What’s News, Breaking: Friday, January 6, 2023
CONVICTION IN RIKERS ISLAND DRUG SMUGGLING CASE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – A federal jury in Brooklyn on Friday convicted James Albert of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances while incarcerated on Riker’s Island, as part of a scheme to bribe correction officers to smuggle illegal drugs and other contraband into the jail for sale to other inmates. As proven at trial, while he was incarcerated at the George R. Vierno Center between February and June 2019, Albert orchestrated a scheme to bribe at least two officers, and enlisted his wife — a co-defendant — to bring marijuana, suboxone strips and other contraband into GRVC for sale and distribution to other inmates.
The verdict followed a four-day trial before United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly. When sentenced, Albert faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
SURROGATE COURT JUDGE REGAINS HER KEYS AMID LAWSUIT AND INVESTIGATION
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Embattled Brooklyn Surrogate Court Judge Harriet Thompson had her courthouse keys returned to her in the midst of an ethics investigation over comments she allegedly made against gay persons, according to the New York Law Journal and The City. Judge Thompson’s caseload, however, remains reassigned to other active Surrogate Court judges.
Judge Thompson has also filed a lawsuit against court administrators for what she claims was “a retaliatory suspension as a result of protected activity” after she blew the whistle on what she asserts was “unlawful conduct by the public administrator.”
RECENT PEDESTRIAN DEATHS CHALLENGE CITY’S FIGURES SHOWING DECLINE
BAY RIDGE AND CANARSIE – Although New York City experienced a decline in traffic fatalities for the first time since 2019, with the fewest annual pedestrian deaths recorded in history, according to DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez’s announcement on Friday, two recent pedestrian deaths would seem to contradict this trend. Amidst a nationwide increase in traffic fatalities, New York City’s overall traffic fatalities reportedly fell in 2022 by 6.6 percent, with pedestrian fatalities decreasing by 6.3 percent, also defying national trends.
However, these statistics offer little comfort to the families of Brooklynites who died in traffic fatalities last month alone; particularly, two elderly pedestrians who were struck and killed on December 22 in Bay Ridge and December 29 in Canarsie.
CHIP CHIP HOORAY: PROSPECT PARK CELEBRATES MULCHFEST
PROSPECT PARK – This weekend offers Brooklynites their last chance to drop off their holiday trees and witness them being transformed into mulch that they can bring home. The Mulchfest in Brooklyn is held at Prospect Park’s entrance at Prospect Park West and Third Street, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday, January 7 and 8.
For more than 20 years, Parks and the NYC Department of Sanitation have collected and mulched trees to help planting beds and community gardens around the city grow. Mulch maintains the health of our trees and plants citywide by deterring weeds, retaining moisture, preventing compaction, adding nutrients to the soil and keeping roots warm.
DRUG TRAFFICKING GROUP ARRAIGNED HERE FOR COCAINE CONSPIRACY
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Members of a drug trafficking organization from Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island, are scheduled to be arraigned in Brooklyn federal court today on international cocaine distribution conspiracy and related cocaine importation charges. The defendants’ drug trafficking organization allegedly imported over one hundred kilograms of cocaine into the United States using corrupt foreign and domestic airport employees to bypass security and customs.
The United States submitted requests for provisional arrests of the defendants, who on Thursday were extradited from Curacao based on the warrants issued in the Eastern District of New York.
STATE COMPTROLLER ASKS CORPORATIONS TO REPORT THEIR POLITICAL-CAUSE SPENDING
STATEWIDE – State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, on the second anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attacks against the U.S. Capitol, has filed shareholder proposals calling on seven corporations in the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s portfolio to disclose their direct and indirect spending on political causes. The proposals sent to Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., Zillow Group, Zoom Video Communications, Caesars Entertainment, Match Group, Penn Entertainment and SoFi Technologies ask the companies to publicly report monetary and nonmonetary contributions and expenditures to any campaign for — or against — a candidate, or to influence public opinion on an election or referendum.
Two additional proposals that DiNapoli sent to The Coca-Cola Company and Travelers Companies ask these corporations to adopt policies requiring trade associations, or other third-party groups receiving money for political activities to report how the funds are being used.
