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What’s News, Breaking: Friday, April 14, 2023

April 14, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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ATTORNEY GENERAL TISH JAMES SPEAKS OUT ON JUSTICE ALITO’S STAY ON ABORTION DRUG BAN

NATIONWIDE — Following U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s stay on lower courts’ rulings over a medication abortion drug on Friday, April 12, NY State Attorney Letitia James stated, “The rulings regarding abortion medication access from various courts over the past two weeks have caused confusion and anxiety for millions of Americans. The decision by the Supreme Court to temporarily maintain the status quo will provide at least a temporary respite as the appeals process moves forward.”

Earlier on Friday, Attorney General James had led a multi-state coalition of 24 of her counterparts from other states in an amicus brief requesting that a ban on the drug be paused pending an appeal.

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$6.5M AWARD FROM NY STATE WILL SUPPORT CREATION OF CLIMATE-FRIENDLY INSURANCE POLICIES

STATEWIDE — New York State has awarded $6.5 million under the Insurance Innovation for Climate-Technology Solutions program to support new insurance policies and products that will accelerate consumers’ adoption of clean technologies, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday, April 14. The nonprofit InnSure was selected to deploy grants that will advance risk management and insurance market growth — transforming business support and providing consumer confidence for a range of climate-friendly technology products.

InnSure will work with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to co-develop a program that will competitively award insurance innovators for the research and development of new insurance policies and products.

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STATE ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY REACHING OUT TO GOWANUS RESIDENTS REGARDING BROWNFIELDS

GOWANUS — The NY State Department of Conservation’s Community Availability Session, taking place on Thursday, April 20, will focus on updates to what the agency says is an ongoing cleanup and oversight “of the investigation and remediation of 49 brownfield sites in the Gowanus Canal area.” DEC and the Department of Health will have experts available for community members regarding specific areas of interest; and, the two agencies will set up multiple stations at the meeting venue, The Children’s School on 1st Street, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Last Monday, the advocacy group Voice of Gowanus urged residents and local businesses to attend the meeting (and to demand that the State be more thorough and transparent in the cleanup effort, especially after news broke in March about the state waiting for two years to inform the public about toxic fumes detected at the popular Brooklyn shuffleboard club.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES CHALLENGES FEDERAL JUDGE’S DECISION ON MIFEPRISTONE

NATIONWIDE — The same day that NY New York Attorney General Letitia James led a multi-state coalition and filed an amicus brief to challenge a federal judge’s decision on an FDA-approved abortion drug, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, April 14, issued a stay on the restriction. The attorneys general are challenging a decision that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued, one that would leave in place restrictions on access to mifepristone — already imposed by a Texas trial court — consequently restricting access to medication abortion nationwide.

Attorney General James warned that upholding the Fifth Circuit’s order would also cause medical harm to women who had suffered a miscarriage (the involuntary loss of an unborn child), for which mifepristone is also a treatment.

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CITY COMPTROLLER: CLAIMS FILED AGAINST CITY SET RECORD DURING FISCAL YEAR 2022

CITYWIDE — Claims and lawsuits against New York City totaled 12,188 and were resolved for $1.5 billion, during Fiscal Year 2022 — the highest amount in the City’s history — according to City Comptroller Brad Lander’s newly-released Annual Claims Report. The 11 largest individual tort claim settlements were seven wrongful convictions, two medical malpractice claims, an assault at Rikers Island, and an accident involving a science experiment at a public school. During this time, the City settled 16 wrongful convictions, the most of any single year, for a total of $86.8 million.

The increase in claims from the previous fiscal year is largely due to the Gulino class action lawsuit, filed in 1996 against the Department of Education in which the court found that state-mandated teacher certification exams discriminated against Black and Latino teachers.

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SIR ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER RECEIVES KEY TO NYC FROM MAYOR ADAMS

CITYWIDE — Brooklyn-born Mayor Eric Adams on Friday, April 14, awarded Oscar-winning Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber the key to New York City for the composer’s contributions. Lloyd Webber, who has also won an Emmy, three Grammys, an Oscar, six Tonys, and a Golden Globe for beloved classics such as “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita” and “Cats,” responded in kind about American musical theatre classics: “I, always since I was a little boy, loved musicals, and I’ve always loved American musicals in particular. And I grew up really with the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows.”

The mayor quipped, “I remember as a young person watching Cats, one of the amazing performances on Broadway. You could bring Cats back because we hate rats in New York. So we would love it to be here.”

