As 2014 draws to a close, it’s hard to believe how much has happened in the county of Kings since the year began. Albany put a hit out on Sheepshead Bay swans. A Marine Park woman finally received a long-delayed letter — postmarked in 1969. Coney Island got a brand new roller coaster, we went pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a mistletoe drone attacked our photographer, and Coney Island started a brand new New Year’s Eve tradition. Take a look back at the top news of 2014 with our Year in Review.
Per-swan-a non grata: Swans are not symbols of purity, beauty, and transformation, but rather a blot fit to be shot, claimed Albany swan haters, who came up with a plan to kill off the mute variety of the birds by 2025. The state’s “Mute Swan Management Plan” calls for an all-out war against New York’s largest fowl for allegedly behaving aggressively towards people, destroying aquatic vegetation, frightening away other birds, and posing a danger to flying planes. Animal activists retaliated with a petition on Change.org that has drawn thousands of signatures so far.
Methodist expansion: New York Methodist Hospital’s ambitious plan for a U-shaped outpatient center needs some nips and tucks before it can proceed with its operations, stated Community Board 6, dispensing a prescription of demands it says will make the new facility blend in with the landscape while sticking to height-zoning laws.
Nyet!: You can take a person out of the former Soviet Union, but you can’t take the Soviet Union out of some people. Members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot went to prison for singing anti-state lyrics in a Moscow cathedral, but a Russian-American priest warned them to stay away from his Bensonhurst church when they attend next month’s Amnesty International concert in Prospect Heights. Archpriest Serge Lukianov of the Orthodox New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia Church called the punk protestors “satanic,” and said their message against the church and its role in government was nothing to rave about.
Hey, girl: The Clover might not have the same ring as the Fab Four, but that didn’t stop a Japanese, all-female Beatles cover band from zooming across the Pacific to the Branded Saloon in Park Slope for its U.S. debut. The Fab Three — a George Harrison stand-in was a no-show — made the guest gig to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their mop-topped mentors’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show back on Feb. 9, 1964.
Wham gams: Marine Park beauty Brooke Banker’s 47-inch pins gave Brooklyn a leg up on the world’s long-limbed lasses. The New York Post reported 5-foot-11 Banker was head and shoulders above 6-foot-1 British model Alexandra Robertson, whose pulchritudinous poles also stack up to 47 inches. The reason? The Brooklynkite is proportionally 66 percent leg, while the Brit is just 64 percent, giving her a toe-hold on the lofty claim.
Karate kids: The terrible twos are the perfect age for tempestuous tots to hone their self-defense and discipline skills, claimed self-defense experts at the Williamsburg Mixed Martial Arts school. They prepped the just-out-of-Pampers set on roundhouse kicks, jabs, and foot sweeps, while harnessing their focus and concentration skills, with classes aimed at fun and functionality — with emphasis on respect, responsibility, and friendship. For now, the kids remain blissfully ignorant of the brutal, grown-up world of pro fighting — and champs, such as Georges “Rush” Saint-Pierre and Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks, and their parents claimed they intend to keep it that way.
Thorny suit: The city sowed seeds of discontent when it bulldozed Coney Island’s Boardwalk Garden in December to make way for ex-Borough President Marty Markowitz’s $53-million amphitheater project, claimed the New York Community Gardens Coalition in a lawsuit. The planned Seaside Park and Community Arts Center violated municipal requirements for sewer capacity, making the ouster of the People’s Playground planters from their 17-year-old garden illegal and pointless, stated the group’s legal team.
RIP, Ed: Manhattan Beach lost one if its staunchest and most tenacious advocates, when long-time resident and community activist Ed Eisenberg passed away on March 1 at the age of 79. Neighbors and friends remembered Eisenberg for his outspoken defense of the neighborhood, its parks, and public safety, and said he never stopped looking out for the community he loved to call home. Eisenberg was an active member of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, the 61st Precinct Community Council, and Community Board 15 until his death.
Mahjong, anyone? A time-honored granny shuffle got a new lease on life when the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Gowanus added the Chinese tile game mahjong to its roster of typically old-timey activities — but first, the owners had to figure out how to play the mysterious game that many of us watched our grandmothers play. “It’ll be like, ‘Okay, can somebody read the directions off the box?’” quipped club co-owner Ashley Albert, whose Facebook post announcing the possibility of starting a Monday night mahjong league fielded nearly 90 enthusiastic responses.
