What’s News, Breaking: Tuesday, March 21, 2023
CALIFORNIA ARREST OF WHITE SUPREMACIST WHO THREATENED BROOKLYN JOURNALIST
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The one-time leader of a white-supremacist group who issued death threats against a Brooklyn journalist for reporting about him has been arrested in California, based on a complaint that was filed in Brooklyn federal court. Nicholas Welker, also known as “King ov Wrath,” who has led Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), an international racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist group, is charged with posting death threats against a Brooklyn-based journalist (the “Journalist”) in a public online forum. Moreover, Welker’s co-conspirators tweeted the death threats at the journalist for reporting on the group.
Welker was expected to appear in Northern District of California (federal court) in San Jose on Tuesday afternoon.
TEACHERS UNION JOINS CITY RETIREES IN FIGHTING MEDICARE PLAN CHANGES
CITYWIDE — A group of retired municipal employees fighting a change in the city’s traditional Medicare coverage have found a key ally in current teachers and employees within the New York City school system, who are going against their own union president to force a referendum vote, reported THE CITY on Tuesday, March 21. The United Federation of Teachers has teamed with retirees in launching a petition to force a full-membership vote on any changes to health care plans from GHI to another privately-owned plan for retirees or any union members.
The situation marks the first time that current city workers are challenging their union leadership; as UFT president Michael Mulgrew, serving on the Municipal Labor Committee, voted in favor of switching to the cost-cutting plan.
BPL PROGRAM EXPLORES HOW THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE BECAME ‘AMERICAN’
GRAND ARMY PLAZA AND GOWANUS — The story of how the English language became ‘American’ over a period of 450 years is the topic of a talk at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Center in early April. The presentation, titled “The People’s Tongue: How Writers and Editors Transform American English,” celebrates the 10th anniversary of award-winning independent Gowanus-based publishing house Restless Books, and takes place on Tuesday, April 4, at 7 p.m.
Established in 2013 as a digital publisher, Restless Books became a non-profit four years later. Its founders “…set out to feed this hunger (for new destinations, experiences, and perspectives) and curiosity with a richer diet of international literature, and to reclaim a sense of what it means to be restless — “stirring constantly, desirous of action,” according to their website.
COLTON DENOUNCES HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER
BENSONHURST — The horrific collision in Bensonhurst that killed two people and injured five more on March 20, has angered Assemblymember William Colton, (D-47) in whose district the collision occurred. Colton on Tuesday, March 21, issued a statement rebuking the driver, Vitaliy Konoplyov, and calling for the revocation of his driver license (see earlier brief: “Bensonhurst Car Crash Kills Two, Injuries Five”).
Said Colton, “It is very sad that people behind the wheel don’t take other people’s lives seriously. Drivers like this should be banned from driving.”
BAY RIDGE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT WINS CAPITAL IN STATE CONTEST’S EARLY DESIGN COMPONENT
BAY RIDGE — Shore Hill Development in Bay Ridge was also awarded funding as part of the Buildings of Excellence Competition’s Early Design Support Component, with Curtis + Ginsberg Architects working on this project. The overall $2 million Early Design Support component provides funding based on the project scope to achieve the carbon neutral design proposed by the design partner, project size, location, new construction or adaptive reuse, and historic preservation.
Shore Hill Development was one of four projects within New York City to share $558,550 in capital funding in the Low-to-Moderate Income category.
BROOKLYN HOUSING PROJECTS WIN AWARDS FOR RESILIENT, LOW-CARBON DESIGNS
BAY RIDGE, EAST NEW YORK AND BROWNSVILLE — Three Brooklyn organizations with housing are among 14 across the state that Governor Kathy Hochul has awarded a total of $13.5 million, in the third round of the more than $48 million Buildings of Excellence Competition. Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples (POP) Development Corp’s Livonia C3 in East New York – which also won Blue Ribbon for Design Excellence; the Jonathan Rose Companies’ Shore Hill Development in Bay Ridge and the Brownsville Arts Center and Apartments all won capital as part of the competition, which recognizes the design, construction and operation of clean, resilient, and low-carbon or carbon neutral multifamily buildings.
The Competition supports the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050 and ensure at least 35%, with a goal of 40%, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed toward disadvantaged communities.
BROOKLYN CONGRESSMAN URGES DELIVERY OF FUNDS FOR OFFSHORE ENERGY PROJECTS
NATIONWIDE — Funding needs to be delivered as soon as possible to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in order to ensure the timely approval of offshore wind energy projects. So urged Rep. Dan Goldman (D-10/much of Brooklyn) and several of his Congressional colleagues in a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The funding, which Congress wrote into provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, would support offshore wind development and help the U.S. meet offshore wind energy production targets.
