Brooklyn Boro

What’s News, Breaking: Tuesday, July 18, 2023

July 18, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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IN MEMORIAM:

BEVERLY MOSS SPATT, PROTECTOR OF BUILDINGS AND NEIGHBORHOODS

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Beverly Moss Spatt, who as chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission fought to protect the city’s architectural treasures and neighborhoods, died last Friday at age 99,  according to a NY Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden. Ms. Spatt grew up in Brooklyn Heights as the daughter of State Supreme Court and later Surrogate Court Judge and Board of Education president Maximilian Moss, himself a Brooklyn native. Ms. Spatt gained her grounding in civics very early and earned her tough-as-nails reputation as a fighter of back-room developer deals during her time on the City Planning Commission. Among the borough’s treasures that she saved were Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights, the Gage & Tollner seafood restaurant, and the Plaza and tree-lined Ocean Parkway, which Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had designed.

Of course, Grand Central Station represented the pinnacle of her victories against developers, where she took her fight — to preserve the city’s heritage in the midst of a financial crisis — all the way to the NY State Court of Appeals. The 1977 ruling (that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 1978) saved not only the Beaux Arts building but also the foundations of the landmarks laws themselves.

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CONSTRUCTION UNIONS EXPRESS DISMAY AT GOVERNOR
FOR PERCEIVED SNUB IN HOUSING PACKAGE

STATEWIDE — Three strong unions wasted no time Tuesday afternoon criticizing Governor Hochul’s latest executive actions on housing, and they assert that she is siding with large real estate developers over the workers who would do the construction. The joint statement from the New York City District Council of Carpenters, New York City District Council of Carpenters and Cement and Concrete Workers, and District Council 16 expressed disappointment “in the Governor’s decision to side with billionaire real estate developers over the hundreds of thousands of working men and women in the unionized construction industry. The legislature eliminated 421-A and rejected her carbon copy replacement for a reason: it does not work. Any real solution must include labor standards. We will be reviewing all options available to ensure good paying jobs are created on projects that receive millions in tax breaks.”

According to articles published last month, including in Real Deal, the NY State legislature rejected 421-A because they did not receive assurances from the governor that she would sign the extensions into law.

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GOVERNOR’S EXECUTIVE ACTIONS AIM
TO PROMOTE HOUSING GROWTH

GOWANUS AND STATEWIDE — Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood could potentially benefit from a package of executive actions that Governor Kathy Hochul signed on Tuesday, July 18, to combat a housing shortage crisis and promote growth in this area. According to a release distributed Tuesday afternoon, the actions comprise the following: a program to advance residential projects halted by the expiration of 421-A that include affordable housing in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn; an executive order establishing preference in certain discretionary funding programs for localities across the state that comply with a new “Pro-Housing Community” certification process; a new requirement that all State entities identify the potential for their state-owned lands to support housing; among other points.

The governor has also launched a new, interactive portal to collect and share community-level housing and zoning data and information on an ongoing basis This Housing Data Dashboard will provide critical information to help the State and municipalities identify challenges and track progress on housing growth, and will expand over time to include additional information.

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COMPTROLLER LANDER: MENTALLY-ILL PERSONS
COMPRISE 20% OF JAIL POPULATIONS

CITYWIDE — More people were sent to prison, and more continue to be jailed than released during June 2023, according to City Comptroller Brad Lander’s monthly update to the Department of Correction Dashboard. June 2023 also saw an increase in detained individuals with serious mental illness not being treated. This month’s dashboard data highlights the persistent issues surrounding DOC operations, including situations that cause detained persons to miss vital medical and psychiatric appointments. Individuals with serious mental illness comprise 20% of the total population detained at Rikers alone.

However, the Dashboard did bear some good news regarding the downward trend of violent incidents within the prisons during June: the number of assaults decreased by 7, there were 67 fewer fights breaking out, and 18 fewer slashings and stabbings — all showing a reverse from May to June.

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BARCLAYS WORKERS REACH NEW LABOR DEAL,
AVERTING VOTE TO STRIKE

BARCLAYS CENTER/PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A potential strike of food and beverage workers at Barclays Center has been averted and a tentative agreement has been reached with their employer, Levy. The venue’s 650 bartenders, servers and cooks — part of UNITE HERE! Local 100 — planned a vote on whether to authorize a strike before they and Levy reached the deal, which includes raises between $5-$11.20 an hour, and will make health insurance accessible to more workers if the agreement is ratified.

By the end of the contract, if it is ratified, the lowest-paid worker will earn a wage of $25 per hour.

