Top 10 Brooklyn News Stories of 2013
Jan 02, 2014 | 1950 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilman Stephen Levin rally to save LICH in September.
Now mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilman Stephen Levin rally to save LICH in September.
Former borough president Marty Markowitz
Former borough president Marty Markowitz
Traffic lights were installed on Kent Avenue in late November.
Traffic lights were installed on Kent Avenue in late November.
EPS releases details of the Gowanus cleanup in early January.
EPS releases details of the Gowanus cleanup in early January.
10)Citi Bike Comes to Brooklyn, But Not Smoothly

As part of the implementation of the first-ever citywide public bike share program, hundreds of blue Citi Bikes were brought to Brooklyn side street in downtown and Williamsburg in April.

While most residents of Brooklyn have been supportive of the program, the rollout of docking stations hasn’t been without its problems.

At a May 1st public meeting hosted by then-councilwoman Letitia James, more than 100 residents gathered to talk about their issues with Citi Bike, with some expressing concern that the docking stations take up parking spaces.

And some Brooklynites felt that the placement of stations near their homes was an unwelcome surprise.

“The Adelphi Street location was never suggested,” said John Sarachi of Fort Greene. “They take away seven parking spots and prevent proper cleaning.”

Despite concerns, no changes have been made to docking station placement.

9)The Yellow Dogs slays fellow musicians

Four members of a Williamsburg-based indie rock band were shot and three were killed after a fellow musician opened fire and later took his own life on November 11.

Police identified 29-year-old bassist Raefe Akhbar as the assailant who killed his former bandmates in The Yellow Dogs after he was kicked out of the band.

The victims of the shooting were 27-year-old Soroush Farazmand, 35-year-old Ali Eskandarian and Sourush’s 28-year-old brother Arash “Sina” Farazmand. Sasn Sadaghpourosko, 22, was also injured in the shooting with two gunshot wounds to his right arm.

The Yellow Dogs escaped Iran together in 2009, where they had been performing illegally since 2006.

8)Red Hook's Post-Sandy Recovery

Red Hook was one of the most devastated neighborhoods after Hurricane Sandy caused flooding and power outages throughout the tri-state area. Even now, more than a year after the storm made landfall, many local businesses and homeowners are still working to get back to living life as it was.

Organizations like the Red Hook Initiative (RHI) and the Red Hook Civic Association have been integral to cleanup efforts.

Despite the threat of future storms, head of the Red Hook Civic Association John McGettrick said at an October fundraiser that most residents were willing to rebuild and stay in Red Hook.

“The majority of people are willing to stay and rebuild,” said McGettrick, “but they definitely want to know what hew premiums for flood insurance will cost.”

7)Luxury developers shun unions in Brooklyn

Several luxury developers in Brooklyn this year have been in the focus of unions for paying “poverty” wages to their employees and refusing to contract union workers.

In Park Slope, protests broke out in April after it was found by service workers union 32BJ SEIU that the developers of Arias Park Slope – a 95-unit rental property at 150 4th Avenue – were capitalizing on millions of dollars worth of tax breaks while paying their workers lower-than-union wages with no benefits.

One protesting worker, Jose Casillas, who worked at the Arias property for a year at $10 per hour, said that he was fired for trying to join a union.

“I want the benefits and to be in the union, that is my right,” said Casillas at a protest against Invesco, Inc., the developer who owns Arias.

In DUMBO, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board decided not to require union labor as part of the contract for the development of a new 47-unit apartment complex on John Street, leading to protests and denouncements.

“The Brooklyn Bridge Park Board has once again taken the low road,” read a statement from Build Up NYC after the board’s decision was made public in August. “They did not include in the requirements of the John Street Development that the construction, operations, and maintenance workers receive the same wages, benefits or safety training that more than 150,000 other construction operations and maintenance workers get who work in New York City.

Councilman Steve Levin, who sits on the BBP board, voted against the plan, which was one of 11 proposals they reviewed, only one of which called for union labor.

6)Gowanus Canal Cleanup Plan

In early January, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated talks with the public to clean up the Gowanus Canal after finding the waterway to be contaminated with more than a dozen pollutants, including heavy metals and cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Originally one of the country’s major industrial transportation routes in the mid-1800s, the Gowanus Canal was added to the U.S. Superfund list and named one of the nation’s most hazardous waste sites in 2010.

In October, the EPA announced their finalized plan for cleanup, which involves dredging and removing 588,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments and to create a triple layer of clay, gravel and stone to prevent further contamination and erosion to the canal.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck called the plan “a comprehensive, scientifically sound roadmap to turn this urban waterway into a community asset once more.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez praised the plan, highlighting the requirement for the biggest polluters to pay for part of the cleanup.

