We endorse Andrew Yang for Mayor

New York City is currently facing an unprecedented number of crises. Small businesses have been brought to heel by the COVID-19 pandemic, public health and public safety have both declined significantly, all while the city continues to get more and more expensive due to the lack of comprehensive planning for development and affordable housing.
These crises have hit the outer boroughs particularly hard, where mainstreet economics and working-class New Yorkers are struggling to hang on. For these reasons, our paper looked for a mayoral candidate who we believe would best protect and serve the interests of communities in Brooklyn and Queens. After much deliberation, we believe that candidate is Andrew Yang.
Although Yang gained notoriety as a presidential candidate, he possesses an intimate knowledge of Queens and Brooklyn (his wife is a Bayside native ) that is reflected in his policies. His vision for the city is bold and comprehensive, yet it doesn’t lose sight of the particular problems and solutions that are applicable to individuals, families, and business owners.
In an interview with our paper earlier this month, Yang spoke at length about his plans for economic recovery and small business investments. More so than any other candidate, Yang demonstrated an understanding that mom-and-pop businesses are the bread and butter of the City’s economy, especially in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
We are particularly impressed by Yang’s plan for a People’s Bank of New York, which would offer every New Yorker access to basic financial products and services. The bank would also guarantee loans and financial support for small businesses in underserved and immigrant communities.
Such a measure would preserve the culture and livelihood of many neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. A People’s Bank is also particularly important and feasible during our current moment, when federal funding for COVID-19 relief is available to invest into small businesses and local communities.
Similarly, Yang’s comprehensive plan for land use and housing would bring positive change to Brooklyn and Queens. His commitment to move away from the de Blasio era practice of rezoning poorer communities would decrease the effects of gentrification and displacement in the outer boroughs.
Additionally, his support for accessory dwelling units and 100 percent affordable housing on city-owned properties would increase housing stock without enduring the unwieldy ULURP process that often stalls developments or leads to unaffordable housing (consider the Gowanus rezoning fight currently unfolding in Brooklyn).
Such measures would transform the citywide conversation about zoning and development into a more productive and thoughtful conversation about planning.
Although he is a political outsider, Yang has received endorsements from Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca, Flushing Assemblyman Ron Kim, and other established politicians.
These relationships make us confident that Yang will work effectively with the City Council and other government officials without getting bogged down by his own political debts.
Similarly, Yang’s commitment to curb the rise in hate crimes indicates that he will be willing to work closely with the NYPD and other agencies to secure public safety. Yang was recently endorsed by the firefighters union, another good sign on this front.
In meeting with Yang, we were pleasantly surprised by his grasp on the city and its inner workings. However, his distance from the machinery of New York City politics is surely a welcome change.
We believe that Yang’s plans for the city strike the right balance between a large-scale vision for change and a clear focus on the specific issues affecting communities and businesses. For these reasons, we think Andrew Yang is the best choice for Queens, Brooklyn, and all of New York.
After Yang, we were most impressed by Kathryn Garcia. Many people with close ties to our paper — elected officials and constituents alike — sing the virtues of her work ethic and experience as the head of the Department of Sanitation. Our own interactions with her inspire similar sentiments.
We are confident that Garcia would be a great administrator and manager of city politics. However, her vision for small business relief and the post-COVID recovery is not as bold as Yang’s, and for that reason we rank her second on our ballot.
Much the same could be said for Eric Adams. Our paper has interacted with Adams on the campaign trail and during his time as Brooklyn borough president, and we have consistently been impressed by his integrity and professionalism.
Like Garcia though, Adams’ plans for recovery and small business support are not comprehensive enough for the current moment. Additionally, we are concerned that Adams will shy away from political fights on account of his preexisting relationships with politicians, the police force, and other key players at City Hall.
Other candidates in the race have left much less of an impression. Even though she labels herself as a progressive, Maya Wiley brought about very little change as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
If anything, she made police accountability even worse during her tenure when she agreed with de Blasio’s decision to make police disciplinary records secret.
On the other hand, Scott Stringer and Dianne Morales have both watched as their campaigns imploded these past few weeks due to sexual misconduct allegations and labor disputes, respectively.
The victor of the Democratic primary will likely be elected mayor come November. The next person to reside in Gracie Mansion must confront the aftermath of COVID-19 as well as a number of other lingering issues left unresolved by the de Blasio administration.
That person must pursue a bold plan for recovery while listening to and protecting the interests of hardworking New Yorkers.
It’s no easy job, but we believe that Andrew Yang has the best shot of getting it done.

