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Dems’ conduct in hearings is not endearing




I was transfixed in front of my television, watching the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I usually do not give a hoot to watch a hearing of any kind, but there was something special calling me. Read more.

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City reveals designs for Grand Army Plaza restoration




City greenspace bigwigs announced an $8.9 million facelift for the iconic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza on Friday, promising to restore Brooklyn’s architectural crown jewel with construction starting in late 2021.

“Grand Army Plaza has long been a central hub in Brooklyn, but in these past few months it has become even more beloved as New Yorkers flocked to the park for socially-distant recreation and socializing,” Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and the Plaza restored to their full splendor.”

City Hall and the Prospect Park Alliance unveiled the plan to replace the roof of the iconic archway, clean and repoint its bricks, repair sections of the monument’s interior, and upgrade the stone shrine’s exterior lighting. 

Parks honchos will also revitalize the surrounding plaza — including by removing invasive shrubs, trees, and vines, as well as replacing the cracked bluestone and limestone around the Bailey Fountain and the John F. Kennedy Memorial. 

The cracked stone tiles in the plaza will be replaced.Prospect Park Alliance

The restoration plan comes as the just latest in a series of renovations over the arch’s 128-year history. 

After falling into such a sorry state of disrepair in 1975, the statue of Columbia fell from her chariot onto the sidewalk, leading to a multi-year repair effort to renew the landmark. Decades later, the Parks Department’s Monuments Conservation Program helped reinvigorate the structure’s bronze statues, which sit both atop the monolith, as well as on both legs of the arch. 

Just last winter, chunks of debris fell dozens of feet onto the ground, causing park stewards to close the area underneath the arch — which will also reopen once construction work wraps up.

When work is finished, Brooklnites will also finally be able to once more climb to the arch’s observation deck, which has been closed to the general public for over a decade, but will soon be open on special occasions.

The remodeling work comes as the Prospect Park Alliance is in the process of restoring many other architectural gems on the northeast corner of Prospect Park, including their recent unveiling of the restored Endale Arch just off Grand Army Plaza. 

“The Alliance is incredibly excited to restore this space to its original grandeur,” said Prospect Park Alliance President Sue Donoghue. “Our award winning team of architects and landscape architects has undertaken the restoration of many important park destinations, from the Carousel to the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, and this work is central to our mission.”

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COVID-19 testing and resource center opens in Coney Island




A new Coney Island health center opened its doors on Tuesday, allowing residents access to free testing for COVID-19, the flu, and strep throat.

The COVID-19 Testing and Resource Center — located in Coney Island Cathedral on Mermaid Avenue between W. 28th and W. 29th streets — allows residents to schedule rapid COVID-19 tests, nasal swab tests, flu shots, or appointments with a primary care provider, said the center’s chief executive. 

“The intent is for the patient to walk away diagnosed and treated, whether [it’s] COVID-19, or something that requires antibiotics, like strep,” said Alex Movshovich, who runs the health organization Community Health Initiatives, Inc. (CHI), which operates the center.

Patients who are uninsured can get tested or schedule a doctor’s appointment for free, while insured patients will have their needs covered by their insurance company. All coronavirus tests are free for insured residents under the The Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  

The rapid COVID-19 tests are only available to patients experiencing symptoms, and yield results within about 10 minutes, Movshovich said. Anyone can schedule an appointment for a nasal swab test, which are experiencing a one-to-two day turn around time. 

The opening of the new testing site — which offers appointments Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm — comes as the city combats an uptick in cases of COVID-19. Since Nov. 1, the average percentage of positive tests every day has risen from 1.8 percent to 3.01 percent, triggering this week’s school closures and threatening a larger lockdown.

Coney Island is seeing an even higher positivity rate, with an average of 4.58 percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in the past week, according to city data

Movshovich said that the CHI Health Center decided to open the Coney Island clinic not only because of the rising number of cases, but because of the impending flu season.

We recognized that with the flu and strep season approaching, and the similarity in symptoms with COVID-19, there needed to be increased access points for testing,” he said. “Having an additional testing site in the community that provides testing, education, and immediate access to primary care will help our residents deal with the uncertainty when and if they have symptoms.”

Apart from the new center, residents can get walk-in swab and antibodies tests at Coney Island Hospital on Ocean Parkway, the Ida G. Israel Community Health Center on W. 19th Street, and City MD in Brighton Beach.

