Brooklyn Bakes First Three Legal Cannabis Licenses

Brooklyn Bakes First Three Legal Cannabis Licenses

Gabriel Poblete, The City

Logo for THE CITYThis article was originally published on by THE CITY

An example of the sign that will display on licensed cannabis shops in New York.
An example of the sign that will display on licensed cannabis shops in New York. | New York State Office of Cannabis Management

New York’s cannabis regulators issued a flurry of new dispensary licenses Monday, including the first three to individuals who will operate in Brooklyn, after a federal court lifted an injunction that had blocked licenses for the borough.

The Cannabis Control Board of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) met Monday at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights to issue 99 new licenses statewide, with 53 going to New York City applicants. In total, the state has issued 155 of the 300 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) business licenses, which are for people who have been impacted by cannabis-related convictions. Ten other licenses have gone to nonprofits.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that we’re able to expand the rollout of legalized cannabis across almost every region of this state, and that New Yorkers in these regions will soon have access to locally grown and tested, safe cannabis,” said Tremaine Wright, the board’s chair. 

The OCM was barred by a November injunction from issuing licenses in Brooklyn and four other regions elsewhere in the state due to a lawsuit by cannabis company Variscite NY One. The suit by majority owner Kenneth Gay, of Michigan, charged that the eligibility criteria is unconstitutional because it favors New York residents over out-of-state residents.

Initially applicants had ranked their top five regions — with each borough a region — when submitting their requests for licenses. After receiving over 900 applications, however, the Office of Cannabis Management stated the applicants would only be considered for their first choice.

Last week, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan lifted the injunction for Brooklyn and three other regions (though not yet for the Finger Lakes region, Variscite NY One’s top pick).

Misha Morse-Buch, one of the new Brooklyn licensees, was buzzing at the meeting. It wasn’t until Tuesday last week that he learned of the injunction being lifted, after expecting that the case could drag on through the year or longer. Two days later, he learned he would be receiving a CAURD license. 

Now, he was one of dozens in a second-floor room at Medgar Evers, celebrating another round of CAURD licenses. To add to the surrealness of the occasion, Morse-Buch’s company I Love My Pet Food and Supplies, which he’s been running for eight years, is located on Nostrand Avenue two blocks from the college, and he is a graduate of another CUNY school, Brooklyn College. 

“It almost feels not real, I still can’t almost comprehend that it’s happened the way that it’s happened,” he said. “Literally went from the people trying to lock me in a little box to here’s a life possibly.”

Few New Stores

Other Brooklyn applicants walked away disappointed, because other regions got far more licenses than the state’s most populous county, with more than 2.5 million residents. Manhattan got 21 new licenses, Queens 17 and Long Island 24 in the newest round. 

OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander told THE CITY that the reason his agency presented just three Brooklyn licenses to the board for a vote was because that’s where the agency was in the process of reviewing applications before the injunction. 

“We got a lot to do in terms of catching Brooklyn up, so we’re going to get on it,” Alexander said. “Hopefully by the May meeting we get a bunch more ready.”

Jessica Naissant, 29, confirmed to THE CITY via text that she was not one of three licensees. She has been hoping to open a dispensary in her native Brooklyn regardless.

“God forbid I don’t receive a CAURD license, I’m going to enter the market some way somehow,” Naissant said to THE CITY last week after the injunction was lifted but before Monday’s announcement.

Naissant said with the injunction forcing her to wait on the sidelines, she took the time to participate in cannabis incubator and mentorship programs. She previously operated a CBD store called Wake & Bake Cafe for four and a half years in Valley Stream in Nassau County, but she closed the store shortly after the village voted against allowing cannabis dispensaries in its jurisdiction. 

Even though the state has already issued dozens of licenses, stores have been slow to open. The OCM lists just seven legal recreational dispensaries on its website: three of which are in Manhattan, another in Queens, which had opened earlier this week, and the others upstate. 