Lyft driver killed in Maspeth wreck

A Lyft driver was killed when his car was struck by an unlicensed driver at a busy intersection in Maspeth early Sunday morning.
Mohammed Hossain, 47, was driving his final passenger of the night when his Toyota RAV4 was T-boned by a Ford Explorer at the intersection of Fresh Pond Road and Eliot Avenue. The accident occurred at 3:50 a.m., just moments after Hossain reportedly texted his wife that he would be home soon.
Hossain was rushed to Wyckoff Height Medical Center where he later died. His 20-year-old passenger suffered only minor injuries.
Devastated family members visited the on Sunday to mourn the loss of the Bangladeshi immigrant. Hossain lived in Borough Park and had three children.
The driver of the Explorer, 22-year-old Erik Chimborazo was arrested at the scene. He has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, drunk driving, and driving without a license. His vehicle had no inspection certificate and the Bushwick resident never got the car insured.
According to NYPD data, 106 people have died in car crashed in 2021, up from 80 during he same time period last year. Many blame the problem in part on emptier streets due to the pandemic for emboldening reckless drivers.

Brandon West is the right pick for 39th District

District 39 is expansive — reaching from Gowanus and Park Slope up to Borough Park and Kensington — and therefore requires a council member with an expansive knowledge of city politics and the widespread needs of constituents. For these reasons, we believe that Brandon West is the right person for the job.
Although he is a first-time candidate, West is anything but a newcomer to the world of politics. For years he worked as a budget staffer at City Hall, a role that gave him an intimate knowledge of the city’s finances and how agencies interact with one another.
West fought for a fairer and more balanced budget from within City Hall, particularly as it pertains to public safety, housing, sanitation, and other quality-of-life services. However, he was frustrated by politicians conducting business as usual, and decided it would be best to finally run himself.
Unlike Brad Lander, the district’s current representative and a candidate for comptroller, West will not ignore constituent services in pursuit of greater notoriety at City Hall.
In an interview with our paper, West demonstrated a clear understanding of how the problems plaguing constituents connect to citywide problems.
In his mind, every missed trash pickup is connected to sanitation cuts, every eviction is connected to the larger crisis of affordable housing, and every controversial rezoning (such as the Gowanus rezoning in District 39) is connected to the city’s broken land-use bureaucracy. When West talks about hot-button topics, it isn’t all fluff.
We were particularly impressed by West’s ideas to protect small businesses, which include fighting for a vacancy tax and commercial rent relief that would help struggling businesses survive under the pressure of COVID-19 and unfair landlords.
West also advocates for an expansion of participatory budgeting, which he hopes will give constituents who have long been ignored by their representatives a better chance at having their voices heard.
We are confident that West will be able to navigate these large issues at City Hall without losing sight of their impact on the many neighborhoods of District 39. He is a measured, thoughtful, and experienced leader who can protect the interests of individuals, families, businesses, and communities.
However, we would be remiss without mentioning some of the other impressive candidates running in District 39.
Shahana Hanif — a native daughter of Kensington and director of Organizing and Community Engagement for Brad Lander — has run a fantastic campaign that has drawn widespread support from young people within the district.
Hanif’s community organizing experience is impressive, and her plans for the district, including the creation of a shelter for Muslim women, are extremely thoughtful and focused. We believe that Hanif has a very bright future in politics and public service, and that she would make a fantastic second choice on the ranked choice ballot.
Nonprofit theater founder Justin Krebs has also run an exciting campaign that focuses on education and arts in the district. Krebs is also notable for receiving a rare endorsement from Ben & Jerry’s, the world famous ice cream company.

New COVID-19 memorial comes to Green-Wood Cemetery

From June 8 to June 28, a new memorial at Green-Wood Cemetery will honor the more than 52,000 New Yorkers who have already died from the COVID-19 pandemic. The new installation — titled ‘WE REMEMBER: A COMMUNITY COVID MEMORIAL’ — features images, nameplates, and other items along a 200 feet stretch of the iron gate at the Cemetery’s iconic entrance on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street.

