What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, September 20, 2023
FREE BUS PILOT — ONE IN EACH BOROUGH — STARTS SUNDAY
CITYWIDE — A PILOT PROGRAM BRINGING ONE FREE BUS LINE to each borough rolls out on Sunday, Sept. 24. Lines included in the pilot include the B60 in Brooklyn, the Q4 LCL/ LTD in Queens, M116 in Manhattan, S46/96 in Staten Island and the Bx18A/B in the Bronx. (The B60 travels between Williamsburg and Canarsie.) Fare-free buses were part of the “Fix the MTA” legislation included in this year’s state budget. “My constituents throughout Brooklyn and Queens will benefit enormously and have an easier time navigating our City from newly free B60 and Q4 buses,” said State Sen. Julia Salazar in a release.
The benefits of free buses include speeding travel times, improving safety, increasing access, boosting educational outcomes for students and keeping polluting cars off the road, according to a release by Queens Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani.
WILLIAMSBURG RESTAURANT NAMED TO NY TIMES’ TOP 50 LIST
WILLIAMSBURG — CAFÉ CARMELLIA IN WILLIAMSBURG has been named one of the New York Times’ 50 best restaurants in the United States for this year, according to Patch. The restaurant opened in April on Graham Avenue between Devoe and Ainslie streets. It has already won praise for its banana pudding tarts. It also is well known for its fish-based dishes.
Other New York City restaurants on the list include Superiority Burger, Torrisi and Tatiana, all in Manhattan, according to Patch.
HOCHUL SIGNS SWEEPING PACKAGE OF ELECTION REFORM BILLS
STATEWIDE — GOV. KATHY HOCHUL SIGNED A SWEEPING PACKAGE OF ELECTION REFORM BILLS into law on Wednesday to expand voters’ access to the ballot box. One bill will allow New Yorkers to register to vote and cast their ballots at their polling place on the same first day of early voting; another will create a process allowing all registered NYS voters the opportunity to vote early by mail; another requires local jails to provide voter registration information to individuals upon release. Other bills relate to poll worker training, student voter registration, primary election scheduling and other aspects of the election process.
The package includes bills introduced by Brooklyn officials, including Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Her bill will ensure that voters are informed of changes to early polling sites at least five days in advance, and prevent site changes 48 hours before election day — something especially crucial for handicapped voters, she said in a statement.
COLTON TO CITY COUNCIL: STATUE REMOVAL PLAN
IS WASTEFUL AND THE WRONG PRIORITY FOR CITY
BATH BEACH TO DYKER HEIGHTS — ASSEMBLYMAN WILLIAM COLTON (D-47) HAS EXPRESSED OUTRAGE at a City Council proposal to remove statues of four historical figures, including Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson on the grounds that doing so would be a waste of money and misplaced priority. Colton, who represents Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Dyker Heights, pointed out, “These statues are the history and legacy of this country and it’s very disturbing to hear that elected officials worry more about the past than the present.” He added that the City Council should be focused on more urgent matters, including the migrant crisis, crime, homelessness, and a struggling middle class. Stating his opposition to the proposal, Colton said, “Instead of dividing people and driving them apart with the past, we need to work together to make sure that our city will bloom again,” adding that his office is circulating petitions to oppose the plan.
The New York Post on Monday, Sept. 18, published an article about the City Council’s plan and the monuments themselves.
HOCHUL SIGNS BILL PROTECTING SOME CUSTOMERS FROM SURPRISE ENERGY HIKES
STATEWIDE — GOV. KATHY HOCHUL SIGNED LEGISLATION on Wednesday that would protect some consumers from surprise price increases to their energy bills. The legislation requires energy service companies (ESCO) to obtain the consent of the customer before any material price increases, according to the Governor’s Office. An ESCO is an entity eligible to sell electricity and/or natural gas to customers using the distribution system of a traditional utility, such as Con Edison. Roughly 1.6 million New York electric and gas customers receive their energy from an ESCO, as compared to roughly 11.2 million traditional electric and gas customers.
The Public Service Commission has been critical of some ESCOs regarding prices, PSC says on its website. “The Commission is considering whether the retail access market for energy commodities is working properly, or if it should be revised,” PSC said.
