BQE Redevelopment Initiative Receives $5.6M Federal Grant to Bridge Neighborhood Divides

Examples of treatments that could be applied to BQE North and South. Credit: Department of Transportation


The U.S. Department of Transportation has greenlit a $5.6 million grant to propel forward a transformative redesign of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s (BQE) North and South corridors, Brooklyn elected officials revealed.  For nearly seven decades, the BQE, colloquially referred to as the “trench,” has severed neighborhoods like South Williamsburg and Sunset Park, fostering environmental hazards and health concerns due to noise, pollution, and heightened levels of respiratory illnesses.


This substantial grant, announced on March 12, aims to mend these urban scars, fostering community cohesion while mitigating the adverse environmental and economic impacts stemming from the daily influx of approximately 150,000 vehicles along the expressway.


Brooklyn representatives, alongside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition, a consortium comprising 17 community groups spanning northern to southern Brooklyn, have waged a sustained campaign to rectify the infrastructural rifts caused by the BQE’s inception, led by the influential urban planner Robert Moses. In a unified statement on the 12th, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lauded the decision, highlighting their concerted efforts to prioritize the “BQE Connects: Advancing the BQE North and South Corridor Vision” grant.


“This grant is the catalyst we need to finally put together a comprehensive plan to reimagine the entire BQE corridor and to address environmental justice issues that plague the northern and southern portions of the expressway,” the officials stated. “Our offices will work to ensure this is just the beginning of the federal government’s investment in the BQE with fairness and justice at the forefront.”


Echoing this sentiment, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition emphasized a clear vision to reshape the BQE into a space prioritizing the well-being of all affected communities, pledging to advocate for environmentally conscious decision-making in future infrastructure planning.  Notably, the grant’s approval follows Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement, heralding a significant step toward rectifying the historical disunity sewed by the BQE’s construction.


Governor Kathy Hochul and state DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez reaffirmed their dedication to collaborative efforts with the community and governmental stakeholders in this endeavor.  Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi lauded the city’s Federal Infrastructure Task Force for crafting exemplary grant applications, which also secured a $117 million federal grant to advance the QueensWay project, a park initiative situated on a disused corridor of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. However, a contentious $800 million NYC DOT grant proposal aimed at rebuilding the deteriorating BQE Central section, stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, was recently rebuffed. NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez expressed eagerness to explore various initiatives in consultation with Brooklyn residents along the BQE, envisioning possibilities like highway capping, street redesigns, and other enhancements to the corridor.


Notably, NYC DOT has orchestrated workshops to solicit ideas for enhancing areas adjacent to the BQE North and South, emphasizing community engagement in envisioning the future of these regions.  According to DOT’s release, proposed treatments for BQE North and South encompass full or partial highway capping, pedestrian infrastructure enhancements, intersection and ramp optimizations, and under-elevated improvements. At least two proposals, each addressing BQE North and South, will progress to partial design, laying the groundwork for further collaboration between DOT and NYSDOT to foster community reconnection initiatives across the corridor.


Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul aimed financing planning endeavors to enhance the quality of life for residents residing in proximity to the BQE, particularly those hailing from disadvantaged communities. This grant will facilitate the exploration of proposals to revitalize connectivity in the local transportation network, bolstering accessibility to employment, amenities, and green spaces while fortifying safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.


The comprehensive efforts outlined Mayor Adams’ overarching BQE Corridor Vision, underscoring a commitment to collaborate with communities along Brooklyn’s sole interstate highway, redressing longstanding divides and addressing critical infrastructure challenges within the city-owned BQE Central stretch between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street.


LTE: Pols must ensure Medicare Advantage is fully funded

Dear Editor,
As we age, the importance of maintaining our health becomes increasingly paramount. This often brings new concerns for many seniors like me, especially about being able to afford the necessary care to sustain our quality of life. Fortunately, Medicare Advantage has supported me in addressing these concerns.

When I had to get my kidney removed a few years ago, my doctor prescribed five medications to take daily. I was immediately concerned about how the cost of these medications would affect my finances. Fortunately, my Medicare Advantage plan included prescription drug coverage, so I was able to afford the medications I needed. Since then, I have been able to access a large network of providers to help me navigate life after surgery. These doctors have been remarkable in helping me stay healthy, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that I have a low monthly premium and all out-of-pocket expenses are capped. The top-notch value that Medicare Advantage provides is truly immeasurable. And I’m not the only one. Nearly 2 million New Yorkers, including seniors and people with disabilities, count on this program for their health care coverage. With rising costs in mind, I hope that leaders will see just how important access to quality care at an affordable price is to me and many other seniors. That is why I encourage them to work together to ensure Medicare Advantage is fully funded.

Diane Sanders
East New York

Brooklynites can learn more about creativity in their community thanks to three Macon Library librarians.

From left to right are Peter Enzinna, Riann Roca, and Krishna Paul


by Lauren Peacock |

Although some people think a library is just an archive of reading and writing, three librarians at Macon Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) are showing Brooklyn that it is so much more. 

