What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, August 9, 2023
BK D.A. GONZALEZ PUTS DEED-THEFT FRAUDSTER BEHIND BARS
BROOKLYN — BROOKLYN D.A. ERIC GONZALEZ ANNOUNCED on Wednesday that Derrick Johnson, a.k.a. Jay Rendell, 60, of Clinton Hill, has pleaded guilty in a deed fraud scheme in connection with two properties, one in Bedford-Stuyvesant and the other in Bushwick. He also committed mortgage fraud related to a third property in Park Slope. Johnson had pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon in January, but jumped bail and fled to Georgia, where he was arrested.
Johnson appeared before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Johnson, who promised the defendant an indeterminate term of three to nine years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 30. All his sentences will run concurrently.
NEW YORK STATE LAUNCHES
STATEWIDE — NEW YORK STATE HAS LAUNCHED A NEW CYBER-SECURITY STRATEGY, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday, Aug. 9. This first-ever statewide cybersecurity strategy aims to protect New York’s digital infrastructure from the latest cyber threats and articulates a set of high-level objectives for cybersecurity and resilience across the state. The Cyber-Security Strategy also clarifies agency roles and responsibilities, outlines the interconnectivity of existing and planned initiatives and investments in a unified approach, provides public and private stakeholders with a roadmap for cyber risk mitigation and outlines a plan to protect critical infrastructure, networks, data, and technology.
During her address, Gov. Hochul praised NYU-Tandon School of Engineering, where the announcement was made, for “leading the charge, sounding the alarm about the need to protect cyberspace. And people were very unfamiliar with everything we’re talking about, but this institution took the lead.” Hochul added that her administration has hired many NYU Tandon graduates.
HISTORIC CONCORDE AIRCRAFT TAKES BARGE TO BROOKLYN
BROOKLYN — A BRITISH AIRWAYS CONCORDE, once one of the fastest commercial aircrafts in the world, was in the air again on Wednesday, but just momentarily — as it was removed by crane from its perch on the Intrepid Sea and Space Museum and placed on a barge for transport to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where it will be restored. The museum’s Manhattan pier will be enlarged as well while the world-famous Concorde is temporarily ensconced in Brooklyn, ABC reports.
The Concorde has been on exhibit at the museum for 20 years. The restoration process at the Navy Yard will include sanding and stripping the plane down to bare metal.
NYC FERRY CONTRACT GOES TO HORNBLOWER, AGAIN
CITYWIDE — NYC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION ANNOUNCED on Tuesday that the city has granted a new five-year NYC Ferry contract to Hornblower Group, the company that has operated the ferry since 2017. EDC says Hornblower has achieved “record-breaking ridership, exceeding pre-pandemic levels with farebox revenue up more than $6 million,” and expects its per-passenger subsidy is on track to be reduced by nearly 30% by 2025.
The value of the contract, worth up to $405 million, is more than 2.5 times larger than the $160 million in revenue the city expects to earn from ferry fares, advertising, and concessions during the same period, amNY points out.
WEWORK TANKING, DOUBTS IT CAN STAY IN BUSINESS
NATIONWIDE /BROOKLYN — WORKSPACE-SHARING COMPANY WEWORK WARNED on Tuesday that “substantial doubt exists about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” amid steep losses, a shortage of cash and turmoil as top executives depart, according to news sources including the New York Times. The company’s shares plunged 27% Tuesday and another 40% Wednesday, to roughly 13 cents a share in midday trading. If WeWork collapses, it could “deepen the rout” in the office space market, the Times said.
Brooklyn WeWork locations include 195 Montague St., 77 Sands St. and 1 Dock 72 Way at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
TRANSNATIONAL KINGPIN CONVICTED
FOR MURDER, RACKETEERING, ROBBERIES
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — THE KINGPIN OF A TRANSNATIONAL CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION WAS CONVICTED of 17 of the 18 counts against him, in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday, Aug. 9. A federal jury handed down a guilty verdict against Melvi Amador-Rios, a leader of the Centrales Locos Salvatruchas (“CLS”) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, who is convicted of racketeering and murder in-aid-of racketeering in connection with the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Julio Vasquez in Queens on May 16, 2017. Several other counts are included for Hobbs Act robberies and a conviction for ordering a non-fatal shooting that left a victim paralyzed.