Meanwhile, the illicit cannabis retail market has eclipsed the legal one, with city officials estimating 1,500 illegal cannabis stores are operating in the city. While enforcement agencies have had little recourse to rein in the stores, Gov. Kathy Hochul has introduced legislation that would allow for stricter financial and tax penalties. 

Only one legal store opened last year, and it is operated by nonprofit Housing Works, located in Greenwich Village. The first store to open that’s owned by an individual with a cannabis-related conviction was Smacked, also in the Village, which opened back in January. 

The Smacked store is supported by The Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, a joint venture between a subsidiary of the state’s Dormitory Authority and private partner Social Equity Impact Ventures LLC, which counts former basketball player Chris Webber, entrepreneur Lavetta Willis and former city Comptroller William Thompson among its leaders. The fund is meant to secure retail spaces and build out dispensaries for the licensees, who will then pay back the loans.  

However, Social Equity Impact Ventures has yet to announce whether it’s generated any of the $150 million that it’s supposed to raise from the private sector. THE CITY reported the fund’s competitive practices to secure retail spots have thwarted efforts for license-holders who are seeking their own retail locations. 

The Variscite lawsuit isn’t the only one threatening the CAURD program. A group that includes medical cannabis companies sued the state earlier this month in the Albany County Supreme Court to force the state to open up retail dispensary licensing to all, which would effectively derail the CAURD program’s goal of putting those negatively affected by cannabis prohibition first in line for the state’s growing legal cannabis retail industry.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

W’burg Nightclub Scrubs Chinese New Year Party

Critics say planned event was ‘racist’

By Adam Manno

[email protected]

A Brooklyn nightclub has scrubbed all evidence of an upcoming Chinese New Year-themed party after locals took issue with its orientalist overtones.

Avant Gardner, the sprawling complex in East Williamsburg that includes the Brooklyn Mirage, has removed all branding for a “Chinese Rowyear” party set to take place on July 22. A promotional video for the party, featuring white revelers dressed as a mish-mash of Asian caricatures, inspired swift backlash on Twitter and Reddit. In the ad, party-goers in costume as Fu Manchu and Japanese geishas pose for the camera amid a swirl of confetti and red paper dragons. In one scene, a woman takes a bite from a pair of chopsticks as thumping electronic music plays in the background.

A website for Elrow, the Barcelona-based entertainment company throwing the party, does little to ensure goodwill. The party is allegedly the brainchild of a promoter who went out to celebrate Chinese New Year in the Huan Province of China after a “serious dim-sum munchie session.” A crazy night ensued, and the anonymous promoter decided to organize his “own party” based on the holiday, the website states. Among the party’s performers are Fli-pao, described as “the most famous opium smoker in town and his sidekick, a chef with enough hot sauce on hand to keep the party burning forever.”

This is nothing new for Elrow. Its official Youtube is also home to an ad for a Bronx-themed event, where guests in comically large jewelry and afro wigs dance in front of backdrops mimicking graffiti-covered subway cars and basketball hoops. Inexplicably, fake unibrows and tooth gaps abound. Elrow did not respond to a request for comment about its themes or the upcoming party at Avant Gardner.

On February 2, Queens activist and WBAI radio host Rafael Shimunov took to Twitter with one simple question: “So what the colonizer hell is Elrow Chinese Rowyear?”

Shimunov found out about the Instagram ad for the party from a slew of Twitter messages. Outraged, he now plans to launch a website, including an online petition and a timeline of Elrow’s problematic past, in hopes of getting it shut down. “If New Yorkers knew about who they are and how they do this, we would never welcome them to this city,” he says.

On Avant Gardner’s website, the July event is now simply referred to as “Elrow.” No mention of a theme or specific DJs is available. The venue has also left the party out of its latest e-mail blasts. Avant Gardner did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Sandie Cheng, however, seems to be one of the few people who got an answer from the popular EDM haven. The Brooklyn-based content producer says a friend sent her the ad. “When I came across it, I was like, ‘Is this a joke?’” She posted about the party on her Instagram story and tagged Avant Gardner.

