Brooklyn Boro

What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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DOT COMMISSIONER RODRIGUEZ UNVEILS PLANS TO REUNITE COMMUNITIES SPLIT BY BQE NORTH & SOUTH

BROOKLYN-QUEENS EXPRESSWAY — The future of the aforementioned BQE, being discussed in depth over the past several years, underscores the chafing between New York City — which owns the portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway between Atlantic Ave. and Sands Street, and the state, which owns the sections to the south leading to Staten Island and the north, leading to Queens. Earlier this week, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez gave a presentation demonstrating that, while the city can’t legally take the initiative to rebuild all the portions, it can reconnect long-divided communities. (See Brooklyn Eagle story elsewhere in this edition).

Rodriguez unveiled three design approaches to reunite the communities on both sides of the viaduct and overpass divide.

DAILY TOP BROOKLYN NEWS
News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

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DOT EXTENDS OVERNIGHT WESTBOUND BQE LANE CLOSURE

BROOKLYN-QUEENS EXPRESSWAY — Commuters who use the Staten Island-bound BQE will be enduring more late-night lane closures this month, as the NYC Department of Transportation extends the date of maintenance work on I-278 (the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) overnight, single-lane closures westbound. The section of roadway between the Brooklyn Bridge and Atlantic Avenue — designated as BQE Central — will be in effect Wednesday, March 29, and Friday, March 31, from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m.

According to a DOT-provided photo, the closure will be in the left lane which is completely under the cantilevered overhang.

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GODSQUAD GRADUATES COHORT OF YOUTHS FROM ITS FLATBUSH LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

EAST FLATBUSH — Eighty youths will be graduating next Wednesday, March 29, from Flatbush Leadership Academy that the GodSquad/67th Precinct Clergy Council sponsors. The 2022-2023 Flatbush Leadership Academy and NextGen cohorts have worked diligently during the 19 weekly sessions with their adult mentors, who instructed and mentored the youths in professional development, personal growth, peer partnership, and community empowerment and work readiness. GodSquad works to deter young people from following paths of gang activity and gun violence, steering and equipping them instead to be agents of change.

The graduation takes place at Winthrop Beacon Junior High School in East Flatbush.

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HATE CRIMES REMAIN UNDER-REPORTED IN MIDST OF RISE IN BIAS ASSAULTS, SAY NEW YORK LAWMAKERS

BOROUGHWIDE — Hate crimes have been under-reported during a 300% rise in attacks against Asians and a significant rise in antisemitic motivated assaults, say Rep. Dan Goldman (D-10) and a bipartisan delegation of elected officials from New York, including U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-7/Brooklyn and Queens) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-11/Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights), in a letter they sent to the Department of Justice this week. They are urging the Department of Justice to provide an overview of law enforcement agency compliance with hate crime reporting requirements, pointing out that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2021 Hate Crimes Statistic report found that a significant number of law enforcement agencies had failed to report hate crimes through the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System.

The lawmakers also told the Department of Justice that “Congress has already taken decisive action to combat hate crimes by passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.”

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YEMENI AMERICAN MERCHANTS TO HOST ATLANTIC AVE. RAMADAN LIGHTING

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Yemeni American Merchants Association, along with the Atlantic Avenue BID, will be hosting a Ramadan holiday lighting ceremony on Wednesday, illuminating Atlantic Avenue between Court and Clinton streets and between 3rd and 4th avenues to celebrate the start of the Islamic holy month, during which Muslims commemorate the prophet Mohammad’s first religious revelation through fasting and prayer. “The holiday lights are meant as a gesture of friendship toward the community’s long-standing and thriving Muslim-owned businesses,” wrote the group in a press release, noting that they hope also to expand the decorations to further blocks in years to come.

The lighting ceremony is set for Wednesday, March 22, at 2 p.m. at Masjid Al-Farooq near the Barclays Center; Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso will attend, along with Councilmembers Shahana Hanif and Lincoln Restler and local community leaders.

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BK’S BILLIE HOLIDAY THEATRE RECEIVES NAT’L ARTS MEDAL AFTER COVID DELAY

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Tuesday presented the National Medal of the Arts to Bed-Stuy’s Billie Holiday Theatre at a ceremony honoring the recipients of the 2021 National Humanities Medals and National Medals of the Arts, which had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The medal was accepted by Theatre board member Blondel Pinnock, also CEO of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the management company of the community-focused Restoration Plaza in which the 50-year-old performance space is located.

“Over 50 years ago, the Billie Holiday Theatre opened in Brooklyn. Black writers and actors from Samuel L. Jackson to Debbie Allen to Smokey Robinson debuted there in New York at that theater. Today Billie still stages first-rate theater productions, nurturing new generations of Black playwrights, performers as a culture of the cornerstone of our nation. And it’s really — it’s an incredible place,” said Biden at the ceremony, calling the theater “an artistic jewel for the nation” before presenting the award.

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FUGITIVE CALF CAUSES COMMOTION IN CANARSIE

CANARSIE — A runaway calf sparked barnyard chaos in Canarsie yesterday after escaping from a slaughterhouse, according to News 12 reporter Mary-Lyn Buckley, as workers and a crowd of locals chased after it when it broke for freedom through the neighborhood’s streets. Pedestrians seemed baffled by the situation — “What the heck was that?” one man told News 12, describing how he used his jacket like a matador’s cape in an attempt to stop the calf.

The calf made it from Rockaway Avenue all the way to Avenue M before being lassoed by workers; no news yet on whether it was ultimately spared from its fate.

