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What’s News, Breaking: Friday, June 23, 2023

June 23, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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UNION BOSS’ THREAT TO WITHHOLD ENDORSEMENTS
HANGS OVER FIGHT FOR RETIREE BENEFITS

CITYWIDE — As part of the latest salvo in the fight between municipal retirees and Mayor Adams’ administration, the city’s top labor union boss has threatened to pull his endorsements of any City Council candidates who oppose the switch to much-touted Medicare Advantage Plan, the Daily News reports. Henry Garrido, executive director of the large municipal workers’ union, District Council 37, made the proposal to retaliate politically against any incumbent City Council candidates (and all 51 must face re-election campaigns) who hold their ground on the traditional Medicare plan for which retirees are fighting. Garrido’s closed door meeting was convened after City Councilmember Charles Barron (D-42/eastern Brooklyn) announced a bill to ensure that the city must always offer premium-free, traditional Medicare coverage, which would allow them to keep their doctors and would prevent denials of coverage.

A growing number of City Councilmembers have expressed interest in co-sponsoring Barron’s bill, including Republicans like Inna Vernikov (R-48) of Brighton/Manhattan Beach.

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SEN. GILLIBRAND LEADS INTRO ON BILL TO REDUCE
ASYLEE WAITING PERMIT FOR WORK PERMITS

NATIONWIDE — Asylum seekers would have a swifter path to safe and legal employment, under a bill that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), her Senate colleague from Oregon and a NY Congressman introduced on Friday, June 23. The Assisting Seekers in Pursuit of Integration and Rapid Employment (ASPIRE) Act would end the 180-day (roughly six-month) waiting period mandated in current law before asylum seekers can apply for the permits needed to work legally in the United States. Senator Gillibrand of NY, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15) believe that expediting work permit eligibility would also alleviate current labor shortages.

The ASPIRE Act would also provide funding for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help relieve the burden on workers overwhelmed with the influx of asylum applications.

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U.S. SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS BIDEN DEPORTATION POLICY,
ALLOWING IT TO TAKE EFFECT

NATIONAL — The United States Supreme Court has upheld a Biden administration policy that prioritizes deportation of immigrants who have been deemed greater risks to public safety, Associated Press announced Friday, June 23. Rejecting a Republican-led challenge, the SCOTUS justices voted 8-1 — with Associate Justice Samuel Alito the sole dissenter — to allow Biden’s policy to finally take effect after it had been blocked. The majority’s rationale is that widening the scope of deportations is simply not practical — the government lacks both money and manpower to deport the estimated 11 million people who entered the United States illegally.

However, Justice Samuel Alito filed a solo dissent, writing that the decision improperly favors the president over Congress. “And it renders states already laboring under the effects of massive illegal immigration even more helpless,” Alito wrote. By contrast, Kavanagh, as the majority’s author, opined that the president has no choice to prioritize deportation cases, and that the states lack legal standing to even begin such lawsuits.

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NY SEN. GILLIBRAND SECURES FUNDING FOR OFFICE
TO HANDLE ‘UNIDENTIFIED AERIAL PHENOMENON’

NATIONWIDE — The tracking of an alleged Chinese spy balloon above the North American continent earlier this year has motivated U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to team up with her colleague Marcio Rubio of Florida on a bipartisan push to fund an office to help identify and resolve unidentified flying objects (UFOS). Gillibrand reported on Friday that she and Rubio have now secured the funding for an All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, which will in turn work to resolve cases involving sightings of what are now called Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. The special office will help the Department of Defense focus on resolving these UAP sightings, improving data sharing between that military agency and the Intelligence Community, addressing national security concerns, and reporting health effects people may experience in relation to UAP events.

“With aggression from adversaries on the rise and with incidents like the Chinese spy balloon, it’s critical to our national security that we have strong air domain awareness over our homeland and around U.S. forces operating overseas,” said Senator Gillibrand.

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VETO OF HOUSING PROGRAM REFORMS CALLED
‘A NEEDLESS AND UNFORTUNATE POLITICAL STUNT’

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A lead attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which has offices in each borough, including Livingston St. in Downtown Brooklyn, has called Mayor Eric Adams’ Friday, June 23, veto on of CityFHEPS reforms a “needless and unfortunate political stunt.” Adriene Holder, chief attorney of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society, said that the veto “delays viable solutions to combat our worsening homelessness and eviction crises.”

