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What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, May 18, 2023

May 18, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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GRAND OPENING CELEBRATED FOR NEWLY-EXPANDED
INFUSION CENTER WITH HIGH-TECH MRI EQUIPMENT

KINGS HIGHWAY — The Mount Sinai Health System on Thursday, May 18, held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the expansion of its Brooklyn Ambulatory Infusion Center, a cancer treatment center that brings innovative cancer therapy and clinical trials to residents of southern Brooklyn. The $4.1 million expansion doubles the center’s capacity to 15 infusion chairs, seven exam rooms, and a mammography suite, offering medical oncology, chemotherapy, therapeutic infusion treatments, consultations, and blood transfusions.

Mount Sinai Brooklyn also announced the addition of a high-tech magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner at the hospital, at a total cost of $2.8 million including installation, and with a grant from the New York City Council covered the cost of the scanner, $988,000.

Left to right: Dr. Scott Lorin, President, Mount Sinai Brooklyn, Council member Mercedes Narcisse, Alicia Gresham, COO, Network Practices, Mount Sinai Health System, Dr. Arvind Kamthan, Chief of Hematology and Oncology, Mount Sinai Brooklyn, and Dr. Peter Shearer, Chief Medical Officer, Mount Sinai Brooklyn, front row, left to right, join other staff and community members at a ribbon cutting for the newly expanded Mount Sinai Brooklyn Infusion Center, Thursday, May 18, 2023, on Kings Highway. Photo: Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Mount Sinai Brooklyn.

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BROOKLYN APPELLATE COURT JUSTICE ZAYAS NAMED
AS NY STATE’S CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — State Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Zayas, who for the past two years has served as an associate justice of the Appellate Division-Second Department in Brooklyn, was officially named as Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Unified Court System, which is the state judiciary’s highest-ranking administrative position, reported the New York Law Journal on Thursday, May 18. Justice Zayas’ naming is a landmark appointment as he becomes the first Latino in this role.

According to his judicial profile on the Appellate Court’s website, Justice Zayas was appointed to his current role by former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in May 2021.

Judge Joseph Zayas, breaking barriers as the first Latino Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Unified Court System. Photo courtesy of the Office of Court Administration.

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DINAPOLI: NYS SPENDING UP, REVENUES DOWN, ‘RAINY DAY’ FUND SHORTFALL

An analysis by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has some worrisome news: state spending for fiscal year 2023-2024, which began April 1, will grow more than 4% year-over-year, while revenues are projected to drop by roughly 3.9% and temporary federal aid is spent down. The $9 billion enacted budget includes new recurring spending for schools, mental health services, health care, MTA funds and emergency rental assistance. Most of the drop in revenue is concentrated in personal income taxes, reflecting a roughly 26% decline in Wall Street bonuses, volatility in financial markets impacting estimated payments and other tax issues, DiNapoli said. He cautions that the state is using loopholes to skirt laws requiring competitive bidding and Comptroller oversight of contracts before they become effective — a tactic DiNapoli calls “ill-advised.”

DiNapoli also warns of a shortfall in the state’s “rainy day fund.” Looking ahead, he urges legislators to boost these funds “and work to put the State on a sustainable fiscal course.”

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NY ATTORNEY GENERAL LEADS COALITION TO FIGHT HARMFUL
HUMAN USE OF VETERINARY DRUG

NATIONWIDE — State Attorney General Letitia James and a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general are urging Congressional leadership to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, which would provide critical measures to combat human consumption of this potent veterinary drug. Attorney James and her counterparts sent Congress the letter following a surge in overdose deaths nationwide related to xylazine, which is easily obtainable online. Xylazine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only as a veterinary medicine used to sedate and relieve pain in large animals; but in humans, xylazine is known to depress breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and cause unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death.

“When used correctly, xylazine is an important veterinary medication, but it was never meant to be used by humans, especially as an additive to fentanyl,” wrote Attorney General James.

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FORMER NYPD OFFICER SENTENCED FOR BRIBERY
IN VEHICLE-TOWING BUSINESS

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — United States District Judge Rachel P. Kovner in Brooklyn federal court has sentenced former New York City Police Department officer Michael Perri to 33 months of imprisonment and a $25,000 fine for conspiring to use interstate facilities to commit bribery. According to court filings, the 34-year-old Perri orchestrated a scheme to pay thousands of dollars in bribes to two fellow NYPD officers, now also co-defendants, for their corrupt agreement to assist an automobile repair and tow trucking business that Perri had begun operating upon his retirement, in violation of a requirement to use the NYPD’s Directed Accident Response Program, a computer system that randomly selects a licensed tow trucking business to ensure that no particular business receives favored treatment.

