What’s News, Breaking: Friday, May 12, 2023
CITY RELEASES SET OF NEW INFORMATIONAL VIDEOS
TO HELP ASYLUM SEEKERS
CITYWIDE — New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro released a series of 18 informational videos in English and Spanish to help asylum seekers navigate the federal immigration system. The videos cover important topics that asylum seekers will need to know as part of their immigration case, including the role of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), how to update an address with federal agencies, understanding immigration documents, and what to expect at ICE and immigration court appointments.
NYC officials say that, since last spring, more than 65,000 asylum seekers have come through New York City and have been offered a place to stay, and over 39,400 asylum seekers are currently in the city’s care.
CATHOLIC CHARITIES ORGANIZES COLLECTIVE RESPONSE
TO SURGE IN MIGRANT ARRIVALS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Recognizing the plight of asylum seekers and their difficulties upon arriving in New York City, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has organized a collective response in both boroughs to welcome and provide essential emergency services to the new arrivals and their families. Since July 2022, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has served approximately 7,000 asylum seekers — and provided a total of 22,000 service units. For new arrivals with children, in addition to WIC nutrition services, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens also offers resources, information and referrals to Catholic Charities Head Start programs and New York City schools.
The long-established CCBQ affiliate Catholic Migration Services, Inc. has provided legal services to over 200 new arrivals, participated in multiple legal workshop clinics, and provided training to volunteer legal advocates to help with the surge of new migrants who have entered the city over the last year.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: IRS MUST END BACKLOG OF PAYROLL REFUNDS PROMISED THROUGH CARES ACT
NATIONWIDE — The Internal Revenue Service needs to do right by the businesses who kept their employees on payroll during the pandemic, says U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in a videoconference and letter directed to the federal tax agency’s Commissioner Daniel Werfel. Sen. Gillibrand is demanding that the IRS address its backlog and issue overdue Employee Retention Credit refunds to small businesses and nonprofits that have filed for them, in a program established through the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), after the pandemic was declared, to provide tax relief to businesses that retained their employees during that time.
Gillibrand pointed out that the IRS currently has as many as one million unprocessed ERC claims, meaning that many struggling small New York businesses have yet to receive the money they are owed, and demanded an itemized report on the backlog.
IRS TAXPAYER ASSISTANCE CENTER HOLDS
SPECIAL SATURDAY HOURS MAY 13
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The IRS will hold a special walk-in Taxpayer Assistance Center this Saturday, May 13, at 2 MetroTech Center for people needing help with a tax concern or a question about a notice received. Although the tax filing deadline has passed, the automatic extension lasts until October 16 and some taxpayers may still need help; they should come prepared with the pertinent documents. The special Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 2 MetroTech Center, 1st Floor.
The IRS has added hundreds of employees to Taxpayer Assistance Centers across the nation following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year and has reopened or opened more than 25 local TAC offices. During the months ahead, the IRS will continue to add more employees at these locations.
NYC CONGRESSMEMBERS URGE BIDEN TO LIFT
WORK EMBARGO FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS
CITYWIDE — The New York City Congressional Democratic delegation sent a letter to the Biden administration asking them to expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers, to eliminate the federal waiting period entirely — pointing out the urgent need to grow the U.S. labor force, and to reduce the pressure on localities and charitable organizations serving asylum seekers following the expiration of Title 42. Many immigrants already in the U.S. are trapped in local shelters, unable to work legally for six months, due to a federal regulation that states that asylum seekers must wait 150 days to receive work authorization.
The letter signers included the full NYC — and Brooklyn — Democratic Congressional delegates: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-8); and, House Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-7), Yvette Clarke (D-9) and Dan Goldman (D-10). Republican Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis of the 11th District in southwestern Brooklyn did not sign the letter.
NEW PUBLIC PARK OPENING IN MANHATTAN
WILL CELEBRATE BROOKLYN BRIDGE’S 140TH BIRTHDAY
BROOKLYN BRIDGE — The iconic Brooklyn Bridge will be feted for its 140th birthday with the opening of a historic new park on the Manhattan side, in Chinatown, Mayor Eric Adams and New York City announced on Friday, May 12. The publicly accessible greenspace, which will open up access to safe outdoor recreation for the nearly 50,000 diverse local residents who live within a half-mile radius, is opening on May 24, starting with the “mecca New York” skateboarding and opening of “the Arches,” which a decade ago was a major NYC attraction.