The venue responded on February 12, telling Cheng that it was “aware” of the theme and assuring her it had “expressed its concerns” to Elrow. “Avant Gardner does not condone any form of cultural appropriation, discrimination, or racism, and we understand the promoter is working on a new theme,” the message read.

As an occasional party girl, Cheng feels especially disappointed in the venue for allowing what, in her words, amounts to a “blatant” display of racism. “I’ll admit I love going to Brooklyn Mirage,” she says. “But after this, I don’t feel like I want to go to Brooklyn Mirage anymore.”

For Kristian Chao, a Korean-American DJ based in Philadelphia, “there’s nothing you can say. It’s just so blatant.” Chao got ads for the party delivered straight to his social media feed. “I thought it was hilarious. It was very absurd to me that this exists,” he says. Though he’s set to play at Bossa Nova Civic Club on Saturday, the 24-year-old is just getting his start in the New York City party scene, so he’s not too familiar with the venue or its motivations for hosting the party. But he knows how expensive it is to put together an event of that scale. “It’s probably a large investment out front. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did it for financial reasons,” he says.

Until then, Chao, Cheng, Shimunov and others in the scene will be waiting for word from Avant Gardner over how it chooses its events, especially those from abroad that don’t bend to American sensibilities.

“We have enough hate in New York to deal with,” Shimunov says. “We don’t need to import it.

Restler: Pass Permanent Open Restaurant Programs

By Lincoln Restler, Councilman for District 33


Open restaurants emerged as one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic. They served as a lifeline for small businesses and restaurant workers, made socializing safely possible for immunocompromised New Yorkers, and added dynamism to our streetscape. 

When he was a Council Member, now Borough President Antonio Reynoso sponsored and passed creative legislation to permit outdoor dining all across New York City and made it easy for neighborhood small businesses to participate. Based on the extraordinary response from New York restaurant goers, Antonio’s innovation for Open Restaurants demonstrated that this was exactly what New Yorkers had been waiting for.

I love taking breakfast meetings or meeting up with friends at any of the hundreds of outdoor dining structures in District 33. For example, the set up at beloved Boerum Hill neighborhood spot Rucola on Dean is just as lovely as the indoor space and has significantly expanded their seating capacity. It has been a boon for neighbors uneasy with indoor dining and a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

However, City policies were hastily crafted on an emergency basis at the height of the pandemic and haphazard enforcement has led to numerous issues for restaurants and neighbors. We need clear, consistent regulations to ensure that the Open Restaurants program is accessible to all and bad actors are shuttered. It is time for the City Council to pass a permanent Open Restaurant program that smartly regulates outdoor dining by creating fewer guessing games for small business owners and putting forward regulations that reduce noise, improve sanitation conditions, and mitigate stormwater management issues. 

Open Restaurants and Open Streets have been a gift to expanding and rethinking our public spaces, generating new and exciting ways for neighbors to come together to create community. 

We are all familiar with the joy on the first day of spring when folks are filling our sidewalks to hang over a meal or coffee — but it isn’t reserved for the warm weather. Restaurant owners have found creative solutions to ensure that New Yorkers can take advantage of outdoor dining year round, and we should be doing everything we can to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit that makes New York so special. 

There’s no question that city agencies can and must better address sanitation issues, noise mitigation, and stormwater management to make Open Restaurants a permanent success in our neighborhoods. We’re committed to working together with City agencies and community members to ensure the program works for everyone and to remove sheds that are used for storage rather than dining.

Open Restaurants are repurposing  our streets by replacing parking spots with vital places for neighbors to come together and creating more jobs by expanding restaurant workforces. The City Council should swiftly pass legislation that  maintains a permanent Open Restaurant program that includes an option to operate year round, minimizes bureaucratic barriers for restaurants, mitigates quality of life issues, and allows our neighborhoods to continue benefiting from outdoor dining. 


