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What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, July 6, 2023

July 6, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION SUES NYPD OVER DELAYS
IN OBTAINING VEHICLE STOPS DATABASE

CITYWIDE — The New York Civil Liberties Union on Thursday, July 6, filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for its ongoing delay in releasing its most recent disaggregated, incident-level data related to vehicle stops for the past two years; 2022 City Council legislation required the NYPD to disclose this data for the first time. However, the NYCLU, alleging that the NYPD had refused to release the complete database of its vehicle stops during the first half of that year, challenged the denial with a lawsuit this past March. The NYPD then required a second FOIL request before releasing the statistics covering the second half of 2022.

The NY Civil Liberties Union’s latest lawsuit addresses what it says is repeated delay tactics after the NYPD indicated it would not respond for months even after receiving the second FOIL request.

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SPACE POTATOES AT FUTURISTIC ART EXHIBIT OPENING IN RED HOOK

RED HOOK — A new exhibit by multimedia artist Xin Liu, Seedlings and Offsprings, is opening at Pioneer Works in Red Hook this Friday, with works exploring themes of futurism, mutation, and immortality. Highlights include a series of frost-covered sculptures inspired by cryonics and egg freezing technologies, as well as the search for life in Antarctic lakes and icy moons; a multi-part visual project that juxtaposes a recorded dance performance by the artist on a zero-gravity plane flight with a virtual reality experience starring a crystalline robot carrying the artist’s wisdom tooth on a journey to the International Space Station; and, a collaboration with fellow artist Lucia Monge, where potatoes grown from seeds sent into Earth’s lower orbit are cast as subjects that call for a diversified imagination of what the future and space exploration can look like — and, a selection of these spacefaring potatoes will be grown and harvested in Pioneer Works’s garden.

Seedlings and Offsprings will be on display from July 7 to Sept. 10 at Pioneer Works in Red Hook.

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NYPD TO HOLD HEARING ON DRONE RULES

CITYWIDE — The NYPD will hold a hearing discussing a proposal to establish a permitting process for drone flights within the city on Friday, specifically with regard to takeoffs and landings. The proposed changes would require anyone who wants to take off or land a drone, or any other sort of unmanned aerial vehicle, to submit an application — and a nonrefundable $150 application fee — to the NYPD 30 days in advance of any flight, with very detailed information about the applicant, the operator, the drone and their flight’s path.

The hearing will take place on Friday, July 7, at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of 1 Police Plaza; comments can be submitted until tomorrow on the city’s Rules website, or emailed, faxed or submitted over the phone to the NYPD.

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SOUL SUMMIT MUSIC FESTIVAL RETURNS TO FORT GREENE PARK

FORT GREENE — The beloved Soul Summit music festival is returning to Fort Greene Park this weekend, offering up a program of soulful house music for attendees all summer long at the Sunday concert series. Begun by DJ Sadiq Bellamy in 2002 as a callback to the free-spirited music culture of NYC in the ‘70s, the Soul Summit DJ collective have spun tunes for park-goers for more than 20 years, celebrating Fort Greene’s Black renaissance and bringing the community together.

Soul Summit will take place on Sunday, July 9, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.; a documentary on the festival, ‘Soul Summit: Doin’ It in the Park,’ was produced by Black-Owned Brooklyn in 2020 during the pandemic when the festival was put on hold, and can be viewed on YouTube.

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NYPD ATTRIBUTES DROP IN GUN VIOLENCE
TO ARRESTS AND PREVENTION PARTNERSHIPS

CITYWIDE — The NYPD credits the reduction in shootings to a combined sum of the NYPD’s gun-violence reduction strategies. The NYPD is focusing tirelessly on combating gun violence and leveraging partnerships to assist in that important work. One such example is the GodSquad/67th Precinct’s prevention program. During June 2023, the department continued to make historic numbers of gun arrests — 345 arrests resulting in 300 firearms seized for the month.

Overall, NYPD officers seized 3,424 guns from the streets of New York City and made 2,162 gun arrests through the first six months of 2023.