“We now implore the City Council to immediately override this veto to secure the reforms needed to improve CityFHEPS and outcomes for some of our most vulnerable neighbors who are simply in search of a place to call home,” said Holder.

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VOCAL–NY: MAYOR’S VETO IS AN ‘ABSURD’
AND ‘COSTLY MISTAKE’

CITYWIDE — Immediately upon learning of Mayor Adams’ veto of the expansion and improvements to CityFHEPS, New York City’s rental assistance voucher program, the advocacy group VOCAL-NY denounced his action, calling it an “absurd veto” and a “costly mistake. The legislative package (Int. 229-A, Int. 878-A, Int. 894-A and Int. 893-A) would address critical reforms needed for the CityFHEPS program to work properly. Charisma White, a Homelessness Union Leader at VOCAL-NY, pointed out that by reforming the CityFHEPs program and expanding its availability to all New Yorkers, the City can transition people out of the overburdened shelter system into long-term, permanent housing.

Said Ms. White, “We cannot allow a veto to derail an opportunity that will positively impact tens of thousands of constituents. We call on the New York City Council to take a united stand to boldly protect homeless New Yorkers and those at risk, by overriding Mayor Eric Adams veto of the CityFHEPS bill package.”

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MAYOR VETOES BILLS, SAID WILL IMPEDE
HOMELESS PERSONS’ HOUSING ACCESS

CITY HALL — A fight is setting up between Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council over his plan to facilitate the movement of homeless persons from the shelter system into permanent housing. Mayor Adams on Friday vetoed a set of laws that City Council passed, saying that their package exceeds their authority and would rescind his earlier ruling. The mayor, who last week had eliminated a 90-day waiting period for people seeking permanent housing, said that the City Council bills would do the opposite, costing taxpayers billions annually.

“Instead of tackling decades of exclusionary zoning policies that have prevented our city from building an adequate housing supply — which has left nearly 20,000 current voucher holders unable to find housing — these bills would remove the city’s ability to target limited resources for those most in need,” said Adams.

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NETS OWNER JOSEPH TSAI TO LEAD CHINA’S ALI BABA

CHINA — Joseph Tsai, the Taiwanese-Canadian billionaire co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, is set to take over the chairmanship from current chairman Daniel Zhang of the Chinese e-commerce and tech giant Ali Baba, which operates the world’s largest online marketplace, reports Forbes. Tsai is currently the executive vice chairman of the corporation, which he co-founded along with former chairman Jack Ma; Ma, a colorful and popular public figure, led Ali Baba from its founding in 1999 until 2019, but in 2020 stepped down from the company altogether and disappeared from the public eye after delivering a speech critical of the Chinese government.

Tsai’s wife Clara Wu Tsai, who co-owns the Nets alongside her husband, in November launched the new startup accelerator BK-XL, which aims to support BIPOC founders in early funding stages, offering both financial support and educational resources; the accelerator announced its first class of startups in April of this year.

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FREE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS TO BROOKLYN

CITYWIDE — Films on the Green, the annual outdoor French film series, is returning to Brooklyn on Friday night, reports Greenpointers, with a free showing of the 1959 romantic drama “La Femme et le Pantin,” starring Brigitte Bardot as a heart-breaking flamenco dancer, at Transmitter Park on the Greenpoint waterfront. This festival is a joint project of the Villa Albertine artist residency program, the French Embassy, the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, and the Parks Department, and highlights the cinematic output of French, French-American and Francophone cultures over the decades; a full list of films and locations can be found on Villa Albertine’s website, but the next Brooklyn showing will be a screening of “Leap!,” a family-friendly animated movie about a young ballerina, on Sept. 8 at McGolrick Park.

The movie starts at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 23, at Transmitter Park; no tickets are required and admission is free.