Pol Position: Holy Sh*t? He Said That?

Hizzoner is known for wild statements and his antics. But he surprised the city, and even got national attention last week, when he declared at an interfaith breakfast where he declared he didn’t believe in the separation of church and state.

“When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” Mayor Adams said at the February 28 press conference, where he emphasized how his faith drives his governing.

Adams also noted that he had a “Godlike approach” to governing and his aide Ingrid Lewis-Martin said that Adams was one of the chosen people.

He’s going to need divine intervention if he wants the people of New York to feel the same way about his “Godlike approach” to implementing policies.

A February 1 poll from Quinnipiac University found that a plurality (43 percent)  of respondents disapprove of Mayor Adams’ first year in Gracie Mansion, with 20 percent saying they “didn’t know” and 37 percent saying they did approve.

On the issues a majority of respondents disapprove of Adams’ handling of crime, homelessness and a plurality of respondents disapprove of Hizzoner’s handling of public schools, the city budget and immigration issues. There wasn’t a single issue where the mayor had either a plurality or majority approval.

While it’s been speculated that Eric Adams could run for president in the future, his comments were reminiscent of someone on the stump for the Republican ticket in Iowa.

Adams has already started to walk back his comments after the comments got national attention. His comments regarding the church and state and prayer in schools were convenient panders for churchgoing voters, but his other remarks about having a godlike approach reveal his own narcissistic liturgy.

Throughout his first year in office and on the campaign trail, Adams has made a series of remarks that show his vanity.

Adams has acted like he has a larger mandate than he has ever since he was sworn in,, even though he won the 2021 Democratic Primary by just a little over 7,000 votes in the final round against Kathryn Garcia.

Before even getting sworn in, Adams dismissed critics of solitary confinement since they didn’t wear a bulletproof vest for over 20 years like him. At a May 12 press conference announcing his Dyslexia Screening program,  Adams leaned into his own backstory as someone with the learning disorder and said that if he had earlier intervention he would be Mr. President rather than Mr.  Mayor.

His narcissism is  what he likes to call his swagger but maybe if he spent more time crafting legislation and working with other officials instead of raking in on the photo-ops, he wouldn’t sound as ridiculous as he does.

Poll Position: Fighting for relevance

The Guardian Angel, media personality and prolific cat owner Curtis Sliwa has a new venture: breaking the democratic stronghold in Astoria. 

At least, that’s what he plans on doing. Whether he can be successful is a much bigger question.

Sliwa, 68, is no newcomer to politics. BUt even more so, he is no newcomer to generating some media buzz.

As a savvy PR operator, Sliwa knows more than most on how to generate a press cycle. Just back in January, Sliwa was able to generate a similar buzz by announcing his offer to help the mayor clean up rats at his Bed-Stuy apartment with cats.

What both these stories show, more than anything else, is Sliwa’s ability to generate press and cling on to relevance while his political cache has waned in recent years.

His new venture, the Ronal Reagan political club seeks to challenge the growth of DSA within the neighborhood.

“We’re going into the belly of the beast of the Democratic Socialists of America in New York City. We’re going to take on AOC and Caban,” Sliwa said in his announcement.

The club aims to challenge DSA’s grip on the Western Queens neighborhood by  promoting “ fiscal responsibility, small government, and lower taxes in Queens while maintaining an open dialogue with the community about the issues facing them,” per the announcement’s press release. 

While the announcement got some press, his venture to actually make change will be a much more uphill battle and nearly impossible.

In the 2021 City Council election cycle, Tiffany Cában resoundingly won the primary against other more liberal candidates, capturing 62.6 percent of the final vote in the final round. In the general election the candidate only netted 30.5 percent of the vote, a measly 6,209 votes to Cabán general election total of over 12,000 votes. 