Perri pleaded guilty last November and has already paid the government over $158,000 in forfeiture.

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WILLOWTOWN ASSN. SPRING FAIR THIS SATURDAY IN BK HEIGHTS

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The annual Willowtown Spring Fair will take place on Saturday, May 20, from noon until 5 p.m. This family favorite, which benefits the Willowtown Association, features food and baked goods, music by Papa Vega’s Orchestra, merch from locals and a raffle, along with face painters, a bouncy house, magic show, games and more. One highlight will be a visit from by Heather Wolf, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s doyen of all things avian and author of Birding at the Bridge. Wolf — who knows how to identify birds by their silhouettes, the shape of their tails, and their distinctive chirps, songs, or sounds — will be selling her bird prints and answering your bird questions. Another highlight will be a tug-of-war between residents and elected officials, including (potentially) invitees Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, and Councilmember Lincoln Restler. 

The fair takes place on Willow Place between Joralemon and State Streets. The volunteer Willowtown Association advocates for residents of the shady enclave of Willowtown, in the southwest corner of Brooklyn Heights.

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FARE-BEATING DRIVES MTA ‘CRISIS’ — PANEL REC’S NEW GATES, FAIR FARES & CRACK DOWN

NEW YORK METRO AREA — According to a report released Wednesday by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Blue Ribbon Panel, fare-beating in NYC has reached crisis levels, with the MTA losing an estimated $690 million in unpaid fares and tolls in 2022. The report recommends a “multi-layered plan” to combat the losses, including redesigned subway fare gates, more aid for low-income riders, “precision policing” and more prosecution. The majority of the losses (roughly 86%) are caused by bus and subway scofflaws, with an additional 14% from cheating train passengers and bridge and tunnel drivers, MTA says. Roughly 400,000 subway riders a day (10-15% of riders) evade fares, along with 700,000 bus riders (more than a third). “New Yorkers are sick of feeling like suckers seeing their neighbors beat the fare or cheat the toll while they pony up their fair share,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in a release.

Modernized subway turnstiles demonstrated on Wednesday at Grand Central Terminal (pictured below) would allow the removal of emergency gates, where more than half of subway fare-beating takes place, the panel said. To prevent bus cheating, MTA recommends hiring more enforcement agents and increasing eligibility for Fair Fares. Fixing train, bridge, and tunnel evasion requires a more complex mix of remedies. 

Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA.
Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA.

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BROOKLYN CRYPTOCURRENCY FIRM
PAYS NY STATE $4.3M IN FRAUD CASE

WILLIAMSBURG AND ALBANY — New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday, May 18, secured $4.3 million from Brooklyn-based cryptocurrency company Coin Cafe for defrauding investors. Coin Cafe is a cryptocurrency trading platform that allowed investors to store their Bitcoin in a Coin Cafe account known as wallet storage. But an Office of the Attorney General investigation found that Coin Café was charging investors exorbitant and undisclosed fees to use its wallet storage, despite marketing its wallet storage as “free” on its website. Coin Café, which according to a Google Search operates from Williamsburg, and whose website’s customer service page indicates accessibility by text or email only, also failed to register with OAG as a commodity broker-dealer as required by the Martin Act, a law that protects investors.

New York Law requires broker-dealers with a valid BitLicense or a pending BitLicense application to register with OAG.

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BROOKDALE HOSPITAL REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH US GOVERNMENT OVER FRAUDULENT WIC CLAIMS

BROWNSVILLE AND DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in Brownsville (eastern Brooklyn) has agreed to pay $300,000 to the U.S. government to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act based on the conduct of former employees who engaged in a scheme to defraud the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Former Brookdale employees, including the former director of Brookdale’s WIC program, engaged in a scheme to defraud the WIC program by qualifying ineligible patients for benefits and misappropriating program funds. The United States further alleges that these former employees falsified time sheets and budget records to inflate Brookdale’s purported requirements for WIC funds.

Brookdale cooperated fully throughout the investigation. The settlement agreement, which United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser approved on Wednesday, May 17, resolved claims under the Federal False Claims Act’s whistleblower provisions wherein a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the settlement if the government takes over the case and reaches a monetary agreement with the defendant.

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STATE TO GIVE UPDATE ON UTICA CRESCENT
MIXED USE PROJECT

EAST FLATBUSH — The Empire State Development Corporation will be giving a presentation Thursday evening, May 18, on the vital Utica Crescent Mixed Use Project (a Land Use Improvement and Residential Project) to Community Board 9’s Housing Committee. This project involves the redevelopment of a surface parking lot at 832 Rutland Road in East Flatbush into a new multi-use building with affordable housing, retail, a healthcare facility, and social services spaces, according to the ESDC’s website. The virtual Zoom meeting begins at 7 p.m.