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TEEN DIES IN SUBWAY SURFING ACCIDENT ON L TRAIN

BROWNSVILLE — Two 14-year-old boys were severely injured on Thursday afternoon while “subway surfing” on an L train in Brownsville, reports AMny; one of the boys suffered severe head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other was transported to a local hospital and is in critical condition. NYPD Transit Chief Michael Kemper said that the two boys had climbed to the top of the train at Broadway Junction, but were knocked off when the train entered a low tunnel between that station and the Bushwick Avenue-Aberdeen Street station; witnesses told ABC News that passengers had to evacuate the train and walk through the tunnel to the station platform.

Mayor Adams blamed the popularity of subway surfing videos with young people on video-sharing platform TikTok for the rise in incidents of people riding outside of train cars in recent years — instances tracked by the MTA jumped from 490 in 2019 to 928 in 2022 — and called on TikTok to ban such content; another teenager, Zachery Nazario, age 15, was killed in February of this year after falling from a J train on the Williamsburg Bridge and striking his head.

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HISTORIC BUILDING ONCE HOME OF SPIKE LEE HITS MARKET FOR $4.35M

FORT GREENE — A historic building in Fort Greene once owned by director Spike Lee has hit the market for $4.35 million, reports Mansion Global, offering prospective buyers a chance at owning a handsome four-level, 5,775-square-foot home overlooking the park — one with a unique history. The building was originally constructed in the 1910s as a water tower for the growing neighborhood, and boasts unusually thick walls as a result; it was later converted into a fire station and bomb shelter, according to the listing agents, before being bought by Lee in the 80s, serving as a base for the filmmaker, who produced “Do The Right Thing” while living there.

Because it wasn’t originally constructed as a house, its interior structure will allow the next owners to modify it extensively: Corcoran agent Mark David Fromm envisioned it serving as a gallery with high ceilings, or incorporating a pool — potentially bringing it back to its roots.

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BROOKLYN SPA REVEALS ITS TUBS ARE HEATED BY BITCOIN COMPUTERS

WILLIAMSBURG — A trendy spa in Williamsburg sparked debate on social media on Wednesday after making an Instagram post seemingly revealing that its hot tubs and baths use water warmed with the excess heat generated by computers “mining” the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, reports CryptoSlate. This mining process involves using computers to solve complex math problems, something that’s extremely energy intensive and requires constant cooling of the computer components to stop them from overheating; BATHHOUSE, which opened in 2021, says it’s solved this problem by using water to cool its machines, then reusing that heated water in its pools — and once the water cools off, recirculating it indefinitely.

Some commenters expressed skepticism and wondered whether the spa might be joking, while others criticized it for being involved with Bitcoin, citing concerns over resource consumption by cryptocurrency mining and over scams and malfeasance within the broader crypto industry, such as those allegedly committed by former crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, charged in December with multiple counts of fraud. The comments have since been locked on the post.

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INCUMBENTS FIGHT OVER NEW SOUTH BK COUNCIL DISTRICT

BAY RIDGE — Sitting councilmembers Justin Brannan and Ari Kagan are likely to face off in the contentious City Council District 47 election later this year, reports Fox 5, with Brannan running unopposed on the Democratic ticket and Kagan the favorite for the Republican nod after switching his party affiliation last year, alleging that Democrats are too soft on crime. District 47 is currently Kagan’s turf, but redistricting last year expanded it to include Brannan’s Bay Ridge, as well as Coney Island, Bath Beach and Sea Gate, forcing the showdown; Kagan’s messaging on crime may win over city voters, who leaned more red than expected in last November’s gubernatorial race after Republican candidate Lee Zeldin made public order the centerpiece of his campaign.

The race for the Republican nomination in the district has been rocky — one candidate, Michael Ragusa, dropped out in April after being accused of forgery and fraud, while another, Anna Belfiore-Delfaus, faces calls to do the same after it was found that she lives in Staten Island and has not worked as a teacher since 2015.

