Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Feds Arrest 21 Bonanno Organized Crime Family Members and Associates

Ten members and associates of the Bonanno organized crime family, including alleged acting captain Ronald Giallanzo, were arrested early Tuesday by the FBI and NYPD Joint Organized Crime Task Force, officials said.

The 37-count federal indictment charges the men with operating a racketeering conspiracy since 1998 that earned them more than $26 million in illicit proceeds, according to prosecutors.

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Inside the Magical Room Where the Best Headphones in the World Are Made

Smart people know that Sunset Park is where you get the best Chinese food in Brooklyn.

Really smart people know it’s also where you get great headphones—some of the best in the world.

The Grados have been making audiophile-grade cans in the same building since 1955.

What was the family produce mart is now a factory, and through the graffitied doors is the listening room, where company president John Grado uses a special hi-fi stack to tune every headphone his company makes.

1. The Tube Stack | Grado’s system has two distinct halves: a tube side and a solid-state side. The tube bank is all Audio Research gear: an LS25 preamp, a PH3E phono stage amp, and a 100.2 power amp. “None of this gear is stock,” Grado says. The engineers at Audio Research souped it up for him.

2. Rotel RCD-9658x CD player.

3. Forte F 50A DA Converter | his translates the signal coming out of a CD player (he has a Rotel RCD-965BX) or other digital source into an analog wave that an amplifier can turn into sound.

4. Technics SL-1200 MK5 Turntable | “That’s the workhorse,” Grado says of the discontinued record player.

5. Threshold Fet Nine Preamp | The preamp is the junction of your audio system, and a great one—like the FET Nine— shouldn’t do much more than pipe sound from source to amp without announcing its presence.

6. Forte Model 7 Monoblocks | Serious solid-state stereos often use a separate amp on each channel to prevent interference. Each of these twin beasts from the ’90s can crank out up to 225 watts per channel.

World’s First Electric Wooden Bike Launches in Brooklyn

The Dutch were some of the earliest settlers of New York and they recently made history again during NYCxDesign by unveiling the world’s first electric wooden bike. 

Bough Bikes presented their electric version of a wooden bike at the Dutch sustainable design event GOED in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Tuesday. New Yorkers were invited to test-ride the bicycle and many of them did, with one enthusiastic rider proclaiming,


“this bike is absolutely amazing. It’s a revolution!”

The Bough Bike was designed by Jan Gunneweg and Piet Brandjes and is constructed with oak wood that is sourced from sustainably-managed forests in the Jura section of eastern France.

The bike is extra durable with stainless steel hardware components, Schwalbe tires, a 2-speed SRAM automatic shifter, a coaster break and a manual front break.


The bike has even passed the TÜV Rheinland endurance test. The electric bikes feature a 225 watt front wheel motor that allows them (on flat ground) to reach a top speed of 15 mph with a range of 30 miles. The charging time is three hours at 80 percent and six hours for 100 percent.

The non-electric versions of the bike retail at $1,999 and the electric versions sell for around $3,427. They are available in both open- and solid-frame models. Weighing in at around 20 kg (44 pounds), they are also available with 26-inch wheels or 28-inch wheels.

“I have a real passion for wood and want to bring people closer to nature,” says Gunneweg.

He also wants to get more New Yorkers on bicycles. After all, he comes from the top country in the world for cyclists, where 84 percent of Dutch citizens use a bike daily.

This Is What The Future Should Look Like: Jacque Fresco’s The Venus Project


Jacque Fresco (age 97); American self-taught structural designer, architectural designer, concept artist, educator, and futurist. His blue prints for the future may revolutionize the way we look at the structure of cities.

Jacque Fresco is an inspiration to many, with his innovative ideas and blue prints for a sustainable society and planet that reject the current models of mass consumerism and self-destruction. Fresco holds many titles, such as educator, architectural designer, and concept artist but is known to most as a leading futurist who has spent the majority of his life promoting a re-structuring of our current way of living. His latest venture, called The Venus Project, advocates what Fresco has coined as a “resource-based economy”, a society which runs on socio-cooperation and which utilizes the methodology of science and the advancements in technology in one of the cleanest and most energy efficient systems ever conceptualized.

Fresco was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1920s amidst the Great Depression. Fresco is stated as saying that his experiences growing up around poverty, war, and devastation influenced his later work and views on society and provided him with the incentive for his life’s work.  He spent the majority of his young adult life pursuing a career in structural design, where he worked in such fields as aircraft design, Trend Home building, science fiction film set design, and freelance inventions.