Local officials Councilman Mark Treyger, Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus, and state Sen. Diane Savino attended the opening of the new center, and thanked the healthcare providers for servicing Coney Island, which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus.  

“Coney Island had one of the highest death rates during this pandemic, which is a testament to the crucial
need for this COVID-19 resource and testing site,” Sen. Diane Savino said at the opening. “I applaud CHI Health Center for being on the frontlines of this health crisis and providing our residents with the information and testing they deserve to help navigate their way through these difficult times.”

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Newark residents asked to stay home for 10 days starting Thanksgiving eve




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Opinion: People don’t eat in the long term




My previous column was about cynicism ceding ground to the celebrations that broke out across Brooklyn and the world when the current president lost his bid for re-election. It’s a pleasant memory and indicates, or at least suggests the possibility of, a better future with Joe Biden in the White House.

Unfortunately, he’s not there yet, the current occupant continues to cause harm and then we are still likely to deal with the consequences of a Republican-controlled senate and their likely rediscovery of fiscal parsimony.

As a second viral wave descends upon us with schools once again closing, we as a city see the days to recovery dwindling down to a precious few and we lack time to play the waiting game. More businesses are shuttered, and people go hungry and homeless with each passing day.

While we wait for wickedness to pass, we need a functioning Albany to bridge the gap — and by functioning, I mean a willingness to ask everyone to do their part and not allow anyone to stand in the way of financial relief.

While it now appears likely the Democrats will have won a veto-proof supermajority when the new State Senate is seated, the governor should immediately implement anti-austerity measures. As I’m writing this, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes has pulled ahead of his opponent and is likely to be re-elected when all votes are certified. We have also added to the state senate Democratic Socialists who ran on the Democratic line, such as Velmanette Montgomery’s successor Jabari Brisport.

So the first step — and I think it’s a small first step — would be to implement a pied-à-terre tax. If you’ve got more than one residence and they are worth millions of dollars, that’s great, but under these exigent circumstances, it is reasonable to ask for a small additional payment to make sure our subways run all night and schools aren’t short-staffed. 

Ideally, if we ever restore a fully functional federal government, and the wickedness mentioned above indeed passes, then we’d get sufficient aid, and local taxes could then be a less critical focus. I know that the governor has allowed his fears of flight to serve as his theory of the case, but I firmly believe that he misjudges the balance of consequences. If he doesn’t budge, the new legislature should set the agenda.

As the Roosevelt administration said in responding to criticism as it fought the great depression, “People don’t eat in the long run. They eat every day.” If Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t relent now the incoming state legislature must, thanks to the supermajority, govern with an urgent understanding that lives are at stake.

Mike Racioppo is the District Manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 and has been an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College. Follow him on Twitter @RacioppoMike.

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Opinion: What kind of city are we?




New York is the city that never sleeps, but then Broadway was shut down. Then, so were the clubs and the bars and the restaurants past a certain hour — and even before that, the subway was closed overnight. That was the real change.

We make changes here to fight emergencies, and we’re in an emergency now, no question about it.

When people say that New Yorkers are mean or annoying or difficult, what they really mean is we demand faster responses and higher quality, whenever we want, to a greater degree than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. Because we are a big old city, state, and country, though, that quality is lacking in all our levels of government.

I’ve been a columnist here for about nine months. I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong. To be reactive and competent, to deliver anything of high quality, you’ve got to admit when you are wrong.

I was right to warn the federal election was not something we could control. I was right to warn of coronavirus. I was right to repeatedly notice how incompetent, slow, unreactive, and blinkered Mayor Bill de Blasio is. I will be proven right that commercial real estate in this city will collapse in value.

But it turns out I was wrong when I wrote in a column about the mayor and the city’s public schools and his general slowness three months ago, that “perhaps it is okay or even good that unlike most other large public school districts, New York City plans to continue to offer some in-classroom instruction to students who desire it. But not much in-class instruction. And it’s not at all clear staying open will end up being a good idea.”

Three months later, it’s increasingly clear from data around the world that schools, especially elementary schools, are not the major spreaders of coronavirus, especially not compared to indoor restaurants and gyms. Almost everywhere else in the world has chosen to close almost everything else before they close their schools, especially for their youngest.

In this regard, New York again showed itself to be more like the world than America. For a little while.

Because now de Blasio has decided to stick with his plan of closing schools when the citywide positive test rate has hit 3 percent, even as indoor dining and retail continues. We are showing once again that our true priorities are commercial priorities, nourishing companies and their employees instead of humans and their offspring.