MAIMONIDES HEALTH LAUNCHES
NEW CAREER TRACK PROGRAM
BOROUGH PARK — MAIMONIDES HEALTH WELCOMED 25 STUDENTS FROM SIX BROOKLYN SOUTH PUBLIC HEALTH HIGH SCHOOLS to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and launch of a new five-session HE³AT education program that gives secondary schoolers the opportunity to explore career pathways in healthcare. The HE³AT program, whose name stands for Healthcare, Energy, Education, Environment, Agriculture and Technology, is a site-based preparatory program with the mission of giving South Brooklyn students opportunities to explore social, political, technological and economic topics in the fields of health care, energy, education, environment, agriculture and technology. Students enrolled in the program, many of whom are from economically disadvantaged homes, will meet at Maimonides once monthly from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for five sessions to work with hospital professionals on interactive learning and behind-the-scenes tours of various clinical departments.
Brooklyn South High School Superintendent Michael Prayor and State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein also participated in the launch.
NYC COUNCIL HEARING THURSDAY ON ADAMS ADMIN.’S NO-BID MIGRANT CONTRACTS
CITY HALL — FOLLOWING TROUBLING REVELATIONS OVER MAYOR ERIC ADAMS’ USE of no-bid contracts meant to deal with the COVID-19 emergency to reward unvetted contracts to companies caring for migrants, the NYC Council’s Committee on Contracts and Committee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a joint hearing on Thursday to examine the city’s emergency contracts related to the care of people seeking asylum. The committees will examine contracts authorizing hundreds of millions of dollars in city spending for emergency shelters, medical care and staff, according to a NYC City Council release.
Administration officials will be asked to explain how vendors were selected, individual expenditures, the total actual expenditures, the estimated duration of each contract, and how the city is working to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. The hearing will be held at City Hall in Manhattan at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 21, and will be livestreamed on the New York City Council website.
NYC’S E-BIKE & SCOOTER TRADE-IN PROGRAM KICKS OFF
CITYWIDE — NYC’S NEW E-BIKE AND SCOOTER TRADE-IN PROGRAM is a U.S. first, reports smartcitiesdive. The program helps owners upgrade to electric bikes and e-scooters that meet UL certification requirements set by a law that went into effect Sept. 16. The program will help get bikes with UL uncertified and fire-prone lithium-ion batteries off the streets. Lithium-ion batteries from micromobility devices have been implicated in fires resulting in 13 deaths in the city as of mid-July.
More than 250 delivery workers have already applied for the trade-in program, according to a statement from the Equitable Commute Project, a micromobility advocacy organization.
NY ATTORNEY GENERAL SUPPORTS
REVISED MERGER GUIDELINES
NATIONWIDE — AFFIRMING THAT REVISED MERGER RULES WILL HELP PROTECT workers and consumers, Attorney General Letitia James is leading a multistate coalition to support the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission’s new guidelines on this. The Merger Guidelines provide a template for federal and state enforcers and companies considering mergers. Moreover, the courts have treated the Merger Guidelines as a persuasive authority in this branch of law. The coalition, in its comments, observes that Revised Merger Guidelines reflect current economic changes and realities, such as the need to regulate digital platform mergers while also reaffirming foundational principles of antitrust law. The comments support DOJ and FTC’s efforts to simultaneously reinvigorate merger enforcement and support Congress’s longstanding mandates that enforcers work to protect competition.
The multistate comments draw upon New York’s and other states’ strong track records in merger enforcement.
BROOKLYN CRYPTO FRAUDSTER PLEADS GUILTY, FACES UP TO 30 YEARS
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — BROOKLYN RESIDENT RASHAWN RUSSELL, 27, a former investment banker, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to engaging in a scheme to defraud investors in his cryptocurrency fund, R3 Crypto, by falsely promising large or even guaranteed returns. In truth, Russell used much of the investors’ assets to gamble and repay earlier investors, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Dept. Of Justice. At least 29 investors lost at least $1.5 million. In a separate scheme, Russell fraudulently obtained more than 15 credit cards and other access devices, with the intent to use them to complete unauthorized transactions.
Russell pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara in Brooklyn court. He faces up to 30 years in prison and must pay restitution. If you believe you are one of Russell’s victims, contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness Unit at (888) 549-3945 or email [email protected].
SECRET OUSTER OF MEDICAL GROUP’S CEO
ANGERS HEALTHCARE WORKERS
EASTERN BROOKLYN — THE BOARD OF ONE BROOKLYN HEALTH INCONSPICUOUSLY OUSTED ITS CEO, LaRay Brown, earlier this month, reports Crain’s New York Business. The board, voting 10-4 with three abstentions, voted to not renew Brown’s contract amid accusations of financial mismanagement, which she has challenged on the grounds “that One Brooklyn, like other safety-net hospitals [serving the poor and uninsured], has well-documented challenges in terms of financing.” The health care workers union, 1199 SEIU, said it is deeply troubled that the community had no say over what they call Brown’s abrupt ouster, alleging it was done “behind closed doors” and threatens the delivery of vital health care services in needy communities.
