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What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, March 16, 2023

March 16, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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NRA SEEKS TO REVERSE JUDGE’S DISMISSAL OF ITS COUNTERCLAIMS AGAINST NEW YORK

STATEWIDE — As part of the latest salvo in the protracted battle between New York Attorney General Letitia James and the National Rifle Association, the NRA has filed a 58-page appellate brief seeking to reverse Judge Joel Cohen’s June 10, 2022 dismissal of its First Amendment-based counterclaims. The NRA argued against the Brooklyn-born state attorney general’s case, saying, “the official policy of the State of New York is to crush the NRA,” and that direct evidence of animus “obviates the need for any additional showing of causation.”

According to a June 2022 news release from the AG’s Office, which the Brooklyn Eagle retained in archives, James responded to Judge Cohen’s dismissal of the NRA’s counterclaims: “Today, the court reaffirmed the legitimacy and viability of my office’s lawsuit against the NRA for its years of fraud, abuse, and greed. For almost two years, the NRA has tried every trick in the book to avoid culpability for their actions, only to be repeatedly rejected by the courts.”

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MAYOR ADAMS SPEAKS OF NYC AS ‘A PLACE OF GOD,’ ECHOING EARLIER BLUR BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE

CITYWIDE — Mayor Eric Adams, speaking Thursday, March 16, at a faith-based summit on mental health. again blended religion and civic life, calling on New Yorkers to transform the city into “a place of God,” the Daily News has reported. Adams, who received criticism for a Feb. 28, keynote speech at his annual Prayer Breakfast in which he seemed to dismiss the Constitution’s inferred separation of church and state, has already launched his “Breaking Bread, Building Bonds” dinner series with New Yorkers. Earlier this week reportedly called on religious leaders to join a “major recruitment campaign” to attract young people to careers in the police force.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, speaking after the Mayor’s Annual Interfaith Breakfast on Feb. 28, said that Adams’ remarks continued “to raise concerns that he doesn’t respect the separation of church and state.”

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‘MAKE IT IN BROOKLYN CONTEST’ RETURNS WITH FIVE WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR FINALISTS

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Five women-founded startups with diverse backgrounds have been selected for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s upcoming Make It in Brooklyn Female Founders Pitch Contest, revived after the pandemic-induced hiatus, and culminating next month. The finalists are: Sam Lee of Meili Technologies; Joy Fan of Re/tell; Joy Arrington-Hurd, Joyfriends; Tess Guttières, Landmark and Vandra Thorburn, of Vokashi. The finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges on April 4 for the chance to win a $5,000 cash prize and in-kind legal services from BLIP at Brooklyn Law.

The DBP’s pitch contests over the years have awarded over $90,000 to local entrepreneurs, several of whom have gone on to scale their businesses and receive additional funding.

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NATIONAL GRID GETS DENIAL ON ITS GAS VAPORIZER PROJECT

GREENPOINT — The New York State Public Service Commission on Thursday, March 16, denied National Grid’s proposed gas vaporizers project in Greenpoint, as well as the energy company’s related rate-increase request. The Public Service Commission, agreeing with an independent expert assessment that the project is not needed for at least the next five years, also denied the company’s petition seeking $38.8 million in cost recovery for the project, but did allow Brooklyn Union Gas Company, a subsidiary of National Grid, to recover $10.5 million in design, engineering, permitting, and the costs of the independent consultant.

The PSC commissioners said that National Grid can return in a few years with another petition if demand increases and ask again, but will first be required to make creditable efforts to reduce demand for the product and become more energy-efficient to help meet climate goals.

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AG JAMES ANNOUNCES TAKEDOWN OF DRUG AND GHOST GUN GANG

CITYWIDE — New York state Attorney General Letitia James, joined by Mayor Adams, police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and other law enforcement agents, announced at a press conference on Wednesday that an investigation had busted a ring of drug and “ghost gun” smugglers importing illegal goods into the city. James said that the investigation had recovered 19 firearms and half a kilogram of cocaine, and had led to charges for three men — one previously employed by gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson — who were allegedly importing cocaine and untraceable guns from Massachusetts and selling them out of a home in a residential Queens neighborhood.

“Ghost guns,” which AG James recently secured a court order to help fight, are firearms assembled by individuals instead of factories, frequently from kits, that take advantage of a federal gun law loophole — as certain parts of firearms are only officially tracked and registered when fully built, guns sold mostly built and with instructions for completing them can be purchased without any background checks and used without any risk of tracing, making them very attractive to criminals.