The verdict followed a three-week trial before United States District Judge Rachel P. Kovner. When sentenced, Amador-Rios faces a mandatory term of life in prison.
MAIMONIDES HEALTH MARKS 20 YEARS
IN SUMMER YOUTH EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM
BOROUGH PARK — NEARLY 400 YOUTH PROGRAM VOLUNTEERS WERE RECOGNIZED at Maimonides Health on Tuesday, Aug. 8, as they celebrated the program’s 20th year as the city’s largest summer youth employment program. Maimonides Health (a system of which Maimonides Medical Center is the anchor), is considered the largest site for New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development Summer Youth Employment Program, with this year’s theme being “When Action Meets Compassion, Lives Change!” The youth participants from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, assist in all aspects of Maimonides’ operations, from business and medical offices to patient care areas and support services. They also attend workshops on workplace readiness, résumé building and budget planning to help them succeed in the workplace.
The NYPD Police Band’s entrance began the Youth Recognition Ceremony, with speakers and presenters including Douglas Jablon, executive vice president of Maimonides Medical Center, keynote speaker Daphne Montanez, associate commissioner, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development; Ken Gibbs, president & CEO, Maimonides Health; and Nancy Hagans, RN, NYSNA president and resource nurse at Maimonides Medical Center.
NYC: CHECK WATER QUALITY BEFORE GOING TO THE BEACH
CITYWIDE — WATER QUALITY HEADED DOWNHILL recently at several city beaches, and the Department of Health is advising beachgoers to check for water advisories and beach closures before hitting the waves. To find out about the status of a city beach, text “BEACH” to 55676, call 311 or check out the NYC Area Beach Map at nyc.gov/beaches. The most recent data shown on the city’s map shows high levels of bacteria at some beaches following recent heavy rains, including the water off Coney Island.
While bacteria levels usually hover around 10-20 bacteria per 100 mL of water at Coney Island, on Aug. 7, the sample held 766 bacteria. Rockaway Beach, on the other hand, had low bacteria levels — but was recently the site of a serious shark attack.
CALLAHAN-KELLY PLAYGROUND SET TO REOPEN
AFTER YEARS-LONG RECONSTRUCTION
OCEAN HILL/BROWNSVILLE — THE CALLAHAN-KELLY PLAYGROUND SHOULD FINALLY OPEN in time for this weekend, now that its long-awaited reconstruction is complete, an official from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation announced to Brooklyn Community Board 16 on Wednesday, Aug. 9. The scope of this project, whose design stage began in 2016, with a completed construction date of April 2023 (delays in part due to the pandemic), included playground reconstruction, installation of spray shower, perimeter sidewalks and walls, basketball courts, adult fitness equipment and sitting areas, and a new skate park and park entrances. The construction fences were scheduled to be removed this week.
Callahan-Kelly Park, in Ocean Hill-Brownsville near Broadway Junction, is named for two U.S. soldiers who were killed in combat during World War I: for William E. Callahan (whose home was at 98 Hinsdale Street) and Edward E. Kelly (who resided on Herkimer Street).
COMPLAINTS POUR IN OVER ICE CREAM TRUCK POLLUTION
AND COUNCILMEMBER RESTLER’S PROPOSED SOLUTION
DUMBO AND BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — CITY COUNCILMEMBER LINCOLN RESTLER (D-33) IS ALREADY FACING PUSHBACK for his proposal to make ice cream trucks switch to more environmentally-friendly generators, even though locals are also complaining to 311 about noise and pollution they generate, reports Gothamist. Restler’s bill would require ice cream trucks to switch from generators using carbon-based fuel to provide electricity for food equipment and would become effective three years after being signed into law, giving owners of these trucks time to buy new generators.
