By Paula Katinas
Bensonhurst — Bill Guarinello and his wife Donna were at home on the day after Christmas, the day on which the federal holiday was recognized this year, when their doorbell rang at around 6:30 p.m.
So the couple was surprised when the doorbell rang at 6:30 p.m. on a holiday. “It was a kid trying to sell us utilities,” Guarinello, who is the chairman of Community Board 11, told his fellow board members at their meeting Jan. 12. A young man told the Guarinellos he wanted to convince them to change utility companies.
“At 6:30 at night? I thought that was suspicious,” Guarinello said. “What is somebody doing ringing your doorbell 6:30 at night on a holiday?” he asked.
The Guarinellos confronted the young man and demanded to know what he was doing.
The young man quickly left, and punched an inflatable doll the Guarinellos have on their front lawn on his way out.
Guarinello said he doesn’t know if the utility salesman was legitimate or a thief using an excuse to get inside his house. But he admitted that he suspects the latter. “Maybe they’re casing who’s home,” he said. “It’s not a good thing.”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility, according to Guarinello, who said there are criminal cases in which homeowners have been burglarized by con artists running scams.
Two Bensonhurst residents recently fell prey to crooks who scammed their way into the victims’ homes and stole cash and jewelry, Guarinello said.
“A lot of senior citizens are victimized by these people,” he said.
He has advice for Bensonhurst residents. He suggested that residents call police if someone suspicious knocks on the door or rings the doorbell.
“We really have to watch these types of situations,” he said.
He also suggested that residents demand that the utility company send a letter first before dispatching a salesman to come to the house unannounced.
“Anything someone can’t put in writing is suspicious,” he said.
In other news, City Councilman David Greenfield attended the board meeting and spoke about legislation he is working on.
One bill currently being written would address the tough parking situation, according to Greenfield. The bill gets tough on illegal driveways, he said.
Homeowners are required by law to obtain permits from the New York City Department of Buildings in order to cut the sidewalk curb in front of their homes to create driveways. But many homeowners don’t bother, Greenfield said, and put in the driveways without permits. The action has ramifications, the lawmaker said, because driveways remove on-street parking spaces. The result is a shortage of parking spots and an increase in aggravation for residents who have to drive around blocks, sometimes several times, to find a parking space.
The idea is to require homeowners who have created illegal driveways to repair the curb and eliminate the driveways, Greenfield said.
“We are drafting legislation. It would create real penalties,” he said.
If the homeowner fails to make the necessary repairs, the city would come in and do it, and then bill the homeowner, he said.
Guarinello, who said it sounded like a good idea, likened it to sidewalk repairs. Under current law, if a homeowner doesn’t repair a cracked sidewalk, the city does it and sends the homeowner a bill.
The issue of illegal driveways “is one of the most critical quality of life issues,” Guarinello said.
Another bill the council is working on involves fire hydrants, Greenfield said. The council is considering mandating that the city paint red lines near fire hydrants to delineate the 15-foot area where drivers are prohibited from parking.
“It’s hard to guess what 15 feet is,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield admitted that his council district, which is dominated by Borough Park, takes in very little of Bensonhurst in terms of territory. But he said he does work hard for the constituents who live in Bensonhurst. As an example, he pointed out that he obtained additional city funding for senior citizen centers and community organizations.
“Bensonhurst was not getting its fair share of resources,” he said, adding that he went about rectifying that situation.
“We quadrupled the amount of funding,” Greenfield said. He obtained close to $200,000 for such groups as the Neighborhood Improvement Association, the St. Athanasius Golden Age Club, and the Jewish Community House, he said.
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