The capital includes $150 million for the Department of the Interior to bolster its ability to conduct timely and robust environmental reviews.
DEPT. OF LABOR SUES BK HEALTH CARE STAFFER OVER UNFAIR CONTRACTS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The U.S. Department of Labor on Monday filed suit asking a federal court to stop Brooklyn health care staffing provider Advanced Care Staffing from allegedly making employees sign contracts that would force them to work for the company for three years or repay rightfully earned wages, further alleging that the contracts led some employees to earn less than the federal minimum wage, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a press release from the DOL. The complaint alleges employees who left before their contracts’ expiration were forced into private arbitration and required to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the company’s “future profits” and legal costs; in one instance, a registered nurse — who resigned after raising repeated safety concerns — was told he owed “amounts that may well require [him] to surrender all the wages ACS ever paid [him] during his employment, plus even more, all to satisfy ACS’s claim of future profits.”
The department seeks an injunction forbidding ACS and its CEO from reducing employees’ wages below federal minimums, whether by demanding employees enter into contracts requiring them to cover ACS’ future profits, attorneys’ fees or costs associated with arbitration, or by enforcing such contracts; in addition, the department is seeking back wages and liquidated damages for affected employees.
BENSONHURST CAR CRASH KILLS TWO, INJURES FIVE
BENSONHURST — A car crash in Bensonhurst shortly after noon on Monday claimed the lives of two people and injured five more, reports the Daily Mail, with shocking surveillance video footage capturing the moment a car sped through an intersection and smashed into another vehicle, careening onto the sidewalk. The driver of the struck car and a critically injured pedestrian passed away after being transported to Maimonides hospital, while five more victims were also taken to hospitals as a result of their injuries; the driver of the speeding car, Vitaliy Konoplyov, was taken for questioning by police and has since been charged with manslaughter.
“This was a completely avoidable tragedy… A driver speeding and blowing red lights in a congested area without regard for anyone or anything must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Praying for all involved,” wrote Councilmember Justin Brannan on Facebook.
WORK STARTING SOON ON BORO HALL STATION DISABILITY UPGRADES
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The MTA will begin construction on several planned upgrades to the Borough Hall subway station in June, according to Councilmember Lincoln Restler, with a focus on improving accessibility for disabled customers, as well as general quality-of-life upgrades and renovations for all riders. The planned work involves adding three new elevators between different levels of the station, raising platform boarding areas for disabled customers, installing new accessible gates and widening sidewalks above to accommodate the elevators.
The work, which will bring the station into compliance with the ADA, is set to be finished in April 2025, per the MTA’s estimate.
SAHADI’S OPENS NEW WINE AND SPIRITS STORE IN INDUSTRY CITY
SUNSET PARK — Longtime Middle Eastern grocery store Sahadi’s has expanded into Industry City, with the soft opening of its new Sahadi Spirits store on 35th Street in Sunset Park. The store specializes in “modern twists on old world vines,” carrying multiple types of arak, raki, local spirits from Brooklyn, and bottles from Middle Eastern winemakers based domestically from Long Island to California, as well as from Lebanon, Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Slovenia, Georgia, Armenia, Sicily and more.
Sahadi Spirits will be holding a grand opening on April 23, featuring free samples, tastings and live music.
NYPD TO HOST COMMUNITY ZOOM ON NEW 76TH PRECINCT CAPTAIN
COBBLE HILL — This Wednesday, March 22, the NYPD will host a public Zoom meeting introducing the two candidates to replace recently retired Captain Vitaliy Zelikov as commander of the 76th Precinct, in accordance with new NYPD rules mandating that communities, through their Precinct Community Councils, have the opportunity to be involved in the process of choosing a new precinct commanding officer. The candidates will speak about themselves and answer questions from 76th Precinct Community Council head and Cobble Hill Association member Jerry Armer, which were solicited in advance by the CHA from a number of area stakeholders.
The meeting will take place on March 22 at 6 p.m. via Zoom, with its password being nypd76pct! and its ID number being 160 977 0424; attendees will not be able to ask questions directly but will be able to fill out a survey and vote for their preferred candidate following the meeting.
CON-ED TO PLACE E-BIKE AND SCOOTER CHARGERS IN VAN DYKE HOUSES
BROWNSVILLE — Con Edison, along with NYCHA, on Monday announced that it will place chargers and storage for e-bikes and e-scooters at selected public housing developments to test whether the use of such machines would increase if New Yorkers had access to suitable charging and storage for them, potentially reducing reliance on fossil fuel-powered transportation and delivering cleaner air and safer streets. The project also seeks to reduce indoor charging, which can cause dangerous fires, and to test the viability of providing dedicated charge and storage stations as a business model.