SEARCH FOR MISSING BOY IN BATH BEACH
BATH BEACH – Police are searching for 12-year-old Esteban Rivera, who left his house on the morning of Jan. 5 and has not been seen since. Esteban is described as 5’2″ and 120 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair, and was last seen wearing a navy blue uniform shirt and pants and black sneakers.
Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782); or, log onto the Crime Stoppers website or Tweet @NYPDTips.
NEW COVID VARIANT SLAMS NYC, HEALTH OFFICIALS WARN
CITYWIDE – Health officials are warning that a new COVID variant may be the most transmissible yet, raising concerns as the city prepares for a possible nurse strike in the coming days. NBC reports that while hospitalizations for the coronavirus are down overall, the rapidity with which the virus has spread through the Northeast is a sign that it has the potential to mutate into something much more dangerous.
“As we continue to welcome the new year, I urge everyone to remain vigilant and continue to use all available tools to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe and healthy,” said Governor Hochul in a recent COVID update, reminding New Yorkers to stay up to date on boosters and vaccines by visiting vaccines.gov or contacting their local pharmacy or health department to find a provider.
CITY GREENERY ABSORBS MORE CARBON THAN THOUGHT: COLUMBIA STUDY
PROSPECT HEIGHTS – A just-published Columbia University study of vegetation across the NYC area has found, to the surprise of researchers, that on many summer days, photosynthesis by trees and grasses absorbs all the carbon emissions produced by city vehicles, and even sometimes surpasses them. While previous studies have focused mainly on the ten percent of the metro area covered in forest and grassland, lead researcher Dandan Wei and her colleagues used newly available aerial radar imagery, that mapped vegetation in unprecedented six-inch grids, to include developed areas — the other 90 percent of the region, left out in most models, showed individual street trees, little backyard gardens, overgrown vacant lots and other small features.
“There is a lot more greenery than we thought, and that’s what drives our conclusion. This tells us that the ecosystem matters in New York City, and if it matters here, it probably matters everywhere else,” said Wei.
BARNES & NOBLE MOVING TO ATLANTIC
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS – The Barnes & Noble bookstore on Court Street will be moving a few blocks away to a currently-vacant space on Atlantic Avenue, next to the Trader Joe’s, on January 18, according to signs posted in the window of the store. The move is part of a nationwide shakeup for the bookseller, which is also opening another 15 new storefronts across the country.
The Atlantic store space was last occupied by an outpost of luxury clothing retailer Barney’s New York, which closed its doors in 2019 after the company filed for bankruptcy.
URGENT ALERT FOR MISSING GIRL
BROOKLYN – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has put out an urgent alert on Twitter for missing girl Destiny Scott, 13, who was last seen in Pleasantville, NY on December 27. The Center believes that Destiny, who is described as 5’1 and 100 pounds, with dark skin, brown hair and brown eyes, might be in either Brooklyn or the Pleasantville area.
The Center urges anyone who may know where Destiny is to call 1-800-THE-LOST or to contact local authorities for help.
SLIWA STAGES CAT EVENT AT ADAMS’ HOUSE AS RAT CZAR SEARCH GOES ON
BED-STUY – Former mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa staged a press conference on Wednesday in front of a Brooklyn brownstone owned by Eric Adams that has been ticketed for a rodent infestation, after Adams responded to Sliwa’s possibly facetious application for the “rat czar” position by saying that the Republican was welcome to the job, as long as he didn’t mind working as an unpaid intern. The Post reports that Sliwa brought two cats with him to the conference, where he advanced the idea that a colony of cats could solve Adams’ rat problem, as well as that of the city overall.
Sliwa, the notorious founder of the Guardian Angels and the Republican candidate for mayor in the last election, is known to be an animal lover, owning/fostering 16 cats with his wife and managing multiple colonies of feral cats.
CITY TO OFFER FREE PHONES, SERVICE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVORS
CITYWIDE – The mayor’s office announced on Thursday that it has expanded its partnership with T-Mobile and will use its Assurance Wireless program to offer free phones and service to victims of domestic and gender-based violence at NYC’s five Family Justice Centers. The Assurance Wireless program combines federal Lifeline Assistance and Affordable Connectivity Program benefits to offer free unlimited data, talk and text, as well as free 10GB mobile hotspot data every month, plus a free smartphone to eligible recipients. Phones and network plans can be obtained at the Family Justice Centers.
