

"You always need the money - you get stuck as a small business," said Sylvor, who remains as a consultant to the company he started 25 years ago.

Sylvor got into the hand-painted and crafted merry-go-round business when he was asked by the owners of a Manhattan mall to build them a carousel.

He has since created more than 50 of the magical children's rides - for shopping malls, hotels and parks from Saudi Arabia to Bolivia.

Midtown's cherub-adorned Le Carousel in Bryant Park is a Fabricon original and the Tennessee Fox Trot Carousel in Nashville was built by Fabricon and designed by artist Red Grooms.

Sylvor wouldn't say how much he got for his business and Tabeek could not be reached for comment.

Until October, the company was housed in a 10,000-square-foot space in East Brooklyn Industrial Park.

Sylvor, who moved it from Queens in 1998, said he did that to bring it home to where the original carousel carvers worked - in Brooklyn.

After buying the company, Tabeek moved it to Franklin St. in Greenpoint, which Sylvor said offers something East New York doesn't: a growing cadre of talented artists.

The closest carousel maker to New York is in Ohio and just one or two that still do custom work remain in the U.S., Sylvor said.

Hit-run trio gawks as he's dying
February 28, 2005

A beloved Brooklyn grandfather was mowed down by a car full of punks who stopped and stared at the 71-year-old's shattered body early yesterday before speeding away, cops and witnesses said.

Saverio LaRocca, a father of five, was abandoned by the hit-and-run driver bleeding in the street just steps from his Greenpoint home at 12:30 a.m.

Squeezing a neighbor's hand, the tough Korean War veteran who walked with a limp gasped for air and he tried to stand up on Kingsland Ave.

"He was trying to move, to get up," said Miguel Walters, 50, who comforted LaRocca before an ambulance arrived. "His mouth was moving but nothing was coming out."

"It's just a shame," said Walters' 47-year-old wife, Maria Montalvo. "You wouldn't even leave an animal like that."

LaRocca, who had lived in the neighborhood for decades, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital. He struggled to survive for nearly five hours before dying.

Police said a gray Honda Civic, possibly with North Carolina license plates, rammed into LaRocca on Kingsland Ave. near Beadel St. Cops were searching for the car last night.

LaRocca - who had endured a string of painful knee surgeries - was hit shortly after he parked his green Oldsmobile sedan near his apartment.

"There was a loud boom," said Montalvo, who heard the crash from inside her apartment. "It was a hard impact, a really hard impact."

Witnesses told the Daily News that three callous youngsters got out of the Honda and claimed that another car had hit LaRocca, a former beer distributor.

"A car hit the man and kept going!" they shouted to passersby, according to a witness.

The scared trio - dressed in jeans and Timberland boots - then walked toward LaRocca and stared at him for a moment before taking off, witnesses said.

"When I turned around to tell him to stay here and tell the police, they were gone," Emilio Carromero said of the driver. "Even if he didn't hit him, he should have stayed," said Carromero, 42.

LaRocca's heartbroken wife and children were grieving last night at a relative's Plainview, L.I., home, friends said.

"I'd take care of that old man any day," said Jose Serrano, 33, who rode with him to the hospital. "He cooked for his wife, did everything for his wife."

Human Torso Found At Recycling Plant In Brooklyn
NY1 News

The medical examiner is trying to determine if a torso found at a Brooklyn recycling plant Wednesday is from the same victim whose arms and legs were discovered at a nearby subway station last week.

The remains were discovered at about 10 a.m. at Rapid Recycling Corporation in Greenpoint.

Last Thursday, transit workers found a bag containing an arm and legs during a track inspection near the Nostrand Avenue station in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Police identified the victim as 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell of Brooklyn.

So far, police have not made a connection between the two findings.


Police now believe three sets of body parts found in Brooklyn all belonged to the same Bushwick teenager.

Workers came across the dismembered legs of 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell on a subway track in Bedford-Stuyvesant late last week.

