What’s News, Breaking: Wednesday, October 11, 2023
TWO MEN CHARGED WITH SMUGGLING HUNDREDS OF TAXIDERMY BIRDS INTO U.S.
DOWNTOWN — An 8-COUNT INDICTMENT WAS UNSEALED IN Brooklyn Court on Wednesday charging two men with conspiracy to smuggle into the U.S. hundreds of preserved birds, a significant portion of which were protected species, as well as preserved eggs and other protected wildlife. John Waldrop, 74, of Georgia, and Toney Jones, 53, of Alabama, allegedly used sales sites such as eBay and Etsy to buy taxidermy birds and eggs, including protected birds such as canary, dipper, eagle, falcon, grouse, hawk, heron, parrot, spoonbill, vulture, woodpecker and more, according to Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The birds were estimated to be worth more than $1.2 million.
The defendants surrendered Wednesday in Atlanta and will be arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn on Oct. 16.
POPULAR UKRAINIAN EATERY VESELKA
EXPANDS INTO WILLIAMSBURG
WILLIAMSBURG — THE POPULAR EAST VILLAGE UKRAINIAN RESTAURANT VESELKA is expanding into a Lorimer Street storefront, reports The Patch, Brownstoner, and other neighborhood news outlets. Veselka is moving into a former car wash at Lorimer and Meeker, and will be able to construct a larger kitchen and commissary, according to Department of Building documents. Classic entrée items include meat and vegetable versions of their borscht, veal goulash, beef stroganoff and, of course, kielbasa and blintzes.
Veselka’s Second Ave. family-owned restaurant has also become an ad hoc humanitarian headquarters, where ground aid, food, supplies and money have been collected and sent to Ukraine. Veselka raised $300,000 in borscht sales during the first year of the Ukraine war, donating the proceeds to the besieged nation, reported the New York Post last March.
NEW BILLS AIM TO PROTECT CHILDREN ONLINE,
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA’S ADDICTIVE FEATURES
STATEWIDE — NEW LEGISLATION THAT SEVERAL STATE LEGISLATORS ARE SPONSORING WILL KEEP CHILDREN SAFE ONLINE and prevent the dangerous health consequences of addictive social media platforms. Governor Kathy Hochul, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, and Assemblymember Nily Rozic on Wednesday, Oct. 11, announced the bills, which will prohibit online platforms from collecting and sharing children’s personal data without parental consent and will limit addictive features of social media platforms that are known to harm their mental health and development.
Recent research has shown devastating mental health effects associated with children and young adults’ social media use, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm.
CHABAD OF CLINTON HILL ORGANIZES PRAYER VIGIL FOR HOSTAGES, ATTACK VICTIMS IN ISRAEL
CLINTON HILL — RELIGIOUS LEADERS WITH CHABAD OF CLINTON HILL and the wider Clinton Hill community are organizing a prayer vigil in solidarity with those who are being held hostage and under attack in Israel. Chabad of Clinton Hill has planned a Jewish Prayer Vigil, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12, at Myrtle Plaza — one of the thousands of similar events that Jewish communities are organizing worldwide in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Expected leaders include former Broadway singer Joshua Rouah’ Rabbi Yossi Eliav of Chabad of Pratt Institute; Lara B. Krinsky, director of content for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; and Netanya Abramson, former president of the Pratt Institute Jewish Student Union, who has a relative among the hostages being held in Israel.
Also participating will be Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, a mental health specialist with the Jewish Autism Network.
LEASING LAUNCHED FOR NEW GOWANUS MIXED-USE
GOWANUS — LEASING HAS LAUNCHED for 300 Huntington, a six-story, 136,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial development in Gowanus/Carroll Gardens, Monadnock Development announced in a release on Tuesday. Monadnock said that 300 Huntington is the neighborhood’s only new ground-up office/commercial building, describing it as the “gateway” to a mile-long public esplanade planned along the Gowanus Canal. The building includes 49,000 square feet of office and creative space, along with 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.
Frank Dubinsky, COO of Monadnock Development, says the company is a “Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-based firm with a strong presence in the community dating back more than four decades.”