It is safe to say that Riann Roca, Peter Enzinna, and Krishna Paul have mastered the world of books. But once they witnessed the vessel that their workplace was for conversation, connection, culture, and community, they could not keep it to themselves. They came together to create the podcast Bed-Stuy Tea, a safe space to spotlight locals and give them the credit they deserve. 

“There’s a really vibrant creative life that’s making use of the library and that’s taking place around the library,” said Enzinna. “I think we just wanted to tap into that and kind of have more conversations and get those conversations out there with the people in our neighborhood who are making art, making food, making life in the community a little more vibrant every day.”

The hosts on Bed-Stuy Tea interview Bed-Stuy residents to talk about their favorite books, creative projects, careers, etc. The podcast aims to show that everyone has a story, or stories, depending on what stage of life they are in. Bed-Stuy Tea allows locals to learn new things about their community and listen to interesting and true stories. 

“Bed-Stuy is such a mixing pot of different cultures, people, and history … .We learn so many different things every day just sitting at the desk and speaking to the community,” said Krishna Paul. “So it was just a way to introduce Bed-Stuy to the rest of New York and the rest of Brooklyn and give them a little taste of what we have every day.”

The podcast has put out seven episodes since April, interviewing young adult Author Ashley Woodfolk, Senior Digital Editor at PBS NewsHour Aaron Foley, Owner-Operator of Wadadli Jerk Edwin-Hughes, and more. The podcast hosts meet their guests at Macon Library, whether they stop by to check out a book, say hello, attend a workshop, use its digital and interactive resources, etc. 

“Since we are located in Bed-Stuy we are already part of a very vibrant and artistic community, so that had a huge influence on us starting the podcast,” said Roca. “We would meet people on the desks who were artists, authors, chefs, etc…Having the podcast we’re able to have a deeper conversation with them to see who they are in the community and share their art, their writing, etc. with the community.”

Bed-Stuy Tea is part of Brooklyn Community Audio, a network of Brooklyn Public Library staff and patrons. It is produced by Brooklyn Public Library’s Senior Audio Producer Virgina Marshall. Brooklyn Public Library has other podcasts, including an award-winning flagship podcast called Borrowed. Borrowed and Marshall was a huge inspiration to the hosts in creating Bed-Stuy Tea

When the idea to create a podcast hit, Roca, Enzinna, and Paul taught themselves the skills they needed to know when it comes to podcasting. 

“They just found something interesting and they taught themselves basically how to interview, how to write scripts, how to record, how to edit audio, etc. with some help from our professional producer on the staff,” said Fritzi Bodenheimer, Brooklyn Public Library Press Officer. 

The three librarians used the gear that they had on hand at the library including recorders, microphones, editing software, etc. These resources and more including two recording studios are available to anyone with a library card, which is completely free. 

“The library is like a platform of platforms. It connects people to resources and programs and capabilities that they might not know they have but that are all out there for public use as long as you have a card,” said Enzinna. 

In Bed-Stuy Tea’s upcoming season, the hosts will interview local restaurant owners in a segment titled “Á La Carte”, including Chef Amadeus Broger-Hetzner of La Antagonista located in the heart of Bed-Stuy. The hosts say they enjoyed interviewing Broger-Hetzner because he was humble, gracious, and they learned a lot about him as he talked about his stories, influences, and experiences. 

The hosts are also working on a new segment for March about Women’s History Month and will continue to discuss the library’s significance in bringing people and new ideas together.

Notable Greek Diners in Brooklyn and Queens Found Liable in State AG’s Tax Takedown

By Daniel Cody


Few restaurants are as iconic as a Greek Diner. 

The Georgia Diner had been a staple in Queens at its location on Queens Blvd. at 55th Avenue, across the street from Queens Place Mall. Six years ago it moved to take over what was Nevada and once Pops Diner just a few blocks west. Bridgeview Diner at 9011 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn is well known for its extra large food portion for the past four decades. Well known for serving food any time of day or night, the restaurant spots are staples in both boroughs. 

Fast forward about 32 years from 1991, the estate of the most recent former owner of the Bridgeview and Georgia diners, represented by attorneys appointed through the Nassau County Public Officer, settled with the state government in a tax avoidance case on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

As a result of this legal agreement, the estate of Dimitrios Kaloidis – the previous owner in question – must pay over a million dollars in penalties and owed taxes plus interest.

Adorned with holiday decorations for the season’s festivities, the current Georgia Diner is an exemplar of the New York eatery: desert cases, velvet-colored leather booths, chrome trim and other aspects of ‘50s-era Americana are immediately apparent upon entry.

Staff at the Georgia Diner told the Ledger that its current facility in Elmhurst has been around for “about six years.” 

Before that, Georgia Diner was located near the Queens Mall.

When asked if the diner was popular with Elmhurst residents, and if it had regular customers, a server cocked a smile and said, “yeah!”

The Bridgeview Diner in Bay Ridge, located on one of the neighborhood’s many busy avenues, is a popular 24-hour restaurant in the Brooklyn borough.

The Bridgeview Diner’s website described the establishment as “a longtime mainstay in Bay Ridge with many improvements and a new exciting and delicious menu.”

