Brooklyn Boro

What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, May 4, 2023

May 4, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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BROOKLYN NAVY SEAMAN SERVES IN 7TH FLEET,
INDO-PACIFIC REGION

SOUTH CHINA SEA — U.S. Navy Seaman Troy Ainsworth, from Brooklyn, is pictured handling line aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) during an underway replenishment with the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200). Wayne E. Meyer, part of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, is in U.S. 7th Fleet conducting routine operations. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet and routinely interacts and operates with allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mykala Keckeisen.

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SURVEY: MORE PEOPLE PRAY IN THEIR CARS
THAN IN HOUSES OF WORSHIP

NATIONWIDE — More Americans report that they pray in their cars instead of in a house of worship, according to a new survey report that the Radiant Foundation released on Thursday, May 4, observed as the National Day of Prayer. The survey of about 1,700 persons, which a Radiant Foundation project named Skylight commissioned, found that more people reported that they pray in their car (61%) than in a place of worship (46%). The Radiant Foundation, which is associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, found also that a higher percentage — 85% — say they engage in spiritual practice to connect with a higher power, whether prayer, meditation, mindfulness, reciting affirmations or spiritually based yoga — with prayer as the most common of the five practices.

Given the advent of driverless vehicles, as well as the proliferation of drivers who speed through stop signs in New York City, the need to pray in one’s car may not be so surprising after all.

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FIVE BORO BIKE TOUR WILL CLOSE VERRAZZANO BRIDGE,
GOWANUS EXPRESSWAY AND HUGH CAREY TUNNEL

BOROUGHWIDE — Mass transit will be the best way to reach the TD Five Boro Bike Tour on Sunday, May 7, as closures will be in effect for certain MTA bridges and tunnels to accommodate the tour, the MTA announced on Thursday, May 4. Among them, the Staten Island-bound lower level of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge will be closed from 12:01 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, as will the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE)/Gowanus Expressway, meaning traffic will not be able to access the bridge via this approach from approximately 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The approach from the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to the westbound Gowanus/BQE will also be closed from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and all traffic exiting this tunnel in Brooklyn will be diverted to Hamilton Avenue during this period.

Commuters, including travelers with bikes, can visit https://new.mta.info/.

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BROOKLYN TRAVELER CAUGHT WITH LOADED HANDGUN
AT NEWARK AIRPORT TSA CHECKPOINT

BROOKLYN AND NEWARK LIBERTY AIRPORT — A Brooklyn man was one of two travelers stopped this week, in separate incidents, at Newark Liberty International Airport for carrying weapons. The Brooklyn man, whose name and precise neighborhood police did not release, was found to have a loaded 9mm handgun in a backpack on Wednesday, May 3; TSA summoned police to the checkpoint, and they removed the weapon from the x-ray machine. Each individual faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty — which can cost as much as $15,000, depending on the circumstances.

The proper way to transport a firearm for a flight is to ensure it is unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided case and taken to the airline counter to be declared and transported in the belly of the aircraft.

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MTA WILL INCREASE TRAIN FREQUENCY
FOR SEVERAL LINES SERVING BROOKLYN

BOROUGHWIDE — Brooklyn and Queens will benefit from the first phase of a subway service enhancement rollout that will begin in July, for which the Metropolitan Transit Authority provided details on Thursday, May 4. The passage of the Fiscal Year 2024 New York State Budget gives the MTA an additional $35 million for subway service enhancements. Starting in July, the first phase will increase weekend service frequency on the G, J and M lines, whereby trains will arrive every 8 to 9 minutes instead of every 10 to 11 minutes. The second phase, starting in August, will increase weekday midday service on the C, N and R lines.

Approximately 2.9 million riders are projected to benefit from enhanced weekend service, where average ridership is around 80% of the pre-Covid baseline.

