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Brooklyn Heights

Actor Sean Penn Testifies For Release Of Imprisoned Brooklyn Heights Man

May 21, 2013

Actor & activist Sean Penn testified Monday before a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that a Brooklyn Heights businessman being held in Bolivia is a “Dead Man Walking.” Jacob Ostreicher, 54, has been held without charge for nearly two years in the South American country and remains under house arrest even though 13 of his accusers are now in prison, according to today’s New York Daily News.

Penn—who won an Oscar for his role in the film “Dead Man Walking”—told lawmakers that Ostreicher is in danger because Bolivian enemies want to kill him: “I believe Jacob’s life is in danger as we sit here today.” Further, Penn testified Monday that the detainee told him, “These (expletives) want to kill me. I’m too dangerous to them as a witness.”

See Facebook page: Free Jacob Ostreicher

Ostreicher was initially arrested on suspicion of money laundering and spent 18 months in a Palmasola prison. Penn has been pushing for Ostreicher’s release and persuaded Bolivia’s leftist president, Evo Morales, to move the businessman out of prison and arrest the officials who put him there, the News says. But he remains behind bars.

Penn adds that those who imprisoned Ostreicher have made off with $27 million in assets from his company. He suggests the U.S. government should intervene: “We’re at a point where we don’t want to look back and say, ‘We should have.’” (Photo: Facebook)

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Health, News

Court Puts Brakes On LICH Closure

February 21, 2013

According to this NY1 story, a court has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks SUNY Downstate from implementing its just issued plan to close Long Island College Hospital. The judge who issued the order has scheduled a further hearing for March 7. Petitioners in this case are unions representing nurses and hospital workers; however, the NY1 story also quotes a “local resident” who recently used the LICH emergency room as saying the care provided there was “really good.” This is a developing story; we will monitor and keep you updated.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights, News

Two Members of the Central Park Five Visit Packer Collegiate

February 7, 2013

On Wednesday at the Packer Collegiate Institute, students and faculty listened raptly as two members of the Central Park Five shared their stories of being arrested, convicted, and jailed for the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger assault—a crime they didn’t commit.

Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam spoke to members of the Packer community for two hours, explaining how they came to be arrested and convicted, and later exonerated.

The event was coordinated by Alice Lurain and Sarah Strauss, who teach chemistry and history respectively in Packer’s Upper School. Lurain teaches an elective in forensic chemistry, Strauss one in criminal justice, and last year, they began to talk about a way to offer inter-disciplinary work to their students.

“Sarah and I had spoken last spring,” said Lurain, “about getting a speaker who could talk about the use of forensic evidence, possibly in exonerations, as a way to begin our collaboration between our classes so that the students would have a more concrete understanding of why it was important to examine science and the law as fallible human institutions that can be improved if we understand their limitations.”

And at a conference last summer, Lurain found exactly the speaker she was looking for.

“I attended the American Chemical Society meeting,” said Lurain, “and there happened to be a symposium co-sponsored by the Division of Science and Law and the Innocence Project. I heard three exonerees, one of whom was Raymond Santana, speak, along with a number of forensic chemists and other people involved in law enforcement. That prompted Sarah and me to contact the Innocence Project back in August about the possibility of having Raymond visit Packer.”

The Innocence Project suggested that Salaam visit as well, a suggestion Lurain eagerly accepted.

“Raymond’s story really struck me, particularly because he was so young at the time of his arrest,” she said. “We had no idea that their case would begin to get so much press with the release of the documentary and the book.”

The film is The Central Park Five a documentary produced by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah, and David McMahon; it  was released last fall in the United States and is currently showing at the IFC Center.

Joining Santana and Salaam was Edwin Grimsley, a case analyst at the Innocence Project, which is based in downtown Manhattan.

“Can you imagine,” Salaam began, “being at school, leaving to go hang out with your friends, doing what normal kids do, and then a portion of them don’t show up because they were kidnapped by the police department?”

A naïve teenager, he learned that the police were looking for him, and his first instinct, he said, was to go to the precinct and tell them he hadn’t done anything.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” he said. “’I’m going to tell them, and my name will be off this list.’ I came home seven years later.”

Arrested at age 15, Salaam spent five and a half years in prison and three more on parole before being exonerated in 2002.  Santana was 14 when he began his five-year term.

