What’s News, Breaking: Friday, January 20, 2023
TANDON RESEARCHERS: SOCIAL MEDIA’S TAKEDOWN OF HATE SPEECH FAILS TO HALT VIOLENT RHETORIC
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — An opinion piece by Professors Laura Edelson and Damon McCoy, who are part of Center for Cybersecurity at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and co-directors of NYU Cybersecurity for Democracy, was recently published in The Hill, which covers the intersection of government, politics and business. The authors discussed their recently-published research of Facebook’s content take-downs following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, in which they discovered that social media’s policy of removing content days after it’s been posted failed to halt the spread of messages that incite violence.
The Tandon researchers’ piece in The Hill was published in the wake of the recent insurrection in Brazil following that nation’s elections, and also by a far-right group.
TANDON ENGINEERING SCHOOL’S STEM PROGRAM
NURTURES YOUNG INVENTORS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The Jan. 17 birthday of Founding Father and polymath Benjamin Franklin, who at age 11 became the future nation’s first inventor, inspired Kid Inventors Day, on which the local CBS news affiliate broadcast a feature last year at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Tandon’s NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s K12 STEM Education Center, has been providing promising high schoolers with access to the university’s facilities and encouragement to explore their scientific patterns.
The CBS News segment featured a team of young women who invented a gun detection system – in response to the increase in school shootings, during a STEM lab program last summer.
APPELLATE COURT JUSTICE LASALLE RECEIVES
DISTINGUISHED JURIST AWARD FROM STATE BAR
BROOKLYN HTS./MANHATTAN — The Hon. Hector LaSalle, whose nomination to New York State’s highest court ended in a State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 18, concluded the week on a higher note as he was presented with the New York State Bar Association’s Distinguished Jurist Award on Friday. According to the New York Law Journal, New York Court of Claims Judge Joanna D. Quinones presented Judge LaSalle, who is currently the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division 2nd Department —whose courthouse is on Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights — with the State Bar’s prestigious award.
Judge LaSalle received a standing ovation during his acceptance speech at the NYS Bar lunch, held on Friday, Jan. 20, in Manhattan.
LATEST WALLETHUB REPORT: NEW YORKERS AREN’T QUITTERS
STATEWIDE — While workers around the U.S. are reportedly quitting their jobs at record rates during what is being called the “Great Resignation,” New York is bucking that trend. The latest report from WalletHub, released on Friday, Jan. 20, shows New York ranked lowest — at #51 — of the states in job-quitting, at 1.3%, and with the resignation rate within the past 12 months at only 1.8%.
The chart, which included the 50 states and District of Columbia indicated that six other Northeast Corridor states ranked 44 or below in job resignations, including Rhode Island (ranked #44), Connecticut (#46), Massachusetts (#47), the District of Columbia (#48), New Jersey (#49) and Pennsylvania (#50). By contrast, Alaska topped the list.
OPIOID TREATMENT CENTERS INVITED TO APPLY FOR
STATEWIDE — Grants that are the first to tap into New York State’s Opioid Settlement Fund will make available $7.5 million for state-certified providers and other treatment programs to establish low threshold buprenorphine services to address addiction and save lives, Governor Hochul announced on Jan. 20. The funds are part of more than $2 billion that New York received through various settlement agreements with opioid manufacturers, with a portion of the money going directly to municipalities. The grants, which the Office of Addiction Services and Supports administers, will help develop up to 15 programs offering this safe, effective treatment for opioid use disorder.
The same legislation that established the dedicated fund also created the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board, which is tasked with making recommendations on how settlement dollars should be allocated to best serve those in need.
UNDERHILL PLAZA’S GRAND OPENING
HAILED AS PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY
PROSPECT HTS. — The Grand Opening of Underhill Plaza, a new pedestrian plaza on Underhill Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, took place Saturday, Jan. 21, at noon. Underhill Plaza, which is adjacent to Lowry Triangle where Underhill and Washington avenues intersect, is the first permanent street improvement resulting from Prospect Heights’ Open Streets program. Joining the Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez was Borough President Antonio Reynoso, City Councilmember Crystal Hudson (D-35), whose district includes Prospect Heights; and community organizations.
The NYC Plaza Program is a collaborative project in which NYC DOT works with selected organizations to create neighborhood plazas to transform underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces.
