What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, September 14, 2023
BROOKLYN CONGRESSMEMBER PRAISES
DHS’ NEW POLICY ON AI TECHNOLOGY
CENTRAL BROOKLYN AND NATIONWIDE — U.S. REP. YVETTE D. CLARKE (D-09), SENIOR MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY and the Committee on Energy and Commerce, has praised the new Artificial Intelligence (AI) guidelines that the Department of Homeland Security released on Thursday, Sept. 14. Rep. Clarke’s statement, excerpted in part here, commends the continuation of the “Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious approach to the responsible use of artificial intelligence, and I commend Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas for leading this important effort,” she wrote. “For years, we have seen the unintended and harmful consequences from the use of AI, particularly when it comes to bias, discrimination, and lack of explainability.”
“And it is all too important that our federal government works to keep pace with the rapid development of emerging technologies, while also ensuring the protection of the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties that are enshrined within our Constitution,” wrote Clarke.
HOMELAND SECURITY ISSUES NEW POLICIES ON RESPONSIBLE USE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
NATIONWIDE — THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY on Thursday, Sept. 14, announced new policies meant to ensure responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the department. As part of the longer Policy Statement 139-06, “Acquisition and Use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by DHS Components,” “DHS will not collect, use, or disseminate data used in AI activities, or establish AI-enabled systems that make or support decisions, based on the inappropriate consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, nationality, medical condition, or disability.” As part of the longer Directive 026-11, “Use of Face Recognition and Face Capture Technologies” dictates that all uses of face recognition and face capture technologies will be thoroughly tested to ensure there is no unintended bias or disparate impact in accordance with national standards.”
The directive also requires that U.S. citizens be afforded the right to opt out of face recognition for specific, non-law-enforcement uses, prohibits face recognition from being used as the sole basis of any law or civil enforcement-related action, and establishes a process for DHS oversight offices.
REVIVED BILL WOULD REQUIRE
DISCLOSURE OF CEO PAY RAISES
NATIONWIDE —THE GROWING INCOMING DISCREPANCY BETWEEN COMPANY CEOs, their senior staffers and median-pay employees is at the heart of a bill that Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-07), reintroduced in Congress on Thursday, Sept 14. Velázquez’s bill, the Greater Accountability in Pay Act, (House Resolution number still pending) would require public companies to disclose the pay raise percentage of its executives and median-pay employees and compare each to the inflation rate. It would also require public companies to disclose the ratio between the two pay raise percentages. Velázquez reintroduced the bill following disclosures that CEOs at the Big Three automakers make as much as 365 times more than their median employees, and pay for these CEOs has increased more than 40 percent since the first bill.
The legislation builds on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which the Congresswoman was closely involved in drafting. Dodd-Frank required publicly traded companies to provide information comparing the annual compensation of their CEOs to their employees.
ATLANTIC AVE. BID GETS NEW BANNERS,
CUSTOM-DESIGNED TO LOCAL CULTURE
ATLANTIC AVENUE — BRAND-NEW BANNERS WILL COME TO ATLANTIC AVENUE’S DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN CORRIDOR on Friday, Sept. 15, thanks to a Single District Small BID Support Grant. The Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District (AABID) was competitively selected as part of a program with the New York City Small Business Services office. The Studio of Joshua Levi, based in Boerum Hill, handled the creative project; Levi is a former senior art director for The New York Times who now specializes in brand design, with past clients including Apple, Google and Harvard University. The banners, which will be the avenue’s first set in more than half a decade, were custom-designed for Atlantic Avenue in a custom typeface and showcase quintessential Atlantic Avenue moments. Images depict street scenes, local culture and culturally-diverse cuisine, among other themes.
The banners, whose funding is part of Mayor Eric Adams’ “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery,” will be installed along Atlantic Ave. and side streets, from the BQE to 4th Avenue. To read more about AABID’s exciting changes, read here.
