What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, June 21, 2023
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD BEGINS FOR CONTAMINATION
AT TWO GOWANUS BROWNFIELD SITES
GOWANUS — Public comment for a brownfield site on Douglass Street in Gowanus has opened. The state Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health are asking the public their thoughts, with a July 17 commenting deadline, on proposed remedies for contamination at 251 Douglass St. and at the President St. Properties at President and Bond streets (the latter being the easternmost terminus of President St.). Both sites are believed to pose “significant” threats to the environment, with the primary contaminants of concern being petroleum-related volatile organic compounds, including coal tar, in the soil, groundwater, and soil vapor.
Bar codes are required to comment. For the President/Bond site, call 518-402-9647 for site comments and 518-473-4671 for health-related questions. For the Douglass St. site, call 518-402-3262 for comments and 518-402-5584 for health-related questions.
GOLDMAN INTRODUCES BILL TO UNMASK SANTOS BAILORS
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman, along with Rep. Greg Landsman of Ohio, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to force the House Committee on Ethics to report on whether liar Rep. George Santos has unmasked his mystery bail suretors; after his arrest earlier this month on charges including fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds, the committee requested the names to determine whether the $500,000 payment that sprung him from jail violated its rules on gifts. Santos has fought to keep these identities secret, but on Tuesday was ordered to unmask them within two days by a federal judge, on pain of pretrial detainment, although he had not yet done so by press time.
“George Santos’s potential refusal to comply with the House Ethics request raises the prospect that an admitted and indicted fraudster may be receiving benefits from mystery actors with unknown motives… It is time for Republican Leadership to stand up for George Santos’s constituents and the American people by holding him accountable,” Goldman wrote in a press statement; the resolution also requires the committee to report back on its overall Santos investigation no later than July 17.
JAVA WITH JO ANNE FRIDAY MORNING
CARROLL GARDENS — The next Java with Jo Anne takes place this Friday, June 23, at Emma’s Torch, a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Carroll Gardens. As the New York legislative session ends for the summer, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon wants to hear from constituents on community issues or current events that impassions or bother them. Java with Jo Anne runs from 9:30-11 a.m.
Assemblymember Simon’s office supports the non-profit work of Emma’s Torch, named for the poet Emma Lazarus, which empowers refugees and survivors of forced trafficking, and provides them with culinary training.
KEY MEMBER OF VIOLENT CRIME SYNDICATE
GETS 8-YEAR PRISON SENTENCE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry has sentenced a high-ranking member of a violent, Brooklyn-based Eurasian organized crime syndicate to eight years imprisonment for the extortion and the extortion conspiracy of two separate individuals and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Roman Nikoghosyan, who was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday, June 21, was part of KavKaz Nation (“KavKaz”) that operated primarily in Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach, both in southern Brooklyn, according to court filings. Members of KavKaz, who wore jewelry or articles of clothing emblazoned, drew on ties to the Caucasus region of Eurasia — namely Armenia, Uzbekistan, parts of Southern Russia, and Azerbaijan — to pursue their criminal goals, including extortion.
Arrested in Los Angeles two years ago, Nikoghosyan pleaded guilty to the charges in September 2022.
PORK RIND PRODUCT FROM GUATEMALA BEING RECALLED
STATEWIDE — New Yorkers need to be on the alert if they have purchased a ready-to-eat pork-rind product named “TorTrix Con Chicharrón,” which is now being recalled. Distribuidora El Paisano Import, LLC, a Rhode Island-based distributor and importer, is recalling about 1,715 pounds of the pork rind product, which was imported from Guatemala, a country ineligible to export meat products to the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced on Tuesday, June 21. TorTrix Con Chicharrón lacks both an establishment number and a USDA mark of inspection.
TorTrix Con Chicharrón was shipped to retail locations in New York and three New England states: Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. People finding the product in their pantries should discard it or return it to the place of purchase.
CITY LAUNCHES ACTION PLAN TO PREVENT MORE FIRES
INVOLVING LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES
CITYWIDE — A new action plan is being implemented to expedite investigations into complaints made via 311 about potentially hazardous conditions involving lithium-ion batteries at bike shops and bike repair shops within the five boroughs, according to a Wednesday, June 21 joint announcement from Mayor Eric Adams, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, and NYC Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin D. Kim, made the day after a deadly blaze claimed four lives in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Teams from both the Fire Department and Small Business Services will educate the public on the safety risks associated with after-market batteries, and those that have been repaired, and will conduct educational outreach at every bike shop and bike repair shop in New York City over the coming weeks.