Union officials of 1199 SEIU are also upset that the management of One Brooklyn Health, which comprises Interfaith Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, canceled a meeting with them after the vote.
DID MAYOR ADAMS SNUB PRINCE WILLIAM?
MANHATTAN — MAYOR ERIC ADAMS “quickly scheduled” – and then 30 minutes later canceled – an appearance with Prince William Tuesday afternoon, causing a “royal pain” for any New Yorkers who rushed over to a firehouse in Lower Manhattan to see the pair of celebrities, City & State reports. While the mayor didn’t show, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh was there to greet the prince, who had earlier visited Governor’s Island to see the Billion Oyster Project.
Representatives for Adams did not immediately respond to City & State’s request for comment about why Adams’ appearance with Prince William was so quickly scheduled and then canceled, but this scheduling pattern has been noticed by reporters in the past.
A 23-YEAR-OLD OVERDOSED AT BROOKLYN MIRAGE IN 2021, BUT IT WAS NEVER REPORTED
EAST WILLIAMSBURG — A 23-YEAR-OLD GIRL OVERDOSED AT THE TROUBLE-PLAGUED BROOKLYN MIRAGE in 2021, but it was never reported to regulators, Gothamist reports. Medical records show that Genesis Reynoso was admitted to the hospital early in the morning of Oct. 4, 2021, going into cardiac arrest four different times over the coming hours. By the end of the day, she was dead. Over this summer, two men were found dead — in separate incidents — in the nearby Newtown Creek after attending or trying to attend events at the Mirage.
The state Liquor Authority knew about two prior overdose deaths that had taken place at the club, but were not informed about Reynoso’s because she was transported to the hospital by a private ambulance the Mirage had on standby, which “left no paper trail,” Gothamist reported.
CUNY COLLEGES RANK HIGH IN U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT 2024 SURVEY
CITYWIDE — CUNY COLLEGES HAVE RECEIVED HIGH MARKS for their effectiveness in promoting social mobility as well as their overall quality, in the 2024 U.S. News & World Report rankings released on Tuesday. The survey names 10 CUNY four-year colleges among the top public colleges in the north region. The City College of New York also ranked among the top public colleges nationally (tied at 51).
According to the rankings, the top public universities in the north region include Baruch (2), John Jay (5), Hunter (tied at 6), Lehman (tied at 11), Brooklyn College (tied at 14), NYC College of Technology (tied at 14), Medgar Evers (15), Queens College (16), College of Staten Island (tied at 36) and York College (tied at 46).
IDEAS SOUGHT FOR GREEN-INDUSTRY MANUFACTURING BUILDING AT NAVY YARD
BROOKLYN NAVY YARD — THE BROOKLYN NAVY YARD DEVELOPMENT CORP. IS SEEKING DESIGN IDEAS FOR THE FIRST MAJOR GROUND-UP PROJECT under its master plan and has released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for conceptual designs for a new industrial and commercial building along Kent Avenue, CEO Lindsay Greene told Crain’s New York Business this week. The RFP indicates that the building should be suitable for manufacturing and that public amenity, retail and showroom space will be needed, among other specifications. The building also should be environmentally friendly with net-zero emissions, a small carbon footprint and a design that can withstand rising sea levels. Greene envisions the new building becoming home to innovative climate-friendly industries.
The building will likely span between 700,000 and 1 million square feet, and with an estimated completion frame of five years, according to Greene.
$24M RESTORATION OF ST. ANDREWS PLAYGROUND COMING TO BEDFORD-STUYVESANT
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — THE NYC PARKS DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCED A $23.9 MILLION RESTORATION of the run-down St. Andrew’s playground in Bed-Stuy on Monday, with a joyful press gathering including NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick, Councilmembers Chi Ossé and Crystal Hudson, and community members. Parks had previously announced a reconstruction of just the playground areas; thanks to additional funding, the city will be able to complete a full renovation. “With new play areas for kids, revamped sports facilities, additional seating and shade, storm resiliency infrastructure and more, we are investing in a community space that the neighborhood can cherish for generations,” Donoghue said.
The funding announcement comes on the heels of the release of a draft for the Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan, for a stretch of roughly 13 blocks along Atlantic Avenue, that will encourage the development of a lively, mixed-use business and residential corridor in the heart of Central Brooklyn.