DiNAPOLI: MOBILE BETTING BRINGS NY MONEY
BUT ALSO A SPIKE IN GAMBLING ADDICTION
STATEWIDE — WHILE STATE REVENUES HAVE INCREASED FROM MOBILE SPORTS BETTING, SO HAS PROBLEM GAMBLING, according to a new report that State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released on Wednesday, Oct. 11. State collections from the taxes on mobile sports betting totaled $727.4 million in State Fiscal Year 2022-2023 and have continued to grow in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, following the January 2022 launch of legalized mobile sports betting. However, the New York State Gaming Commission also noted a 26% increase in problem gambling-related calls to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports from 2021 to 2022.
Comptroller DiNapoli pointed out that, “With the ease and 24/7 availability of mobile betting apps, problem gambling and addiction are poised to increase. More attention should be devoted to understanding the implications of mobile sports betting, particularly on young New Yorkers.”
162-UNIT EAST WILLIAMSBURG APARTMENT BUILDING TOPS OUT
EAST WILLIAMSBURG — SLATE PROPERTY GROUP with Avenue Realty Capital and SD Builders and Construction LLC on Tuesday topped out construction of a new apartment building at 159 Boerum St. in East Williamsburg. The 162-unit building stands 216’ tall at the roof line. Workers marked the milestone with a ceremony on the 16th floor of the building. Construction is expected to be completed in the Summer of 2025.
Designed by Aufgang Architects, the multifamily building includes 49 affordable apartments, as well as amenities including a fitness center, a roof deck, a parking garage and bike storage. Setbacks above the 12th and 16th floors will make way for large outdoor terraces.
NEW POLICY REQUIRES SMALLER RESIDENCES
TO USE RAT-RESISTANT TRASH CONTAINERS
CITYWIDE — OWNERS OF SMALLER RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS WILL BE REQUIRED TO PLACE THEIR TRASH in rat-resistant containers, reports the Daily News. Mayor Eric Adams and Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch on Wednesday, Oct. 11, rolled out a new policy — as part of the city’s war on rats — that requires 95% of the city’s residential building owners put out trash for street pick-up in containers. The policy covers around 765,000 properties, with residential buildings having nine or fewer units, single-family homes, smaller tenements and townhouses subdivided into separate apartments falling into the category.
The new residential-building policy, for which a rollout timetable has not yet been announced, aims to eliminate black garbage bags on city streets, which rats chew and tear apart, replacing bags with standard-sized, rat-resistant containers.
NY GOP REPS CHANGE TUNE, HOPE TO OUST ‘FRAUDSTER’ SANTOS
STATEWIDE — SIX NEW YORK HOUSE REPUBLICANS said on Wednesday they planned to introduce a measure to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from the legislative body, according to The Hill. The six had previously voted against Santos’ expulsion. The move comes after prosecutors in New York filed a superseding indictment against Santos, who also goes by the name Devolder, charging him with 10 new criminal charges, including stealing campaign contributors’ identities and financial information, charging their credit cards numerous times without their authorization, and lying to the FEC about campaign contributions.
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), who called Santos a “fraudster” on X/Twitter, said the resolution will be co-sponsored by fellow first-term GOP Reps. Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Nick Langworthy and Brandon Williams.
PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST
WILL HEAD COURT SYSTEM’S MEDIA DEPT.
STATEWIDE — A FUNDAMENTAL RESTRUCTURING OF THE NY STATE UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM’S COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT will bring in a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist as its new director. Chief Judge of the State of New York Rowan D. Wilson, Chief Administrative Judge Joseph A. Zayas and First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Norman St. George announced on Wednesday, Oct. 11, that Al Baker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with three decades of experience with the Daily News, Newsday and the New York Times, will head the newly formed Communications Department, as part of the reorganization, a crucial aspect of the new judicial leadership team’s program to establish and strengthen ties between the courts and the populations they serve. The program aims to foster greater transparency, civics education and greater publicity of the many ways in which the judicial and non-judicial personnel within the court system work to improve the lives of New Yorkers.
Al Baker most recently served as the executive director of media relations in the New York Police Department’s Office of Public Information.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT GRANTS TO AID BROOKLYN’S FUTURE OFFSHORE WIND WORKERS
SUNSET PARK — EIGHT NYC ORGANIZATION, half of them located in Brooklyn, have been awarded a total of $5 million in offshore wind ecosystem grants by Equinor and bp, together with the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The grants are meant to provide local economic benefits that support sustainable growth, workforce development, empowerment of underserved communities, and climate justice in New York’s emerging offshore wind industry. Applicants were chosen by a selection committee comprised of representatives of the Sunset Park Task Force.
