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What’s News, Breaking: Friday, June 16, 2023

June 16, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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MERMAID PARADE THIS WEEKEND

CONEY ISLAND — Coney Island’s iconic Mermaid Parade is returning to the beachfront this Saturday, June 17, to mark the start of summer, with more than 3000 nautically costumed marchers expected to party through the streets, alongside parade floats and performers, reports Gothamist. The parade down Surf Avenue will kick off from West 21st Street at 1 p.m. and last about three hours, finishing when the parade’s King and Queen “throw fruit off Steeplechase Pier as an offering to the gods of the sea,” according to Eagle reporter Mary Frost, with an official afterparty at the Coney Island Brewery later on; viewers can watch from any point along the route and can find more information and a link to a livestream on the Coney Island USA’s Mermaid Parade webpage.

Brooklyn author Melanie Hope Greenberg held a reading of her classic picture book, “Mermaids on Parade,” last weekend at Barnes & Noble in Cobble Hill to get local kids pumped up for the glittery spectacle and teach them to embrace their inner sea creature; the event has long been a favorite of generations of Brooklyn families.

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BROOKLYN ASSEMBLYMEMBER WILL INTRODUCE BILL TO
AUDIT ‘WOEFULLY INADEQUATE’ LITERACY TRAINING

STATEWIDE — After the release of a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, showing that NY State Teacher Prep Programs are “woefully inadequate” in the basics — teaching children how to read — Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-52) is introducing a bill to audit these programs. The legislation will require the New York State Education Department to survey the state’s teacher education programs to identify which are in fact using evidenced-based practices consistent with how the brain reads; pointing out that programs still using debunked and failed methods should be scrapped.

Assemblymember Simon pointed out that, nationally, only 25% of programs adequately train future teachers how to utilize the scientific methods, which include the five core components of reading, identified by the National Reading Panel in 2000 as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Perhaps even worse: 45% of teaching programs in New York State fail to utilize any of the five pillars of evidenced-based literacy instruction that has proven effective for decades.

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MAN WHO STABBED ASSAILANT ON SUBWAY RELEASED W/O BAIL

WILLIAMSBURG — Jordan Williams, arrested and charged with manslaughter for fatally stabbing a homeless man during a fight on a J train at Marcy Avenue on Tuesday night, was released without bail on Thursday afternoon, reports ABC News, after a judge rejected requests from prosecutors to set bail at $100,000 and told Williams, “I have every reason to believe you will fight this case.” The fight allegedly began after the homeless man, Devictor Ouedraogo, harassed train riders and punched Williams’ girlfriend and possibly Williams himself; his attorney told reporters it was a clear-cut case of self-defense.

“He did what he had to do, honestly. Like I said, you know, we’re not happy that someone lost their life, no. We’re extremely remorseful for that, in fact. However, he did do what — it was either him or the guy, and he did what he had to do,” Williams’ mother, April Williams, told ABC while waiting for his release outside court on Thursday.

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AG JAMES LAUNCHES ELECTION PROTECTION HOTLINE

STATEWIDE — Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday announced that, for the upcoming June 27 election, her office will open its Election Protection Hotline, which has operated since November 2012 and has helped field and resolve thousands of complaints from voters across the state, according to a press statement. The hotline will be available at (866) 390-2992 to troubleshoot issues related to voting, whether by absentee ballot or at polling places. Staff will man the phones between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from June 17-29, during the early voting period, and between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, June 27; voters can also submit complaints and concerns at any time on the Attorney General’s state webpage.

Know Your Rights: Polls are required to be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Election Day, and if voters are in line before closing, they must be allowed to vote. In addition, all registered voters have the right to vote free from coercion or intimidation, whether by election officials or any other person. The AG’s office will receive and respond to election complaints relating to any of the statutes that it enforces; it has also taken legal action to protect early voting rights and against voter registration purges.

