What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, June 29, 2023
FDNY GRADUATES NEW PARAMEDICS
CITYWIDE — New York City will be getting 59 new paramedics to be stationed around the city, following a graduation ceremony that the NYC Fire Department is holding on Friday, June 30,. at Randall’s Island. These new first responders graduating from the FDNY Paramedic Basic Program have trained for 9½ months at the EMS Academy, at hospitals on clinical internships, and in field rotations, in order to provide the highest level of pre-hospital care. The training expands on previous levels of certification to include anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology, as well as many critical lifesaving skills: intravenous therapy and medication administration; EKG monitoring and cardiac rhythm interpretation; and, advanced airway management.
The ceremony takes place at the FDNY’s Training Academy auditorium.
MTA ROLLS OUT MORE FREQUENT SERVICE, NEW R211 TRAINS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — More commuters on the A line will get to ride the new R11 subway trains during July, and riders on the on the G, J and M lines — all of which serve Brooklyn neighborhoods — will see increasing frequency, the MTA announced during a press conference held at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station on Thursday with local elected officials. Trains on these three lines will arrive every 8 to 10 minutes instead of every 10 to 12 minutes, as part of enhancements in the final FY 2024 New York State Budget. Moreover, more A line riders will get the chance to ride the new R211 train. Following a successful pilot phase that began in March for the new R211 model (featuring 58-inch-wide door openings that are designed to speed up boarding), a second train was put into service on Thursday.
Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who worked on securing the funding, praised the service increase. City Councilmember Lincoln Restler said, “What we’ve seen is that Brooklyn-Queens ridership has stayed at much higher rates post-pandemic relative to travel in and out of Manhattan, so this investment in G-train service is critically important.”
SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR HONORS BIG APPLE AWARD EDUCATORS
CITYWIDE — Schools Chancellor David Banks on Wednesday announced the winners of the eleventh annual Big Apple Awards, honoring exemplary educators for their dedication to their students and school communities. This year’s award includes an ongoing professional learning experience to share best practices and resources; next year, the recipients will collaborate as Big Apple Fellows teaching ambassadors and will be invited to serve on the Chancellor’s Teacher Advisory Council.
The 15 Brooklyn teachers chosen for the award: Kemeisha Barrett, M.S. 352; Naiomi Benn, I.S. 211; Franchesca Chaterpaul, P.S. 627; Carmen Coward, M.S. 113; Anastasia Demidova, P.S. K225; Linda Eskenazi, P.S/I.S 180; Rebecca Hart, P.S. 414; Virginia “Tess” Hinchman, Williamsburg Preparatory School; Carla McKenzie, I.S. 392; Christina Mesk, P.S. 001; Dr. Linda Noble, Brooklyn College Academy; Khristine Raymond, M.S. 907; Jennifer Rivera, P.S./I.S. 384; Shayleen Sanchez, P.S. 109; and, Angela Vigueras, Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies.
“I often think back to the educators who impacted me the most, cheering me on… You are the people who encourage students like me, students from poor communities and Black and Brown youth, that we have a shot,” said BP Antonio Reynoso. Award partners are Lincoln Center, NY Road Runners, Studio in a School, Jody and John Arnhold, and the Arthur Miller, Centerbridge, and Arnhold foundations.
ROAD CLOSURES SCHEDULED DURING JULY
FOR KINGS HIGHWAY STATION TRACK WORK
GRAVESEND — Track work on the N line at Kings Highway will impact traffic for three consecutive weekends during July, Community Board 11 reported on Thursday, June 29. The MTA will be conducting track work at the station, between Bensonhurst and Gravesend, requiring the use of street cranes that will enable the replacement of mainline track panels. Work hours for the weekends of July 7, 14 and 21 will begin at 6 a.m. on those Fridays for prep work and crane staging. Round-the-clock work will begin at 10 p.m. on Friday nights and continue to 5 a.m. on the following Mondays. Consequently, Avenue S will be closed between West 7-West 8th Streets.
Drivers should follow detours for eastbound and westbound traffic along Avenue S: Eastbound.