The FDNY is encouraging New Yorkers who see questionable activity (e.g., large numbers of batteries charging at once, sales of refurbished batteries, mazes of extension cords) at bike shops and bike repair shops to lodge a complaint via 311.
BK CONGRESSWOMAN REVIVES BILL TO FUND CLIMATE-FRIENDLY GREEN ROOFTOPS ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
BROOKLYN AND NATIONWIDE — Determined that schools be more ecologically sound, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-07) on Wednesday, June 21, reintroduced the Public School Green Rooftop Program Act. The bill, whose co-sponsors include New York Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-09) and Jamaal Bowman (D-16/northern Bronx and Westchester), would allocate federal resources towards implementing green roofs at public elementary and secondary schools, with the U.S. Department of Energy implementing a grant program for the installation and maintenance of the roofs. The green roof program would also give teachers the opportunity to include in their curricula relevant environmental and agricultural concerns to students who may not have such an opportunity in an urban community.
This bill, originally introduced in March 2021 during the 117th Congress, would also require grant recipients to complete the installation of a green roof system within four years of receiving the funds; if they do so, they will receive additional money for maintenance activities.
FDA APPROVES NEW DRUGS FOR OLDER CHILDREN
WITH TYPE-2 DIABETES
NATIONWIDE — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, June 20, approved two new drugs to improve blood sugar control in children 10 years and older with type 2 diabetes. Jardiance (empagliflozin) and Synjardy (empagliflozin and metformin hydrochloride) are being approved as complements to diet and exercise, thus providing a new class of oral medicines to treat pediatric type 2 diabetes. Empagliflozin, the active ingredient in Jardiance and Synjardy, works by increasing the excretion of glucose in the urine.
Common side effects in children treated with empagliflozin were generally similar to those reported in adults, except there was a higher risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) among pediatric patients 10 years and older taking empagliflozin compared to placebo, regardless of whether they were taking other therapies for diabetes.
BLACK BENEVOLENT SOCIETY WINS ITS TAX EXEMPTION
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The Legal Aid Society has secured a property tax exemption for the Brooklyn headquarters of the United Order of Tents, the nation’s oldest Black women’s benevolent society. This tax exemption will save the mansion from demolition and allow the organization to proceed with needed renovations. It will also enable the organization to continue its operations of providing critical services to the community. Last October, the Legal Aid Society sued the NYC Department of Finance for denying the United Order of Tents an exemption from real property tax, even though the United Order of Tents had status as a legitimate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, and for erroneously believing the headquarters building to be vacant even after Legal Aid attorneys established otherwise.
Since 1945, the United Order of Tents’ Brooklyn chapter has owned and operated its Bedford-Stuyvesant headquarters, a central hub from which they have provided support to local communities by tending to the sick, feeding the poor, caring for the elderly, and burying the deceased.
U.S. APPROVES LAB-GROWN CHICKEN;
BUT IT WILL BE EXPENSIVE
NATIONWIDE — New York restaurant menus could eventually include chicken made from animal cells, now that U.S. regulators have approved its sale and authorized two California companies to offer “lab-grown” meat to the nation’s restaurant tables, reports the Associated Press. On Wednesday, June 21, the U.S. issued the approval of the laboratory-developed, “cell-cultivated” or “cultured” meat as it emerges from the laboratory, as a humane alternative to the chickens from slaughterhouses, and has authorized California company Upside Foods and Good Meat to produce it.
Cultivated meat, which is not the same as plant-based food, is grown in steel tanks, using cells that come from a living animal, a fertilized egg or a special bank of stored cells; it is produced as large sheets that are then formed into shapes like chicken cutlets and sausages. However, they are still costly to produce and their introduction will be to specifically target restaurants, including one that Chef Jose Andrés owns in Washington, DC.
STATE NURSES ASSN.: CITY SPENDS MORE ON TEMP STAFFING THAN ON SETTLING LABOR CONTRACTS
CONEY ISLAND AND EAST FLATBUSH — New York City spent more than $1.2 billion on temporary healthcare staffing at its public hospitals during Fiscal 2022, and continues to spend an additional $1.5 million each day they fail to settle a fair contract with nurses, the NY State Nurses Association charges; the group prepares to hold a series of escalating protests at public hospitals, including two in Brooklyn. NYSNA has scheduled a 12:30 p.m. protest for Wednesday, June 21, at Coney Island Hospital/South Brooklyn Health, 2601 Ocean Parkway (the announcement did not mention the medical facility’s new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital building). Another protest, at noon on Thursday, June 22, will be staged at Kings County Medical Center in East Flatbush.