The large gap in the polls demonstrates the stronghold that Astoria is. If Sliwa was more interested in actually spreading his message and trying to get more conservatives elected he would focus on closer elections like South Brooklyn or in the Bronx where the issue of crime is much more salient on voters minds and actually has a chance of change in representation.

But of course, this whole announcement was more pomp than anything else –  hoping to score a few headlines for an increasingly irrelevant person in Big Apple politics.

In Our Opinion: Legislative Staffers deserve a union

Staffers of the state assembly announced that they are trying to get union recognition, as City and State first reported last month. We believe that they deserve recognition.

The move follows organizing efforts by staffers of the state senate to be recognized as the  New York State Legislative Workers United group. 

As reporters who engage with these offices regularly, good staff are the unsung heroes of a successful politician. Many staffers who work these jobs often can’t afford to live in the district they are representing despite long hours and demanding work. 

Behind every good policy proposal, solving constituent services complaints or positive perception of a politician is a hardworking staffer.

“Far too many of us can barely make ends meet, regardless of our office, credentials, seniority, or responsibilities. Most of us work long hours, including late nights and weekends, and our overtime is unpaid. Compounded by the rising cost of living these factors disadvantage employees from less privileged backgrounds and make long-term careers with the Assembly increasingly difficult to manage,” a Jan. 17 letter from New York State Legislative Workers United, explaining their want for a union.

If we want New York’s brightest to keep working in government rather than go to the private sector, a union is the best way to ensure they are able to stay for the long haul. If we want the staff to reverse the economic and racial diversity of our city, having a union to secure decent wages is of utmost importance.

This is especially true when the legislature voted at the end of last year to boost their own salaries by 29%, making them the highest paid legislature in the country and netting them an $142,000 annual salary. 

Opinion: Shut up Councilman Salamanca

In the progressive caucus fallout, Bronx City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Junior took to Twitter trying to slam Brooklyn Councilmembers Lincoln Restler and Shahana Hanif for their position on “defunding the police.”

“I challenge far left dems @LincolnRestler & @CMShahanaHanif (representing the wealthiest communities in NYC) to come to Hunts Point/Longwood & address my community on how defunding @NYPDnews @NYPDPBBronx is a positive thing to ensure their safety. #cometothesouthBX,” the February 8th tweet reads.

This critique relies on demonstrably false cliches that do nothing but try and negate one side of the conversation from happening at all.

A 2014 report from the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, based off of data stemming from 2009 to 2013 found that 29.3 percent of people in 33rd council district (currently represented by Lincoln Restler) earned below the federal poverty level. More recent data from the city, measured by community districts, found that Greenpoint and Williamsburg found that 40.3 percent of residents live at or near city poverty levels.

Salamanca tweets were nothing more than mindless pandering. If there’s a discussion, have it. In earnest. If you really cared about them showing up, you probably should have sent an email rather than score internet points.

Otherwise you can shut up with the snarky tweets before you try and write off our communities.

In Our Opinion: LaSalle is wrong pick for Chief Justice

Last week, Governor Hochul nominated Hector LaSalle as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Empire State. Her choice to nominate him and not seeing the coming backlash demonstrates a serious lack of political adeptness.

Back in November, The Governor published a Daily News op-ed outlining her criteria for a chief justice. Among requirements like being able to manage the large court system, Hochul wrote:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken — with decisions such as Dobbs vs. Jackson, taking away a woman’s right to choose, and New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs. Bruen, tossing a century-old law protecting New Yorkers from the proliferation of guns. We are now relying on our state courts more than ever to protect our rights. We need our courts to defend against this Supreme Court’s rapid retreat from precedent and continue our march toward progress.”

Now, with LaSalle’s nomination, Hochul has nominated someone who curtailed investigations into crisis pregnancy centers. LaSalle also allowed Cablevision to sue union members as individuals for defamation over their criticism of the telecom company’s response to Hurricane Sandy, circumnavigating protections normally afforded to union members. 