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STATE CONSIDERS RESTRICTING PARKING TO RESIDENTS ONLY

CITYWIDE — The state is considering a plan to establish residents-only parking zones in NYC, reports Gothamist, with the state Senate’s budget proposal granting the City Council authority to implement a permit parking program for whatever areas it wants, potentially easing parking for frustrated drivers in congested areas. The plan comes with a catch, however — the city would also be allowed to charge up to $30 a month for these permits, which would be used to fund the MTA, generating up to $400 million a year, according to the Senate’s projections.

Drivers and business owners told CBS News it’s unclear whether this plan would help or hurt — the Council would have the authority to decide whether permit parking would apply by neighborhood, by borough, or for the whole city; meaning drivers who commute from the outer boroughs to Manhattan or waterfront Brooklyn and Queens might not qualify as residents under some possible implementations.

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DEVELOPER CUTS BK HOUSING PROJECT AFTER COUNCIL OPPOSITION, CITING 421A LAPSE

HOMECREST — Real estate developer Plaza Realty announced on Tuesday that a planned housing project in Homecrest supported by Mayor Adams would not be financially viable without the now-expired 421a state tax break, but the Real Deal reports that opposition from the area’s City Councilmember, Kalman Yeger, may have been behind the demise of the 8-story building. The project, which would have had 231 units, of which 60 were planned to be affordable, would have represented the largest increase of affordable housing in the area in eight years, but was opposed by the councilmember on the grounds that the building would have been too tall for the neighborhood, which is largely comprised of single-family homes.

The developer wrote in a letter to the mayor and council that should the 421a rebate or a similar program be reinstituted, as proposed by Governor Hochul in her 2024 budget, the project may be back on the table.

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‘LAMP SHOW’ LIGHTS UP BROOKLYN BOOKSTORE

FORT GREENE — Fort Greene bookseller Head Hi is holding its fourth annual “Lamp Show” at its Navy Yard shop through April 8, reports Design Milk, exhibiting artistic lamps from professional designers, artists and amateurs alike. This year’s show features more than fifty lamps in a dizzying array of styles, ranging from a glowing egg placed in a bowl of rice to an illuminated, otherworldly obelisk with a bulb at its tip, and everything in between.

A full catalog of the lamps, which are for sale, can be found on Head Hi’s website, along with more information on the exhibition.

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SMALL BUSINESS SAFETY FORUM SCHEDULED FOR NEXT WEEK

WILLIAMSBURG — Councilmembers Lincoln Restler and Jennifer Gutiérrez, Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, and restaurant owner groups ROAR and BABAR have organized a small business safety forum for next Tuesday. The meetup will feature representatives from the 90th and 94th Precincts speaking on ways for business owners to prevent crimes, as well as opportunities to network with other small business owners.

Interested business owners can register to attend online; the forum will be held at Williamsburg restaurant Lilia on March 21 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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SECOND DOLLY PARTON-THEMED BAR TO OPEN IN WILLIAMSBURG

WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg’s Moxy Hotel is set to open its new Dolly Parton-themed bar and nightclub Jolene this weekend, reports Time Out, with “bold pink textures and decor pieces… including a painted ceiling and modular furniture” decking out the “high-energy sound room” in the country legend’s signature aesthetic. Jolene will be the second bar paying homage to Parton to come to Williamsburg in recent years, following the 2019 opening of comfort-food-oriented elevated dive bar Dolly’s Swing & Dive, which features a full gallery wall dedicated to the singer, just blocks away.

Tickets have sold out for Jolene’s opening weekend, featuring soulful house DJs Toribio and Seven Davis Jr.

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BROOKLYN GAINS NEW HOMES IN 2022, LEADS CITY: REPORT

BROOKLYN — Brooklyn had the greatest net gain in housing units across the five boroughs in 2022, reports the Real Deal, increasing its housing stock by a total of 3,246 units by the year’s end. Brooklyn also dominated the list of neighborhoods adding the most housing, taking up six of the top ten spots on the Real Deal’s rankings, with Fort Greene, in first place, adding more than a thousand homes, representing an 8.45% growth since 2021.

NYC overall appears to be struggling to add new homes, with an analysis of the city’s Primary Land Use Tax Lot Output — or PLUTO, for short — database revealing that the total citywide net gain in units was just 2,666, with Manhattan and Queens both having net losses.

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FREE EVENTS THIS WEEKEND TO CELEBRATE SPRING

Spring Arts Fair: PLG Arts is holding its inaugural indoor Spring Arts Fair, Saturday, March 18, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at BKLYN Commons in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, featuring over 25 local visual artists, family art making, live music and refreshments from Hibiscus Brew. Since 2005, PLG Arts has presented and produced free arts events and exhibitions for audiences of all ages to nurture a vibrant and diverse creative community in  Prospect Lefferts Gardens and surrounding neighborhoods.