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NURSES PICKET TO SAFEGUARD PATIENT-CARE PROTECTIONS
AND STAFFING LEVELS 

PARK SLOPE — Hundreds of nurses working at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital picketed in the rain outside the medical complex to protest cuts to care for Brooklyn patients. The nurses, whose union contract expired on April 30, are fighting for a fair contract that protects Brooklyn patients, in particular, safety procedures that ensure that every bedside patient has a qualified nurse. The NYSNA alleges that NYP-Brooklyn Methodist management wants to strip patient care protections from the nurses’ union contract and to reduce staffing levels in Labor and Delivery, Mother-Baby, Chemotherapy Infusion, and other units.

Joining the NYSNA nurses were elected leaders and allies who also accuse NYP-Brooklyn Methodist of being out of step with other private-sector hospitals in the city who have settled fair contracts with the nursing staff.

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PRESENT AT RUTH BADER GINSBURG HOSPITAL RIBBON-CUTTING IS GRANDDAUGHTER OF SCOTUS JUSTICE

CONEY ISLAND — Clara Spera, granddaughter of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, joined Svetlana Lipyanskaya, CEO of NYC Health + Hospital/South Brooklyn Health, elected officials, community leaders and hospital staff to celebrate the opening of New York City’s first new public hospital since 1982. “Our family is delighted that the new South Brooklyn hospital is being named for my grandmother, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and are excited that this world-class hospital will soon open its doors to the public,” said Ms. Spera. “Born and bred in Brooklyn, Joan Ruth Bader benefitted from the Borough’s public institutions, including its schools and its libraries, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.”

Ms. Spera affirmed, “It is therefore fitting that another Brooklyn establishment, dedicated — like those of her youth — to the public welfare, share in her legacy of striving for the betterment of all.”

Pictured L to R: Jackie Bray (Commissioner, NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services); Antonio Reynoso (Brooklyn Borough President); Hakeem Jeffries (U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader); Svetlana Lipyanskaya (CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health); Mercedes Narcisse (Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Hospitals); Dr. Mitchell Katz (President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals), Clara Spera (Granddaughter of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg); Ari Kagan (NYC Council Member); Rosanne DeGennaro (Chair of South Brooklyn Health Community Advisory Board); and Justin Brannan (Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Finance). Photo: NYC Health + Hospitals/South Communications and Marketing.

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CUNY, NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS LAUNCH OUTREACH
TO TRANSFORM COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS

CITYWIDE — NYC Public School seniors on pace to graduate will, for the first time, starting with the 2023-24 school year,  all receive personalized letters welcoming them to CUNY, laying out their college options at CUNY and inviting them to submit a CUNY application, the City University of New York and New York City Public Schools jointly announced on Wednesday, May 3. The personalized welcome letter, which will be distributed digitally and in paper to approximately 65,000 seniors who are on pace to graduate between January and August 2024, will contain a QR code that will direct students to CUNY’s online application and will provide links to the newly enhanced CUNY Net Price Calculator, a financial aid tool that provides families with information on affordability.

The welcome letter is one piece of a broader initiative to make the transition from high school to college seamless for NYC Public Schools students, who comprise more than 80% of CUNY freshmen.

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RIBBON-CUTTING OPENS NEW STORM-RESILIENT HOSPITAL

This memorial statue of the Brooklyn-born U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will greet patients, their families and visitors to the new hospital. Photo: NYC Health + Hospitals/South Communications and Marketing.

CONEY ISLAND — NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health, in a celebration of resilience, on Tuesday officially cut the ribbon at its new and long-awaited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital, which opens to patients on Sunday, May 7. The new hospital is a major component of the extensive process to repair and protect the health care campus after sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and it includes a storm-resilient design, a flood-proof Emergency Department, private patient rooms and state-of-the-art equipment to serve South Brooklyn and its neighboring communities.

Construction of the new hospital was funded with $923 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and includes upgrades to the rest of the health care campus, including a four-foot wall to withstand a 500-year storm and flood-resilient power, heating, cooling and water systems.

The exterior of the new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital. Photo: NYC Health + Hospitals/South Communications and Marketing.