The news created a backlash with a handful of state senators saying they would vote no or expressing skepticism. Multiple unions, including the powerful 32BJ SEIU, came out hard against the nomination, labeling him as anti-worker.

LaSalle’s nomination is historic. If confirmed, he would the first Latino Chief Justice to preside over the Court of Appeals. But his record would also help move the court more rightward.

In response to the backlash, Hochul said that “I never wanted to have a political litmus test.” This statement alone shows Hochul’s weak politics, entertaining the fantasy idea that justices are completely neutral just because they wear a robe. 

It’s a political appointment. Full Stop.

Even if his record on these issues didn’t personally bother us, the nomination shows a critical misunderstanding of current political winds. All the eyes are on the courts now, and having someone with these views is not tenable in the modern Democratic Party – where issues such as labor and abortion rights are key issues. 

John Catsimatidis-Owned Oil Company Refuses to Sign Union Contract at Greenpoint Refinery

John Catsimatidis-Owned Oil Company Refuses to Sign Union Contract at Greenpoint Refinery

Claudia Irizarry Aponte, The City

Logo for THE CITYThis article was originally published on by THE CITY

Left to right: Union rep Vic Castellano with Asaaf John and Andre Soleyn at Greenpoint’s United Metro Energy worker strike, April 29, 2021.
Union rep Vic Castellano, left, with Asaaf John, center, and Andre Soleyn at Greenpoint’s United Metro Energy worker strike, April 29, 2021. | Gabriel Sandoval/THE CITY

United Metro Energy, the Brooklyn-based oil company owned by radio host and former GOP mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, declined to sign a longstanding, industry-wide collective bargaining agreement that expired last Friday, Dec. 16.

The contract had represented only three truck drivers, who haul fuel from the Greenpoint refinery, as members of Teamsters Local 553 for decades. But additional United Metro workers, including about two dozen technicians and mechanics, have been on strike for union recognition since April 2021.

In an interview with THE CITY on Thursday, Catsimatidis said — as United Metro executives have in recent months — that the company was never bound by the agreement, a matter Local 553 is disputing with the federal National Labor Relations Board.

Overall, that contract spans some 800 workers in New York City and is negotiated by the New York State Energy Coalition (NYSEC), which deals with labor contracts with unions across the state on behalf of several energy corporations. 

United Metro’s refusal to sign the master agreement was largely seen by workers as an attempt to further thwart the efforts of striking workers at the expense of the facility’s three union members.

“That’s all part of the fight to undercut the union effort that we started, and he seems to be getting away with it,” said Andre Soleyn, a terminal operator and union leader on strike at the terminal since April 2021. “So he is definitely using that as a perch to come against us as a group to prevent us from getting what we deserve.”

The new contract that went into effect on Dec. 16 includes a $5.50-hour increase over the three-year life of the agreement — the “largest increase ever,” according to a memo sent to Local 553 members — and the addition of Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Mayor Eric Adams meets with Greek American leaders at Gracie Mansion on Tuesday, February 15, 2022.
John Catsimatidis, right, attended a meeting Mayor Eric Adams held with Greek American leaders at Gracie Mansion, Feb. 15, 2022. | Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

“We are abiding by whatever terms everyone else is abiding by. And if they make an agreement with the rest of the industry, we will most likely abide by that, too,” Catsimatidis said.

“Somebody shows it to me, whatever agreement they abided by, with the other people, we will abide by it,” he added.

In response to Catsimatidis, Local 553 secretary-treasurer Demos Demopoulos said in a statement to THE CITY on Thursday: “I expect Mr. Catsimatidis to be a man of his word and that he will honor his commitment to abide by and sign the Industry Agreement when I present it to him.”

