What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
JURY CONVICTS EAST NEW YORK GANG MEMBER FOR DRUG DEALING AND FRAUD
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — News broke late Wednesday, Feb. 1, that a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Quandel Smothers on both counts of an indictment charging him with racketeering conspiracy and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. These charges are in connection with his leadership of the East New York- based Elite Assassin Millas (E.A.M.), a set of the Bloods street gang. As proven at trial, E.A.M. operated primarily in East New York, which the gang referred to as “Gun Town,” and they profited through fraud and narcotics dealing, particularly the sale of crack cocaine and marijuana.
Six other members and associates of E.A.M. previously pleaded guilty after being charged in June 2020. When sentenced, defendant Smothers faces a maximum of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
BROOKLYN’S ONLY REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMEMBER VOTES TO END REMOTE WORK FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — Federal employees should be required to return to their government offices, says Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-11th District), who applauded the passage of a House bill (H.R.) to mandate in-person work. Malliotakis, who represents much of southern Brooklyn, pointed out that since the White House has declared the pandemic to be over, then this legislation that ends the Biden Administration’s pandemic-era telework policies, should be passed in the Senate as well.
H.R.139, the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Act is named in a way that might be dismissive of federal employees with special health needs, including having immune-suppressed family members — at a time when people are still testing positive for COVID.
SEVERAL CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN BROOKLYN VANDALIZED SINCE 2020
BOROUGHWIDE — More than 275 attacks on Catholic churches —including several within the Diocese of Brooklyn — have taken place since 2020, report CatholicVote, a political action group based in Wisconsin and, locally in this borough, by The Tablet. There have been 281 acts of violence — protests, vandalism, smashed windows and theft — some of them in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that reversed the Roe v. Wade landmark case on abortion.
New York had the second largest number of church attacks; the eight Brooklyn parishes affected included Guardian Angel Church in Brighton Beach — where pro-abortion graffiti was found, St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst; and, famously, St. Augustine Church in Park Slope, whose historic tabernacle was stolen and the Eucharist was desecrated.
REP. CLARKE URGES FEDERAL AGENCIES TO EXPAND AND EVOLVE CYBERSECURITY
CENTRAL BROOKLYN — Congressmember Yvette D. Clarke (D-9th District), Senior Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on Energy and Commerce, has responded to the GAO’s report of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. “The persistent cyber threats facing federal agencies demands that we be able to dynamically grow and evolve the programs aimed at defending and building resilience of federal networks. I trust the dedicated public servants behind our federal agencies will heed this vital call for action,” said Clarke.
“For my part, as a Member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) expeditiously implements its reorganization plans so that it is well-positioned to lead federal network security efforts,” she added.
FEDERAL AGENTS MUST IMPROVE CYBERSECURITY MEASURES, SAYS NEW GAO REPORT
NATIONWIDE — The federal government’s technology systems are still vulnerable to cybersecurity threats, even though nearly 79% of the agency’s public recommendations since 2010 have been implemented, warns a new report from U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, titled “Cybersecurity High-Risk Series: Challenges in Securing Federal Systems and Information (GAO-23-106428)” found that while the majority of the advice was followed, “federal agencies will still be more limited in their ability to protect private and sensitive data entrusted to them” until there are more critical actions to address cybersecurity challenges.
GAO added recommendations on improving implementation of government-wide cybersecurity initiatives, addressing weaknesses in federal agency information security programs, and enhancing the federal response to cyber incidents to better protect federal systems and information.
MAYOR UNVEILS CITY’S EXPANDED COMPOSTING PROGRAM
CITYWIDE — A new roadmap will implement what Mayor Eric Adams aims to become the nation’s largest composting program, he and NYC Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch announced officially on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Mayor Adams laid out details, over the coming 20 months, for weekly collection of compostable material that will become an automatic, guaranteed, free, year-round universal weekly collection of leaf and yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper products for every resident in the five boroughs, and will be the first-ever specific plan and commitment to reach 100 percent coverage citywide.
The Adams administration developed an effective, cost-effective pilot plan for curbside composting that began in Queens on Oct. 3, 2022, and which he highlighted in last week’s State of the City address.
REP. GOLDMAN TAPPED TO SERVE ON ‘SELECT SUBCOMMITTEE ON WEAPONIZATION OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’
WESTERN BROOKLYN — U.S. freshman Congressmember Dan Goldman (D-10th District), who serves a large swath of Brooklyn, has been tapped to serve on the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Goldman was chosen based on specific skills and experience he brings to Congress, including work as lead counsel for the first impeachment investigation of former President Donald J. Trump and, earlier in Goldman’s career, for 10 years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan, Bronx and six lower Hudson Valley counties.)
