What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, June 28, 2023
MTA SLAMMED IN COURT FOR AGGRESSIVELY FINING THOUSANDS OF RIDERS
CITYWIDE — A federal court granted preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit charging the NYC Transit Authority, an arm of the MTA, with aggressively going after thousands of riders for alleged debts in violation of their rights. Under the agency’s prior procedures, New Yorkers often could not obtain copies of tickets or documents concerning their alleged violations, and were judged guilty by default if they did not make the hearing. The agency also allegedly concealed its criteria for vacating default judgments, leaving people — especially the poor, homeless and people of color — in the dark about how to challenge tax refund seizures. The settlement can be found on the New Economy Project website or by calling the National Center for Law and Economic Justice at 212-633-6967 or New Economy Project at 212-680-5100.
“The MTA had no right to take my tax refunds without giving me a chance to defend myself,” David Evans, a homeless, disabled, Black Marine Corps veteran and named plaintiff in the lawsuit, told New Economy Project.
TWO BROOKLYN ORGS RECEIVE NYS TECH TRAINING GRANTS
BROOKLYN — Two Brooklyn organizations have been awarded grants through the state’s Workforce Development Capital and Pay for Performance grant programs, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday. St. Nicks Alliance was granted $700,000, which it will use in partnership with the General Assembly to expand its programs offering Data Analytics Tech Training to un- and under-employed Brooklyn residents. Math, Engineering, and Science Academy (MESA) Charter High School was awarded $667,790, which will go towards developing a 15-week training program in digital marketing to equip participants with the skills needed to start careers in web development, graphic design, marketing data analytics and technical growth marketing.
This is the third round of NYS workforce development grants; this round supports 17 projects across the state. The funds “will help New Yorkers acquire the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy, while supporting employer-driven, high-skilled training programs,” Hochul said in a statement.
WORKSHOP OFFERED ON GRANT OPPORTUNITIES FROM INFLATION REDUCTION ACT
WILLIAMSBURG — Grant opportunities from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are the topic of a workshop that Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-07) will hold for constituents in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency and state officials. The meeting, on Thursday, June 29, 4 p.m., at El Puente in Williamsburg and virtually, will include a special announcement from the EPA. The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last August, provides for $370 billion in investments to reduce energy costs for families and small businesses, and accelerates private investment in clean energy solutions in every sector of the economy.
This law also offers bonus credits for projects that are located in economically distressed communities or traditional energy communities.
COMMERCIAL FOOD TRASH BECOMES FOCUS OF NEXT CITY V. RATS BATTLE
All food-related businesses will be required to place their trash in secure containers, one aspect of a rule aimed at getting full trash bags from city sidewalks where they become meals for rats. Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has established this rule as part of its “Get Stuff Clean” campaign as it launches the next two phases in reducing the rat population The administration is also starting a rulemaking process on a proposal to expand containerization requirements to all chain businesses with five or more locations within the city.
The Department of Sanitation in May proposed a rule requiring the approximately 40,000 food-related businesses — including restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, delis, and bodegas, among others — to place their trash and compostable material into secure containers rather than directly on the street.
BIPARTISAN DUO DENOUNCE FHA’s CONGESTION TAX APPROVAL, CHARGING ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY SKIPPED
CITYWIDE — Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-11/southwestern Brooklyn) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), co-chairs of the bipartisan Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, expressed their disappointment at the Federal Highway Administration’s formal approval of the state’s plan. They charged that “The only reason the MTA and the FHWA have found ‘no significant impact’ from this scheme is because they’ve skirted the system to avoid conducting a more thorough study that would have likely stopped the implementation of this tax in its tracks.” They pointed out that “the MTA’s own report admits that the Congestion Tax will only shift traffic and pollution from more urbanized areas to the outer boroughs and New York City suburbs, including New Jersey, disproportionately impacting our constituents who are being used to pick up the tab for the woefully mismanaged MTA that is running a budget deficit.”
Malliotakis and Gottheimer pledged to explore legal options “to prevent this scam from coming to fruition, sound the alarm so other cities don’t make the same mistake.”