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VELAZQUEZ, CLARKE PUSH FOR IMMIGRANT PROTECTIONS

WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Yvette Clarke, along with Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas, on Thursday joined to reintroduce the American Dream and Promise Act, which would strengthen protections for up to 3.4 million eligible immigrants under the Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs, as well as creating a more comprehensive path to permanent residency or citizenship. The congressmembers in a press statement said that during the Trump administration, both the TPS and DACA programs (which are intended to help migrants from unsafe countries and those who arrived as children remain in the country and be able to work) were subject to rollbacks, jeopardizing the wellbeing of immigrants, many of whom have spent much of their lives in the United States; lawsuits challenging these programs have left thousands in limbo regarding their citizenship status.

Under the bill, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice would cancel removal proceedings against some immigrants and instead work towards granting permanent resident status.

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DOT LAUNCHES VISION ZERO HELMET DISTRIBUTION

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — As part of the NYC DOT’s Safety Education and Bicycling team outreach, the agency next weekend will start distributing its new Vision Zero-branded helmet. The program starts June 24, but Brooklyn’s event doesn’t take place until Monday, July 17, at Fulton St. and Nostrand Ave.

This updated design featuring a green and black design and the new Vision Zero Building a Safer City logo exemplifies the Adams administration’s commitment to expanding the reach of this life-saving initiative.

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CITY DOT OFFERS BICYCLING SAFETY OUTREACH PROGRAMS

CITYWIDE AND OCEAN HILL — The NYC Department of Transportation’s Safety Education and Bicycling teams will spread out across the five boroughs through the rest of the spring and summer conducting bike outreach, Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said on Friday. Events include NYC DOT’s helmet fitting program in conjunction with elected officials, cyclist education with Bike New York, outreach to commercial delivery cyclists, and e-bike outreach. Events will be held across the five boroughs and incorporated into the soon-to-be-announced Summer Streets 2023 programming.

Two Delivery Cyclist outreach events will be offered: Tuesday, June 20, location TBA, with City Councilmembers Shahana Hanif (D-39), Crystal Hudson (D 35), and Lincoln Restler (D-33); and, on Wednesday, July 19, at Fulton St. and Ralph Ave. in Ocean Hill.

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UPS TEAMSTERS UNION VOTES OVERWHELMINGLY
TO AUTHORIZE STRIKE AUG. 1

NATIONWIDE — The UPS Teamsters have overwhelmingly voted — by 97% of its membership — to authorize a strike, as their contract fight escalates toward the Aug. 1 expiration, and the New York City Democrat Socialist party is supporting the union’s cause. UPS Teamsters are demanding significant pay increases for part-timers to $25 an hour, the elimination of two-tier wages for package-car drivers, the end to forced six-day work weeks, equitable pension payouts across the country, an end to invasive driver-facing cameras, more holidays, and job security measures such as no subcontracting and gig workers. 

The New York City Democratic Socialists (local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America) pointed out in a June 16 statement that while “Throughout the pandemic, UPS workers kept society running — UPS delivery and warehouse workers moved 6% of the U.S. GDP, tens of billions of dollars, Yet just last week, when New York City had the worst air quality in the world, management left NYC delivery and warehouse workers without guidance and proper protections. This is just the latest in a long pattern of abuses.”

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MTA TO ACCEPT IDNYC CARDS FOR REDUCED FARE APPLICATIONS 

CITYWIDE — The MTA on Thursday announced that it is now accepting IDNYC cards as valid identification to apply for its reduced fare MetroCards, which allow seniors and disabled people to ride buses and subways for half-price; as well as for OMNY cards and Access-A-Ride handicapped bus service. A press release from the authority linked the move to a report on fare evasion released last month, saying that it wants to support low-income transit riders by allowing the use of the city ID cards, which are “widely used by lower income New Yorkers from all backgrounds.” 

Customers can submit applications for the reduced fare cards online, by mail, or in person at any Customer Service Center or MetroCard Bus or Van. IDNYC cards are available to all city residents ages 10 and up; applications must be made in person, and appointments can be scheduled on the city’s website.