Although it was not revealed who selected Goldman for the Select Subcommittee, his role will be to “serve as a bulwark against Republican overreach and politicized investigations.” He got praise even from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), overseeing the Select Subcommittee, who called Goldman a “worthy adversary” from their experience on opposite sides of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment inquiry.
PERMITS FILED FOR EASTERNMOST BLOCK OF LIVINGSTON ST.
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Permits have been filed for a 22-story mixed-use building at 370 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the website YIMBY (Yes in My Back Yard). The site, at the southwest corner of Livingston Street and Flatbush Avenue, is currently a four-story building, with commercial establishments at street level. The proposed building, for which zoning description documents and a certificate were filed involving the companies 372 Livingston LLC (a domestic limited liability company formed in April 2022 according to the NYC Dept. of Finance’s ACRIS site) would be 235 feet tall, with 186,076 square feet, with about 105 condos.
Demolition permits were filed in September 2022 for the four-story building on the site. However, a Google Maps photo from last May shows a beauty salon called Express She Repair at 370 Livingston, and other merchants including a tax preparation service.
MIGRANTS PROTEST MOVE TO CRUISE TERMINAL SHELTER
RED HOOK — The asylum seekers who were forced out of hotel rooms last week and moved to temporary shelters at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal are continuing to protest outside of the Watson Hotel in Manhattan, reports PIX News, even as temperatures threaten to drop precipitously over the coming days. The city says single adult male migrants need to be moved to the group shelter at the cruise terminal to make room in the hotel for families with children, but the protesters counter that the terminal has no heat or hot water, and is lacking in basic supplies, as well as being isolated from support networks and potential jobs in Manhattan.
The wave of asylum seekers has become a divisive topic in the city as local agencies struggle to cope, prompting Mayor Adams to visit the Mexican border in January while city officials and nonprofits debated potential solutions.
BK POLS URGE GOVERNOR TO ALLOCATE FUNDS FOR MIGRANTS
RED HOOK — In a Jan. 27 letter to Governor Kathy Hochul, who is set to reveal her new budget proposal on Wednesday morning, a majority of NYC elected officials led by Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams and Comptroller Brad Lander called on the state government to allocate critical funding to the city to support arriving asylum seekers. The letter states that New York’s constitution guarantees the right to shelter, and that currently the state is not meeting its obligation to pay for the migrants’ housing, rendering it an “unfunded mandate” and forcing the city to pay instead.
The officials, including Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso, as well as Brooklyn councilmembers Lincoln Restler, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Crystal Hudson, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Avilés and Shahana Hanif, also ask the state to fund case management, resettlement and legal assistance services for the asylum seekers.
BOY, 12, INJURED IN BROWNSVILLE AFTER POSSIBLY SHOOTING SELF
BROWNSVILLE — A 12-year-old boy was found wounded in the lobby of a Brownsville apartment building on Tuesday night, reports ABC News, who say the boy was taken to Maimonides hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound in his shoulder and is expected to survive. Police say that there is a possibility the boy shot himself accidentally and that they are investigating.
The Daily News reports that a gun was recovered from the lobby by police.
CRYPTO FRAUDSTER SENTENCED TO 60 MONTHS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Convicted cryptocurrency scammer John DeMarr was sentenced on Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court by United States District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall to 60 months in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay more than $3.5 million in restitution to his victims. DeMarr had served as the face of an international scheme that involved promising investors massive returns in exchange for purchasing a supposed new cryptocurrency called B2G, while in actuality funneling money to the overseas accounts of a Serbian partner in crime, whose location is currently unknown, in addition to purchasing luxury goods for himself.
DeMarr’s elaborate scam robbed investors of over $11 million, was endorsed by actor Steven Seagal, and fell apart after DeMarr attempted to fake his own assault and disappearance while supposedly completing a business transaction in Montenegro, before being found safe at his California home.
CENTURY-OLD BED-STUY HARDWARE STORE TO CLOSE
BED-STUY — Macon Hardware in Bed-Stuy, one of the neighborhood’s oldest black-owned businesses, has been put up for sale after the death of its owner, Clara Hayes, 93, who worked in the store for more than 70 years, reports Brownstoner. Son Warren Hayes, who returned to the city ten years ago to assist his mother, said that while “it breaks my heart” to have to sell the building, he has no choice, as he cannot run the store alone.
The store was opened in or before 1930 by Polish immigrant Samuel Pelner, who became a mentor and father figure to Hayes’ husband Peter, who took over the store after the Pelners retired and bought the building in 1987.
