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What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, April 6, 2023

April 6, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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REP. MALLIOTAKIS HONORS HER DISTRICT’S STUDENT ESSAY WINNERS

BAY RIDGE AND DYKER HEIGHTS — Southwestern Brooklyn’s newest essay winners and future leaders received their awards from Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis (R-11)  on Thursday, April 7, from their prize-winning entries in the 2023 Presidents’ Day Essay contest held earlier this year for students in her district that encompasses Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and part of Staten Island. Students in grades 3 through 5 wrote on what they would do to improve their community if they were President of the United States. The Brooklyn third-grade winners were Celeste Zhu (1st place) of St. Athanasius Catholic Academy in Bensonhurst and Sara Dervishi (2nd place) of  P.S. 127/The McKinley Park School in Dyker Heights. Fourth-grade winners were Nicholas Squicciarini (1st place) of St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge and Hunter Ambrose (2nd place) of Good Shepherd Catholic Academy in Marine Park. Fifth-grade winners were Sarah Bettache (1st place) of P.S. 185/ The Walter Kassenbrock School in Bay Ridge and Dominic Vangeli (2nd place) of St. Bernadette Catholic Academy in Dyker Heights.

Rep. Malliotakis received more than 500 essays, double the contest submission since last year.

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The Brooklyn winners of the 2023 Presidents’ Day Essay Contest. Photo: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

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NYU TANDON TEAM MEASURES RACISM USING TWITTER AS ‘ON THE GROUND’ PROXY

CITYWIDE — Twitter may hold a key to pinpointing precise neighborhoods where systemic racism and homophobia have taken hold, according to a new study — which was published this month in Social Science & Medicine — by Rumi Chunara, an associate professor in NYU Tandon’s Computer Science department and in NYU School of Public Health’s Biostatistics department. Prof. Chunara and her team from NYU Tandon divided up the entire New York City region into more than two hundred geographic clusters — discrete areas, in some cases just multiple blocks — defined by the degree of racism and homophobia within each of those locations. Their research measures the mental health impact of time spent in racist and homophobic places.

The team used a new criteria tool that, instead of public records such as census data, instead utilizing Twitter as a proxy to measure nuanced ‘on the ground’ negative sentiment, according to the article.

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YARD LABS SUBJECT OF NY TIMES ARTICLE ON CLIMATE-TECH STARTUPS

BROOKLYN NAVY YARD — The Brooklyn Navy Yard, the historic naval shipbuilding facility which has been transformed into a major waterfront manufacturing complex, and its new initiative, Yard Labs, were the subject of a New York Times feature story on Thursday, April 6. Yard Labs, which welcomes green technology companies to test out their ideas and products within the Navy Yard complex is, according to the NY Times reporter Winnie Hu, part of a broader movement across New York City to create a green technology ecosystem.

In fact, the two winners of the Urban Future Lab annual competition, part of New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn and which last year attracted more than 200 start-up companies, were each awarded a $50,000 grant and a place in the Urban Future Lab’s incubator, which can accommodate up to 20 climate-tech companies.

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NEW PILOT PROGRAM WILL OFFER MICROHUBS FOR LOCAL DELIVERIES

CITYWIDE — A new pilot program to reduce the negative environmental and safety effects of truck deliveries will launch this summer, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced on Thursday, April 6. As part of the pilot, local delivery hubs, known as microhubs, will provide designated curbside, or off-street locations, for delivery trucks to unload items onto smaller, low-emissions vehicles, or human-powered modes of transportation like cargo bikes and hand carts, for the final leg of deliveries.

The summer pilot is part of the agency’s larger effort to rethink the city’s curb space to meet the demands of e-commerce; in tandem with the launch, the DOT has also released a new report detailing its rapid installation of thousands of loading zones across the five boroughs to create dedicated spaces for truck deliveries.

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NEW BILL WOULD AUTHORIZE POSTAL SERVICE CRACKDOWN ON ORGANIZATIONS DOING MAIL FRAUD

NATIONWIDE — The U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) ability to crack down on postal crime has been enhanced, thanks to bipartisan legislation that U.S. Representatives Nicole Malliotakis (R-11) and Congressmember Grace Meng (D-Queens-06) have introduced. Specifically, the USPS Subpoena Authority Act would strengthen USPS’ ability to investigate and halt criminal organizations driving mail theft through mailboxes, and it authorizes the Postal Service to issue administrative subpoenas that could collect more information related to the financial fraud associated with mail theft, including bank records and surveillance videos.