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TENANTS PROTEST OUTSIDE RENT BOARD HEARING

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A group of tenants rallied at a Rent Guidelines Board hearing on Wednesday night against proposed hikes to the rents of stabilized apartments that Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called “absurd and obscene,” reports ABC News. Organizers and irate renters packed the hearing and chanted slogans at the board’s representatives, arguing that the proposed allowable increases of up to seven percent on two-year leases would be a hardship for struggling New Yorkers, especially in the wake of the pandemic; landlord groups, on the other hand, think that the increases aren’t high enough, and told ABC that owners were having difficulty keeping pace with mortgage payments and tax increases, as well as with non-paying tenants.

The fight over the rent control guidelines has been contentious this year; at a preliminary vote meeting of the board last month Brooklyn Councilmembers Chi Osse, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Aviles and Shahana Hanif stormed the stage to divert proceedings in support of tenants.

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MAYOR’S NEW EMERGENCY RULES AIM TO EXPEDITE
PERMANENT SHELTER FOR HOMELESS PERSONS

CITYWIDE — Mayor Eric Adams on Friday, June 16, issued emergency rules eliminating the 90-day length-of-stay requirement for New Yorkers in shelters to be eligible for City Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement housing vouchers. The rules vastly expand the number of New Yorkers in shelters who can now access city-funded rental assistance from (CityFHEPS) — the largest city-funded rental assistance program in the nation.

As the city continues to manage the unprecedented asylum seeker crisis, this emergency rule will help expedite the move of New Yorkers into permanent housing. The New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) has also made numerous technology, staffing, process, and training improvements over the past year to expedite shelter move-outs.

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CHEFS DONATE THEIR TALENT TO RED HOOK
SUMMER MEAL PROGRAM

RED HOOK — Several area chefs will cook free community lunches in Red Hook’s Coffey Park this summer, as part of a plan to improve access to fresh and flavorful meals. Yong Shin (of Insa/Korean cuisine) and Phoebe Tran (of the Vietnamese pop-up Bé Bếp), will prepare specialties from their heritage, in collaboration with the art space Pioneer Works, monthly on Thursdays, June 15, July 13, Aug. 17 and Sept. 23,.from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., according to a flier from Pioneer Works.

The Community Lunch program’s goal is to work alongside and learn from the local organizations that are working on innovative solutions to increase food equity in Red Hook. The participating chefs are also educators, authors and food curators.

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PARK SLOPE OPEN STREETS TO CELEBRATE JUNETEENTH

PARK SLOPE — Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue Open Streets festivities this weekend will celebrate Juneteenth and African diaspora culture, with events planned by the avenue’s black-owned businesses, including stilt walking demonstrations by Flatbush group Kaisokah Moko Jumbies, Haitian dance classes, spoken-word poetry and musical performances. Attendees can also find other fun activities, like kids’ games, a dog adoption event and a pop-up Lego lab alongside its usual outdoor dining and shopping experiences.

Fifth Avenue Open Streets begins on Saturday, June 17 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; for a detailed schedule of events, visit the Fifth Avenue BID’s Instagram page, @theother5th.

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CAT CAFE TO EXPAND WITH STATE GRANT

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Heights Cat Cafe, a nonprofit shelter-slash-cat playroom operated by the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, was selected to receive a state grant for $165,000 last month, reports the Red Hook Star-Revue, which the cafe plans to use to expand its operations at the Montague Street storefront location. Cafe management told the Star-Revue that additions will include a new veterinary medical suite featuring an in-house x-ray machine, a city-first separate space for cats with contagious feline leukemia, rooms for nursing cat moms and kittens and for adult cats, and an outdoor “catio” area; the Star-Revue also takes a look at the history and advocacy work of the nonprofit.

Under the terms of the state grant, part of a program to support animal-focused nonprofits statewide, the Cafe and the BBAWC will have to raise an additional $165,000 in matching funds by August; donors have contributed over $13,000 towards this goal so far on its fundraising page.