What police say they think is half of Brazell's torso turned up Wednesday in a recycling plant in Greenpoint.

The other half was found this past Thursday.

"Investigators believe that the cuts are clean and it may have been done by someone with medical knowledge or certainly anatomical knowledge, with the ability to do some sort of 'refined work,' you might say," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Police have not confirmed reports Brazell may have been killed by a man he met over the internet.

New center to showcase USS Monitor

December 4, 2004

Planned addition to The Mariners' Museum will display artifacts from famous Civil War ironclad. By Scott Boyd New center to showcase USS Monitor


An architect's model of the USS Monitor Center, an addition to The Mariners' Museum due to open in 2007, was on display at the groundbreaking ceremony in October. An outdoor full-scale sculptural replica of Monitor is on far right; the conservation facility is on far left.
WHEN IT OPENS in 2007, the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners' Museum will be the showcase for the artifacts recovered from the wreck of the famous Civil War Union ironclad. In addition, the center will tell the story of the Battle of Hampton Roads, which pitted the Monitor against the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack). This remarkable story will be placed in the larger context of the Civil War at sea and the evolution of American naval power.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new USS Monitor Center was held on Oct. 24, nearly 143 years to the day after construction began on the revolutionary ship.

The center will be a 63,500-square-foot addition to The Mariners' Museum. Its estimated cost is $30 million, nearly half of which ($14 million) has already been raised through public and private sources.

France built the first ironclad warship (the Gloire) in 1859, with Great Britain replying in 1860 with its first ironclad, HMS Warrior. The Union and Confederate governments began programs to build ironclads in 1861, with the Monitor and Virginia both being completed in early 1862. Although they weren't the first ironclads to be built, the Monitor and Virginia made history by being the first ironclads to face each other in battle when they fought at Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862.

The Monitor was special in other ways, too. It was the first U.S. Navy ship to be built without sails, depending entirely on its 400-horsepower engine for propulsion. It looked like no other ship ever built in America. The flat, armored deck was barely a foot above the waterline. In an era when warships had their guns arranged in rows up and down the sides of the ship, the Monitor featured two powerful 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore guns in a revolving turret in the middle of the flat, empty deck. All an opponent could see to shoot at was the 22-foot-diameter revolving turret, covered by eight inches of iron plate, and the small armored pilothouse protruding at the bow of the ship. The ship was nicknamed "cheesebox on a raft" and "tin can on a shingle" because of its unusual design and stealthy profile.

Although the Monitor and Virginia fought to a draw at Hampton Roads and survived their history-making battle, both ships were lost by the end of 1862. After the fall of Norfolk to Union forces in May 1862, the Confederates were unable to move the Virginia up the James River to the safety of the naval station at Richmond because the ship's draft was greater than the depth of the river. To avoid capture by advancing Union forces, the Virginia was set ablaze and blown up by its crew off Craney Island, at the mouth of the Elizabeth River, on May 11, 1862.

The Monitor was never designed as an oceangoing vessel. The very low freeboard and flat keel militated against its operating effectively at sea. The ship was intended for Union naval operations in the calm waters of the harbors and rivers of the South. On New Year's Eve 1862 the Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras while being towed for use near Wilmington, N.C.

The wreck of the Monitor was discovered in 1973. On. Jan. 30, 1975, the 113th anniversary of the ship's launching at Greenpoint, N.Y., the wreck of the Monitor was declared the nation's first National Marine Sanctuary. The site is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Artifacts recovered from the Monitor so far include its revolving gun turret, its main engine with the drive shaft and screw propeller, the anchor and numerous smaller items such as boots, eating utensils and ubiquitous still-sealed bottles of mustard. Recently, the two huge 11-inch Dahlgren guns were removed from the turret and placed in separate water tanks. All the large objects, such as the turret, guns and engine, will be treated in conservation tanks for several years before they can be safely displayed in the open air.