BILL WOULD STRENGTHEN RED FLAG PROTECTIONS DISARMING PERSONS WHO POSE A DANGER
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) on Thursday, June 29, introduced new, bicameral legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals, as red-flag cases skyrocket. Red flag warnings are signals that a person in possession of a weapon poses a danger to oneself or others, and need to be disarmed immediately. The Congressmembers’ FLAG Act would help keep communities safe by ensuring that any person filing a red flag petition has access to legal representation, counsel, and resources, and would provide $50 million in annual funding to states and local governments to access legal counsel and other legal services. Eligible recipients include police departments, district attorney offices, and community-based legal aid organizations.
Law enforcement, community members, and health care professionals customarily file a red flag petition, known as an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), to help get guns out of the hands of a troubled or dangerous individual. ERPOs have also proven to be an effective suicide prevention measure.
DENOUNCING SUPREME COURT DECISION, SEN. GOUNARDES PUSHES FOR HIS FAIR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS BILL
WESTERN BROOKLYN — Denouncing the Thursday, June 29, U.S. Supreme Court decision that strikes down affirmative action, State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-26/western Brooklyn) asserted that the action hurts all underprivileged persons, and calls on colleges and universities to amend policies that give preferential admissions consideration to wealthy legacy families. Gounardes has also proposed revival in the next session of his Fair College Admissions Act (indexed as Senate Bill S8498 in the 2021-22 session and left in committee). The bill, which has co-sponsorship from State Senator Zellnor Myrie, would prohibit legacy and early admissions policies at colleges and universities in New York; and, it declares such policies and practices to be discriminatory and inequitable. “Giving students with alumni connections preferential treatment in admissions is merely a form of affirmative action for the privileged,” Gounardes said, in countering the Supreme Court.
A similar bill that NY Congressman Jamal Bowman introduced during the 2021-22 federal legislative session, prohibiting institutions of higher education (IHE) receiving federal student aid money from giving preferential treatment in the admissions process to legacies or those related to donors, also got stuck in Congress.
MTA ANNOUNCES RENOVATION OF 14 MORE STATIONS
CITYWIDE — The MTA on Wednesday announced that 14 additional subway stations will receive aesthetic and functional upgrades as part of its station “Re-NEW-Vation” program, including eight in Brooklyn: the 18th Ave. and Ave. I F stations, the Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway, Sutter Ave. and Atlantic Ave. L stations, the Marcy Ave. J/Z/M station, the 7th Ave. B/Q station and the Hoyt-Schermerhorn A/C/G station. The program uses planned weekend service outages for necessary track work to repair, clean and refresh station interiors, providing customers with overhauled stations when service interruptions end on Mondays; along with deep cleaning, renovations at other stations have included installing new LED fixtures in dark areas, adding new employee rest areas, repairing broken concrete and water damage, and repainting station surfaces.
“Brooklynites deserve efficient, safe, and comfortable commutes to their destinations on our subways,” wrote Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso in a press release; two Brooklyn stations have already received upgrades as part of the program this month, the Myrtle-Wyckoff M station and the Kings Highway F station.
HANDSHAKE OVER A BALANCED CITY BUDGET;
BUT COMPTROLLER LAMENTS CUTS TO CUNY
CITY HALL — The two Adamses have shaken hands: Mayor Eric Adams, and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (not related) on Thursday, June 29, reached a handshake agreement for completing a responsible and on-time fiscal year 2024 balanced budget. The approximately $107 billion budget reportedly makes much-needed investments in students, senior citizens, working-class New Yorkers, and restores funding to public libraries ($36 million added) and other cultural institutions ($40 million), as well as increases to the neighborhood-based community navigators in Gun Violence Prevention Task Force districts ($1.9 million). It also increased funding for the CleaNYC program, which cleans streets and sidewalks in targeted corridors, the Sanitation Department’s highway cleaning program, and even an increased frequency of litter basket pickups citywide.
However, City Comptroller Brad Lander questioned whether certain of the mayor’s strategy would ultimately hurt New Yorkers: “Using City staffing vacancies as a kind of budget reserve without regard for whether critical services — affordable housing deals, child welfare, or cybersecurity — are affected is penny-wise but pound-foolish.” Lander also criticized cuts to the City University (CUNY) system in light of increased funding to the State Universities (SUNY).