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FUNDS WILL HELP NEEDY COMMUNITIES RECOVER FINANCIALLY FROM PANDEMIC

BOROUGHWIDE — Four Brooklyn financial institutions are among 43 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across New York State that will receive $116,822,564 in federal funding to help low- and moderate-income communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) announced on Friday. Two loan funds in Brooklyn: BOC Capital Corp. and CAMBA Economic Development Corporation, will receive $6,197,097 and $500,000, respectively; Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union will receive $3,470,374; and Concord Federal Credit Union will receive $500,000. Carver Federal Savings Bank, based in Manhattan but with branches at Atlantic Terminal, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Flatbush, will receive $2,478,839 to help their clients.

The funds, which are being delivered through the U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Equitable Recovery Program, will expand lending related to small businesses and microenterprises, for grantmaking and investing in underserved communities, and to support borrowers that experienced disproportionate economic impacts from the pandemic.

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CITY APPROVES $1M CONTRACT FOR TRUCK-WEIGHING EQUIPMENT ON BQE CENTRAL

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — New York City approved a $1 million contract on Tuesday to move forward with the installation of equipment on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that automatically tickets overweight trucks, reports Gothamist. The contract was awarded to NYU’s C2SMART Center to put in so-called “weigh in motion” sensors on the crumbling triple-cantilever section — nicknamed BQE Central — between Sands Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights.

Those sensors are to be used to identify trucks on the highway that exceed the legal weight limit of 40 tons. The program will automatically issue fines of up to $7,000 to the operators of trucks that are too heavy.

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SENTENCING HEARING FOR SON CONVICTED OF PUTTING HIT ON FATHER

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Two men, Anthony Zottola and Himen Ross, are set to be sentenced on Friday after being convicted in October 2022 of murder-for-hire in the 2018 fatal shooting of Mafia associate Sylvester Zottola at a McDonald’s drive-through in the Bronx.  Anthony Zottola allegedly orchestrated and financed multiple attacks on his father and brother prior to the murder, in hopes of taking over his father’s multi-million-dollar real estate empire.

The sentencing hearing will take place on Friday, April 14, at 10 a.m. in Brooklyn federal court; Zottola faces a life sentence for his role in the murder.

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VEGAN BURGER JOINT SUED FOR UNPAID WAGES

FORT GREENE — Three employees at the Fort Greene location of burger chain Slutty Vegan last week filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court alleging that the restaurant failed to pay bonuses, overtime wages and expenses, reports Eater NY, with the amount owed estimated by Patch to be worth over $27,000. Founder Pinky Cole, profiled this week in The New Yorker, was also sued earlier this year over unpaid wages at another vegan restaurant she co-owns in Atlanta — claims she denied on Instagram.

“What do I gain withholding someone’s hard earned money when my blessings overflow everyday? I don’t lie, I don’t steal and more importantly, I DON’T PLAY WITH PEOPLE’S MONEY,” Cole wrote of the Atlanta lawsuit; the Brooklyn employees say that one man’s overtime pay was withheld and his uniform expenses were not reimbursed and that two management employees were denied bonuses.

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CENTRAL BROOKLYN BECOMES DOGGY-DOO HOTSPOT

PROSPECT LEFFERTS GARDENS — Dog poop-related 311 complaints in central Brooklyn are skyrocketing this year, reports Patch, with just five zip codes responsible for 55 complaints — a third of the total number that the city received last year, marking a huge upswing. The 11226 zip code, in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, was the second most canine-intestinally active in the city, with residents of the 11-by-15 block area calling in 25 complaints.

City officials are fighting back against the smelly situation with a campaign aimed at getting dog owners to pick up their messes, unveiling the new slogan “Don’t Leave **it On The Sidewalk” to the public last week.

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JEFFRIES MAKES TIME 100 LIST

WASHINGTON — Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Brooklyn representative and the first Black person elected to the role, was selected for the Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list for 2023, the publication’s prestigious annual ranking of the people who are affecting the most change in the world today. Jeffries’ writeup, by fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi, focuses on his strident leadership and the energy he brings to the role.

Jeffries was chosen for the position in November 2022 following the Democrats’ loss of power in the midterm elections, although by narrower margins than anticipated, leading some — including Pelosi — to believe that he may take on the role of House Speaker at some future date.

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HOCHUL EXPANDS SNAP USE AT FARMERS’ MARKETS

STATEWIDE — Governor Hochul on Wednesday announced the new FreshConnect Fresh2You initiative, which will more than double the buying power for SNAP recipients at farmers’ markets across New York state, offsetting recent reductions in SNAP benefits and record inflation, providing increased revenue for farmers and boosting local food sourcing. SNAP beneficiaries at participating farmers’ markets will now be provided with $2 checks for every $2 spent — up from $2 for every $5 spent — and will now also be reimbursed for dairy products, meats and more, as well as fruits and vegetables.