The Mariners' Museum was selected as principal museum for the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in 1987. The Museum hosts the Monitor Collection, acting as curator under a cooperative agreement with NOAA. As a federal collection, the Monitor Collection is under the ultimate control of the National Archives.

The center will open on March 9,2007, the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Hampton Roads. Besides exhibits on the battle and the larger Civil War at sea, there will be a large conservation facility for further work on the Monitor and other projects in the future. Artifacts from the two ships will be displayed.

Not many artifacts have been found from the CSS Virginia, but some will be shown, such as a piece of the Confederate ship's iron armor, made at Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, and a large design drawing made by the ship's builder, John L. Porter. There will be a re-created full-size portion of the CSS Virginia to show visitors what the battle looked like from the Confederate ship.

A full-scale steel replica of the Monitor will be outside, next to the center. Visitors can walk on its 172-foot deck to get a feel for what being on the famous ship was like. Just inside the center, parallel to the replica outside, will be the major recovered parts of the Monitor. They will be displayed in the same relative positions that they occupied on the real ship--thus the actual turret inside will be opposite the turret of the replica outside.

Visitors will be able to go underneath and look up inside the real turret. The two Dahlgren guns will be displayed separately from the turret for easier viewing.

Curator Anna Holloway described the center succinctly: "It will be about two vessels, a moment in time, and what happened subsequently [to them] up to today."

SCOTT BOYD is a freelance writer living in Spotsylvania County.


December 4, 2004

A rash of rapes in north Brooklyn prompted two Williamsburg women to take safety into their own hands — and start a free ride-home program for female partygoers. RightRides — which serves the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area and Manhattan's Lower East Side — was started in August by Consuelo Rubyal, 35, and Oraia Reid, 27, who got the idea after reading a Post report of one particularly horrific assault. "We decided to take action and find empowerment and to see women home safely rather than just be upset about it," Reid said. The free taxi service operates from midnight on Saturdays to 4:30 a.m. Sundays. Riders can call (718) 964-7781 to take advantage of the service. Hasani Gittens

4 bullets end life in fast lane

December 2, 2004


A Queens man who "wanted the fast life" was found shot dead yesterday on a deserted Brooklyn street just steps from his new BMW in an apparent mob hit, police sources and his family said. "What are we going to say?" said Randolf Pizzolo's 72-year-old mother, Olga Pizzolo, a few hours after his slaying. "He wanted the fast life. He wanted the easy money." Investigators had no leads in the slaying of Pizzolo, 43, and when detectives went to his Queens home to tell his wife he was dead, she was far from helpful, a police source said. "His wife told us, 'Talk to my lawyer,'" the source said. "We're not getting anything from anybody." Pizzolo was found lying facedown in a puddle around 6:20 a.m. at Monitor St. and Greenpoint Ave. in East Williamsburg near lumber yards and factories. "It's the kind of place you see in the movies, where they whack people and dump them," the police source said. "We're waiting to see if we can get any organized crime hits," the source said, referring to possible connections between Pizzolo and the mob. Pizzolo, an ex-con who has been arrested 16 times, was shot four times, cops said. Since 1983, he had been convicted of nine crimes, serving time in prison for forgery, drug possession and criminal mischief, authorities said. Outside her home in Bayside, Pizzolo's mother said he did not "deserve to die this way." She said he worked in construction and has two daughters and a son. She added that she hadn't seen him in more than a year. Cops ruled out robbery as a motive because Pizzolo's money clip - stuffed with cash - was still in his pocket, sources said. His 2004 luxury sports car also sat idling about 20 feet from his body. The glistening blue car was so new that the owner's manual disk was still in the CD player, a cop said.


