Good Morning, Brooklyn: Thursday, September 8, 2022
MAYOR ORDERS FLAGS AT HALF-STAFF, PAYING TRIBUTE TO QUEEN ELIZABETH’S DEATH: New York City Mayor Eric Adams today ordered all flags on all city buildings, as well as stationary flagstaffs throughout the five boroughs, to be lowered to half-staff, beginning immediately. The mayor also said, “It is with sadness that I learned of the passing of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was committed to a life of service which impacted many.”
“She was a global force who will be remembered for her reign of 70 years,” said the mayor.
BRITISH MONARCH DIES AT 96: The United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has died at age 96, Buckingham Palace reported earlier this afternoon. Members of her family, including her eldest son, Charles, who automatically becomes King upon his mother’s death, gathered at Balmoral Castle in Scotland to be by her side.
Earlier in the day, Buckingham Palace had announced that Queen Elizabeth, whose reign spanned 70 years, had been placed under medical supervision, raising concerns within the Royal Family, newly-invested Prime Minister Liz Truss and the British public.
NEW COVID VACCINE CAN BE ADMINISTERED ANNUALLY: A new COVID-19 vaccine being introduced will reduce the need for boosters to one annually, Governor Kathy Hochul announced yesterday. As part of a new phase and new approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19, the new vaccine — the first in almost two years, is expected to provide the strongest protection from the new Omicron strain of the COVID virus, which did not exist when the original vaccine was developed.
Gov. Hochul said that, starting this week, at convenient pharmacies, doctor’s offices, community health centers, and other places, Americans aged 12 and older are eligible to obtain this new fall COVID-19 vaccine, and that the medical community can now update vaccines annually to target the dominant variant.
BIVALENT COVID BOOSTER SHOTS BECOME AVAILABLE: Governor Kathy Hochul also announced the availability of bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters, which are designed to add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants and bolster previous vaccination protection. The announcement follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to use updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech for anyone age 12 or older, but that the Moderna version should be used for those 18 or older.
Governor Hochul has also made masking optional in multiple settings — where they were previously required, including on public transportation, in for-hire vehicles, at airports, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and detention centers. Masks will remain mandatory at health care clinics or adult care centers.
MASKS BECOME OPTIONAL ON PUBLIC TRANSIT: Masks are optional on all forms of public transportation, including subways, buses, commuter railroad, paratransit services, and in stations, effective immediately, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced, following guidance from New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. The Transit Authority is rolling out a new campaign throughout stations and on subways, buses, and commuter railroad trains, to eliminate confusion for riders.
Digital signage will encourage riders who prefer wearing a mask to continue to do so; and free masks will continue to be available upon request at subway station booths as well as on commuter railroad trains.
GILLIBRAND TO CONGRESS: FUND HEALTHCARE WORKERS TARGETING COVID: Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on congressional leadership to include money for community health workers in any upcoming supplemental funding package targeting COVID-19 to tackle health care issues at the local level. The funds that Senator Gillibrand seeks would build on the $3 billion she secured in the American Rescue Plan based on her legislation – the Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act (Health Force).
The CDC has been using this funding to provide much-needed support to health workers treating COVID-19 and other patients at the ground level, including in New York, as well as helping with vaccine administration and connecting underserved communities with social and wraparound services.
VOICE OF GOWANUS FLAGS ENVIRONMENTAL FAILURES: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing the multiple compliance and enforcement failures that the advocacy group Voice of Gowanus flagged as violations of federal and State law, including the “Superfund” Act (CERCLA) and Clean Water Act. Among the key investigation subject areas: improper segmentation of the Gowanus Federal Superfund Listing, in which known sources of direct contamination to the Gowanus Canal and the surrounding neighborhood were illegally separated; a failure by the EPA and Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce the Federal Water Quality Standards; failure to comply with multiple Federal Administrative Orders on Sewage Backups that caused the serial flooding of Gowanus basements with raw sewage and contaminated water; EPA’s failure to legally compel NYC to construct sewage retention tanks in Gowanus.
