What’s News, Breaking: Friday, March 31, 2023
SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER ‘RICKY VAUGHN’ CONVICTED OF CONSPIRACY AGAINST RIGHT TO VOTE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A federal jury in U.S. District Court/Eastern District in Brooklyn convicted Douglass Mackey, also known as “Ricky Vaughn,” of the charge of Conspiracy Against Rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote. The verdict followed a one-week trial before United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly, in which prosecutors proved that between September and November 2016, Mackey conspired with other influential Twitter users and with members of private online groups to disseminate fraudulent messages encouraging supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to “vote” via text message or social media which, in reality, is legally invalid.
When sentenced, Mackey, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
GOVERNOR COORDINATES EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FOR SCHOOLS
STATEWIDE — Heightened monitoring measures have been put into place in response to the recent increase in “swatting” calls, or the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, hostage situation or homicide, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday, March 31. Governor Hochul met with state public safety and education leaders, also on Friday, to coordinate preparedness and safety measures to ensure all children remain safe in schools and that all school districts and local police have the latest guidance on school safety protocols, especially in light of shootings in Nashville and other parts of the U.S.
Emergency Response planning resources are available for adults on the New York State Center for School Safety’s webpage, including a new video titled, “Seconds Count” that the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services developed in partnership with the NYS School Safety Improvement Team.
ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY VIGIL FOR BOY WHO WAS SHOT TO DEATH IN EAST FLATBUSH
EAST FLATBUSH — GodSquad/67th Precinct Clergy Council has organized a vigil in East Flatbush for 7 p.m. on Friday, March 31, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a local boy who was gunned down while eating pizza in a car. Kade Ashton Tyler Lewin was just a few weeks shy of his 13th birthday when he was shot while sitting with his cousins. Pastor Edward-Richard Hinds, president of GodSquad, Pastor Gilford Monrose, Executive Director, Office of Faith Based and Community Partnership, Faith Advisor to the Mayor and GodSquad’s founder; Assemblymember Monique Chandler-Waterman (D-58/East Flatbush) and the advocacy group Mothers for Safe Cities were scheduled to join the family, as they continue seeking justice for the murdered boy.
The scene of the shooting, corner of Linden Blvd & East 56th Street, has been co-named Kade Ashton Tyler Lewin Way.
BISHOP TO LEAD PALM SUNDAY PROCESSION FROM GRAND ARMY PLAZA
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Palm Sunday in Brooklyn this weekend begins with a procession that Bishop Robert Brennan of the Diocese of Brooklyn will lead, starting with an opening prayer at Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights. Joining Bishop Brennan will be Father Christopher Heanue, rector of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. Together with worshipers carrying palms, the clergy will then head down Vanderbilt Avenue to the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, a few blocks to the north, at 856 Pacific Street, where Bishop Brennan will preside at 1:30 p.m. Spanish Mass.
Palm Sunday, which ushers in Holy Week for Christians, commemorates the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, where those who greeted Jesus waved palms and set them on the ground along His path.
FORMER BROOKLYN MASSAGE PARLOR MANAGER SENTENCED TO 17 YEARS FOR BEATING HIS PARTNER
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A former Brooklyn man who had managed a Sunset Park massage parlor with the girlfriend whom he later brutalized and stabbed, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for that crime, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice E. Niki Warin on Friday, March 31, sentenced 59-year-old Jun Zhang, following his February 1 trial conviction on several counts, including attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon for an attack in 2016 in which he beat and stabbed his girlfriend, and slashed her throat, sending her to the hospital for a month.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This was a life altering assault that the victim survived because of her will to live for her children.”
PEW SURVEY: REPUBLICANS, CONSERVATIVES MORE IN FAVOR OF BANNING TIKTOK THAN ARE PROGRESSIVES
NATIONWIDE — More than twice as many Americans support the U.S. government banning TikTok as oppose it (50% vs. 22%), though a sizable 28% are undecided, and its users oppose such a ban, according to a new Pew Research Center survey reported through Editor & Publisher magazine. The survey, released in the midst of an investigation on the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, revealed that, generationally, older Americans — and politically, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — and some Democrats on the more conservative side of their spectrum — support the ban, whereas moderates and progressives do not.
The White House has also indicated it will support draft legislation in the House of Representatives that would allow the federal government to regulate or ban some internationally-produced social media technology, including TikTok.