BROOKLYN SHOWS 2ND HIGHEST MEDIAN RENTS FOR AUGUST,
PER REPORT FROM DOUGLAS ELLIMAN REAL ESTATE
BOROUGHWIDE — BROOKLYN MEDIAN RENTS WERE THE SECOND-HIGHEST ON RECORD during August, while part of Queens reached new heights, according to a new report from the real estate company Douglas Elliman and appraiser Miller Samuel, which was republished in the Daily News on Thursday, Sept. 14. Average rent per square foot and average rental prices in Brooklyn set new records, the Elliman Report August 2023 indicated, while new lease signings declined annually for the fourth time in five months. Listing inventory dropped by more than half year over year and was well below pre-pandemic levels. Brooklyn median rent for August was at $3,850, $100 or 2.5% less than the previous month before, from the previous month, and reflecting a 10% bump from August of last year.
Meanwhile, studio rents in Brooklyn rose to $3,215, reflecting a 2.1% increase within a month of the last report.
NYU TANDON PROFESSORS WIN ‘TEST OF TIME AWARD’
FOR THEIR STUDY OF NEW YORK TAXICAB TRIPS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN AND MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — A STUDY OF TAXI CAB TRIPS by two NYU Tandon School of Engineering Institute professors has won them the IEEE VIS Test of Time Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The full title, “Visual Exploration of Big Spatio-Temporal Urban Data: A Study of New York City Taxi Trips,” which institute professors Juliana Freire and Cláudio T. Silva wrote in 2013, was based on NYC taxi records and author engagement with economists and traffic engineers and explored the economic incentives of taxi locations and the impact that traffic patterns have on demand patterns. The paper earned the Test of Time Award at the 2023 conference in Melbourne, Australia, a commendation that “recognizes articles published at previous conferences whose contents are still vibrant and useful today and have had a major impact and influence within and beyond the visualization community.”
The study was also praised as “one of the landmark papers in urban data visualization.”
NYU TANDON TEAM DEVELOPS SIMPLE
AI TOOL FOR VIDEO GAME MAPS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A SIMPLE AI TOOL IS CAPABLE OF CREATING VIDEO GAME MAPS, within just milliseconds and using just a single-sentence prompt, Associate Professor Julian Togelius and computer science MS graduate Timothy Merino have discovered. New Scientist magazine has published the duo’s study, in which they developed a simple generative AI tool to create video game maps, character models and emojis from a single-sentence prompt within this brief space of time. Togelius and Merino developed a simple generative AI tool, without feedback loops, with information flowing only from input to output.
Togelius told New Scientist, “This thing is trained on your home computer and runs on your phone, basically, in blazingly fast time.”
DINAPOLI: STATE HEALTH DEPT. CAN SAVE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WITH PROPER ENROLLMENT OVERSIGHT
STATEWIDE — THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (DOH) CAN SAVE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN COSTS if it strengthens its oversight of enrollment in Medicaid and other public health plans, according to two audits that State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released on Thursday, Sept. 14. He says that State Medicaid needs to stop paying bills that federally funded plans, such as Medicare, should cover; most individuals receiving Medicaid are required to apply for federally-funded Medicare at age 65. Under DOH’s supervision, local departments of Social Services are supposed to identify those who appear eligible for Medicare and have them apply. The audit found state Medicaid could have saved up to $294.4 million in payments on medical services if 13,318 individuals who appeared qualified for Medicare had enrolled over a six-year period ending June 2021.
Included in that group are those who were eligible, but were not required to enroll in Medicare because the rules were suspended during the pandemic. The requirement was reinstated in June 2023.
LANDER: STREET VENDOR LICENSING DELAYED
WHILE CITY STEPS UP ENFORCEMENT
CITYWIDE — STREET VENDORS ARE NOT RECEIVING THEIR LICENSES IN A TIMELY MANNER and then are being penalized for lacking these permits, charges City Comptroller Brad Lander in a letter to Mayor Eric Adams. Comptroller Lander is demanding to know the reasons that Local Law 18 (passed in 2021) has been delayed, as this law provides relief for unlicensed street vendors and it required the release of 445 new supervisory licenses for food vendors annually for ten years, starting in July 2022. However, the City missed the law’s first two deadlines in 2022 and 2023, causing more than 10,000 vendors to remain on City-administered waitlists. Meanwhile, multiple city agencies, including the Department of Sanitation, conducted aggressive and high-profile sweeps against the street vendors over the summer.