Maker’s Market: The All-Women’s Makers Show market returns to City Point in Downtown Brooklyn on March 17-19 and March 24-26, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with over 40 women-owned businesses set to bring their arts and crafts. Highlights of the Makers Show will include a live panel discussion on Breaking The Glass Ceiling and workshops for guests throughout each weekend.

Skating in Prospect Park: Bond With Brooklyn, in partnership with the Prospect Park Alliance and Lakeside Brooklyn, is sponsoring a free community skate event to send off the winter at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park on Saturday, March 18, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., featuring complimentary admission, rentals, hot chocolate and a photo booth. Tickets for the event are first-come, first-serve and are rain or shine, and can be reserved online; walk-up attendance is also permitted as long as capacity permits.

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BROOKLYN UNEMPLOYMENT DROPS IN JANUARY

BROOKLYN — Brooklyn’s unemployment rate has dropped by 2.2% since last January, according to preliminary figures from the New York state Department of Labor. While Brooklyn’s 5.8% unemployment rate remains above the state average, the decrease represents an optimistic trend compared to New York overall, as the total state unemployment rate has increased in that same timeframe.

NYC’s overall unemployment rate in January was 5.5%, led by the Bronx with a 7.8 % unemployment rate.

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SIGNATURE BANK WAS UNDER INVESTIGATION BEFORE SEIZURE

NEW YORK — The Justice Department and the SEC had been investigating New York-based Signature Bank before its seizure by New York state officials last weekend, reports Bloomberg, focusing on potential money-laundering related to its forays into the cryptocurrency market. The New York Times also reports that Signature had previously faced inquiries related to its dealings with the Kushners and the Trumps, stemming from suspicions that the bank had aided the Kushners in harassing low-income tenants and had extended risky loans to the Trumps at a time when Ivanka Trump sat on its board.

Signature customers with concerns about their accounts can find information on the government takeover on the FDIC’s Failed Bank Information web page; the government has assured account holders that in-person and online banking should proceed as normal while bidders for Signature’s assets are sought.

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BBG HAS ‘CHERRYWATCH’ MAP FOR CHERRY BLOSSOMS

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has launched a live cherry blossom-tracking map on its website ahead of the spring bloom season, enabling garden visitors to check the status of the delicate pink flowers before committing to the trip. The Cherrywatch map currently shows that just two trees have entered first bloom, while most remain in “pre-bloom” state.

Cherry blossom enthusiasts can celebrate the season on April 25 and May 2 with the BBG’s Hanami Nights festival, which will feature extended evening hours and live music, dancing and refreshments; more information will be announced as the event approaches.

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EATING CORNED BEEF OKAY THIS FRIDAY, MARCH 17 PER DIOCESAN DISPENSATION

BROOKLYN & QUEENS — What happens when St. Patrick’s Day — with its obligatory corned beef and cabbage meal — falls on a Lenten day of abstinence from meat? To resolve this conundrum Bishop Robert J. Brennan of the Diocese of Brooklyn has issued a dispensation from the Lenten obligation to abstain from eating meat for this Friday, March 17. Honoring St. Patrick, the fifth-century missionary who brought Catholicism to Ireland and the Irish immigrants who later brought the faith to the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, Bishop Brennan said, “I am pleased to grant this dispensation for this Friday of Lent only, so that celebrations of St. Patrick can be fully enjoyed by the faithful of the Diocese, or those who find themselves in Brooklyn and Queens commemorating the day.”

Bishop Brennan asks that Catholics availing themselves of the dispensation commit to an act of charity during Lent, which is the 40-day penitential season of prayer and fasting.

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DOG MANAGEMENT CONCERNS AT SOUTH OXFORD PARK PART OF CB2 COMMITTEE AGENDA

FORT GREENE — Complaints of unleashed dogs in Fort Greene’s South Oxford Park are part of the agenda of next Monday’s Community Board 2’s Parks & Recreation Committee (Zoom for the March 20 meeting that starts at 6 p.m.). The Friends of South Oxford Park have requested a community discussion on dog relief areas and waste management, control and enforcement, safety and hygiene, recreation hours, following reports and submitted evidence of unleashed pets in the children’s playground and artificial-turf soccer field.

The meeting will also address communication from the City of New York relative to previous agreements.

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ADVOCATES PLAN VIRTUAL RALLY FOR BAIL REFORM

CITYWIDE — A group of activists and lawmakers are set to hold an online rally Wednesday in support of New York’s current bail laws, as well as advocating for new laws designed to strengthen the state’s social safety net. The organizers, who include Brooklyn’s state Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblymembers Emily Gallagher, Latrice Walker and Jo Anne Simon, say that the governor’s proposed bail reforms, which would eliminate a standard that calls for judges to choose the least restrictive method of getting defendants to turn up for court, would not lower crime rates and would add more confusion into the justice system, instead of reducing it.