TASTE OF WIMBLEDON AT BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK
DUMBO — Tennis enthusiasts rejoice – the lawn at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 has once again been chosen to host an official viewing of the Wimbledon tennis tournament from July 14 to 16, reports Time Out New York, designed to replicate the experience of viewing the iconic championship from Henman Hill in London. Bring a blanket and walk through decorated floral arches, try out British fares like fish and chips and gin cocktails, try your hand at classic lawn games, then chill on the grass while watching pro players battle it out on a projector screen set up for the occasion — and if you like, snag an official Wimbledon souvenir from the gift shop to take home.
The park offered a similar experience for fans last year, officially sponsored by Wimbledon organizer the All England Lawn Tennis Club, enticing thousands of cheerful spectators into the hot summer sun to view the match finals.
HEIGHTS TOWNHOUSE SELLS FOR $8.5M
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A landmarked townhouse in Brooklyn Heights topped the charts of most expensive home sales in the borough last week, reports the Real Deal, selling after listing at $8.5 million. The five-story, 7,080-square-foot building has seven bedrooms and three bathrooms, and offers a host of historic details, such as stained glass transom windows, oversized mirrors and a grand staircase, according to the listing.
The Real Deal reports that this sale is part of a surge in Brooklyn’s luxury property market, with townhouses in Brownstone Brooklyn taking the majority of spots on the list.
RAPPER SENTENCED TO 16 YEARS OVER GANG RACKETEERING CASE
FLATBUSH — Flatbush native rapper Caswell “Casanova” Senior, age 36, was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday for racketeering and narcotics offenses, reports Rolling Stone, charges that prosecutors said arose out of his leadership role in the Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation Bloods gang, which he had joined in prison a decade prior. Senior, along with 11 other members of the gang, admitted to trafficking large quantities of marijuana, and was found to have participated in two assaults, one in a Manhattan diner in 2018 where he attacked and stole the phone of an unrelated customer and one in Miami in 2020 where he shot and wounded two people over a gambling dispute; prosecutors also said Senior used his fame and connections with music industry A-listers to entice others to join the Gorilla Stone gang.
Senior has a history with the law: the rapper had previously spoken about his friendship with fellow rapper A$AP Rocky, who he helped to protect from other inmates during a stint in Rikers when the two were teenagers.
MISSING TEEN IN MIDWOOD
MIDWOOD — Police are searching for missing teenage boy Parviz Srojitdinov, age 14, last seen on the afternoon of Monday, June 26, outside his home on Avenue P, near the Kings Highway subway stop. Parviz is described as approximately 5’10” and 150 pounds and was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, black shorts, black socks and black Crocs shoes.
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 their by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, or on Twitter @NYPDTips.
CHARGES DISMISSED AGAINST MAN OVER SUBWAY KNIFE FIGHT
WILLIAMSBURG — Charges have been dropped against a Brooklyn man Jordan Williams, who fatally stabbed homeless man Victor Ouedrago during a fight on a J train earlier this month that began after Ouedrago allegedly physically assaulted Williams and his girlfriend, reports PIX News. Williams and his attorney have said he acted in self-defense — and a grand jury apparently agreed, according to a law enforcement source, who told PIX that the jury had ruled Williams’ use of force to be justified after viewing a video of Ouedrago “choking Williams with both hands before the stabbing occurred.”
The fatal stabbing had drawn comparisons to the death of Jordan Neely after fellow passenger Daniel Penny choked him on a Manhattan subway earlier this year, as Penny has claimed that Neely had threatened other subway riders before the incident — but had not actually touched anyone; Penny pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges on Wednesday.
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.
COPS RELEASE NAME, PHOTO OF THIRD SUSPECT IN ‘BLING BISHOP’ ROBBERY
CANARSIE — Police have released the name and photo of a third suspect wanted in the sensational robbery of flashy preacher Lamor Whitehead, bishop of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Canarsie and famous friend of Mayor Eric Adams. Whitehead, aka the “Bling Bishop,” and his wife were robbed of roughly $1 million worth of jewelry by armed bandits who burst into his church service while it was being livestreamed on Sunday, July 24, 2022. Cops are looking for Shamar Leggette, a 41-year-old male. Previously arraigned were Juwan Anderson and Sayquan Pollack, both 23. Whitehead himself has been accused of stealing roughly $90,000 from one of his elderly parishioners, and has been hit with a $5 million dollar lawsuit by a Brooklyn congregation he allegedly evicted illegally from their church building last year, reports amNY.
