What’s News, Breaking: Friday, July 21, 2023
TONY BENNETT, 96, DIES; MADE SONG
ABOUT THE ‘CITY BY THE BAY’ HIS OWN
THE ICONIC SINGER TONY BENNETT, whose soulful ballad, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1962 became his signature song, died on Friday, July 21 — just two weeks before his 97th birthday, which would have been August 3. Bennett, born as Antonio Dominick Benedetto on Aug. 3, 1926 in Long Island City, began singing early in life. He sold more than 50 million records globally, won 20 Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Named a NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree, he also founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.
Interestingly, “I left My Heart in San Francisco, which peaked on Billboard at #19, had been written nine years earlier, in Brooklyn Heights. Songwriters George C. Cory, Jr., and Douglas Cross, who had moved to New York City to seek their fortunes but found themselves very homesick for the West Coast. Both Cory and Cross died in their 50s but the man who made their song famous lived to 96.
MAYOR INITIATES NEIGHBORHOOD AWARDS
CITYWIDE — A NEW INITIATIVE FROM THE MAYOR’S OFFICE will honor New Yorkers who have lived on their blocks or served in a civic organization the longest, according to an announcement from Community Board 10. Mayor Eric Adams’ Community Affairs Unit invites nominations of longtime residents who have demonstrated wisdom, history, commitment, and compassion to their neighbors for the Neighborhood Awards. Block/civic/tenant associations are encouraged to nominate a neighbor online.
Having been a former police officer and captain, a state senator, and Brooklyn borough president, Adams wants to recognize constituents who have also devoted their lives to public service in many ways.
NJ SUES FEDS OVER CONGESTION PRICING PLAN
NEW JERSEY — NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY FILED A FEDERAL LAWSUIT on Friday against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration over NYC’s plan to charge motorists driving into midtown Manhattan congestion pricing fees as high as $23, Bloomberg reports. NJ contends that the decision violates the National Environmental Policy Act since the new tolls “turn a blind eye to the significant environmental impacts that congestion pricing … will have on New Jersey, favoring New York at the expense of its neighbors,” the state said.
The Congestion Pricing Now Coalition pushed back against the lawsuit, saying in a statement on Friday, “Every day we delay implementing this policy is another day we are not funding transit, reducing dangerous emissions in our air, and managing traffic congestion across New York City and the metropolitan region.”
MTA: NJ CONGESTION PRICING RALLY IS ‘BASELESS’
NEW JERSEY — JOHN MCCARTHY, CHIEF OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS FOR THE MTA, said in a statement on Friday that New Jersey’s lawsuit against New York City’s congestion pricing plan is baseless. “The 4,000-page Environmental Assessment performed by MTA, NYS DOT and NYC DOT was supervised at every stage and specifically approved by the Biden Administration,” McCarthy said. Contrary to NJ’s claims, the assessment covered “every conceivable potential traffic, air quality, social and economic effect, and also reviewed and responded to more than 80,000 comments and submissions,” he said.
While NJ claimed there wasn’t enough opportunity for residents to be heard on the issue, McCarthy pointed out the six public hearings and 19 outreach sessions, “in which dozens of officials from New Jersey agencies participated.”
STARTING AUG. 1, FOOD BUSINESSES MUST USE RAT-PROOF GARBAGE RECEPTACLES WITH LIDS
CITYWIDE — NYC’S WAR ON RATS INTENSIFIES: A new rule will go into effect Aug. 1 which requires all NYC food-related businesses to set out any “putrescible” organic garbage at the curb in rigid receptacles with tight-fitting lids, the city’s Department of Sanitation said Thursday. DSNY held a public hearing on the proposed rule on June 22. The rule can be suspended in the event of a mayoral declaration of a health, weather or solid waste emergency, or “if the use of such receptacles would constitute a public nuisance,” DSNY said.
Numerous Brooklyn residents sent in comments supporting the new rule, citing frequent nighttime encounters with rats chewing through plastic bags filled with food garbage on the sidewalk.