The rally is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15, at 11 a.m.; and can be attended on Zoom.

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HISTORIC DISTRICTS COUNCIL CELEBRATES BUSHWICK

BUSHWICK — The Historic Districts Council, New York’s citywide advocate for historic buildings and neighborhoods, on Tuesday announced its 2023 “Six to Celebrate,” New York’s only citywide annual listing of historic neighborhoods that merit preservation attention. Included in this year’s list is Bushwick, where the HDC plans to help the Bushwick Historic Preservation Association advance its proposed list of landmark designations and preservation priorities, including the Northeast Bushwick Historic District.

More information about the HDC’s choices and the other neighborhoods can be found on the Six to Celebrate website; last year’s selections included the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crow Hill and Little Caribbean.

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ROAD RAGE AT MCDONALD’S DRIVE-THROUGH

CANARSIE — An altercation between two motorists at a McDonald’s drive-through, within the 69th Precinct in Canarsie, resulted in a broken nose and other serious eye injuries for the driver of the vehicle in front. Police are asking the public’s help in locating the man who left his black Infinity Q50 in line behind his 69-year-old victim’s vehicle, approached his victim, engaged him in a verbal dispute, and then reached into the victim’s vehicle and punched him multiple times in the face. EMS responded and transported the aided victim to Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, who was treated for a broken nose, as well as two broken eye sockets.

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HARTLEY’S MAKES YELP LIST OF ‘BEST IRISH PUBS’

CLINTON HILL — Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 17, Hartley’s Pub in Clinton Hill has been named as a Best Irish Pub in New York, according to Yelp’s latest list. Customers overwhelmingly gave the pub five-stars, with praises for the ambience, their Guinness beer, and the Music Mondays, where a group plays Celtic music.

Hartley’s, open Fridays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., features soda bread with Irish butter, potato wedges with a Jamaican curry mayo and Ballymaloe Relish, and of course the traditional Guinness Stew.

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PUBLIC ADVOCATE TO CITY: REINVEST IN SCHOOL SUPPORT PROGRAMS

CITYWIDE — The city needs to invest in educational equity, student supports, language access services, and holistic school safety solutions, and include these in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget that begins in July, urged Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, on Wednesday, March 15. Pointing out last year’s $370 million in cuts to the city schools’ budgets, hurting academic, arts and mental health programs, Williams emphasized that austerity is not the right path forward for schools and services, and called for allocations to hire 500 school social workers, hire school psychologists and family workers to address delays in the evaluation and IEP development process for students with disabilities, ensure every school has a nurse, and support the expansion of school-wide restorative justice practices.

The Public Advocate also addressed the need to support asylum seekers in the school system with language-accessible programming, and highlighted the need to support holistic school safety efforts rather than relying solely on law enforcement solutions.

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STATE BUDGET BATTLE HEATS UP, LAWMAKERS SCRAP BAIL REFORM IDEA

ALBANY — The state Senate and Assembly on Tuesday released their counter-proposals to Governor Hochul’s $227 billion 2024 budget plan, reports amNY, shooting down several key components ahead of the April 1 budget deadline. Most notably, the legislature omitted a bail reform provision that would have given judges more discretion in setting higher bails for serious crimes, as well as a plan to increase the number of charter schools, and a plan to extend the controversial 421-a tax break for real estate developers; lawmakers also added provisions that would double the size of Hochul’s infrastructure incentives fund from $250 million to $500 million, cap rent increases at 3%  and prevent landlords from evicting tenants without cause.

Hochul’s bail reform plan, which would eliminate a current regulation that requires judges use the least restrictive way to get defendants to turn up for trials, comes after a closely contested election with Republican opponent Lee Zeldin, who ran on a “tough-on-crime” platform, and as voters have expressed concerns about increases in property crimes, such as Monday’s violent robbery at the Brooklyn Heights Key Food, where a store owner who spoke to the Eagle called on Hochul to toughen bail laws.

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GROUP OF MEN ATTACK TEEN OUTSIDE BARCLAYS CENTER

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Police are searching for a group of ten men who attacked and beat a 17-year-old boy on the afternoon of Feb. 27, outside the Barclays Center, punching and kicking him before snatching his phone and tablet and fleeing into the Atlantic Avenue subway station. One man was described as having a medium complexion and dreads; a second as having a medium complexion and wearing a black hat, black jacket and black pants; and a third as having a medium complexion and wearing a black baseball cap, a black top and black pants; the others remain unidentified and undescribed.

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.


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