600 Days on Strike

Even as it honored the terms of past industry-wide agreements settled in 2017, United Metro Energy claimed — in a Sept. 20 letter from president John McConville to NYSEC CEO Rocco Lacertosa — that the company was not bound to the contract that expired on Dec. 16 in the first place, because it did not sign the contract.

United Metro, McConville wrote, “is not bound by the current Master Contract with Local 553. To the extent that any such agreement is in effect — which it is not — it will not renew after December 15, 2022.” 

Local 553 charged the company had “unilaterally canceled a valid collective bargaining agreement” in an unfair labor practice charge it filed against United Metro with the NLRB in October.

“For the employees that are covered under that contract, they have been paying all the wages, benefits and medical, vacation schedule — everything that’s covered under the master contract,” Demopoulos said last Wednesday. “So it’s ridiculous for them to claim now that they’ve never been covered under that contract, when for years, they’ve been more or less honoring that contract.”

Catsimatidis is the CEO of Red Apple Group, a conglomerate of energy, real estate, media and grocery companies, including Gristedes food markets, which have a longstanding collective bargaining agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500.

The dispute adds another chapter in a multi-year labor dispute at United Metro Energy, which distributes heating oil to New York City schools and hospitals and the MTA, as well as diesel fuel to gas stations. About two dozen of its Greenpoint refinery oil technicians, terminal operators and fleet mechanics are on a strike that has stretched for more than 600 days.

Those workers voted to join Teamsters Local 553 in 2019 and went on an indefinite strike in April 2021, more than two years after fruitless contract negotiations began.

United Metro workers earn hourly wages averaging $12 below the industry average, according to Local 553.

‘Always Welcome’

“Basically, they’ve just been dragging out negotiations,” union rep Vic Castellano told THE CITY last year. “And we wouldn’t take this action if they were negotiating the way they claim to be. Nothing should take over two years.”

In April, a year after the strike began, Local 553 called on Mayor Eric Adams to halt a $52 million contract with United Metro brokered by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, because of the dispute. The mayor’s office said it could not sever the deal because the company is in compliance with local regulations, the New York Post reported.

Catsimatidis told THE CITY that the workers “are always welcome to come back to work.”

“Check my record — in 50 years in labor, in New York City, I’ve been a CEO for 50 years, we’ve never had a strike. And the union just on a Monday morning, decided to put these people on strike,” he said.

United Metro responded by firing nine terminal operators at the onset of the strike in 2021 — union leader Andre Soleyn among them. The company was ordered by the NLRB to reinstate the nine employees in July of this year; those workers are separate from the truck drivers whose contract the company is disputing.

The company complied, and all but two of those workers remain on strike, taking other jobs to make ends meet while holding the line.

“There’s a certain resolve that the guys have, and that’s because we all have families that we need to take care of, and we want them to do better than we did,” Soleyn said.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

Pol Position: How the mighty have fallen

The three-term scandal-scarred former governor Andrew Cuomo, who ruled Albany with an iron fist is now … a podcaster.

Cuomo first announced the podcast last month along with a political action committee (groups that raise money to help elect candidates) and plans to launch a gun-safety initiative. 

The first episode of “As A Matter of Fact…” was released on October 20, 2022, as part of his recent return to public life. It featured guests like the 11 day tenure Trump White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, former Clinton pollster turned Trump defender Mark Penn and Elaine Kamarack – a senior fellow of the center-left public policy group The Brookings Institution.

The podcast is mostly a snooze fest: lamenting political polarization, highlighting his own accomplishments and challenging the state of “democratic and republican facts.”

“It’s just spin. Its just deception,” said Cuomo regarding the state of facts, which is rich coming from the man who the Attorney Generals office said underreported COVID-19 nursing homes deaths by upwards of 50 percent.

The new podcast is likely nothing more than a soft launch for his political comeback, as he still has a 10.6 million dollar war chest, according to campaign finance records released in July.

Irregardless, its a long fall from the Executive Mansion to be sitting in front of a microphone, doing … a podcast of all things.

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