PRAISES AI COMPANIES
FOR VOLUNTEERING TO MANAGE RISKS
CAPITOL HILL — CONGRESSWOMAN YVETTE D. CLARKE (D-09/Central Brooklyn) IS PRAISING THE BIDEN-HARRIS ADMINISTRATION for having secured voluntary commitments from seven leading artificial intelligence companies to manage the risks that AI poses. She also praised the companies for cooperating with “voluntary safeguards aimed at reducing bias, mitigating national security risks, and protecting the rights, information, and safety of the American people,” pointing out the importance of balancing security with the value of innovation.
Rep. Clarke said she will be reintroducing into Congress the Algorithmic Accountability Act, “which would require companies to assess the impacts of the automated systems they use and sell, and the DEEPFAKES Accountability Act, which would require a digital watermark on all AI-generated images and videos.”
NEW ELEVATORS MAKE TWO MORE SUBWAY STATIONS FULLY ACCESSIBLE
BROOKLYN/MANHATTAN — THE MTA ANNOUNCED ON WEDNESDAY THE OPENING OF two new ADA-compliant elevators: one at the 8th Avenue N station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and another at the Dyckman Street 1 train station in Inwood, Upper Manhattan, which opened on July 14. Both stations are now fully accessible. The new 8th Avenue elevator connects customers between the street and downtown platform, while the Dyckman Street elevator connects customers between the street and the uptown platform. Both elevators include an emergency two-way communication system via either voice or visually by answering on-screen questions, which improves communication for hearing impaired riders.
The 2020-2024 MTA Capital Plan includes a historic investment of $5.2 billion to make 67 subway stations ADA accessible, more than any Capital Plan in MTA’s history, MTA said in a statement.
DUMBO GUY MAY HAVE FIGURED OUT WHY TRUCKS KEEP GETTING STUCK ON BROOKLYN BRIDGE
DUMBO — A TECH CONSULTANT WHO WORKS IN DUMBO may have figured out at least part of the reason trucks keep getting stuck on the Brooklyn Bridge, resulting in miles-long traffic jams on the BQE. One issue lies with the chains that are supposed to dangle from the exit sign on the BQE to alert trucks they can’t fit on the bridge. The chains, however, are wrapped around the sign’s pole “probably because they’ve been hit so many times,” Michael Cata told Gothamist.
Cata and his colleagues documented almost 40 stuck trucks on the bridge over the last 12 months and presented the data and potential solutions via Powerpoint to DOT — but they seem to be getting a bit of a runaround, Gothamist reports.
STARS PITCH IN TO HELP FEED HUNGRY FAMILIES
SUNSET PARK — STARS KAREN PITTMAN (“And Just Like That”) AND TAYSHIA ADAMS (“Bachelor Nation”) VOLUNTEERED with the nonprofits City Harvest and Feeding America on Tuesday to help out hungry New Yorkers in need. The celebs helped to repack food rescued from farmers, wholesalers and manufacturers, which will be donated to children and families in New York City. Hundreds of pounds of food are being repackaged at City Harvest’s Cohen Community Food Rescue Center in Sunset Park.
According to the Fund for the City of New York, 50% of NYC households can’t meet their basic financial needs, including food costs.
NEW BILL WOULD FORBID CONGRESSPEOPLE AND SENIOR OFFICIALS FROM OWNING OR TRADING STOCKS
NATIONWIDE — NEW LEGISLATION THAT WOULD ESSENTIALLY BAN CONGRESSPEOPLE, SENIOR EXECUTIVE BRANCH OFFICIALS AND THEIR FAMILIES from owning and trading stock was introduced into Congress on Thursday, July 20. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act, which is being hailed as representing the most substantial bipartisan effort to date. Provisions of the bill would prohibit members of Congress, the president, vice president, senior executive branch members, and their spouses and dependents from holding or trading stocks, not exempting blind trusts, and with stringent disclosure requirements. Failure to comply would impose a 10% penalty on the value of the banned investment.