PROSPECT PARK ALLIANCE CELEBRATES REOPENING OF FULLY-RESTORED BALLFIELDS
PROSPECT PARK — Another much-anticipated ribbon cutting, this one in Prospect Park, on Thursday, March 30 celebrated the official opening of the newly-restored Ballfields 2 and 3 on the Long Meadow in Prospect Park. Prospect Park Alliance restored the fields through funding from Comptroller Brad Lander during his time as City Councilmember for District 39. Ballfields 2 and 3 which are the final two of seven ballfields on the Long Meadow to undergo restoration.
The fields are reseeded and have new clay infields and drainage to keep them in good playing condition. The restoration also included newly paved pathways, benches and drinking fountains, and dedicated clay storage bins and shaded dugouts.
RIBBON-CUTTING OPENS LONG-AWAITED JOSEPH S. & DIANE H. STEINBERG AMBULATORY CARE CENTER
COBBLE HILL — Brooklynites now have access to the highest quality in outpatient and emergency care, at one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the city, with the ribbon-cutting of NYU Langone Health’s Joseph S. & Diane H. Steinberg Ambulatory Care Center, which took place on Friday morning, March 31. The center, at 70 Atlantic Avenue in Cobble Hill, spans five clinical floors across 165,000 square feet. The robust physician practice includes 19 medical and surgical specialties throughout the new building, which also offers an infusion center and radiology and imaging services at the site of the former Long Island College Hospital.
Longtime residents of Brooklyn Heights, the Steinbergs support and partner with many other Brooklyn-based institutions, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the St. Ann’s Center for Arts and Education, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Board of Overseers, and NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center Advisory Board.
BROOKLYN TEACHER GETS 20 YEARS FOR TARGETING KIDS ONLINE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Former NYC high school teacher Jonathan Deutsch was sentenced on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn to 20 years in prison for four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and six counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, following his conviction in June 2022. As set forth in the government’s sentencing memorandum and related court proceedings, in 2016 and 2017, Deutsch joined Facebook groups for LGBTQ+ youth in order to meet vulnerable minors online, posing as a 33-year-old teacher and a 14-year-old boy in order to message the minors, gain their trust through flattery and support, and then to engage them in sexualized conversations and exchanges; ultimately, Deutsch requested and received sexually explicit images or videos from at least four children, ranging in age from 10 to 16 years old.
Deutsch was originally indicted in 2018, after allegedly contacting hundreds of children and carrying on explicit conversations with 45 of them.
MITZVAH TANK PARADE TAKES NEW YORK
CROWN HEIGHTS — The Chabad Lubavitch Jewish community launched a parade of 73 “Mitzvah Tanks” from Crown Heights through the streets of New York on Thursday in celebration of the Passover holiday, as well as in honor of the upcoming 121st birthday of Grand Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who passed away in 1994. Crown Heights Info reports that the “tanks” — in reality, decorated trucks — handed out 10,000 pieces of matzoh on their way to Herald Square in Manhattan.
Paradegoers told a News 12 reporter that their goal was to spread “light and kindness” to combat antisemitism and hate.
ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE OPENING BROOKLYN OFFICE
BROOKLYN — The Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting antisemitism, announced on Thursday its intention to open a satellite office in Brooklyn, reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, after a recent wave of attacks prompted CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt to call the borough “one of the epicenters for antisemitism in this country.” An annual audit of anti-Jewish violence by the group found that antisemitic incidents had increased by 39% nationwide in the last year, with nearly half of the assaults taking place in Brooklyn.
The office’s location has not yet been announced, but the group says it will be staffed by two ADL workers when it opens at the end of April.
GOLDMAN HOSTS CONGRESSIONAL ‘DAD CAUCUS’
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman on Thursday co-hosted the inaugural Congressional Dads Caucus Roundtable Discussion, alongside fellow New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman and others. Bringing in working family advocates and experts, members of the Dads Caucus discussed policies that will uplift families across the country, including reinstating the child tax credit, increasing access to quality childcare, creating paid family and medical leave and tackling climate change; Goldman also stressed the need for gun reforms following the elementary school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee this week — the 13th this year — that left three 9-year-olds and three school workers dead.
Goldman helped to launch the Dads Caucus in January of this year, with the intention of supporting legislation for and educating other congressmembers on the issues that working parents face.
CUNY PROFESSOR RECEIVES LITERARY AWARD FOR FIRST BOOK
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — City Tech professor and Brooklyn School for Math and Research teacher Sidik Fofana, whose first book “Stories from the Tenants Downstairs” was published to widespread acclaim last summer, has been named a winner of the prestigious Whiting Award for emerging writers, an honor given each year to 10 new literary voices that carries a $50,000 prize. The short stories in Fofana’s collection, a decade in their creation, are written from the distinct perspectives of eight residents of a Harlem building undergoing gentrification who are struggling with life as eviction looms.