Brooklyn Residents Shout Down Plan To Rezone Waterfront


A packed public hearing on rezoning and development plans for the Brooklyn waterfront on Tuesday night turned into a shouting match over affordable housing. The city wants to rezone and revitalize the waterfront in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, but the presentation was drowned out by the crowd. The meeting became so heated, police were called to keep order. Residents want 40 percent of the housing included in the plans to be designated affordable housing for low-income and working-class people. Instead, the city says it will offer incentives for developers such as the ability to build higher structures if they include affordable housing units in the development. "We at HPD, city planning and across the administration want to see and want to ensure that affordable housing is created as part of the rezoning effort in Greenpoint and Williamsburg," said HPD Deputy Commissioner Rafael Cestero. What the two sides do agree on is that the waterfront is falling apart, underutilized and doesn't provide enough access points for the community. What it does have however, is one of the best views of the city skyline. And that's why it's expected that if developers have their way, they'll build luxury high priced homes in the area. “The time has come to sit down at the table and hammer out an agreement,” Assemblyman Joseph Lentol told the audience, receiving cheers instead of jeers. “We want you to understand taht this community has always been the home to affordable housing, to industrial and commercial mix and that mix has to continue.” The meeting was part of the public review process for the rezoning proposal, which will end in April when the City Council will vote on it. "The question is will the City Council get a rezoning that includes affordable housing so that we can support it," said City Councilman David Yassky. "What I'd hate to see happen is a rezoning that has no affordable housing and then the Council will have to vote it down and we would have to start all over again. I say we've go this opportunity now to redevelop the waterfront, let's grab it and do it right." Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will hold his own public hearing on December 3, just days before making a final recommendation to the City Planning Commission. The local community board will vote on the plans December 6 and final plans for the project are expected by April.

Residents Rally For More Parks In Williamsburg, Greenpoint


Residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint gathered in Brooklyn Saturday to rally for more parks in their neighborhoods. At a protest at McCarren Park, they called on the city and the state to provide more space for their kids to play. “We want more space for a park, because there's too little grass in this park,” said Magda Zielonka, a youth soccer player wearing a T-shirt that read, “Please don’t make me play in the street.” “There's not enough room to play and do soccer,” said another child, Abigail Thompson. “When they travel to the Upper West Side and Park Slope to play those leagues, they play on a regulation soccer field,” said Joe Vance of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association. “The poor kids barely last a quarter; they're winded because they've never played on a real field before.” The groups Trust for Public Land and the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning say 75 percent of all residents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint don't have decent parks.

Police Hunt Brooklyn Rapist
1010 WINS

Greenpoint Rapist

Nov 10, 2004 6:56 am US/Eastern
(1010 WINS) (NEW YORK) Police have released a sketch of the armed man who raped a clerk in a Greenpoint, Brooklyn cell phone store last week. He's also been linked to a sexual assault of another store clerk in Williamsburg in September.

Last Thursday, the suspect entered a store on Meserole Avenue at around 2:30pm, and approached the 22-year old clerk. Authorities say he pulled out a gun, forced her to the back of the store and raped her. Before leaving, police say, he took $3,000 in cash and several cell phones.

Cops believe the suspect is the same man who tried to sexually assault a 20-year old clerk at a Grand Street store in Williamsburg on September 25th. The victim in that incident struggled and the suspect fled the scene. He got away with the victim's personal property and an undetermined amount of cash from the store register.

The victims in both cases were treated and released from area hospitals.

Officials say they have a video of the suspect at the Queens Center Mall, where he allegedly used one of the victim's credit cards. He was accompanied by two other people, who are being sought for questioning.

The suspect is described as a male hispanic in his 20s, 5'7" to 5'10", 150 lbs., medium complexion, wearing a long dark t-shirt, blue jeans, and a dark baseball cap. In the September incident, the suspect was described with a mustache and goatee.

Anyone with information is urged to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS, or the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad at 718-230-4418. A reward of up to $12,000 is being offered for an arrest and conviction. All calls are confidential.

B'klyn bar takes lumps in beating
November 8, 2004

Neighbors who have complained about rowdy spillover from a Brooklyn bar for more than a year were not surprised to hear that a neighborhood man was beaten, robbed and left to die outside the trouble spot.
The bar, in an aluminum-sided rowhouse sandwiched between a park and a highway in Greenpoint, came under new management 16 months ago, residents said.