Naming the Lost Memorials, a nonprofit that has organized previous COVID-19 memorials in New York City, worked in collaboration with Green-Wood Cemetery to bring WE REMEMBER to life. The cemetery also partnered with over 20 local organizations to help promote and finance the memorial, including Brooklyn Roots, Flushing Town Hall, the Worker Justice Project, Hebrew Tabernacle, and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.
“All of us at Green-Wood have seen, firsthand, the toll that COVID-19 has taken on family, friends, our community, and even our industry,” said Richard Moylan, President of Green-Wood Cemetery. “This beautiful living memorial gives us a special place to remember what they meant to us and how they each made this world a better place.”
“Even as New Yorkers begin to feel the joys of opening, the pandemic rages on in other parts of the world. It’s not over,” Kay Turner, an artist, folklorist, and team member at Naming the Lost Memorials, added. “Nor is the sense of loss we feel knowing that 600,000 of our loved ones in the United States are gone from us. Mourning and remembrance are still necessary acts. Naming those lost to COVID-19 must continue. Our memorial at Green-Wood provides a place to do just that.”
WE REMEMBER functions as an interactive exhibit. Community members and passerby are encouraged to create their own nameplates to add to the ever-growing memorial wall.

Unfortunately, the opening ceremony that was planned for the memorial was cancelled due to weather, yet Green-Wood still hopes to organize candle lightings, name readings, and other events down the road.

Green-Wood Cemetery experienced a dramatic increase in burials and cremations during the pandemic’s heights last spring and summer. The volume of deaths was so great that the cemetery was forced to institute a partial cap on the number of cremations it would allow within a day. Although case numbers and deaths continue to decrease, the staff at Green-Wood Cemetery has remained extremely busy since the pandemic’s start.

For more information on the memorial, visit https://namingthelost.com/memorials/.

Catholic Charities announces climate change initiative

This past Thursday, clergy, activists, and other locals gathered on the roof of the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens building in Prospect Heights to announce the launch of a new sustainable energy initiative.
The initiative – titled the Laudato Si Corporation – was born out of recent messaging from Pope Francis encouraging the Catholic Church to tackle the climate crisis more directly.
In 2018, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and a delegation of other priests from the Brooklyn Diocese traveled to Rome where they met with the pope and discussed New York’s response to the issue.
Three years later and the Brooklyn Diocese in conjunction with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens finally announced their plan. The Laudato Si Corporation will oversee a series of construction projects to provide renewable energy throughout the borough and city.
More specifically, the new projects are designed to make renewable energy cheaper and more accessible for local residents and landlords, nonprofit organizations, and church properties.
The buildings that Laudato Si currently has plans for are located in a variety of the city’s most historically underserved neighborhoods.
These include the the Bishop Thomas V. Daily Residence at 683 Dean Street in Prospect Heights, Our Lady of Fatima Senior Housing located at 78-01 30th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Howard Beach Apartments at 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach, and the Bishop Joseph Sullivan Residence at 800 Madison Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
All of these properties include affordable housing units, but currently rely on the city’s larger energy grid.
“Pope Francis has said ‘God forgives all the time, people forgive some of the time, but nature never forgives,’” said DiMarzio. “We cannot destroy the nature that God has given to us. That is one of our responsibilities.
“Catholic Charities’ commitment to affordable housing rests upon the Church’s teaching and reflects the dignity of the human person and the value of the family,” he added. “And now the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens’ commitment to renewable energy reflects our commitment to the planet and our future.”
Reverend Patrick J. Keating echoed a similar sentiment.
“The initiative not only responds to Pope Francis’ encyclical [his call for a climate change response], but preserves affordable housing for low-income neighbors, reduces our carbon footprint, and our energy costs, all while leading the way in New York City,” he said. “This in turn, will allow Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens to invest capital savings into resiliency options and direct services for future generations.”
Catholic Charities has partnered with the energy companies Nixon Peabody, Bright Power, and the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at Stonybrook University to help develop the technologies and sell energy to clients.
The funds generated through this program will be reinvested into future Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Laudato Si sustainability initiatives.