BROOKLYN WRITER AND OWNER
OF ‘BOOKS ARE MAGIC’ FACES
CANCELLATIONS IN TEXAS
CLINTON HILL/BROOKLYN HTS. — Bestselling Brooklyn author and bookseller Emma Straub, who is touring her new children’s work, “Very Good Hats,” landed in Texas only to find out that two schools there had canceled her events — all because of parental complaints that she used profanity on social media. Straub, who is widely-known for her adult novels, including “The Vacationers” and “All Adults Here,” owns the “Books Are Magic” stores in Clinton Hill and on Brooklyn Heights’ famed Montague St.
Straub later wrote that Texas educators and parents might also object to her advocacy work for abortion rights, including an ongoing “Melt The Guns fundraiser for Everytown.”
POLICE SEARCH FOR APPLIANCE THIEVES IN BUSHWICK
BUSHWICK – Police are searching for two unidentified individuals in connection with a series of appliance thefts from residential buildings all around the Bushwick area that began in late December. Thus far, there have been five separate thefts reported, all of which follow a similar pattern – the thieves pry open the door to an apartment building during the daytime; enter covertly and remove refrigerators, washers and other large appliances before fleeing on foot.
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.
COUNCIL VOTES ON ‘SKIP THE STUFF’ BILL: NO MORE PLASTIC IN DELIVERY FOOD
CITYWIDE – The City Council on Thursday voted 43-7 in favor of the “Skip the Stuff” bill, which would ban restaurants and delivery services from including single-use items like plastic cutlery and sauce packets in food orders, unless customers specifically request them. The bill is designed to reduce plastic waste products while also reducing the burden on small businesses, who may feel pressured to provide those products unnecessarily.
The bill “will put money back into the pockets of our small businesses while also minimizing our city’s carbon footprint and make New York a more sustainable city,” said Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, sponsor of the legislation.
SOMETHING FISHY AT BKLYN MARKET: STATE CONFISCATES TINY LOBSTERS
BROOKLYN – The state Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a surprise inspection of a Brooklyn grocery store in December, discovering a whopping 245 lobsters below legal size hidden in the store’s basement, along with 141 untagged oysters. The fishy seafood was confiscated, and the lobsters were ultimately donated to a food pantry by the officers.
“DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators work hard each day to serve their communities, protect our precious natural resources, and safeguard public health, while ensuring those who break the state’s stringent Environmental Conservation Laws are held accountable,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.
CITY TO EXPAND FINANCIAL SERVICES AT CAREER CENTERS
CITYWIDE – Mayor Eric Adams, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga and Department of Small Business Services commissioner Kevin D. Kim on Thursday announced an expansion of one-on-one financial counseling services at the city’s five main Workforce1 Career Center Hubs, in order to provide a one-stop-shop for New Yorkers to access free, professional and confidential financial counseling, along with job readiness services and connections to workforce development training. “The addition of critical free services like financial planning and credit management will help our customers blaze a path toward long-term economic independence that includes strong life savings and credit profiles,” said Kim.
To get connected to Workforce1 Career Centers, New Yorkers can dial 311 and say “Workforce1” or book an appointment online for financial counseling services, available in person or by phone and in multiple languages.
FIRE COMMISSIONER TO MAKE MAJOR APPOINTMENTS
Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, who in October became the first-ever female commissioner of the FDNY, will appoint Chief Michael Fields as Chief of EMS Operations and Luis Martinez as Chief of Staff on Friday, Jan. 20. Fields, a 28-year veteran who joined FDNY EMS in 1994, will now oversee the fire department’s emergency medical services personnel and operations; and Martinez, an 18-year member of the police department who most recently served as a senior policy advisor to the police commissioner in the office of Strategic Initiatives, will oversee a variety of public-facing offices within the FDNY and provide strategic guidance.
The ceremony will take place on Friday, Jan. 20, at 9:30 a.m., at FDNY Headquarters, 9 Metrotech Center in the Auditorium, and will be streamed on FDNY’s website.
BROOKLYN DOMINATES HOTTEST REAL ESTATE MARKET LIST
CARROLL GARDENS – Brooklyn neighborhoods dominated StreetEasy’s year-end list of the city’s hottest markets for sellers, taking eight out of the top ten spots, with two Queens areas rounding out the list. Carroll Gardens came in first, with fully 50 percent of listings in 2023 selling above asking price, closely followed by Park Slope and Boerum Hill.
StreetEasy believes that low inventory across the city will continue to keep prices high in these neighborhoods, even as sales volumes start to dip in 2023.