Con Edison is hoping to install the first chargers and storage areas at the Van Dyke houses in Brooklyn, as well as at Queensbridge North and South in Queens and De Hostos in Manhattan, by the end of the year; and, has posted a request for information for the project, a step toward finding a vendor to provide and operate the chargers once they are installed.
JAIL GUARD PLEADS GUILTY TO TAKING BRIBES FOR SMUGGLING
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Former federal correction officer Jeremy Monk, 32, on Monday pleaded guilty to receiving bribes in exchange for providing contraband to prison inmates detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, announced United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace. Monk admitted to, on several occasions, accepting large cash payments from inmates to smuggling banned items such as cell phones and marijuana into the jail during the course of his employment there between May 2020 and his voluntary resignation on April 18, 2022.
On April 15, 2022, MDC staff discovered that Monk had agreed to accept $10,000 from inmates to smuggle in contraband and leave it in a staff restroom; that afternoon, after Monk was observed entering and leaving the staff restroom, MDC staff found more than nine ounces of marijuana hidden on a shelf under floor buffing pads.
ELECTRIC CAR CHARGER COMPANY WINS AWARD AT SXSW FESTIVAL
TEXAS — itselectric, a Brooklyn-based electric vehicle curbside charging company, announced on Thursday that its “Power From the People” city charging initiative was awarded the Innovation Award for Urban Infrastructure at the 24th annual South by Southwest Innovation Awards ceremony on March 13. The company’s model involves partnering with property owners to install its electric vehicle chargers in accessible locations and then sharing revenues from users of those chargers with the owners, expanding electric vehicle charging networks with little to no impact on municipal budgets.
Earlier this month, the company announced that it had raised $2.2 million in funding, led by Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, and plans to set up pilot programs around the country in 2023.
NYU TANDON COMPUTER SCIENTISTS RESEARCH INSIDIOUS SMARTPHONE SPYWARE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A team of computer scientists from NYU Tandon School of Engineering, including Associate Professor Damon McCoy, are researching smartphone spyware apps that are both virtually undetectable and hard to remove from their victim’s device. Professor McCoy and his team are focusing on “the need for a more creative, diverse and comprehensive set of interventions from industry, government and the research community,” they write. “While technical defenses can be part of the solution, the problem scope is much bigger.
Researchers performed an in-depth technical analysis of 14 leading spyware apps for Android phones. By contrast, iPhone prohibits “side loading,” thus limiting the scope of spyware on this platform.
BK’S JOSEPH UNVEILS BILL TO CREATE 100 MILES OF BIKE LANES A YEAR
FLATBUSH — Flatbush City Councilmember Rita Joseph, joined by fellow Brooklyn Councilmembers Lincoln Restler and Crystal Hudson, on Thursday announced new legislation that would require the city Department of Transportation to build 100 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city every year until 2028, reports Streetsblog. The bill would represent an increase from current policy, which calls for a total of 50 new miles in 2023 — but the execution could prove difficult for the DOT, which is already struggling to meet its bike-lane commitments as a result of budget and staffing shortfalls, as well as construction-related red tape and occasional neighborhood opposition.
In 2022, the city added 26.3 new miles of protected bike lanes with a goal of 30 miles — for some, a good start, but a far cry from its current target of 50 miles.
MILLION-DOLLAR LOTTO TICKET SOLD IN FLATBUSH
FLATBUSH — The New York Lottery on Sunday announced that a second-prize-winning ticket worth $1 million for the March 18 Powerball drawing was purchased at Flatbush Gas, Inc. on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. The lottery is encouraging Brooklynites to check their tickets — the winning numbers for the Powerball drawing held on March 18 are: 14-20-30-54-69, and the Powerball is 11; the lucky second place winner will have gotten all five numbers correct but missed out on the Powerball, which is needed to take home the grand prize.
New Yorkers struggling with a gambling addiction, or who know someone who is, can find help by calling the State’s toll-free, confidential HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (467369); standard text rates may apply.
TWITTER TROLL TO FACE TRIAL OVER ELECTION SCAM
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Opening statements in the trial of social media influencer Douglass Mackey, also known as Ricky Vaughn, are set to begin on Monday, March 20, at 9:30 a.m., according to a media update from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, over allegations that the defendant conspired with others to trick social media users into believing it was possible to vote in the 2016 election by texting from their cell phones. Mackey allegedly used multiple Twitter accounts on Nov. 1 and 2 of 2016 to distribute images falsely branded with Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo that told users to text “Hillary” to a cell phone number in order to cast their vote – a scam that over 4,900 people fell for, according to the government, potentially suppressing Brooklyn voters.