“One decision,” Santana told the Upper School students gathered in Packer’s chapel, “going to hang out with my classmates, some guys from the neighborhood, changed my life.” 

Both Santana and Salaam were classified as sex offenders and had to register with local precincts every time they moved.  Following their exoneration and the publication of Sarah Burns’ book on which the movie is based, the men feel that they have been able to re-claim some pieces of their lives.

“It’s awesome for people to embrace us,” said Santana. “It says how far we’ve come as a city.”

Salaam concurred. “We’ve been welcomed back, back into society.”

Neither man, though, was so generous that he’s put what happened wholly behind him. Santana still feels the sting of losing his mother to cancer while he was incarcerated and of her never knowing that he’d been exonerated.

Salaam spoke bitterly of Mayor Koch and Donald Trump. Koch was captured on camera at the time proclaiming gleefully, “We got ‘em!”, while Trump took out full-page ads in city newspapers calling for the death penalty to be reinstated so that the five convicted boys could be executed.

Despite the exoneration, the city has never publicly apologized to the Central Park Five or admitted any wrongdoing in the handling of their cases. The other men who were convicted and exonerated are Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Kharey Wise.

Said Salaam, “We channel our rage into coming to schools and talking to students.”

“We love these engagements because of you guys,” Santana told the students. “Nobody wanted to invest in us, and we decided to invest in you, by telling our story.”

Disclosure: The author has taught at Packer since 1998. 

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights

THURSDAY: Free Post-Hurricane Legal Advice From Brooklyn Law School

November 15, 2012

From 9 a.m. to noon TODAY, Thursday, November 15, the Brooklyn Law School, in association with Borough Prez Marty Markowitz and the Brooklyn Bar Association, will host a free “Brooklyn Sandy Relief Legal Clinic” at Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, between Court and Adams.

The Clinic will be staffed by disaster relief-trained law students and volunteer attorneys who will offer storm-related legal and application assistance in regards to insurance claims, FEMA applications and appeals, public assistance and housing.

Subsequent Clinics will take place on Tuesdays, 1-4 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. For info, contact the Legal Clinic at 718-802-3890 or email

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights, Kids

Lawsuit Over BBP Stainless Domes Settled

October 26, 2012

Today, the NY Post reports that the resulting lawsuit from the dangerous stainless steel domes in Brooklyn Bridge Park has been settled.  Reportedly, the plaintiff, who was one year old at the time, will receive $17,500.  According to the NY Times, the Brooklyn Bridge Park  Corporation and the park designer, Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, will split the cost of the settlement.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights ‘Signs’ Off On DOT’s Mixed-Case Lettering Mandate

August 16, 2012

Street signs in Brooklyn Heights will soon be following the letter of the law. The Federal Highway Administration has mandated that your tax dollars be spent on replacing 250,000 capital-letter street signs in New York City with mixed-case—specifically utilizing a condensed version of the Clearview typeface (licensed as ClearviewHwy).

So far, about 11,000 street name signs have been replaced around NYC’s five boroughs to meet national standards in typography and surface reflectivity, according to The New York Times—including some along Brooklyn Heights’ Montague Street. Brown historical signs will maintain their color.

Clearview was created in the 1990s by designers Donald Meeker and James Montalbano, working with the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. “With its crisp, clean design, Clearview represents exactly what its name suggests,” says city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Whether through signs, markings or sidewalks, we’re bringing clarity and simplicity to street design.”

Developer Montalbano recalls about two years ago crossing the East River from Brooklyn—where he lives—coming off the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing a sign for “Chinatown” with an arrow in Clearview. About a month ago, he also noticed Clearview signs on Montague Street in the Heights. “It’s very exciting,” he told NY Times. “We’ve been working on this project for a very long time.”

A number of the new signs replace those scheduled for routine maintenance, as well as when streets are under repair or reconstruction. “But sometimes, the new signs appear to have replaced perfectly serviceable older signs with all-uppercase lettering,” the Times notes, which has meant of tirade of criticism directed toward the Highway Administration, an agency of the federal Department of Transportation. As a result, DOT has since eased or eliminated some 46 deadlines and/or mandates for dutiful compliance.