Lander’s letter to Mayor Adams pointed out that between March and May 2023, only four vendors received new permits.
LATEST COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT STARTS FRIDAY ACROSS NEW YORK CITY
CITYWIDE — THE LATEST 2023-2024 COVID-19 VACCINE WILL BE ROLLING OUT to pharmacies, clinics and local providers starting Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday. Immunity from previous inoculations is waning, and the state has been seeing a slight increase in case numbers and hospitalizations. “It is literally a new vaccine. It is not a booster shot. It is not an enhancer. It is a new vaccine designed to attack the new variants,” Hochul said in a statement. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the updated vaccine, which protects against serious illness.
The NYC Department of Health urges residents to look on nyc.gov/vaccinefinder for locations where the vaccine will be available, or check with their provider or local pharmacy.
GROUND BROKEN FOR DEKALB COMMONS,
NEW CARBON-NEUTRAL HOUSING PROJECT
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — GROUND WAS BROKEN ON WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 13, FOR DEKALB COMMONS, a set of three new 100% affordable housing developments in Central Brooklyn. The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) and St. Nicks Alliance celebrated the groundbreaking of three buildings (652 Dekalb Avenue, 639 Dekalb Ave. and 1187 Fulton St.) with 85 units, including 13 set aside for formerly homeless individuals and 1,187 square feet of commercial space. The project received a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s ‘Buildings of Excellence’ Blue Ribbon Award, demonstrating commitment to building more carbon-neutral-ready multi-family spaces.
Since its founding in 1967, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp. has constructed and preserved more than 7,500 affordable housing units and helped over 1,500 prospective owners secure $60 million in mortgage financing. In addition to developing affordable housing, Restoration provides a range of housing services for local residents including rental assistance and eviction protection.
NY DOUBLES FINES ON ANNOYING, RULE-BREAKING TELEMARKETERS
STATEWIDE — GOV. KATHY HOCHUL SIGNED LEGISLATION on Wednesday to crack down on telemarketers who pester New Yorkers with continuous, unwanted calls. This legislation will nearly double the maximum fine for telemarketers violating the Do Not Call Registry from $11,000 to $20,000. “Today, we’re raising the penalty for violators … to deter telemarketers, protect New Yorkers, and send a clear message that New York won’t tolerate these frustrating, unsolicited calls,” Hochul said in a statement.
Some of the past violators of the Do Not Call Registry include numerous energy companies such as Citizens Choice Energy, Plymouth Rock Energy and Hiko Energy; media companies including Gannett, Newsday and DIRECTTV; and, a variety of marketing companies. People can get on the registry at donotcall.gov.
BROOKLYN LAWMAKERS: ARMY CORPS’
FLOOD PROTECTION PLAN IS INSUFFICIENT
CITYWIDE TO HUDSON VALLEY — A MORE COMPREHENSIVE FLOOD PLAN IS NEEDED TO PROTECT New York and New Jersey, say members of Brooklyn’s Congressional delegation and a bipartisan group of colleagues. Together they have drafted a letter to the Army Corps. of Engineers expressing concern that the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Focus Area Feasibility Study and its upcoming Agency Decision Milestone (tentatively scheduled for release this summer) fails to comply with the Water Resources Development Acts of 2020 and 2022 and President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The lawmakers itemized several steps to improve flooding protection for the region: issue and implement guidance based on the aforementioned laws, Issue a Supplemental DEIS for public review and comment, and make sure that disadvantaged communities are properly protected.
Leading the effort are Reps. Dan Goldman (D-10) and Nydia Velazquez (D-7), along with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-8) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-9).
AMY CASSELLO NAMED AS BAM’S INTERIM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC ANNOUNCED on Wednesday the appointment of Amy Cassello, associate producer of BAM’s renowned Next Wave Festival, as the organization’s interim artistic director. Calling her a “highly-regarded fixture of the Brooklyn and downtown arts scene,” BAM President Gina Duncan said that Cassello — who oversees all BAM programming — has played a “key role” in stewarding BAM’s programming for many years.
The appointment comes after David Binder concluded his artistic director tenure at BAM on July 2. Binder will remain at BAM as artistic advisor through the remainder of 2023.
