What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, March 9, 2023
SOCCER MAGNATES CONVICTED OF ALL COUNTS IN FRAUD AND BRIBERY CASE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A federal jury in Brooklyn has convicted former 21st-Century Fox Executive Hernan Lopez and Argentine sports marketing company Full Play Group S.A., on all counts of a superseding indictment charging them with wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. As proven at trial, the defendants used their positions in the world of international soccer to engage in schemes involving the solicitation, offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks, principally to obtain lucrative broadcast rights to various international soccer tournaments and events.
The verdict followed a seven-week trial before United States District Judge Pamela K. Chen. When sentenced, Lopez faces up to 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in penalties, while Full Play faces millions of dollars in financial penalties.
NYU TANDON TACKLES THREE KINDS OF CONGESTION
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — NYU Tandon School of Engineering, which recently won a $10 million reward through the C2SMART program to lead a consortium of universities researching and combat traffic congestion, is also studying two other kinds of bottleneck. NYU WIRELESS is working on Internet traffic —why that text message keeps failing to send — on the potential of the terahertz (THz) realm of the radio spectrum and greater download speeds, with tantalizing possibilities (and challenges) for mobile communications and new applications. Another congestion study tackles the common cold — and on battling the sinus congestion that comes with seasonal illness. NYU Tandon faculty have been conducting innovative data modeling and materials, combined with learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, to better understand how illnesses spread and to discover new methods of detecting and preventing them.
A partnership between NYU Tandon and Mirimus is working to develop a new, wearable microchip prototype capable of detecting airborne health threats, from viruses to pollutants.
NY ATTORNEY GENERAL SUES KUCOIN FOR FAILING TO REGISTER AS BROKER-DEALER HERE
STATEWIDE — New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit against KuCoin, a virtual currency trading platform that allows investors to buy and sell cryptocurrency through its website and app, for failing to register as a securities and commodities broker-dealer, and falsely representing itself as an exchange. Even though KuCoin is not registered in New York State, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) was able to buy and sell cryptocurrencies on KuCoin here.
Through this enforcement action, the latest in her efforts to rein in cryptocurrency platforms, Attorney General James seeks to stop KuCoin from operating in New York and to block access to its website until it complies with the law.
15-YEAR PRISON SENTENCE FOR SEXUALLY EXPLOITING A CHILD
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A former teaching assistant at Midwood High School has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually exploiting a child. United States District Judge Hector Gonzalez, who presided over the Thursday, March 9 sentencing in Brooklyn federal court, is also requiring the defendant, Brian Quinones, to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison. Between September 2019 and January 2020, Quinones, a paraprofessional at Midwood High School, used an instant messaging mobile application — and impersonated a woman — to trade dozens of videos and images depicting child pornography, and to threaten his victim with exposure of the material unless he produced more.
A court-authorized search of Quinones’s residence and the seizure of his electronic devices revealed the evidence, and Quinones pleaded guilty to the charge in September 2022.
CITY COMPTROLLER OFFERS ONLINE WORKSHOPS ON OPEN DATA PROGRAM
CITYWIDE — As part of NYC Open Data Week, the NYC Comptroller’s Office will host public demonstrations of Checkbook NYC, an award-winning online tool for financial transparency on March 14-16. Checkbook NYC, which provides unprecedented access to view and track how New York City government spends its annual budget, will offer online introductory and advanced workshops on Checkbook NYC on March 14-16, with an overview “Getting to Know Checkbook” on the Tuesday, an Advance Searches Techniques functionality class on Wednesday and a program on Thursday that focuses on which search mechanisms are best suited to particular queries.
In the New York City Comptroller’s Office launched Checkbook NYC in July of 2010; in the app’s 12-year history, it ranked the top transparency tool in the nation for tracking government spending by the United States Public Interest Research Group.
LONG-TERM DOT PROJECT SCHEDULES GOWANUS EXPY. RAMP CLOSURE THIS WEEKEND
GOWANUS EXPRESSWAY — Motorists using the Exit 23 ramp from the eastbound Gowanus Expressway (I-278) to 38th Street this weekend will have to follow an alternate route, due to work being done as part of the New York State Department of Transportation’s NYSDOT’s $168 million Gowanus Expressway (I-278) Painting and Steel Repairs Project. The closure (weather permitting) will facilitate work from the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to 6th Avenue in Brooklyn and require a full closure of the Exit 23 ramp from eastbound Brooklyn on or about Friday night, March 10 at 11 p.m. through Saturday afternoon, March 11 around 1 p.m.
The DOT recommends that motorists take Exit 21 (3rd Avenue) and follow the signed detour along 3rd Avenue to access 38th St., while motorists approaching from the Belt Parkway take Exit 1 (65th/67th Streets) and follow the signed detour along 3rd Ave. to access 38th St.