CITY EXPANDS RAPID TEST DISTRIBUTION SITE NETWORK
CITYWIDE — The NYC Test & Treat Corps, which has distributed over 77 million free at-home COVID tests to New Yorkers to date, announced on Tuesday the opening of 34 additional walk-up at-home test distribution sites, further expanding the city’s network of over 280 test pick-up locations. The new walk-up distribution sites will receive an initial allocation of nearly 150,000 at-home rapid tests and include SBS’s Workforce1 Career Centers and Business Solutions Centers in every borough, providing free testing to job seekers and small business owners.
The new Brooklyn test distribution locations are the career center and business center at 9 Bond Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the Coney Island career center at 1906 Mermaid Avenue, the ITC at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, the D.O.F. business center and City Register at 210 Joralemon Street across from Borough Hall, and the East New York career center at 2619 Atlantic Avenue.
COMMUNITY TECH LAB OPENS IN WILLIAMSBURG: EL PUENTE
WILLIAMSBURG — On Thursday, Jan. 26, El Puente, a youth-led arts and human rights organization, in partnership with digital justice organization Community Tech NY, officially opened the doors to NYC’s first Community Tech Lab, intended to serve as a bridge to fulfill the tech access needs of underserved communities, on the Southside of Williamsburg. The launch event — which included training and skill-building sessions on topics such as creating and maintaining wireless networks, internet navigation and security, and various technology skills — brought together community members, youth, partners and elected officials to explore the lab and its offerings.
“As a Boricua and a former tech worker, it feels so special to have this resource in my district, and I want to thank El Puente and Community Tech NY for leading on this issue,” said State Senator Kristen Gonzalez at the event.
NY STATE TO LAUNCH NEW ONLINE NOTARY PROGRAM
STATEWIDE — The New York State Department of State on Tuesday announced the availability of an online application and registration portal for notaries starting Feb. 1, 2023. Notaries can now, if they choose, register the capability to perform electronic notarial acts through a new online portal that currently allows notaries to easily apply for a credential online and will soon allow notaries to quickly perform many related transactions, such as changing a name or address and scheduling an examination, as well as checking the status of applications.
For more information, licensees can contact the Department at 518-474-4429 or go online.
YOLANDA VEGA AND FAMILY TO COMPETE ON ‘FAMILY FEUD’
BROOKLYN — Brooklyn native Yolanda Vega, the iconic face of the New York Lottery for more than 30 years, will be making a return to the small screen on Feb. 2, when she and her family will appear on ‘Family Feud,’ which airs at 7:30 p.m. on CBS. The long-running game show features two families competing against each other to correctly predict the answers to survey questions and win prizes.
Vega, 66, who became nationally famous for her cheerful and larger-than-life personality on air while presenting billions in checks to lottery winners over the course of her career, retired in 2022 to spend time with her family after the birth of her first grandson.
MAYOR PERSISTS WITH PLAN TO SWITCH RETIREES TO PRIVATE MEDICARE PLAN
CITYWIDE — Mayor Eric Adams seems determined to implement his plan to switch 250,000 retired municipal workers from traditional Medicare to a private Medicare Advantage plan, even in the midst of strong opposition, report Gothamist and other news sources. The mayor’s plan would allow retirees to keep their current benefits, but with a large premium, a violation of city Law, § 12-126 regarding health insurance coverage, which states, “The city will pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents, not to exceed one hundred percent of the full cost of H.I.P.-H.M.O. on a category basis.”
The City Council voted in January to withhold a vote on his plan, and the New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees has been tenacious in requesting meetings to discuss further its own strategy for saving the city money.
MAYOR’S PODCAST ‘GET STUFF DONE’ FOCUSES ON CREATIVE SOLUTIONS TO CITY PROBLEMS
CITYWIDE — “The Get Stuff Done-Cast” may sound like a task-list app, but it’s actually Mayor Eric Adams’ last podcast outreach to New Yorkers on the flavor of this town. The twice-monthly podcast, which will be released twice a month on Mondays and available across several platforms, will feature the mayor’s interviews with New Yorkers from all walks of life, focusing on the problems the city faces and the solutions to be found in what he calls “the heart, hustle, humor, and heroics of the greatest city in the world.”
Mayor Adams also gave a sneak peek of today’s episode to New Yorkers who already signed up to receive direct communications from the city about new initiatives and policies, local events, and more.
