What’s News, Breaking: Tuesday, October 17, 2023
NY EMPLOYERS CAN NO LONGER DEMAND WORKERS’ PERSONAL EMAIL OR SOCIAL MEDIA PASSWORDS
STATEWIDE — EMPLOYERS IN NEW YORK can no longer demand their workers or job applicants turn over the passwords for their private email or private social media accounts, thanks to a law Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed, reports Staten Island Live. The legislation was brought by state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-the Bronx). Such requests represent “a grave breach of privacy on the employer’s part and can raise concerns regarding unfair and discriminatory hiring and admission practices,” Dinowitz said.
This new law does not apply to certain types of employees, such as police; accessing information that’s publicly available on a website; or having access to employees’ login information for the businesses’ system.
FDNY: PROHIBITED IN NYC STORES, DANGEROUS E-BIKE BATTERIES CAN STILL BE ORDERED ONLINE
CITYWIDE — A MONTH PAST THE PASSAGE OF A NYC LAW PROHIBITING the sale of batteries that don’t meet national safety standards, illegal and dangerous e-bike batteries remain for sale to New Yorkers online, according to FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh, who on Friday sent a letter complaining about these online sales to Amazon. Kavanaugh urged the retail giant “to make sure it only sells lithium-ion batteries & micro-mobility devices that meet legal safety standards,” she said via X/Twitter.
Unsafe e-bike batteries have been the cause of numerous deadly fires in homes and businesses throughout New York City.
INDICTMENT FOR BROOKLYN PIMP WHO ALLEGEDLY THREATENED AND BEAT VICTIMS
DOWNTOWN — A PIMP WHO ALLEGEDLY THREATENED AND BEAT WOMEN IN BROOKLYN, including smashing one with a baseball bat saying he wanted to leave a “stain on her brain,” was indicted in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday. Douglas Welch, 40, a Queens resident also known as “Paradise,” was charged with sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking conspiracy, interstate prostitution and promotion of prostitution on a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in East New York known as the “Penn Track.” Welch routinely threatened his victims with physical violence if they disobeyed his orders, according to Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Welch was scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Cho.
The Penn Track has for years operated as an open-air sex market where Welch and others have forced trafficking victims to earn money for them, according to the indictment.
BOTH BIDEN AND HOCHUL HEAD TO ISRAEL
NEW YORK — PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AND NY GOV. KATHY HOCHUL are both traveling to Israel, Hochul on Tuesday and Biden on Wednesday, their respective press offices said. Biden is traveling there to “demonstrate his steadfast support for Israel in the face of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack and to consult on next steps,” the WH said. Biden will then travel to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet with his Majesty King Abdullah, Egyptian President Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “He will reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination and discuss the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza,” the WH said.
Hochul said she was going to Israel to show solidarity with the U.S. ally. “During these difficult times, it’s more important than ever for New York to show up in support of Israel,” she said.
OFFICIALS & ORGS BLAST ADAMS’ PLAN TO LIMIT REFUGEE KIDS TO 60 DAYS OF ‘UNSAFE’ HOUSING
CITYWIDE — MAYOR ERIC ADAMS’ PLAN TO LIMIT asylum-seeking families with children to just 60 days of housing received blowback from several city officials and organizations on Monday. He also received criticism for his plan to place roughly 500 families with children in a “semi-congregate setting” at Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn. Among those weighing in were Comptroller Brad Lander, Council Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless, who said that the plan would be cruel, possibly illegal, and would disrupt kids’ access to schools and stability.
“Denying families with children the stability of a private room and curtailing their shelter stay is a short-sighted, cruel step that will endanger the physical and mental wellbeing of children, exacerbate trauma, and leave many families on the streets,” Lander said in a statement. If the plan is illegal, “We will have no choice but to seek an immediate injunction from the court,” the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless said.
BELOVED PROSPECT PARK ZOO CLOSED ‘INDEFINITELY’ AFTER OPHELIA DESTRUCTION
PROSPECT PARK — THE PROSPECT PARK ZOO, beloved by generations of Brooklyn children and parents, is closed indefinitely after its basement power and heating systems were destroyed by roughly 25 feet of floodwater from Tropical Storm Ophelia two weeks ago, Gothamist reports. The zoo’s animals, including sea lions, baboons, red pandas, bunnies and farm animals, are doing fine and their habitats were not damaged, Craig Piper, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s director of city zoos, told Gothamist, but critical boilers and electrical equipment in basements were wrecked.
Rebuilding will likely cost many millions of dollars and take months. To donate to WCS, visit https://prospectparkzoo.com/donate.