The Voice of Gowanus also listed potential criminal violations of bribery, campaign finance, or other laws that may be affecting environmental protection decision-making in the Gowanus in favor of development and against human health and the environment.
BROOKLYN D.A. INITIATING MAJOR MASS EXONERATION: In one of the nation’s largest mass exonerations ever, Kings County District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’ Conviction Review Unit will be asking the Court to vacate and dismiss 47 felony convictions and 331 misdemeanor convictions that were directly based on the work of 13 former New York City Police Department officers who were later found guilty of crimes committed while on duty. While a review by Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit did not uncover misconduct the District Attorney has lost confidence in cases where these officers served as essential witnesses; that is, cases that could not have been prosecuted without them.
Gonzalez’s action — which begins with his request to State Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic to vacate the felonies today — marks the sixth largest mass dismissal of convictions in U.S. history, according to data collected by the National Registry of Exonerations.
LEGAL AID SOCIETY COMMENDS VACATING OF CONVICTIONS: The Legal Aid Society immediately commended Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for vacating more than 370 convictions where the purported evidence of guilt was obtained or produced by 13 discredited New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers. Elizabeth Felber, director of the Legal Aid Society’s Wrongful Conviction Unit, urges “DA Gonzalez and all of the other New York City District Attorneys to conduct these reviews in an ongoing basis and with full transparency, not just in response to public pressure, but as their duty to ‘do justice.”’
“Some individuals lost years of their lives serving prison sentences and many suffered collateral harm including housing instability, loss of employment, and severed access to critical services, all because of the words of these corrupt police officer,” wrote the group.
‘FAKE’ CONTRACTOR CHARGED WITH GRAND LARCENY: A Windsor Terrace couple wishing to renovate their home fell victim to a fraudulent contractor who today was charged with grand larceny for allegedly taking their $192,675 deposit. The couple hired the defendant, identified as Stephen Achille, 40, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey and his company, Red Bank Construction, LLC, to perform the renovation, but he failed to provide them a copy of the fully executed contract and a copy of his insurance documents, he became uncommunicative and never performed any work.
It is alleged that the defendant gave approximately $61,000 of the deposit to his mother on December 31, 2019, the day after he received it; and allegedly used the funds for child support payments, as well as personal expenses including at bars, restaurants, hotels and liquor stores in New Jersey and the Bahamas.
TEENS CAN APPLY FOR BRONFMAN FELLOWSHIPS: The Bronfman Fellowship is now accepting applications for the 37th cohort of this transformative program, in which 26 outstanding North American teenagers are selected to participate in a free, intellectually challenging year of programming. The fellowships, named for the late visionary Jewish philanthropist Edgar M. Bronfman, formerly CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd., begin with an immersive seminar that includes travel to Israel between the Fellows’ junior and senior years of high school, followed by monthly virtual experiences and two seminars in the U.S.
High school students in the United States and Canada who self-identify as Jewish and who will be in the 11th grade in the fall of 2022 are eligible to apply; prior Jewish education is not required. Applications (online at https://bronfman.org) for the 2023 Fellowship are due December 5, 2022.
SEPTEMBER 11 TRIBUTE AT MEMORIAL PIER IN BAY RIDGE: A 9/11 Community Vigil takes place this Sunday evening, September 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the American Veterans Memorial Pier on 69th St. and Shore Rd. in Bay Ridge. Presenting this tribute are NIA Community Services, City Councilmember Justin Brannan, State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Peter J. Abbate Jr., with sponsorship from Investors Bank and NYC Ferry.
INTERFAITH CLERGY GROUP HOSTS 9/11 PROMENADE SERVICE: The Brooklyn Heights Interfaith Clergy Association will sponsor its long-held September 11 tribute, Sunday evening at 7:15 p.m., on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, near the Montague St. entrance. Members of neighborhood congregations will attend this ceremony of readings and prayers.
The service has been held almost every year since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks; on occasion it was held indoors due to inclement weather.
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