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NYPD OFFICER CONVICTED ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Timothy Martinez, a former police officer and Army reservist, was convicted on Wednesday by a federal jury in Brooklyn of attempted receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography and two counts of sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. Martinez was proven at trial to have manipulated two vulnerable underage girls – one of whom had been treated for a brain tumor and the other having disclosed to him that she had been victimized by family members –  to perform sexual acts over video chat between 2012 and 2016; Martinez also possessed hundreds of images of child pornography, and in 2018 attempted to receive numerous videos of child pornography from an individual he believed to be a minor.

“When he swore his oath as a police officer, Timothy Martinez was entrusted to enforce the law and protect the innocent. Instead of upholding his oath, Martinez preyed on the young, turning innocent children into victims. Our elation at this verdict is tempered by the pain and suffering these young victims endured as a result of this predator’s criminal actions,” said Homeland Security Special Agent-in-Charge Ivan J. Arvelo in a press statement.

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DEPUTY AG AWARDS EDNY ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY’S IMMIGRATION WORK

WASHINGTON — Assistant U.S. Attorney Layaliza Soloveichik, Deputy Chief of the Civil Division in the Eastern District of New York, on Wednesday was honored by the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for her work in leading the district’s demanding civil immigration and programmatic practices, which consist of more than 1,500 cases. Soloveichik received the Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the 38th Director’s Awards Ceremony, held in the Great Hall at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, presided over by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and EOUSA Director Monty Wilkinson.

“Layaliza’s vision, skill, and tenacity as a litigator and supervisor on behalf of the United States have enhanced the stature of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and furthered the mission of the Department of Justice,” wrote EDNY U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in a press statement; Soloveichik and her husband, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel, reside in Midwood with their six children.

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METHODIST NURSES TO PICKET OVER STAFFING CUTS

PARK SLOPE —  Nurses from New York Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital were set to stage a protest outside it on Thursday, May 4, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. over staffing and other cuts proposed by hospital management during contract negotiations. According to the nurses’ union, Methodist’s offer would reduce staffing levels across multiple hospital units, including the Chemotherapy Infusion and maternity units, among others, as well as removing requirements that ensure a qualified nurse at the bedside of every patient; the union is also demanding the reopening of the hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit, the absence of which it says is overloading the emergency room.

Nurses nationwide have been rallying over poor working conditions in the wake of the pandemic as hospitals grapple with rising caseloads and supply shortages; a strike in January saw thousands of nurses across the city walk out over pay and safety disputes.

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INFINITE MUSSEL PARTY RETURNS TO BK WATERFRONT

GOWANUS — The RETI Center, a climate and marine education and advocacy group, will throw its annual spring celebration, the Infinite Mussel Party, next week on its research barge in the Gowanus Bay, a night of mussels, gumbo, kelp, cocktails and all things seafood. The party is inspired by the group’s Infinite Mussel Project, an initiative to return mussels to New York Harbor, and will this year also honor the Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank developing creative and practical climate and ocean policy for the future of coastal cities.

The Infinite Mussel Party will take place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on May 18.

The spread at last year’s bash. Eagle photo by Mary Frost.

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GOLDMAN REQUESTS FUNDING FOR GOWANUS HOUSES FIRE SYSTEM

GOWANUS — U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman on Wednesday announced that he had requested $1,500,000 in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget for NYCHA to upgrade the fire alarm system at the Gowanus Houses, enabling faster response times by the authority and ensuring access to up-to-date equipment that is able to address any potential fire, health, and safety concerns. Once upgraded, NYCHA will use its existing funds to continue maintenance and operations of the fire detection systems.

Goldman in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee wrote that the state of the current fire system in the Gowanus Houses is “a safety issue and quality of life issue,” saying that the system requires a complete replacement of all its components.

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CITY KICKS OFF STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL

CITYWIDEThe Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment kicked off the fifth annual NYC Public School Film Festival, which celebrates the talent and diversity of student voices, at a screening last week at the Museum of the City of New York, attended by over 200 students, officials, educators and industry professionals who offered advice during a panel and Career Expo. A record 183 films were submitted this year by students from 47 schools throughout the five boroughs, with 25 short films selected for inclusion made available for viewing online on the city’s webpage.