Forget the Big Apple: a terrible nickname, used only by tourists. I still like Gotham and The City That Never Sleeps. We know we’re New York Tough, so let’s try to not to be The City That Never Learns.

Nick Rizzo is a former Democratic District Leader and a political consultant who lives in Greenpoint. Follow him on Twitter @NickRizzo.

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Couple sought for Bed-Stuy bus shooting, Flatbush drive-by under investigation




Cops need the public’s help in finding a young couple connected to the brazen daylight shooting of a 70-year-old woman as she rode a bus through Bedford-Stuyvesant on Tuesday.

Detectives from the 79th Precinct say at 2:28 pm on Nov. 17, the male and female suspects approached a 29-year-old man in front of 1456 Fulton St. Cops said the male suspect pulled out a gun and began firing multiple shots at the victim, striking him in his left leg.

But one of the shots went astray and instead struck the rear of a B25 bus heading west along Fulton Street, grazing the 70-year-old woman on the right cheek as she rode in the back of the vehicle.

After being alerted to the incident by other passengers, the B25 bus driver stopped his ride on Fulton Street near Tompkins Avenue, on the Black Lives Matter mural across the street from Restoration Plaza, and called for help.

Paramedics rushed the senior woman to Kings County Medical Center in stable condition, the bullet having come just inches from being a fatal shot, according to police.

Meanwhile, the intended target wound up being hospitalized at Interfaith Medical Center in stable condition after being transported there by private means.

Cops described the shooter as a man wearing a red, gray and black jacket. His female companion wore all black clothing.

A photo provided by police shows the suspects after the incident in the vicinity of Rochester Avenue and Dean Street. A video clips show them running on Fulton Street immediately before the incident.

In addition to this shooting, a 36-year-old man was also shot in Flatbush on Wednesday night in what officers from the 67th Precinct believe was a drive-by-shooting.

The shooting occurred at 8:56 pm on Nov. 18 as the victim was standing in front of 4028 Clarendon Road near Albany Avenue, when a light colored sedan drove by and one of the occupants fired shots at the man.

Officers found the wounded victim on the street; he was rushed to Kings County Hospital in stable condition.

There was no further description of the suspects or motive in this case, though the shooting had the hallmarks of a gang attack, officials say.

Anyone with information in regard to either of these shootings is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit tips online at, or on Twitter @NYPDTips. All calls and messages are kept confidential.

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After successes in state legislative races, DSA sets sights on City Council




After a slew of upset victories in the June primaries, the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is setting their sights on the 2021 City Council races, where they’ve so far endorsed six upstart candidates — including three would-be Brooklyn legislators. 

The DSA last week announced their support for Brandon West in Park Slope’s 39th District, Michael Hollingsworth in the Crown Heights-anchored 35th District, and Alexa Aviles in Sunset Park’s 38th District. 

The organization also endorsed Tiffany Cabán and Jaslin Kaur in Queens and Adolfo Abreau in the Bronx and Manhattan.

With 36 of 51 Council members barred by term limits from seeking reelection, the 2021 city elections will substantially change the makeup of the city’s legislature — and the DSA hopes to capitalize on the shift to enact priorities like defunding the Police Department and investing more in the social safety net. 

“The six members of the NYC-DSA City Council slate are the leaders this city needs as we continue to face the devastating fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chi Anunwa, co-chair of New York City DSA. “They all have deep ties to their communities and an absolute commitment to fighting alongside working New Yorkers for a democratic socialist agenda, including defunding the NYPD and funding the social infrastructure we actually need — education, healthcare, and housing.”

On the heels of triumphs like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cotez’s 2016 win in the Bronx and state Sen. Julia Salazar’s 2018 victory in Bushwick, DSA-endorsed candidates toppled three incumbents in the state Assembly this past summer, and won a number of other open seats over party-backed politicos. 

An endorsement from the DSA has become a heavily sought after boost from candidates in progressive districts, with multiple hopefuls identifying as democratic socialists and seeking the DSA nod in each race.

West, who had previously led the reform-minded organization New Kings Democrats, received DSA’s backing in his election against eight others to replace Councilman Brad Lander in District 39. 

Local community board member Aviles garnered the organization’s support in District 38, which is currently represented by Councilman Carlos Menchaca, over five other candidates vying for the post. 

Nine candidates are looking to replace Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo in District 35, where DSA threw their weight behind Hollingsworth, a tenant activist who has been vocally opposed to development rezonings. 