“In a profession where you publish a story and you’re so happy to get $500 and then someone gives you this big award and tells you you’re getting $50,000 — it’s just, wow. It’s a stamp of approval,” said Fofana.
BICHOTTE HERMELYN AWARDS WOMEN OF DISTINCTION AT BK COLLEGE
MIDWOOD — Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn hosted her Annual Women of Distinction Award Ceremony on Sunday, March 26th, at Brooklyn College, celebrating seven women who are making a positive difference in Assembly District 42 and the greater community. Honorees included poet Jennifer Searles, Jewish educator Fanny Ralbag, community organizer Ume-Kulsoom Butt, Community Board 14’s Shawn Alyse Campbell, environmental activist Lupe Ramsey, health center leader Mari G. Millet and pastor Donna Baptiste.
The ceremony also featured speeches from NYS Attorney General Letitia James, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, Sen. Kevin Parker and Councilmember Rita Joseph; as well as community arts performances.
HEALTH DEPT TO HELP HOMELESS ACCESS HOUSING
CITYWIDE — On Thursday, NYC Health + Hospitals announced an expansion of its Housing for Health initiative that will approve approximately 600 patients per year to receive one-on-one support applying for housing, doubling the number of patients who currently access housing navigation support in the health system. Eligible public hospital patients will be referred to a housing navigator from the Coordinated Behavioral Care organization, who will help them find housing opportunities and assemble application materials, accompany them on apartment viewings and provide support to settle into their new home, employing a “whatever it takes” approach to meet patients where they are and support them through the housing process.
“Woodhull Hospital has been great for me. They took me out of the shelter and put me in the greatest apartment that I only dreamed of. I love you guys. Thanks again,” said Vincent, a patient at Woodhull who found housing through the program.
GRAND JURY CHARGES TRUMP, WHO VOWS TO STAY IN RACE FOR PRESIDENT
MANHATTAN — Former Queens resident Donald Trump has become the first former U.S. President to face criminal charges when a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him earlier today, Thursday, March 30, according to several news sources. The indictment, which follows an investigation into payments of hush money made to porn star Stormy Daniels, could wind up re-shaping the 2024 Presidential race, even as Trump soared ahead of his opponents, particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in a poll also taken on Thursday.
Trump has previously gone on record saying that facing criminal charges would not deter him from seeking another term as President.
LUNA PARK GIVES BACK TO THE COMMUNITY ON SEASON OPENER’S DONATION DAY
CONEY ISLAND — Donation Day is a season-opening tradition of Coney Island’s Luna Park taking place this Sunday, April 2. Founded in 1903, Luna Park will celebrate 120 years of fun and thrills, with the traditional egg cream christening of the 96-year-old Coney Island Cyclone starting at 11 a.m., and the first 96 riders of the day getting a free run of the historic wooden roller coaster.
Donation Day is a vital aspect of Luna Park, which will be giving back to the local Brooklyn community, with proceeds of the day’s sales directly supporting the Coney Island Sharks, Give Kids The World Village, and Operation H.O.O.D.
RIBBON-CUTTING CELEBRATES NEW AFFORDABLE-LIVING COMPLEX
CROWN HEIGHTS — City officials last week celebrated the ribbon-cutting for the new mixed-use apartment complex in Crown Heights with 250 affordable-living units for New Yorkers in need. As a part of the redevelopment of the historic Bedford Union Armory, the two residential buildings were built from the ground up to deliver 415 homes, 250 of which are affordable. The armory itself was converted into the Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center. Marvel Architects of New York and developer BFC Partners built the complex 1101 & 1089 President Street, just a few blocks from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Among those participating in the ribbon-cutting were Edwin Ramirez, Resident and Don Capoccia, Managing Principal, BFC Partners; Jessica Katz, Chief Housing Officer, City of New York; Adolfo Carrión Jr., Commissioner, Housing Preservation & Development; Eric Enderlin, president, The New York City Housing Development Corporation; and Laurie Combo, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of New York.
NYU TANDON PROFESSOR CALLS FOR ETHICAL USE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Will humans, sound judgment and even humor win out over Artificial Intelligence (AI) or risk being enslaved, an idea that the popular Star Trek series prophesied decades ago? NYU Tandon School of Engineering Professor Julia Stoyanovich offers her perspective in a Charter/Time article on the subject: “Every entity that benefits from ChatGPT, reputationally, financially…. should, at the very least, teach people about ChatGPT, to empower them back, to redistribute. We should have legal mandates around this,” points out Prof. Stoyanovich, who is also director of the Center for Responsible AI at NYU.