BACK FROM FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM IN GHANA, GLOBAL KIDS GROUP MEETS WITH MAYOR ADAMS
EAST NEW YORK AND CITY HALL — FOUR BROOKLYN STUDENTS FROM GLOBAL KIDS — a nonprofit organization that develops youth leaders, had the chance to meet with Mayor Eric Adams and Commissioner of NYC Department of Youth & Community Development Keith Howard at City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 12, to celebrate their work in the African nation Ghana. The students, who are recent graduates of Transit Tech High School in East New York, discussed their experiences abroad and presented Mayor Adams with an honorary stole from the Heritage and Cultural Society of Africa (HACSA) Sankofa Young Leaders Fellowship, in which they participated during July. During their 12-day trip in Ghana, the students visited museums and natural history sites, including Elmina Castle and the Tetteh Quarshie Cocoa Farm; participated in educational seminars, workshops and fairs that focused on Ghanaian history and culture; and, were given mentorship and volunteering opportunities.
Global Kids organized the Sankofa Young Leaders Fellowship, with underwriting from the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development.
GRANT WILL HELP CUNY BOOST NUMBER OF SPECIAL ED TEACHERS
CITYWIDE — A FEDERAL GRANT WILL HELP SIX CUNY COLLEGES, INCLUDING TWO IN BROOKLYN, DEVELOP COURSES in early childhood special education, CUNY announced Wednesday. CUNY will partner with NYC-based Kennedy Children’s Center in the effort, which is supported by a two-year, $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The partnership, led by Borough of Manhattan Community College, includes Brooklyn College and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, plus Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College and LaGuardia Community College.
According to BMCC, the city faces a “dire shortage” of early childhood special ed teachers.
DRIVER CHARGED IN COLLISION THAT
KILLED PEDESTRIAN IN CROSSWALK
GRAVESEND — THE NYPD AND THE CITY DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION on Wednesday afternoon released updated information regarding a fatal collision on Tuesday, Sept. 12, involving a pedestrian pushing a child’s stroller and the driver of a pickup truck. The victim, now identified as Xia Ying Chen, age 66, was in the crosswalk, walking northbound across Bath Avenue within the 62nd Precinct when 56-year-old Faheem Shabazz of Troy Avenue, driving a red Dodge pickup truck, struck her. Ms. Chen sustained severe head and body trauma and was pronounced deceased at NYU Langone Hospital. The two-year-old girl, name withheld, was thrown from the stroller, sustaining bruises and scratches, and was listed on Wednesday as being in stable condition at Maimonides Medical Center.
The driver, who remained on the scene, was later arrested and charged with two counts of failure to yield to a pedestrian.
UPCOMING SALE OF NY GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS
WILL HELP FINANCE TRANSIT, EDUCATION, CLIMATE
STATEWIDE — NY STATE COMPTROLLER THOMAS P. DINAPOLI on Wednesday, Sept. 13, announced the details of an upcoming negotiated sale of tax-exempt and taxable New York state General Obligation bonds scheduled for Sept. 27th and 28th, currently totaling approximately $543 million. A general obligation bond is a municipal bond backed only by the issuing jurisdiction’s credit and power to tax, rather than from the revenue the bond generates. The state expects to sell $459.4 million for new money transportation, education and environmental purposes with the Series 2023A, 2023B and 2023D bonds.
Market conditions permitting, the state expects to sell $83.4 million or more of Series 2023C bonds to refund a portion of certain outstanding General Obligation bonds to reduce the state’s overall debt service costs.
BROOKLYN MAN SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS FOR SEX TRAFFICKING TEEN FROM OHIO
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A BROOKLYN MAN HAS BEEN SENTENCED to 10 years in prison for the sex trafficking of an 18-year-old girl for whom he bought a bus ticket from Ohio to New York with promises of a modeling career, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced Wednesday. Allen Barrington, 38, of East Flatbush, forced the unsuspecting girl to work in prostitution on the track in East New York, was physically violent towards her and threatened to hurt her grandmother. He was sentenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun.
“This defendant lured an innocent teenager from her home in Ohio to New York promising to fulfill her dream of a modeling career, but instead he horrifically exploited her in a sex trafficking nightmare,” Gonzalez said in a release.
