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The soothsayers of Bay Ridge

Yellow Hooker’s crystal ball sees an empty wallet. How is it that so many longstanding Bay Ridge merchants are biting the dust while the only industry besides banks that seems to persevere is the fortune-teller?

It appears to be damn-near supernatural, but I counted seven soothsayers on a walk up and down Third and Fifth avenues. This means Bay Ridge has four more mystics than bookstores, seven more mystics than strip clubs (sorry, Club Shadows, but you have proven to be a poor excuse for a strip club) and only a 13,309 fewer mystics than banks.

Believers and non-believers can all agree on one issue — these tea-leaf readers know how to sustain a viable business. The greater question is… bhow?

Curses? Voodoo? Clarence Norman? (All three?)

To help answer this question, I visited two spiritual advisors within a stone’s throw of Yellow Hook Central to discover their secret — and maybe pass it along to the owners of the Tiffany Diner or Griswold’s (to paraphrase Bogie, we’ll always have ribs).

Unfortunately, my experiment was almost as short-lived as my $10-per-gypsy-budget. The spiritual advisor on Third and 83rd wanted $50 for a tarot reading, and Ellie Crystal, who may be the most well-known fortune teller in all of New York, charges $120 for an hour of saying sooth.

I called three other Bay Ridge psychics, and the least expensive was a lady who convinced me that even at her price — $25 — the reading would be useless.

Not being able to get rid of money was not a problem I expected to have in Bay Ridge.

I related the story to one friend who did work in the late 1980s as a fortune-teller for a Psychic Friends-like network, and he seemed equally confused.

“Something doesn’t sound right,” he said. “The first rule of the business is you never let a customer walk.”

Then a divine revelation hit me smack in the middle of my third eye: Could so many locals being willing to chalk up $120 for the flip of a few cards be an indication that a cloud of apprehension has settled over Bay Ridge?

On Sept. 11, 2001 I was working at a Barnes and Noble in Boston and was stunned to see the first books coming off the shelves after the dust settled weren’t books on foreign policy — but on all-too-foreign prophesy.

Could Bay Ridge be in the midst of turbulent times, causing people to reach for the nearest soothsayer?

“Yes, that is absolutely true,” Crystal told me. “It isn’t just Bay Ridge, the whole world is being shaken by its foundation and people are looking for something to hold on to.”

The world is shaking?

Yellow Hooker holds the belief that life has never been better and that the world is an inherently good place. But whenever I talk to anyone else, I realize this opinion is decidedly the minority one.

Maybe Bay Ridge has grown weary of the war. Maybe it’s the stench from Owls Head or the closing of Tiffany Diner that is driving people in search spiritual advice. Maybe the ban on trans-fats was the final straw that broke the locals’ backs.

Hard to say what did it, but something was done, and now locals are opening up their wallets to have their auras read.

“People are looking for the truth,” said Crystal, who has published books on the subject.

If only the truth was more budget-friendly.

The Kitchen Sink

The new Chock Full of Nuts has finally opened on Third Avenue and 79th Street — and The Stoop already gives thumbs up for the peanut butter cup cookies. Starbucks, meanwhile, may have gotten rid of the trans-fats from their pastries, but our sole issue is taste, so we’re staying with the red velvet treats from the Little Cupcake Bakeshop. …

A new bar/grill called Yellow Hook (no relation) plans to open shortly on Third Avenue in the old Lento’s space. A good name? Well, Bay Ridge was originally called Yellow Hook — until a yellow fever epidemic. …

State Sen. Marty Golden wasn’t lying at the ceremony for the 86th Street subway renovation when he said he had to go to a pizza party. Golden did indeed host such an affair for the PS 207 Glee Club, which had performed at his swearing-in. …

Rep. Vito Fossella is gunning for Rudy Giuliani in the prematurely crowded 2008 race for the White House. The Bay Ridge Friend of W is already one of Rudy’s “congressional liaisons.” Would Guiliani’s beloved “broken windows” policy work in Baghdad? …

Assemblyman Bill Colton invited us the other day to hear him “discuss his experience in Israel!” (their exclamation mark, not ours) at the Jewish Community House on Bay Parkway. We’d love to see the slides!

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