Roughly one acre in size, the Arches will open on May 24, 2023, after being closed to the public for over a decade, and feature space for basketball, pickleball, shuffleboard, and public seating — directly adjacent to the 53 historic arches on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
AS TITLE 42 EXPIRES, NY GOVERNOR ASKS PRESIDENT BIDEN
FOR MORE FUNDS TO HELP ASYLEES
STATEWIDE — Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday, May 12, urged President Biden in writing to direct additional federal resources to the State of New York as the pandemic-era Title 42 expires and unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers are set to arrive. Governor Hochul requests support from FEMA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Park Service. Her ongoing response to asylum seeker arrivals includes $1 billion in aid in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, mobilization of 1,500 National Guard Members, and an executive order increasing available resources.
Building on ongoing conversations with federal, state, and local leaders, earlier today Governor Hochul convened meetings with New York’s bipartisan Congressional delegation, the New York Association of Counties, and the New York Conference of Mayors to provide updates on the State’s efforts to support asylum seekers and further aid needed to address this situation.
STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL, HEALTH OFFICIALS
WARN AGAINST NEW INSURANCE RENEWAL SCAM
STATEWIDE — A new scam targets New Yorkers enrolled in public health insurance programs, now that the automatic continuous coverage requirement for insurers has ended. State Attorney General Letitia James and Acting Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. James McDonald are warning enrollees in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and Essential Plans, who must now renew their coverage each year, that scammers are calling people and falsely demanding hundreds of dollars to maintain their health insurance.
Attorney General James and McDonald emphasized that there are no fees for renewing one’s public health insurance. People who believe they’ve been scammed can call the New York State of Health’s customer service center at 1-855-355-5777, contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Health Care helpline at 1-800-428-9071, or the New York State Department of Financial Services consumer hotline at 1-800-342-3736.
FEDERAL GRANT FOR NEW DRY DOCK WILL HELP
COLUMBIA ST. MARITIME COMPANY EXPAND OPERATIONS
BAY RIDGE AND RED HOOK — Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-11/southern Brooklyn) on Thursday announced a $1 million federal grant to purchase a floating drydock to repair boats, ships, and Department of Sanitation recycling barges in and around New York City’s ports. Rep. Malliotakis, whose district stretches from Bay Ridge to Bath Beach, and includes parts of Staten Island, made the announcement jointly with the representatives from the American Waterways Operators and Hughes Bros., a maritime company based on Columbia St. in Red Hook, with additional operations on Staten Island employing maritime workers from across the 11th Congressional district.
“For over 125 years, Hughes Bros. has tackled nearly every type of maritime challenge up and down the East Coast and this new dry dock will allow them to expand their operations, create additional good-paying jobs and more efficiently repair ships in and around our ports which is critical to keeping our supply chains moving,” said Malliotakis.
CITY COUNCIL PASSES WORST LANDLORD LAW
TO ENSURE VIOLATIONS ARE REALLY CORRECTED
CITYWIDE — The New York City Council on Thursday, May 11, approved the Worst Landlord Law to help prevent fraudulent repairs by bad landlords and increase accountability for failure to correct hazardous violations. The bill, which Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams sponsored, will close a loophole within the current system that enables landlords to self-certify their own repairs and violations corrections without the city’s verification of completion. Consequently, some “bad actor” landlords falsely certify that violations have been corrected.
The bill, which several Brooklyn Councilmembers co-sponsored, is a component of the Worst Landlord Accountability Act, a legislative package that emanates from the Public Advocate’s annual Worst Landlord Watchlist.
COWS LEAD POLICE TO FUGITIVE DRIVER
BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA — When police tried to track a suspect who had run a traffic stop and then abandoned his vehicle in this western North Carolina town, a herd of cows joined the search. Police in an undeveloped area of the state tried stopping 34-year-old Joshua Russell Minton, who then hid in what turned out to be a cow pasture. The annoyed bovines alerted the police squad, leading them to Minton’s hiding spot.
Minton was jailed on secured bond; meanwhile, police in this Blue Ridge Mountains region will now consider commissioning cows as they do K-9 units.