RIP, Lou: Courier Life columnist Lou Powsner, a World War II veteran and urban gladiator who famously battled politicians, special interests, and bureaucrats, died in his sleep at his Bensonhurst home on April 6 at the age of 93. Powsner’s popular column, “Speak Out,” was a Brooklyn Graphic staple since the 1950s, attracting a broad fan base with his candid and spunky take on community issues. The former haberdasher, whose storefront on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island survived the stormy decades of the ’60s through the ’80s, fought for brighter street lights to help halt nighttime crime, and locked horns with the city over parking meters, which he said gave shopping malls an unfair advantage over his beloved mom-and-pop stores. Powsner, a staff sergeant with the 64th Bomb Squad Army Air Force known as “Kelly’s Kobras,” was laid to rest at the Veterans Cemetery of Forest Green Park in Morganville, N.J.
End of term: Bishop Ford High School was a community fixture in Windsor Terrace for the past 52 years, but the co-ed Catholic academy will graduate its final senior class in June due to dwindling enrollment. Ford was known for its athletics program, while Drake, R.E.M. and other artists filmed their music videos there, but a 75 percent decrease in rolls — from 1,347 students in 2006 to 499 this year — triggered its closure, said school officials.
Late delivery: Neither snow nor rain nor four decades of roving could derail this snail mail from completing its appointed round. Marine Park resident Susan Heifetz almost keeled over when she received a letter from her dead mom — postmarked 1969! Heifetz, who received the correspondence from a man living in her childhood Homecrest apartment, “freaked out” when she learned that the envelope was sealed with a lipstick kiss — a trademark of her late mother. The miraculous missive was a birthday card her parents dropped in the mail the day before her 19th birthday, 45 years ago.
Reader unmasked: Prodigal news website pundit Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, N.Y., routinely rousts fellow online readers with pugnacious posts about bike-rider and pedestrian accountability, comparing critics of a crackdown on two-wheeled and two-footed road hogs to panderers for the Palestinian political party Hamas. So, when a gent claiming to be the verbose vituperator showed up for a road safety hearing at Borough Hall — 39 miles away from his supposed Westchester County home — we couldn’t resist doing a story, sparking a Twitter frenzy about our man of the hour.
Fatal fashion: The body of missing Bushwick fashion designer James “Jay” Ott was found floating in the East River near Pier 4 off Second Avenue and 58th Street in Sunset Park, ending a two month search. Ott, who designed for Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s label The Row, was seen for the last time on a security camera heading for the Williamsburg Bridge. Friends and family claimed he suffered from depression and anxiety, and authorities ruled out foul play. An initial autopsy report was inconclusive.
Whatta Dumbo: Jason Stevens, owner of Rebar on Front Street in Dumbo, suddenly shuttered his popular establishment and took off, stiffing employees and several couples planning their wedding receptions at the popular gastropub. He surrendered to the Brooklyn DA’s office after angry altar-bounds hit the roof and big-hearted Rebar staffers worked a wedding for free. Stevens was slapped with grand larceny and several fraud counts linked to nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes. He was released after posting $30,000 bail, but faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Bug-a-bar: EeeeWOW! Ivy League vim-meister Gabi Lewis of Williamsburg and his business partner Greg Sewitz bugged out health nuts with their energy bars made from protein-packed crickets. The entrepreneurs raised $20,000 through Kickstarter, located a bug farmer in Louisiana, and hawked their first batch of the pep slabs in local gyms and speciality stores.
Aaaaaaaaargh!: The Thunderbolt rumbled into the People’s Playground like a magnificent brute, delighting thrill-seekers who shrieked their lungs out as Sodom-by-the-Sea’s first new roller coaster since the Cyclone whipped them about like rag dolls through a pitiless tangle of drops, twists, turns, and loops at speeds of 65 miles for two heart-pounding minutes. The new Thunderbolt — a rebooted version of its iconic namesake, which croaked in 2000 — is faster, steeper, and more twisted than the Cyclone, which opened in 1927.
Rocket-on: The Astroland Rocket Ship — one of the first and only surviving early amusement park space simulators — zoomed back into Coney Island’s atmosphere after six years in orbit at the Staten Island Homeport, delighting Wonder Wheel Park owners who plan to restore the craft in preparation for the funzone’s annual history day on Aug. 9. The rocket, originally called the Star Flyer, debuted in 1962 at Astroland Park as one of the first of the imaginary space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race. It showed simulator films of rocket rides while the chassis rocked its viewers to “outer space” for three minutes.