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SHOOTINGS DECLINE IN CITY, BUT
VEHICLE AND MOTORCYCLE THEFTS ON RISE

CITYWIDE — Shooting incidents fell by 16.8% during June 2023, compared to the same month a year ago, according to the latest NYPD’s Citywide Crime Statistics, released on Thursday, July 6. The decrease in shootings extends the 24.7% decrease in shooting incidents citywide through the first half of calendar 2023. Overall index crime was driven down by 3.9% last month, and New York City saw a drop in five of the seven index crime categories, the largest decrease being a 24.8% decline in burglaries, and an 18% drop in hate crimes.  

However, grand larceny auto incidents increased by 22.8%, particularly in the thefts of motorcycles and the well-documented exploitation of vulnerabilities in the ignition system of certain Kia and Hyundai models.

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WELLS FARGO SIGNS LEASE FOR NEW
BANK IN PARK SLOPE DEVELOPMENT

PARK SLOPE — Wells Fargo has signed a lease for a new community banking facility at 120 5th Ave. in Park Slope, a 180-unit rental residential development now under construction. The Wells Fargo branch, which is slated to include 3,500 square feet, will join two other retail anchor tenants in the building — a Lidl supermarket and a CVS pharmacy.

The building is being developed by William Macklowe Co. and GreenBarn
Investment Group. Read more about this development here.

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THIRD PHASE OF CONEY MIXED-INCOME
HOUSING PROJECT GETS UNDERWAY

CONEY ISLAND — BFC Partners has announced the final phase of its three-building, mixed-income housing project in Coney Island, which, when completed, will include 1,300 units. The third building will be located at 1709 Surf Ave. The City of New York, New York City Housing Preservation and Development, and New York City Housing Development Corp. are partners in the project, and Wells Fargo has provided debt and equity funding.

“As these three affordable housing buildings evolve on Surf Avenue, it’s exciting to see this transformation of the streetscape, filling in three vacant blocks directly across from the ballpark,” said Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress. Read more about this development here.

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FORMER BUILDING SUPER SENTENCED TO 27 YEARS
FOR MURDERING HIS REPLACEMENT

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A Bushwick man has been sentenced to 27 years to life in prison for a 2017 murder in which he fatally strangled a building superintendent in Bushwick who had been hired to replace him and who would have been given the super’s apartment. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez identified the defendant as Keith Floyd, 44, at whose sentencing Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Ziomaida Tomlinson presided. A jury had convicted Floyd in February of second-degree murder, first-degree hindering prosecution, and concealment of a human corpse.

On Oct. 5, 2017, the New York City Police Department received an anonymous tip that there was a dead body buried in the backyard at 54 Himrod Street. The next day, detectives found Rivera’s body, wrapped in plastic trash bags and buried in a shallow grave. The NYC Medical Examiner ruled from an autopsy that the cause of death was homicidal asphyxia.

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PORTABLE BATTERY CHARGER PACKS RECALLED
AFTER A UNIT CAUGHT FIRE ABOARD PLANE

NATIONWIDE — Amazon customers in Brooklyn and around the U.S. are alerted of a recall for a model of portable chargers that caused a fire on a commercial aircraft, although none of the news reports breaking this story mentioned the airline involved as of press time. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recall involves about 190,000 VRURC portable chargers that are shaped like cell phones and that were sold exclusively via Amazon from July 2021 through this past May, bearing the model number “OD-B7,” and with built-in cables and built-in wall plug. The model number is on the back of the recalled chargers, which were sold in black, blue, green, orange, pink, red and white color options. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled portable chargers and contact VRURC for a free replacement product.

VRURC has received one report of fire during a commercial flight, causing four flight attendants to be hospitalized due to smoke inhalation. According to both aviationdisasterlaw.com and Consumer Reports, this week’s charger fire was not the first to erupt on airplanes. A similar incident happened in February aboard a United Airlines flight.

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ASSEMBLYMAN VISITS SETH LOW PARK,
PRAISES ATTENDANT’S CLEANUP EFFORTS

BENSONHURST — Responding to cleanliness complaints from locals, Assemblymember William Colton (D-47) visited Seth Low Park in Bensonhurst on Wednesday July 5, and found that the park is the cleanest he has seen in some time. Praising the Parks Department attendant, Mr. Henry, Colton declared, “The good news is that the park was at its cleanest. Many seniors approached us and were very grateful for the park’s condition. The only complaint I heard from the constituents is that they wish that bathrooms would stay open longer hours.” Colton pledged that his office will follow up on that request.

