What’s News, Breaking: Thursday, September 21, 2023
HIGH ST. STATION ESCALATORS
NOW OPEN ON ADAMS ST. SIDE
BROOKLYN HTS./CONCORD VILLAGE — THE ESCALATORS ON THE 90-YEAR-OLD HIGH STREET SUBWAY STATION’S ADAMS STREET SIDE HAVE REOPENED, reported the Brooklyn Heights Association on Thursday, Sept. 21. The MTA completed its required 48-hour safety test for the two escalators that serve the A/C line station’s Adams St. side in Concord Village. Work on the escalators on the Cadman Plaza West side of the station will begin within the next 10 days, the MTA reports.
During that period, the entrance at Cadman Plaza West will remain open, and the staircase leading to and from the upper mezzanine to the lower mezzanine will be accessible. The stairwell has a number of small landings, or pauses between sets of steps, in this deep station that originally opened in June 1933.
NEWLY-ACCESSIBLE SUBWAY STATION OPENS
WITH FULL FUNDING FROM MACY’S
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — MACY’S DEPARTMENT STORE ON FULTON MALL HAS FUNDED AND BUILT A NEWLY-OPENED, FULLY-ACCESSIBLE SUBWAY STATION that is part of the building’s history in Downtown Brooklyn. Officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday, Sept. 21, gathered in front of the Hoyt St. station (2 and 3 Trains) that is immediately adjacent to the iconic store. The full project includes the elevator and a staircase within a new street-level entrance to the station, which Macy’s will maintain. This partnership is another example of the MTA engaging the private sector to improve station access without requiring MTA capital dollars on top of the 67 station accessibility upgrades included in the MTA’s 2020-2024 Capital Plan.
The subway entrance itself is part of Macy’s history, and was the transit system’s first private one, according to the website ClassicNewYorkHistory.com. Abraham & Straus, the precursor to Macy’s, built the station that led directly to the store’s basement. That “ticket booth sold more than 5,000 subway tokens on opening day at five cents a token,” reports the history site. For more information, see page 3.
COMPTROLLER: STATE AGENCIES MUST IMPROVE
OVERSIGHT OF NOURISH NEW YORK FUNDING
STATEWIDE — A PROGRAM THAT’S DESIGNED TO HELP NEW YORK RESIDENTS AND AREA FARMERS ALLEVIATE HUNGER may have been hindered by the very agencies managing it, according to an audit that State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released on Thursday, Sept. 21. Through the Nourish New York program (Nourish NY) that the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets jointly manage, regional food banks contract with DOH to receive these funds, allocating them to local soup kitchens, food pantries, and other community-based organizations to purchase New York grown farm products. Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit found that DOH approved $22.7 million in purchases from May 2020 through March 2022, despite inadequate documentation proving the food products were grown in New York as required. DOH also failed to supply sufficient guidance to food relief organizations on coverable administrative costs.
Auditors concluded DOH needs to improve its oversight, otherwise, funds could be improperly used for expenses not associated with Nourish NY.
TENTATIVE NYC SCHOOL BUS CONTRACT AGREEMENT REACHED
CITYWIDE — THE TRANSIT UNION AND MAJOR SCHOOL BUS COMPANIES in NYC have reached a tentative contract agreement, averting a disruptive strike, according to a joint statement by NYC Council Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Selvena N. Brooks-Powers and Education Chair Rita Joseph. “We are glad the school bus companies and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 were able to come to a tentative agreement that avoids harmful disruptions for our students and families. We support increased wages and benefits for school bus drivers and a continuation of school bus services for over 80,000 students at this time,” the officials said.
The officials warned, however, that drivers with the NYC School Bus Umbrella Services have yet to reach a deal.
NEW LEADERSHIP PROGRAM WILL SUPPORT
BIPOC-LED ARTS GROUPS IN BROOKLYN
BOROUGHWIDE — THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM AND THE JOE AND CLARA TSAI FOUNDATION’S SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND (SJF) have launched a new ten-month program, the Brooklyn Arts Leadership Collaborative, to support the leaders of eight small and midsize BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) arts organizations in Brooklyn. The Collaborative, which kicks off in October 2023, will provide critical support to the inaugural cohort of arts organization leaders, including holistic leadership development and assistance in building programs to achieve their social equity goals. Each of eight organizations will receive a grant of $25,000 from the Social Justice Fund: ARTE (Art Resistance Through Education), Black Girls Sew, Brooklyn United Music and Arts Program, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, ¡Oye!, Black Trans Femme Artist Collective, Rooted Theater Company and Redhawk Council.
Leaders of Brooklyn nonprofits have long struggled to sustain their organizations due to a lack of investment in the sector. BIPOC-led nonprofits in particular have operated at the margins of sustainability, and some have ceased operations due to economic hardship.
1-YEAR-OLD BABY GIRL MURDERED IN CROWN HEIGHTS
CROWN HEIGHTS — A 1-YEAR-OLD BABY GIRL DIED WEDNESDAY, Sept. 20, after emergency responders were called to her apartment on Friday, Sept. 15. Police officers from the 77th Precinct responded at 6:43 p.m. to an apartment on Saint Marks Avenue in Crown Heights, where they found the baby suffering “trauma about the body,” according to a statement by the NYPD. EMS transported the baby to NYC Health and Hospitals/Kings County in critical condition. She was later moved to Maimonides Medical Center.
The child was pronounced deceased by hospital staff at Maimonides on Wednesday, Sept. 20. This incident has now been deemed a homicide. There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.
FREE COVID-19 TESTS FOR ALL AVAILABLE MONDAY, AS GOV BOOSTS DOMESTIC SOURCES
NATIONWIDE — EVERY U.S. HOUSEHOLD WILL AGAIN BE ABLE TO PLACE AN ORDER TO RECEIVE FOUR more free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered directly to their home starting Sept. 25 through the newly reopened website COVIDTests.gov, the U.S. Department of Health announced Wednesday. The Biden administration is investing $600 million across 12 domestic COVID-19 test manufacturers to “reduce our reliance on overseas manufacturing,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The deal will secure roughly 200 million new over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for future federal government use.
The U.S. Dept. of Health advised that before you throw out expired COVID-19 tests, check to see if their expiration dates have been extended at covid.gov/tests.
BIDEN ADMIN REDESIGNATES VENEZUELAN MIGRANTS AS LEGAL & ELIGIBLE FOR WORK PERMITS
NATIONWIDE — PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN HAS REDESIGNATED Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan asylum-seekers who entered the U.S. before July 1, 2023, which will enable thousands of Venezuelans in the NYC access to work permits. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement Wednesday night that she was grateful that the federal government acted so quickly to grant one of New York’s top priorities. “The State of New York is prepared to immediately begin the process of signing people up for work authorization and getting them into jobs so they can become self-sufficient,” she said. Mayor Eric Adams said, “I want to thank President Biden for hearing our entire coalition … and taking this important step that will bring hope to the thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers currently in our care.”
“As we have always done, we as New Yorkers will lead our nation in welcoming people from all over the world seeking the American Dream,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10). Officials have estimated that roughly 40% of asylum-seekers in NYC are Venezuelan.
MAIMONIDES HEALTH LAUNCHES NEW CAREER TRACK PROGRAM FOR HIGH-SCHOOLERS
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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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 press 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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