Brooklyn-oriented grantees include: City Growers at Brooklyn Grange Farm; Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation; Uprose; and CUNY Research Foundation (including Kingsbrook and City Tech). Other grantees include: Educational and Cultural Trust Fund of the Electrical Industry; New York Academy of Sciences; NYC District Council of Carpenters; and Jewish Center of Staten Island.
BQE TRIPLE CANTILEVER CLOSURES
COULD AFFECT SUNDAY CHURCH COMMUTE
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS/BQE — THE QUEENS-BOUND section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway involving the Triple Cantilever below Brooklyn Heights will be closed this weekend starting at 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, the NYC DOT and Community Board 2 remind commuters. The affected entrance and exit points would include Exit 27 at Atlantic Ave. and the Sands Street access ramps at Exits 28A and B (Cadman Plaza West and Brooklyn Bridge, respectively). Traffic could be impacted as well in the vicinity of Exits 29A and B (Manhattan Bridge and Tillary St., respectively). The DOT will be repairing the spans at Clark Street and Grace Court. The Staten Island-bound BQE will be reduced to one lane, and Furman St. will be reversed to two southbound lanes during the closure.
At least one Heights church whose congregants commute from other parts of the city has issued an alert about the closure of the section of BQE closest to the Heights, urging them to find alternate routes for Sunday services on Oct. 15.
STRUGGLING ONE BROOKLYN HEALTH HOSPITAL NETWORK HIRES MORE LOBBYISTS
CENTRAL BROOKLYN — THE STRUGGLING ONE BROOKLYN HEALTH Hospital network has hired multiple lobbyists to help it overcome its “financial and existential crisis,” sources told Becker’s Hospital Review. The plight of the three-hospital system — which includes Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center — became evident late September after news broke that its board of governors had suddenly voted to oust CEO LaRay Brown, leading to protests by members of its health care unions.
Contracts with lobbyists signed by board Chair Alexander Rovt and Brown before him add up to $25,000 a month, Becker’s said.
ROYAL VISITORS SURPRISE BROOKLYN STUDENTS
SUNSET PARK — STUDENTS AT THE MARCY LAB SCHOOL in Industry City were joined by some surprise visitors Tuesday: Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, NY1 reports. The Marcy Lab School is a one-year fellowship program that’s an alternative to college. Students get tuition-free, intensive training in software engineering, leadership and development. Through their Archewell Foundation, Harry and Meghan have provided funding for the special program.
“I’m very happy that they came to see us. It means a lot, like it really gives us inspiration, honestly,” student Tahj Amie said.
BIPARTISAN LETTER URGES EVACUATION
OF AMERICANS STRANDED IN ISRAEL
CAPITOL HILL — REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-11) AND 144 OF HER CONGRESSIONAL COLLEAGUES have sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging his office to coordinate charter or military evacuations of American citizens wishing to leave Israel. In many cases, the Americans have been stranded as airlines suspended flights to the region after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. One of the letter’s signers, Congressman Dan Goldman (D-10), and his family were in Israel at the time of the attack and had to shelter in a stairwell until arrangements could be made to get him back to New York. The letter to Blinken points out that many other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Germany and Poland have chartered military and commercial planes to get their citizens home.
The letter, which several other Democrats and Republicans from the New York Congressional delegation signed, including Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-7), Yvette Clarke (D-9) and Grace Meng of Queens, came a day after Rep. Malliotakis issued a statement on the urgency of arranging evacuations.
DON’T CLICK ON THAT BOGUS TEXT FROM ‘USPS’
NATIONWIDE — IF YOU RECENTLY RECEIVED A TEXT from the U.S. Postal Service saying there was a problem with a package destined for your address, don’t click on the link, warns security site KrebsOnSecurity, which has reported an uptick in these phone scams. This type of text message is called smishing, a type of phishing using SMS messages. Victims will typically receive a deceptive text message (seemingly from a trusted agency) that is intended to lure the recipient into providing their personal or financial information.
The U.S. Postal Service will not send customers text messages or emails without a customer first requesting the service with a tracking number, and it will NOT contain a link, USPS says.