BROOKLYN CONGRESSMEMBER SUES TO BLOCK USE OF FEDERAL LANDS FOR HOUSING MIGRANTS
BROOKLYN & STATEN ISLAND — CONTINUING EFFORTS TO BLOCK FEDERAL LANDS FROM BEING USED TO HOUSE MIGRANTS, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-11) and a bipartisan group of elected officials have filed a lawsuit that would block President Biden, NY Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams from using federal property to shelter migrants. A day after Rep. Malliotakis introduced a bill in Congress that would ban federal funds from being used to house migrants at military bases — including the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton — she and her coalition, including Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D-59/Canarsie to Gerritsen Beach) and Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-Ozone Park area), filed a lawsuit in Staten Island Supreme Court.
Rep. Malliotakis on Monday hosted members of the House Committee on Natural Resources on a tour of migrant shelters across New York City, including Floyd Bennett Field in southeastern Brooklyn and the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, although her group was reportedly denied entry even though advance arrangements had been made.
PUBLIC HEARING ON CAPITOL HILL WILL ADDRESS USE OF FEDERAL LANDS FOR HOUSING MIGRANTS
FLOYD BENNETT FIELD & CAPITOL HILL — THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES will hold a public hearing next week regarding the Biden Administration’s use of federal parkland for migrant facilities, the office of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-South Brooklyn–Staten Island) announced on Tuesday, just hours after the Brooklyn Congresswoman and a bipartisan group of elected officials and local residents filed a lawsuit on this issue. City Councilwoman Joanna Ariola (R–Staten Island) is expected to testify at the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday morning, Sept. 27, on Capitol Hill, as are Assemblywoman Jaime Williams and representatives of the National Park Service, U.S. Park Police, and the Department of the Interior.
Rep. Malliotakis on Monday, Sept. 18, during a tour of Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, advocated for a public hearing to be convened on protecting federal lands, particularly those where security protocol is in effect, such as for military bases where service personnel are domiciled.
BRITAIN’S PRINCE WILLIAM, IN NYC FOR SUMMIT, GETS TOUR OF BILLION OYSTER PROJECT
GOVERNORS ISLAND — THE BILLION OYSTER PROJECT, A REEF RESTORATION AND SHELLFISH-BIVALVE REPOPULATION PROJECT, has the attention of Great Britain’s Prince William, who on Monday, Sept. 18, got a first-hand look at the waters off New York City’s Governors Island. The Prince of Wales is in New York for an environmental summit connected to a global competition for solutions to climate change challenges. Prince William was scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 19, to speak at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, which focuses on the award that he founded to honor those who address problems created by climate change and is announcing a second group of finalists.
Several stories about the Billion Oyster Project have been published in the Brooklyn Eagle, including about a group of students exploring the program at Bush Terminal Park, juvenile oysters being homesteaded in Williamsburg’s Domino Park and the project itself.
BPL’S CHIEF LIBRARIAN IS NAMED TO 2023 TIME100 NEXT LIST FOR BOOKS UNBANNED PROGRAM
BOROUGHWIDE — BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY (BPL)’S CHIEF LIBRARIAN, NICK HIGGINS, has been named to the 2023 TIME100 NEXT LIST, which highlights 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science and activism. Higgins was recognized for his leading role in what became a nationwide fight against censorship and book banning — his creation of BPL’s Books Unbanned, a program providing teens nationwide, ages 13 to 21, access to Brooklyn Public Library’s entire digital collection, which has led to a movement in which seven thousand teens from all 50 states applying for a card.
As the American Library Association reports the demand for book removals, particularly about Black history and unconventional families, a growing number of libraries have countered this by joining Books Unbanned, with more signing on this year.
BILL TO BAN CERTAIN PESTICIDES REINTRODUCED IN CONGRESS
NATIONWIDE — REP. NYDIA M. VELÁZQUEZ (D-07/NORTHERN BROOKLYN) ON TUESDAY, SEPT. 19, REINTRODUCED the Ban All Neurotoxic Organophosphate Pesticides from Our Food Act. This legislation would prohibit the use in food of organophosphate pesticides, which are human-made chemical substances that are used on crops and have been shown to pose health risks to farmworkers. The chemical is also a risk to children’s neurodevelopment and neurological function, including exposure before birth.
Two other Representatives from the New York Congressional delegation are co-sponsoring the bill, including Jamaal Bowman (D-northern Bronx) and Grace Meng (D-Queens). Said Rep. Velázquez, “These pesticides during early life have been linked to irreversible harm to the developing brain, which can result in long-term effects like attention disorders, autism, and reduced IQ.”
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