Adding even more weight to the endorsements, DSA’s preferred candidates performed well in the 2020 state legislative districts that overlap the three Council districts where they’ve announced endorsements. 

Jabari Brisport handily won state Senate District 25, which includes large swaths of City Council District 39. Marcela Mitaynes dethroned Felix Ortiz in Sunset Park’s 51st Assembly District. Phara Souffrant Forrest, likewise defeated Walter Mosley in Crown Heights 57th Assembly District. 

“Last week, we elected a slate of socialist legislatures to represent working people up in Albany,” said New York City DSA co-chair Sumathy Kumar. “Now we’re doing the same right here in New York City.”

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Play on: Brooklyn Public Library launches board game loan program




The Brooklyn Public Library began lending out board games in its Prospect Heights and Crown Heights branches this week, allowing patrons to check out their favorite brain teasers for up to three weeks, according to a library rep.

The long-awaited Board Game Library offers more than 80 titles for players of all ages, including favorites such as Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, and 7 Wonders. 

Members can sift through the library’s online catalogue — which sorts the games according to their difficulty level, game play style, and age group — to find their favorite brain twister, or to discover a new game they’d like to try.

To reserve a game, patrons must place a hold online. When the game is available, members must select a time to pick it up from either the Central Branch by Grand Army Plaza or the Crown Heights Branch on New York Avenue. 

Up to three games can be checked out at a time. 

The Board Game Library was slated to be rolled out last spring, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. In light of the virus, games will be quarantined in between check outs, and members must pick up the games in the library’s lobby while wearing a mask. 

Game-lovers who prefer to stay home can attend the library’s virtual gaming events, such as online chess lessons and video game tournaments. 

A Brooklyn Public Library spokeswoman told Brooklyn Paper last year that the library chose the games by asking members what they’d be most excited to take home. 

“The librarians who developed the proposal surveyed patrons to learn what games they liked, what games would be good for children, and what games they would be interested in checking out,” said Fritzi Bodenheimer.

And though the coronavirus outbreak may have delayed the initiative’s launch, one librarian praised the timing of the program’s debut, arguing that the board games will provide patrons with needed respite as they quarantine.

“The pandemic created an environment where people are more in need than ever of new ways to interact with each other in isolation,” said Benjamin Perry. “Games can help us to relax and try something new, either alone, or with one another, can give parents a short break while kids are entertained, and for younger patrons can even complement their schoolwork.” 

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Bay Ridge Courier: November 20, 2020




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Mathylde Frontus declares victory in Assembly race against apparent QAnon supporter




Democratic incumbent Mathylde Frontus declared victory in the contentious race for the Coney Island state Assembly seat against Republican challenger Mark Szuszkiewicz. 

“Thank you to everyone who made this victory possible,” Frontus said in a statement. “I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to keep serving the community that has raised me for the last 35 years.”

Frontus leads Szuszkiewicz by only 483 votes, but her campaign manager said her lead will grow after officials count the 500 ballots that Szuszkiewicz’s campaign has contested.

With those contested votes, Frontus’ lead will surpass the 540 outstanding affidavit ballots that will be counted this weekend, making it numerically impossible for Szuszkiewicz to catch up, campaign manager Joe Herrera said. 

Szuszkiewicz, a virtually unknown candidate who raised only $1,420, swept election night by nearly 51 percent with 17,852 votes, according to the state’s Board of Elections. But Frontus gained the lead on Nov. 17, when election officials nearly finished counting the district’s 9,000 absentee ballots.

The race for the 46th Assembly district — which covers Coney Island, west Brighton Beach, and portions of Gravesend and Bay Ridge — gained national attention after Brooklyn Paper reported that Szuszkiewicz had uploaded numerous posts to his social media accounts supporting the far-right conspiracy theory, QAnon. 

Szuszkiewicz’s popularity has shocked locals — not only because of apparent support of QAnon, but because of the district’s history as a Democratic stronghold. If Szuszkiewicz had been elected, he would have been the first Republican to represent Coney Island in more than 80 years, one politico said

“‘Surprised’ is an understatement,” said Ralph Perfetto, a third-generation Coney Islander and former district leader, about Szuszkiewicz’s lead. “In my lifetime, I’ve never seen Coney Island in any way shape or form come close to becoming a Republican district.” 

Frontus, who previously ran a Coney Island non-profit called Urban Neighborhood Services, won the embattled Assembly seat in 2018 after the resignation of former Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, who pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars in Superstorm Sandy recovery money. 