HALF-MARATHON KICKOFF AT BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK — The New York Road Runners Club is kicking off its 41st annual Brooklyn Half-marathon, which will take place on Saturday, May 20, with an official Pre-Party open to the public at Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park next week, featuring food and local beer, music, a Running Lab offering course breakdowns and strategies from club coaches, motivation exercises and expert advice on race preparation and recovery, and more. Runners will also be able to pick up their race numbers at the event, as well as finding their spot on the Runner Wall, which will list the name of every runner participating.
The celebration will take place on Wednesday, May 17, through Friday, May 19, from 11:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.; events are free and open to the public, non-runners included.
HOUSEWARMING CELEBRATION AT NEW SUPPORTIVE RESIDENCE
NEW LOTS — Residents, city officials and support providers on Wednesday celebrated a housewarming at a newly opened supportive housing complex in New Lots, developed with city funding on a former vacant city property under the Department of Homeless Services’ Minority and Women-Owned Business Building Opportunity program. The building offers 71 total homes, with 43 supportive homes for formerly homeless single adults living with a severe mental illness or substance use disorder and 27 affordable homes for low-income community members, as well as amenities like 24/7 staff, a landscaped courtyard and a computer lab; Services for the UnderServed will provide support to residents referred by the Department of Homeless Services, including case and medical management, counseling and community integration.
“Allowing us to serve as stewards of formerly city-owned land is a great honor… In addition, we acknowledge the hard work and contribution our local electeds played, especially Inez Barron, in designing this property to be a great example of supportive housing,” wrote Chris Bramwell, managing partner of the building’s developer CB-Emmanuel Realty, which specializes in constructing supportive housing complexes; Barron assisted in shepherding the proposal through the approval process.
TEEN DATING AWARENESS WALK TAKES ITS MESSAGE ACROSS BROOKLYN BRIDGE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A coalition of teenagers, parents, and community members from across the five boroughs want to make the public aware that youths are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and teen dating violence, which together affect one in three teens. As part of the awareness campaign, they are marching across the Brooklyn Bridge this coming Saturday, May 13, to take a stand to prevent these crises, and taking part in the 11th annual NYC Teen Dating Violence Awareness Walk™ ― the largest march of its kind in the entire country. The Healing Center, an intervention and prevention non-profit, is sponsoring the walk, which will begin with a rally at Korean War Veterans Plaza in downtown Brooklyn. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and a rally with representatives from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, among other speakers, will be sharing their stories.
A national survey recently found that many victims of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence were first victimized at a young age.
GREEN-WOOD DISPLAYS MEMORIAL TO COVID VICTIMS
SUNSET PARK — Green-Wood Cemetery will host a participatory art project, created by the NAMING THE LOST Memorials artist team, called “THE MANY LOSSES FROM COVID-19” throughout May, in memory of the more than 79,000 New Yorkers who passed away during the pandemic, as well as the more than 1.1 million deaths nationwide. The memorial will stretch for 200 feet along the fence outside its main entrance, and will feature a space for members of the public to join in its creation — community members are encouraged to add the names of loved ones to the display, as well as tributes mourning the losses of intangible things, such as time, relationships, experiences or wellbeing.
The memorial will be on display from May 3 to May 29; the cemetery was set to hold a dedication ceremony on May 11 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with a link to a livestream and more information available on the cemetery’s website.
NEW PLAYSPACE UNVEILED; GIANTS QUARTERBACK DAN JONES CELEBRATES OPENING WITH GROUP
BROWNSVILLE — The Child Center of NY on Thursday, May 11, celebrated the unveiling of a new youth-designed outdoor playspace at its Residential Treatment Facility in Brownsville, with a New York sports celebrity present for the debut. The 9,000-square-foot space is the culmination of a months-long partnership between The Child Center of NY, BOSS, and KABOOM!, a national nonprofit committed to ending playspace inequity. The layout, drawn from ideas that community members — including youths — presented during a design day last August, features a customized football turf, basketball court, and more.
The Child Center’s RTF is a coeducational program in a welcoming, supportive environment that serves young people ages 12-18 who have had multiple psychiatric hospital placements or have been involved with the juvenile justice system.
