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Apr 19, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Oceanside Grill brings sustainably sourced food to N.Y. Aquarium


Plenty of fish in the sea will be happy about this.


The New York Aquarium’s newly opened Oceanside Grill wants to change the way diners do dinner.


The Coney Island cafe offers sustainably sourced seafood and has totally eliminated single-use plastics — offering reusable and compostable utensils and other dining equipment.


“It’s an opportunity for the aquarium to have a restaurant out on the boardwalk, but also get our message out,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium Jon Forrest Dohlin. “Responsibility and sustainability.”


Dohlin said it’s a matter of being considerate of Mother Earth and the creatures of the deep blue sea.


“It’s not too difficult to do, you just have to be thoughtful about it. The fact is, there are alternatives out there,” he said.


“Many of us don’t even need a straw. You can simply sip your drink straight from the cup.”


Using alternatives like paper, metal and glass keeps plastic out of the trash and, more importantly, out of the ocean.


Just a stone’s throw from the Coney Island Boardwalk, chefs at Oceanside Grill offer a wide range of delicacies like fresh fish tacos, fish and chips, and crab rolls — and they’re all sustainably sourced.


“We work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in terms of sourcing the food and finding the right distributors,” Dohlin said.


“That seems to be the key thing to me — how (to) make change fairly simple for folks.”


Oceanside Grill at the New York Aquarium is now open to the public on weekends and will be dishing up meals seven days a week starting Memorial Day.

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coney island

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Apr 19, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Shooter who killed man in Bronx hair salon was bitter over work


The shooter who killed a man in a Bronx hair salon before shooting himself in the leg a half block away was angry over the victim’s undelivered promises to get him work, police said Thursday.


Cops say Trafarrah Smith, 35, shot former business associate Kevin Higgins during a brawl in the Ambience Unisex Salon on White Plains Road near E. 220th St. around 8 p.m. Tuesday after he confronted Higgins for not following through on his word to find him construction jobs.


Police found the bitter job-seeker with a .32 caliber revolver and gunshot wound to the leg a half-block from the bloodstained beauty parlor, cops said.


Higgins, 47, was shot in the chest and rushed to Montefiore Hospital, where he died.


Smith, who lives nine blocks from the hair salon-turned-shooting gallery, was taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where he was treated for the self-inflicted wound.


He was charged with murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a loaded firearm, police said.


His arraignment was pending.

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Apr 18, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx bully wanted for attacking teen girl with Chef Boyardee can

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Apr 18, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Open-door helicopters banned from taking off in NYC


The city is officially banning “doors off” helicopter flights from taking off from within the five boroughs.


An open-door sightseeing flight — which took off from New Jersey, and is not covered by city rules — crashed in the East River last month, killing five people.


After the tragedy, the Economic Development Corporation plans to announce Wednesday that it has put new rules into its agreement with helicopter companies that take off from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to prohibit the flights.


The heliport doesn’t currently have any open-door flights, but city officials say they want to make sure they’re not allowed to happen in the future.

Company in deadly helicopter crash postpones ‘doors-off’ flights


The Downtown Manhattan Heliport is the only spot within the city where tourists flights are allowed to take off.


After years of complaints about noise, the city struck a deal to cut the number of flights in half. But the deadly crash reinvigorated a debate about whether tourist flights should be banned altogether.


Passengers were strapped into extensive harnesses on the open-door flight — and are believed to have drowned after they were unable to escape the restraints when the chopper went down.


“It is our hope that by officially banning doors-off helicopter flights out of New York City, we will not only increase air safety within the five boroughs but also improve the quality of life for all residents,” said EDC President James Patchett. 

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east river
east river helicopter crash

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Apr 17, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx hair salon shootout leaves one man dead, killer wounded

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Apr 16, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: FDNY denied aid for PTSD-stricken Ground Zero firefighter


Joe Battista lived the life of a hero — and it cost him his mind.


The retired FDNY firefighter who spent months at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks died in obscurity at a Florida mental hospital suffering from a crippling depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, his family said.


Battista’s long struggle with PTSD ended April 5, when he choked to death on some food while being cared for at the institution. He was 63.


Yet in life, and now in death, the FDNY has refused to grant Battista World Trade Center-related disability benefits — a move his grieving family members call “an outrage.”