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SUBMERSIBLE TITAN’S PASSENGERS LOST ON SEA FLOOR, COAST GUARD LOCATES DEBRIS FROM VESSEL

ATLANTIC OCEAN — The United States Coast Guard Thursday, June 22, found that the “debris found at the bottom of the sea is from the submersible vessel Titan, is “consistent with catastrophic implosion,” and thus the loss of the Titan and its five passengers, said Rear Admiral John Mauger, First Coast Guard District Commander, during a 3 p.m. press conference. Special vehicles involved in the days-long inter-agency search of the Titan — with time running out on the oxygen supply — on Thursday morning found five major masses of debris, which the Coast Guard believes is “consistent with an implosion event.” The wreck lay about 1,500 feet off the ballast of the Titanic ocean liner, which perished in 1912. The Titan submersible’s passengers were on a quest to view the Titanic wreck when they perished. Mauger reported that at the discovery site, the debris was all from the submersible Titan, not from the Titanic itself. Confirming that the families of the passengers have been notified, Mauger said, “I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time.”

“This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down on the sea floor,” said Mauger, who added that the investigation for further details on the disaster will continue.

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BILL WOULD STIFFEN PENALTIES FOR ALT-SIDE PARKING VIOLATIONS, SO THAT STREETS CAN BE CLEANED

BROOKLYN — Councilmember Lincoln Restler on Thursday, June 22, introduced legislation to strengthen penalties for violating Alternate Side Parking rules. The bill would increase fines over a 12-month period, with the initial violation resulting in the current $65 fee, and the second and third violations resulting in a $100 fee. After the fourth violation within a year, the vehicle would be towed. The rationale for the proposed penalties is street cleanliness, considered a top quality-of-life issue, with 57% of more than 8,000 complaints coming from Brooklyn. Said Restler, “Our streets are not getting cleaned, and it’s because it’s cheaper for New Yorkers to pay for occasional alternate side parking tickets… We need to raise the costs of alternate side parking violation fees and encourage car owners to do their part in keeping our streets clean.”

Alternate-side parking violations have also been a frequent complaint at meetings of the 84th Precinct Community Council.

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INTERIM BQE SAFETY REPAIRS SET TO BEGIN IN JULY

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Vital interim repairs to the BQE are set to begin next month on two sections near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade at the ends of Grace Court and Clark Street, according to a public outreach document shared by the city DOT, ahead of a final determination about how to best reconstruct the failing highway. In an email, the Brooklyn Heights Association warned that although necessary and despite noise mitigation efforts by the DOT, the repairs would be unavoidably noisy and would take place overnight on up to three weekends in July, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.; and, invited nearby residents to register online to attend a Zoom information session on the repairs with the BHA, the DOT and Councilmember Lincoln Restler, set for 6 p.m. on June 29.

The future of the BQE, which has been crumbling for multiple mayoral administrations, has been the subject of furious debate within the neighborhood, as residents fight to keep it quiet while also balancing safety and traffic concerns; following the defeat of an earlier proposal, dubbed “the Highway to Hell,” that would have seen the Promenade destroyed to make way for a six-lane highway, the DOT earlier this year released three possible options for new designs and last week unveiled plans for the Atlantic Avenue onramps that also drew local ire.

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CITY, PLANET FITNESS OFFER FREE SUMMER WORKOUT PROGRAM FOR TEENS

CITYWIDE — Believing that youths need to stay in shape during summer recess,  Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David C. Banks are joining Planet Fitness and promoting the High School Summer Pass™ program to New York City teenagers who may not have access to school gym facilities. The program gives teens ages 14-19 the opportunity to get active this summer with free access to Planet Fitness clubs across the five boroughs until Thursday, Aug. 31. High school students can visit PlanetFitness.com/SummerPass to register for the program. All participants will have access to free fitness training from in-club certified trainers, free workouts designed specifically for high schoolers in the free Planet Fitness App, as well as workout plans.

Moreover, Planet Fitness will award five lucky teens in the U.S. with $10,000 individual academic scholarships via a TikTok video submission contest. To enter, teens are asked to post a TikTok video tagging @planetfitness using the hashtags #contest and #HSSP23US that describes their High School Summer Pass experience. The contest submission period runs through Aug. 31.

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SENTENCED TO 22 YEARS FOR KILLING EX-GIRLFRIEND’S KIN, SHE WAS ALSO CONVICTED

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A Sunset Park man has been sentenced to 22 years to life in prison for participating in the December 2015 murder of his former girlfriend’s mother and her stepfather, said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Niki Warin sentenced 35-year-old Jerry Maisonett, who pleaded guilty last August to first-degree murder, that involved an accomplice, in the shooting and stabbing of Rosie Sanchez, 38, and Anderson Nunez, 40, in their Sheepshead Bay apartment, where the defendant’s former girlfriend, Destiny Garcia, also resided.