REPORT SHOWS BROOKLYN YOUTH STRUGGLING
BROOKLYN – The Citizens’ Committee for Children on Tuesday released a report on its website showing Kings County ranking second in New York state in having barriers to child and family well-being on its composite index of markers of prosperity, meaning that Brooklyn kids are far more likely than the average New York child to struggle to thrive. The index, which compares stats like income levels, education levels and health care access levels, reveals Brooklyn underperforming compared to other counties, although trends show improvement across most of the categories.
The CCC also urged Governor Hochul to implement a variety of new legislation designed to improve child welfare across the state, much of it targeted towards raising the living standards of families.
FREESTYLE DANCE-OFF COMES TO DUMBO
DUMBO – The ‘FreeStyle is the Key Style’ national dance competition will be landing in DUMBO this Saturday, featuring eight finalists battling it out against eight invited dancers from around the country in a variety of dance genres. Attendees will also get to witness a special standoff between top break dancers in a “Mid-West vs. East Coast” showdown.
Doors open for the 21-and-up event, sponsored by streetwear retailer SNIPES, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21 at 26 Bridge, and attendance is free to guests who RSVP on the SNIPES website
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIR: STATE SENATE WAS ‘WITHIN ITS POWERS’ TO REJECT CHIEF JUDGE NOMINATION
STATEWIDE — Calling Wednesday’s State Senate confirmation hearing for Chief Judge nominee Hector LaSalle “thorough” and “fair,” State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chairman of that body’s Judiciary Committee, told NY1 News anchor Pat Kiernan that “Questions were raised and left unanswered.” Although Judge LaSalle held his ground on having to rule on his interpretation of the law as written, Hoylman-Sigal found many of the responses troubling. “I think it’s clear in the Constitution that the state Senate is within its powers – as is the state Assembly – to set its own rules on how we proceed with both legislation and nominations and we use a committee process, and that’s what we did yesterday,” he said. “The nominee was rejected, and the full Senate has, as a result, spoken.”
Hoylman said he hopes that Governor Kathy Hochul – a Democrat — selects a new nominee that will appeal to a cross section of Democrats.
ALEC BALDWIN CHARGED WITH INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER
NATIONAL — Oscar-nominee Alec Baldwin has been charged with involuntary manslaughter — in the accidental, but fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a film set in New Mexico, according to several news reports. Baldwin, who grew up in Nassau County and whose namesake father was from Brooklyn, was rehearsing with a prop gun – not knowing it was loaded – when it fired, also wounding Joel Souza.
Involuntary manslaughter is often defined as the unintended death of another person due to criminal negligence or impairment.
PROSPECT PARK ALLIANCE’S REIMAGINE PROJECT EARNS $275K GRANT
PROSPECT PARK — The Prospect Park Alliance has received a prestigious $275,000 Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation to advance its ReImagine Lefferts initiative. ReImagine Lefferts aims to re-envision the mission and programming at the park’s historic house museum, recognizing its role as a site of dispossession and enslavement, and to explore the stories of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking whose unceded ancestral lands the house rests upon and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family.
The Alliance, which is the nonprofit arm that sustains this beloved Brooklyn park in partnership with the City, will engage the public around this initiative with a Community Conversation on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, from 1-4 p.m., at the Prospect Park Boathouse. (RSVP and more info for this free event at Eventbrite.)
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES UTILITY-DEBT FORGIVENESS PROGRAM
STATEWIDE — Help is on the way for 478,000 residential customers and 56,000 small businesses in New York State who are in danger of having their utilities shut off, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Thursday, Jan. 19. The aid, which the New York State Public Service Commission approved on Jan. 19, is the largest utility customer financial assistance program in state history and follows a series of policies announced last week to address energy affordability and emissions reductions as part of Governor Hochul’s State of the State address.
The approved debt-forgiveness program, which gives one-time credits to all residents who don’t qualify for low-income assistance, and to small-commercial customers, through May 1, will help avert a widespread statewide termination of service.
BILLS AIM TO CLOSE LOOPHOLE IN LOBBYING RULES
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — City Councilmember Lincoln Restler (D-33rd C.D.) was set on Thursday, Jan. 19, to introduce a package of legislation, with co-sponsorship from several Brooklyn colleagues, to close the loophole in lobbying rules for city employees. The first bill would significantly expand the existing post-employment restrictions for senior government officials, including agency heads and senior staff from the Mayor’s Office and City Council, who would be banned from appearing before any city agency for two years. The second bill in the anti-corruption package would create a two-year ban on elected officials appearing before city government in any capacity.