The proposed project is part of New York State’s Vital Brooklyn Initiative with the mission of addressing and solving chronic social, economic, and health disparities in Central Brooklyn.

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STATE ASSEMBLY APPROVES BILL THAT REQUIRES MTA TO NOTIFY COMMUTERS OF BED BUG PRESENCE

SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — The MTA will be required to inform commuters of bed bug infestations on subways, buses, and commuter trains if an Assembly bill that Assemblymember William Colton (D-A.D. 47) sponsored passes the State Senate next. Assembly Bill A2570, which the Assembly passed on Wednesday, May 16, and whose Brooklyn delegation co-sponsors include Assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon (D-52/DUMBO to Prospect Heights) and Latrice Walker (D-55/Bushwick), would amend the public authorities law, in relation to providing notification to customers of bed bug infestations on MTA subways, trains, and buses within 24 hours of such discovery. Calling bed bugs an issue of public safety and health, Assemblyman Colton noted that the vote was 110-37, but with no Republican votes.

“The MTA must notify customers and make them aware of bed bug infestations on MTA subways, trains, and buses as a measure of public safety and public health awareness, to help prevent the spreading of such infestations,” said Colton, who represents Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Dyker Heights in southern Brooklyn.

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REP. GOLDMAN INTRODUCES LANDMARK MEDICARE BILL FOR ALL AMERICANS

WESTERN BROOKLYN AND WASHINGTON, DC — Congressman Dan Goldman (D-10) on Wednesday, May 16, joined his colleagues Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in introducing the Medicare for All Act of 2023 — landmark legislation which would expand affordable health care access to the nearly 100 million people in America who currently have no health insurance, are at serious risk of being uninsured, or still face prohibitively high healthcare costs. The Medicare for All Act builds upon and expands Medicare to provide comprehensive benefits to every person in the United States. This includes primary care, vision, dental, prescription drugs, mental health, substance abuse, long-term services and supports, reproductive health care, and more. The bill would also give patients the freedom to choose their doctors, hospitals, and other providers without worrying about whether a provider is in-network. The Medicare for All Act of 2023 also provides for universal coverage of long-term care with no cost-sharing for older Americans and individuals with disabilities and prioritizes home and community-based care over institutional care.

The bill, if signed into law, would also help 15 million people who are at risk of being kicked off Medicaid, following last month’s redeterminations of eligibility.

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INDICTMENT IN VEHICULAR HOMICIDE CASE

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A Coney Island man has been indicted for manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide and other charges for speeding and running a red light, causing a car crash that resulted in two people dying and five people being injured, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said on Wednesday, May 17. The defendant, Vitaliy Konoplyov, 49, of Coney Island, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 20-count indictment including second-degree manslaughter, second-, and third-degree assault, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree reckless endangerment, and related charges. Konoplyov is being held on bail of $1 million bond or $250,000 cash, with a court date of June 21.

The investigation found that, on March 20, 2023, around 12:48 p.m., the defendant, driving a 2015 white Toyota Camry southbound on 18th Avenue, allegedly sped through multiple red lights, striking a  2016 black Honda HR-V that was being driven eastbound by 51-year-old, Stancho Stanchev, who was taken to Maimonides Hospital, where he was declared dead. The collision caused Stanchev’s vehicle to spin, jump the curb, and hit and kill pedestrian Leung Yuet, 65. Konoplyov then struck a 2021 silver Chevy Equinox, whose operator, a 71-year-old man, somehow escaped injury.

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25-TO-LIFE FOR MAN WHO DISMEMBERED HIS SWEETHEART AND STOLE HER GOVERNMENT BENEFITS

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A Dutchess County man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in Kings County Supreme Court for killing his girlfriend, dismembering her body, and throwing it in the garbage so he could collect her Social Security benefits, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Wednesday, May 17. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun presided at the sentencing of 39-year-old Ricky Gonzalez of Beacon, convicted in a jury trial last month of the second-degree murder of 58-year-old Maria Quinones of Bushwick, tampering with physical evidence, third-degree grand larceny, first-degree identity theft that led to his collecting $68,000 of his victim’s Social Security benefits, and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

Ms. Quinones’ body was never recovered.