Identifying as an ice cream lover, Restler said that the city has received — from DUMBO residents alone — thousands of noise and pollution complaints on its 311 number about ice cream trucks. Yet, they allegedly don’t like his solution, either. Restler told Gothamist, “People have called our office with threatening messages, have said really harmful and awful things to members of my staff.”
NYS DEPT OF LABOR REPORT SHEDS LIGHT ON AGENCY’S HANDLING OF COVID CRISIS
STATEWIDE — THE NYS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR HAS RELEASED an unusually engaging report detailing its Herculean efforts to provide unemployment benefits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The report describes how NYSDOL was forced to transform in the midst of the crisis as the unemployment rate skyrocketed overnight from 3.9% to 16.5% — just as the agency was in year two of a multi-year overhaul of its outdated technology. Weekly phone calls increased from 50,000 before the pandemic to 8 million at its height. (More than a million people attempted to call on one memorable day.) Throughout the pandemic, NYSDOL paid out more than $105 billion in benefits to nearly 5 million residents.
NYSDOL also faced massive fraud attempts by international cyber criminals. DOL detected more than 1.5 million cases of fraudulent claims, generating roughly $4 billion in losses. The full report can be found online.
VOTE FOR FEATURE FILM TO CLOSE
SUMMER 2023 ‘MOVIES WITH A VIEW’ SERIES
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK — MOVIEGOERS NOW HAVE THIER CHANCE TO SELECT the closing film of the summer series at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Voting for Movies With A View: Public Choice has opened, with the three choices being The Addams Family, Romeo & Juliet and Little Women. Voting ends on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 3 p.m., with the winning movie being announced the next evening during the showing of Everything Everywhere All At Once (rated R), on Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Pier 1 Harbor View Lawn.
Lawn opens at 6 p.m., with Time Out Market, one of the vendors, opening at 5 p.m. Other sponsoring vendors and partners at Brooklyn Bridge Park include BAM Film, Brooklyn Radio, Time Out Market New York, Transportation Alternatives and Frost Productions.
KENDRICK LAMAR MAY MOVE TO BROOKLYN
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS –– KENDRICK LAMAR, THE RAPPER AND PERFORMER, who authored contemporary greats like “HUMBLE.” and “Money Trees,” is looking at a penthouse in the star-studded neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, reports the New York Post’s real estate column, “Gimme Shelter.” Most recently, Lamar had drawn massive crowds at Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival, but he might fly eastward back into a new home. One of the penthouses Lamar looked at was at Quay Tower, where fellow celebrity and “Euphoria” star Zendaya also owns a unit. Lamar allegedly showed up to look at the place with a few of his friends.
Kendrick Lamar’s maybe-home-to-be includes a children’s center, a music room with a baby grand piano and a concierge.
RENOVATIONS AT F LINE’S AVE. I TRAIN COMPLETED
MIDWOOD — THE MTA ON TUESDAY ANNOUNCED THAT CREWS COMPLETED much-needed aesthetic and functional renovations of the F train’s Avenue I station in Midwood, Brooklyn. This work is part of New York City Transit (NYCT)’s Re-NEW-Vation Program. Transit workers scraped peeling paint, primed surfaces, did gutter repairs on the platforms and mezzanine, installed new LED lighting and performed deep cleaning.
“By taking advantage of planned service changes, we were able to respond directly to customer concerns and provide a cleaner, more inviting subway station,” said MTA New York City Transit President Richard Davey.
HIGH-PROFILE TRAFFICKING RINGLEADER GETS MULTIPLE PRISON SENTENCES
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — THE LEADER OF A MULTIBILLION PARAMILITARY AND DRUG TRAFFICKING ENTERPRISE on Tuesday, Aug. 8, was sentenced to 45 years in prison and ordered to pay $216 million in forfeiture. United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry presided at the sentencing, in Brooklyn federal court, of Colombian citizen Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. “Otoniel,” 51, who was known by various other aliases and who had led “Clan del Golfo,” a criminal enterprise from 2003 to 2021. The defendant was sentenced to another 45 years (but to be served concurrently) for participating in a maritime narcotics conspiracy and 45 years imprisonment for engaging in a narcotics importation conspiracy.