Jo Anne Simon is our choice for Brooklyn Borough President

We have been watching Jo Anne Simon for a few decades now. From community activist to Assembly member and now bidding to be Brooklyn’s Borough President, Jo Anne is our choice. The Borough President is the cheerleader for the County within a city that has four other counties vying for pull.

Strategic planning is in her DNA. Negotiating with developers for sensible planning is more important now than ever and in this field of inexperienced negotiators. We found her to be far and away the one who makes sense of consensus decisions when it comes to bringing sides together for a fair resolution to development. Her passion comes through clearly through the legislation she has been involved with while in the Assembly. From regulation of personal care products to introduction of workplace practices, she seems completely absorbed in handling constituent concerns.

Antonio Reynoso is familiar to us. As the council representative to Bushwick, Williamsburg and parts of Ridgewood, he has established a reputation of not being able to negotiate with wisdom. It’s not his time yet. Simon is our choice.

City pledges redesign deadly McGuinness

On Friday, the city announced its plans to allocate $39 million for a complete redesign of McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint.
The decision was prompted by the death of Matthew Jensen, a Greenpoint elementary school teacher and resident, who was struck and killed by a black Rolls Royce at the corner of McGuinness Boulevard and Bayard Street a block away from the BQE entrance/exit ramp on May 18.
Jensen was on the way home from his own birthday party at the time of the crash. The driver was never found.
Heartbroken members of the community called on the city for accountability. Multiple elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, attended a vigil in Jensen’s honor at McGolrick Park. At the event, the mayor expressed his commitment to fix the deadly thoroughfare .
De Blasio followed through with that commitment this past Friday by issuing a statement announcing the new funding.
“Vision Zero has made New York City safer and more livable, but its work isn’t finished until corridors like McGuinness Boulevard are improved for everyone who uses them,” the mayor wrote. “We can change this city’s streets for the better and forge a better Greenpoint for generations of Brooklynites to come.”
Other politicians released their own statements praising the funding and plan to redesign the deadly street.
“The mayor’s historic investment will restore a basic right to our community: the freedom to cross the street without fear of death or injury,” wrote Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher.
“McGuinness Boulevard has long symbolized the deadly consequences of infrastructure that prioritizes speeding cars and trucks over human life,” she added. “That changes now. I am so proud of this community for coming together in the aftermath of tragedy after tragedy to demand change. Let’s get to work.”
The Transportation Committee of Community Board 1 recently voted in favor of a full redesign for McGuinness Boulevard.
“While we were greatly saddened by the tragic loss of our esteemed educator, we are inspired by the quick hand of our mayor to address this issue and ensure that action is taken so that the residents and visitors to Community Board 1 remain safe in their travels,” wrote Community Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller.

The NYPD is currently seeking tips about the hit-and-run. Anyone with information is urged to call the CrimeStoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) . You can also submit tips on Twitter at @NYPDTips.

New Jersey ferry crashes into Bushwick Inlet Park

On Saturday, June 5, a ferry traveling from Highlands, New Jersey, to East 35th Pier in Manhattan crashed violently into Brooklyn’s Bushwick Inlet Park. Many of the passengers onboard were returning from a long day at the beach in Sandy Hook.
Over 100 passengers were on board at the time of the crash, all of whom were evacuated successfully by the Fire Department. Multiple travelers sustained injuries and were taken to NYU Langone Hospital.
The ferry, owned and operated by the company Seastreak, malfunctioned while travelling in the East River. The captain subsequently lost control of the vessel’s engine and steering and the boat drifted slowly toward northern Brooklyn.
The Seastreak finally ran aground in a section of the Bushwick Inlet Park that is currently closed for construction. The vessel sustained serious damage in its hull and was taking on water during the evacuation.
Fire Department boats were already near the site due to a nearby jet ski accident, and were able to arrive at the Seastreak within four minutes of the crash.
After the passengers were evacuated, a salvage crew retrieved debris from the ship that had fallen into the water. The company is still investigating the cause of the malfunction.
Saturday’s incident is the latest in a string of recent ferry snafus. On May 13, an NYC Ferry crashed into a construction barge near Brooklyn Bridge Park. Twnety-seven passengers evacuated without any injuries.
Multiple of the ship’s windows shattered upon impact. Officials from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) attributed the incident to rising tides.
Elsewhere in North Brooklyn, the NYC Ferry landing in Greenpoint closed suddenly last week. The announcement was made via a cryptic message on Twitter, which attributed the service change to a “mechanical issue.”
Since the closure, the MTA has set up a free shuttle bus between Greenpoint and Hunters Point South. The bus route roughly mimics that of the ferry and runs every 40 minutes in both directions.
A spokesperson from NYCEDC offered this paper a statement regarding the recent India Street closure.
“Service was suspended to the Greenpoint landing after a captain noticed an issue with one of the pier piles,” it read. “Yesterday, the landing and piles were removed from the site to be inspected. At this time, the Greenpoint landing remains out of service in both directions.
“Lendlease [the real estate company that owns the landing] is currently performing an examination of the pier’s infrastructure and we anticipate they will share a timeline for repairs next week,” it continued. “As always, safety remains NYC Ferry’s top priority.”