BOROUGH PRESIDENT WILL HOST MATERNAL HEALTH EXPO
BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL —Borough President Antonio Reynoso, as part of his commitment to make Brooklyn “one of the safest places to have a baby,” will host a Maternal Health Expo at Borough Hall on Saturday, July 15. The expo (registration via www.brooklynbp.nyc.gov/maternal-health-expo-2023/ ) running from 1-4 p.m. that day, will include workshops like “Know Your Rights” on paid leave and health insurance, and other programs covering prenatal nutrition, and safe sleep and breastfeeding, free exercise activities and a community resource center.
Planning the Health Expo are experts from the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce, with support from the by the NYC Health Department — which is providing a limited supply of Pack-n-Plays for the raffle; NYC Health + Hospitals, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Assemblymember Brian Cunningham (D-43/Flatbush).
FORT HAMILTON ARMY BASE OBSERVES CHANGE OF COMMAND CEREMONY
FORT HAMILTON — The U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton has a new commander, following last Friday’s biennial Military Change of Command Ceremony. Lieutenant Colonel Harold Morris relinquished command to Lieutenant Colonel John “Rocky” Rhodes in a 50-minute ceremony in a revered military community tradition that consists of inspection of the troops, with glorious colors, a cannon salute, and a water salute by New York’s Bravest — the FDNY. The incoming commander, Lieutenant Colonel John “Rocky” Rhodes, will lead the New York City Recruiting Battalion, which over 300 Army soldiers and civilians support its efforts through more than 34 Career Centers. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Rhodes has served in Korea and Afghanistan and was also a professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“I come from an immigrant family of military service and my wife, Kelley is native New Yorker — so I am familiar with how to get around town via subway and I am looking forward in getting out to meet people where they live — in the greatest city in world — I am thrilled to be given an opportunity to serve New Yorkers and lead the honorable Soldiers and DoD civilians of the Empire Battalion!”
‘COLLARS V. SCHOLARS’ WILL OPEN WEDNESDAY’S CYCLONES GAME
CONEY ISLAND — A celebration of Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools will take place at Maimonides Park on Wednesday night, featuring the Priests v. Principals, an awards ceremony, and of course, a Brooklyn Cyclones game. DeSales Media, in conjunction with the Diocese of Brooklyn, sponsors and hosts Catholic Schools Night with Bishop Robert Brennan and Deacon Kevin McCormack, Superintendent of Schools, leading a pre-game awards ceremony that will honor 62 Catholic elementary school salutatorians and valedictorians. Christine Persichette, anchor of NET-TV’s Currents News, will present awards to seven youths in excellence in art and writing for their contributions to Tablet, Jr., a student-designed monthly insert in The Tablet newspaper. Before the Cyclones’ game against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, a special game between the “Collars” and the “Scholars” — priests and school administrators — will take place on the baseball diamond.
A commemorative Superintendent Kevin McCormack bobblehead will be distributed to fans attending in support of Catholic education.
PARTNERSHIP WILL EXPLORE USING AI FOR CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK
EAST FLATBUSH — SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is partnering with the University at Albany to explore the use of artificial intelligence and deep learning technology to better understand mental health disorders and aid in earlier diagnosis and treatment. Their goal is to alleviate shortages of human, in-person professional care where these resources are believed to be currently scarce. The Global Center for AI in Mental Health, formed in collaboration with the Health Innovation Exchange (HIEx), will explore ways to use AI and other deep technology to advance the early detection of mental health conditions, track patients’ progress, and monitor them after medical intervention.
Deep technology is a term that defines the work of technologically-centered companies or enterprises that address and create solutions to major societal problems, from mental health to climate change and food security.
BAM LAYS OFF 13% OF STAFFERS
PROSPECT HEIGHTS – The Brooklyn Academy of Music announced on Monday that it would be laying off 26 of its staff members – equivalent to 13% of the institution’s workforce – reports the New York Times, citing reduced revenues due to the pandemic and economic turmoil. These factors have also led BAM to cut programming back to levels that its leadership says it can afford, including toning down its popular Next Wave Festival along with reducing next year’s production schedule as a whole.
Union leaders criticized the decision, saying that their focus was on helping the fired workers find new jobs; BAM president Gina Duncan wrote in a letter to staffers that along with the pandemic, it is struggling to deal with lessened donor support, as well as an “outdated business model that heavily relies on a shrinking donor base.”