In the 1960s, Fresco co-wrote a book titled “Looking Forward”, which broke down the three important components of society which needed re-working: humanity’s values, people’s way of thinking, and the utilization of science and technology.

Although he did not gain popular acceptance his later years, Fresco continued to promote his concepts throughout the 1970s and 80s, lecturing at different venues and universities about his new theories such as “Socio-cyberneering”, an idea which implemented the highest advancements in technology to aid in human affairs such as building new cities and the replacement of common labor jobs. It wasn’t until the late 80s that Fresco and his friend Roxanne Meadows developed and incorporated The Venus Project.

Located in Venus, Florida, The Venus Project is a research center which develops innovations in the fields of freelance inventing, industrial engineering, and conventional architectural modeling. The Venus Project aims to answer the question, how can we utilize technology wisely so that there is more than enough for everyone on our planet? To make this happen, Fresco proposes that a planning process must first occur, where the entire infrastructure of the planet is re-worked as a coherent resource trading system. This means the planet working together as one, eliminating the false borders that separate continents and countries and looking at our planet as an open trading highway system. For example, where in the world is the most efficient place to grow certain crops and produce?

Today our resource production is based around mass consumerism which promotes environmental neglect, as apposed to being based around dynamic equilibrium or the carrying capacity of the planet. This means we are not living in a sustainable society, and it is only a matter of time before we suck the planet dry of its resources. The key to abundance and high standards of living for all, Fresco suggests, is to automate as much as possible in the shortest period of time, working alongside technology to produce and distribute resources in the cleanest and most efficient way possible. The Venus Project suggests that our biggest problems right now are technical, not political, and that our questions can be solved through the use of science and technology to benefit all, not just a select group. Fresco believes that computers can serve everyone, and that computer intelligence and engineering will be at the epicenter of the global intelligence network of the future planet. The computer systems would oversee things such as production and distribution of goods, to ensure there would be no shortages or overruns of resources to any location on the planet. Decisions being made in this innovative society would be based around the needs of the people and the conservation of the planet, not corporate interests.

A rendering of the living quarters in the new cities proposed by The Venus Project; this layout would make for the most energy efficient way to construct a city, with all of the resources stationed in the center and the living quarters situated on the outskirts of the city.

A rendering of the living quarters in the new cities proposed by The Venus Project; this layout would make for the most energy efficient way to construct a city, with all of the resources stationed in the center and the living quarters situated on the outskirts of the city.

The Venus Project works to showcase the amazing and inspiring potential of computers and technology, and to help people understand that it is not technology that is responsible for the deterioration of the planet and society, but rather it is the abuse and misuse of machines and automated technology for selfish benefits that we should be weary of. Fresco and Meadows have been working together since the early 90s to provide technical blueprints for this proposed society, revealing how it would operate and how it would affect the entire social spectrum.

More interesting aspects of Fresco’s utopian world include the dissolution of automobiles, and the introduction of a complex but energy efficient transveyor and monorail system which would transport people wherever they needed to go. This would eliminate the pollution and high death rates caused by automobiles. The cities would be rebuilt as a circular shape, for this would allow the important resources to be readily accessible to everyone living in the city. The cities would be built using the least amount of materials as possible, and would be flexible enough to allow for innovative changes while preserving the local ecology.

In a society where everyone has equal access to goods and services, there is no need to fight for civil rights, or no need for laws that state “don’t steal”, because the abundance in this society would bypass that sort of behavior.

The cities would utilize the best in clean energy which would be harmonious with nature such as wind power, geo-thermal power, solar power, temperature difference, etc. This would supply energy to everywhere on the planet and ensure the highest standards of living for everyone. Polluting with hydro-carbons will be a thing of the past.

Some argue that Jacque Fresco’s plans are idealistic and crazy, and that our world is too far away from such a utopia. However, if we take a moment to observe our current state, it is easy to see that people are not content with the way the world is currently run. Countries all around the world are standing up to their governments with hope of reconstructing a future which provides equal and harmonious living standards for all.  We are aware that we need to create something new, and perhaps Jacque Fresco’s blueprints hold the key to the new Earth we’ve been waiting for all along.

A Rabbi’s Departure Manifests a Challenge for Jews in America

Rabbi Andy Bachman developed a model for what might bring some of the nation’s millions of Jews who are unaffiliated with synagogues back to the fold.