OFFICIALS SLAM MAYOR FOR SHELTER RULE CHANGE
CITYWIDE — Following an announcement on Wednesday by Mayor Adams that provisions of the state’s “right to shelter” law that guarantees private housing to families on the same day they arrive at shelter system offices would be suspended owing to the ongoing influx of asylum-seekers from the southern border, other elected officials criticized the mayor’s decision, as well as a lack of support from the state and federal governments. Comptroller Brad Lander wrote in a press statement, “With more support from Washington and with overdue action from the Adams Administration to provide the assistance that will help asylum seekers get on their feet and move out of shelter, we can face this challenge with both compassion and common sense,” while Public Advocate Jumaane Williams wrote, “The mayor attempting to weaken those rights now — in a moment of immense need for so many asylum seekers — is a misguided and harmful action in the face of the real, urgent challenge exacerbated by a lack of decisive and timely state and federal action… We need Democratic leaders on all levels of government to focus on getting the support needed to uphold the right to shelter, not undercut it.”
The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless also condemned the decision in a joint statement: “We recognize the efforts from City staff to avoid putting people in harm’s way, but we’ve learned through experience that congregate shelters put families and children at risk… Mayor Adams is heading down a dangerous road. The City has other options, including implementing recommendations we have offered many times since last summer to transition those residing in shelters to permanent housing.”
MANHATTAN D.A. WILL CHARGE FORMER MARINE WITH MANSLAUGHTER IN JORDAN NEELY DEATH
MANHATTAN — The former Marine who placed a homeless man into a fatal chokehold in the subway system last week will be charged, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced on Thursday afternoon. The Associated Press, BBC and other news agencies report that U.S. Marine Daniel Penny will be charged on Friday with manslaughter in the death of Jordan Neely, who was well-known among commuters for his sendups of Michael Jackson. Neely, who reportedly suffered from mental illness, appeared belligerent toward Mr. Penny, whose defense attorneys say he could not have anticipated that his actions to subdue Mr. Neely would lead to his death.
However, witnesses to the May 1 incident said that while Neely was acting aggressively toward other subway passengers, he had not physically attacked anyone before Mr. Penny placed him in the chokehold.
CITY BACKS OFF ON PLANS TO SEND ASYLUM SEEKERS UPSTATE
CITYWIDE — The city has paused its plan to send a group of asylum seekers to a hotel in Orange County on Wednesday after meeting stiff resistance from its Republican officials, reports Gothamist, although a spokesperson for the mayor said that the administration had not discarded the idea and would be looking into ways to move forward with it, while Governor Hochul has indicated interest in further plans to house migrants in cities throughout the state. Orange County had implemented an executive order that would prohibit hotels from accepting the migrants and on Wednesday had police stake out the hotel, which county leaders have said the mayor’s office had booked without informing them of the plan.
Nearby Rockland county has offered similar resistance, despite assurances from city officials that NYC would pay for four months of the costs associated with the asylum seekers; Rockland’s executive also issued an executive order banning hotels from accepting migrants, and the Rockland town of Orangetown obtained a temporary restraining order halting the city’s efforts.
NEW DEMOCRATIC-SPONSORED BILL WOULD REFORM IMMIGRATION, CREATE A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP
CENTRAL BROOKLYN AND WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2023, a bill in Congress that Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-9/central Brooklyn) and Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA) newly introduced on Wednesday, May 10, lays out a bold, inclusive, and humane vision in reforming the United States immigration system. The legislation would equip the country to responsibly manage the border through smart and effective investments, address the root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights. It would also provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to earned citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers, and would prioritize family reunification.
The Democratic Congressional leaders also responded to the GOP-sponsored Child Deportation Act (H.R. 2) that would seem to negate the goals of The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2023.
BROOKLYN CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION URGES SWIFT DISBURSEMENT OF SHELTER AND SERVICES FUND
CITYWIDE — The remaining $360 million of the newly-authorized Shelter and Services Program need to be disbursed quickly, wrote Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10) and several colleagues in the Brooklyn Congressional delegation in a letter they sent on Thursday to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Criswell and Regional Administrator Warrington. These funds are used to support local government and nonprofit organizations in New York sheltering migrants and underwriting-related activities. Signing the letter with Rep. Goldman were House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-8/Bed-Stuy-to southeastern Brooklyn), Congressmembers Nydia Velázquez (D-7/northern Brooklyn) and Yvette Clarke (D-9/central Brooklyn), and Congressmembers from other boroughs, Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), Grace Meng (D-6/Queens), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens/Bronx), and Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx).
