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Good Morning, Brooklyn: Monday, January 3, 2022

January 3, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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PHARMACISTS ANGRY WITH HOCHUL’S VETO OF RESCUE PACKAGE:  The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York is unhappy with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s vetoing the centerpiece of the bipartisan Pharmacy Rescue Package. The legislation, (S6603/A7598) which both the State Assembly and Senate had passed in June, would have required more transparency in the operations of pharmacy benefit managers and subjected them to greater regulations. As of press time, the Governor’s Office had not issued a statement explaining Hochul’s veto.

“Pharmacists are devastated by Governor Hochul’s veto of S6603/A7598, which will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year, endanger millions of New Yorkers and put more community pharmacies out of business while further enriching the Fortune 15 pharmacy benefit managers that already have raked in billions of dollars in record profits off this pandemic,” declared Karl Williams, president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. “We urge the Governor to sign the remaining bills in the Pharmacy Rescue Package immediately and stand ready to support her in honoring her commitment to address this broadly-supported legislation in the 2022 State budget.”

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BLAMES ‘MIDDLEMEN’ PHARMACY BENEFIT MANAGERS: Earlier this week, the Brooklyn Eagle published an article focusing on the difficulty that smaller, independent pharmacists like Brooklyn’s Ambar Keluskar, owner of the Rossi Pharmacy in Ocean Hill, encounter in getting reimbursed for medicines. Keluskar, who had hoped for the above-mentioned Pharmacy Rescue Package to become law, alleged that pharmacy benefit managers, who essentially function as middlemen between the pharmacies and insurance companies to control the amounts billed and reimbursed per prescription, have loyalties owned by large drugstore chains and/or insurance companies.

Consequently, said Keluskar, some smaller pharmacies — and even larger ones like Rite Aid — lack the cash flow to maintain inventory, making costs for the patient and pharmacy prohibitive.

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PHARMACEUTICAL FIRMS FOUND LIABLE ON OPIOID ISSUE: Attorney General Letitia James won another court victory late last week in the New York Opioid Trial, when a jury found Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and others liable of violating rights of New Yorkers. The new law establishing the opioid settlement fund requires that all funds which the state collects from opioid settlements or litigation victories will be allocated specifically for abatement efforts in communities devastated by the opioid epidemic, with the Teva Payment on top of up to $1.5 billion for New York that the Attorney General had already negotiated.

A subsequent trial will be held to determine how much Teva must pay.

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NEW MAYOR’S PLAN TO COMBAT COVID: Mayor Eric Adams unveiled his comprehensive plan to combat the spread of COVID-19 last week before taking office on Saturday. The private-sector employer mandate will stay in effect with a focus on compliance, not punishment. A dedicated unit will be created to work with small businesses, stakeholders and the mayor’s corporate engagement committee to help implement the mandate, foregoing fines if employers engage with the city to help get their workers vaccinated.

Under Mayor Adams’ plan, the city will immediately study the need for an “up-to-date” mandate program to require booster shots for all New Yorkers currently covered by vaccine mandates and will engage with unions, the business community and other stakeholders.

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STRICTER DEFINITION FOR LEAD PAINT: The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, as part of the city’s continued work towards its LeadFreeNYC commitment, has halved the standard at which paint is defined as lead-based. The definition of lead-based paint was amended earlier this month to be paint, or other similar surface coating material, containing 0.5 milligrams per square centimeter of lead or greater, according to laboratory analysis or by an instrument verified to test at the lower action level of 0.5 mg/cm2. This replaces the previous definition of 1.0 mg/cm2 of lead or greater.

By enforcing this new standard – the strictest in the nation – HPD inspectors will help identify more buildings that may pose a risk of lead poisoning, so that property owners can take proactive action to protect children.

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CHRISTMAS TREE COLLECTION: The New York City Department of Sanitation will begin Christmas tree collection this Thursday, Jan. 6. Collection will run through Saturday, January 15, barring any delays that may be caused by snow-related events. DSNY collects Christmas trees separately from trash and recycling. After collection, the Christmas trees will be chipped, mixed with leaves, and recycled into compost for the city’s parks, institutions and community gardens.