Warning that AI “is not to generate new text that is accurate. Or morally justifiable. It’s to sound like a human.” Stoyanovich says it’s appropriate to call out AI programs for what they sometimes are: “Bullshitters.”
DOCK ST SCHOOL HOLDS AUTISM AWARENESS FUN RUN
DUMBO — The Dock Street School in DUMBO is holding its first Autism Acceptance 5k fun run through Brooklyn Bridge Park this Saturday, with all proceeds benefiting the ASD program at the middle school. Participants of all ages can walk, run or show support from afar by donating.
The run kicks off from Pier 6 on Saturday, April 1, 2023, at 8:30 a.m.
AIRCRAFT TANKER FLYOVER TONIGHT ORIGINATES OVER VERRAZZANO BRIDGE
BAY RIDGE — A military assignment takes place Thursday night, March 30 over the Hudson River, when AKC-130 aircraft conducts a flyover from the Verrazzano Bridge to the Mario Cuomo Bridge between Westchester and Rockland Counties. Starting at 10:00 p.m. the aircraft will fly at approximately 2,500 feet. Lockheed-Martin manufactures the KC-130 — part of its Hercules series — as an aerial tanker according to the websites for both this global security and aerospace company and Military Factory, which describes the aircraft as “developed to refuel and resupply from forward-operating bases near the operational fronts.”
Notify NYC did not provide more information in its 1 p.m. dispatch on Thursday, other than to announce the 10 p.m. event as a planned flyover.
CUNY AWARDS RESEARCH GRANTS TO BROOKLYN STUDENTS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The CUNY Office of Research this week selected the recipients of its 2023 Interdisciplinary Research Grant, including one team from Brooklyn College and one from New York City College of Technology, with each team receiving a one-year grant of $40,000.
Jennifer Cherrier and Meghan Ference of Brooklyn College’s project “Linking Public Perceptions of Prospect Park with Cyanobacteria Bloom Mitigation: Interdisciplinary Solutions for Urban Water Resource Management” will monitor and test an anti-algae water filtration system installed in Prospect Park and will also study the effectiveness of community education campaigns about the issue.
Lili Ma of City Tech will lead the project “Multi-Robot Cooperative Target Tracking with Bio-Inspired Task Assignment and Formation Control,” exploring robotic collaboration and investigating the use of human-inspired collective intelligence for robots to make self-adaptive decisions when working together.
The 2023 theme of the grant program, “urban challenges,” encouraged approaches that leverage expertise across disciplines to address complex scientific and societal issues related to human health, climate change, technological innovation and social transformation.
JAMES BEARD AWARD NOMINEES FEATURE BROOKLYN CHEFS
BED-STUY — The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the 2023 list of finalists for its prestigious Restaurant and Chef Awards, sometimes described as the Oscars of the restaurant industry, featuring this year several Brooklyn chefs and restaurants in different categories. Chefs Eric Ramirez of Williamsburg’s Peruvian Llama Inn, Charlie Mitchell of Brooklyn Heights’ contemporary American Clover Hill and Nasim Alikhani of Prospect Heights’ Persian Sofreh were nominated in the Outstanding Chef, Emerging Chef and Best Chefs: New York State categories, respectively; while Bed-Stuy’s Nigerian Dept of Culture was nominated for Best New Restaurant.
A full list of the finalists from around the country can be found on the James Beard Foundation’s website.
PROM PROJECT HOSTS FORMALWEAR GIVEAWAY THIS WEEKEND
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The Brooklyn Prom Project will hold its tenth annual promwear giveaway on Saturday, April 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women in Downtown Brooklyn. The group has extended an invitation to all NYC high school graduating seniors in good academic standing and in financial need to attend the giveaway and have the chance to celebrate the tradition of attending prom.
The Brooklyn Prom Project is part of Operation PROM, a volunteer-run organization that helps students attend their proms by collecting and providing free dresses and tuxedos as well as accessory items such as shoes, undergarments, jewelry and bowties to teens who live in shelters, group homes or very low-income households.