Congressman Goldman recently called on FEMA to increase their emergency allotment of $30.5 million to provide food, medical care, and support to incoming migrants. New York has spent over $1 billion in the care of over 60,000 new migrants.
HOCHUL WAIVES CIVIL SERVICE EXAM FOR CERTAIN CRITICAL JOBS
STATEWIDE — Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced that civil service exam requirements have been temporarily lifted for thousands of state jobs in critical areas through the Hiring for Emergency Limited Placement Program, with positions opening in fields such as direct care, nursing and support work. The decision comes as a result of a workforce shortage in state government roles that Hochul says is hindering the state’s ability to meet the basic health and safety needs of New Yorkers; workers hired under the program will be transferred into the standard state career track after one year.
The governor also announced a Virtual Career Fair, to be held on Thursday, May 11, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., featuring a variety of state agencies with a special focus on the many positions immediately available under HELP, along with an informational session on the program for jobseekers; job postings, application forms and more information on HELP can be found on the Department of Civil Service’s official website, while registration and information on the career fair can be found through the Department of Labor’s website.
HEALTH INSURERS WHO INFLATED STUDENT RATES MUST NOW MAKE REIMBURSEMENTS
STATEWIDE — Four major health insurance companies that serve college students must abide by the terms of settlements with the New York State Department of Financial Services for inflating rates and using unapproved policy forms. As part of its annual review of student health insurers in the New York market, DFSS found Aetna Life Insurance Company, UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company of New York, Wellfleet New York Insurance Company, and 4 Ever Life Insurance Company each charged unapproved rates to students covered under blanket health insurance contracts with educational institutions.
DFS also fined 4 Ever Life and Aetna for using unapproved policy forms and rating factors for premiums. Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Wellfleet will reimburse $3.2 million to students.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES SUES GUN PARTS MAKER FOR VIOLATING STATE LAWS
STATEWIDE — State Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday, May 11, filed a lawsuit against the gun accessory manufacturer MEAN LLC (Mean Arms) for aiding the illegal possession of assault weapons in New York, including the weapon used in the mass shooting in Buffalo in May 2022. Mean Arms is a Georgia-based company that makes, sells, and distributes the MA Lock, which they define as a shear bolt mechanism designed to lock a detachable magazine in place on a semiautomatic rifle. The company sells the MA Lock to New York buyers directly and through third-party sellers, deceptively and falsely claiming that the product makes weapons compliant with New York’s gun laws.
New York law bans the possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
STATE AGENCIES’ OVERTIME COSTS AND HOURS SEE MAJOR INCREASE
STATEWIDE — Overtime costs at state agencies rose 47.2% to more than $1.36 billion in 2022, attributable in part to workforce reduction, setting a new record, according to a report that State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released on Thursday, May 12. Overtime hours increased 11.1% to $22.2 million over the same period, while overtime earnings comprised 7.5% of total payroll spending in 2022, a significant increase from the previous 4.6% average from 2013-2021.
During the 10-year period, the average annual number of employees working for the state, excluding the SUNY and CUNY university systems, declined from 160,829 employees in 2013 to roughly 142,396 in 2022 — a drastic reduction from 15 years ago when the state workforce size was over 180,000.
CONGRESSIONAL BILL WOULD CREATE GRANT PROGRAM FOR HEALTHIER, CLIMATE-FRIENDLY SCHOOL MEALS
NATIONWIDE — The day after she urged United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to work with schools on creating plant-forward menus, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-7/northern Brooklyn) joined Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D (D/Bronx & Westchester) on Thursday, May 11, in reintroducing the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act. This bill would create a voluntary grant program for school districts to help schools provide healthier, climate-friendly, and culturally appropriate plant-based entrée options to students. The bill, which aims to improve children’s health and fight climate change, would cover the cost of culinary training and technical assistance for school food service operators and staff, and procurement of plant-based sources of protein and milk from socially disadvantaged producers, local producers, and women, veteran, and beginning farmers, among other provisions.
One new provision would require school districts to provide a non-dairy milk substitute to children without a disability if a parent or guardian makes a written request to the school district.
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