In a strange twist, Ms. Garcia was also arrested within a week of the killings; a jury trial later convicted her of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. She awaits an Aug. 3 sentencing.

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NURSES STAGE PROTESTS AT CITY HOSPITALS DEMANDING FAIR CONTRACTS, SUFFICIENT STAFF

FLATBUSH — Local elected officials were set to join members of the New York State Nurses Association on Thursday, June 22, in simultaneous 12:30 p.m. protests at NYC Health + Hospitals locations, in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. State Senator Kevin Parker (D-21/Flatbush & East Flatbush) and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, scheduled to join the protest NYC Health + Hospitals Kings County, offered their support to the nurses, who demand that Mayor Adams “do the right thing” for racial and healthcare justice for New Yorkers, by settling a fair contract with nurses that will also facilitate recruiting and retaining sufficient bedside caregivers.

As reported earlier, nurses are sounding the alarm on the crisis of understaffing and high turnover as NYC spent more than $1.2 billion on temporary healthcare staffing during Fiscal Year 2022, and spends over $1.5 million every day that they fail to settle a fair contract with nursing staff at the city’s public hospitals.

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ATTEMPTED RAPE WITHIN PROSPECT PARK

PROSPECT PARK — Women walking in Prospect Park need to be on the alert after a 27-year-old female was attacked earlier this week. Police are on the lookout for, and have asked the public’s help in apprehending, a man in connection with an attempted rape on Monday, June 19, around 9:15 p.m. in the Dog Beach vicinity of Prospect Park, with the 78th Precinct. The man approached his victim, lifted up her skirt, tried to pull down pull the victim’s underwear, and pushed her to the ground, causing cuts to both her knees. However, he suddenly fled before doing anything worse. The victim suffered cuts to her knees but refused medical attention.

The Dog Beach is near the center of Prospect Park.

Based on the police rendering, the NYPD asks anyone who has seen this man, described as being in his 30s, with medium complexion, medium build and possibly last seen wearing a white hat to contact the CrimeStoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). Photo: NYPD/CrimeStoppers.

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POLICE SEEK MISSING BOY IN BROWNSVILLE

BROWNSVILLE — Police are asking the public to help find missing teen Dayvid Smith, 15, last seen around noon on Thursday, June 15, inside his Dean Street home. Dayvid is described as a Black male, approximately 5’5″ with a thin build, brown eyes and black hair; police say it is unknown what clothes he was last wearing. He is known to frequently travel to the Bronx via the subway. 

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.

Have you seen Dayvid? All tips given to police are strictly confidential.

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MAN SHOVED ONTO C TRAIN TRACKS, MANAGES TO ESCAPE

BROWNSVILLE — A Brooklyn man was able to climb back onto the subway platform and avoid injury after being shoved onto the tracks of the Rockaway Avenue C train station in Brownsville early Wednesday morning, reports SI Live. The victim, age 50, allegedly approached a fellow passenger who had begun “screaming and acting in an erratic manner” in an attempt to calm him down; the unknown attacker then grabbed him and pushed him from the platform before running off.

The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made, according to police; the incident echoes another subway push last month at Sunset Park’s 25th Street station, in which a homeless man was arrested after pushing a commuter onto the tracks — that victim was also able to escape with the aid of hero MTA employee Angel Oquendo.

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COURT STREET STATION ELEVATORS REOPEN

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Court Street subway station in Brooklyn Heights now has brand new elevators, reports News 12, and has finally reopened the elevator-only Montague Street entrance after 13 months of closure, causing parents and people with disabilities to rejoice. The new elevators replace ones that had been in service for half a century; the station also received cosmetic upgrades, including power-washing of the platforms and entrances, brighter lighting and fresh paint.

The Court Street elevators, necessary to reach some subway tunnels from clifftop Brooklyn Heights’ raised streets, had suffered from increasingly frequent breakdowns in the years prior to the repair work; in 2017, a group of 20 straphangers was stuck in the R station’s elevator for half an hour before being rescued by the fire department.


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