What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, July 19, 2023
EMERGENCY DEPT. NURSES WIN PRESTIGIOUS LANTERN AWARD
CONEY ISLAND — The Emergency Department’s nurses at NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn, previously known as Coney Island Hospital, were the first in the public health system’s history to receive the prestigious Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Lantern Award, the medical center announced on Wednesday, July 19. The prestigious honor recognizes the ED nurses’ performance in principal areas of leadership, practice, education, advocacy and research. The worldwide 50,000-member-strong ENA has the mission of advancing excellence in emergency nursing. It maintains core values of collaboration; compassion; diversity and inclusion; excellence; a culture of inquiry, honesty, and integrity; and a spirit of philanthropy.
The newly elevated (to avoid flooding) and expanded Emergency Department in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital on the South Brooklyn Health campus sees about 80,000 emergency visits per year.
COMPTROLLER LANDER TO UPS: RESOLVE PART-TIMERS’
PAY CONCERNS AND AVOID A STRIKE
CITYWIDE — Warning that a protracted strike could harm the economy, NYC Comptroller Brad Lander wrote to United Parcel Service’s CEO, Carol Tomé, urging the parcel shipping and delivery company to address part-time employee pay concerns in its contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Lander, who sent the letter with just two weeks left in the negotiations deadline of August 1, underscored the critical need for resolution amidst the potential ripple effects on the nation’s economy. “We fear that an extended strike could have long-term damaging effects on the company, destroying shareholder value and long-term returns.” His office has warned that failing to reach a resolution threatens to not only slow delivery times for consumers, but also cause supply chain breakdowns for vulnerable industries like small businesses and hospitals.
Part-time employees comprise nearly 50 percent of UPS employees and perform crucial roles as package handlers, loaders and unloaders throughout the parcel system.
MTA APPROVES TRANSIT FARE AND TOLL INCREASES
CITYWIDE — As expected, the MTA board on Wednesday approved a slew of toll hikes to go into effect on August 6, and fare increases on August 20. The base fare for subways, local buses, the Staten Island Railway and Paratransit will rise to $2.90, up from $2.75. Also increasing slightly are express bus fares, 7-day unlimited-ride MetroCards and 30-day unlimited MetroCards. Single rides on subways and buses will increase to $3.25 from the current $3.00; while 7-Day Express Bus Plus MetroCards will rise to $64.00 from the current $62.00. On the plus side, OMNY fares will be capped at no more than $34.00 every seven days, and OMNY customers will be able to start their seven-day fare capping period any day of the week.
MTA provided an online table listing further fare hikes, rates for E-ZPass users, and tolls for bridges and tunnels.
SUNY DOWNSTATE GETS RENEWAL GRANT
FOR HEALTH EQUITY RESEARCH TRAINING
FLATBUSH — SUNY DOWNSTATE has secured a second $10 million National Institutes of Health grant to accelerate health equity research training. The $10 million John Lewis NIMHD Research Endowment Grant (in this case a renewal grant) will increase the original 2017 research endowment to $20 million, expanding the capacity for transformative health equity research, enabling SUNY Downstate to continue the work of its Translational Program of Health Disparities Research Training (TRANSPORT). This project focuses on recruiting and training health equity researchers from underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences.
The renewal grant will also establish a new institute for health equity research as a centralized hub for the endowment programs’ administrative functions. The institute will enhance Downstate’s capacity for educational programs in Brooklyn.
POLICE: 90-YEAR-OLD BUSHWICK MAN IS MISSING
BUSHWICK — A 90-year-old resident of Bushwick disappeared Monday morning, and police are asking the public to contact them if they have any information that will help find him. Gabriel Ismael was last seen around 8 a.m. on Monday at his residence near Eldert Street and Knickerbocker Avenue. He is described as 6’2” tall and 150 pounds, with black eyes, black hair and a mustache.
Anyone with information in regard to his 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). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at https://crimestoppers.nypdonline.org/.
PUBLIC COMMENTS INVITED ON AMENDMENTS
TO BROOKLYN SUBWAY REPAIR PROJECTS
CROWN HEIGHTS AND EAST NEW YORK — Two subway stations in Brooklyn are the focus of a public comment period that begins Wednesday, July 19, and runs through July 28. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council welcomes comments for proposed amendments to Federal Fiscal Years 2023-2027 Transportation Improvement Program. The Brooklyn projects are (T8041256) a platform components repair or replacement at the New Lots Avenue Station on the New Lots line (#3 train between the Utica Avenue stop in Crown Heights and the New Lots station in East New York; and full ADA accessibility at the New Lots Avenue station. An additional project involves the purchase of 90 all-electric, articulated buses throughout the city. Details of the actions listed above and all the proposed changes to the program are available online.