GOVERNOR VETOES ‘GRIEVING FAMILIES ACT’
STATEWIDE — Governor Kathy Hochul has vetoed a bill that would have expanded the class of beneficiaries and the statute of limitations in wrongful-death lawsuits, even though that legislation overwhelmingly passed the State Assembly and Senate in the last session. The New York Law Journal reports that Gov. Hochul, who expressed angst at her decision to veto, said that “Grieving Families Act,” (which would have updated a 176-year-old wrongful death law) had “significant unintended consequences,” but her counter-proposal would have excluded families of the adult victims of last year’s mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-47/Manhattan) had sponsored the bill, which would have included compensation for grief or anguish, funeral and medical expenses, and for the intangible consequences of the wrongful death such as the loss of love and protection, and even ostracization from one’s community.
REFORM STATE DEBT STANDARDS, SAYS NEW REPORT FROM COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI
STATEWIDE — State debt reform is long overdue and officials should be more accountable to voters, says a new report from NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report identifies policy and fiscal weaknesses that have allowed state debt to grow to troubling levels and offers a roadmap for state debt reform, including comprehensive and binding limits to improve debt affordability and protect New York’s fiscal health.
DiNapoli’s report indicates that debt service is projected to consume an increasing share of State Operating Funds spending over the next five years, growing from 5.4% to 5.9%, thus constricting flexibility in the operating budget and leaving fewer resources available for other priorities and programs.
COMPLAINTS RISE OVER FAKE CORPORATIONS DEFRAUDING LEGITIMATE BUSINESSES
INDUSTRY CITY — The popular Sahadi’s store, which for more than 120 years has served Lebanese and Middle Eastern culinary specialties, became the victim of a fraudulent impersonator corporation, which State Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit to dissolve. A fraudulent corporation using the real Sahadi Fine Foods’ Industry City address, but adding the word “Products” to its corporate name, used the store’s actual address, established a bank account, and diverted $100,000 in checks into the illegitimate company’s account.
The State Attorney General’s Office, having received complaints from New Yorkers who have been receiving mail from the New York Department of Taxation and Finance for businesses they have never heard of, warns the public that sham corporations could be the first sign that more extensive identity or mail theft has taken place.
BROOKLYN NEUROSCIENCE CENTER OPENS WITH WIDE RANGE OF CLINICAL PRACTICE
NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County on Tuesday, Jan. 31, opened the Brooklyn Neuroscience Center, which offers comprehensive care with interdisciplinary teams to treat disorders of the brain, spine, and peripheral nervous system of patients of all ages. The Brooklyn Neuroscience Center has nine clinical services, providing both inpatient and outpatient, treating patients with headaches, low back pain, dementia, carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathies, and a wide variety of neurologic conditions, including subspecialty practices in neuroimmunology, movement disorders, epilepsy, and stroke.
HEIGHTS SUBWAY ELEVATORS STILL NOT FIXED, MTA BLAMES CONTRACTOR
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Repairs to elevators at the Clark Street 2 and 3 station and at the Court Street R station have been beset by troubles and heavily delayed, reports the New York Post, as the MTA claims the fault lies with their contractor, who it says will miss its January deadline for the completion of work at Court Street despite urging from the agency. The elevators at Clark Street, which reopened in May, have suffered frequent outages since then, irritating and occasionally entrapping members of the public; work on the Court Street station appears to have ground to a halt, although workers told the Post that the project had nearly completed.
Clark Street is one of the deepest stations in the subway system, and its elevators carry passengers eight stories below ground — a climb most would be unwilling to make on a daily basis, even if the currently-gated emergency stairs were opened.
HOCHUL TO PRESENT 2024 BUDGET TODAY
ALBANY — Governor Hochul will present her executive budget for fiscal year 2024 in the State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at noon. The contents of the budget are unknown, but Politico speculates that a political battle may be in the cards after the governor’s failed power play to force the legislature to accept an unpopular chief judge nomination.
It is also unknown whether the 2024 budget’s price tag will exceed the $220 billion one for 2023, which was the governor’s first budget proposal and which led to accusations of inexperience and stubbornness from other lawmakers.
BOY, 13, CONFESSES TO MURDER IN CONEY ISLAND TRAGEDY
CONEY ISLAND — Three teenagers turned themselves in to police on Sunday for the Jan. 20 murder of Nyheem Wright, 17, near his home in Coney Island — among them a 13-year-old boy who confessed to fatally stabbing him, reports NBC News. Police believe that the attack was motivated by a fight the previous day between two girls that then escalated into a deadly confrontation between two groups of teens.
The 13-year-old, who was not named, faces murder charges, while the other boys, 14 and 15, also unnamed, face assault charges.
DEBUT SALON D’AYITI SHOWCASES HAITIAN LITERATURE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Haiti Cultural Exchange and The Center for Fiction are collaborating for the first Salon D’Ayiti, taking place on Saturday, Feb. 11. The event, which begins at 2 p.m. at the Center for Fiction on Lafayette Ave. in Downtown Brooklyn, and is free (with registration required via https://haiticulturalx.org/event/salon-dayiti/), will feature a book signing, panel discussion, and Q&A with the editors of The Haiti Reader.