Malliotakis and Meng have pushed for the USPS Subpoena Authority Act following a rise in stolen checks from neighborhood post offices and mailboxes. According to a February 2023 alert from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, an arm of the U.S. Department of Treasury, reports of check fraud filed by banks nearly doubled to 680,000 from 350,000 in 2021.

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MAN ARRESTED FOR 2021 HIT AND RUN OF BROOKLYN COLLEGE PROF

MIDWOOD — Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of Richard Williams, 53, of Flatbush, in relation to the 2021 hit-and-run death of Brooklyn College professor Marguerite Iskenderian, 77, leveling charges of criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of the accident. Iskenderian was struck by a white BMW on the night of April 24, 2021, on Nostrand Avenue and succumbed to her injuries, while the driver fled the scene to parts unknown.

Iskenderian was a longtime faculty member at the college, having worked there since 1972, and an accomplished musician, reported the Brooklyn College Vanguard; friends of the professor held a memorial concert in her honor via Zoom in the days after her death.

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FT HAMILTON COMMUNITY RECOGNIZES NATIONAL VIETNAM VETS DAY

FORT HAMILTON — The 58th Vietnam Veterans Commemoration Ceremony was held on Wednesday, March 29, at the Fort Hamilton Commissary, also marking the 50th anniversary of the departure of the last American troops from Vietnam on March 29, 1973. The 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War will be recognized nationwide from May 28, 2012 through Nov. 11, 2025 as part of the United States Vietnam War Commemoration.

In 2012, the 50th year since the beginning of the war, President Obama signed a presidential proclamation designating March 29 as the annual observance of Vietnam War Veterans Day; later, the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 was signed into law by President Trump, designating every March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Veterans and servicemembers slice a cake at the ceremony. Photo: U.S. Army/Ephraim Rodriguez.

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TEACHER CHARGED WITH ENDANGERING CHILDREN

SUNSET PARK — Police announced on Wednesday that public school teacher Patrick Longsworth, 51, has been arrested and charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child. News 12 reports that investigators said Longsworth allegedly “made sexually suggestive remarks” to female students at his school.

Police have not released any more details on the incident to the public at press time.

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COUNCIL SEEKS TO EXPAND HALF-PRICE METROCARDS

CITYWIDE — The City Council wants to expand the Fair Fares program, which provides half-priced Metrocards and transit fares to lower-income New Yorkers, to cover even more people, reports Gothamist. The council on Monday called on Mayor Adams to increase the budget for the program and to double the admission cap on the program to make eligible any New Yorker earning up to twice the federal poverty level.

The city is also campaigning to raise awareness of the program’s existence, as data shows that less than half of the New Yorkers eligible for it are actually enrolled in it.

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POLICE SEEK SERIAL T-MOBILE BANDIT

CITYWIDE — Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for a thief targeting T-Mobile stores to steal smartwatches and other electronics, who is suspected of robbing at least 11 stores between Feb. 14 and March 18 of this year, beginning in Brooklyn and moving to Manhattan in recent weeks. The man is described as having a dark complexion and being in his early 20s, and has not caused any injuries as a result of his crimes.

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); the public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, on Twitter @NYPDTips.

Have you seen this man? Any tips you provide to police are strictly confidential.

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LEGAL AID SUES CITY OVER ‘CRITICAL’ FAMILY RENT VOUCHER PROGRAM

CITYWIDE — The Legal Aid Society ​and ​Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP filed a class action ​lawsuit on Wednesday against the NYC Department of Social Services on behalf of eight individual plaintiffs, including three Brooklynites, who receive rental subsidies under two programs designed to fight homelessness, seeking to stop the agency from terminating current recipients’ vouchers. The critical rent supplements are intended to prevent at-risk families — and particularly minor children — from entering the shelter system and to enable them to more rapidly exit shelters; however, The Legal Aid Society says, DSS routinely fails to renew households’ subsidies in a timely manner, and also routinely terminates households’ supplements without notice when they recertify their public assistance cases, leaving families to learn of the problems only when they receive eviction papers from their landlords.

“New York City families that need rental subsidies must be able to rely on those subsidies continuing for as long as they qualify for them. Instead, DSS is pulling the rug out from under these families and breaking its own rules in doing so,” said Fara Tabatabai, a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, in a press statement.