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MTA PROJECTS BALANCED BUDGET, IF ALL GOES ACCORDING TO PLAN

CITYWIDE — For the first time in more than 20 years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has projected a balanced budget for five consecutive years, through 2027 — though some spending reductions necessary to meet this goal haven’t yet been specified. MTA had previously projected a $600 million deficit. On Monday, the agency credited the change in its outlook to an increase in the payroll mobility tax and other dedicated taxes, more city funding for paratransit, a proposed 5.5% toll increase, and a 4% fare increase by the end of August. The five-year plan also assumes an additional 4% fare increase in 2025 and in 2027 — and increased ridership.

The state budget calls for the MTA to reduce expenses by $400 million annually, and the agency hopes to cut expenses by $500 annually in 2025. NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad have identified $250 million in cost efficiencies so far.

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DINAPOLI APPLAUDS MTA’S FINANCIAL PLAN, URGES DEBT REDUCTION

CITYWIDE — New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, on Monday, called MTA’s five-year balanced budget projection, “A remarkable achievement given the dire state of the MTA’s fiscal affairs at the start of the year.” He credited “substantial new funding” from the state for stabilizing the MTA’s revenue picture, even amid weakness in real estate transaction taxes. DiNapoli added, however, that it is now up to the MTA “to execute on the initiatives necessary to achieve the ongoing budget balance offered in its plan.”

DiNapoli also urged the MTA to better manage debt and not burden future riders and taxpayers. In 2023, roughly 17.9% of revenue will go towards servicing debt.

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GOLDMAN URGES INVESTIGATION INTO DOMESTIC TERRORISTS WITHIN DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10), Rep. Robert Garcia (CA-42) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on Monday led 63 fellow members of Congress in sending a letter to Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security inquiring what actions the Department has taken to address the threat of domestic violent extremism within the DHS. “The knowledge that the Department of Homeland Security has potentially been infiltrated by violent domestic extremism is an issue of utmost urgency,” Goldman said in a release. A December 2022 investigation found that more than 300 individuals of the far-right militia group, the Oath Keepers, described themselves as current or former employees of DHS.

“Members of the Oath Keepers have planned and attempted to violently overthrow the government and these individuals have no place in our federal agencies, especially not in our Department of Homeland Security,” Goldman said.

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GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCES 3D PRINTED GUN BAN LEGISLATION

STATEWIDE — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at a press conference on Monday announced the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act, federal legislation that would ban online distribution of blueprints for the 3D printing of firearms and help prevent the proliferation of “ghost guns.” Ghost guns are homemade firearms that have no serial number, making them untraceable. Because many 3D-printed guns are made of plastic, they can bypass metal detectors at courthouses, airports, and other secured areas.

“Those who shouldn’t have a gun also shouldn’t be able to print one with just the click of a mouse,” Gillibrand said.

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NYC TENANT HELPLINE NOW HAS LIVE OPERATORS

CITYWIDE — The Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit (PEU) has launched a live operator Tenant Helpline for New York City tenants who face potential eviction, landlord harassment or unacceptable living conditions. Until now, tenants who called 311 for help were referred to a voicemail and received a call back within 48 to 72 hours from PEU’s Tenant Support Specialists.

The Helpline has also expanded to serve callers more holistically by connecting them with additional city programs like SNAP, Cash Assistance, Homebase and One-Shot Deals, and by helping them apply for state programs like rent relief and unemployment insurance.

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CHARITABLE GROUPS IN SOUTHEASTERN BROOKLYN RECEIVE OPERATING GRANTS

SOUTHEASTERN BROOKLYN — State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (D/SD-19) has secured more than $500,000 in operating grants from the recently enacted FY 2023-2024 State Budget for local institutions and charitable non-profit organizations within her southeastern Brooklyn district, stretching from Brownsville and East New York to Howard Beach in Queens. Recipients of programmatic grants from Senator Persaud include but are not limited to JCC Canarsie, Millennium Development, Neighborhood Housing Services of Brooklyn, Fresh Air Fund, Center for Employment Opportunities, Good Shepherd Services, New York Legal Assistance Group, CAMBA, and East Flatbush Village Inc.

Senator Persaud will announce additional capital project grant awards at a later date. Organizations in the district are encouraged to review the “How do I Submit a Proposal Guide” online.

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STUDENTS GET TO CREATE APPS AS PART OF CONGRESSIONAL CHALLENGE CONTEST

BAY RIDGE/DYKER HEIGHTS — Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-11/southwestern Brooklyn-Staten Island) will be participating in the Congressional App Challenge 2023, a nationwide competition to inspire students to explore STEM, coding and computer science through hands-on practice. The Internet Education Foundation sponsors this annual event encouraging students to design an app on any topic. Participants must be either in middle school or high school as of Nov. 1, and can compete only in a congressional district that is hosting an App Challenge. Students may use any programming language (e.g. C, C++, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, “block code,” etc.), on any platform (e.g. PC, web, tablet, robot, mobile).