NYPD INVESTIGATES HATE CRIME IN WILLIAMSBURG
WILLIAMSBURG — Police are searching for an unknown individual who on the afternoon of Monday, June 26, approached a 77-year-old male victim on the sidewalk near the Broadway G station and threw a cutting instrument at him, striking him in the face, while making anti-Jewish statements. The culprit then fled in an unknown direction, and the victim was able to be treated by EMS at the scene; police say that the Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the incident.
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. All calls are strictly confidential.
ARTWORK FROM GHANA LIGHTS UP BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK — Artist Selorm Fiadjoe, a native of Ghana, is exhibiting his luminous embroidery artwork in each borough of New York City. He chose Juneteenth to display his abstract work “Jazz Trio” in Brooklyn Bridge Park in celebration of Black history. Each colorful piece is made using silk thread glued onto the canvas by Fiadjoe and a team of artists based in ENA Gallery in Teaneck, NJ. The technique catches the light and lasts longer than conventional painting, he said.
Fiadjoe says he has done pieces for Harvard University, Global Citizen, Chance the Rapper and others.
NYPD PROPOSES NEW DRONE PROCEDURE
NEW YORK CITY — Want to fly a drone in NYC? The NYPD is proposing to create a procedure by which members of the public may submit applications to launch or land an unmanned aircraft, including drones. The department is holding a public hearing on the proposed rules at 10 a.m. on July 7 in the auditorium on the first floor of One Police Plaza in Manhattan. Anyone who wants to comment in person (three-minute limit) must sign up before the hearing by calling 646- 610-5400 and asking for Melanie Braverman, or by emailing your name and affiliation to [email protected] by June 30.
You can also submit written comments to: rules.cityofnewyork.us.; email them to NYPD at [email protected] or mail them to the NYPD Legal Bureau at One Police Plaza, Room 1406, New York, NY 10038 c/o Agency Attorney Melanie Braverman. Written comments must be in by July 7.
VAPES POURING INTO US DESPITE FDA CRACKDOWNS
BROOKLYN/NATIONWIDE — There are over 9,000 different e-cigarette devices sold in the U.S., according to a new Associated Press report, which attributes the proliferation of the fruity nicotine vapes to an unexpected supply wave from China. The AP says that, according to “tightly controlled” sales data, most of the devices are sold in fruit and candy flavors that can appeal to teenagers. All are technically illegal, but they continue to flow into U.S. ports with little threat of retaliation. The trend underscores the FDA’s inability to control the tumultuous vaping market previously dominated by Juul and other reusable e-cigarettes. The new disposable and reusable cigarettes currently make up 40% of the U.S. e-cig market share.
Most disposables mirror a few major brands, such as Elf Bar or Puff Bar, but hundreds of new varieties appear each month. Companies copy each other’s designs, blurring the line between the real and counterfeit. Entrepreneurs can launch a new product by simply sending their logo and flavor requests to Chinese manufacturers, who promise to deliver tens of thousands of devices within weeks.
BROOKLYN LEADERS LAUD PROGRESS LATEST MOVE ON CONGESTION PRICING PLAN
CITYWIDE — Several Brooklyn elected officials and local advocates praised the Federal Highway Administration’s green-lighting on Tuesday, June 27 of the Manhattan Central Business District Tolling. U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-07/northern and eastern Brooklyn) called the plan “a national model for how cities can improve air quality with limited impact on residents.” Rep. Dan Goldman (D-10/western Brooklyn) pointed out that congestion pricing will “…uplift our vulnerable communities who bear the brunt of the negative impacts of air pollution.” NYC Comptroller Brad Lander — a Brooklynite, said, “The greenlighting of MTA’s Environmental Assessment marks a major transportation milestone that will keep New York City’s streets and subways moving for years to come.”
Advocating for people with disabilities, Joe Rappaport, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, said, “Gov. Hochul and the MTA made a legally binding commitment in 2022 to make nearly every one of the system’s 472 subway stations accessible to people with mobility impairments — and the funds raised by congestion pricing will help them keep their word.
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