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GOVERNOR DROPS METHANE LIMIT INCREASE PLAN

ALBANY — Governor Hochul’s administration on Wednesday told the press that they did not intend to push for controversial changes to the state’s methane emissions standards initially proposed last week as a potential concession in the ongoing budget negotiations, reports Spectrum News. Green advocates hailed the decision as officials said the proposal “would not be prioritized,” but left the possibility on the table for the future, citing economic concerns.

“Governor Hochul’s excuse that New York needs to gut its nation-leading climate law in order to save New Yorkers money is flat-out wrong, especially when there’s a real solution to this problem right in front of her,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz in a press statement on Tuesday, following their introduction of a counterproposal backed by environmentalists.

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GOLDMAN PUSHES FOR PROTECTIONS FOR IMMIGRANT CHILDREN

WASHINGTON — Last week, U.S. Reps. Dan Goldman and Hillary Scholten, of Michigan, led members of Congress in requesting that the Department of Justice create a specialized children’s dockets for unaccompanied children, and requesting that the Office of Refugee Resettlement improve and expand post-release services for unaccompanied children to protect them from exploitation and keep them out of dangerous working conditions. Children’s dockets would make specially trained judges, child-friendly courtrooms and help from legal services organizations available for these unaccompanied children, speeding up stressful legal procedures and ensuring due process as they navigate the immigration system and their new situations, and protecting their wellbeing.

In 2022, the Department of Labor found nearly 4,000 children employed in violation of child labor laws, an increase of 70 percent over the past five years, according to a press statement from Goldman.

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‘START BY BELIEVING DAY’ CAMPAIGN FOCUSES ON FAMILIES’ RESPONSES TO VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

STATEWIDE — Governor Kathy Hochul issued a proclamation designating April 5 as Start by Believing Day, part of a national campaign with the organization End Violence Against Women to raise awareness of the importance of supporting survivors of sexual assault, and to educate families, friends, colleagues, and law enforcement and other professionals on improving their response if someone discloses an assault.

Individuals who have been sexually assaulted are far more likely to tell a friend, loved one or family member. If their disclosure is met with disbelief, skepticism, doubt, or shame, they are less likely to report the incident to police or seek help for physical or emotional trauma. This results in further harm to their physical and psychological well-being.

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HEIGHTS LIBRARY PRESENTS AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY ON JAZZ IN CHINA

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Public Library celebrates April as Jazz Appreciation Month, with a showing of “Jazz In China: The Documentary,” by Eugene Marlow, Ph.D., a longtime Brooklynite. “Jazz In China” chronicles the 100-year story of how this democratic, improv style of music — exists and thrives in China — a country with a long tradition of adherence to central authority. Organizing and hosting the event, on Thursday, April 6 at 6 p.m. is Leslie Arlette Boyce.

The 60-minute award-winning documentary reveals the significant influence of African American jazz musicians with leading indigenous jazz musicians, sinologists, historians, and jazz club patrons in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and archival and contemporary performance footage.

Eugene Marlow, Ph.D. pictured with the Great Wall of China in the background. His documentary, “Jazz in China”, won the 2022 American Insight “Free Speech Film Festival,” and received the “Award of Excellence” from the Depth of Field International Film Festival. Photo: Eugene Marlow, Ph.D.

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POETRY INSTALLATION UNVEILED ON RED HOOK PIER

RED HOOK — Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue on Tuesday joined poet Edward Hirsch and students from P.S. 676 and Summit Academy Charter School on Red Hook’s Valentino Pier to celebrate a new installation bringing poetry to New York’s public parks through the Park Poems initiative, which transforms poems on the theme of reflection into environmentally integrated works of public art. Attendees were treated to a poetry reading by Hirsch before the unveiling of his poem “I Was Never Able to Pray” on the scenic pier; meanwhile, students crafted poems of their own, arranging stanzas out of park-themed Velcro word sets.

“This is the perfect place for my poem, which is all about sending my voice out across the waves. Encountering poetry in daily life, not in a classroom or museum — that seems to be the dream of poetry in American life,” Hirsch said at the ceremony.

Hirsch’s poem, installed in a wave pattern on clear glass at the Valentino Pier. Photo: Parks Department.