FDNY firefighter killed by 9/11-linked cancer honored with plaque


“We’ve been fighting with them for years,” Joe Ciacco, Battista’s cousin, said at the retired smoke-eater’s wake in the Bronx on Friday night, where a handful of mourners stopped by to pay respects.


“The Fire Department has fought us tooth and nail.”


After responding to 9/11, Battista spent 31/2 months at Ground Zero, Ciacco said. He was then reassigned to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where he stood by a conveyor belt and sifted through debris for human remains.


Battista, who before joining the FDNY had been a cop for two years, became a firefighter in 1982. He spent most of his career at Engine 90 in Morris Park, the Bronx, and responded to the Happy Land social club fire in 1990, where an arsonist with a grudge set fire to the illegal nightspot, killing 87 people.

FDNY hero who evacuated hundreds on 9/11 dies of cancer at 45


At Happy Land, Battista saw horrors that he could never forget, his cousin said.


“He would still break down when he would talk about it,” Ciacco remembered. “He said they didn’t have enough body bags to take care of the 87 kids.”


Retired colleagues said Battista scored well on his FDNY entrance exams, so he had his choice of firehouses. He chose Engine 90 because it was close to his mother’s house.


“Joe was a Bronx guy who stayed in the old neighborhood,” said retired Firefighter Brian Wynne, 61, who served in Engine 72 in Throgs Neck, the Bronx. “He was a throwback to an earlier time in New York.”

FDNY lieutenant dies of 9/11-related cancer months after retiring


Battista was the union delegate for Engine 90 and assisted in the recovery efforts in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans in 2005.


But very few co-workers knew what became of him after he retired in 2007 and moved to Florida.


“I didn’t know he was institutionalized,” said one firefighter at Battista’s funeral at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church.


After becoming estranged from his wife and two children, Battista was involuntarily hospitalized in 2012 and 2013 because of suicidal thoughts and depression.

9/11 responders’ health treatment threatened by Trump budget plan


He was in and out of mental hospitals ever since. Through it all, doctors repeatedly linked his insomnia, depression and PTSD to what he experienced on 9/11, according to the lawsuit.


Beginning in 2013, Battista began petitioning the FDNY for World Trade Center disability retirement benefits, which would make his pension tax-free.


The FDNY denied his request at least four times, according to a lawsuit filed by Battista’s attorney calling on a judge to overturn the department’s decision.


In its findings, the FDNY’s medical board said Battista suffered from a form of early-onset dementia even though several psychiatrists diagnosed the retired firefighter with PTSD that could be linked to his work history.


“(They) are directly related to Mr. Battista’s services as a NYC firefighter during the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center,” Dr. Hector Corzo wrote in one finding in 2014.


Battista never received the World Trade Center benefits his family had hoped he would get.


Adding insult to injury, the FDNY declined to give Battista a WTC honors funeral because his choking “is not a covered WTC cause of death,” the FDNY said in a letter to Battista’s family.


“The FDNY (is) playing games and won’t take responsibility right up to today,” Ciacco said.


Battista had two funerals — one in Sarasota, Fla., put on by the local fire department and the other in the Bronx — and received funeral honors fitting a retired firefighter.


A color guard and several local fire companies attended the service at St. Dominic’s. Pallbearers brought out Battista’s casket to the sound of bagpipes.


Attorney Jeffrey Goldberg filed a lawsuit for Battista’s 9/11 benefits in March. A judge was set to hear the case in May, although the lawsuit could be rendered moot by Battista’s death, Goldberg said.


“The benefits was more about the recognition than the finances,” Goldberg said. “It really would have meant something to him and his family.”


The FDNY declined to comment on Battista’s fight for World Trade Center benefits, claiming it does not disclose the medical records of its members.


An FDNY source with knowledge of the case said that the department follows strict federal guidelines before it can award WTC benefits — guidelines that are outlined in the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.


The Victim Compensation Fund mostly covers physical issues such as cancer and respiratory ailments.


Battista received Zadroga compensation in August for chronic pulmonary disease and acid reflux he suffered that were linked to 9/11, relatives said.


At the wake, Wynne said he couldn’t believe Battista didn’t get the disability compensation he wanted.


“He had an astute understanding of fire union politics,” said Wynne.


“Who gets these benefits and who doesn’t is a mystery,” said Wynne while looking over Battista’s coffin. “It’s a mystery of faith.”