Ten years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives outlined plans (through House Resolution 77) by which members of Congress would host district-by-district computer science, or “app,” competitions every year for students. By unanimous vote, the rules were passed authorizing each representative to host such a competition. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-8/Northern, Eastern, Southern Brooklyn) led that first initiative; his being the only other district participating in the 2023 Challenge.

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PILOT PROGRAM: ONE FREE BUS ROUTE IN EACH NYC BOROUGH

CITYWIDE — Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Monday that the MTA will try out a fare-free bus pilot program on five routes, one in each borough, by late September. The pilot will last from 6-12 months. In Brooklyn, the B60 bus route, which operates between Williams Avenue/Flatlands Avenue in Canarsie and Williamsburg Bridge Plaza, was chosen as the free route. The B60 serves the Canarsie, Brownsville, Ocean Hill, Bushwick and Williamsburg neighborhoods.” I was immediately on board with the pilot program, as soon as I learned about it,” said Assemblymember Latrice Walker.

The other fare-free routes will include the M116, Bx18A/B, Q4 LCL/LTD and S46/96.

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14-YEAR-OLD BROOKLYN GIRL MISSING

GOWANUS — Police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating 14-year-old Asha Roberts, who was last seen on Saturday, July 15, at her residence near Bond and Douglass streets in Gowanus, within the jurisdiction of the 76th Precinct. Asha is described as 5’3” tall and weighing approximately 200 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair braids. She was last seen wearing an orange tank top, black pajama pants and multi-colored sneakers, and left home with a blue Razor scooter. 

Anyone with information 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 https://crimestoppers.nypdonline.org/.

Asha Roberts, age 14, is missing. Photo: NYPD.

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NEW REPORT ON YOUTH GUN POSSESSION CITES FEAR AND SURVIVAL AS TOP REASONS

CROWN HEIGHTS — The Center for Justice Innovation on Monday, July 17, released a landmark new report detailing the nuanced reasons why young people carry guns. Titled “‘Two Battlefields’: Opps, Cops, and NYC Youth Gun Culture,” and based on interviews with more than 100 young gun-carriers in Crown Heights, the report sought to answer fundamental questions about youth gun culture. The report found that self-preservation and fear were the pervading reasons: fear for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. The youths identified two groups of which they are most fearful — cops and “opps,” a term that refers to rival  (or opposition) gang members, people involved in the street economy or other adversaries.

The majority of interview participants have experienced or witnessed gun violence: 89% have had a friend or family member shot; 80% have witnessed someone get shot; and 76% themselves either have been shot or have narrowly missed bullets.

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MAYOR APPOINTS CITY’S FIRST LATINO POLICE COMMISSIONER

CITY HALL — Mayor Eric Adams on Monday, July 17, officially appointed Edward A. Caban as the 46th commissioner and Tania Kinsella as the 45th first deputy commissioner of the NYPD. Caban becomes the first Latino to serve as commissioner of the NYPD in its 178-year history, and Kinsella is the first woman of color to serve as the first deputy commissioner in NYPD history — although not as the top cop, since Keechant Sewell, the previous commissioner, is also a woman of color. A 32-year veteran of the NYPD and the son of a Transit Police detective, Caban has served at several precincts across the five boroughs, where he held nearly every position within the Police Department before Monday’s promotion to commissioner. He has also served as an adjutant in Brooklyn North. First Deputy Police Commissioner Tania Kinsella, a 20-year NYPD veteran, was promoted to sergeant in 2008 and assigned at the time to the 68th Precinct in Brooklyn; she has since received several more promotions before Monday’s ceremony.

Caban was designated acting police commissioner by Mayor Adams on July 1, 2023, after Keechant Sewell’s resignation last month.

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STATE TAX RECEIPTS LOWER COMPARED TO LAST FISCAL YEAR’S RECEIVABLES

STATEWIDE — Although state tax receipts exceeded Budget Division expectations during the first quarter of State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2023-24, actual collections were billions lower than the year-ago amount, according to the latest monthly State Cash Report from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. State tax receipts totaled $27.6 billion — $450.8 million higher than estimates released in the Division of the Budget’s (DOB) Enacted Budget Financial Plan. However, collections were $6.8 billion lower than last year through the quarter ending in June 2022. And while personal income tax receipts totaled $14.5 billion, this amount was $128.4 million below DOB’s financial plan projections through the first quarter.

Likewise, year-to-date consumption and use (sales) tax collections totaled $5.4 billion, which was 5.9%, or $302 million, higher than the same period last year, but $9.5 million lower than DOB anticipated.


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