The NYSNA cites a Daily News report that the city paid $1.2 billion to for-profit staffing firm Rightsourcing in the fiscal year 2022 instead of settling a fair contract with nurses that they say would also facilitate recruitment and retention of bedside caregivers.
MTA DUSTS OFF HISTORIC TRAINS FOR CENTENNIAL
KENSINGTON — The MTA on Thursday celebrated the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation’s 100th anniversary with commemorative rides on a vintage BMT Standard nostalgia train, from Kings Highway in Midwood to 18th Avenue in Kensington. Rail fans joined MTA leaders and staff from the Transit Museum aboard the antique subway cars, which operated to and from the stations every half hour from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to mark the historic occasion.
The MTA wrote in a press release that the BMT was one of several subway companies that preceded the city’s standardized system. On June 15, 1923, BMT took over the operations of the bankrupt Brooklyn Rapid Transit and soon introduced new subway cars, known as “AB Standards,” whose mid-century modern technological legacy extends to the modern-day subway car. Some of the BMT’s original routes, including the J, Z, L, M, N, Q, R and W trains, are still in existence. The BMT remained a competitor to the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and the Independent Subway System until 1940 when the BMT and IRT were sold to the city.
HOCHUL ANNOUNCES WAREHOUSE WORKER PROTECTIONS
STATEWIDE — Governor Hochul on Monday announced that the Warehouse Worker Protection Act is now in effect, meaning that current and former workers in large warehouses and distribution centers such as those used by Amazon now have several protections against harsh work quotas; these include the right to know their performance quotas on demand and when hired, the right to refuse to work through meal breaks, the right to adequate bathroom facilities and the right to request their personal work speed data and data on average work speeds in their warehouse or area. The legislation, which was signed in December, also protects workers from punishment or firing over undisclosed quotas or performance standards and from retaliation against workers who make these requests or who report violations, as well as guaranteeing that employees must receive the data in written form within 14 days.
BROOK-KRASNY: TRANS KIDS ‘INCREDIBLY WRONG’; DEMS ANGERED
CONEY ISLAND — Democrat lawmakers criticized Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny over the weekend, after the Coney Islander made remarks against trans people at a Community Board 10 meeting on Thursday, saying “Who is boy? Who is girl?… It is just absolutely incredibly wrong,” according to the New York Post, and later on Twitter indicating opposition to allowing “males to compete against females in sports,” that a safe haven bill passed earlier this month “allows children to be trafficked to NY for reassignment surgery,” and that activists are sexualizing children. Fellow Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon tweeted, “Profoundly disappointed in you, Alec. I stand with the LGBTQIA+ community… I know you know better & that this hateful rhetoric is demonstrably false,” while state Sen. Andrew Gounardes charged that such rhetoric “contributes to tragically high rates of suicide ideation among trans & non-binary youth.”
Brook-Krasny later told the Post that his objections were confined to trans-youth-related issues, such as gender-affirming care for minors, although the assemblymember has indicated support for parents’ rights in other circumstances.
SEARCH FOR LOST SUB: RESCUERS REPORT BANGING NOISES
NATIONWIDE — Rescuers searching for the unlicensed tourist submarine that disappeared on Sunday while attempting to visit the wreck of the Titanic off of the Canadian coast have reported hearing rhythmic banging noises coming every thirty minutes from an unknown source, reports CNN, raising hopes that the passengers may still be alive and attempting to signal their location. The noises were first reported on Tuesday and later stopped; some sources indicated that they resumed at some point early Wednesday morning, but the Coast Guard did not confirm this.
Time is running short in the effort to locate the sub and recover the five missing passengers, who include the submarine operator’s CEO, a Titanic researcher, two wealthy businessmen and one of the businessmen’s 19-year-old son; the submarine was initially lost within 96 hours of air and has no apparent way to contact rescuers.
BOY PULLED FROM RIVER AFTER BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK FALL
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A nine-year-old boy who fell into the East River while playing at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 on Monday afternoon was saved from drowning by a passing good Samaritan, reports CBS News, who witnesses said jumped into the water to save him. The FDNY responded to the scene, but said that the boy was out of danger by the time they got there; CBS reports that he was unharmed.
“We looked over, and a little boy was drowning in the water, like he was trying to come up for air … I noticed one of the wooden poles in the water, so I told him to grab onto it. And then a guy, he jumped in and I kept shouting, a hero without a cape,” said witness Lanequa Jackson.