Mackey has been charged with one count of Conspiracy Against Rights – the U.S. Attorney’s statement points to a Tweet sent by Mackey on Nov. 2 “suggesting the importance of limiting ‘black turnout,’” – while Mackey has argued the images were “protected political speech or satire” in an earlier motion to dismiss, denied by a judge.
‘MUSEUM OF FAILURE’ POP-UP CRASH-LANDS IN BROOKLYN
SUNSET PARK — A quirky new museum has touched down in Industry City, reports NBC News — the Museum of Failure, a pop-up exhibition that showcases a variety of history’s most influential failed products. The Museum’s goal is to spark innovation by telling stories about ideas that nearly worked but didn’t, as well as ones that went wildly astray, in order to “inspire us to take meaningful risks,” and demonstrate that invention is a process, not a destination.
The Museum will be on display to all ages at Industry City until May 14; tickets cost $20.50 for adults, $16.50 for children and students, and are free for kids under 6.
RED HOOK GROUP TO HOLD MEETING ON SEAWALL PLAN ALTERNATIVES
RED HOOK — Red Hook ecology and waterfront activist group PortSide NewYork will be holding an online community meeting Monday, March 20, on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ controversial storm resiliency plan for Brooklyn’s waterfront in order to discuss alternatives and coordinate opposition efforts. The meeting will feature presentations from a Belgian engineering firm on non-disruptive flood control measures and from a nationally recognized littoral design firm on building landscapes and structures that resist hurricane damage, as well as a screening of a talk from former Department of City Planning Chief Urban Designer Alexandros Washburn on a proposal to construct barrier islands in New York’s harbor; interested attendees can register for the Zoom meeting online and find more information on PortSide’s website.
The comment period for the Army’s plan, which would see large seawalls with heights up to 17 feet constructed along Brooklyn’s low-lying waterfront, was extended earlier this month, following community uproar and opposition, to March 31; comments can be sent to the email address [email protected] until that deadline.
AMTRAK ANNOUNCES SUPER-CHEAP LATE NIGHT FARES IN NORTHEAST
NEW YORK — Amtrak on Thursday announced a new ultra-low pricing plan for selected routes on its Northeast Corridor service, reports CNBC, designed to attract customers willing to travel overnight or at off-peak hours. Its ‘Night Owl’ tickets will be valid for points in between Manhattan’s Penn Station and Washington, D.C. for coach-class seats between the hours of 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Sample fares include a ticket from NYC to Philadelphia for only $10 and to Washington for only $20, although prices and availability are subject to change; interested travelers can find more information on Amtrak’s website.
TEENS ARRESTED IN BUSHWICK STABBING DEATH
BUSHWICK — Two young men, ages 17 and 19, were arrested on Sunday following the deadly stabbing of Diego Ramirez, 24, in Bushwick in the early hours of Saturday morning. Police report that Joan Chicaiza, 19, was charged with reckless endangerment, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, while the unnamed 17-year-old was charged with murder, attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
The violent attack, which claimed Ramirez’s life, also sent two other young men to the hospital with stab wounds, one of whom remains in critical condition.
CONSUMER ALERT ON PASSOVER-RELATED PRICE GOUGING
STATEWIDE — As Passover approaches, New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued a consumer alert urging New Yorkers to be cautious of potential discriminatory pricing practices at car washes. As preparation for this major Jewish festival, in the days leading up to Passover, many Jews clean their homes, cars, and other spaces to remove “chametz” (leavened products). According to reports provided to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), some companies have advertised “specials” for car washing services related to Passover, but who instead, charged at higher prices to Jewish customers.
Anyone who is aware of businesses using discriminatory practices or who believes that they were charged more for services because of their religion, race, or background is encouraged to file a complaint with OAG online or call 1-800-771-7755.
BIDEN PROTECTS LABOR RULE ON PRUDENT INVESTING
NATIONWIDE — President Joe Biden on Monday vetoed GOP-sponsored legislation that would have prohibited the Department of Labor’s final rule, “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights,” from being implemented. The President said that the rule “allows retirement plan fiduciaries to make fully informed investment decisions by considering all relevant factors that might impact a prospective investment, while ensuring that investment decisions made by retirement plan fiduciaries maximize financial returns for retirees.”
“This is not controversial. This is common sense,” said Biden.
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