The FreshConnect Fresh2You initiative will launch and be available to consumers on April 15; informational materials will also be made available for vendors selling eligible products who wish to take part in the initiative.

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COCKTAIL BAR SELLS BAKLAVA FOR EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS

GREENPOINT — The owners of Greenpoint cocktail bar Little Rascal last week announced that the restaurant will in April be donating all proceeds of its baklava sales to help fund a Turkish chef working to feed victims of February’s devastating earthquakes. Owners Halil and Öner Gündogdu, who hail from Adana, Turkey, are partnering with chef Turev Uladag, who has established four kitchens in four different cities throughout Turkey that are providing around 100,000 meals every day to those left hungry and homeless from the tragedy.

Little Rascal’s baklava is sourced from Elmaci Pazari Güllüoglu, say the owners, known as “The Oldest Baklava Shop of the World,” which dates from the 1850s and was founded in the region affected by the quake.

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BROOKLYN CHEFS TO FACE OFF ON NEW SHOW ‘CIAO HOUSE’

ITALY — Ten rising culinary stars, including Brooklyn native Omar Ashley and Brooklyn-based Corey Becker, will face off starting this week on the new Food Network show “Ciao House,” where the competitors will live together in a classic Tuscan villa and prove their mastery of Italian cooking in weekly challenges. Each week, the chefs will vote off other contestants, with the last chef standing winning an immersive culinary education across Italy, training with renowned Italian master chefs.

Ciao House will premiere on Food Network and the streaming service Discovery+ on Sunday, April 16, at 9 p.m.

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FORT GREENE BLACK HISTORY AND CULTURE TOUR THIS WEEKEND

FORT GREENE — On the third Saturday of each month this year, from April to June, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy will be hosting free Black History and Culture of Fort Greene guided tours, providing rich context and information on the history of Black communities in the area, ranging from the 1800s to modern day. The tours are free to attend, and the content was developed in partnership with BlackSpace, the Future Historical Society at BRIC, MoCADA and the Weeksville Heritage Center. 

This month’s tour will take place on Saturday, April 15, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; attendees should gather at the Fort Greene Park Entrance on the corner of Dekalb Avenue and Washington Park. 

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BROOKLYN-BORN ACTOR MICHAEL LERNER DIES AT 81

BROOKLYN — Michael Charles Lerner, the Brooklyn-born actor who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a tempestuous movie producer in the 1991 film Barton Fink, has died at age 81, according to The New York Times’ obituary reporter Lauren McCarthy. Lerner, who was also a graduate of Brooklyn College — known for its excellence in theatre and film — stayed busy as a working actor, appearing in “Elf,” and in classic TV series like M*A*S*H, The Brady Bunch and Hill Street Blues.

Lerner, whose death followed an illness, defined himself as a “chameleon,” according to a 1991 NY Times interview, asserting he “can play anything.” He made his roles larger than life, particularly the character of Jack Lipnick who was based on legendary movie producer Louis B. Mayer, a founder of MGM Studios.

Michael Lerner as pictured at the opening night of Bette Midler in “I’ll Eat You at Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers” at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2013. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision for Geffen/AP Images, File.

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BROOKLYN COLLEGE’S PRESIDENTIAL LECTURE SERIES BRINGS IN CONGO-BORN DIPLOMAT, PATRICK GASPARD

FLATBUSH/MIDWOOD — Brooklyn College will welcome Patrick Gaspard, the CEO of the Center for American Progress and former Ambassador to South Africa, for the second Presidential Lecture Series with President Michelle J. Anderson, later this month. Their dialogue will focus on Gaspard’s career trajectory, international relations, and the building of a more equitable world by investing in democracy, health care equity, and social justice. There will be some emphasis on Haiti and the international response to the ongoing crisis there, as Gaspard’s parents were Haitian; he was born in the Congo.

The free April 25 event will be the second Brooklyn College’s Presidential Lecture Series event that features President Anderson in conversation with high-profile leaders and that aims to expose students and the extended Brooklyn College community to inspiring ideas, courageous leadership, and models of civic engagement and civil discourse.

Patrick Gaspard, diplomat, and CEO of Center for American Progress. Photo. Brooklyn College.