CITY MOVING AHEAD WITH PLAN TO BAN VENDORS FROM BROOKLYN BRIDGE
BROOKLYN BRIDGE — THE CITY’S DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION is moving ahead with a plan to ban vendors from the overcrowded Brooklyn Bridge, reports Crain’s NY. DOT published rules in the City Record on Friday to ensure that “no peddler, vendor hawker, or huckster” shall “remain upon or otherwise encumber, any elevated pedestrian walkway or bicycle lane on a bridge or a bridge approach.” The city will host a public feedback hearing on the new rule on Nov. 15. In a typical fall weekend in 2022, a daily average of more than 34,000 pedestrians traversed the Brooklyn Bridge, double the number on a similar weekend in 2021.
“The failure to engage the vendors on this issue and just take a really extreme, top-down approach is going to be disastrous for the vendors,” Matthew Shapiro, legal director at the Street Vendor Project said in an August interview.
SUPREME COURT AGAIN SIDES WITH NEW YORK ON STRICTER GUN LAWS
STATEWIDE — THE U.S. SUPREME COURT has for the second time denied an application for emergency relief that would have challenged measures in New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul in July 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned the state’s concealed carry law. “This news comes following the plaintiffs’ last-ditch effort to get Justice Clarence Thomas to grant the same application that Justice Sonia Sotomayor had already denied, to attempt to block the law on firearms checks that we passed last year following the Buffalo massacre and the overturning of New York’s century-old gun safety laws,” Hochul said in a statement on Tuesday.
The laws the court upheld included changes to the concealed carry gun laws and new requirements for background checks (and fees) for ammunition sales, according to NY1.
HOCHUL ASKS SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES TO CLAMP DOWN ON SURGING EXTREMIST THREATS, MISINFORMATION
STATEWIDE — FOLLOWING A BRIEFING FROM NEW YORK STATE POLICE on Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul called on social media companies to clamp down on extremist threats posted on their websites in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel, and to increase platform moderation in order to prevent the proliferation of hateful content. Hochul said in a statement that she has ordered State Police to work with local law enforcement and other security partners to track threats posted on social media and to ensure the safety of New Yorkers. Monitoring by the New York State Intelligence Center has shown increased chatter from Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and pro-Hamas extremists, among others, she said.
Misinformation has “run rampant” on Elon Musk’s social media platform X, formerly Twitter, in the 48 hours since Hamas militants’ surprise attack on Israel, according to CNN.
HOCHUL: NYS POLICE INCREASE PATROLS AT VULNERABLE LOCATIONS
STATEWIDE — GOV. KATHY HOCHUL SAID ON TUESDAY that she ordered the New York State Police to increase patrols and outreach, following Hamas’ attack on Israel Saturday morning. “Working with law enforcement, State Police are monitoring potential targets and vulnerable locations around the state, including synagogues, yeshivas, and Jewish museums and cultural centers,” she said in a statement following a briefing from New York State Police at the New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC) upstate.
New Yorkers who see suspicious activity should report it to the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ website, or call 1-866-SAFENYS (1-866-723-3697) to submit a tip.
MTA SHOWS OFF NEW ACCESS-A-RIDE VAN AT BROOKLYN MUSEUM
BROOKLYN — THE MTA ON TUESDAY DEMONSTRATED one of its new model Access-A-Ride vans, the Ford E-450, at a showing at the Brooklyn Museum. The 20 new vans are painted New York State blue and gold, and one test van features the “Q-Straint One All-in-One Wheelchair Securement Station.” The new wheelchair securement system includes an improved visual design which allows drivers to quickly and safely strap in wheelchairs and prevent them from moving. Rubberized hooks and buckles and rugged surface texture provide maximum durability. Fifteen vans with this feature are expected to join the fleet this year.
“Paratransit is the lifeblood for many New Yorkers, including myself, enabling all of us to access all of the great opportunities that the city has to offer,” said MTA Vice President of Paratransit Chris Pangilinan.