MUNICIPAL RETIREES, UNION MEMBERS, RALLY TO SAVE THEIR TRADITIONAL MEDICARE COVERAGE
CITYWIDE — Members of New York’s various labor unions are holding an emergency rally Thursday morning to forestall a city vote — scheduled also for March 9 — to replace the traditional retirees’ benefits with a new, for-profit Medicare Advantage Plan. The Cross-union Retirees Org Committee has been fighting for the past three years to keep their traditional, publicly-protected health care for decades, as well as the law that protects their medical plans, Administrative Code 12-126, according to letters sent out earlier this week and again on Thursday. They are now working to block the Municipal Labor Committee from mandating that all retirees accept Aetna/CVS Medicare Advantage Plan or reportedly lose all medical coverage.
The Municipal Retirees group had won a previous lawsuit to keep their benefits and persuaded City Hall to keep the Administrative Code. Today’s march to city hall will include stops at several union headquarters.
GOLDMAN BACKS NEW BILLIONAIRE TAX
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman on Wednesday, March 8, announced he is cosponsoring the Billionaire Minimum Income Tax Act, which would require households worth over $100 million to pay an annual minimum 20 percent tax rate on their full income, including, for the first time, unrealized gains, ending what a press release from Goldman called “the perverse incentive in the current tax code for ultra-wealthy individuals to inefficiently lock in their capital in perpetuity, forever holding onto their assets to avoid triggering a tax bill.” Currently, the ultra-wealthy enjoy relatively low tax rates compared to average Americans because their affluence is derived primarily from the increasing value of their assets, which is not taxable until those assets are sold, allowing billionaires to effectively make hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars a year by avoiding “tax-realizing events.”
“At a time of record wealth inequality, the wealthiest among us must help to provide more access for others to pursue the American dream that they have benefited so much from,” Goldman, himself an heir to the Levi Strauss jeans fortune, said in a press statement, adding that if passed, the tax is projected to raise $361 billion over 10 years.
REPORT: BK HEIGHTS 2-BEDS TOP 6.7K, BAY RIDGE 2-BEDS ONLY 2.6K
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A new report from real estate firm MNS shows that rents across Brooklyn are wildly varied, but are on track to reach new highs this year, with February rents on Brooklyn Heights two-bedroom apartments reaching an eye-watering $6,790 on average. Renters can still find deals deeper into the borough, however — the report notes that in traditionally family-oriented Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, two-bedrooms can still be found for under $3,000 a month.
While the firm doesn’t track median prices, the report “is based on a cross-section of data from available listings and priced under $10,000, with ultraluxury property omitted to obtain a true monthly rental average,” according to MNS.
ADAMS ALLY ‘BLING BISHOP’ WHITEHEAD FACES NEW FRAUD CHARGE
CANARSIE — Controversial Eric Adams ally Lamor Whitehead, known as the “Bling Bishop,” arrested in December for allegedly scamming an elderly parishioner out of her life’s savings, was hit with additional fraud charges on Wednesday, March 8, reports the New York Daily News. The charges stem from the bishop’s alleged fabrication of a nonexistent bank account purporting to show a balance of more than $2 million at a time when his church actually carried a balance of under $10 on average, according to authorities, who say he used this fake bank account to apply for business loans and a mortgage for a New Jersey mansion.
Whitehead, who got his nickname after being robbed of more than $1 million in jewelry during a service at his Canarsie church, was already facing decades in prison before Wednesday’s events for the previous charges, which include wire fraud and extortion.
GOLDMAN BANKER WHO HELPED LOOT MALAYSIA’S BILLIONS TO BE SENTENCED
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Roger Ng, a former banker for Goldman Sachs convicted last month for his role in a plot to steal $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, is set to be sentenced in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday, after prosecutors urged a judge last week to send him to jail for 15 years, reported NBC News. Ng’s role in the scheme was aiding his former boss in embezzling and laundering money from the fund and bribing Malaysian officials to look the other way, for which he was reportedly paid $35 million.
Ng’s boss testified against him in court as part of a plea deal and has not yet been sentenced, while Goldman agreed in 2020 to pay $2.9 billion in restitution.
SENATOR PARKER HONORS MASON LODGE GRANDMASTER AT CAUCUS WEEKEND
ALBANY — At the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislators’ annual Legislative Caucus Conference in Albany last month, Brooklyn state Sen. Kevin Parker threw a reception honoring Gregory Robeson Smith, Jr., the Most Worshipful Grandmaster of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of New York, who also received the Chair Award at the Caucus’ annual awards ceremony. The Prince Hall Freemasons are a historic branch of the Masons founded by African-American abolitionist Prince Hall during the American revolution following the exclusion of black members from certain Masonic traditions in mainstream temples.