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DOT: FREE PARKING IN PARTS OF GREENPOINT WILL CHANGE TO METERED

GREENPOINT — The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) will introduce paid metered parking on select blocks in Greenpoint, according to a notice to Brooklyn Community Board 1 and distributed further, on Thursday, April 13. The DOT’s decision to switch from free to paid metered parking was based on a history of parking violations, crashes related to double parking and nearby retail areas. The “curb management,” which is expected to begin in late spring/early summer, will impact several blocks on Franklin St. from Greenpoint Avenue southward to Oak St., either on the west side or both sides of the street; and on both sides of Greenpoint Ave. from Franklin to West streets.

The DOT believes that metered parking will encourage drivers to stay only as long as they need, and will stimulate local businesses by allowing more customer parking turnover.

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FOUNDER’S BALL WILL CELEBRATE BROOKLYN HOSPITAL’S MEDICAL AND FACILITY ADVANCEMENT

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN/PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Hospital Foundation has much to celebrate at this year’s Founder’s Ball, including the opening of the Brooklyn Cancer Center, and a modernized and expanded Emergency Department. The much-anticipated annual Founder’s Ball, being held at the Brooklyn Museum on Monday, May 22, will honor two doctors: Jeffrey Vacirca, MD, FACP, of New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, will be awarded a Founder’s Medal; and Viswanath Vasudevan, MD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program & Vice Chair, Education Medicine, will be awarded a Walter E. Reed Medal. The Brooklyn Hospital was founded in 1845.

The Founder’s Ball will also celebrate the hospital’s Blueprint for Excellence including its recent progress with new facilities, including the state-of-the-art 25-unit Myrtle Dialysis Center, and Physicians Pavilion, and award-winning clinical programs.

Dr. Jeff Vacirca is an honoree at the May 22 Founder’s Ball. Photo: The Brooklyn Hospital Center.
Dr. Viswanath Vasudevan will be honored at the May 22 Founder’s Ball. Photo: The Brooklyn Hospital Center.

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NAVAL CHAPLAIN FROM BROOKLYN LEADS EASTER MASS FROM PHILIPPINE SEA

USS NIMITZ/PHILIPPINE SEA — Celebrating the Mass on Easter aboard a naval ship in Asia is a blessing to a Catholic priest from Brooklyn, Navy Lt. Cmdr., Rev. Donelson Thevenin, who is currently serving aboard the USS Nimitz. Fr. Thevenin, who had served the Diocese of Brooklyn at Holy Cross parish in Flatbush and as director of the Haitian Apostolate more than a decade ago, was released from the diocese in 2012 when he became a Navy chaplain. The Brooklyn diocesan newspaper, The Tablet, covered his promotion ceremony to Lieutenant Commander in September 2021, a role in which he also trains other chaplains.

The USS Nimitz is currently deployed in the Philippine Sea, U.S. 7th Fleet, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, conducting routine operations in the Indo-Pacific region.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Donelson Thevenin, from Brooklyn, NY leads Mass in the fo’c’sle of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz, who served a Brooklyn parish until his naval commissioning, is in the U.S. 7th Fleet conducting routine operations. Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Caitlin Flynn.

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FBI MAKES ARREST IN LEAKED INTELLIGENCE DOCUMENT CASE

MASSACHUSETTS — Federal investigators on Thursday, April 13, arrested a 21-year-old air national guardsman, whom Attorney General Merrick Garland and since, several news sources, have identified as Jack Teixeira, is linked to the leak of classified U.S. intelligence documents regarding the war in Ukraine. A member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s intelligence wing, Teixeira allegedly moderated in an online Discord group where the leaked documents first appeared; the publicizing of the classified materials  — consisting of maps and immediately current information, is believed to have upset U.S. allies in the Ukraine war.

The online group, identified as Thug Shaker Central, attracted young men and teens who share a love of guns, racist memes and video games.

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SUPERHEROES VISIT PEDIATRIC WARD TO BRING CHEER

PARK SLOPE — Children in the pediatric unit of NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital got a special visit from their favorite superheroes on Thursday, April 13. A group of FDNY Firefighters, NYPD officers and local teachers who are volunteers with Humble Heroes visited the young patients. Humble Heroes is a local nonprofit that is committed to lifting the spirits of ill and grieving children while disguised as famous superheroes.

Each volunteer dressed up as popular superheroes like Batman, Supergirl and Captain America to put a smile on the patients’ faces; some are pictured outside New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. Photo: New York-Presbyterian.
Robert Banome, an FDNY firefighter with Ladder Company 122 in Park Slope and founder of Humble Heroes, dressed as Spiderman, has visited the pediatric unit of the hospital with groups of volunteers for more than fifteen years. Photo: New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.

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