Curtain Call at the Meserole Theater

After a months-long effort to save the structure, Greenpointers watched with dismay as construction on the historic Meserole Theater building at 723 Manhattan Avenue began.
The structure has long stood as a monument to the neighborhood’s varied history. Its elaborate marquee and plasterwork ceiling have been in place since the building’s early days as The Meserole Movie Theater, affectionately nicknamed “The Mezzy.”
The disco ball hanging in the grand hall persists from its time as a roller rink in the 70s. Since the 80s, it has been home to department stores, yet the building’s visual flares and distinct character remained.
When news broke in early February that the building’s current owner, Double U Real Estate, planned on partially demolishing the structure to make way for a five-story apartment building, nostalgic Greenpointers immediately expressed their concern.
Locals organized The Meserole Theater Project Facebook Group within a week of the announcement and it quickly grew to over 1,000 members, all of whom were united by their appreciation of the building and a mutual desire to preserve it for future generations.
“We just got to it too late,” explained John Altyn, the Facebook group’s founder and de facto spokesperson. “If I had known sooner, I would have fought for it sooner.”
A native Greenpointer and an artist in his own right, Atlyn imagined a future where the Meserole Theater building could be partially converted into a performance and community space. He hoped that the structure could be preserved to respect the memory of old Greenpoint and that any new development would directly serve the area’s current residents.
Atlyn communicated extensively with Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher in his efforts to preserve the structure, and went so far as to contact the property’s owners to see if a compromise could be reached. Unfortunately, no such deal ever manifested.
“They are going to build their little apartment and they are gonna make their little money,” said Atlyn. “I watch it go up and I think ‘oh my god!’ I just wish we would have looked at a way that it would have benefitted everybody, the community and developers.”
However, Atlyn does not see the Facebook group as a total failure. The page became a forum for the Meserole faithful to share their memories of the theater in its many forms, and led to numerous conversations about premier events, late-night screenings, and roller-derby discos that all transpired under the building’s ornate roof.
“I am still going to keep the page up if people still want to reminisce,” Atlyn explained. “It brought people together who hadn’t spoken in a really long time and it brought new people together. There’s no feeling that people should have done more. We all did what we could and we enjoyed it.”
Atlyn shared a similarly heartfelt message on the Meserole Theater Project Facebook page: “We can tell others that we tried to save it but our efforts fell short. We will still tell our stories about the Meserole Theater and the heart-felt memories about the Meserole.”
The Meserole is going the way of other notable Greenpoint structures that have been destroyed over time and replaced by new developments. However, despite the many changes, Atlyn is still confident that the neighborhood’s spirit – and that of the Meserole Theater – will live on for many years to come.
“The area is still beautiful, it’s still Greenpoint,” said Atlyn. “Things are going to come back with a new attitude and be even better than ever.”

Helen Speranza

Helen Speranza passed away on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at the age of 84. Beloved Wife of the late Sabino “Sam” Speranza. Loving Mother of Joann and Daniel and Mother-in-Law of Kerri. Cherished Grandmother of Matthew and Samuel. Dear Sister of Marie Valentino. Also survived by many loving nieces, nephews and friends. Mass of Christian Burial offered at Our Lady of Hope Church on Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 9:45 AM. Entombment followed at St. John Cemetery Christ the Redeemer Mausoleum, Middle Village, NY under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth, NY 11378.

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