LITHIUM-ION BATTERY FIRES, INCLUDING 1 IN BED-STUY,
HAVE ALREADY BROKEN 2022’S RECORD
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Lithium-ion battery fires have claimed the lives of 13 New Yorkers within the past six months alone, with the most recent tragedy unfolding just two days ago, according to NY Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, the Daily News reports. The most recent lithium-ion battery fire broke out at the HQ E-Bike Repair in Manhattan’s Chinatown, quickly spreading to the upper floors, killing four, including two senior citizens, and leaving others hospitalized in critical condition. Of these six lithium-ion battery fires, the Brooklyn incident erupted on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, inside a Goodwin Place building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, claiming the life of a 67-year-old woman who, although rescued, died in a hospital days later. Another tenant, who escaped, had caused the blaze as he was using his space as an off-the-books E-bike repair shop, and firefighters found more than 50 lithium-ion batteries in his apartment.
The FDNY reports that the first six months of this year have seen more fatalities from lithium-ion battery fires than did all of 2022.
CITY COUNCIL CRITICIZES NYPD OVER MAINTENANCE
OF EVIDENCE WAREHOUSE THAT BURNED DOWN
RED HOOK — New York City Council is holding the NYPD accountable for the massive loss of forensic evidence following a warehouse fire that broke out six months ago in Red Hook. According to a story in the NPR-run Gothamist news site, City Council on Tuesday, June 20, convened a hearing in which its members rebuked the police department over what they allege is lax management of the facility and the potential harm that the loss of the stored evidence would bring to people seeking justice.
However, Michael Clarke, head of the NYPD’s legislative affairs unit, downplayed the loss saying that DNA samples stored had already been tested, with those results communicated. He also claimed that it is impractical for the NYPD to sift through inventory lists, but “an expedited process” is in force for parties directly affected: litigants and/or their attorneys.
FEDERAL JURY HANDS DOWN GUILTY VERDICT IN
CHINESE HARASSMENT AND CONSPIRACY CASE
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A federal jury in Brooklyn on Tuesday, June 20, returned guilty verdicts against three defendants on multiple counts of a superseding indictment, charging them with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China without prior notification to the Attorney General. During the trial, the prosecution team proved that, between approximately 2016 and 2019, the defendants participated in an international campaign with members of the PRC government as part of “Operation Fox Hunt” to threaten, harass, surveil, and intimidate John Doe #1 and his family, and to force John Doe #1 and his wife, Jane Doe #1, to return to that country. In or around 2015, the PRC government caused the International Criminal Police Organization (also known as “Interpol”), an inter-governmental law enforcement organization, to issue “Red Notices” for John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1, accusing both of corruption.
Previously, three other defendants pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the PRC-directed harassment and intimidation campaign.
ELECTEDS URGE PROGRESS ON BQGREEN PARK DEVELOPMENT
WILLIAMSBURG — Several Brooklyn elected officials are urging Governor Kathy Hochul to advance BQGreen, a longstanding plan to platform over a trench in the section of BQE that runs below street level in Williamsburg and turn it into park space. The plan, which has been in the works for more than a decade, would combine and expand Marcy Green and Rodney Park into 3.5 acres of green, open space, which would be refurbished with a flower garden, a playground, a baseball diamond, barbecues, grassy and wooded areas, an indoor pool, and a water play zone. Then-City Councilmember Diana Reyna, for whom Borough President Antonio Reynoso served as Chief of Staff, conceived the project in 2010. After succeeding Reyna in 2014 as the Councilmember representing the 34th district, Reynoso has continued to champion the project with the support of the Williamsburg community.
Joining Reyna and Borough President Reynoso were Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Councilmembers Jennifer Gutierrez, Lincoln Restler, State Senator Kristen Gonzalez, and community groups St. Nick’s Alliance, Los Sures, and El Puente.
MAKE MUSIC NEW YORK DAY
BOROUGHWIDE — The popular Make Music New York Day is returning on Wednesday, June 21, bringing to the first day of summer a series of live music performances to more than 15 different public spaces in all five boroughs, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez has announced. The DOT will also partner with Concerts in Motion to hold performances from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at an additional five public spaces citywide. Concerts will be held in outdoor spaces free of charge, including five in Brooklyn: Jitu Weiusi Plaza in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Kensington Plaza near Beverley Road and East 2nd St., New Lots Plaza, near the Triangle, Osborn Plaza in Brownsville, and Parkside Plaza, just outside the SE corner of Prospect Park.