Before Harris, the seat was occupied by Alec Brook-Krasny, who vacated the position in 2015 to work at a Sheepshead Bay clinic, where he was later arrested in connection to a drug scam that allegedly defrauded Medicare and Medicaid and sold more than 6.3 million pills on the black market. Brook-Krasny was acquitted of the charges in 2019. 

Frontus said that, despite the seat’s fraught past, she hopes to pave a bright future during her second term.

“Southern Brooklynites can count on me to keep fighting every single day as we go through these challenging times together,” she said in a statement. 

The vote tally comes from a scan of the ballots by the Board of Elections, which released the numbers to the campaigns. The Board will only publish the official election results when all the races are counted.

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Andrew Gounardes wins re-election to state Senate




Democratic incumbent Andrew Gounardes has won re-election to Bay Ridge’s state Senate seat, defeating Republican challenger Vito Bruno in a nail-biting race.

“It is the honor of my life to serve my community, and today as the remaining votes are counted, I am enormously grateful to the neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn for reelecting me to represent them in the state Senate,” Gounardes said in a statement.

Gounardes has pulled ahead of Bruno by 2,500 votes and with 1,800 absentee ballots remaining as of 5 pm on Nov. 18, according to Gounardes’ spokesperson, Sarah Anders.

The announcement comes as the Board of Elections wraps up its third day of counting ballots in 22nd state Senate district, which encompasses Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach.

Republican insurgent Vito Bruno, a businessman and former nightclub owner, won 51.4 percent of the in-person vote on election night with about 6,000 more votes than Gounardes. But Gounardes made up the deficit once the Board of Elections began processing the 20,000 absentee ballots from the district, which leaned Democrat. 

Gounardes’ slim 2,500 vote margin — if it holds — is more than double his 1,271-vote defeat over longtime Republican senator Marty Golden in 2018. 

The district saw a dramatic increase in voter turnout on both sides of the aisle. Gounardes received nearly 16,000 more votes than he did in 2018, and Bruno received more than 14,000 votes than 14-year incumbent Republican Marty Golden. In total, nearly 30,000 more votes were cast — nearly totaling the number of votes Golden won in 2018.

The close race is one of three razor-thin elections in southern Brooklyn. Three Republican insurgents — Vito Bruno, congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis, and state Assembly candidate Mark Szuszkiewicz — swept their races on election night after an apparent “red wave” of support for President Donald Trump boosted the down-ballot Republican candidates throughout southern Brooklyn. 

But of those three candidates, only Malliotakis is still projected to win her seat once election officials finish tallying the mail-in votes. 

The vote tally comes from a scan of the ballots by the Board of Elections, which released the numbers to the campaigns. The Board will not publish the official election results until all the races are counted.

This article has been updated with new vote tallies and information.

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Senior struck by stray bullet aboard Downtown Brooklyn bus




A 70-year-old woman was nearly killed when a stray bullet fired by a man on a busy Brooklyn street Tuesday afternoon struck her in the cheek as she rode an MTA bus, police officials said.

Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said the unnamed woman was shot just after 2 pm in the rear of a B25 bus traveling westbound along Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

While some passengers dove for cover, the woman was hit. The driver, who’s name was withheld, stopped the bus after he realized there was a commotion at the rear and stopped right on top of the Black Lives Matter mural just off Tompkins Avenue.

The woman was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where Harrison said she was in stable condition.

Harrison said the gunman was wearing a red or orange bubble jacket with grey bottom and blue jeans and sneakers and said, “he was firing several rounds off Tompkins and Fulton Street.” Harrison did not provide further details or who the assailant was shooting at the time of the gunfire.

Police officials said they would soon release surveillance video and photos of the assailant to the public.

The driver was said to have heard the gunfire and realized his passenger had been hit.

MTA officials called the driver, who didn’t want to give his name, as “very brave.”

Anyone with information in regard to this shooting is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit tips online at, or on Twitter @NYPDTips.

All calls and messages are kept confidential.

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Nurses rally to restore psychiatric services at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital




Members of the state’s nurses union are calling on New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital to restore two psychiatric facilities that were closed during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York State Nurses Association say the two wards, which hold about 50 patients, continue to go unused and empty, eliminating inpatient mental healthcare for hundreds of patients over the eight-month period. On Nov. 16, the union was joined outside the hospital on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope by community members, elected officials, patients and their families — all of whom called to reopen the units without delay.