Leafy, affluent Park Slope, Brooklyn, embodies the challenge facing modern American Jewry: Though many Jews live there, few are observant. So it was no small feat when Rabbi Andy Bachman took the helm of Congregation Beth Elohim in the neighborhood eight years ago and began attracting a vibrant congregation of Jewish atheists and agnostics, as well as the more traditionally religious.

Drawn by big-name book talks, family-oriented religious classes and the rabbi’s teaching that to be Jewish is to do good in the world, membership in the Reform synagogue doubled to more than a thousand families. It drew young literati like Jonathan Safran Foer and catapulted to national attention as a model for what might bring some of the nation’s millions of Jews who are unaffiliated with synagogues back to the fold.

Recently, however, Rabbi Bachman shocked many in his congregation and in Jewish circles by announcing that he was stepping down from the pulpit and out of Jewish leadership to help New York’s poorest, regardless of their religion.

Membership at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has doubled to more than a thousand families in the last eight years, since Rabbi Bachman took over.

“I think that I deliver really good and really inspiring sermons about social justice, but is that really enough?” he said in an interview. “It’s crazy to think that’s enough. In order to maintain my sense of integrity and to keep the flame burning strongly about my commitments, I knew it was time to step away.”

His decision was deeply personal, but also touched on vexing questions at the center of Judaism’s future in this country as modern Jews — the secular, the unaffiliated, the questioning — grapple with what it means to be Jewish and what role a synagogue should play in that identity. Nationally, synagogue affiliation is falling as American Jews increasingly decide they do not need to live out their Jewishness in a religious context.

Rabbi Bachman, 51, has spent a lifetime pondering such questions. Raised in Milwaukee as a wholly secular Jew, his main links to his Jewish heritage were his paternal grandparents, who cooked sour kugel and sweet blintzes and spoke of the family’s Belarussian roots.

Yet when his father died in 1983, Rabbi Bachman did not even know how to say Kaddish, the Jewish blessing over the dead. He felt compelled to take his Jewish heritage more seriously.

“I was a typical modern Jew who had an identity crisis, and rode it out, and built a whole career out of it,” he said with a smile. “What an embarrassment.”

But in the last two years, he began feeling constrained within the synagogue. He had always wanted to do good in the world, he said. Before pursuing the rabbinate, he considered becoming a journalist or working in government. Becoming a rabbi allowed him to channel his idealism in a Jewish way.

Pre-eminent among Jewish values in his mind, he said, is the call to do justice. And he had come to a point where he felt that he could do more by direct action than by giving sermons about it. “The calculus of how I wanted to spend my hours every day changed,” he said.

Rabbi Bachman spent months fretting over his decision, worried that it might cause doubt in others. Indeed, congregants peppered him with questions after he posted the news on his personal blog in March. He said one asked him:

“You are leaving the pulpit, have you had a crisis of faith? Have you decided there is no God?” Another asked: “Does this mean Judaism has no value?”

“There is no crisis of faith,” he said he had responded. “In a way, it’s just a crisis of wanting to be more effective at doing good in the world.”

Rabbi Bachman at a protest on Dec. 9, 2013, nearly one year after the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He has said that serving the broader world was a way of expressing his faith in a different way.

Yet Rabbi Bachman admitted to grappling with the idea that he should devote his life primarily to the service of other Jews, something he called his “sense of responsibility to the broader Jewish community.” He is not alone.

Reform Judaism, which is the largest denomination in American Judaism, has a long tradition of social justice and activism, but it can be a challenge to convince many liberal, modern Jews of the need to live out those values in a Jewish context.

So Beth Elohim reached beyond the denomination’s traditional boundaries to build its synagogue, hosting cultural events for secular Israelis, celebrations for young Brooklyn Jews seeking a sense of belonging, community service projects and the popular book talks featuring authors like Paul Auster and Don DeLillo. Simultaneously, it opened its doors to more religious Jews and began hosting egalitarian Orthodox services.

“Andy is wisely a rabbi who saw the broader landscapes of Jewish life, and built bridges to help people come in,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, said. “And that’s the wave of the Jewish future.”

By 2012, Rabbi Bachman was appearing on national lists of top rabbis produced by publications as diverse as The Jewish Daily Forward and Newsweek. And yet, privately, after days of teaching or officiating over funerals, he found himself nagged by a question: “Who is in greater need that I can help?”

When Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, he mobilized Beth Elohim to begin a mass feeding program. The synagogue kitchen was transformed into a center that served some 185,000 meals over a year and a half. Then budget cuts hit the temple this year, and it had to eliminate several jobs and suspend the feeding program. Some in the synagogue were worried that its finances were not keeping up with the pace of change.

Although Rabbi Bachman’s announcement that he would leave at the end of his contract in June 2015 came at the same time as the cuts, he said the timing was coincidental. Most congregants have been supportive of his decision, although there has also been sadness and unease.

“Andy has been there for us when we really needed him, so we are sad and disappointed,” said Laurie Gelles, a temple member for 20 years.

Rabbi Bachman, who is working on a book about Jewish identity, emphasized that serving the broader world was simply expressing his faith in a different way. “I will always be a rabbi,” he said. And following his example, he said, his congregants should not build a wall around their Judaism in an effort to preserve it.

After all, he added, Moses himself was worried about Jewish continuity, but according to the Jewish tradition his fears were allayed when God miraculously brought him to visit the classroom of Rabbi Akiva, a famous Jewish sage of the first century A.D.

At first, Moses could not understand the lesson, because it was in Aramaic, but eventually he heard the rabbi say: “This is the law given to Moses at Sinai,” and was comforted.

“If Moses didn’t understand Akiva, my presumption is that we will probably be O.K.,” Rabbi Bachman said of the survival of Judaism. “I might not recognize it myself if I were to come back and look at it in a couple hundred years, but as long as there is Torah at the center in some form, I guess we will be O.K.”

Correction: August 15, 2014 An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a member of Congregation Beth Elohim. She is Laurie Gelles, not Geller.

The Totally Serious Plan to Connect Brooklyn and Manhattan by Gondola

If an imaginative real estate executive gets his way, New Yorkers soon will have a new way of crossing the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Instead of slogging across a traffic-snarled bridge or cramming into a packed subway car, they’d soar over the river in … a gondola.

Dan Levy, head of CityRealty, is totally serious about this. He came up with the idea for the East River Skyway a few years ago while skiing. He thought it could work in New York, given that other cities, including Portland, London, and Rio de Janeiro have similar systems.

This week, Levy published a bold plan for an aerial network connecting Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. He figures it could be built for between $75 million and a $100 million, a fraction of what New York’s spent on recent subway expansion projects. The idea has a lot going for it, but if built as Levy envisions, it would be useful to only a small, affluent subset of the city.

Much of the proposed network includes waterfront stations, which wouldn’t be much help to commuters who need to get inland. There’s also the fact those stations could be put to better use.

“In practicality, I don’t know why we would connect perfectly good boating docks with gondolas,” says Sarah Kaufman, adjunct assistant professor of planning at New York University and digital manager at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation. “We should be connecting those areas with boats, water taxis, ferries.”

The East River Skyway could connect three boroughs, but Phase 1 has the most appeal for commuters.

Kaufman sees more value in the Skyway’s first phase, which would include a connection between Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Installing a gondola there is appealing for several reasons. It could alleviate crowding on the L line, which runs from Brooklyn into Manhattan. The line is always packed at rush hour, and trains run so frequently it’s all but impossible to add more.

Levy’s cost estimates are tricky to verify, but he’s right when he says a gondola would be easier, faster, and cheaper to build than a new subway line. It has taken five years and $2 billion to add a single station to the 7 line.

The new Second Ave subway line for the Upper East Side has been delayed so many times that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped about having “a 50-50 chance of living to see the first person on it.”

In a December 2013 report advocating better bus service in New York, the Pratt Center for Community Development wrote, “there is no realistic prospect of expanding the subway system to serve outlying neighborhoods.”

No new bridges are coming either, so spanning the river with a gondola that requires little digging and minimal acquisition of land rights is tempting.

There’s precedent, too. Not only are other cities trying aerial public transit, New York already has its own system in place, the tram connecting Roosevelt Island and the East Side.

(You may know it from the climactic scene of 2002’s Spider-Man.) If Levy’s right, the gondola could move move 5,000 people an hour over the East River, with a crossing that would take just four minutes.

And then there’s the fact that it just seems like a cool idea, an opportunity to get a new, terrific view of New York City.

Gondola's would provide an unusual, terrific view of the city.

If Levy (or another developer) could acquire land rights to build stations, get approval from a rat’s nest of city and state agencies, and raise the necessary cash, New York could get the gondola system he’s dreaming of.