(Graphic/New York Times)

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights

Yassky Zapskys Cabsky Appsky

August 10, 2012

Not so fast there. A new smartphone app hailed as a tech-savvy way to find a taxi could be a major boon for illegal gypsy cabs.

The ZabKab app, released Wednesday, allows anyone with an iPhone to register free as a driver—even if they’re not licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, according to a story in the New York Daily News.

Livery and gypsy-cab drivers who aren’t legally allowed to pick up street hails could easily apply the same business savvy, which creates “a dangerous situation,” says Ira Goldstein, spokesman for a trade association of drivers & buses that cater to corporate clients.

Brooklyn Heights resident and TLC Chairman David Yassky agrees that ZabKab is problematic: “I have definite concerns about the potential for people to be misled by the app, and for it to encourage illegal hustlers,” he says. The TLC has scheduled a meeting with creator Flatiron Apps to discuss its concerns. Continue Reading…

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights, Events

BBP & Bossert To Be Addressed At Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable

July 24, 2012

The Brooklyn Historical Society will host a Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable Luncheon, on Tuesday, August 7, from noon to 2 p.m. Among those scheduled to speak are Clipper Equities principal David Bistricer, who will outline his vision for redevelopment of the Bossert Hotel into a boutique hospitality property; and Regina Myer, Brooklyn Bridge Park president, who will discuss the latest developments in and around the 85-acre destination.

Tickets for the luncheon, mind you, are not for those looking for inexpensive entertainment. A single is $300(!), while “corporate series” entry for up to four (which also includes the next meet on November 13) costs $2,100(!!) Let’s hope they’re serving champagne & caviar.

Also slated at the Roundtable are Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer to discuss the NYC Budget and Real Estate Taxes; and Alex Barrett, AIA of Barrett Design & Development, discussing his present and future residential projects.

The Brooklyn Historical Society is located at 128 Pierrepont Street, at the corner of Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights. For more information, call Taina Sanon at 347-381-3705.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights, Food

Should They? Chipotle On Montague Offers Cops A 50% Discount

July 19, 2012

While the north side of Montague Street, between Clinton and Court, has been obstructed with scaffolding for what feels like forever, it seems that a bargain cannot be hidden. According to a story in The New York Times, “At Chipotle, an Unofficial and Prohibited Discount for Officers” that talks specifically about the Brooklyn Heights locale, uniformed police officers are offered a 50% discount. 

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The article notes that “the Police Department’s lengthy Patrol Guide does not specifically refer to free, or steeply discounted, food. But officers are taught that food is covered under the Patrol Guide’s prohibition against accepting gratuities ‘or other compensation for any service performed as a result of or in conjunction with their duties as a public servant.’” A commander told the Times, “That policy covers the food issue. There should be no discount—heavy or light—whatsoever.”

The general manager of Chipotle Mexican Grill, however, characterizes the discount as a “courtesy.” What say you?

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights, Real Estate

Here We Go Again: 20 Henry Street & Magic Johnson Just Can’t Score

July 18, 2012

Magic Johnson is back in the news regarding his alliance with the agonizing completion of 20 Henry Street—and it’s as ugly as ever. The Real Deal reports that a labor dispute has erupted between Hudson Meridian Construction and the baller’s Canyon Johnson Urban Funds. The contractor has threatened to walk off the job at the 20 Henry condo conversion, leading the investment firm to request they be kicked off the Brooklyn Heights site.

In a July 13 filing in Manhattan Supreme Court, the investment firm claims the project is more than five months behind schedule because of the construction company’s failure to supervise its workers and subcontractors. Canyon Johnson also says Hudson Meridian is submitting inflated charges. Lawyers for the investment firm allege that the construction company is demanding an additional $700,000 in payments or it will walk off the job by July 19, while 72% of the building’s 39 units are in contract and were scheduled to begin closing in June.

“Hudson Meridian’s efforts to extort additional payments from CJUF recently culminated with its audacious and unlawful threat to abandon the project,” Cole Schotz attorney Leo Levya, representing the developer, wrote in the filing.

The developer says it plans to bring in Staten Island-based A&D Construction to complete 20 Henry in place of Hudson Meridian, if the current dispute is not resolved.

Read more, including the background at The Real Deal here.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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