Úsuga David had participated in conspiracies to distribute narcotics via maritime vessels and also to manufacture and distribute cocaine, knowing and intending that the narcotics would be illegally imported into the United States. He pleaded guilty to all these charges in January of this year.
IN MEMORIAM: REV. THADDEUS GRZELAK, 84, SERVED ST. CHARLES BORROMEO PARISH
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS AND MIDDLE VILLAGE — FATHER THADDEUS A. GRZELAK, who for many years served as a parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo Church, has died, the diocesan Tablet newspaper reported last week. Familiarly known to his parishioners as “Father Ted,” he died at age 84, on May 29, the 58th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Ordained in 1965, Fr. Grzelak served the Diocese of Brooklyn as parochial vicar at several other parishes including, in Brooklyn, Our Lady Help of Christians, Saint Nicholas and Holy Innocents; as well as parishes in Queens. Bishop Robert Brennan presided at a July 24 funeral Mass for Fr. Grzelak, who is buried at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village.
Fr. Grzelak was known as a priest “who preached Gospel with Kindness.” Fr. Thomas Machalski, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Bayside, recalls that Father Grzelak was “immensely popular” in the many parishes where he ministered, “because he was always kind, always upbeat, always smiling.”
ASSEMBLYMAN COLTON, A PAST EDUCATOR, FIGHTS TO KEEP SPECIALIZED ADMISSION TEST
BENSONHURST AND CITYWIDE — PERCEIVING A NEW THREAT TO PRESERVING the city’s Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, Assemblymember William Colton is urging parents to mobilize. Colton, along with Susan Zhuang as his chief of staff, has defeated previous attacks on the Specialized High School Admissions Test. He urges the city’s Department of Education to expand proven offerings such as Gifted & Talented Programs and pointed out that in 2022 the city announced it would be adding seats to the program to make it available in all the city’s school districts.
A former teacher, Assemblymember Colton asserts that the test is an important portal for children of immigrant and working-class families who can excel and gain admission to a top public high school, and thus a gateway to a rewarding career.
SHARK ATTACK ON ROCKAWAY BEACH
ROCKAWAY PENINSULA, QUEENS — A SHARK ATTACK ON ROCKAWAY BEACH THAT HAPPENED just before 6 p.m. Monday has local residents concerned, although such an occurrence is rare. Authorities say a 65-year-old woman was seriously injured when a shark bit her on her left leg while she was swimming, and a police spokesperson says the woman was hospitalized in critical but stable condition. Lifeguards cleared swimmers from the water. Police searched the area for sharks with a helicopter but did not find any.
The bite removed a chunk of flesh from her thigh, leaving a gaping wound several inches wide and deep, according to a photo shared with The Associated Press. According to the AP, there are 57 shark attacks per year worldwide.
SUPREME COURT REINSTATES REGULATIONS ON GHOST GUNS
NATIONWIDE — GHOST GUNS WILL AGAIN BE REGULATED, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Tuesday, Aug. 9. The Supreme Court has reinstated regulations on these untraceable guns, which can be produced on 3D printers or sold in kits, without serial numbers. The Associated Press reported that the so-called “ghost guns” have been increasingly showing up at crime scenes around the U.S. The Supreme Court’s vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining the court’s three liberal justices to form the majority, puts on hold a federal judge’s ruling that invalidated the Biden administration’s regulation of ghost gun kits, putting the regulation back into effect while the administration appeals the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Earlier this year, NY Attorney General Letitia James had won a court order to immediately stop 10 national gun distributors from selling and shipping into New York State unfinished frames and receivers, which are key components of untraceable — and deadly — ghost guns.
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