“It is an honor to give this well-deserved recognition to the Most Worshipful Grand Master. In his capacity he has done a yeoman’s job in holding members to the creed of making good men better and unity in all endeavors,” said Parker, a fellow member of the Prince Hall Freemasons.
UBER AND LYFT DRIVERS WIN RAISE DESPITE LAWSUIT
CITYWIDE — NYC’s rideshare drivers celebrated after the Taxi and Limousine Commission voted again on Wednesday, March 8, to raise their pay, after Uber in December sued to block a previous attempt at doing so, citing what it called an improper determination of inflation costs. While courts sided with Uber and the previous raise was stalled, the TLC used feedback from Uber and drivers’ groups to work out a new formula that accounted for what a judge called a “legal technicality,” allowing the new pay increase of around 9% to pass unanimously, according to the New York Times.
A protest organized by drivers’ union the Independent Drivers’ Guild brought Brooklyn Bridge traffic to a standstill in December, after hundreds of rideshare drivers participated in the slowdown caravan following the initial ruling in favor of Uber.
NYC SCHOOLS KICK OFF CIVICS WEEK
NEW DORP — NYC Public Schools, the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit, the Civic Engagement Commission, DemocracyNYC and a host of elected leaders on Monday, March 6, kicked off the fifth annual Civics Week at New Dorp High School in Staten Island, where students met with city officials to learn about the importance of civic education and voting, then presented “soapbox speeches” and their work on participatory budgeting and other civics projects. Throughout the week, students in all grades across the city will be visited by elected officials and will participate in classroom activities and events “designed to empower them to create change as active participants in their community.”
“It’s never too early for our kids to learn the power of their voice to build the city they dream of,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m so excited that students across New York City are celebrating our Fifth Annual Civics Week by hearing directly from our city leaders and learning the skills they’ll need to be active participants in their futures.”
SEN. GILLIBRAND URGES PASSAGE OF BILL PROTECTING WORKERS’ RIGHT TO ORGANIZE
NATIONWIDE — The Senate must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, says U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who will hold a video press conference on Thursday, March 9, urging her colleagues to vote for this new law. This bicameral legislation would strengthen workers’ rights to organize and bargain for fairer wages, better benefits, and a safer workplace.
Senator Gillibrand’s comprehensive labor legislation would address the income inequality crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘TOGETHER WE RISE’ AT GODSQUAD’S WOMEN’S DAY FORUM
BROWNSVILLE — GodSquad – the 67th Precinct Clergy Council is celebrating International Women’s Day on Wednesday evening, March 8, with a panel discussion titled, “Together We Rise: Overcoming Bias and Making Room at the Table.” This event, geared as a conversation between women in business and organizational leadership, is bringing in as moderator SiriusXM Radio host Meta Washington.
Scheduled panelists for the event, which One Brooklyn Health (OBH) is sponsoring and hosting at its Brookdale location, include Bibi Esahack, executive director of the Bay Ridge Community Development Center, Jahmila Edwards, associate director of the union District Council 37; Sharon Devonish Leid, director of External Affairs at One Brooklyn Health and founder of Ladies of Third Thursday, and Tiffany Tucker-Pryor, deputy chief service officer for community engagement, NY County District Attorney.
U.S. MINT WILL HONOR FAMED CUNY ALUMNA PAULI MURRAY WITH NEW COIN
CUNY — Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray, a 1933 Hunter College graduate who is considered one of the most important social justice advocates of the 20th century, has been named 2024 honoree for the American Women Quarters Program, the U.S. Mint announced and City University of New York announced on International Women’s Day, March 8. Murray, who lived until 1985, was the first Black woman ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and a lawyer, activist, and poet.
THREE 68TH PRECINCT OFFICERS HONORED FOR SAVING LIVES OF STUDENTS IN U-HAUL DRIVER ATTACK
BAY RIDGE — Three 68th Precinct officers who sheltered Bay Ridge Prep students during the U-Haul attack in southern Brooklyn on Feb. 13, were honored on Tuesday, March 7, during a commendation award ceremony. State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-22) presented the three officers with a certificate from the State of New York; Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-43), and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams presented similar certificates from the City of New York to Lieutenant John Vitale, Officer Francis Ingebrethsen, and Officer Hector Santini for their quick thinking and actions that saved the lives of the students who were on outdoor recess as part of Open Streets at the time of the rampage.
The officers, who on Feb. 13 were already alerted that speeding U-Haul driver Weng Sor was targeting pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders, raced to Bay Ridge Prep and ushered students to safety indoors.
SENIOR BEATEN IN PARK SLOPE BY ROAD RAGERS
PARK SLOPE — Police are looking for help in solving an assault that took place on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 5, near the Park Slope Food Co-op, in which two unknown men engaged in a verbal dispute with a 71-year-old male victim after their vehicle backed into his vehicle, before punching, kicking, and throwing the victim to the ground and fleeing, causing the senior victim to suffer a broken hand and eye trauma. The first man is described as slim, around 6’0” and 25 years old, dark-complexioned and was last seen wearing all-black clothing with a white design on the front; while the second man is described as dark-complexioned and was last seen wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt; both fled the scene in a 2014 Honda Accord.