NO, ADAMS CAN’T REALLY SPEAK EVERY LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD
CITYWIDE — MAYOR ERIC ADAMS IS ROBOCALLING NEW YORKERS, speaking perfect Spanish, Mandarin, Urdu and Yiddish — and it’s all fake, Politico reports. City Hall is using voice-cloning artificial intelligence to create audio public service announcements that sound exactly like him. The calls do not include a disclaimer that they were created with generative AI, but Adams isn’t concerned that he is potentially misleading residents, Politico says.
“I have to be able to speak to people in languages that they understand and I’m happy to do so,” Adams told Politico.
24-YEAR-OLD MAN KILLED IN TRAGIC ACCIDENT ON BELT PARKWAY
PLUMB BEACH — A 24-YEAR-OLD MAN WAS KILLED on the Belt Parkway in Plumb Beach in a collision involving three vehicles at roughly 10:26 p.m. Monday night, according to police. Rakibul Hasan, a resident of Belmont Avenue in Cypress Hills, was driving a Toyota Prius eastbound on the Belt Parkway when a BMW sedan driven by a 23-year-old man struck Hasan’s Toyota from behind. The collision forced Hasan’s Toyota over the median into westbound traffic, where his car was then struck by a Honda CRV SUV driven by a 35-year-old woman. Police responders from the 61st Precinct found Hasan unconscious and unresponsive, with trauma throughout the body. EMS transported him to Lutheran Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased.
EMS units transported the 23-year-old man driving the BMW to Brookdale Hospital in stable condition, and the 35-year-old woman driving the Honda to NYU Langone Brooklyn in stable condition. There were no arrests and the investigation remains ongoing, police said.
AT GROUNDBREAKING, PUBLIC ADVOCATE EMPHASIZES POWER OF COMMUNITY
EAST FLATBUSH — FOLLOWING THE MONDAY, OCT. 16, GROUNDBREAKING of the Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center in East Flatbush, slated to open in 2025, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams praised this milestone in the project, pointing out that the idea for the center was conceived as a constructive way of fighting gun violence — and the tragedies it causes. “More than a decade of effort has gone into the Shirley Chisholm Center. After years of planning and community engagement, it is gratifying to see ground broken today on what will be a vital community space. While in the Council, in the wake of Kimani Gray’s death, I was proud to initiate this project to promote youth development, not destruction, and combat the plague of gun violence driven by a lack of resources, opportunity, and investment in communities.”
The Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center will include a media lab dedicated to another business and community leader, Roy A. Hastick, Sr., who in 1985 founded the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce. (Mr. Hastick died in 2020). A community advisory board for the center was organized on Oct. 5.
SPIKE LEE EXHIBIT OPENS AT BROOKLYN MUSEUM
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A PERSONAL SHOWCASE EXHIBIT CURATED BY BROOKLYN native director Spike Lee opened at the Brooklyn Museum earlier this month, reports the Brooklyn Paper, displaying hundreds of items from Lee’s archives reflecting the course of his career, from childhood photographs to movie memorabilia to Oscars, and everything in between. The exhibit aims to present a complete picture of the filmmaker’s inspirations, including sports and pop culture collectibles, personal papers and historical artifacts connected to Black history and the civil rights movement; everything in the show was previously housed in Lee’s Fort Greene production company, along with, according to the self-identified collector, enough other trophies to fill the whole museum.
The exhibit, “Spike Lee: Creative Sources,” runs through Feb. 4; admission costs $25, and more information can be found on the Brooklyn Museum’s website.
WARNING ISSUED ABOUT BRIGHT-COLORED POSSIBLE DRUG DEBRIS FOUND IN PARK
FORT GREENE PARK — THE FORT GREENE CONSERVANCY HAS RECEIVED SEVERAL REPORTS of potential fentanyl “trash cans,” located in and around Fort Greene Park, including in the playgrounds, the central lawn and the Willoughby entrance ramp. These resemble small cylindrical plastic canisters similar to the kind that holds 35mm film rolls. The Conservancy warns parkgoers to not pick up or touch this debris or let their children do so. Instead, text an image and location to (347) 865-5423, which reaches the Fort Greene Park Director, who will have Parks staff safely remove and dispose of these “trash cans.” The Conservancy will also alert its Community Wellness Team, who will monitor the locations where these multi-colored trash cans are found.
Parkgoers who find this debris are also urged to file a report with 311 so the City gets an accurate record. The City uses this data to allocate resources.
PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTERS ARRESTED OUTSIDE SCHUMER’S HOME
PARK SLOPE — DOZENS OF ACTIVISTS WERE ARRESTED on Friday night for blocking traffic in an act of civil disobedience in front of the Park Slope home of Sen. Chuck Schumer, reports the New York Post, including two city councilmembers and several prominent Jewish figures. The protest was organized by the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice For Peace, which is demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel in response to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, as well as a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza Strip governing party Hamas; protesters at the event, which attracted hundreds, carried signs describing Israel’s actions as “genocide” and “apartheid.”