Fistfights and besotted bickering are now a constant outside Excess Club, at 37 Driggs Ave., they said.

"Ever since it opened, it's been a problem," said Sarah Ahmad, 24, a makeup artist who lives in the area. "There are always drunks outside, fighting. Everybody hates it."

On Friday night, a pack of men tumbled out of the club and set upon Angel Vasquez, police said.

Vasquez, described by police as a local man with a bad drinking problem, is in stable condition at Woodhull Hospital, nursing bruises, cuts and bumps.

Detectives did not know last night what motivated the beating, but residents said violence there is nothing new.

"They come here, they drink and when they come out of the bar, they start fighting," said Melvina Jeter, 18, a student at the Brooklyn School for Career Development who lives in the neighborhood.

Excess Club opened its doors in July last year in a space long occupied by Mike's Bar.

"There's been nothing but trouble there since then," said Richie Maloney, 38, a high school teacher who grew up in the area. "There are fights at night. ... The crowd spills into the street, with people yelling at each other and cars speeding off. It's a real nuisance."


Attacker Targeting Female Store Clerks

 Police in Brooklyn tell Eyewtiness News they're looking for an armed rapist who preys on female store clerks working alone.

They say Thursday afternoon, he walked into a cell phone store in Greenpoint, forced a clerk to the backroom and sexually assaulted her. Investigators say the rapist then stole several cell phones and cash before taking off. Police believe the same man attempted to sexually assault another store clerk in the Williamsburg section in September. 


November 5, 2004


November 5, 2004 -- A woman was raped at gunpoint in the back room of a Brooklyn cellphone store by a thug who ran off with an armful of wireless equipment, police said.

The 22-year-old woman was working alone at the store in Greenpoint when a man posing as a customer walked in at around 2:30 p.m., authorities said. He pulled out a black handgun and forced the terrified woman into a back room  where he raped her. As he fled, he scooped up a handful of phones, police said.

The victim hysterically called her manager, who was at another store, and he called 911. The victim was taken to Woodhull Hospital, where she was treated and released. A police source said she did not know her attacker. Residents and workers said the woman had been working at the store for less than five months. "I don't think that women should ever be working alone in a store," said Kathy Podwolski, a manicurist nearby.

"She is a very pretty girl, and this guy took advantage because she was alone."

The owner of a hair salon next door said she was scared for her workers. "If he went one door over, it would have been us," she said. "It's very scary to think that this could happen at 2:30 in the afternoon." The rapist was described as Hispanic, 25 to 30 years old, between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10. He was last seen wearing a beige jacket and hat.

East Village to Williamsburg Ferry?
Daily News
NOVEMBER 2nd, 2004


Call it the death knell for hipster Williamsburg. Once only accessible by the downtown L train, the neighborhood could soon have a direct link to Wall Street, and, yes, even midtown Manhattan.

New York Water Taxi, a small ferry service with a fleet of yellow catamarans, is looking to build a dock next to a 14-story luxury condo complex going up at the old Schaeffer brewery near the Williamsburg Bridge.

Once known as an enclave for artists, dotted with trendy boutiques and record stores, a glut of new, high-rent housing is now reeling in bankers and advertising executives with a different set of needs.

While some residents welcome the alternative transportation, others are a bit more skeptical.

"It kind of reminds me of New Jersey, the way they have all those ferries," said Dana Doggett, a massage therapist as she waited for the L at Bedford Ave. in the heart of Williamsburg.

The L has been unofficially dubbed the "hipster express" for the route it runs between increasingly trendy Williamsburg and Manhattan's ever-trendy East Village.

But some residents predict the 74-seat water taxis - which offer hot chocolate, cookies and outdoor seating - will be decidedly less hip.

"This will be more like a luxury express," said financial-analyst-turned-jewelry-designer Olia Toporovsky, 26, adding that she might take the ferry on special occasions.