Brooklyn selections include:

Focus | Animation Category | School: Brooklyn Prospect Charter High School

Director, Writer, Producer: Rachel Mei Kelly | Key Cast: Rachel Mei Kelly, Tanisha Malik, Emily Tan, Portia Sharon Fong, SiWei Gong, Caitlyn Homol 

A student studying for her Mandarin quiz. As she loses focus, her “characters” come to life.”

The Mortality Tale | Animation Category | School: Arts & Letters 305 United

Director: Grace Aisling Landauer | Writer: Siena Gutierrez 

A girl tells us the tale of when she first learned there is an end to this great life of ours.”

Closure | Animation Category | School: Digital Arts & Cinema Technology High School

Directors: Kevin Perez, Jasmine Aguirre-Palacios 

A woman deals with the aftermath of a love triangle in therapy.”

Stormwatch | Experimental Category | School: Brooklyn Technical High School

Directors & Producers: Lucien Shih, Augustus James Roebling. | Chief Editor: Augustus James Roebling

A journey through the city of New York, beyond the flashy tourist traps. This film is a deep dive into the beautiful chaos and grit within the city.”

Bloodshed | Experimental Category | School: Theatre Arts Production Company School

Directors and Editors: Dennis Moore, Christian Tejada. | Key Cast: Ulysses Rivers 

Ulysses Rivers is a high school student in Brooklyn that wrote a song about the violence he lives with in his community every single day. He lives in fear, and he wants it to stop. He’s not naïve, he knows that’s a big ask but he hopes his music will get at least one person to stop and think. Ulysses also wants other young people who live in violent communities to know that they are not alone. He is hopeful that his song gives them words for their feelings. TAPCo, a school of the arts and technology, took Ulysses’ song and created an experimental video that combined both the documentary and music video genres. The result is a unique message of fear and hope that resonates in what can be a very violent world.”

Bruises of Word | PSA/Advocacy Category | School: Midwood High School

Director: Anel Yerdenayeva | Writer: Emma Grigoryev | Editor: William Chen | Cinematographer: Romy Swisa | Key Cast: Emma Grigoryev, Rio Yu, William Chen, Sophia Fortuna | Production Assistant: Jay Ng | Graphics: Hoshi Casero

A teen girl battles with emotions in her daily experiences with cyberbullying.”

Last Chance High: Cornhole | Documentary Category | School: East Brooklyn Community High School

Director: Gabrielle Coleman | Writers: Brianna Moore, Messiah Harper, Allyssa Marshall, Alyjah Thomas Hudson, Born Williams | Producer: Carlos Aguilar Castillo | Key Cast: Delontea Allen, Ahmad Sharpe, Patrick McGillicuddy, Yves Camile, Chiler Fleuristil, Eli Hypolite, Tyler Schlesinger, Damira Ogesby, Desmond Blunt, Jayden Pinnock, David Nelinson

Set in the heart of Brownsville Brooklyn, the film tells the inspiring story of a transfer high school that has found hope, purpose, and community in the unlikely sport of cornhole.”

Brooklynites will have the opportunity to enjoy the films as part of the city’s Movies Under the Stars series on May 20 on the Central Lawn in Sunset Park, beginning at 8:15 p.m.

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POLICE SEARCH FOR CHECK FRAUD CONMAN

BOROUGH PARK — Police are searching for an unknown man who, on Sunday, March 12, obtained a business check from a local victim under a false name and false pretense, then cashed it at a Borough Park check cashing store, causing the victim a financial loss of $6,000. The suspect is described as a male with a light complexion, approximately 5’9” tall and 175 pounds, and was last seen wearing a black and yellow hat, glasses, a black and red jacket and a gray hooded sweatshirt.

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.

Have you seen this man? All tips are strictly confidential.

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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.

A member of the class of 2023 works to prepare for the show. Photo from Brooklyn Public Library.
Models strutted at last year’s Academy capstone show. Photo from Brooklyn Public Library.

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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.

Bay Ridge trombone student Justice Mikles, on right, displays his Star Search trophy. Photo courtesy of Salvation Army.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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‘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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.


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