Proponents of restoring the psychiatric facilities say the pandemic has exacerbated the city’s mental health crisis, and that more people need access to mental health services than ever before. Healthcare workers at the rally alleged that some psychiatric patients have waited days in the Methodist Hospital emergency room before being transported to facilities outside the city, while others have been admitted to Methodist surgery floors where they cannot receive the specialized care that they need.

Leaders further contended that the tensions caused by lack of access have led to assaults on hospital staff.

“With 50 beds closed, it’s created an unsafe environment,” said Irving Campbell, a psychiatric nurse at Methodist Hospital. “We’re hearing about increased attacks on our fellow colleagues, ER wait times to transfer the behavioral health patients has increased and we’re seeing them on our non-behavioral health units. Simply put: New York-Presbyterian has ignored the people of Park Slope and the neighboring communities and the community demands that the unit be reopened.”

Borough President Eric Adams echoed those sentiments, citing his own experience with the city’s mental health services as a former Police Department captain.

“I saw during my law enforcement days the failed policies of mental health,” he said. “About 48 percent of those incarcerated are suffering from some form of mental health and when you don’t become more upstream and pro-active, instead of being reactive – these are failed policies.”

Those inefficiencies, Adams said, “will lead to inequalities that leads to injustice.”

Reopening the wards is crucial to meeting the mental health needs of Brooklynites, leaders contended at the rally.Photo by Todd Maisel

“When you close these facilities, men, women and children [will not receive] the care they deserve,” he went on. “This fight is crucial. We must reopen these hospital beds and provide the function that they are supposed to provide.”

Councilman Brad Lander said he and other elected officials back the hospital’s efforts to build new hospital buildings, even in the face of some neighborhood opposition. The hospital needs that same support, he said, to reopen the two wards in question.

“My sister-in-law is a psychiatric nurse and talks to me every day about what she is seeing – the need for those services is so clear,” Lander said. “All you have to do is walk around the streets of Brooklyn to see how much mental health need there is. We even feel it in ourselves the level of anxiety and disorder that we are all feeling. You know the need for these psychiatric beds is powerful. It is appalling for NYP to reduce these services in the cover of a pandemic and reduce mental health services.”

Assemblywoman Joanne Simon echoed Lander in saying there are “not enough psychiatric beds to begin with.”

“We talked about the numbers of people incarcerated because they have mental health illness and we didn’t provide them with the mental health services in the first place so our state prison system has become the chief provider of mental health services,” Simon said. “There is something very wrong with that picture.”

Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus — one of the only mental health professionals in the state legislature — said she knows firsthand what happens when local healthcare facilities don’t provide the proper services to those struggling.

“What I know for sure is that it is a shame that people turn their backs on people who need psychiatric services during a global pandemic,” Frontus said. “We need to think people over profit. This is an issue of life or death. When we don’t provide the care for people in need, where do we see them? Out on the streets. We see them rummaging through garbage in all sorts of despair, sleeping. I got a picture texted to me that my staff couldn’t get into the office because of an entire group sleeping in front of the door – this is a very serious issue.”

Leaders also took Mayor Bill de Blasio, his wife Chirlane McCray and the Department of Health to task at the rally, claiming they have not done enough to increase mental healthcare in the city, and that they have stayed silent on the reopening of the psychiatric beds at Methodist.

In a statement issued after the rally, a spokesperson for Methodist Hospital said the closure of the wards was necessary to combat the rise in patients battling COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak in the spring.

“To create critically needed ICU capacity to respond to the massive surge in COVID-19 patients earlier this year, it was necessary to transfer psychiatric patients within NewYork-Presbyterian,” the statement read. “Our commitment to behavioral health is unwavering and we very much understand the desire to know when inpatient beds at certain hospitals will return. At this time, we are finalizing a plan with regulatory agencies to reopen behavioral health beds across the network, while remaining prepared and flexible for another possible surge of COVID-19.”

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Landmarks designates E. 25th Street East Flatbush’s first historic district




City landmarks commissioners voted unanimously to designate a stretch of E. 25th Street as East Flatbush’s first historic district on Tuesday morning.

The small district, located between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, contains a “remarkably cohesive group” of Renaissance Revival row houses dating back to the early 1900s, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The houses were built as single-family homes.

The LPC’s vote comes after residents and commissioners alike showered the block with praise during a public hearing about the proposed district in September. 