Brooklyn Councilmembers co-sponsoring the package include Julie Won, Jennifer Gutiérrez (D-34/northern Brooklyn), Kalman Yeger (D-44/Bensonhurst to Midwood), Chi Ossé (D-36), Alexa Avilés (D-38/several neighborhoods) and Shahana Hanif (D-39/Cobble Hill to Kensington), and others from Queens, Manhattan.
$44.2M AWARDED TO HOUSING PROJECT, WITH APARTMENTS RESERVED FOR HOMELESS
EAST NEW YORK — Brooklyn’s East New York section will be getting additional affordable housing, as $44.2 million has been awarded for the Shepherd Glenmore development, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Jan. 19. The seven-story building will offer 123 affordable homes with 74 apartments reserved for individuals experiencing homelessness due to criminal-justice involvement, substance-use disorders, or mental illness. The financing is made possible through New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s October and December 2022 bond issuances, with funding also through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Clean Energy Initiative.
Altogether, more than $390 million has been awarded through bonds and subsidies to create or preserve more than 1,600 affordable, sustainable, and supportive homes across the state.
COMMUNITY BOARD 7 AREA DESIGNATED AS A BANKING DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT
SUNSET PARK/WINDSOR TERRACE — Brooklyn Community District 7 (CD 7), covering the neighborhoods of Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace, has been approved to become a Banking Development District, State Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris announced on Thursday, Jan. 19, continuing New York State’s efforts to expand and retain access to affordable financial services. DFS administers the Banking Development District Program, a public/private collaboration among DFS, local communities, and financial institutions that support the establishment of bank and credit union branches in areas where there is a demonstrated need for banking services.
Moreover, Superintendent Harris approved Popular Bank’s Sunset Park Branch as a BDD branch, which has committed to a series of community lending and financial education initiatives that will foster financial empowerment and inclusion in the community.
NO CHARGES AGAINST POLICE WHO HIT CYCLIST WHILE RESPONDING TO EMERGENCY
WILLIAMSBURG — Criminal charges are not warranted against a police squad who in July 2020 struck and killed a motorcyclist in Williamsburg, State Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation has determined. Two officers responding to a shooting in Williamsburg, and who had their lights and sirens activated, had run a red light as law permits them to do when responding to emergencies. The police car had slowed down but hit the motorcyclist, who was thrown from his bike and died the next morning.
After the investigation, which included review of security camera videos, radio transmissions, eyewitness accounts, and crash reconstruction analysis, OSI concluded that criminal charges against the officers are not warranted in this case.
DEPT. OF CORRECTION BLOCKS BOARD FROM JAIL FOOTAGE
CITYWIDE — Public officials and advocacy groups reacted with outrage on Wednesday as the Department of Correction, led by the Adams administration, moved to block the NYC Board of Correction from retaining footage taken from security cameras in city jails, which City Council speaker Adrienne Adams and councilmember Carlina Rivera described as a “legally dubious” move that undermined safety for New Yorkers. Gothamist reports that, while members of the board which is supposed to be a watchdog for the corrections system will still be able to view some footage upon request at selected locations, the city will no longer provide unfettered access to the camera recordings, which could impede the process of investigating deaths and violence in the city’s detention facilities, as well as reduce public awareness of such events.
“Viewing real-time video footage from the jails allows [the Board of Correction] to immediately dispatch field staff to address situations like impending riots, to investigate deaths in custody, and to monitor the conditions in the jails. The Mayor’s ham-fisted move serves no purpose except to hide the violence, chaos and mismanagement that pervades his jails and endangers our incarcerated clients every day,” said the Legal Aid Society in a press statement.
CITY’S FIRST ELECTRIC SKYSCRAPER TOPS OUT IN DOWNTOWN BKLYN
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Alloy Development on Wednesday announced the topping out of the 44-story 100 Flatbush, the city’s first all-electric skyscraper, which will include 441 mixed-income residences and 30,000 square feet of retail space when completed in 2024. All functions within 100 Flatbush typically run by natural gas will run on electricity instead, with residential units featuring induction cooktops and heat pump dryers; as well as base-building systems like hot water heating and HVAC for the overall structure being completely electric, eliminating carbon emissions and helping to ensure that the building is carbon neutral upon completion.
The building is aligned with the standards of the “passive house” sustainability movement, of which Brooklyn is at the forefront.