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POLICE SEEK BROOKLYN MAN IN SEX ABUSE INVESTIGATION

Have you seen this man? Any tips submitted to police are strictly confidential.

BED-STUY — On the morning of Monday, March 13, a 28-year-old woman was working in the basement of a building in the vicinity of Myrtle Avenue and Nostrand Avenue when an unknown man approached her and grabbed her breast, pushed her down and attempted to pull down her pants, then fled on foot after the victim screamed. Police are asking the public to help locate the man, who is described as having a medium build and a red beard and was last seen wearing a black hat, black coat, white shirt, black pants and black shoes.

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); the public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or on Twitter at @NYPDTips.

Have you seen this man? Any tips submitted to police are strictly confidential.

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MAIMONIDES PERFORMS OPERATION USING VR TECH

MIDWOOD — Surgeons Jack Choueka and Ramin Sadeghpour at Maimonides Medical Center on March 30 performed one of the nation’s first “mixed reality” shoulder replacement surgeries using advanced virtual technology. The hospital used imaging software to create a 3D model based on CT scans of the patient, Maria, who was suffering from a painful rotator cuff tear; during the surgery, the surgeons wore headsets that superimposed a hologram based on that model over their lines of sight, allowing the surgeons to see the anatomy and surgical site precisely and helping to guide the exact placement of the prosthetic.

The hospital says it plans to explore the technology further and touts its use in exposing new surgeons to cutting-edge techniques, writing in a press release that “familiarity with MR technology can help the next generation of surgeons contribute to the ongoing development of these innovations.

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STATE CONSERVATION DEPT. HOLDING COMMUNITY MEETING UP GOWANUS CLEANUP PROGRESS

GOWANUS — The Gowanus Canal Superfund Site will be the subject of a community availability session that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is convening this month, to provide an update on status of investigation and cleanup activities related to Gowanus Canal area sites, DEC is also providing a fact sheet, along with invitation in advance of the community availability session, scheduled for Thursday, April 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at P.S. 372, The Children’s School, 215 1st Street.

The Gowanus Canal area of Brooklyn is a former industrial zone with mixed commercial and residential properties. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is managing the investigation and remediation of 47 sites in the Gowanus Canal area in the Brownfield Cleanup Program and the State Superfund Program.

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BROOKLYN CONGRESSMEMBERS REQUEST $356M TO ESCALATE SUPERFUND SITE CLEANUPS

GOWANUS CANAL AND NEWTOWN CREEK — U.S. Reps Dan Goldman (D-10) and Nydia Velázquez (D-7) led a group of 30 members of Congress in requesting increased funding of $356 million for the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account. The funds would stimulate the cleanup effort of more than 1,300 Superfund sites across the country, including the famed Gowanus Canal, first so designated in 2010. Superfund sites are contaminated sites that pose significant risk to human health and the environment, often causing lifelong health complications or death.

Since 2010, the number of Superfund sites has grown, and there are three in Rep. Velázquez’s district that covers much of eastern Brooklyn and part of Queens, including the Newtown Creek and Meeker Avenue Plume sites, and the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company site in Ridgewood, Queens, which borders Bushwick and East Williamsburg.

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ANNUAL ‘GREENEST BLOCK’ COMPETITION KICKS OFF: BBG

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is launching the 2023 edition of the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest, and is inviting gardeners and plant fanatics from all over the borough to submit applications for their blocks if they think they can wow its judges with their vegetation creations, like last year’s winners in Crown Heights. Top prize is a $300 check, with smaller awards going to subcategory winners and all participants who attend the prize ceremony in the fall receiving a bag of plant bulbs.

Interested groups can find more information and the contest entry form online on the BBG’s website; winners will be announced in August.

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BISHOP BLESSES HOLY OILS AT CHRISM MASS

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Hundreds of priests, deacons and other professed religious participated in the Diocese of Brooklyn’s annual Chrism Mass, which takes place on Tuesday of Holy Week, at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. During the Chrism Mass, which is a time-honored tradition of the Christian Church, Diocesan Bishop Robert Brennan consecrated the chrism oil (blend of olive oil and balsam) that is used in ordinations and confirmations, and he blessed other sacred oils used in baptisms and anointing the ill.

The Chrism Mass is also the occasion in which priests renew their ordination vows.