Interested participants can access these services starting January 5 at Family Justice Centers around NYC, including the Brooklyn NYC Family Justice Center, which can be reached at 718-250-5113.
MAN MURDERED IN SHEEPSHEAD BAY
SHEEPSHEAD BAY – On the night of January 5, police responded to a report of a male assaulted at a liquor store in Sheepshead Bay, where officers discovered a 32-year-old male with trauma to the head and gunshot wounds to the torso. EMS transported the man to the nearest hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, while another man was taken into custody at the scene.
The identity of the deceased is pending family notification.
ICE RINK TO OPEN AT METROTECH
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – The Rink at Brooklyn Commons Park (formerly known as MetroTech) is back again this year, and is sure to delight skaters of all skill levels. The 5,000-square-foot rink will be open daily afternoons until February 26.
Admission to the public is $15 per session, with $8 skate rentals and $20 skating aid rentals. More information about hours and locations can be found on the website of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
MAIMONIDES MEDICAL CENTER AND NURSES REACH TENTATIVE LABOR AGREEMENT TO AVERT STRIKE
BOROUGH PARK – Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park has reached a tentative contract agreement with the New York State Nurses Association to avoid a labor strike. The two parties released a joint statement today heralding the tentative agreement, which stands to benefit more than 1,300 nurses: it improves staffing ratios in several units while ensuring a near-universal ratio-based staffing plan hospital-wide, adds additional nursing positions, improves the staffing enforcement and dispute resolution process, increases nurse wages by more than 19 percent compounded over 3 years and preserves the NYSNA health benefits with no increased cost to employees.
The New York State Nursing Association was scheduled to hold a press briefing on Thursday and will vote on Friday to ratify the contract, with the NYSNA bargaining committee at Maimonides recommending that members vote yes.
JOINT STATEMENT FROM MAIMONIDES ON AGREEMENT
BOROUGH PARK – Maimonides Health CEO Ken Gibbs and NYSNA President Nancy Hagans RN, BSN, CCRN on Thursday, January 5 issued a joint statement announcing the tentative agreement with the New York State Nurses Association. “We are pleased to reach a tentative agreement that recognizes the essential contributions of our indispensable nursing staff. We believe this agreement is fair and respects the needs of all parties while also helping us better serve our patients,” they said.
The NYSNA will be holding a short briefing to provide an update on contract negotiations at other hospitals where nurses will strike beginning January 9 unless tentative contract agreements can also be reached, with negotiations continuing at BronxCare Health System, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, Montefiore Bronx, Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai Morningside and West.
AS CONGRESS WRANGLES, REP. JEFFRIES OF BROOKLYN HOLDS FIRM WITH 212 VOTES
NATIONWIDE – The House of Representatives’ Democratic Leadership weekly press conference, scheduled for Thursday morning, January 5, becomes all the more significant, given the current fracas within the GOP and its inability to select the next Speaker of the House during the 118th Congress’ first two days in session. While the election of a Speaker is the very first required order of business, an adamant group of hardline conservatives, as of press time on Wednesday, had blocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s accession to the gavel after six votes.
By contrast, the Democrat members of Congress have stood united for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-8) of Brooklyn, who currently has garnered the most votes — at 212 — of anyone vying thus far for Speaker.
PUBLIC COMMENT OPENS FOR PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO LOADING ZONE RULES
CITYWIDE – A public hearing is scheduled for next month on an NYC Department of Transportation (“DOT”) amendment proposal to Section 4-08 of the Traffic Rules to establish loading zone regulations, with regard to signage, according to a dispatch from Brooklyn Community Board 1 serving North Brooklyn. Members of the public may access and participate in this hearing online or by telephone. The public may also submit comments to DOT in advance through the NYC rules website. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, February 7.
A rule is a standard or requirement set by a City agency that affects members of the public. City agencies wanting to create or amend rules must follow the process required in the City Administrative Procedure Act. The public is permitted to comment on proposed rules to influence how they are finally drafted.
MLK DAY OF SERVICE TO HELP NEWLY-ARRIVED UKRAINIAN FAMILIES
BRIGHTON BEACH – The Shorefront YMHA-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach will mark the annual MLK Day of Service by helping distribute educational supplies and resources to Ukrainian families who are new to the community. That afternoon, the Shorefront Y will host a carnival for the newly-arrived families. Teens can also earn school-required volunteer hours by participating in this outreach on Monday, January 16. As space is limited, prospective volunteers should contact the Shorefront Y to register for this event.