CITY COUNCIL OVERSIGHT HEARING ON CLIMATE RESILIENCY EFFORTS
CITY HALL — THE CITY COUNCIL ON WEDNESDAY IS HOLDING a joint oversight hearing on New York City’s climate resiliency efforts. The Committee on Environmental Protection, Resiliency and Waterfronts and the Committee on Parks and Recreation will discuss Introduction 1069, sponsored by Brooklyn’s Lincoln Restler, Jennifer Gutierrez and Sandy Nurse, among others, which would require weekly testing for harmful substances at city waterfronts and the posting of test results online; and Resolution 608 (principal sponsor, Councilmember Jim Gennarowhich of Queens), which would call on the state to create a permanent, citywide voluntary buyout program to mitigate flood risk.
A buyout is a state program to purchase property that must remain undeveloped in perpetuity. The hearing will be livestreamed online.
WOMAN TRYING TO CROSS BELT PKWY. ON FOOT MONDAY NIGHT STRUCK AND KILLED
SHEEPSHEAD BAY — A WOMAN TRYING TO CROSS THE EASTBOUND BELT PARKWAY on foot late Monday night was struck by a black 2017 Volkswagen GTI sedan driven by a 24-year-old male operator, and died. At roughly 11:20 p.m., Megan Oravsky, 40, was crossing the busy highway in the vicinity of Exit 9A at Knapp St., when she was hit. The driver remained at the scene. Oravsky was transported by EMS to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, where she was pronounced deceased. There is so far no explanation as to why she was attempting to cross the Parkway on foot. The investigation remains ongoing by the NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad.
Oravsky was a resident of 560 Winthrop St., CAMBA Gardens Phase II, a 293-unit supportive/affordable housing development located in East Flatbush. Almost two-thirds of the apartments are set aside for formerly homeless families and individuals.
SOUTH BROOKLYN HEALTH’S ER NURSES WIN PRESTIGIOUS LANTERN AWARD
CONEY ISLAND & BRIGHTON BEACH — SOUTH BROOKLYN HEALTH’S EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT NURSES, who were the first in the public health system’s history to receive the prestigious Emergency Nurses Association Lantern Award, were honored in a special ceremony on Oct. 10. NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health Chief Executive Officer Svetlana Lipyanskaya, and Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Manjinder Kaur, hosted the ceremony at South Brooklyn Health, which straddles the Coney Island and Brighton Beach neighborhoods. The Lantern Award distinguishes the South Brooklyn Health team for their commitment to quality, safety, a healthy work environment, innovation and excellence in nursing practice and leaders in emergency care.
The newly elevated and expanded emergency department in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital on the South Brooklyn Health campus sees about 90,000 emergency visits per year.
REP. MALLIOTAKIS TO BIDEN: EVACUATE AMERICANS FROM ISRAEL
SOUTHWESTERN BROOKLYN — FOLLOWING REPORTS THAT AMERICANS ARE AMONG THE CASUALTIES OF THE HAMAS ATTACK on Israel last Saturday, U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) on Tuesday, Oct. 10, called for President Biden to take “swift action,” on evacuating U.S. citizens from the area. “After going through this with both Afghanistan and Ukraine, it’s unconscionable that the Biden Administration is not executing a plan to safely get American citizens home as soon as possible,” said Malliotakis, who called on President Biden, the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense to deploy commercial, charter and military planes so that Americans can return stateside as quickly as possible.” Rep. Malliotakis also provided contact info for the Department of State for Americans currently in Israel: call 1-833-890-9595, 1-606-641-0131, or go online.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the United States had deployed aircraft squadrons and destroyer ships to the region; President Biden said that 14 U.S. citizens are known to have been killed, and that they were among the Americans being held hostage within Gaza.
NAMED ‘BEST REGIONAL HOSPITAL’ IN 7 CATEGORIES
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN/FORT GREENE — THE BROOKLYN HOSPITAL CENTER HAS FOR THE FIRST TIME BEEN NAMED A BEST REGIONAL HOSPITAL in U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-2024 “Best Hospitals” rankings. U.S. News evaluated more than 4,500 hospitals across 15 specialties and 21 procedures and conditions. TBHC, which was founded in 1845, was among the 12% of the evaluated hospitals to earn the ranking, for excelling at factors such as clinical outcomes, level of nursing care and patient experience. Moreover, TBHC was acknowledged as high-performing in its treatment of congestive heart failure, COPD (congestive obstructive pulmonary disease), diabetes, heart attack, hip fracture, kidney failure and stroke.
TBHC is a clinical affiliate of Mount Sinai Hospital and an academic affiliate of The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
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