Joe’s woes: Former District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes experienced a role-reversal as a scathing city report accused him of allegedly looting the public piggybank and violating election laws in his failed re-election bid last year. The borough’s ex-top lawman may have paid a political hack more than $1.1 million in public funds between 2003 and 2013, including almost $220,000 in cash seized from criminals, to boost his campaign, while improperly seeking political advice from a sitting judge, authorities claimed. Hynes was the borough’s top lawman for 23 years before current District Attorney Ken Thompson unseated him in the November elections.
Duck, duck, goose: The “Ugly Duckling” fairy tale came to life in Prospect Park after a pair of ducks took a stray gosling under their wing. The big-hearted mallards, known as Lily and Marvin to park regulars, formed a bond with the abandoned baby goose in an avian adoption yarn straight out of a Grimm Brothers storybook. But the fuzzy orphan may be a sad casualty of state-sanctioned geese harassment, said animal rights advocates. On another note, they applauded the passage of a new Assembly bill that saves Brooklyn’s mute swans from a state-sanctioned massacre for now. Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz’s (D–Sheepshead Bay) legislation now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature. Stay tuned.
Lover-wurst: Hot-dog king Joey “Jaws” Chestnut showed he was a red-hot in the romance department, proposing to his sweetheart Neslie Ricasa at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4. Fueled by her acceptance, Jaws scarfed his way to an eighth-straight win, gobbling 61 wieners and buns in 10 minutes. His bride-to-be — a fellow contestant — managed 10 dogs and trailed the women’s division won by Miki Sudo, who wolfed 34 dogs and buns to defending champ Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas’s 27 and three quarters.
Broke-lyn Bridge: Granite bricks rained down on pedestrians seeking shelter from a torrential downpour near a Brooklyn Bridge support wall that didn’t seem to be a part of the viaduct’s extensive, ongoing renovations. Three children and two adults were treated for minor injuries. The iconic bridge — one of the oldest suspension spans in the country — also made headlines later in the month when two white flags mysteriously replaced its Stars and Stripes atop the bridge towers. The rogue pennants waved over the city for several hours before cops scaled the cables and removed them. Authorities were examining video footage for the culprits.
Toddler tragedy: A family picnic in Prospect Park turned to horror when a toddler was found dead in the lake after disappearing with a cousin. Police scuba divers found the body of Ruhshona Kurbonova, 2, in a wooded area of Prospect Park Lake, ending an extensive search. The children strayed from a family gathering and headed toward the water, where a family strolling in the park found the little girl’s 3-year-old cousin, said cops.
Bam on BAM: The world-famous Brooklyn Academy of Music found itself in the spotlight when President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama gave it the coveted National Medal of Arts during a pomp-filled ceremony at the White House. The 153-year-old Brooklyn arts institution has been a stage for the likes of opera star Enrico Caruso, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and ballet great Rudolf Nureyev. Now it is also the bearer of the highest government award given to artists and arts patrons for outstanding contributions to the promotion of national arts.
Treasure island: Thousands of dollars may still be buried at Coney Island beach, after a pair of wealthy do-gooders from San Francisco hid $2,500 in 38 Pez dispensers and scattered them across the sand between the New York Aquarium and Luna Park as part of a scavenger hunt. But the cash-filled candy cases were gone the next day, likely due to city tractors raking and leveling the sand each night, said a spokeswoman for the Parks Department. One lucky treasure hunter dug up some cash on the beach, while our adventure correspondent emerged only with a rusty fishhook and some straight-up trash after his own exhaustive search.
Champ of champs: Brownsville-born boxer Danny Jacobs has bragging rights worthy of a true champ. He won the World Boxing Association middleweight championship at the Barclays Center last month, just three years after a grueling bout with cancer. Jacobs, who defeated Australian bruiser Jarrod Fletcher, is the first cancer survivor ever to win a world title, and his victory was made sweeter in front of his cheering, jubilant, hometown crowd.
Coney Kite-land: Breezy Brooklynites and aerial enthusiasts from around the world blew into the People’s Playground for the annual Coney Island National Kite Festival organized by the Kites In Motion Club. Thrill seekers painted the skies above the storied beaches for three days, between Stillwell Avenue and Bay 10th Street, but most of the upward action went down in the sands in front of Deno’s Wonder Wheel.
Pole pose: Downward dog on a pole, anyone? Yoga reached new highs when a Brooklyn Heights studio combined the ancient art with a support best known for X-rated stretches. Yoga Pole Studio on Schermerhorn and Court Streets in Brooklyn Heights focuses on teaching “inversions,” or headstands, as well as handstands and forearm-stands, with students using a pole to steady themselves. Think of the prop as the best tool ever to activate muscles you normally wouldn’t reach on the floor, said enthusiasts.