Brighton Beach has long been an enclave for Ukrainian and Russian immigrants.
REP.-ELECT MALLIOTAKIS VOTING CONSISTENTLY FOR McCARTHY TO BECOME HOUSE SPEAKER
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 5 was taking an eighth vote to elect and seat a new Speaker, a task that must be completed before any member of Congress — new or returning — can be sworn in or conduct any business, including for national security. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who has thus far lost seven rounds of voting since Tuesday, has offered new concessions to a group of ultra-conservatives, including provisions that would weaken the very role he seeks. One of those concessions would empower a single member of the House — if he or she chose — to begin a motion to remove the Speaker.
Brooklyn’s one Republican Congressmember, Rep.-elect Nicole Malliotakis (R-11), is on record for voting for Kevin McCarthy each of the first seven votes, according to an interactive chart from the New York Times. Though former President Donald Trump is now a contender, so far only Rep-elect Matt Gaetz of Florida has voted for him to be Speaker.
PACT PROGRAM DELIVERS NYCHA RESIDENTS $7.2 BILLION IN BUILDING UPGRADES
CITYWIDE – The PACT program is on track to improve living conditions for 76,000 NYCHA residents and to deliver $7.2 billion in building upgrades, Mayor Adams and leaders from NYCHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Thursday, January 5. Overall, 36,103 apartments across 137 NYCHA developments have been renovated, are under construction or are in the community planning and design process under NYCHA’s Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) program. Once complete, these renovations will improve quality of life for more than 76,000 NYCHA residents and address $7.2 billion in capital needs through building upgrades.
The PACT program transitions developments from traditional public housing assistance to the more stable, federally funded Project-Based Section 8 program — unlocking funding for designated PACT partners to complete comprehensive repairs.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON JOINS COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY FACULTY
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for President and former U.S. Secretary of State, is joining the faculty of Columbia University, according to an announcement published by the Ivy League school and reported in the Daily News on Thursday, January 5. Clinton, whose Presidential campaign headquarters were in Brooklyn Heights, will hold two appointments: as a professor of practice at the School of International and Public Affairs and as a presidential fellow at Columbia World Projects.
Columbia announced that Clinton, who also served as U.S. Senator from New York from 2001-2009, will “also help lead a major SIPA effort to convene outstanding policy thinkers from around the world to develop innovative policy solutions, as part of the university’s ‘Fourth Purpose’ initiative.”
MIDWOOD MAN CHARGED WITH THEFT OF CHECKS AND IDENTITIES
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – An arrest has been made in connection with checks stolen from Brooklynites and local charities, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the United States Postal Inspection Service announced on Thursday, January 5. Gennady Galker, a 40-year-old Midwood man, is accused of allegedly stealing checks from Brooklynites and using a stolen identity to further his scheme, and of thefts totaling $31,149, including a $1,148 check from DiNapoli’s Office of Unclaimed Funds and various checks from the Jewish Communal Fund intended for area charities.
Galker, who withdrew cash immediately after depositing the stolen checks and allegedly spent the money on purchases from Amazon and Door Dash among other personal expenses, was charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument and identity theft in the first degree, appearing before Judge Danny Chun, Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term.
CASINO FOR CONEY? CITY ASKS FOR BIDS
CONEY ISLAND – A full-scale casino could be coming to Coney Island, reports Gothamist, after city officials voted on Friday to solicit applications for three casino licenses, each of which would be going for a whopping $500 million, with the applications alone costing $1 million to submit. The group responsible for the Coney Island proposal, comprised of Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation and Legends, released a statement immediately after the vote, saying “We look forward to submitting our bid and setting a new standard in economic revitalization and resiliency for New York.”
Other potential locations considered by different operators include Times Square, Hudson Yards and Citi Field.
SUBWAY FLASHER CAUGHT
CITYWIDE – The serial flasher who has been terrorizing female subway riders since the summer has been nabbed, say police, who announced that Jose Lopez of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania has been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation. Lopez is charged with five counts of public lewdness stemming from a series of flashing incidents, most of which took place aboard Brooklyn subways.