Gillibrand and the bill’s sponsors believe that statistics prove the need for this legislation: one-third of Congressmembers traded stocks or other financial assets from 2019 to 2021; one in seven members of the 117th Congress violated the STOCK Act by failing to report their stock trades properly. More than 20% of senior federal officials held stock in companies that were lobbying their agencies, from 2016-2021.
REFORMS WILL EASE TIMELY PAYMENTS
TO NON-PROFITS UNDER CONTRACT WITH CITY
CITYWIDE — NONPROFITS THAT CONTRACT WITH THE CITY ON SERVICES will find it easier to get paid on time, thanks to a new reform that Mayor Eric Adams, City Comptroller Brad Lander and the Mayor’s Offices of Contract Services and Nonprofits announced on Thursday, July 20. The reform will eliminate red tape because nonprofits receiving City Council discretionary spending will be allowed to enter into multi-year contracts without completing the entire procurement process every year. An estimated 73% of nonprofit discretionary providers that receive city funding will now receive expedited payments.
The reform builds on the Adams administration’s early success in achieving an 80% timely registration rate for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) human services contracts.
FATHER OF 4 STABBED TO DEATH, 2 OTHERS SLASHED IN WILLIAMSBURG FIGHT
WILLIAMSBURG — A Bushwick father of four, Severiano Reyes, 36, was fatally stabbed in the neck during a fight outside a Williamsburg bodega at Roebling and South 9th streets on Tuesday evening at roughly 8:38 p.m. In the same incident, a 45-year-old man was slashed in the neck and back, and a 27-year-old woman was slashed in the wrist, according to a police spokesperson.
Friends and family of Reyes told Gothamist his killer was an acquaintance who had a long-standing beef with him. The others who were wounded had tried to come to his aid, they said.
ADAMS: NYC SHELTERS TO GIVE ADULT ASYLUM SEEKERS THE BOOT AFTER 60 DAYS
CITYWIDE — Claiming that the city can no longer handle incoming asylum seekers, adult immigrants in shelters will get 60 days’ notice to find alternative housing, Mayor Eric Adams said on Wednesday. He added that the immigrants will get “intensified casework services” to help them “explore other housing options.” Adams received immediate pushback from Comptroller Brad Lander and other officials. “The Mayor’s announcement today doesn’t just undermine the right-to-shelter, but the defining role of New York as a beacon of promise inscribed at the base of the Statute of Liberty,” Lander said in a statement.
“The right to shelter has been in place for over 30 years, and that right does not simply expire after 60 days in the face of a crisis,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said in an emailed statement.
MTA TO MAKE TURNSTILE CHEATING MORE DIFFICULT
CITYWIDE — MTA plans to re-tool all 3,479 of the city’s subway turnstiles to prevent riders from evading the fare by using the popular “back-cocking” technique, according to Gothamist. “We’ve all seen it,” senior vice president of subways Demetrius Crichlow said during a committee meeting on Monday. “Someone pulls back on the bar just far enough to step over it when reversing to go in the forward direction.” The turnstiles will be re-engineered to make a half-rotation whenever they’re pulled in the opposite direction, frustrating riders’ attempts to easily breeze through.
MTA said recently that it lost $690 million a year from fare evasion. Meanwhile, the cost to retrofit the turnstiles is roughly $1.8 million. An editor at The Brooklyn Daily Eagle witnessed the “back-cocking” trick on Wednesday, July 19 at the York Street F Train station. While the perp was a Spaniard tourist, it remains a local issue.
NYC DOE REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH FAMILIES OF DISABLED STUDENTS
CITYWIDE — Mayor Eric Adams and the NYC Department of Education Chancellor David Banks announced on Wednesday that the city has reached an agreement in a 20-year-old court case to provide equitable, comprehensive, and timely support to disabled students and their families who have chosen to exercise their due process rights. The agreement stems from the 2003 class action lawsuit LV et.al v. NYC DOE, containing 40 requirements that DOE must meet to improve services for disabled students and their families.
In the lawsuit, parents of disabled children claimed that they had received favorable outcomes in hearings, but DOE was not implementing the orders.