NYC DOT’s Public Space Programming initiative brings free activities to public spaces, such as plazas and Open Streets.
FIRE COMMISSIONER KAVANAGH WILL PRESIDE AT GRADUATION FOR 156 PROBATIONARY EMTS
FLATLANDS — A cohort of 156 Probationary Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will graduate on Wednesdays, June 21, in a ceremony that Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh will lead at the Christian Cultural Center in Flatlands. During their 13 weeks at the FDNY EMS Academy, EMTs were trained in FDNY operations and procedures including CPR; patient medical and trauma assessments; oxygen and ventilation skills; management of hypotension and fractures; spinal immobilization and emergency childbirth; and, emergency vehicle operation.
The new EMTs will be assigned to units around the city.
MISSING WOMAN IN BOROUGH PARK
BOROUGH PARK — Police are searching for missing woman Bobbie Jo Jones, 43, last seen on the morning of Tuesday, June 13, at her place of employment on 16th Avenue in Borough Park. Jones is described as a female, white, approximately 5’8″ and 160 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes; she has a piercing on her left eyebrow and was last seen wearing a black hat, black shirt and a red sweatshirt tied around her waist, with the word “Ace” printed on the back in white lettering.
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.
NURSE INTRODUCES CRIME PLACARD BILL FOR JUNETEENTH
CITYWIDE — Councilmember Sandy Nurse earlier this month introduced a bill as part of the council’s Juneteenth legislative package that would require the city to highlight the ugly history of several of its most notable names. Nurse’s bill would mandate the installation of placards explaining the crimes of people who profited from slavery or who committed heinous acts against Native Americans, at public artworks or schools depicting or named after those individuals; or that any such artworks be removed from display.
“While some may view this bill as an erasure of history, it is actually an act of remembrance. It asserts that the stories we tell and the art we display must reflect the values of equity, inclusivity, and recognition of the struggles endured by marginalized communities,” Nurse wrote in a public statement. These placards could soon adorn Stuyvesant High School, whose namesake Peter Stuyvesant once held 15 to 30 enslaved people, according to City and State NY, or statues of Christopher Columbus, whose brutality against the native population of Hispaniola island led to his arrest and removal by the Spanish government.
MTA OPENS PORTAL FOR FARE RAISE COMPLAINTS
The MTA has opened an online comment portal for its much-reviled proposed changes to fares and tolls in advance of four public comment hearings later this week; the MTA’s board will vote on the changes in July. Under this proposal, which the authority says is in line with pre-pandemic standards, fares would increase on subways, buses and Access-A-Rides to $2.90, on express buses to $7, and for unlimited cards between $1 and $5. Monthly and weekly commuter rail tickets would rise by 4%, and one-trip and specialized tickets could also rise or be altered, although increases would be capped. At bridges and tunnels, the MTA is considering two options: one would increase all tolls by 7%, while the other would increase tolls by 6% for local E-ZPass users and 10% for other customers.
On the positive side, OMNY fare caps would be changed to apply over a rolling seven-day period instead of the current fixed Monday-through-Sunday period. The MTA also plans to introduce a discounted $7 peak ticket between city commuter rail stations, as well as a special Far Rockaway ticket; the current Atlantic Ticket could be scrapped as a result.
The hearings will be held and livestreamed on Thursday, June 22, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., on Friday, June 23, at 10 a.m., and on Monday, June 26, at 6 p.m. All speakers will have two minutes; speakers who pre-register online or call 646-252-6777 may join either online or by phone. Further comments may be submitted online, by email, by regular mail, or by phone; more detailed information about the changes and hearings can also be found on the MTA’s website.
AIR NATIONAL GUARD ASSISTING WITH SEARCH FOR TITAN SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL
New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing has been dispatched to aid with the United States Coast Guard’s race against time in the search and rescue operation for a missing submersible that had been exploring the wreckage of the Titanic. Based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base on Long Island’s Westhampton Beach the 106th is one of three Air National Guard search and rescue units in the country and the only one based on the East Coast. The 106th flies fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft and rescue helicopters and has a unit of pararescue jumpers who are trained to rescue people in the sea and on land.
The submersible, unlike a submarine, does not have its own power supply or other components to make it self-sufficient, and as of Tuesday afternoon, June 20, had less than two days left of oxygen for the five passengers aboard. The submersible, bearing the name Titan, had been in the area to explore the wreck of the Titanic ship when it, also, lost contact on Sunday morning with a chartered research ship at the dive site.
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