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MAN ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN 2020 MASS SHOOTING

FLATBUSH — Police on Tuesday announced the arrest of Kamondre Dekattu, 22, of Flatbush, on charges of murder and attempted murder, among others, for allegedly shooting six people, killing one, in a gang-related drive-by on Oct. 21, 2020. Dekattu was allegedly captured on surveillance video emerging from the sunroof of a car and opening fire at pedestrians; police responding to a 911 call at a Flatbush apartment building discovered and transported six victims to area hospitals, where Theodore Senior, 23, passed away from a chest wound and five more victims in their 20s were treated.

Other associates of Dekattu were also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the incident; a separate statement from the Brooklyn DA alleges that Dekattu boasted of the shooting in social media messages to other gang members, and that Senior’s death was celebrated with a lavish steakhouse dinner thrown by Dekattu’s fellow gang members.

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HATE CRIME CHARGES FOR MAN WHO WAVED KNIFE AT JEWS IN BBP

DUMBO — A man who on Thursday allegedly threatened a group of Jewish students while shouting antisemitic rhetoric in Brooklyn Bridge Park is now facing hate crime charges, reports COL Live. The students say that around midnight they were approached by the man, who confronted them and told them to leave the park, yelling that “he is a real Jew and we are not,” before displaying a knife and demanding money from them; the students contacted the Williamsburg Shmira community watch, who then called police, who arrested the man at the scene.

Video shared with COL Live shows the man shouting at the students, while other photographs from the scene show a police officer showing what appears to be a folding “butterfly knife” to the camera; the man’s alleged statements echo ideas promoted by the controversial Black Hebrew Israelites movement, members of which have committed hate crimes against the Jewish community on previous occasions.

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32 ALLEGED GANG MEMBERS CHARGED IN MAJOR BUST

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez on Tuesday announced that 32 alleged members of the Flatbush- and Canarsie-based 8 Trey Crips and 9 Ways gangs have been named in a 140-count indictment, with counts including murder and attempted murder, in a war against rival gangs Folk Nation Gangster Disciples and ICG Babiiez between March of 2019 and the present; 13 victims, including one fatality and three innocent bystanders, were harmed in these shootings. Drill rapper Sheff G allegedly used his music earnings to fuel the violence by gifting money and expensive jewelry and hosting gang members in his New Jersey mansion; the statement describes an alleged revenge campaign after a Babiiez member shot at that mansion, with the rapper acting as a getaway driver during a shooting in April of 2021 that wounded two bystanders, and ten other defendants in June of 2021 kidnapping and beating the 8 Trey member they believed betrayed the location of the mansion in Holy Cross Cemetery.

The indictment is the result of a long-running investigation into the two gangs; the DA’s statement says investigators used surveillance videos of the incidents and social media and text messages in which defendants allegedly boasted about their criminal activities.

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PRINCE HARRY REPORTEDLY INVOLVED IN ANOTHER TRAFFIC CHASE, THIS TIME WITH NYC PAPARAZZI

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN — A strange and dangerous déjà vu involving members of the British royal family unfolded on Manhattan streets Tuesday night, when paparazzi were reported pursuing a taxicab in which Prince Harry, his wife, Meghan Markle, and her mother were passengers, according to several news reports. The three were in New York City for the Ms. Foundation for Women benefit, at which Meghan Markle was being honored. According to the Prince’s spokesperson, they were involved in a “near catastrophic” car chase through Midtown, after attending the gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, with a gaggle of photographers pursuing the cab and almost causing crashes with other drivers, pedestrians, and even police during their two-hour chase.

Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, when aggressive photographers chased their limousine.

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HOUSE DEMS MOVE TO EXPEL LIAR REP SANTOS

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday brought a measure to the House floor to expel disgraced U.S. Rep. George Santos, of Long Island, from Congress, reports NY1, following Santos’ arrest last week on multiple fraud charges; GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters that he would refer the measure to the House Ethics Committee before allowing the House to vote on it. “We believe that George Santos should be expelled months ago. There hasn’t been action, and so now is the appropriate time to make sure that Republicans are on record if they’re going to actually stand by someone that is a serial liar and a fraud,” said Rep. Robert Garcia of California, who introduced the resolution; House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a statement, “Instead of peddling conspiracy theories about President Biden and his family, House Republicans should expel this serial fraudster from the House of Representatives.”

Santos also last week agreed to a deal with the Brazilian government, according to the AP, to avoid prosecution over and wherein the congressman in 2008 confessed to stealing checks from an elderly patient being cared for by his mother and then fraudulently using those checks to buy clothes, but then failed to appear before the Brazilian courts, who lost track of him until his election to the House of Representatives; Santos allegedly agreed to pay around $5,000 to the defrauded shopkeeper and various charities.


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