The arrest comes after the flasher stalked one woman, harassing her and then lurking in her station until she returned some hours later, at which time she used her phone to film him as he fled.
COMMUNITY BOARD APPLICATIONS OPEN TO PUBLIC
BROOKLYN – Brooklyn’s 18 community boards are searching for new members, and applications are now open online to interested residents ages 16 and up who want to get more involved in neighborhood affairs. Registration information and forms can be found online on the website of the Brooklyn Borough President, and applications are open until February 14.
Community boards are responsible for a broad array of local concerns, and have “the ability to deliver city services, manage a budget, and have oversight in land use and zoning issues.”
MTA TOWN HALL ON NEW ENTRANCE FOR YORK ST. SUBWAY
DUMBO – The MTA will be holding a virtual town hall meeting, which can be registered for online, in order to address a long-standing community desire for a potential second entrance and other adjustments to the York Street F train station, on Monday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. Neighborhood residents and commuters have been asking for upgrades to the station as ridership has increased dramatically thanks to Dumbo’s popularity as a destination soaring over the last two decades.
The MTA has in the past been leery of delivering the proposed second entrance, claiming at a Community Board 2 meeting in June of 2022 that it could cost more than $400 million for a full entrance and more than $200 million to install a simple elevator.
HOCHUL SIGNS ORGAN DONOR SUPPORT BILL
ALBANY – Governor Hochul on December 29 signed legislation intended to support living kidney and liver donors, establishing a program to cover and reimburse extra costs associated with organ donation for state residents who are making the gift of life to a fellow New Yorker. It works to eliminate financial barriers for those people to reduce wait times for organ transplants and address the organ shortage in New York, which is among the worst-affected states in the nation, with 7,234 residents currently on the waiting list for a kidney.
“With expanded assistance for those inspired to become organ donors, I am confident this new law will help more New Yorkers give and receive the gift of life,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, the bill’s sponsor.
HOMECREST STORE BURGLARIZED BY MEN WITH FAKE GUN
HOMECREST – Three individuals robbed a store in Homecrest on Monday, January 2, using a simulated firearm to intimidate a clerk before going behind the counter and removing $2,000 from the store’s register. The robbers then fled on foot, say police, who have released photos of the suspects in an effort to identify them.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782); or, log onto the Crime Stoppers website or Tweet @NYPDTips.
COMMUNITY BOARD 14 TO HOLD TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE MEETING
FLATBUSH – Community Board 14 will be holding a meeting of its Transportation Committee on Thursday, January 5, at 6:30 p.m. on Webex. Topics to be discussed include a preliminary plan to install bus lanes on Flatbush Avenue and an update on the Kings Highway capital project.
Attendees can watch the meeting on YouTube, or email [email protected] for a Webex invite.
GRANTS FOR BROOKLYN ORGS: REEL STORIES, ST. NICKS ALLIANCE
BROOKLYN – Governor Kathy Hochul announced on December 28 that the new NY State Office of Strategic Workforce Development has for the first time awarded more than $6 million in grants to eight projects across the state, including a $1.25 million Capital Grant Award to St. Nicks Alliance in Williamsburg and $453,959 to Reel Stories Teen Filmmaking. St. Nicks will use the money to help relocate and build new facilities for a tech work training center, while Reel Stories will provide film industry training for youths with local unions.
“Our new Office of Strategic Workforce Development will help reduce barriers to training and employment while supporting businesses with their workforce needs. This funding is just the beginning of our investment in developing a strong and diverse workforce for decades to come,” said Hochul, who established the office in April of 2022.
SHAMPA CHANDA, SALVATORE SCIBETTA TO LEAD BSA
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Mayor Eric Adams on Friday, December 30, designated Shampa Chanda as chair of the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals and Salvatore Scibetta as vice chair. Chanda and Scibetta are both current commissioners with extensive experience in land use, planning and zoning at the BSA, which is an integral part of the city’s system for regulating land use, development and construction, and was established as an independent board to grant “relief” from the zoning code.
“I am a firm believer that New York City is the greatest city in the world, and I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to uphold that benchmark of excellence,” said Scibetta, a Brooklyn Law School grad who serves as president of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn and is a member of both the Brooklyn Bar Association and the Richmond County Bar Association.
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