44 CONDITIONAL CANNABIS LICENSES AWARDED IN BROOKLYN
STATEWIDE — The New York State Cannabis Control Board voted on Wednesday to approve 212 more provisional licenses statewide for recreational weed shops, all going to people with past marijuana convictions. Of these, 44 were awarded in Brooklyn; 46 in Manhattan; 14 in Queens; nine in the Bronx and five in Staten Island. (The rest went to other areas in New York state.) The awardees are now free to find a suitable retail location, but they must submit final plans for approval.
The board has awarded 463 conditional adult-use licenses to justice-involved New Yorkers to date, NY State of Politics reports.
‘GOLDIE’S ACT’ WOULD PROTECT DOGS IN PUPPY MILLS
CAPITOL HILL AND BAY RIDGE — Pushing for her bipartisan legislation, “Goldie’s Act,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-11/southwestern Brooklyn-Staten Island), an animal lover, joined the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASCPA), a bipartisan group of colleagues and award-winning actor Bellamy Young, on Thursday, July 20 at a “Howl to the Hill” rally. Specifically, Goldie’s Act would ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does its job to protect dogs in federally licensed puppy mills, and would require the USDA to conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections, provide lifesaving intervention for suffering animals, issue penalties for violations, and communicate with local law enforcement to address cruelty and neglect.
The event, held with animal rights advocates, “aims to raise awareness about Goldie, a beautiful Golden Retriever who endured months of agony and pain under the USDA’s watch and suffered a preventable death in an Iowa puppy mill,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA government relations. She called out what she and others assert is the USDA’s callous and ongoing “failure to enforce the law” to prevent cruelty.
THREE PUBLIC HOSPITALS IN BROOKLYN EARN RECOGNITION FOR HEALTH AND PAY EQUITY
EAST FLATBUSH, CONEY ISLAND, BUSHWICK — Three Brooklyn facilities of the NYC Health + Hospitals system have earned distinctions from the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan health care think tank, As a public hospital system, NYC Health + Hospitals ranks #2 nationwide in health equity for its strong performance across metrics of community benefit, pay equity and inclusivity, according to the 2023-24 Lown Index for Social Responsibility, which examines more than 3,600 hospitals in the U.S. along criteria of 53 metrics. Kings County Medical Center in East Flatbush earned “A” Grades in Health Equity, Community Benefit, Inclusivity, Pay Equity, Value of Care, and Avoiding Overuse. South Brooklyn Health was recognized as #1 in New York for Pay Equity, and earned an “A” grade for Health Equity and Community Benefit. Woodhull Hospital near Broadway Triangle earned an “A” grade for Health Equity, Community Benefit, Inclusivity and Pay Equity.
The founder of the Lown Institute (established 1973) was Lithuanian-born Nobel Peace Prize winner Bernard Lown, MD, who developed the defibrillator and cardioverter. He died in 2021, just four months before his 100th birthday.
VOICE OF GOWANUS DENOUNCES GOVERNOR’S REMARKS ON NEED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP
GOWANUS — The Voice of Gowanus, an advocacy group for local residents, has expressed anger at New York Gov. Kathy Hochul for statements she made at a press conference on Tuesday, July 18 while visiting the neighborhood. According to a newsletter that VOG distributed on July 20, Hochul announced plans to “reconstitute a contrived version of the failed 421a tax exemption, a NY State developer-funding program that was supposed to bring affordable housing into NYC but did the opposite.” VOG pointed out in its newsletter that, although the state legislature pulled its support for the legislation, Hochul plans to implement it through executive order.
Voice of Gowanus is also protesting what they call the governor’s indifference toward the need for environmental cleanups, as expressed in a recent letter-writing campaign. The group quoted Hochul’s recorded remarks (on YouTube): “I’m asking the DEC and Department of State to just, can you streamline a little bit? Do we have to really be the toughest state for doing all this? It’s not necessary,” VOG countered that the environmental laws are meant to protect all New Yorkers.
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