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BROOKLYN MUSEUM MAKES ‘DISTRESSING’ CONTRACT OFFER TO STAFF UNION

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Museum made a disappointing final contract offer on short notice to its newly unionized staff last week after years of organizing and negotiation efforts, reports Artnet News. The contract offers employees a five percent raise this year and a three percent raise each year through 2027 if ratified by June 30 — a plan that workers say falls far short of their demand of a 16.25% raise over that period. Union leader Maida Rosenstein of the UAW called the wage increases “long overdue,” and accused the museum of negotiating in bad faith, citing claims filed with the National Labor Relations Board and disputes over meeting locations and deadlines, as well as high raises given to management workers.

The museum told Artnet that its proposed raises were fair and in line with industry standards, another claim disputed by union leaders, who say Brooklyn Museum salaries lag behind those of other unionized museums. Rosenstein summed up worker frustration over the process: “The museum likes to cloak themselves in social justice, but I think they really don’t like unions.”

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NYU LANGONE OPENS NEW FAMILY HEALTH CENTER IN UNDER-SERVED RED HOOK

RED HOOK — The Red Hook Family Health Center at NYU Langone opened this week on Van Brunt Street, the first in nearly 12 years. This marks the ninth medical and dental clinic and school-based pediatrics site that the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, one of New York’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center networks, has opened, with the mission of bringing more primary and preventive outpatient care to the area’s residents. The new, 4,500-square-foot facility offers primary care, pediatrics, women’s health, behavioral health, and dental care services. Support services are available on-site, connecting patients to social and health networks to address food insecurity and offer workforce development opportunities and multilingual translation services.

The Family Health Center, which hosted an open house and tours on Tuesday, was part of NYU’s commitment and contract to open a clinic in Cobble Hill.

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FAMOUS COMIC ARTIST JOHN ROMITA SENIOR PASSES AWAY, 93

NASSAU — Comic book artist John Romita, Sr., born in Brooklyn in 1930, passed away at age 93 at his home in Floral Park on Tuesday, reports the Hollywood Reporter, after a legendary career spent creating art at Marvel Comics and other studios. Romita began drawing cartoons at age 19 while serving in the army in the 1940s, before first making his name working on the then-new Spiderman series for Marvel. The artist helped to originate the popular characters Mary Jane Watson, Wolverine, Luke Cage and the Punisher, and served as the company’s art director for two decades.

Romita is survived by his wife, Virginia, and two sons, John Jr. and Victor.

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NEW CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL COMING TO VINEGAR HILL

VINEGAR HILL — Bed-Stuy charter school operator Ember Charter Schools recently closed a deal to construct a new high school in a former factory-turned-office building in Vinegar Hill, reports the Commercial Observer, signing a 17-year lease for 25,000 square feet of space over two floors. Sources told the Observer that the school will occupy a lower floor in the building until renovations to its planned location on the fourth and fifth floors are completed, expected by the end of the summer.

Increased school capacity has long been a priority for parents in DUMBO and Vinegar Hill; the opening of the Dock Street middle school in September 2016 was hailed as a major victory for local kids and their families.

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FORMER MAYOR DE BLASIO PENALIZED FOR MISUSING CITY RESOURCES

CITYWIDE — Former NYC Bill de Blasio faces the largest fine in the Conflict of Interest Board’s history for his misuse of city resources for private purposes and for acting in conflict with official duties, the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board ruled on Thursday, June 15. Mr. de Blasio must pay a $155,000 fine and repay the City of New York an additional $320,000 for taking his security detail along with him on out-of-state political campaign travel in 2019, during his unsuccessful Presidential run. Ethics law prohibits elected officials from using city resources, including law enforcement personnel, for non-city purposes.

The COIB ruling gives de Blasio just 30 days to pay the $474,794.20.  However, he has the right to appeal the ruling in state court.