Seth Low Park in Bensonhurst, which was named for a prominent citizen who was mayor of Brooklyn 1881-85, as well as of Columbia University, is on a strategically-situated triangle at the intersections of several roads: Bay Parkway, Bay Ridge Parkway (75th St.), Avenue P, Stillwell Avenue and West 12th St.

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LABOR LAW STRENGTHENED TO RESTRICT
MANDATORY OVERTIME FOR NURSES

STATEWIDE — Updates to the Labor Law restricting mandatory overtime for nurses have now taken effect, the NYS Department of Labor announced on Thursday, July 6. The updated law prohibits health care employers from requiring nurses to work more than their regularly scheduled hours except under limited circumstances, including a health care disaster, a declaration of emergency, or when required for safe patient care such as during an unforeseen emergency. A health care employer must notify NYSDOL when exceptions to limitations on mandatory overtime are in use, with additional reporting required to NYSDOL and the Department of Health when exceptions are in use for 15 days or more in a given month, and 45 days or more in a consecutive three-month period.

The updated law also establishes new monetary penalties for violations and expands coverage to include nurses employed by facilities licensed or operated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, among other provisions. Overseeing the compliance as Enforcement Officer will be Jeanette Lazelle, Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection.

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COMPTROLLER LANDER: CITY’S EMERGENCY PROCUREMENT
WAS BOTH SUCCESSFUL AND WASTEFUL

CITYWIDE — A new audit from City Comptroller Brad Lander’s office reveals that while New York has dealt well with multiple emergencies including COVID and the refugee influx, there is room for improvement, particularly in curbing wasteful spending. While acknowledging that “emergency procurement” — an expedited purchase method that eliminates the bidding process — is a critical city procedure, Lander recognized a paradox: the same actions that resulted in successfully establishing testing and vaccination services in communities most affected by COVID-19 involved wasteful spending and a lack of effective cost controls in the City’s emergency contracting.

Moving forward, Comptroller Lander’s office sent letters to city agencies recommending “5 Best Practices” to deal with future emergencies. These include maximizing competition to the extent possible, ensuring strong, specific and clear contract terms, establishing a “robust” compliance and enforcement oversight, holding vendors accountable, and documenting expenditures.

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SUNY DOWNSTATE AMONG THREE MEDICAL SCHOOLS
TO RECEIVE CANCER INSTITUTE FUNDING

EAST FLATBUSH — SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Central Brooklyn, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Columbia University — in a collaborative effort — were among five entities nationwide to receive a $9.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to target disparities in specifically-identified communities, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Cancer Moonshot priorities. The five-year grant will spearhead two projects focused on multigenerational cancer awareness, prevention and control, follow-up care, survivorship, and closing health equity gaps among Black/African American, Caribbean American, and Hispanic communities in North-Central Brooklyn, Washington Heights, Western Queens, and the South Bronx.

The first project will examine the impact of a six-week cancer education and social justice curriculum engaging students in ten New York City public schools. The second project will focus on a tobacco cessation trial using federally qualified health centers.

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PARK SLOPE BARNES AND NOBLE VOTES TO UNIONIZE

PARK SLOPE — Employees at the Park Slope location of bookstore giant Barnes & Noble voted overwhelmingly to unionize on June 29, following a vote by the store’s flagship Manhattan location to do the same, and will now be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, reports Publisher’s Weekly. The store workers say that they struggle with low pay and poor working conditions, such as unstable scheduling practices, harassment and favoritism, and will demand action from management during contract negotiations later this year.

The store’s unionization is part of a recent surge in labor organization; union organizers have achieved successes at Amazon’s NYC area warehouses and the city’s powerful nurses’ union went on strike last winter in protest of poor working conditions, while UPS workers are threatening to stop work later this year if their own contract demands are not met.

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POLICE OFFICERS RESCUE MAN FROM SUBWAY TRACKS

BED-STUY — Two police officers saved a man who had fallen onto the subway tracks at the Utica Avenue A train station on Wednesday, reports Fox News, after the man suffered a medical episode and collapsed off the platform. Video from a body camera released by the NYPD shows the officers jumping onto the tracks and lifting the unresponsive man back onto the platform with the aid of other passengers.