Anyone with information about Leggette’s whereabouts is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), or by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at https://crimestoppers.nypdonline.org/, and on Twitter @NYPDTips.
DESSOFF CHOIRS SELECT BROOKLYN FOR CONCERTS DURING UPCOMING CENTENNIAL SEASON
BOERUM HILL AND CARROLL GARDENS — Roulette Intermedium, a concert hall in Boerum Hill will be the setting of the Dessoff Choirs’ 100th anniversary launch on October 13, with a tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s iconic American musicals. The highly-regarded Dessoff Choirs, a family of symphonic and chamber choral ensembles, with Music Director Malcolm J. Merriweather, will be marking a two-year centennial with concerts at another Brooklyn venue and performances of a work about the life of Anne Frank. The season premiere at Roulette, on Atlantic and 3rd avenues, is themed “Some Enchanted Evening,” with the Dessoff Chamber Choir. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens will also host a Christmas season concert, “Welcome Yule: Sing Lullaby,” on December 3, with a repertoire spanning several centuries, including 16th century Portuguese composer Vicente Lusitano and 20th century British composer Herbert Howells.
Dessoff concludes the season with Annelies by British composer James Whitbourn. Scored for soprano, chorus and chamber ensemble to Melanie Challenger’s libretto of extracts from The Diary of Anne Frank, with an April 25 performance at a Brooklyn venue to be announced later.
MEETING ON BQE INTERIM REPAIRS TONIGHT, THURSDAY, JUNE 29
BROOKLYN — NYC DOT is hosting a virtual public information session on this summer’s planned interim work on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on Thursday, June 29 at 6 p.m. DOT’s upcoming repair work on the BQE between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street is meant to ensure the safety and continued lifespan of the structure until a more permanent highway replacement is designed and built. Preliminary work near the Columbia Street on- and off-ramps began this week.
You can register to join the meeting at https://bit.ly/bqe-interim-repairs62923
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.
MTA SLAMMED IN COURT FOR 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.
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 p.m–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).
TWO CHARGED IN FRAUDULENT MEDICAL BILLING SCHEMES
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Two defendants have been arrested and charged in Brooklyn federal court, in connection with alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraudulent billing schemes, United States Attorney Breon Peace said on Wednesday, June 28. The charges, which are part of the Department of Justice’s 2023 National Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action, involve Carlo Elomina Garcia, a licensed occupational therapist, and the owner of Carlo E. Garcia Occupational Therapy in Queens, who was arrested on Monday and released a $25,000 bond pending trial; and Jian Ai Chen, a medical assistant and owner of two pharmacies in Brooklyn, who was arrested and arraigned on June 14, 2023, before being released on a $500,000 bond pending trial.
Garcia had, through his company, billed Medicare and Medicaid for over $3.9 million in occupational therapy services which were ineligible for reimbursement, and was paid over $1.6 million. Chen submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid plans for dispensing prescription medications that were induced by the payment of kickbacks and not actually dispensed, and his pharmacies received approximately $101 million from the scheme.
FEDERAL JURY HANDS GUILTY VERDICTS TO CITY SCHOOLS OFFICIAL, FOOD SERVICE COMPANY
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A federal jury in Brooklyn on Wednesday, June 28 returned guilty verdicts on a former high-ranking City schools official and the operators of a food services company on several counts of bribery, extortion and wire fraud. Following a four-week trial, at which Visiting U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin presided, Eric Goldstein, the former Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Department of Education’s Office of School Support Services, was found guilty on a superseding indictment. Blaine Iler, Michael Turley and Brian Twomey, operators of a food services company, with conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right and solicitation and giving of bribes relating to programs receiving federal funds. The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison as well as forfeiture and restitution penalties.
Calling the officials’ crime “a textbook example of choosing greed over the needs of our schools and the well-being of our children,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said, “Our children depended on nutritious meals served in schools and instead, got substandard food products containing pieces of plastic, metal, and bones, which is unacceptable.”
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