ALL FIVE NYC PENSION FUNDS SUE FOX NEWS
CITYWIDE — ALL FIVE NEW YORK CITY EMPLOYEE PENSION FUNDS FILED a shareholder lawsuit Wednesday against Fox Corporation for breach of fiduciary duty. The city’s pension funds own more than $27 million in class A and B shares of Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News Network. The complaint alleges that the board knew that Fox News’ promotion of political falsehoods created defamation risk, starting with false claims that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich provided hacked emails to WikiLeaks and continuing through false claims that election technology companies U.S. Dominion, Inc. and Smartmatic USA Corp. rigged the 2020 presidential election — leading to a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion.
“Fox’s board of directors has blatantly disregarded the need for journalistic standards and failed to put safeguards in place despite having a business model that invites defamation litigation,” said city Comptroller Brad Lander.
TOURISTS ARE BACK, WITH $$$ FLOWING TO NYC
STATEWIDE — TOURIST SPENDING ACROSS NEW YORK STATE and in New York City boomed in 2022, according to an economic study released Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The state welcomed a record 291.5 million visitors in 2022, generating more than $78.6 billion in direct spending and $123 billion in total economic impact — with NYC receiving 60% of this amount. Brooklyn took in 6% of the dollars from visitors to the city, with tourist-related sales in the borough amounting to roughly $300 million. The majority of visitor spending — 70% — took place in Manhattan, while 21% of tourist dollars were spent in Queens. The Bronx received 2% of visitor purchases, while Staten Island received only 1%.
“New York’s pandemic recovery has been one for the history books,“ Hochul said in a release. The data from Tourism Economics is available online.
BROOKLYN WOMAN RESCUED
ON ULSTER COUNTY HIKING TRAIL
BROOKLYN AND ULSTER COUNTY — THE RESCUE LAST WEEKEND OF A BROOKLYN WOMAN from the Burroughs Ridge Trail in Ulster County has prompted the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation to caution New Yorkers, especially less experienced hikers, to prepare thoroughly and have sufficient gear. Forest rangers on Sept. 9 rescued a 36-year-old Brooklyn woman, whose name was not released and who had underestimated her planned hike, had no source of light and an insufficient food supply. Rangers provided food, hydration, and a headlamp, and then hiked the subject to the trailhead.
Anyone needing a Forest Ranger, whether it’s for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, should call 833-NYS-RANGERS or, in an emergency, 9/11.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES SUES
TRAVEL COMPANY OVER DENIED REFUNDS
STATEWIDE — A TRAVEL COMPANY THAT DENIED ITS CLIENTS REFUNDS FOR CANCELLATIONS is facing a lawsuit from NY Attorney General Letitia James, her office announced on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Massachusetts-based Vantage Travel Services, Inc., and its founder and owner, Henry R. Lewis, is accused of failing to refund thousands of dollars to more than 100 New Yorkers whose tours were canceled, including because of COVID-19, after the Office of the Attorney General received dozens of complaints from New Yorkers in New York City, Albany, Westchester and Long Island. The lawsuit charges that Vantage Travel and Lewis engaged in deceptive business practices: by failing to honor the company’s policy to promptly refund consumers, and by mischaracterizing its trip cancellations as “postponements.”
Attorney General James seeks full restitution for all impacted New Yorkers, civil penalties, and disgorgement (forfeiting ill-gotten profits). consumers who believe they have been the victim of these practices to file a consumer complaint online or contact OAG at (800) 771-7755.
FEDERAL WORKERS COMING TO NEW YORK TO HELP WITH ASYLUM SEEKERS
CITYWIDE — FIFTY FEDERAL WORKERS ARE SET TO ARRIVE in New York starting this week to help with the influx of migrants, a senior White House official said Tuesday, according to Spectrum News. The official also said a lease for the city to use the federally-owned Floyd Bennett Field for a shelter is set to be finalized “imminently.” Another administration official said that thousands of migrants were already eligible to apply for work authorization.
The Department of Homeland Security told Spectrum that the agency has sent more than 1 million emails and texts to hundreds of thousands of migrants, reminding them of their employment eligibility and how to apply.
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