However, two other projects for Brooklyn’s Broadway Junction have been deleted due to delays in submitting the grant proposal for federal monies, and are being advanced only with sponsor agency funds. The work would entail replacing escalators, electrical systems, surveillance panels and other components, all of which were deemed to be “at the end of their useful life.”
DOT COMMISSIONER’S ‘BROOKLYN DAY’ HIGHLIGHTS
VISION ZERO, SAFETY, DELIVERISTAS’ NEEDS
BOROUGHWIDE — City Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez on Wednesday, July 19, celebrated “Brooklyn Day,” one devoted to touring Kings County to gain insight into the borough’s transportation issues and needs. He began the morning by giving the opening remarks at Vision Zero Safety Education Day with the NYPD, an event highlighting a traffic and pedestrian safety education campaign at a busy intersection. Other stops on his schedule included riding a Citi Bike down to Restoration Plaza at Fulton Street and New York Avenue for a discussion with local civic and religious leaders, transportation experts and local organizations; and a stop in the Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights area for a talk on safety matters, the NYC DOT’s helmet-fitting program and giveaways.
The day marked the fourth Commissioner in Your Borough event, and Rodriguez plans more borough-specific visits to continue the discussions on transportation needs.
BK OFFICIALS WANT UBER, LYFT PASSENGERS TO PAY HIGHER CONGESTION PRICING TOLLS
BROOKLYN — Ahead of a 4 p.m. Wednesday meeting of the Traffic Mobility Review Board, 16 Brooklyn officials sent the board a letter calling for patrons of companies like Uber and Lyft to pay “their fair share” of congestion pricing tolls. These passengers currently pay a $2.75 surcharge on trips that begin or enter Manhattan below 96th Street. Yellow cabs would be exempted, taking into consideration that the value of their medallions has cratered, the officials said. “The increased surcharge should be half of the peak toll that is set for entering the congestion zone and somewhat more than this for trips that begin and end in the zone, with discounts for both at night,” the officials wrote. The TMRB will submit its recommendations to the MTA Board.
The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Dan Goldman and Nydia Veláquez; Borough President Antonio Reynoso; State Senators Andrew Gounardes, Kristen Gonzalez and Julia Salazar; Councilmembers Lincoln Restler, Shahana Hanif, Alexa Avilés, Jennifer Gutiérrez and Crystal Hudson; and Assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon, Robert Carroll, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Emily Gallagher and Marcella Mityanes.
HIGH PERCENTAGE OF BK PIPES CONTAMINATED WITH LEAD
BOROUGHWIDE — As many as one in five New Yorkers may be drinking their water from lead pipes, Gothamist reports — and Brooklyn has more contaminated pipes than the citywide average. Gothamist cites a new study on lead pipes by the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning. The study found that 13% of Brooklyn pipes were contaminated with lead, while 33% were possibly contaminated. Some neighborhoods, such as Coney Island, Greenpoint, Borough Park, Flatbush, Sunset Park and others, are particular lead “hot spots.”
Lead is a dangerous heavy metal that can cause permanent brain damage and other developmental problems in children if consumed.
LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES POSSIBLE CAUSE OF FLATBUSH DELI FIRE
FLATBUSH — Firefighters battled a smoky blaze in a Flatbush deli that was possibly sparked by lithium-ion batteries late Monday night, AMNY reports. FDNY responding at roughly 11:22 p.m. to the Promise Food Deli at 4201 Farragut Rd. were met with heavy smoke “seeping from behind the roll-down gates,” AMNY reported. Three Hazmat companies removed several electrical bikes and batteries from the premises, but an official investigation into the cause of the fire is not complete.
No injuries were reported, but the blaze caused severe damage to the second-floor apartments above the store.
BROOKLYN’S REBECCA WEINER TAPPED FOR NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERTERRORISM
CITYWIDE — NYC Police Commissioner Edward Caban and Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday announced the appointment of Brooklyn resident Rebecca Ulam Weiner as deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD. A 17-year veteran of the NYPD with a resume a mile long, Weiner has overseen investigative, analytical, operational and engagement efforts across counterterrorism, counterintelligence, criminal intelligence and numerous other domains. Weiner also served as legal counsel to the NYPD Intelligence Bureau’s Intelligence Analysis Unit and as team leader for the Middle East and North Africa. Weiner, who is the first woman to serve in this capacity, lives with her husband Drake and two sons, Xavier and Damien, who she called “Brooklyn born-and-bred.”
Weiner graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a B.A. in history and literature and cum laude from Harvard Law School with a juris doctorate. Service runs in her family: after immigrating to the U.S. from Poland, Weiner’s grandfather served as a mathematician on the Manhattan Project.
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.
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.
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.
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 callback 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, proposed 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.
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.
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 U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking what actions the department has taken to address the threat of domestic violent extremism within DHS itself. “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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