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CITY’S NEW AGREEMENT WITH UFT RAISES STARTING SALARIES 

CITYWIDE — Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s second-largest union, the United Federation of Teachers, struck a tentative five-year agreement on Tuesday, June 13, that significantly raises starting salaries for newly hired teachers and includes a major expansion of remote learning. The agreement raises starting salaries for new teachers to $72,349, including the bonuses — up from the current $61,070, according to the UFT. The deal, which the union’s 120,000 members must now approve, guarantees raises of 17.58% to 20.42% by 2026, including compounded wage increases and bonuses.

Moreover, the agreement broadens an existing pilot on remote learning: High schools and combined middle-high schools will be able to offer virtual learning programs after school and on weekends, with students and teachers volunteering to participate.

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CITY REACHES TENTATIVE LABOR CONTRACT WITH UNIFORMED WORKERS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT, SAFETY AND SANITATION

CITYWIDE — The Uniformed Officers Coalition is the latest union group to reach a tentative contract agreement with the city. Mayor Eric Adams and Office of Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion on Thursday, June 15, announced a five-year tentative contract agreement with the coalition of unions that represents more than 32,000 city employees. UOC represents 11 unions across all uniformed city agencies, including the Fire Department, City of New York, the New York City Police Department and its officers, detectives, sergeants and captains unions, and the Department of Sanitation.

The tentative agreement, which now places 75% of the city workforce under contract, includes wage increases ranging from 3.25% to 4.00% over the contract period and follows agreements with District Council 37 in February and the United Federation of Teachers earlier this week.

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PESTICIDE COMPANY MUST PAY RESTITUTION FOR FALSELY MARKETING ITS PRODUCTS’ SAFETY

STATEWIDE — Bayer and Monsanto must pay millions of dollars in restitution to the State of New York, and cease advertising their products as safe and non-toxic, according to an important agreement that New York Attorney General Letitia James has made with them. The two pesticide giants had been found to falsely advertise their products, including Roundup® and others containing the chemical glyphosate, and persisted in doing so even after a previous 1996 agreement ordering them to cease and desist. Following a 2020 investigation into whether Monsanto — and its current owner Bayer — were again engaging in false advertising of their Roundup® products, Attorney General James concluded that the companies’ claims about these products violated New York laws against persistent business fraud and false and misleading advertising, and breached Monsanto’s obligations under the prior settlement.

As a result of the settlement announced today, Bayer and Monsanto will pay $6.9 million to OAG, which will be used to prevent, abate, restore, mitigate, or control the impacts of toxic pesticides on pollinators or aquatic species.

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NY ATTORNEY GENERAL BANISHES CRYPTO FIRM COINEX FROM OPERATING IN UNITED STATES

STATEWIDE — The cryptocurrency platform CoinEx will withdraw from operating in the United States, and refund more than $1.1 million to thousands of New Yorkers, as part of a settlement reached with New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday, June 15. The Office of the Attorney General recovered more than $1.7 million from COINEX (CoinEx) in a lawsuit, after the platform failed to register as a securities and commodities broker-dealer and falsely represented itself as a crypto exchange.

As part of today’s consent order, CoinEx is banned from offering, selling, or purchasing securities and commodities in New York and is prohibited from making its platform available in the state, to which it must also now pay $600,000 in penalties.

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BILL WOULD PROTECT SMALL BUSINESSES FROM PREDATORY LENDING

NATIONWIDE — Small business borrowers would be protected from predatory lenders in a new bill that Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-7th District), the Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee, introduced with New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. The Small Business Financing Disclosure Act aims also to protect small business borrowers from financing options carrying unfair terms and conditions. It would also ensure safeguards already required in consumer lending, through the Truth in Lending Act. The bill would bolster the role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in policing small business financing and bring enhanced transparency to small commercial originations.

Under Velázquez’s and Menendez’s bill, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would be granted the same oversight authority with respect to small business financing as the agency has over consumer financial products and services, and would require small business lenders to clearly communicate their annual percentage rate; financing charges for loans; loan terms; payment amounts and collateral requirements.


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