There were no further updates on the man’s condition; the camera footage showed that he appeared to have been using a cane.

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POP-UP RAINBOW HOUSES ON MONTAGUE STREET

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Montague Street’s Open Streets program this weekend is featuring a collaborative art project suitable for little hands — the opportunity to create a colorful village of singing houses in the middle of the street. The project will be guided by art teachers from Le Meraviglie Art Studio and is expected to be messy; other kid-friendly returning favorites include the pop-up giant flower park and free chicken meals for ages 1 to 10 at Mad for Chicken, along with fun and games offered by the Montague Street BID.

The village creation project will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 8, while Open Streets runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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NEW PRATT-AFFILIATED HIGH SCHOOL TO FOCUS ON DESIGN, SOCIAL JUSTICE

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A new high school affiliated with the Pratt Institute is set to open this fall in downtown Brooklyn, reports Chalkbeat, offering a curriculum focused on the arts and design, as well as with a focus on social justice and social equity. Students will choose from one of three specialties — housing equity, tech equity and design equity — and will spend time in their courses working on creative solutions to problems within those spheres, ultimately preparing for careers in urban planning and software and interior design; the school is also planning to partner with other Brooklyn arts institutions, such as BAM, to offer further artistic programming for their students.

“When CUNY is holding a big talk about water, and how safe water is an equity issue, we want our young people to not just be invited to come to see the talk but to be able to go toe-to-toe with those experts,” the school’s project coordinator Corinth Hunter told Chalkbeat; the school already has a waitlist over 200 students long.

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DEPT OF PLANNING TO HOST INFO SESSION ON ‘CITY OF YES’ INITIATIVE

CITYWIDE — Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick on Wednesday announced a public information session on Mayor Adams’ City of Yes for Economic Opportunity proposal, which is a set of zoning changes designed to develop lively commercial corridors, help small businesses and support economic recovery from the pandemic. The proposal, which will be considered during a formal public review process this fall, involves 18 reforms, focused on making it easier to start or expand businesses and on reducing storefront vacancies; examples include removing zoning restrictions that limit dancing in certain commercial areas, facilitating the growth of the life sciences sector, allowing for clean manufacturing — for industries such as ceramics makers or coffee roasteries — in commercial areas, and removing restrictions on building corner stores.

This info session will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, July 11, at 7 p.m.; New Yorkers can register online to attend and ask questions.

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CHESTNUT DOES IT AGAIN, SATO BESTS RIVALS

CONEY ISLAND — Legendary 16-time champion Joey Chestnut once again crushed the competition at the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on Tuesday, reports ABC News, shoveling down an astonishing 62 hotdogs in just 10 minutes — far off his personal record of 76 hot dogs set in 2021, also a world best — but still miles ahead of the second-place finisher, who consumed only 49. In the women’s competition, defending champ Miki Sudo won the gold for the ninth time, finishing 39.5, eating so quickly that judges needed to count to figure out her exact number.

The event was initially delayed by heavy rainfall, but after a two-hour wait the show went on as planned.

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REYNOSO TO HOST MATERNAL HEALTH EXPO

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Borough President Antonio Reynoso is hosting a Maternal Health Expo at Borough Hall next weekend, with activities aimed at supporting pregnancy journeys, including workshops on topics like paid maternity leave and health insurance, prenatal nutrition, safe sleep and breastfeeding. The event will also feature exercise sessions, as well as community resource offerings from local organizations.

The expo will take place on Saturday, July 15, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Borough Hall; online RSVPs are recommended but not required.

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CONEY ISLAND TO HOST EARTHY ART FEST

CONEY ISLAND — The Coney Island Brewery and Beautify Brooklyn are hosting the Earthy Girthy eco-themed art festival this weekend at the brewery’s Coney Island beer garden, featuring musical performances, displays and workshops from local artists in a dizzying variety of art forms, and green craft activities for young and old. Highlights include wild foods foraging workshops, a build-your-own-terrarium session, trash-to-treasure jewelry-making and a free Earth-themed comic book to take home.

The festival will take place at the Coney Island Brewery’s beer garden on Sunday, July 9, from noon to 6 p.m.; entrance is free and open to all ages, but RSVPs can be found on EventBrite, along with a full lineup of musical acts, artists and presenters.