“Remediating the Gowanus Canal will be good for our environment, the public health and our local economy,” said Velasquez. “Equally important, under Superfund, polluters will be the ones paying for removing these contaminants.”

Despite the issues of pollution and the post-Sandy sewage flood that troubled the canal late last year, developers such as the Lightstone Group and the Toll Brothers are planning to build 700- and 477-unit apartment complexes on the canal's banks.

Gowanus residents see the new developments as troubling, since they believe that adding heavy developments to the area will cause greater problems with flooding in the future.

“By building higher and changing the hydrology of the land, it is going to make it worse with more flooding and worse flooding,” said Linda Mariano, co-founder of community awareness group Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus (FROGG).

The estimated cost of the cleanup is $508 million and will not be completed until 2032.

5)New York Islanders Come to Brooklyn

After announcing late last year that they would be coming to Brooklyn, the New York Islanders played their first game at the Barclays Center on September 21 against the New Jersey Devils, making them Brooklyn’s second professional sports team in as many years.

One of the benefits the team will experience with the move, in addition to a central location with service from several subway, bus and LIRR train routes, is the unique feel of the new stadium. According to arena developer Bruce Ratner, the 15,813 fans at each Islanders game will feel like “they are in their living room.”

“This place was built for intimacy,” said Ratner. “It’s probably going to be the most intimate view for any hockey fan probably in the NHL.”

While the Islanders lost their first game against the Devils, the team’s management feels that the move to Brooklyn will be a big win for the team in the long run.

4)Greenpoint Landing plan approved

Earlier this month, the City Council approved the plan for Greenpoint Landing, a large, mixed-use development on the North Williamsburg waterfront.

The final plan includes 431 affordable housing units, the designation of an Urban Development Action Area at 16 Dupont and 219 West streets, and a 640-seat pre-kindergarten through 8th grade public school.

As part of the agreement, developer Greenpoint Landing Associates will contribute an additional $3 million to expand Newtown Barge Park.

To accommodate the influx of new residents, the developer agreed to set up a free shuttle service for access to the 7 train at Court Street Station and the G train at India Street.

3)Hit and Run on Kent Avenue

On Sunday, March 3, Nachman Glauber and his pregnant wife Raizel were in a livery cab rushing to see a doctor when the car was struck by a BMW on Kent Avenue going roughly 69 miles per hour. The couple was killed in the wreck and their son, who was delivered three months premature, died the following morning.

The driver of the other vehicle and a single passenger left the scene, leaving the totaled BMW behind. Julio Acevedo, who was found by and surrendered to authorities in Pennsylvania three days after the accident, admitted that he was the driver in the hit-and-run, but claimed that the livery cab driver failed to stop at a stop sign, and that the accident was the cab driver’s fault, not his own. Acevedo is scheduled to go to trial for his role in the accident next year.

In response to the incident, which many residents felt highlighted an overall lack of safety on the long, unhindered stretch of Kent Avenue, the city proposed the creation of a safer corridor and the addition of traffic lights to help curb the problem of speeding.

2)Mr. Brooklyn terms out

After 12 years as the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz – or he has become known colloquially, “Mr. Brooklyn” – has reached the end of his final term.

Throughout his time, Markowitz has been a tireless advocate for the welfare of the borough, supporting massive capital projects such as Barclays Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

One of his earliest promises, made after he took office in 2001, was to bring a professional sports team to the borough. With the announcement that the New York Islanders will be calling the Barclays Center home, there will soon be two.

At his final State of the Borough address, then-councilwoman and current public advocate Letitia James, who had previously vowed to never enter the new arena, said, “I can’t imagine living in Brooklyn or politics without Marty Markowitz.”

1)LICH closure stalled

SUNY Downstate acquired Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill in 2011, and in just two years’ time the acquisition turned out to be disastrous for both institutions. As a result, SUNY officials announced that they were considering plans to close the hospital in January, citing losses of approximately $1 million per week and a total budget shortfall of $40 million as of February.

SUNY board officials blamed the losses on the predominately Medicare- and Medicaid-enrolled client base – those patients pay less for care than traditional patients – but employees such as Head of Neonatology Dr. Alice Garner felt that the shortfalls are the result of poor management. She claims that last year alone she personally billed $1.6 million at LICH, but only $200,000 was collected.

The proposed closure lead the community to rally in protests that even saw the arrest of then public advocate and now mayor Bill de Blasio.

Justice Betsy Barros was the first to impose an injunction against SUNY Downstate, barring them from issuing 90-day termination notices. Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes followed suit soon after, ruling against the SUNY Board of Trustees for holding a meeting to discuss the hospital’s closure behind closed doors, a violation of the Open Meetings Law.

Eventually, SUNY officials relented and scrapped their plan to close the hospital, and instead turned their attention to finding a buyer for the property. Until that happens, the hospital continues to employ 1,400 workers as required by the courts.
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