Best of 2009: Sex, Violence, and Russians

This years biggest story on Sheepshead Bites was a rumored hostage situation in Brighton Beach
This year's biggest story on Sheepshead Bites was a rumored hostage situation in Brighton Beach

It’s that time of year when media folks of all walks are publishing their look back at 2009, full of airy prose and wistful reminiscing. Sheepshead Bites is no different, and for us and our readers, this year was an explosive year.

The big national stories we all know. Nobody shuts up about them. The city, state, and national governments worked to reawaken a defeated economy. The first term of the country’s first black president was met with hardship, with two wars that questioned our national security, our military efficiency, and our moral resolve. Swine flu pandemic gripped the world. Oh, and Michael Jackson died.

But here at Sheepshead Bites, our 10 biggest stories – determined by the number of times they’ve been viewed and not by importance or influence – were largely centered around violence, sex, and rising influence of Eastern Europeans in Sheepshead Bay.

In hindsight they tell us a few things about the neighborhood and ourselves. Without question, they confirm the old media maxim that “If it bleeds, it leads,” with scandalous stories of shootings and crime, and sexy teachers allegedly getting it on, topping the list. It also tells us that, despite two decades of rising tides of Russian influence, the community is still grappling with challenges to its identity. Other stories, and their comments, show that there’s still strong interest in the goings-on of area businesses, and that a faltering transit system is raising alarm within our commuter community.

Without further ado, here’s our top 10 list for biggest Sheepshead Bites stories of 2009:

  1. Possible Hostage Situation at Brighton Beach Starbucks (September 12) – We were the first to report this story of a man who allegedly kidnapped his girlfriend before being shot by police five times. Little do readers realize, this story set a precedent for how Sheepshead Bites would report crime in the future. At the time of the event, little information was available other than rumor and hearsay. We reported it, noted the inaccuracies, and then followed it with updates. Crime reporting on Sheepshead Bites would follow this model of showing a blurry, unfocused haze, then cutting through that to develop it into a sharp representation of what’s going on. It has its pitfalls, but readers deserve the right to know as much as we do about situations that could spill over into their lives.
  2. Madison H.S. Teachers Busted In Naked Romp (December 9) – By now everyone knows the story of “Horndog High” – a.k.a. James Madison High School. The story was seized by the media for its prurient nature. Two cute female language teachers caught naked makes for great headlines. Unfortunately, the massive exposure likely ruined the careers of well-liked teachers, who were robbed of the benefit of the doubt. And in the process, students at the school, as expressed on this site, Facebook, and other media outlets, rapidly lost faith in the city’s fourth estate.
  3. Goodbye B Train: Express Goes Local for 2 Years (July 27) – One of our most influential stories of the year, Sheepshead Bites was one of the first and only news outlets reporting on the cuts to B express service before they happened. We urged our readers to contact community leaders. Their letters and calls pushed our representatives to call a meeting with MTA officials. Unfortunately, little happened after that, and the MTA never got back to them with data they planned to collect. Just months later, the entire MTA system neared financial collapse, and restoring service or hastening construction seems unlikely. (More coverage of this issue)
  4. Bed Bugs At The UA? Not Really. Here’s The Whole Story (October 29) – When News 12 and FOX jumped on the rumor of bedbugs at the United Artists movie theater, we were the only ones who actually attempted to get the real story out of managers. In our report, an employee of nearly a decade told us the behind-the-scenes of what happened, and the harm to business the unconfirmed report caused. Still, as seen in the comments, readers and patrons are leery of returning.
  5. Redfish Smoking Graffiti Flyers Raises Questions (July 14) – Sheepshead Bay’s prolific graffiti artist doesn’t seem to do much for art-lovers in our community. Instead, it has raised questions of whether it’s art, advertising, vandalism, or – as one reader comments – “bullshit ego dropping.”
  6. My Baby Wears Prada (August 4) – Royal Crown Day Care on Avenue Y advertised the “Most Luxurious Day Care Center in Brooklyn.” Result? We balked, then sneered, then were begged to investigate. Commenters began to muse on the increasing marketing trend of everything “gourmet” and “luxury.” Meanwhile, parents have started alleging horrible treatment at the facility and demanding a deeper look into the business.
  7. Overheard: Sheepshead Bay for “Cool” Russians (August 25) – An overheard conversation on the subway sparked a debate between Sheepshead Bites’ readers about the character of the neighborhood, and exactly what kind of Eastern Europeans Sheepshead Bay appeals to.
  8. Deadly Shooting in Sheepshead Marina (August 9) – The biggest Sheepshead Bites story on the marina wasn’t the tale of fisherman Keith Gorman jumping into frigid waters to save a mother and daughters. Unfortunately, it was the slaying of a man and wounding of another at Venice Marina after an argument turned violent.
  9. Chop Stix Open For Dine-In On Nostrand (August 18) – When Peking Kitchen expanded after 13 years of service on Nostrand Avenue, they were reborn as Chop Stix Stir-Fry, Asian Noodle, Sushi, & Grill. The enlarged, sit down eatery appears to be a success and is Sheepshead Bay’s first new sit-down Chinese eatery south of Avenue U in years.
  10. Al Pacino’s Sheepshead Movie Shoot (August 19) – This summer saw a lot of stars strutting Sheepshead Bay’s streets. America Ferrera shot an episode of Ugly Betty near Lincoln High School, and Drew Barrymore was caught filming a rom-com at Rasputin. But the biggest celebs came down to Avenue U and Batchelder Street to shoot an HBO biopic on Jack Kevorkian. There was Al Pacino, John Goodman, and Susan Sarandon. Read the article to find out how editor Ned Berke’s family jewels have a direct link to Pacino’s!