NIMBY: Gowanus residents blasted the state for secretly centralizing the borough’s parole offices into one command post in their backyard, claiming the influx of ex-jailbirds will bring crime to the area. Department of Corrections and Community Supervision representatives said the state wouldn’t scrap the three-story building, currently under construction where Second Avenue deadlocks into the Gowanus Canal, but added the parolees were committed to staying on the right side of the law, although armed officers would be around just in case.
In the pink: The Courier kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a pink-paged issue devoted to Brooklyn’s pivotal role in early detection, research, and treatment. Did you know that Maimonides Breast Cancer Center is the borough’s first and only facility dedicated to the study, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer? Or that chief oncologist Dr. Patrick Borgen helped to discover the genes that cause breast cancer, his research leading to surgical techniques that are now the gold-standard for treatment? Our rose-hued edition had the lowdown.
Holy cannoli: The icing on the cake at the Columbus Day Parade in Bensonhurst was the neighborhood’s first-ever cannoli-eating contest. Champ gobbler Eric “Badlands” Booker demolished 27 of the cream-filled pastries in six minutes, taking home $500 and sweet bragging rights. The ricotta-infused confections came from Bensonhurst institution Villabate Alba, whose masterful bakers made 300 of the treats for the contest. The bakery owner said it was delectable seeing the fruits of their hard work disappear within minutes — all in the name of good fun.
Cop gone wild: A Clinton Hill teen suffered brain damage after a cop sucker-punched him out cold for smoking a cigarette he mistook for a joint, his family claimed. Incomplete video footage showed Marcel Hamer, 17, lying in a gutter near Gates and Waverly avenues imploring, “Mister, it was just a cigarette, sir,” as the police officer who arrested him for disorderly conduct jeers, “Do you wanna get f----- up?” The alleged blow is obscured in the video, but a friend is heard yelling, “You knocked him out,” after the Finest appears to strike Hamer in the face with his left hand. The youth complained of blurred vision, a headache, and being unable to properly move his left arm, hospital records showed.
Robotic cheer: Caesar, a cellularly accessible expressive semi-autonomous robot, helped Santa spread Christmas cheer at the annual MetroTech Commons’ tree-lighting in Downtown. The electronic emperor activated the lights by pressing a button on St. Nick’s stomach, but his primary job was getting spectators young and old, naughty and nice, into the holiday spirit, said his mastermind, Jared Alan Frank, a doctoral student at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering.
RIP, Billyburg: Williamsburg is dead. At least according to a group of artists who organized a “funeral” and dance party for the formerly hip ’hood at one of its beloved and recently doomed venues Glasslands. Rapid gentrification is a death knell for the formerly artsy neighborhood now swarmed by A-listers and luxury developers, said organizers who staged a group burial rite.
Ferguson to Bklyn: Demonstrators, including moms with young children, stormed the Manhattan Bridge to condemn a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Around 1,000 rallyers crossed into Brooklyn chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and made their way to the Barclays Center and surrounding areas, accompanied by cops who had their batons drawn, but did not quell the demonstration.
Fare increase: Planned toll hikes tarnished the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge’s golden anniversary celebration, as ticked-off pols spurned the shindig and Metropolitan Transportation Authority bosses took credit for the iconic span’s 50-year reign, days after announcing plans for sweeping increases to plug their multi-billion-dollar budget gap. The transit board will vote in the New Year on the proposals, which include an extra 42 cents for cars using E-ZPass, a possible additional buck for cash commuters, and higher tolls for large trucks.
Drone strike: When a TGIFridays “mobile mistletoe” drone hit Courier photographer Georgine Benvenuto in the face, it became an international sensation, and the most popular story is history for Brook
Shady spas shuttered: Authorities raided nine massage parlors across Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights and arrested 15 women on prostitution-related charges. In addition to police, inspectors from other city agencies also participated, issuing multiple violations of building codes, fire codes, and labor laws.
Police assassinated: A gunman murdered NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as they sat in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant in what Police Commissioner Bratton called an “assassination.” The culprit later turned the gun on himself.
Countdown in Coney: Borough President Adams kicked off a fresh New Year’s Eve tradition by hosting a countdown event in Coney Island centered on the neighborhood’s iconic Parachute Jump. The event featured fireworks and a light show courtesy of the tower’s flashy new lighting system, and future countdowns with include live local bands.