Many people keep their trees until Jan. 6-7, which many Latin-Rite Christians celebrate as Epiphany and Eastern Orthodox Christians observe as Christmas.

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OR BRING YOUR TREES TO BE MULCHED: New Yorkers may also bring their trees to a Mulchfest site (https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/festivals/mulchfest) now through January 9.  Also provided by NYC Parks Mulchfest 2022, people may drop off holiday trees at one of 73 sites — 34 of which are chipping sites — across the five boroughs, including parks and GreenThumb gardens.

Brooklyn Bridge Park has sections for both chipping and drop-off only. Cobble Hill Park and Fort Greene Park have chipping service available.  

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NEW HOUSING DEVELOPMENT: The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development last week announced the development partners and plans for Site 1 of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Wealth and Wellness RFP. Almat Urban and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation will transform a city-owned site in Central Brooklyn into a 100 percent affordable homeownership development for first-time home buyers. The 11-story mixed-used development, the Norma, will give rise to 44 homeownership opportunities through a mix of one- to three-bedroom condo-style coops for low- to moderate-income households with a broad range of affordability.

Under the plans, the Brownsville Multi-Service Wellness and Health Center will operate a new urgent care facility on the ground floor, providing services for adult medicine, pediatrics, physical therapy, OB/GYN, mental health, and dentistry, among others.

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IPS NEWS: NEW LAW HELPS SPECIAL ED STUDENTS: A bill to increase resources and support for disabled students has become law through Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature. Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz co-sponsored the legislation that ensures special education students receive the services they need in a timely manner. The legislation, geared to help students in the autism spectrum, as well as those with other disabilities, creates a process to immediately appoint an Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO) to rule on special education due process complaints if one has not been appointed within 196 days of a parent filing the complaint.

The new law addresses a backlog at the State Education Department, forcing families to endure lengthy delays while their kids wait for these services.

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IPS NEWS:  RETIREMENT SYSTEM SHOWS PROGRESS ON CLIMATE CHANGE, DIVERSITY: Outgoing City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and the New York City Retirement Systems (“NYCRS”) have released the 2021 Shareowner Initiatives Postseason Report that highlights a groundbreaking year of progress on climate change and diversity initiatives.  As portfolio companies faced the impact of the COVID pandemic, continued demands for racial justice, and economic upheaval, NYCRS launched initiatives to support employees and foster diverse, healthy and safe workplaces.

NYCRS continued to demand corporate progress in achieving global climate goals by strategically engaging portfolio companies in their responsibility to reduce emissions and address the climate crisis.

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IPS NEWS: CHILD CARE PROGRAMS BENEFITED: New York has seen success in awarding $900 million in Child Care Stabilization Grants to childcare programs statewide, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Thursday. The grants that the federal American Rescue Plan Act and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act helped fund, are part of a $2.3 billion package of investments in the state’s childcare industry. The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) awarded funding to nearly 15,000 eligible childcare providers over four months, from August through November.

The governor also announced plans to include a historic $240 million increase in investment for approved private schools serving children with disabilities in her upcoming 2022-2023 Executive Budget.

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ADOPTING FAITH RINGGOLD PAINTING AT RIKER’S: An iconic painting that in 1972 was dedicated to the women at the Correctional Institution for Women on Rikers Island may get a new home at the Brooklyn Museum. Outgoing First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Department of Correction (DOC) are working to move celebrated artist Faith Ringgold’s painting, titled “For the Women’s House,” from the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) on Rikers Island to the Brooklyn Museum, contingent on the NYC Public Design Commission’s review. The painting was whitewashed when the facility was opened to men, and later saved by an officer, restored and relocated to the new women’s facility, the RMSC or “Rosie’s,” where it remains on display (See story, page 1).

In order to replace the artwork, and to promote beauty and healing within the jails, the Art for Justice Fund has kindly offered to fund the creation of a new community mural in RMSC in the space vacated by Ms. Ringgold’s work.


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