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UNKNOWN MAN VANDALIZES TWO SYNAGOGUES

BRIGHTON BEACH — Police are searching for an unidentified man believed to be responsible for graffiti attacks on two West End Avenue synagogues in Brighton Beach shortly after midnight on Sunday, May 14. There were no reported injuries as a result of these incidents, but they are being investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force.

Anyone with information regarding this matter 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.

Images of the person or persons believed to be responsible for the graffiti. All tips given to police are strictly confidential.
Images of the person or persons believed to be responsible for the graffiti. All tips given to police are strictly confidential.

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TWO STRUCK BY LIGHTNING AT CONEY ISLAND FIREWORKS

CONEY ISLAND — Two people were injured by a lightning strike during a July 4th thunderstorm on the Coney Island shore, reports PIX News, and were transported to the hospital. NBC reports that FDNY officials said the bolt hit near the victims, and that their injuries may not have been major.

The heavy storms delayed the famous Nathan’s hot dog contest by several hours; no other injuries were reported at the event.

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DE BLASIO AND WIFE ARE SEPARATING… AND STAYING PUT

PARK SLOPE — Former Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Charlayne McCray have decided to separate and date other people, but they will stay married and continue sharing their Park Slope home, reported a number of news outlets on Wednesday, July 5, including the New York Times. McCray, 68, and de Blasio, 62, met while working for then-Mayor David Dinkins, and have been husband and wife since 1994. They decided not to divorce, which would have forced a breakup of their financial and real estate assets as well.

The couple told the New York Times in an interview that the demanding schedule of being mayor factored in straining the marriage. “And that kind of took away a little bit of our soul,” said de Blasio.

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INMATE DIES AT RIKERS, 23RD INMATE DEATH THIS YEAR

RIKERS ISLAND — Rikers inmate Felix Taveras passed away aged 40 at Elmhurst Hospital shortly after midnight on Wednesday, reports CBS, after reporting chest pains to prison staff, then experiencing a seizure and being treated with the anti-overdose drug Narcan at the island’s medical clinic. This marks the 23rd death of a detainee in the city’s prison system so far this year, and at least the fourth at Rikers, including a death in May under suspicious circumstances, and advocates expressed outrage: the HALTSolitary Campaign said in a press statement, “Thirty-nine people have died in the last two and a half years because of New York officials’ policy choices,” meanwhile, the Department of Corrections stated that it had discovered procedural violations in this incident and would be issuing suspensions to employees, but did not elaborate further.

City officials have been unable to get Rikers under control as the plan to shut down the island prison complex has been delayed by pandemic slowdowns, including work intended to enlarge the Atlantic Avenue House of Detention projected to finish in 2029; a judge rebuked the city in a hearing last month over the troubled island, and threatened to place the facility under federal management.

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SECOND AIRPORT ARREST IN ONE WEEK OF TRAVELERS WITH LOADED GUNS

JFK AIRPORT — Police arrested a Florida man at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) yesterday after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers detected a loaded handgun in the man’s carry-on bag as he entered a security checkpoint. TSA immediately notified Port Authority Police, who confiscated the firearm, containing 10 bullets, and arrested the man on weapons charges. The man, in addition to his arrest, also faces a stiff federal financial penalty. Federal penalties can reach as high as $15,000 for bringing a weapon to an airport checkpoint, depending on the circumstances.

This was the second gun that TSA officers have caught within a week. On June 29 they stopped a man who worked at the airport with a gun in his backpack, arresting him and confiscating that weapon as well. During just the first five days in July, TSA officers had already detected seven firearms at the airport’s checkpoints so far this year, tying the number caught in 2022.

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COUNCIL TO PROBE CITY SMOKE RESPONSE

CIVIC CENTER — The City Council is set to hold a hearing investigating the mayor’s response to the wildfire smoke hazards last month, reports the New York Post, in response to criticisms that emergency measures were rolled out late and haphazardly, in particular that warnings about air quality were issued shortly before midnight on the first day of worsening conditions, well after risks were apparent. The mayor has defended his administration’s actions, reports Gothamist, claiming that the situation was fast-moving and unprecedented.

The Council meeting is set for next Wednesday, July 15, at 10 a.m. in City Hall.


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