During February, recent Haitian literary works will be featured for purchase in the Center for Fiction bookstore.
DRUMMING AND HEALING WORKSHOP LAUNCHES ARTS SERIES
BROWNSVILLE — The Haitian Cultural Exchange has also partnered with Diaspora Community Services to present six Saturday workshops of arts programming exploring dance, writing, drumming, healing, for Haitian migrants. Percussionist Okai Fleurimont leads the first of free workshops, on Feb. 4, runs from noon to 2 p.m. at the Diaspora Community Services on East New York Ave., near the intersection of the Crown Heights, Brownsville and East Flatbush neighborhoods (registration via https://haiticulturalx.org/event/drumming-for-the-healing-with-okai-fleurimont/).
The above-mentioned Salon D’Ayiti is part of the workshop series. Other programs, being held at the partner venues, will explore mental rejuvenation, creative writing and radical self-care.
IDIOTAROD CART RACE STAMPEDES THROUGH BROOKLYN
FORT GREENE — Twenty-two teams gathered in Fort Greene Park last Saturday to compete in the 20th iteration of the Idiotarod, a race-like competition where teams of professional idiots elaborately decorate shopping carts and parade them through the city on a route that this year ended in Ridgewood, all while being judged on style, presentation, commitment, willingness to sabotage others and nearly every conceivable metric other than speed. BK Mag reports that Best in Show, the top prize, went to a team called “Mad Max: Furry Road,” a concept that featured racers dressed in furry animal costumes pushing a cart decked out in homage to the post-apocalyptic Australian action franchise.
The Idiotarod derives its name from the highly dissimilar Iditarod, an annual dog sled race in Alaska inspired by the historic 1925 delivery of smallpox vaccines from Anchorage to the remote town of Nome by legendary sled dog Balto.
FRONTMAN OF SERBIAN CRYPTO SCHEME TO BE SENTENCED IN BKLYN COURT
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A sentencing hearing for John DeMarr, a California man who served as the domestic face of an elaborate international cryptocurrency scheme, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, after DeMarr pled guilty to fraud. DeMarr, previously employed as a private investigator, allegedly tricked investors into pumping more than $11 million into what he claimed was a new cryptocurrency that would yield massive returns, while in actuality funneling the money to the overseas accounts of a Serbian man whose whereabouts are presently unknown.
Marketwatch breaks down the audacious scheme, which was at one point endorsed by controversial action star Steven Seagal, and which fell apart when DeMarr attempted to fake his own assault and disappearance in Montenegro.
WHITE HOUSE CONDEMNS G.O.P. EFFORT TO END PANDEMIC EMERGENCY
WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday issued a statement slamming efforts by Republican lawmakers in Congress to bring the coronavirus pandemic emergency to an abrupt close before its planned end date in May of this year. The Biden administration strongly opposes two pieces of legislation currently proposed in the House of Representatives that would officially terminate the national state of emergency and national public health emergency, arguing that ending them without due notice would sow chaos in both American households and in the health care system, as well as at the Mexican border, where one provision of the original public health emergency status is keeping a large group of asylum-seekers from entering the country while the policy is debated in the courts.
The administration also issued a second statement condemning a related piece of GOP legislation that would lift vaccine mandates on health care workers, promising to veto it if passed.
CITY COUNCIL TO EXAMINE NYCHA VACANCIES
CIVIC CENTER — The City Council’s Committee on Public Housing on Tuesday will conduct an oversight hearing on the surge in vacant apartments in the New York City Housing Authority’s housing stock, which rose from roughly 500 to over 3,000 in 2022 even as more than 250,000 families sat on the NYCHA waiting list. The committee will seek to understand the reasons behind the vacancies; how NYCHA is transferring new tenants into units; and what policies and procedures are in place for units marked for the Permanent Affordability Commitment Together program, which involves partnering with private businesses and non-profit organizations to fund repairs.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. in City Hall’s Committee Room, and will be livestreamed on the council’s official city website.
MTA CUTS FREE BUS WI-FI
CITYWIDE — The MTA turned off Wi-Fi service on buses citywide on Jan. 14, reports Gothamist, citing low usership and high costs for the program. The agency said that only 33,000 people a day were using the service — just two percent of riders — and that the cut will save the city $3.3 million a year.
The move has met with some anger, as critics charge that a major reason for the low usage rates was that the service was frequently broken or unavailable, in addition to being widely unknown.
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment