What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, May 3, 2023
US SENATE CONFIRMS NEW DISTRICT JUDGE FOR BROOKLYN;
MAJORITY LEADER SCHUMER ENDORSED ORELIA MERCHANT
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Brooklyn federal court is getting a new district judge, with the Senate confirmation of Orelia Merchant, announced Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday, May 3. Currently, Chief Deputy Attorney General for State Counsel and a member of the New York State Attorney General’s executive leadership team, Judge Merchant oversees 8,000 active cases and manages 450 employees in the prosecution and defense of actions and complex cases in state and federal court. A Bronx-born Brooklyn resident, she is married to Karim Camara, a former NY State Assemblyman and pastor at Abundant Life Church in Brooklyn.
“Orelia E. Merchant, my fellow Brooklynite, brings extensive judicial and leadership experience to the table,” declared Sen. Schumer. “Ms. Merchant is a brilliant legal mind and her confirmation helps ensure that the bench of the Eastern District better reflects the diversity of the people it serves.”
US GOVERNMENT DISMANTLES NETWORK THAT PROCESSED
STOLEN CREDIT CARD NUMBERS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The U.S. government, working with partners in Germany and Austria, have dismantled Try2Check, an allegedly criminal network and global website domain, reports the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District in Downtown Brooklyn. A four-count indictment was also unsealed today in Brooklyn federal court, charging Denis Gennadievich Kulkov, an alleged ringleader who operated Try2Check, with access device fraud, computer intrusion and money laundering. Before its takedown, Try2Check platform catered to cybercriminals who purchased and sold stolen credit card numbers in bulk on the internet, enabling them to quickly determine the percentage of cards that were valid and active.
Along with the indictment and global website domain takedown, the State Department is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Kulkov, who resides in Russia.
STATE BUDGET INCLUDES PROGRAM TO REDUCE
LEAD EXPOSURE RISKS
STATEWIDE — The budget also provides $39 million for a measure to protect children by reducing the risk of lead exposure in rental properties. The measure directs local health departments to implement a new housing inspection and enforcement program that requires owners of two-family and multi-family rental units built before 1980 to certify their unit as lead-safe every three years in 24 high-priority and high-risk municipalities.
As of March 2023, the five boroughs received varied numbers of HPD Lead Paint violations per 1000 units, with Brooklyn having the second most: 38 lead-based paint violations per 1,000 residential units. Together figures from all boroughs reflect a steady increase in the number of HPD lead-based paint violations.
BUDGET INCLUDES $22B, MULTI-YEAR INVESTMENT IN STATE HEALTH SYSTEM — AND THE HIGHEST CIGARETTE TAX
STATEWIDE — Several measures to strengthen the health care system for New York State have been incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday, May 3. The Enacted Budget provides an additional $22 billion multi-year investment to support the State’s health care system, including an additional $1 billion in health care capital funding for providers and expanded Medicaid benefits for more than 7.8 million low-income New Yorkers.
Moreover, the new budget increases the cigarette tax by $1, with the goal of reducing tobacco use among young people and to incentivize quitting. New York now has the strongest cigarette tax in the nation.
FUNDING FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS PROTECTIONS
INCLUDED IN FISCAL 2024 BUDGET
STATEWIDE — The day after she signed legislation expanding access to reproductive rights, Governor Kathy Hochul has allocated $100.7 million in new funding to support abortion providers and reproductive health care, as part of a set of actions she has taken in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. Included in the budget are increases for Medicaid reimbursement rates to boost New York abortion access, additional data protections for patients seeking reproductive health care, and mandates for private insurers to cover medication abortion when prescribed off-label for abortion.
The budget enacts protections to prevent companies headquartered or incorporated in New York State from sharing information with out-of-state law enforcement who conduct investigations into abortion procedures that are legal in New York State.
PROSPECT PARK ALLIANCE BEGINS RESTORATION
OF LANDMARKED SOLDIERS’ AND SAILORS’ ARCH
GRAND ARMY PLAZA/PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The restoration of the iconic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at Grand Army Plaza has begun. Originally dedicated on October 21, 1892, and landmarked since 1975, the Arch is undergoing its first restoration since the mid-1990s, an extensive project through the Prospect Park Alliance that involves replacing the arch’s roof; cleaning and repointing the brick and stone structure; repairing interior elements, including historic iron staircases that lead up to the roof; and, improving the exterior lighting to better showcase the historic elements of the arch and its statuary, making the lighting more environmentally friendly through energy-efficient technology.
The restoration, expected to take 12 months, is part of a larger project that includes refurbishing Grand Army Plaza, the formal entrance to Prospect Park, and its surrounding berms, through $8.9 million in Mayoral funding.
NEW CITY DOT WEBSITE LETS PUBLIC MARK SPOTS
WITH BLOCKED LANES, DOUBLE-PARKING
CITYWIDE — The quintessential NYC slogan, “If you see something, say something,” takes on a new meaning with a city DOT website that allows the public to identify double-parking in heavy traffic zones, according to the Daily News. New Yorkers who notice vehicles that are double-parked or blocking a bike or bus lane to unload goods — or passengers — can now use the new DOT website. A view of the map on Wednesday, May 3, around 12:45 p.m. showed heavy concentrations of double-parked vehicles along Hoyt St. between Livingston and State Streets, and along Adams Street near the Marriott.
DOT says that the dropped-pin data will assist them in determining which neighborhoods need more designated loading zones, and insist that, with no enforcement authority, they will not be issuing tickets to offending drivers.
FLATBED TRUCK KILLS CYCLIST TRAVELING IN BIKE LANE
CLINTON HILL — Yet another bicycle death — with the cyclist within the designated lane — happened in Brooklyn on Monday, in a collision with the driver of a flat-bed truck. According to a preliminary investigation by the Highway District Collision Investigation Squad, the cyclist, since identified as 39-year-old Adam Ulster, of St. John’s Place in Crown Heights, was traveling southbound along Franklin Avenue, approaching Lexington Avenue in Clinton Hill (79th Precinct), and in a designated bicycle lane, when a 2021 Isuzu Flat-bed truck, simultaneously traveling southbound on Franklin Avenue, made a westbound right turn at the intersection, striking the cyclist.
The cyclist was transported to NY Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced deceased. The vehicle operator remained at the scene and was not injured.
FAITH GROUPS PARTNER TO HELP ASYLUM SEEKERS
ESTABLISH ROOTS IN NEW YORK
BOROUGHWIDE — The Brooklyn-based organization Churches United For Housing has partnered with Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens and St. Pius V Church in Jamaica to ensure that recently arrived asylum seekers in NYC are receiving the necessary training to work and prosper in their new home. CUFFH, (https://www.cuffh.org/services) which offers workshops on navigating the Open Lottery for housing, will also be helping the asylees on interacting with new cultural norms, reducing isolation as well as learning financial literacy skills and assimilating into the workforce.
CUFFH, which has several advocacy locations in Brooklyn, including at several churches and offices of elected representatives, including Councilmembers Chi Ossé, Crystal Hudson, Jennifer Gutierrez, Rita Joseph; and State Senator Zellnor Myrie. The next workshop will be held in Jamaica, Queens on Tuesday, May 9.
STATE SENATE PASSES 2024 BUDGET, PRIORITIZING EDUCATION, CLIMATE AND HEALTH CARE
The New York State Senate Democratic Majority on Wednesday, May 3, passed the Fiscal Year 2024 New York State Budget, which prioritizes fully funding public education; continuing the lowest personal income tax rates for working and middle-class families in over 70 years; bolstering economic development; furthering efforts to combat climate change; and improving healthcare access — including historic mental health funding.
Child Tax Credit expansion, affordable childcare, and free school lunches in this budget are aimed at helping families across New York State save money.
COUNCIL TO HOLD JOINT HEARING ON BIOMETRIC TECHNOLOGY
CIVIC CENTER — The City Council’s Technology and Civil and Human Rights committees are set to conduct a joint oversight hearing at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, on the use of biometric identification and surveillance systems, such as facial recognition technology, in NYC, and will consider related legislation, including rules that would prohibit biometrics in businesses serving the public and limit the use of facial recognition technology in residential buildings. The committees will seek testimony from the mayor’s administration, advocacy and community organizations, and members of the public; a livestream of the meeting will be available online on the Council’s website.
Biometric technology use became a hot topic last year in NYC after Madison Square Garden controversially used facial recognition software to target and ban lawyers employed at firms involved in lawsuits against its operator; a judge in December ruled that its policy was in violation of state civil rights laws.
PARK SLOPE OPEN STREETS KICKS OFF THIS WEEKEND
PARK SLOPE — Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue Open Streets program will kick off this Saturday, May 6, at 3 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the High Dive bar hosted by Jo Anne Simon and the Fifth Avenue BID, with 16 blocks set to bar traffic every Saturday to reclaim the streets for pedestrians. “We are providing public space for all as well as extra seating for restaurants and bars and space for small shops to show off their wares… We really want to see people enjoying the space, having their birthday parties, and drawing chalk art, and playing and hanging out together,” wrote BID Director Joanna Tallantire in a press statement, noting also that the group is fundraising to pay for program maintenance and safety expenses.
The Open Streets Saturdays will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on most blocks until October; detailed information can be found on the city’s Open Streets website.
RENT BOARD VOTES YES ON INCREASES AS MUCH AS 7%
CITYWIDE — The city’s Rent Guidelines Board, which sets rules for NYC’s rent-stabilized apartments, on Tuesday narrowly approved in a preliminary vote rent increases of up to five percent on one-year leases and up to 7% on two-year leases, reports The City. Protesters and tenant advocates loudly condemned the move at the meeting, delaying proceedings, with Brooklyn Councilmembers Chi Osse, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Aviles and Shahana Hanif, along with Queens Councilmember Tiffany Caban and other activists, at one point leaping onto the stage to read testimonies from struggling renters to the crowd.
Hanif told The City after the meeting that the proposed increases were “too damn high,” and that she and her colleagues were demanding at minimum a rent freeze; the final vote on the increases will take place next month, with the changes going into effect in October.
MAYOR, OTHERS SLAM RENT BOARD VOTE
CITYWIDE — City officials and tenants groups strongly condemned a Tuesday move by the city’s Rent Guidelines board to allow significant increases for its one million rent-stabilized apartments, with Mayor Adams, who appoints board members, writing in a press statement, “A 7% rent increase is clearly beyond what renters can afford and what I feel is appropriate this year. I recognize that property owners face growing challenges maintaining their buildings and accessing financing to make repairs; at the same time, we simply cannot put tenants in a position where they can’t afford to make rent.” The Met Council on Housing wrote, “A rent hike can only lead to more evictions and more people in shelters and on the streets, something we are already seeing with a 46% increase in evictions in Rent Stabilized apartments,” while the Legal Aid Society stated, “Any increase in rents right now will have crushing consequences for tenants already battling a historic affordability crisis… The Board is not currently acting in accordance with its mandate to preserve affordability, fight against unconscionable rent hikes, and prevent the uprooting of long-standing communities.”
Landlords also slammed the decision, although from the other side: rental owner group CHIP’s executive director Jay Martin stated, “Even the highest end of these ranges will not put a penny in rent-stabilized building owners’ pockets. Every single cent of the proposed rent adjustment will go to property tax payments, maintenance, skyrocketing insurance, and mandatory upgrades to buildings.”
LIBRARY TO HOST ANCIENT EGYPT FASHION SHOW
PROSPECT HEIGHTS – Professional models will take to the catwalk this Friday at the Ancient Egypt: Gods of the Runway show in Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library grand lobby, wearing clothes created by designers in the BKLYN Fashion Academy; as well as four students from Maxwell High School. The Academy is a 16-week intensive program offered by the library for aspiring designers of all ages and backgrounds, led by “Project Runway” all-star Benjamin Mach and other industry experts, that aims to uplift diverse voices and train students to compete in a cut-throat industry; participants receive instruction on sustainability, sourcing, market research, and more while creating capsule collections, with the runway show acting as a capstone project.
Doors open at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 5, at the Central Library in Grand Army Plaza, while the show starts at 6 p.m.; RSVP and find more information online on the BPL’s website.
BAY RIDGE STUDENT WINS MUSICAL STAR SEARCH CONTEST
BAY RIDGE — Justice Mikles of Bay Ridge, a jazz student at LaGuardia High School, was awarded first place at the Salvation Army’s NY region Star Search talent contest last weekend for his performance in the Brass Solo category, and will go on to compete in the organization’s nationwide contest in Hershey, Pennsylvania in June. The Star Search competition showcases the talents of youth in the Salvation Army’s performing arts education programs – the group says that it is the nation’s number-one provider of free and reduced-cost music and creative arts instruction for kids, outside of the public schools.
Mikles also won the Brass Solo category last year, reports BK Reader, which shared a video of his performance.
‘BUILD PUBLIC RENEWABLES ACT’ MAKES IT INTO FINAL BUDGET
ALBANY — Assemblymember Robert Carroll on Tuesday announced that the final 2023-2024 budget approved by the Legislature includes the core elements of The Build Public Renewables Act, which will empower the New York Power Authority to build, own and operate renewable energy projects in order to fill gaps left by the private sector as well as addressing transmission and interconnectivity issues – a core provision will see NYC’s “peaker plants,” which burn dirty gas during times of peak demand, phased out by 2030 in favor of green replacements. The act will also provide electricity bill credits for disadvantaged consumers, support workforce training in renewable energy, and mandate strong labor standards to ensure fair wages and prevent transition-induced job losses.
Carroll has been fighting for this legislation since 2019, writing in an Eagle editorial two years ago, “When we take our power back from these corporate utilities, we can move aggressively to repair our crumbling electrical infrastructure and provide electrical service that’s affordable to all New Yorkers. We can invest in 100% clean energy and create a surge of new, good-paying union jobs to get us there. We can finally shut down the fossil fuel plants that poison New Yorkers and overwhelmingly harm working-class and poor communities, which are disproportionately Black and Brown.”
PEOPLE’S BALL AT BK LIBRARY CELEBRATES FASHION FOR ALL
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library on Sunday night to flaunt their unique styles at the People’s Ball, an annual party hosted on the eve of the Met Gala that celebrates individual expression and creative freedom. The festivities, which featured a public catwalk and live DJs and performances, were hosted by actress Delissa Reynolds and cultural advocate Rob Fields and honored special guests including famed Harlem couturier Dapper Dan and first hip-hop promoter Cindy Campbell, among others, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
“We are thrilled to once again welcome people from all walks of life to the iconic Central Library to celebrate creative freedom and provide every New Yorker with the opportunity to have the gala experience. Each year, The People’s Ball is a reminder that BPL is much more than just books — it’s a center for culture, ideas, exploration, individual expression and, most importantly, joy,” said László Jakab Orsós, Vice President of Arts and Culture at BPL.
CITY TO HOLD RIBBON CUTTING AT NEW RUTH BADER GINSBURG HOSPITAL
BRIGHTON BEACH — City officials on Tuesday were set to join Clara Spera, granddaughter of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital at Coney Island Hospital, the first new public hospital in NYC since 1982. Funded by $923 million from FEMA after taking severe damage from Superstorm Sandy, the new 11-story hospital building was built to survive hurricanes and extreme weather events, featuring a storm-resilient design, a flood-proof ER, private patient rooms and modern equipment; its lobby features a 7 foot tall bronze statue of Brooklyn native Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020, that will welcome staff, patients and visitors.
The event was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2, in the new hospital’s lobby, with tours being conducted shortly after noon.
COMMUNITY LEADERS RALLY OVER LEAD PAINT CHIPS ON EL IN NORTH BK
BUSHWICK — City officials, led by Councilmember Sandy Nurse, were set to join local business owners, community members, and union painters on Tuesday morning at a press conference to demand that the MTA implement urgent fixes, following an announcement that lab testing found dangerous levels of lead in paint chips falling from overhead train trestles along a 2.5-mile stretch of the J, M, and Z lines in Bushwick and Williamsburg. Lead contamination is a persistent concern for the area, which features many older buildings where young children live, as well as busy streets where cars pulverize the paint chips into toxic breathable dust.
The rally was set for Tuesday, May 2 at 10 a.m. at the Myrtle Avenue–Broadway Station; District Council 9, a chapter of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, wrote in a press statement that it has union members ready to provide expert abatement and painting on the elevated lines.
FIRM FINALIZES $3B JAIL CONTRACT
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Construction firm Tutor Perini on Monday announced that it has secured a contract worth nearly $3 billion to rebuild the Atlantic Avenue House of Detention, reports BusinessWire. The company’s proposal had been selected in March for preliminary approval, at which time the city estimated that the project would take six years to complete, finishing in 2029 – two years after the deadline to close Rikers Island, causing concern among advocates who note that the city has not provided an updated timeline following construction delays at other facilities.
Marketwatch reports that the company’s stock price jumped 11% following the news of the contract’s finalization.
PHARMACY OWNERS CHARGED IN MEDICAID/MEDICARE FRAUD SCHEME
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Two Brooklyn pharmacy owners have been charged in federal court here with perpetrating a health care fraud scheme to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for medically unnecessary prescriptions and over-the-counter products that were not actually dispensed, to pay illegal kickbacks and bribes, and to launder the proceeds of their scheme. The defendants, identified as Taesung “Terry” Kim and Dacheng “Bruce” Lu, who owned and operated four pharmacies including two in Brooklyn: 888 Pharmacy Inc. and Huikang Pharmacy Inc. Lu allegedly conspired with others to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for the dispensing of pharmaceutical products that were medically unnecessary, procured by the payment of kickbacks and bribes, or that were not provided.
Arrested on Tuesday morning, May 2, Kim and Lu were scheduled for arraignment in Brooklyn federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak.
BK MUSEUM EXHIBIT ON FASHION’S MUGLER TO CLOSE THIS WEEK
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime,” a traveling retrospective of the work of legendary fashion designer Thierry Mugler in the 70s through the 90s, will close on May 7, offering viewers one last rare chance to view nearly 130 archival outfits, as well as immersive installations, concept art and a gallery devoted to fragrances. The museum describes Mugler as a visionary who left his mark on the fashion world in numerous ways: the creation of the ‘70s “glamazon” evolved-flower-power style concept; the pioneering usage of bold silhouettes, avant-garde fabrication techniques and materials such as glass, Plexiglas, PVC, faux fur, vinyl, latex and chrome; and setting the trend of presenting his work at theatrical and grandiose fashion shows.
The exhibit is the creation of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Maison Mugler; tickets and more information can be found on the Brooklyn Museum’s website.
POLICE SEARCH FOR MISSING SHEEPSHEAD BAY TEEN
SHEEPSHEAD BAY — Police are asking the public to help find missing teen Ricky Murrell, 14, last seen on the afternoon of Friday, April 28 leaving his residence at the Nostrand NYCHA Development. Ricky is described as Black, approximately 5’9″ with a thin build, brown eyes and black hair; and was last seen wearing a yellow hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, white and purple Air Jordan 5 sneakers and a brown backpack.
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 tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or on Twitter @NYPDTips.
ICONIC KELLOGG’S DINER PLACED ON THE MARKET
WILLIAMSBURG — The iconic Kellogg’s Diner in Williamsburg, established in 1928, is up for sale, following a bankruptcy filing, reports EATER NEW YORK. The neon-signed restaurant, which became known for its late-night crowds and appearance in an episode of HBO’s Girls, became a pillar for nocturnal dining, with its busiest time frequently being after 4 a.m.
Kellogg’s Diner, which according to a commercial real estate listing has an asking price of $2.5 million, has remained open during the sale, EATER New York reports.
HISTORIC HOUSES OF WORSHIP WILL PARTICIPATE IN SACRED SITES OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND
WESTERN BROOKLYN — The congregations that will participate in the May 20-21 Sacred Sites Open House are Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple, 83 Marlborough Road in Prospect Park South; the mosque at 106 Powers St. in Williamsburg; the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, 856 Pacific Street, and Congregation Kol Israel, 603 Saint John’s Place, both in Prospect Heights; Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill; the Old First Reformed Church at 7th Ave. and Carroll St. in Park Slope; St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, 433 Sackett St. in Carroll Gardens; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at Clinton and Carroll streets in Carroll Gardens; and in Brooklyn Heights, St. Charles Borromeo [Roman Catholic] Church on Sidney Place and Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity [Episcopal] at Clinton and Montague streets.
For details about the Sacred Sites schedules for the participating congregations, please visit www.nylandmarks.org.
COUNCIL ANNOUNCES BUDGET HEARINGS SCHEDULE
CIVIC CENTER — The New York City Council on Monday announced that it will hold its Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget hearings from May 8 to May 24, where the Finance Committee will join other council committees to review the mayor’s proposed financial blueprint, analyze agency budgets and receive testimony from agency leaders. The final day of the hearings, May 24, will be reserved starting at 10 a.m. for members of the public to offer comments; New Yorkers can register to testify online on the Council’s website, while a full schedule of hearings and livestream information can be found on the website as well.
The mayor’s budget plan has generated significant controversy over its many cuts, prominently among them drastic slashes to the library and educational systems; Adams has argued that the cuts are necessary to cope with decreased tax revenues due to the pandemic as well as spiking expenses related to housing asylum-seekers.
MAYOR, DEP EXTEND POPULAR AND LUCRATIVE WATER BILL AMNESTY PROGRAM
CITYWIDE — Mayor Eric Adams has extended a popular and successful water bill debt forgiveness program that still brought the city more than $80 million in revenue. Adams and Chief Climate Officer and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala will extend the water bill amnesty program, announced in January, for an additional month — through May 31. The limited-time program — initially scheduled to last just 90 days — has already brought in more than $80 million from delinquent accounts and has helped New York customers clear their debts, saving them $12 million in interest so far.
Nearly 200,000 NYC customers are estimated to have late water bills; approximately 86,000 — more than 40% — participated in the amnesty program, with low-income homeowners saving $4.2 million in credits.
NEW YORKERS URGED TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AND PETS AGAINST TICK-BORNE DISEASES
CITYWIDE — The NYC Health Department urges New Yorkers to protect themselves and their families from tick-borne diseases as summer approaches and people begin to travel and engage in more outdoor activities. The most common tick-borne diseases diagnosed among New Yorkers is Lyme disease, followed by anaplasmosis and babesiosis; particularly those who are residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan, who become infected while traveling to surrounding areas where the black-legged (deer) and lone star ticks are well established, particularly on Staten Island and in northern parts of the Bronx. Pets can also carry ticks.
Non-vegetarians should note that lone star ticks can spread ehrlichiosis and have also been associated with the emergence of a food allergy to red meat known as alpha-gal syndrome. Learn more about ticks in New York City and the diseases they spread online.
REP. GOLDMAN REQUESTS $250K FROM CONGRESS TO UNDERWRITE MOBILE FOOD PANTRY FOR CHiPS
BOROUGHWIDE — The borough’s growing dependence on the meal ministry Community Help in Park Slope (CHiPS) has prompted Rep. Dan Goldman (D–NY-10) who represents much of western Brooklyn to request $250,000 in Congressional funding for the organization to establish a mobile food pantry. Noting that demand for CHiPS food pantry distribution has risen rapidly, Rep. Goldman pointed out that a mobile unit will allow CHiPS to further travel into neighborhoods that lack access to quality, affordable produce and to serve NYCHA residents throughout Brooklyn, including Gowanus Houses, Wyckoff Houses and a local YWCA. In addition to the shelf-stable foods, CHiPS receives fresh and often organic produce from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and the Park Slope Food Co-Op.
The number of meals that CHiPS has served has increased by more than 100%, the highest in its 150-year history.
CONGREGATIONS OPEN DOORS TO COMMUNITY FOR LANDMARKS CONSERVANCY’S SACRED SITES WEEKEND
BOROUGHWIDE AND STATEWIDE — At least 10 Brooklyn houses of worship are taking part in The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Annual Sacred Sites Open House, “Congregations and Communities: 50 Years of Sacred Sites,” marking the golden anniversary of this event. Sacred Sites, taking place on Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, allows visitors to explore the architecture, art and history of world-class houses of worship, as participating congregations showcase their buildings, histories, and cultural and community programs through lectures, musical performances, and special guided tours.
Sacred Sites Open House is a free, state-wide event which, this year, commemorates the Conservancy’s 50th Anniversary year long celebration.
NY GOVERNOR SIGNS NEW LAWS EXPANDING ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE
STATEWIDE — Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday, May 2, signed legislation to expand access to reproductive health care across the state and solidify New York’s historic standing as the nation’s first Safe Harbor State. The bill, indexed as A1060-A/S1043-A, passed both the state Senate and Assembly, expanding access to hormonal contraception by making it available over the counter and helping marginalized populations with pharmacies but no primary care provider. The second bill, indexed as A1395-C/S1213-B, ensures that every student enrolled in a SUNY or CUNY college has access to medication abortion on campus.
“Abortion was legal in New York three years before the rest of the nation, before Roe v. Wade was decided,” Gov. Hochul declared.
COMPETITIVE GRANT FUNDING AVAILABLE FOR URBAN AND COMMUNITY FORESTING PROJECTS
STATEWIDE — As part of Governor Kathy Hochul’s Arbor Day celebration, in New York traditionally marked on the last Friday of April, she announced that $3 million in new competitive grant funding is now available for municipalities, Indian Nations, and not-for-profit organizations for urban and community forestry projects. Eligible Urban and Community Forest grant applicants are communities with populations greater than 65,000 and may apply for up to $100,000 to fund tree inventory, community forest management planning, tree planting, or tree maintenance projects, with a June 21 deadline. Applicants can visit the Grants Gateway site and search for “tree.”
A free web-based information session about this grant will be held on Thursday, May 4, at 10 a.m.
WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES END TO COVID VACCINE REQUIREMENTS
WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday announced that COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and international air travelers will expire after May 11 alongside with the end of the public health emergency period, with rollbacks coming soon for educators and healthcare facilities. The administration in a press release said that the restrictions were no longer necessary, as most Americans have received vaccines and the worst of the pandemic is past, citing statistics showing that since January of 2021, U.S. coronavirus deaths have dropped by 95%, while hospitalizations have dropped by 91%.
“Our COVID-19 vaccine requirements bolstered vaccination across the nation, and our broader vaccination campaign has saved millions of lives…While vaccination remains one of the most important tools in advancing the health and safety of employees and promoting the efficiency of workplaces, we are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary,” the White House stated.
‘GODFATHER OF AI’ HINTON QUITS GOOGLE JOB TO WARN OF DANGERS IN TECHNOLOGY HE CO-BUILT
NATIONWIDE — Geoffrey Hinton, dubbed as the “Godfather of AI,” has quit his job at Google in order to speak more candidly about the dangers of the artificial intelligence technology he had a role in creating, reported U.S. News & World Report on Tuesday, May 2. Hinton warns that “bad actors” could co-opt AI to manipulate elections and deceive the public. US News & World Report points out that, “At the heart of the debate on the state of AI is whether the primary dangers are in the future or present.”
A 2019 winner of the technology field’s Turing Award, Hinton resigned from his Google position because “I want to talk about AI safety issues without having to worry about how it interacts with Google’s business,” he told MIT Technology Review. He is scheduled to speak at a conference on this issue Wednesday, May 3.
NEW BILL WOULD REQUIRE TRANSPARENCY IN AI-GENERATED POLITICAL ADS
CENTRAL BROOKLYN AND NATIONWIDE — A new bill that Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-9) has introduced in Congress would expand current disclosure requirements for campaign ads to include if generative Artificial Intelligence was used to generate any videos or images in the ad. The bill, titled formally in Section I as ‘‘Require the Exposure of AI–Led Political Advertisements Act’’ or the ‘‘REAL Political Advertisements Act,” addresses Congressional concerns that AI could cause the proliferation of disinformation. The bill mandates that both Congress and the Federal Election Commission act to “protect against the use of generative AI that harms our democracy; and free and fair elections require transparency and accountability, which allow the public to make informed decisions and hold public officials accountable.”
The bill provides exemptions for news agencies that are independent of a political candidate, party or committee.
‘TALK WITH ERIC’ BUILDS ON PREVIOUS SERIES WITH MAYOR
Building on a set of what he considered eight successful community conversations on public safety last year, Mayor Eric Adams will launch a second Town Hall series later this month. Titled ‘Talk with Eric,” this series of at least nine town halls will be neighborhood specific and allow New Yorkers to engage with members of the Adams administration on a wide variety of issues.
Mayor Adams’ series of eight “Community Conversations on Public Safety” last year were hosted in each patrol borough — including Brooklyn South and Brooklyn North, with a total of more than 70 administration officials, including the mayor, engaging with about 2,000 members of the public.
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