“This designation today is very meaningful to me,” said LPC Chairwoman Sarah Carroll. “It’s clear to me that the residents were attracted to this neighborhood originally because of its architectural character and sense of place and their shared commitment to their block and buildings has strengthened the community.”

Members of commission commended residents’ extraordinary effort, not simply maintaining their home’s architectural integrity, but also in working together as a community to achieve the historical status at the meeting

“You really can’t plan this type of success for any block or any community,” said Commissioner John Gustafsson. “The word organic comes to mind, you have a group of people who have foresight, who have thoughtfulness, and they have a community spirit. In some sense, this historic district is a preservation model.” 

The century-old homes lining both sides of the block are notably consistent with one another — having been meticulously well-preserved by its residents — and are still outfitted with their original front gardens and facades of brownstone and limestone. 

Under the new historical designation, the 56 Renaissance Revival row houses — all of which were built between 1909 and 1912 by the Henry Meyer Building Company — will be under the jurisdiction of city landmarking gurus in regards to any future alterations or reconstruction to the structures. 

e. 25th st
A portion of E. 25th Street in Flatbush was designated a historic district on Nov. 17.Photo by Susan De Vries

“We had nothing but positive vibes going into the vote today,” said Julia Charles, adding that the September meeting left locals feeling hopeful about the vote. “We felt like we were in a good place.” 

The 300 E. 25th Street Block Association began their push for the historical designation status in June 2019 in an effort to preserve their neighborhood’s special character from incoming developers with plans of demolishing homes to make way for multi-story condos. 

“With the development that is happening all over the city, but East Flatbush is getting hammered,” Charles said. “Our community is under fire.” 

Charles said the designation is more than just a win for her block but for the greater E. Flatbush community, rich in Caribbean culture, and hopes it will serve as a model for further preservation in the neighborhood. 

“We are happy for our block,” Charles said. “We are looking forward to a new energy in the community for other blocks to be preserved as well.”

E. 25th Street’s 300 Block has seen a number of accolades from various organizations over the years being named the Brooklyn’s “Greenest Block” by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden four times, most recently in 2016, and was named one of six communities to celebrate in 2020 by the preservationist group Historic Council.

“I think they won more times the ‘Greenest Block in Brooklyn’ than any other block in Brooklyn,” said Commissioner Fred Bland. “It’s not just the green but the people themselves who do this and their amazing spirit.” 

Neighbors were ecstatic upon hearing the news of the approval and celebrated with a toast outside of their homes on Tuesday afternoon.

“Anticipating a celebration, of course I had to get some bubbly,” Charles said. “We gave a toast and were able to express our journey and really be glad about it.”

The designation also sparked excitement for members of the commission.

“This is thrilling,” said Bland. “If such a deserving historic district can be lurking somehow out of our reach or out of our understanding, there must be others out there as well that we should be looking to. It gives me great hope that more districts can be designated.”

The commission’s chairwoman further noted that this is the first historic district whose landmarking process has taken place completely over virtual meetings. She also seconded the praise for the landmarked site and the homeowners.

“I find this intersection between historic preservation and community to be so rewarding,” said Carroll.

Additional reporting by Craig Hubert

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Feds officially launch Gowanus Canal Superfund dredging




Senior Environmental Protection Agency officials finally kicked off the long-awaited dredging of the Gowanus Canal’s Superfund Cleanup on Monday, marking a new milestone in the decade-long battle to cleanse Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory. 

“Today we mark the official start of a historic cleanup to address a legacy of hazardous waste and urban pollution that dates back to the 1800s,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez on Nov. 16. 

The environmental gurus and elected officials celebrated the launch of the canal dredging at the Gowanus waterfront esplanade near First and Bond streets — watching along as an excavator heaved the noxious black sediment into a container at the opposite shore side. 

An excavator unloads a scoop of heavily-polluted sediment from the Gowanus Canal near the Carroll Street Bridge on Nov. 16.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The feds tasked a group of historic polluters with dredging and capping the industrial waterway at an estimated cost of more than $1.5 billion — including the City of New York, National Grid, Con Edison, the Hess Corporation, Honeywell International, and the Brooklyn Improvement Company.

The responsible parties will scoop out some 72,400 cubic yards of the filthy sediment known locally as “black mayonnaise” during the first phase of the cleanup, which covers the stretch of the canal from its head at Butler Street down to the Third Street Bridge, and is slated to wrap by mid-2023, according to Lopez. 