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.
COUNCIL’S RESTLER INTRODUCES BILL TO EASE SOLAR PANEL INSTALLATION
CITYWIDE — Councilmember Lincoln Restler on Tuesday introduced a bill to ease city regulations on the installation of solar panels on small buildings, something that is currently difficult for many homeowners because the fire code restricts the amount of available space on rooftops. This legislation will reduce the width of required rooftop clearance pathways and allow for adjoining buildings to be consolidated for the purposes of complying with the code, in order to make it feasible for more small buildings to install solar panels and start reaping the benefits of clean energy.
There are generous incentives for homeowners who install solar, including federal and state tax credits, property tax abatements, and lower energy bills; most recently, the Biden administration extended residential solar tax credits, along with other incentives for green technologies, in the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022.
PARKS, HEALTH DEPT SPAR OVER RESPONSIBILITY FOR RATS IN TREE PITS
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Prospect Heights residents have been struggling to get the city to respond to reports of rampant rat infestations in sidewalk tree pits, reports Patch, as the city’s Parks and Health departments each point fingers at each other – and at homeowners. Neighborhood groups say that the Health Department, which usually handles rat issues, won’t touch tree pits as those are supposedly the domain of the Parks Department; while the Parks Department says that homeowners are supposed to maintain the sidewalk tree pits and the Health Department says that they will only go after sidewalk rats in emergency situations.
The eternal war on rats has been a top priority for Mayor Adams, who in December announced that the city was looking to hire an official “rat czar” to consolidate and streamline anti-rodent efforts.
BROOKLYN DEMOCRATIC PARTY SUED FOR NOT PAYING RENT
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS – Brooklyn’s Democratic Party faces a lawsuit from its landlord, according to City and State, which reports that landlord CIM Group filed a suit in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday asking for a total of $109,000 in back rent, fees and interest from the party for its office space in the 16 Court Street office building, across the street from Brooklyn Borough Hall. The landlord says that the party attempted to terminate its lease in 2020 as a result of the COVID pandemic, but had no right to do so, as CIM did not agree to the termination.
City and State reports that the suit follows accusations of opaque financial and political operations on the part of Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership; one critic and former member told City and State that “There’s just an enormous amount that was done to suppress democratic participation with COVID as an excuse.”
MAYOR ANNOUNCES NEW PLAN FOR ASYLUM-SEEKERS
CITYWIDE — Mayor Adams, at a press conference on Tuesday, announced “The Road Forward,” his administration’s plan for handling the ongoing refugee crisis situation, which will see the city create a 24/7 arrival center for incoming migrants and a new Office of Asylum Seeker Operation, in addition to continuing to lobby for increased federal and state funding and for enforcement at the southern border. The Office of Asylum Seeker Operation will take over responsibilities related to the asylum-seekers from the multiple city agencies currently working on them, in order to streamline the processes for helping the migrants with immigration paperwork, obtaining work permits, finding housing and employment and helping migrants resettle in other locations if they choose.
Adams also invited a Venezuelan asylum-seeker named Abraham to speak at the press conference, who said through a translator “As immigrants, we too want to contribute back to the city and to the United States of America… I want to send a message to all the asylum seekers throughout the city to keep calm and be respectful and continue moving forward because the city is doing everything possible to make sure that you have the support that you need.”
THREE JAIL GUARDS PLEAD GUILTY TO SICK LEAVE FRAUD
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Former NYC correction officer Eduardo Trinidad pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday to federal program fraud, admitting that he fraudulently obtained his salary from the NYC Department of Correction by taking sick leave even though he was able to work; while on Feb. 15 and Feb. 27, respectively, former correction officers Steven Cange and Monica Coaxum also pleaded guilty to the same charge. According to court documents and facts presented at the guilty plea proceedings, Cange fraudulently obtained more than $139,000 in salary while on sick leave from March 2021 to November 2022, while Coaxum fraudulently obtained more than $80,000 in salary while on sick leave from March 2021 to April 2022, and Trinidad, Monica’s fiancé, fraudulently obtained more than $119,000 in salary while on sick leave from June 2021 to October 2022; all three submitted fraudulent sick notes to the department and were later observed by investigators to be living active lives with no difficulty.
“These correction officers faked medical documentation to take sick leave they were not entitled to in the midst of a city jail staffing crisis. They violated DOC policy, and they broke the law. Their conduct — including travel around the country, partying, bowling, and home repairs, on stolen sick leave time — is an insult to the correction officers who do their jobs, who show up to work and risk their personal safety on a daily basis,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber in a press statement.
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