With Andrew Keshner

Tags:
daily news exclusives

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Apr 15, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: CARIBBEAT: Calypso Rose bound for Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom


The hits just keep on coming for Caribbean music legend Calypso Rose, who will be touting a new album next week in a show at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan.


Tunes from Rose’s “So Calypso!” album — debuting May 25 on Because Music — and the release’s first single, “Calypso Blues,” will among featured new music to be performed April 24 at the ballroom, 431 W. 16th St.


The 12-track “So Calypso!” album is a collection of covers tunes and new “self-written” music.


The vibrant 77-year-old singer/songwriter was born Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis in the small village of Bethel on Tobago. From the tiny island, Rose went on to do big things musically — performing throughout the Caribbean and around the world since 1963.



Already popular in Europe, Rose recently has gained great fame in France. In 2015, popular French singer Manu Chao helped produce “Calypso Soundsystem feat. Calypso Rose, Queen of Calypso for 40 Years!” She was later honored with the 2017 World Music Album of the Year prize at the prestigious Les Victoires de la Musique French music award event.


Tickets range from .50 to 72.50 and VIP seating is available. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and doors open at 6 p.m.


Get tickets here.


Watch the video for Rose’s “Calypso Blues” single here.


‘SANCHO’ LEGEND ON STAGE


The Classical Theatre of Harlem, Pemberley Productions and the National Black Theatre present the stage production “Sancho: An Act of Remembrance” — the story of an African man who was born a slave and became an abolitionist, composer, and an 18th-century social satirist.


Paterson Joseph wrote, conceived and stars in the one-man show the life and amazing accomplishments of a man born on a slave ship.


Previews begin Wednesday and Thursday. Opening night is Friday, and “Sancho” can be seen through May 20. The National Black Theatre is at 2031 Fifth Ave. (National Black Theatre Way) and tickets range from to . For performance schedule and tickets, visit http://www.cthnyc.org


GAY SEX OK: T&T COURT


Centuries-old laws prohibiting same-sex relationships in Trinidad and Tobago were been declared unconstitutional last week, according to the Associated Press.


The nation’s attorney general vowed to appeal the last Thursday’s ruling by the High Court of Justice.


Human Rights Watch organization praised the ruling, calling it a win for all LGBT activists, including defendant Jason Jones, who challenged the laws and left the country after experiencing what he said was severe discrimination under the legislation, also known as the “buggery laws.”

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Apr 15, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Man, 28, fatally stabbed in lobby of Bronx building


A 28-year-old man was knifed to death during a fight in a Bronx apartment building lobby, police said Saturday.


The victim was repeatedly stabbed in the thigh during the brawl on Sedgewick Ave. near W. 179th St. in Marble Hill about 11 p.m. Friday.


Medics rushed him to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he died. His name was not immediately released.


Police sources said the victim was visiting a friend in the building when he was attacked. No immediate arrests were made.

Tags:
new york murders
marble hill

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Apr 15, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Brothers get rich sheltering homeless in disgusting apartments


Twin brothers with identical eye-popping salaries have been double-dipping off their nonprofit that provides housing to the city’s homeless — even as their clients suffered poor service and have been blindsided by eviction notices.


Mark and Solomon Lazar, the sons of Joseph Lazar, a former political ally of Mayor de Blasio, each make 0,000 a year as the top executives of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit LCG Community Services. But their big checks don’t end there.


The city has paid millions of dollars to LCG Community Services to place homeless families in temporary housing since 2012. The city also awarded LGC a four-year, .9 million contract in 2015 to run a Brooklyn shelter.


Mark and Solomon Lazar, in turn, use LCG to pay millions of dollars to a for-profit firm, Razzal Hospitality and Management — which they own.

City finds 83% of NYCHA units pose ‘severe’ health risks


Razzal manages many of the properties where LCG places homeless families.


In 2016, LCG paid Razzal .7 million to manage part of its cluster-site housing — a controversial city program that places homeless families in private apartment buildings, according to the nonprofit’s most recent federal tax filing.


LCG also paid .94 million to the Lazar brothers’ private firm in 2015 and .4 million in 2014, records show.


Meanwhile, LCG clients who live in cluster housing sites in the Bronx have complained in a lawsuit about bad conditions in their units, including roach infestations, leaky toilets and broken appliances.

Family whose son was scarred by bed bugs wins .6 million


Some have also griped that LCG case managers and specialists who assist in finding permanent housing didn’t meet with them on a regular basis.


Even worse, since August, at least 45 families living in Bronx cluster sites that LCG leases have faced eviction, according to a Legal Aid Society lawyer representing some of the families.


Many of those families have been scrambling to find permanent housing or face being uprooted to a new shelter.


“LCG is the epitome of a bad actor and they have no place in New York City providing social services to vulnerable New York families,” the lawyer, Lucy Newman, said.

Cuomo creates job to oversee 0M budgeted for NYCHA upgrades


The city’s Department of Homeless Services said the complaints from LCG clients and the evictions contributed to its recent decision to close all of the nonprofit’s cluster housing sites by June 30.


The agency informed LCG of its decision in February and wrote a formal letter to the nonprofit on April 2. LCG currently has 171 families in cluster units in 55 locations.


“Evictions by landlords of DHS families in LCG cluster units over the course of this year has continued to take families, DHS and even LCG by surprise,” DHS said in its letter. “This ongoing pattern remains troubling and highly concerning.”


The city plans to end its entire cluster site program by 2021.

Kushner’s just the tip of the iceberg for suffering NYC tenants


The program has been heavily criticized as ineffective and costly. A 2015 report by the city Department of Investigation showed that the majority of cluster sites were riddled with serious health and safety violations.


At its height in 2016, the cluster housing program had 3,600 units citywide.


DHS said it has closed more than 1,500 units since that time. It also plans to convert another 800 units into permanent affordable housing.


The agency said it is working with LCG’s cluster apartment clients to find permanent housing and to transfer them to other shelters.

De Blasio slams Cuomo for using NYCHA buildings as ‘photo op’


But some LCG clients who have gotten eviction notices said they don’t want to move because they’ve established roots in the neighborhood.


Diandra Oquendo and Josephine Ravenales filed a lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court in January saying that the units they occupy are rent-regulated and they are entitled to the tenant protections that come with the status.


The cluster units are leased in a complicated arrangement. The landlord, Sobro Sharp LLC, and its affiliates lease rent-regulated apartments to property management company Apex Asset Management LLC, which in turn sublets them to LCG.


LCG pays Apex more than the rent-regulated amount to lease the homes — or about per day per unit.


The eviction proceedings in the past eight months were filed by the landlord, Sobro Sharp, against Apex. Many were filed because of rent arrears. However, LCG said it paid all of the rent on time — and in some instances overpaid.


Apex did not respond to a request for comment.


Oquendo and Ravenales name Sobro Sharp, Apex, LCG and DHS as the defendants in the suit.


A mother of three, Oquendo, 29, became homeless in fall 2015 and a few months in a shelter moved into an LCG cluster apartment in the South Bronx. She called the junior one-bedroom “disgusting.”


Her stove doesn’t work, and she has to pour a bucket of water down her toilet to flush it, she said.


Then there are the pests.


“I have the worst roach infestation known to mankind,” she said, noting that they crawl over her 7-month-old daughter’s crib.


Meanwhile, she said she has seen six different LCG case managers because of turnover at the nonprofit. She said that LCG’s housing specialist rarely met with her.


“These people have left me here to basically fend for myself,” she said.


Earlier this month, DHS informed her that Sobro was evicting her and she had two days to move, she said. Her lawyer got a temporary restraining order stopping a transfer to another shelter.


Oquendo wants to stay in the neighborhood because she has family there, her 7-year-old son goes to a nearby school nearby and she is enrolled full-time at Bronx Community College to become a nurse.


“They just want to uproot my entire family,” she said.


Melissa Krantz, a spokeswoman for LCG, said that its case managers regularly met with clients and kept records of those interactions. She also said LCG always advocated for the tenants to get the landlord to fix problems in their apartments.


The Lazar brothers are the sons of Joseph Lazar, a Midwood resident whom state Assemblyman Dov Hikind handpicked to run for City Council in a 2010 special election. Then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also supported Joseph’s campaign.


But Joseph, 69, lost the race to David Greenfield.


Records show that Joseph Lazar works full-time as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer for LCG but receives no compensation for his services.


His sons’ LCG office is inside a building that he owns, according to city records.


His 36-year-old twins each own homes in Lawrence, L.I.


Krantz said that the relationship between LCG and the brothers’ for-profit Razzal is noted in public tax filings.


She said the nonprofit’s lawyers picked Razzal through a transparent process that involved putting out a request for proposals.


DHS said it was unaware of Razzal’s ties to the twins but was now looking into the relationship.


The city previously ripped into LCG in May 2016 after it found many of the nonprofit’s cluster units had building violations that landlords refused to fix. The city also took legal action against LCG’s landlords to compel compliance.


At the time, the Department of Social Services sent a letter to LCG questioning its ability operate it cluster units. Still the nonprofit was allowed to keep operating under further oversight and tougher enforcement, according to DHS.


Councilman Raphael Salamanca (D-South Bronx) said he was well aware of the complaints about LCG, but he praised DHS for taking steps to reduce the number of cluster sites.


He said he and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Stephen Banks — who oversees DHS — had “very uncomfortable conversations about the amount of cluster apartments” in his district. Ultimately, he said the meetings were productive.


“We working hand in hand to reduce these cluster sites,” Salamanca said.

With Roshan Abraham

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Apr 15, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Blind Bronx students exhibit found object art pieces


A group of blind Bronx students proved you don’t need perfect vision to produce eye-catching works of art.


Students at the Lavelle School for the Blind showcased their work after spending the year making art under the guidance of a teacher who’s also sightless.


Ashley Morisseau, a student at Lavelle since 2013, said she never believed being born blind would prevent her from making art.


“Some people think that … people like us, that we can’t do that much, we can’t create art or play music or do anything,” said Morisseau, 20, who’s been attending Lavelle since 2013.


“But guess what? We can.”


A crowd of students and teachers packed into the school’s gym, oohed and ahhed as they browsed the tables lined with whimsical art pieces.


Many of the students, who have differing levels of vision impairment, gushed over the use of everyday objects — colanders, soup cans and seatbelts — combined with plasters and paints to create the works of art.


“A big part of what I teach is problem solving,” said art instructor Jessica Jones, 48, who has been working at the Williamsbridge school for the past 12 years.


“I think that the production and the experience of art is a tool for teaching.”


Jones, who began as an art teacher at Public School 9 in 1997, lost her sight at the age of 32. Although she took some time off to go to rehab, she was determined to continue her passion.


“You have to learn how to adapt in everything because people aren’t going to do it for you,” Jones said


Switching schools and disclosing her limited vision proved difficult in her job search. She finally caught a big break when the Lavelle School signed her for a summer session in 2006.


“I’m teaching these kids that you can do anything that you set your mind to. Unfortunately that’s not really the message that the public in the United States gives to people with disabilities,” she said.


“Look at what we can do, don’t underestimate us.”

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Apr 14, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Suspect in rape, robbery of Bronx teacher held without bail


A Brooklyn man accused of raping and robbing a young teacher in the elevator of her building was ordered held without bail early Saturday.


Lynneke Burris, 30, grabbed the woman in the entrance to her building about 1 a.m. Thursday, and put her in a headlock, police charged.


The 22-year-old woman passed out and woke moments later as Burris was raping her, according to cops.


After the rape, cops said Burris stole the woman’s wallet and made her give him her PIN before he fled.


The victim was taken to Lincoln Hospital.


According to the woman’s mother, the distraught teacher pounded at the apartment door after the attack.


“She said, ‘Help me mommy, help me,’” the victim’s mother said. “‘He raped me mommy.’”


Burris took 0 from the victim’s bank account, according to cops.


The suspect was caught in Concourse Village soon after the rape, when a cop recognized him from a surveillance photo.


Burris — who already has a rape and 20 other arrests on his record — was charged with rape in the first degree and robbery in the second degree.


The victim had lived in the apartment building since she was a child; her mother said she started teaching in September, and was looking to further her education.


Burris is being held at Rikers Island until his next court date April 18. 

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Apr 14, 2018
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BRONX NEWS: Brawl sparks deadly stabbing in Bronx apartment lobby


A 28-year-old man was fatally stabbed during a fight in the lobby of a Bronx apartment building late Friday.


The victim, whose name was not immediately released, was stabbed multiple times in the thigh in the lobby of a building on Sedgwick Ave. near W. 179 St. in Marble Hill at about 11 p.m., police said.


Medics rushed the man to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he died.


Police made no immediate arrests.

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