"I would always prefer going over water in a boat than underground like a rat," she said. "Plus the L train can be such a pain because it doesn't run a lot of times."

The ferry is poised to tap into the city's sweeping Williamsburg/Greenpoint development plan, which is expected to create 8,250 more units of housing in those neighborhoods.

New York Water Taxi President Tom Fox says that, pending city approval, the Williamsburg stop should be up and running by the spring.

For now, the boat is only used to ferry in prospective buyers to the pricey Schaeffer Landing building.

The Red Hook-based company currently shuttles 3,000 riders each day to 15 stops citywide. One-way fares range from $4 to $6.

"We see this as a way to connect Williamsburg to the rest of the city," Fox said of the proposed new service.

"To the extent that they want to be connected."

Waterfront pathway edges closer to reality
October 29, 2004


(October 29, 2004) Most people who stood at the Greenpoint waterfront where India St. dead-ends at a chain-link fence would see only trash, broken glass and rotting wooden piers. Not a group of avid cyclists and walkers from Brooklyn. Instead, they see a vibrant pathway teeming with kids on bikes and families out for a stroll. At least they hope to, one day soon.

"It's really beautiful, even in this decrepit state," said Brian McCormick, co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. "The waterfront has been largely invisible, even to people who live a block away."

Since 1998, the group has been waging an uphill battle to realize its vision of a protected bike and pedestrian path stretching along the Brooklyn waterfront from the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint to the existing path along the Shore Parkway in Bay Ridge.

Now, after years of hard work, the ambitious plan is finally gathering momentum. This summer, the group got a $75,000 planning grant to draw up preliminary designs for the project.

"It's definitely a watershed," said Milton Puryear, the group's co-chairman. "The biggest issue before was most people couldn't imagine it happening."

As a starting point, the city has begun to solicit bids for a path between Hamilton and Atlantic Aves. in south Brooklyn.

Plans for the ambitious Brooklyn Bridge Park include a waterfront pathway. Mayor Bloomberg's plan to rezone and redevelop the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront also includes such path.

To ride the route of the proposed path shows a glimmer of what it could be. On a hidden stretch of waterfront near N. Seventh St. in Williamsburg, friends enjoyed the late-afternoon sun. The cobblestoned streets in Vinegar Hill provided a tranquil break from the city.

Though the path is still years away, the cyclists remain hopeful that one day their dream will become a reality.

Once the first section or two gets built, the group says, it's just a matter of time before people across Brooklyn begin to share its vision.

"You just have to give people something to start with," said cyclist Meg Fellerath.

Racketeering defendants freed

October 15, 2004, 6:25 PM EDT

For the second time in a month, two Brooklyn men whose federal convictions for racketeering murder were overturned have been ordered freed on $1 million bail.

On Friday, Mario Fortunato, 56, an owner of the Fortunato bakery in Williamsburg and Carmine Polito, 44, walked out of federal court in Brooklyn separately with their families.
"I feel good," a jaunty Fortunato told reporters.

Walking into the rain with his wife, Carmela, and their sons and other relatives, Fortunato said he was looking forward to relaxing at home and eating broccoli rabe.

A stone-faced Polito declined to comment.

The racketeering murder convictions of both men were overturned last month by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

A few days later U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser granted them bail under conditions of house arrest while federal prosecutors considered whether to ask the entire appellate court to reconsider the decision.

But Glasser had second thoughts about whether he had jurisdiction to grant bail and stayed his own order, which kept the men temporarily in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. They had been serving sentences of life without parole before being returned to the city.

However, at the request of defense attorneys, the appeals court ruled this month that Glasser did have jurisdiction to grant bail and after a hearing Friday, Glasser again said Fortunato and Polito could go free.

Glasser kept the same bail conditions -- including house arrest and the wearing of electronic monitoring devices -- and implored the defendants not to associate with certain people.