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BROOKLYN HIKER FOUND DEAD IN UPSTATE MOUNTAINS

NEW PALTZ — A Brooklyn man last located setting off on a hike into the Mohonk preserve in the Shawangunk mountains last Saturday was found deceased by rescue workers on Friday, reports the Times Union, with injuries suggestive of a fatal fall. Victor Martinez, 45, had spoken to his daughter on his phone before beginning the hike, but was reported missing when he did not report to work the following Monday, prompting forest rangers and other searchers to spend three days combing the mountainous area, through heavy snowfall, eventually locating his possessions and body near the base of a 50-foot cliff.

State officials said the precise cause of the death was still under investigation.

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PUBLIC SAFETY FORUM AT BROOKLYN CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

CROWN HEIGHTS — The Interborough Developmental Consultation Center will be holding a public safety forum meeting at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum on Wednesday for community members. The forum will feature talks from faith-based leaders, NYPD officials and anti-violence organizations on public and community safety, as well as refreshments and tabling by local groups.

The forum will start on Wednesday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m.; attendees are asked to RSVP online beforehand.

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ADAMS, REYNOSO PROMOTE MINECRAFT ‘BATTLE OF THE BOROS’ KIDS CUP

CITYWIDE — Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, along with Mayor Adams, the other BPs and the city Department of Education, is hosting a competition for city public school students to design levels in the video game Minecraft centered around the question “How can we create a safe, connected, resilient, and sustainable borough that moves NYC forward without leaving anyone behind?” Designed to promote STEM education, the competition gives kids tools and challenges them to build interactive spaces inside the game that incorporate those themes and then to submit their creations to their schools, after which qualifying teams will show off at their Borough Championships, whose winners will move on to the Mayor’s Cup Finals.

Submissions for the contest are due on April 5, with the Brooklyn Borough Championship scheduled for May 6 and the finals for June 10; more information on the competition and instructions for prospective entrants can be found online on the DOE’s website.

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CARIBBEAN AUTHORS TO HOST BOOK FAIR IN CROWN HEIGHTS

CROWN HEIGHTS — A group of Caribbean authors is hosting a book fair in Bed-Stuy this weekend, presented by Caribbean American magazine Everybody’s and reggae music label VP Records, celebrating the legacy and work of the Caribbean artistic community. Authors attending include New Yorkers Herman Hall and Pat Chin, along with Claudette Joy Spence, Burnett Coburn, Grenada’s Anthony W. Deriggs, Jamaica’s Keisha-Gaye Anderson and Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr. Meagan A. Sylvester.

 The book fair will take place on Sunday, March 26, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Coal Pot Restaurant in Bed-Stuy.

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 ART IN DUMBO ANNOUNCES SPRING OPEN STUDIOS EVENT

DUMBO — Art in DUMBO on Tuesday announced DUMBO Open Studios, a curated weekend where more than 130 local artists will open their studio doors to the public, supporting artists financially while maintaining the unique character of the DUMBO community. Artists and organizations participating include Rodney Ewing, Liz Collins, and Lucky Risograph; while participating residency programs include Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, Smack Mellon, Triangle Arts, BRIClab, and New York Studio School.

 DUMBO Open Studios will take place on Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23,  from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; more information and an interactive map of participating artists can be found online on the Dumbo Open Studios website.

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BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN OFFERING MAGNOLIA TOURS THIS WEEKEND

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is celebrating spring with a series of magnolia blossom tours on Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26. The tours will showcase the garden’s magnolia collection as it enters full bloom, as well as discuss the women behind BBG’s magnolia hybridization program.

Tours last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, are free with BBG admission, and don’t require registration; guests are asked to gather at Magnolia Plaza in the garden by the building steps.

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MEETING TO ESTABLISH SMITH ST. BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT

SMITH STREET — City Councilmember Lincoln Restler (D-33) is supporting a call for the formation of a Business Improvement District along the Smith Street corridor. Organizers aiming to support the merchants on Smith Street and vicinity and to address street cleanliness issues have scheduled a Smith Street BID public organizing meeting to convene Saturday, March 25, 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., taking place at the Invisible Dog (51 Bergen Street).

Most of the BID area falls in City Council District 39 and Community Board 6, but a portion of northern Smith St. is within Councilmember Restler’s District 33 and Community Board 2.

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PARTICIPATORY BUDGET VOTING BEGINS SOON FOR CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 33

GREENPOINT TO GOWANUS — Participatory Budget voting will begin on March 25 for constituents of City Council District 33 and voters can be as young as age 11, City Councilmember Lincoln Restler announced on Tuesday, March 21. Community members suggested projects to support healthy communities, such as increasing food security, expanding green infrastructure and park spaces, and improving sustainability in the 33rd by furthering climate change mitigation, resilience, and education, and will have the chance to vote on which programs should be given priority.

The most popular projects will be funded up to $1 million with funding from the District 33 Council Office, which represents much of western Brooklyn: from Gowanus to Greenpoint.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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BANKING LAW ROLLBACK SECURED THROUGH RED STATE DEMOCRAT LOYALTY

COUNTRYWIDE — A handful of red-state Democrats were instrumental in helping Republicans secure a rollback of banking regulations sought by then-President Donald Trump in 2018. Now, those changes are being blamed for contributing to the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank which prompted a federal rescue and stoked anxiety about a broader banking contagion, according to the Associated Press. Specifically, the legislation lifted the threshold for banks that faced a strict regimen of oversight, including mandatory financial stress testing. GOP Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho worked with Democrats – who bucked their own caucus, as most Congressional Dems now seek to tighten regulations – with over $400 million spent in lobbyist money attempting to loosen the Dodd-Frank law’s impact on large mid-sized banks.

The rollback was leveraged with a lobbying campaign that cost tens of millions of dollars and drew an army of more than 1,000 lobbyists into the effort. It also was seeded with ample campaign contributions. It offers a fresh reminder of the power that bankers wield in Washington, where the industry spends prodigiously.

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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.

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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.


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