Schumer over the weekend led a bipartisan group of lawmakers on a trip to Israel in solidarity following last week’s terror attacks against Israeli civilians; the senator on Sunday posted on X (Twitter) that he and other members of the delegation, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, had been rushed to a bomb shelter after rockets were launched at the nation’s capital of Tel Aviv.
RITE AID, WITH STORES STILL IN BROOKLYN, FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY
COURT ST. AND NATIONWIDE — THE PHARMACY CHAIN RITE AIDE HAS FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY protection and will sell part of its business while it restructures and deals concurrently with financial losses and opioid-related lawsuits, the Associated Press has reported. Corporate spokespersons said that Rite Aid will continue filling prescriptions, and its retail and online stores will remain accessible while the company undergoes its voluntary Chapter 11 process as it closes underperforming stores.
The pharmacy giant did not indicate which stores or neighborhoods might be affected. In Downtown Brooklyn, Rite Aid operates stores at 120 Court St. (NW corner of Atlantic Ave.) and on Smith St. A Rite Aid at 101 Clinton St. (corner of Joralemon St.) in Brooklyn Heights closed in February 2022. Rite Aid employees are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
BAY RIDGE RESTAURANT BECOMES FOCUS OF CONTROVERSY
BAY RIDGE — A PALESTINIAN RESTAURANT IN SOUTHERN BROOKLYN HAS BECOME THE TARGET of online trolling after last week’s eruption of violence in Israel, reports the New York Times, apparently motivated by tensions over the long-running conflict: one-star ratings left on review sites — later removed after reports from the owners — urged customers to boycott Palestinian businesses. Ayat NYC, run by husband-and-wife team Ayat Masoud and Abdul Elenani, opened its doors in 2020 and quickly began to gain positive attention and loyal customers from the diverse neighborhood, although it has previously faced controversy over a wall mural depicting children imprisoned by Israeli soldiers; patrons from both the Muslim and Jewish communities who dined at the restaurant on Thursday night expressed fears, frustrations and hopes for peace — but all with appetites undaunted by the anonymous harassers.
Masoud and Elenani condemned the violence from both sides and said that this new crisis makes their goal to raise awareness of Palestinian issues through cultural exchange more important than ever.
CITY’S HOSPITAL SYSTEM AWARDED GOLD STATUS FOR HELPING PATIENTS MANAGE DIABETES
CITYWIDE — THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION HAS RECOGNIZED ALL 11 OF THE NYC HEALTH + HOSPITALS’ full medical centers and seven of its Gotham Health primary care sites for their work in helping patients manage their diabetes. Within the city’s public hospital system, 17 sites received Gold status, the highest recognition, for having fewer than 25% of patients with poorly controlled diabetes: NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County and NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull. Moreover, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Brooklyn Neighborhood Health Centers; NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Cumberland (Fort Greene) and NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, East New York received Gold Status.
This is the first year NYC Health + Hospitals has applied for this recognition, and the results highlight the high standard of care to manage diabetes in the health system.
STATE EXPANDS LIQUOR SALES ON SUNDAYS, NIGHTS
STATEWIDE — GOV. HOCHUL ON SATURDAY SIGNED A PACKAGE OF LEGISLATION UPDATING the state’s rules to allow for expanded alcohol sales; sales of beer, mead, braggot and cider were previously banned on Sundays between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., but will now be permitted. Liquor and wine stores, meanwhile, can now remain open on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; the text of the bill states that this expansion is intended to provide more options to workers with non-standard hours, as well as to boost sales and reduce hassle for retailers.
The governor also signed several bills aimed at supporting alcohol industry businesses: the package extends the validity of brewer’s licenses from one year to three years, allows the use of pressurized alcohol-dispensing machines, allows stores to offer complementary alcohol-related gifts and freebies, and loosens restrictions on manufacturer and wholesaler partnerships with liquor licensees.
CARDINAL SERVING IN JERUSALEM OFFERS HIMSELF IN EXCHANGE FOR HOSTAGES
JERUSALEM — A TOP ROMAN CATHOLIC PRELATE IN THE HOLY LAND HAS OFFERED HIMSELF IN EXCHANGE for the release of about 200 hostages that Hamas is reportedly holding, according to a report from the Brooklyn diocesan newspaper, The Tablet. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, mentioned this idea during a video conference with journalists in Italy on Monday, Oct. 16, saying that he would be willing to trade places with Israeli children who have been among those taken hostage by Hamas terrorists. The meeting took place nine days after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, taking and, in some cases, killing hostages. “I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home. No problem. There is total willingness on my part,” Cardinal Pizzaballa told the Catholic News Service.
The Latin Patriarch emphasized, however, that his office had not been in contact with the Hamas leaders. He told journalists, “You can’t talk to Hamas. It is very difficult.
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