The launch comes 10 years after EPA designated the Gowanus a Superfund site in 2010 following fierce battles with the then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, who opposed the federal intervention, fearing it would scare off $400 million in anticipated residential development. 

A decade later, the feds are here to stay and the city once again eyes more residential development with a neighborhood-wide rezoning for Gowanus slated to launch into public review early next year. 

Area Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez praised the community’s unyielding activism to push Washington to take over the site, saying it was the only way to remediate more than a century of industrial pollution. 

“This is happening because of you, your activism, your commitment to fight for a cleaner environment because our communities and our children deserve better,” Velazquez said. “Some in the real estate community thought that the designation would disincentivize people from coming in, and that was so wrong.”

After the designation and years of preparation, EPA ran a pilot project to test the dredging methods along the Fourth Street Turning Basin in 2018, pulling out some 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from that offshoot of the canal. 

The project is likely to last at least another decade to scrub the entire 1.8-mile canal of more than a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and copper. 

Contractors will dredge most of the sediment before stabilizing the remnants by injecting concrete and capping it with a protective layer.

On top of that, more than 360 million gallons of raw sewage and stormwater runoff flush into the canal during heavy rain annually, so the feds have separately tasked the city’s Department of Environmental Protection with building two massive stormwater retention tanks to reduce the amount of pollution from so-called combined sewer overflows. 

Uncle Sam has accused the city of violating several federal orders by delaying progress on the two catch basins, after Big Apple bureaucrats recently asked for an extension of up to 18 months due to COVID-19-related budget shortfalls. 

EPA denied that request warning that the set back could cost city taxpayers $62 million in additional cleanup after capping, which could also risk damaging the protective layers. 

The agency still plans to meet with its city counterparts to hash out a new schedule to get the tanks built by the same time the dredging wraps up, but Lopez said the feds would be willing to go to court if DEP continues to delay progress. 

“Certainly no one wants to be at a point where we’re litigating and seeking court action and putting punitive penalties on them [but] that is possible because we have the weight of the law, the federal Superfund law and ultimately they need to comply,” Lopez told Brooklyn Paper. “We’d rather not do that, we’d rather work with them as willing partners with open minds and open hearts and just proceed, because it’s the right thing to do.”

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Bushwick, Williamsburg pie shop debuts Mickey-themed pizzas for ‘Friendsgiving’




Disney is teaming up with renowned chef Roy Choi to celebrate “Friendsgiving” in a special way, even amid the ongoing pandemic.

The entertainment conglomerate and Chef Choi collaborated with five pizzerias in the United States — including one in Brooklyn — to launch Mickey & Friends(giving), a promotion during which each location will offer up a specialty pie based off of some of Disney’s iconic characters that can be picked up or delivered on Nov. 21.

“I am so excited to host this ultimate pizza party mash-up for fans and friends to share this Friendsgiving together,” said Chef Choi of the holiday, a traditional spin on Thanksgiving at which a meal is shared with friends as opposed to family. “I named one of my restaurants Best Friend because I live for that feeling when you’re just hanging out having fun with your friends and nothing else in the world matters. I was able to team up with some of the best pizzerias in the U.S. to make some awesome recipes inspired by Mickey and his Friends, and now, fans too can experience them with each other this holiday.”

In Kings County, Roberta’s Pizza is taking part in the fun by offering a different specialty pie at each of its Brooklyn locations.

The pizzeria’s Bushwick location will offer the Donald Duck. With Roberta’s house-made spicy nduja sausage and bitter castelfranco radicchio topped with smooth Taleggio cheese and lemon zest, the pie gives a nod to Donald Duck’s feisty personality.

Meanwhile, at the Williamburg outpost, Roberta’s will offer a pizza inspired by Donald Duck’s girlfriend, Daisy. The Daisy Duck is based off of Roberta’s white pie and adds on the pizzeria’s special salsa verde and thinly slice potatoes, bringing some of Daisy’s elegance and her own spiciness to the table.

“Being a part of the Friends(giving) campaign was a great opportunity to create a fun twist on one of my favorite holidays,” said Chef Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta’s Pizza. “I loved channeling my inner Donald Duck by creating a pizza with a bit of spice to embody his feisty personality.”

Fans can now pre-order their pizzas for local pickup or delivery on Nov. 21 at Each pizza will cost $36, plus tax, and will include a custom pizza box and Mickey & Friends(giving) stickers for those who pre-ordered. Quantities are limited and will be served on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last.

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