BROOKLYN SUBWAY STATIONS SELECTED FOR RENOVATION
BROOKLYN — The MTA on Wednesday announced thirteen subway stations across the city will receive cosmetic upgrades and repairs as part of the agency’s Station Re-NEW-vation program, beginning with the Cortelyou Road Q station in Brooklyn this weekend, Saturday, April 1. To achieve a visibly refreshed station, NYC Transit crews will make a variety of upgrades such as concrete repairs, tile replacement, water mitigation enhancements, grouting, repainting and deep cleaning the entire station from the staircase to the track; following this initial work, routine and specialized cleaning will maintain this level of cleanliness.
Other Brooklyn stations picked for the program include the Broadway G station, the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues M station and the Kings Highway F station; all work on these stops is expected to be completed by June.
NYC CARSHARE PROGRAM TO EXPAND
CITYWIDE — City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez on Wednesday announced the addition of more than 270 new parking spaces to the city’s curbside carshare program, after a successful 230-space pilot cut greenhouse gas emissions by 7%, cut vehicle miles traveled by 6%, and reduced car ownership — the city estimates that for every one carshare vehicle added, four personal vehicles were either not purchased or sold. In the next phase, the city will work with carshare companies Zipcar, Getaround and Truqit to create designated carshare-only curbside parking spots in new neighborhoods across the city, and add more spots in initial areas as well.
The installations began this week and will continue into next week, bringing the total number of curbside spaces dedicated to carshare to 552; future sites will be identified and installed throughout 2023, while a map of all spots can be found after installations are complete on the city’s website.
MAYOR LAUNCHES WEBSITE TO HELP NEW YORKERS GET BENEFITS, SERVICES
CITYWIDE — New York City Mayor Eric Adams, First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser on Wednesday launched the first phase of the MyCity portal, a one-stop shop for city services and benefits that will make it easier for New Yorkers to interact with and access the support of a multitude of city agencies. MyCity users will be able to easily check eligibility for, apply for and track services and benefits in the city’s 10 most common languages, as well as securely save their information and documentation for future applications when applying for child care.
The phase one launch features a new streamlined child care assistance application, which allows families to self-screen for benefits eligibility, consolidates a complicated paper application into a single online form, and provides status updates to applicants after submission; phase one of MyCity also directs New Yorkers to existing resources for small businesses owners and job seekers, as well as to the city’s benefits screener.
SEN. GILLIBRAND WORKS TO MAKE SURE MILITARY MEMBERS QUALIFY FOR FOOD ASSISTANCE WHEN NEEDED
NATIONWIDE — Endeavoring to correct a situation in which nearly one in four military service members suffer food insecurity, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who represents a state with several active military bases, including the combined-branch garrison at Fort Hamilton, on Thursday, March 30 announced her intention to include the bipartisan Military Family Nutrition Access Act and in the 2023 Farm Bill. Gillibrand, who is chair of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the bill would exclude Basic Allowance for Housing — a type of military compensation used to cover the costs of off-base housing — from income calculations that determine and sometimes deny Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. This change would ensure that SNAP is in line with other federal assistance programs that already exclude the Basic Allowance in Housing in eligibility calculations.
Currently, 24% of service members — particularly junior enlisted members — experience food insecurity, posing a threat to military readiness and national security.
AMA PRESIDENT DENOUNCES JUDGE’S RULING ON PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE
NATIONWIDE — The American Medical Association on Thursday, March 30 expressed alarm at what it called “deeply flawed court ruling in Texas that jeopardizes access to preventive health services guaranteed under federal health reform, including drugs preventing HIV transmission.” Jack Resneck Jr., MD, the AMA president since June 2022, stated, “Providing insurance coverage for screenings and interventions that prevent disease saves lives – period. Invalidating this provision jeopardizes tools physicians use every day to improve the health of our patients.”
“Denying access to proven preventive care flies in the face of good policy, and the societal costs of establishing barriers to preventive services are immeasurable,” said Dr. Resneck of the AMA, which was founded in 1847.
TEXAS FEDERAL JUDGE’S RULING COULD POTENTIALLY END SOME HEALTH SCREENINGS FOR AMERICANS
NATIONWIDE — Preventive screenings and health care treatment could become unconstitutional in the wake of a Texas federal judge’s ruling on March 30 that struck down a key part of the nation’s health law, reported the Associated Press on Thursday, March 30. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked the requirement that most insurers cover some preventive care such as cancer screenings, bowing to some conservative and religious plaintiffs who feared that the screenings — such as for cancer — could lead to abortions, even if unrelated to reproductive health. The Biden Administration, warning that O’Connor’s latest ruling “could create extraordinary upheaval in the United States’ public health system,” is likely to appeal.
Although Judge O’Connor had previously ruled that the Affordable Care Act be dismantled, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision.
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