The release of the men was delayed Friday, said Gerald McMahon, a defense lawyer for Polito, until Glasser made a telephone call to expedite their processing by federal correction officials.

In reversing the conviction of Fortunato and Polito, the appellate court determined that the evidence did not support a guilty verdict for the crime of committing a murder in aid of racketeering.

The dispute that led to the slaying of Sabatino Lombardi in a Greenpoint Social club in 1994, the court said, was a personal issue and not an attempt by Polito or Fortunato to boost their status with the Genovese crime family as alleged by prosecutors.

Trial testimony showed that two other men were involved in the actual shooting.

Friday, Glasser stressed that the appeals court ruling purged the convictions of murder in aid of racketeering for both men and barred the federal government because of double jeopardy from trying them again on the homicides.

Legal experts believe that Fortunato and Polito theoretically could face state homicide charges but deem that a long shot.

Staff Writer

Rheingold Brewery Marks Return To Brooklyn By Rolling Out First Keg
July 7, 2004

Brooklyn's own brewery rolled out it's first keg with a splash Wednesday.

Rheingold delivery trucks were doused with beer to mark the company's return to Brooklyn. Rheingold began brewing in the borough in 1883. It was sold in 1963 and left the area in 1976, then last month announced it was coming back to the Greenpoint Beer Works.

"Its great to be here," said Rheingold President and CEO Tom Bendheim. "After a 30-year absence we are very excited to be brewing the first batch of Rheingold after 30 years back in Brooklyn."

Rheingold is sold at over 2,000 locations across the tri-state.

An old-time New York beer company will soon be brewing again in the city. On Wednesday, the makers of Rheingold Beer announced that the company will return to Brooklyn after a 30-year hiatus.

The move follows a public spat with Mayor Michael Bloomberg over an ad campaign that tapped into opposition to the city s smoking ban and other political thorns for the mayor.

We'd love it if the mayor drank a beer,  joked Tom Bendheim, the CEO of Rheingold. We tried to by him a beer the other day at Nathan's. 

Bloomberg accused the company of exploiting a city it had abandoned. Rheingold says the ads, which urge viewers to take back  New York, were not meant to be disrespectful, but represent the independent spirit of New Yorkers.

In terms of their advertisements, I got to tell you something: we re not straight-laced here,  said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was on hand to welcome the brewery back. We say whatever we want. We wear it on our sleeves. To those that criticized those commercials, we say  that old Brooklyn saying  forget about it. 

The brewery went bankrupt in the 1970s after nearly a century in Brooklyn. Rheingold made a comeback five years ago, but the beer has been brewed upstate.

By the end of the month, the company will add to its upstate production by brewing at the Greenpoint Beer Works in Fort Greene.

Council Members Join Lawsuit Over Brooklyn Oil Spill

March 8, 2004

Two City Councilman said Monday they are joining a lawsuit suing ExxonMobil, BP, Amoco, Chevron Texaco and other companies over a massive oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Councilmen David Yassky and Eric Gioia have added their names to a suit filed by an environmental group seeking the cleanup of 17 million gallons of oil that is polluting the area around Newtown Creek. The spill, which is 50 percent larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, covers 55 acres.

The councilmen say the spill has polluted drinking water, hindered development, and threatened public safety in Brooklyn and Queens.

ExxonMobil agreed to clean up the spill in 1990, and has removed three million gallons so far. But plaintiffs say that isn't enough.

The 17 million gallon oil spill underneath Greenpoint and in Newtown Creek is the largest oil spill in the continental United States,  said Yassky. It is a disgrace and it is shameful that 20 years later, ExxonMobil has still done virtually nothing to clean it up. 

We're here today to send a clear message: polluters beware,  said Gioia. We will no longer tolerate pollution that ruins our environment and threatens our health. Exxon, hear us loud and clear: you cannot use and abuse our natural resources and then leave us to pick up the tab. 

The spill originated in the 1940s and 50s from an Exxon refinery in Greenpoint. It has spread virtually unchecked since then.