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BISHOP BRENNAN TO LEAD GOOD FRIDAY PROCESSION ACROSS BROOKLYN BRIDGE

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Diocesan Bishop Robert Brennan will also mark this year’s Easter Triduum, the four holiest days of the Christian calendar, with a number of Masses, prayer services, and a Good Friday procession beginning Thursday night, Holy Thursday, April 6, and continuing through Easter Sunday, April 9. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper will take place at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. The traditional Way of the Cross Good Friday Procession, starting at 10 a.m. with a prayer service at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James on Jay Street, will head down Tillary St. and across the Brooklyn Bridge to Lower Manhattan.

Some of the liturgies will have live coverage on the Diocesan cable channel, NET TV is available on Spectrum channel 97, Optimum channel 30, and Verizon Fios channel 548, or online at netny.tv. Meanwhile parishes around the diocese also hold their traditional Good Friday processions, particularly in Carroll Gardens, where residents will display crosses in front of their homes.

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BROOKLYN CURLERS SEEK TO BUILD NEW DEDICATED ICE RINK

PROSPECT PARK — The Brooklyn Lakeside Curling Club is looking to build a dedicated facility for enthusiasts to practice the quirky sport, having outgrown its current location at Prospect Park’s LeFrak Center, reports Brooklyn Magazine, with its sessions and lessons regularly selling out as interest in curling has exploded nationwide. The group says it’s having trouble locating a space that can accommodate a curling rink’s unique needs, however, as most buildings it has viewed have structural columns that would block construction, and is considering a crowdfunding campaign to build one from scratch, with an estimated cost of $5 million to $8 million.

“You show curling to someone and they go, ‘I want to try that. I think I could do that.’ You quickly find out it’s not that easy. But it’s accessible. I can get you doing a really solid version of curling within 15 minutes. And you’re just off to the races. If it hooks you it hooks you. Like, we just don’t have people quit,” club member Than Tibbetts told the magazine, describing why the club sees it as a priority to expand.

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ESTONIAN NATIONAL HAD SMUGGLED SENSITIVE ELECTRONICS TO RUSSIANS

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — An Estonian national has been charged with 18 counts of conspiracy, fraud and other charges in Brooklyn federal court, related to procuring U.S.-made electronics on behalf of the Russian government and military. The defendant, Andrey Shevlyakov, had seized inbound shipments addressed to his front companies, including one that contained approximately 130 kilograms (286 pounds) of radio equipment.  Shevlyakov, who was arrested on March 28 in Estonia and faces 20 years imprisonment if convicted, had procured sensitive electronics – including included low-noise pre-scalers and synthesizers and analog-to-digital converters (found in most defense systems) from U.S. manufacturers on behalf of Russian end-users, including defense contractors.

Most of these items would have been unavailable to Russian end-users if ordered directly for shipment to Russia.

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HOCHUL SEEKS TO RAISE EMISSIONS LIMIT AT LAST MINUTE

ALBANY — Environmental groups are sounding the alarm after an eleventh-hour budget addition that would significantly increase emissions in New York was proposed in negotiations this week, reports New York Focus, whose sources assert that the governor supports the proposal, alongside lobbyists from the gas and forestry industries, as a potential concession to conservatives in the legislature. The proposal involves a change to the state’s emissions-measuring formula that would potentially increase methane emissions by a third, as well as exempting “biofuels” like wood from emissions counts entirely, opening the door to wood-fired power plants — some of which, advocates say, are actually worse for the environment than traditional coal plants.

“It would make gas companies look like they’ve been reducing their emissions overnight, when they actually wouldn’t have to have done anything differently,” Liz Moran of advocacy group Earthjustice told New York Focus.

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NY ATTORNEY GENERAL TISH JAMES TAKES DOWN FAKE STATE DEPT. WEBSITE

STATEWIDE — New York Attorney General Letitia James has shut down two websites that impersonated the New York State Department of State and significantly overcharged users for services provided by NYSDOS. The misleading websites that Thomas Romano and his company, Steamin’ Weenie LLC (Steamin’ Weenie) created, closely mimicked NYSDOS’ Division of Corporations site by usurping the agency’s official seal and logo, and allowed users to file various business-related documents with federal, state, and local entities for much higher prices than NYSDOS offered — for example, $135 for a certified copy of a certificate of incorporation, which cost only $10 from NYSDOS at the time.

The impersonated website gave no disclosures that they were operated by a private third-party agreeing to file documents on behalf of their users.


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