BROOKLYN MUSEUM CURATOR WINS FASHION AWARD
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Matthew Yokobosky, the Brooklyn Museum’s senior curator of fashion and material culture, was honored on Tuesday night with the Markopoulos Award, a prestigious prize granted to individuals who advance the field of visual merchandising, reports Women’s Wear Daily. Named after late retail executive Andrew Markopoulos, the award reflects Yokobosky’s decades of work in creating immersive exhibitions at the museum.
The curator’s current exhibition on the work of designer Thierry Mugler is on show at the Brooklyn Museum until May 7.
COATS GIVEN TO BKLYN KIDS BY OPERATION WARM AND NETS’ SIMMONS
GOWANUS — Brooklyn Nets player Ben Simmons partnered with Operation Warm to gift new winter coats to more than 2,600 children through his annual Ben Simmons Coat Giveback, which took place this year on Friday, Jan. 13, at P.S. 124 in Gowanus. “A new coat creates an opportunity to empower a young person by giving them confidence, offering them warmth and helping students attend school and play with their friends,” said Simmons, who surprised the happy children at the event.
Since Simmons first partnered with Operation Warm, a national nonprofit that manufactures new, high-quality coats and shoes for children in need, for the first Ben Simmons Coat Giveback event in 2017, he has helped provide more than 7,800 new coats for kids, all distributed through elementary schools and nonprofits that support underserved communities.
DOE FUND SECURES FINANCING FOR NEW TRANSITIONAL RESIDENCE
BED-STUY — The Doe Fund, a homeless services organization, on Wednesday announced it had closed on construction financing for its latest transitional residence at 510 Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, adjacent to an existing residential facility owned and operated by the group since 1990. When completed, the residence will provide 200 beds to men experiencing homelessness, who will have the opportunity to voluntarily participate in The Doe Fund’s nine-to-twelve-month Ready, Willing & Able program.
“Gates Avenue is where it all began for us — where we first proved to the world that when given the opportunity to work and earn a living, people experiencing homelessness would seize it. Since then, nearly 30,000 men have been given the gift of opportunity and the chance to transform their lives at our transitional residences through Ready, Willing & Able.” said John McDonald, interim president of The Doe Fund.
GOLDMAN HOLDS SWEARING-IN CEREMONY AT BROOKLYN HIGH SCHOOL
BOERUM HILL — Newly elected Congressmember Dan Goldman (NY-10) on Wednesday held an in-district swearing-in ceremony at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts, led by Senator Chuck Schumer and attended by a host of Brooklyn politicians. Goldman at the ceremony spoke out against the actions of Congressional Republicans and vowed to represent the interests of his constituents while also fighting the conservative agenda in Washington.
“I’m going to pledge to you to be a zealous advocate in Washington. But I need a promise from everyone in this room, and everyone else who may see this as well: we need everyone to engage a little bit more. To do one more small thing beyond what you might otherwise do in your daily lives. To help a neighbor, to help your community. To help the city. To help our democracy,” said Goldman in a speech.
NYCHA RESIDENTS APPOINTED TO HOUSING AUTHORITY BOARD
WILLIAMSBURG — Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday appointed James McKoy of Brooklyn’s Williams Plaza and Raymond Miller of Manhattan’s Johnson Houses to the seven-seat New York City Housing Authority board. “NYCHA residents know better than anyone what is needed to fix their homes, which is why they play such a critical role on the NYCHA board,” said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz of the appointment in a press statement.
“I am eager to continue my advocacy for the NYCHA community as a NYCHA board member. As a representative for NYCHA residents, my commitment is to ensure that their needs and requests are met. People need to know that you hear them and, most importantly, that you understand,” said McKoy, who has served as a member of the Williams Plaza Resident Association since 2011.
INDICTMENT UNSEALED AGAINST MORTGAGE SCAMMER
BROOKLYN — An eight-count indictment was unsealed Wednesday, Jan. 18, in federal court in Brooklyn charging Marat Lerner, president of the Lerner Group, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme to steal from clients of his mortgage loan modification business. Lerner allegedly used his access to clients’ banking information to create checks that appeared to be monthly mortgage payments to a fake escrow agent secretly controlled by himself, while in actuality depositing the checks in his own bank account, in total misappropriating at least $550,000 from his clients.
“The defendant, as we alleged, funded his own lavish lifestyle by operating a lengthy scam exploiting his victims’ trust and fears in order to steal their money rather than fulfill his promise to modify their mortgages,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll, who urged any other potential victims to contact the FBI for assistance.
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