What’s News, Breaking: Friday, May 5, 2023
PRAISE FOR FEDERAL APPROVAL OF CONGESTION PRICING PLAN
BOROUGHWIDE — State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-26), whose district includes much of western and waterfront Brooklyn, including neighborhoods with fewer mass transit options, also praised Biden’s approval of congestion pricing. “The green light given today to congestion pricing is a huge step forward towards a New York City that is cleaner, greener, and easier for us all to get around in. I applaud the Federal Highway Administration’s decision today to approve the implementation of congestion pricing, and I look forward to continued work with my colleagues in the federal, state, and city governments to implement it without delay.”
As of press time on Friday, May 5, Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis (R-11) had not yet released a statement, although she has vehemently opposed congestion pricing as adding a double-toll burden on many in her district, which includes southwestern Brooklyn and Staten Island.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION APPROVES
NYC CONGESTION PRICING PLAN
CITYWIDE — The Biden administration on Friday afternoon cleared New York’s controversial congestion pricing plan to move forward, with a The Federal Highway Administration letter approving the New York Metropolitan Transportation’s Authority environmental assessment and issuing a draft “Finding of No Significant Impact” that comes up for public review for 30 days. Several transit advocates and elected officials expressed approval, with City Comptroller Brad Lander stating “President Joe Biden gave a long awaited greenlight to implement a first-in-the-nation congestion pricing program that will keep New York City’s streets and subways moving for years to come. Implementing congestion pricing will fund much-needed accessibility improvements and signal modernization for our beleaguered subway system that will speed up train times while unclogging gridlock on city streets.”
Lander urged the MTA and the Traffic Mobility Review Board to “swiftly implement the program now to raise critical funds for our transit system.”
BROOKLYN ATTORNEY MATTHEW MODAFFERI JOINS
FRIER LEVITT AS LITIGATION TEAM PARTNER
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Matthew Modafferi, a Brooklyn resident and a former US Attorney serving here, has joined the law firm Frier Levitt as a partner in the Litigation Team. Mr. Modafferi, who previously served as Assistant United States Attorney, in the Civil Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), will focus his practice on white-collar defense and investigations, and on complex civil litigation. Frier Levitt is a boutique law firm with offices in New York and New Jersey whose attorneys represent clients in health care services, including large physician group practices, hospitals and hospital medical staffs.
Mr. Modafferi serves as an Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn Law School, from which he earned his Juris Doctor degree, where he teaches litigation skills and learning from practice. As a Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Postal Service, Modafferi has also prosecuted cases involving postal employees charged with mail theft.
CITY SUBWAYS SET POST-PANDEMIC RIDERSHIP RECORD
CITYWIDE — The New York City subways carried 4.02 million riders on Wednesday, May 3, recording the highest single-day number since March of 2020, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced on Friday, May 5. The exact figure of 4,020,991 paid rides on Wednesday marked the third time in three weeks that four million riders used the subway to get to work, school, or other destinations, after reaching the post-pandemic milestone on Thursday, April 20. Prior to the April 20 milestone, the last time the subways carried more than four million riders was March 12, 2020, when 4.1 million New Yorkers rode the subway.
Moreover, off the rails, 30,850 customers used New York City Transit’s Access-A-Ride paratransit service — also on Wednesday, May 3 — marking a new post-pandemic record for this service.
IN MEMORIAM: ROY SALTMAN, BROOKLYN TECH GRADUATE
WHO WARNED AGAINST USE OF THE ‘HANGING CHAD’
Roy Gilbert Saltman, a Brooklyn Technical High School alumnus who later warned American voters about the hazards of hanging chads, has died at age 87, reports the New York Times’ Sam Roberts. Saltman, who became the U.S. federal government’s leading expert on computerized voting had — even before the disputed 2000 election tabulation results between George W. Bush and Al Gore — prophesied that the “hanging chad” on punch card ballots would cause problems when counting votes; yet his warnings were minimalized.
Saltman, who in 1988 was a federal analyst for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, bluntly recommended that the U.S. stop using the pre-scored punch card ballots because of the danger of the cardboard remnants staying attached and thus rendering the voter’s choice uncertain or invalid.
NEW BILLS WILL REGULATE CRYPTO INDUSTRY;
MAKING IT MORE ACCOUNTABLE TO CUSTOMERS
STATEWIDE — Landmark legislation that New York Attorney General Letitia James introduced on Friday aims to tighten regulations on the cryptocurrency industry to protect investors, consumers, and the broader economy. The Crypto Regulation, Protection, Transparency, and Oversight (CRPTO) Act, which proposes the strongest and most comprehensive set of regulations on cryptocurrency in the nation, would require independent public audits of cryptocurrency exchanges and prevent individuals from owning the same companies, such as brokerages and tokens, to stop conflicts of interest.
Moreover, the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act would require platforms to have responsibilities similar to those of banks, and to reimburse customers who are the victims of fraud; it would strengthen the New York State Department of Financial Services’ regulatory authority of digital assets.
RIBBON-CUTTING OPENS NEW STORM-RESILIENT HOSPITAL
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.
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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CITY KICKS OFF STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL
CITYWIDE — The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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