But don’t expect it to be used by many people who ride the L train. The line is overcrowded because it’s the easiest way for folks in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint—popular and growing neighborhoods—to reach Manhattan.

The proposed location of the Brooklyn gondola station essentially is on the water, nowhere near most of these people. The gondola could, however, be quite handy for those filling the very expensive condos going up on the Williamsburg waterfront. “It would serve new developments along the water,” Levy says.

“This is a real estate project,” Kaufman says. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite unusual, in a good way. “It’s not very typical of a real estate developer to consider the bigger picture,” to account for the need for added transportation infrastructure that comes with packing more people into an area.

The residents of those condos may get little sympathy from those struggling to make rent in New York, but they too need good transportation options, and it’s a long walk to the nearest subway station. And, as Levy notes, every person riding the gondola leaves a bit more room for those of us stuck on the train.

Cyber-Insider: Mystery Money Manager Charged in Hacking Case

He seems like an American success story: an ambitious Russian who came to the U.S. and went from business school to Wall Street to his own hedge fund.

But somewhere along the way, U.S. authorities say, Vitaly Korchevsky began orchestrating a new type of financial crime.

Korchevsky, 50, was one of several men arrested Tuesday morning in the biggest case of insider trading linked to the fast-growing threat of global cybercrime. Charges against him were unsealed Tuesday in Brooklyn, New York federal court.

The alleged scheme stretched from the affluent suburbs of Philadelphia, where Korchevsky ran a small investment fund, to the darkest realms of the Internet.

Working from Russia or Ukraine, hackers infiltrated several computer systems used by corporations to report sensitive information like earnings and then, allegedly with Korchevsky’s help, made millions of dollars trading on the confidential data, people familiar with the matter say.

Little that is known about Korchevsky seems to hint at his alleged role in bringing together these two illicit worlds. Less than prominent in financial circles, he has spent a decade and a half moving from one mid-level job to the next.

After completing university in Russia, Korchevsky collected an MBA in 1995 from Regent University, a private Christian institution founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson. He also passed the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, considered the gold standard among financial professionals.

Asset Management

By 1999 he was working in the asset management division of Morgan Stanley, where he helped manage several Invesco American Value funds, according to Morningstar.

From there he joined Victus Capital in New York and then Investment Counselors of Maryland in Baltimore. He left in 2009, two years before registering his own hedge fund, NTS Capital Fund, in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

Other than traffic violations, Korchevsky’s U.S. legal record appears clean, as is his official Wall Street record filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

In an era of high-profile Wall Street scandals, the scheme laid out by prosecutors is relatively small in dollar terms. U.S. prosecutors said the nine men netted $30 million.

However, a broader, parallel lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission listed 17 men, including the nine charged, and 15 companies as defendants in a scheme that allegedly earned more than $100 million.

The regulator said Korchevsky made about $17.5 million in illicit profits. By comparison, the insider trading scheme hatched by Galleon Group LLC co-founder Raj Rajaratnam netted about $72 million, while the $275 million insider trading case of SAC Capital Advisors LP portfolio manager Mathew Martoma was called the biggest ever against a single person.

Ukraine’s Hackers: What Do We Know?

  • An international police operation into the “Shylock” banking malware, which infected more than 100,000 computers, led to properties in Ukraine being searched and computers seized in 2014.
  • In June, Ukrainian police arrested five people suspected of links to ZeuS and Spyeye, two viruses that target online bank accounts around the world.
  • The country’s Department on Combating Cybercrime, part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, deals with online offenders.

Nonetheless, the confluence of computer hacking and insider trading raises the stakes for investors and federal authorities.

Thought to be in Ukraine and possibly Russia, the hackers infiltrated the computer servers of PRNewswire Association LLC, Marketwired and Business Wire, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter. They stole more than 150,000 press releases over the duration of the scheme.

They then allegedly fed the information to Korchevsky and others in the U.S. who used it to buy and sell shares of dozens of big companies, including Panera Bread Co., Boeing Co., Oracle Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Caterpillar Inc., ahead of the news.

The defendants traded in personal brokerage accounts and then siphoned the money offshore through Estonian banks, the person said.

Korchevsky was taken into custody at his home in Glen Mills, where he operated NTS Capital. NTS has made no filings since its initial one four years ago, and it’s unclear if the fund is still in operation. Korchevsky is now facing securities fraud and conspiracy charges by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia federal court.