Despite the notable reputation of both diners, their finances have come under scrutiny by the state government.

An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Kaloidis underreported taxable receipts and filed false tax returns for years, violating the New York False Claims Act.

The investigation concluded that Kalodine Ltd. and Nevada Diner Inc., the parent entities of Bridgeview and Georgia Diner, respectively, collected taxes from patrons on cash receipts, however, Kaloidis pocketed taxable income instead of reporting it to the state.

According to court documents provided by OAG, Kaloidis had kept two records of business at Bridgeview Diner in Bay Ridge: one for the morning and the other for afternoon customers.

The morning set of books recorded credit card and cash receipts from diner sales. However, the Brooklyn diner also maintained a separate set of books in which afternoon cash transactions went unreported and pocketed by the former owner.

The cash revenue at Bridgeview Diner accrued in the afternoon was separated into $10,000 cash “bricks” which Kaloidis used for personal and business purposes.

The Georgia Diner in Queens inappropriately remitted a portion of sales tax revenue from the state altogether.

The NYFCA allows whistleblowers to file a civil complaint, and in turn, share a portion of the recovery. Adjoining the government as plaintiff is the estate of deceased Thomas Skordilis, survived by Ioannis Skordilis.

The estate of Dimitrios Kaloidis, who owned both the diners until he died in 2019, is obligated to pay $1,187,272 in owed taxes plus interest and $334,307 in penalties.

The agreement also requires the estate to pay $356,913 to the estate of the whistleblower.

As a result of last week’s settlement, OAG will cease its investigation into the Bridgeview and Georgia Diners.

“When New Yorkers pay taxes, they should feel confident that those funds will help support our state’s investments in education, health care, transportation and services all residents rely on,” said Attorney General Letitia James in a press statement. 

“By pocketing these tax dollars, the former owner of these diners violated New Yorkers’ trust and deprived our state of essential resources. These recovered funds will now go to invest in our state, and hopefully, this settlement sends a clear message that my office will hold tax cheats accountable,” James said in a press release. 

Cash-only businesses are prone to tax scams because documenting revenue relies on analog book systems. No credit or debit cards, no logs.

The management of Bridgeview Diner and Georgia Diner declined to comment.

*Diner staff spoke to Queens Ledger under the condition of anonymity. The Queens Ledger offers anonymity for individuals who could be at risk to their personal safety, employment status or housing accommodations. For more information contact

Get (Red) Hooked on This Holiday Market

Justin Joseph |

For the third straight year, the Red Hook Business Alliance (RHBA) has set up the Holiday Market for art vendors from all over, to come to the Brooklyn Working Artists Coalition (BWAC) and display their work.

Located on Van Brunt Street in Brooklyn, residents of the neighborhood as well as the surrounding areas, line up to speak to a number of vendors about their artwork which ranges from paintings, to beard creams, to even stylized Christmas ornaments and decorations for the holiday season.

A sign entering the Red Hook market. Photo credit: Justin Joseph

The event began Saturday afternoon and will be going on every weekend until December 17th, so people have many opportunities to enjoy some of the best Artwork that vendors have to offer.

“We wanted to support businesses,” Victoria Alexander, one of the founders of RHBA, said in regards to starting the annual Holiday Market.

Alexander says after Covid, it was a hard time for businesses to recover what they had lost, so it really drove the RHBA to want to help the residents of the neighborhood.

That is what drove the RHBA to formally take over organizing the Holiday Market in 2021 after the community residents and businesses started the initiative to help the community recover from the after effects of Hurricane Sandy back in 2013.

The past few years the location of the event changed from having it outside select businesses in Red Hook, to inside the businesses  due to the cold weather. The RHBA felt like many of the vendors were too spread out among different stores so this year, they decided to take it to a central location in the BWAC center.

“Our purpose is to help the community, so we have this amazing space that we like to share,” said Alicia Degener, the President of BWAC. “Our vision is to give artists a place to exhibit their artwork and also makers to have a place to be able to sell and share their work with the community.”

BWAC felt like it was the prime opportunity to host such an event because they were coming off their 45th anniversary as an organization and this was a good way to end off the year. BWAC is an all-volunteer group of over 150 members working to support local artists and get their work displayed to the public.

The Brooklyn Working Artists Coalition booth. Photo credit: Justin Joseph

One returning vendor from last year named Ross Brown started a product under the name of Annie Witherspoon where they make homemade beard balms from beeswax as well as simple syrups that have a range of flavors and can be used in cocktails or other drinks.

Kira Smith is another vendor under the artist name Eanna, who has simple artwork paintings from popular shows in pop culture and anime. Smith is also showcasing her new jewelry collection made from stones she collects and uses them for her collection.

A first-time customer by the name of Andrew Shelton who visited the event found out about the event through friends seeing posts about it on social media. When he found out about the location he wanted to come see the artwork for himself. “I always like to support small businesses and local stuff… and it’s seems to be a great place to find gifts.”

With the first week of the event already off to a great start, residents have an additional two weeks to attend this years Holiday Market.

South Brooklynites Come Together to Drain the Flooded Streets on their Own

By Oona Milliken, Charlie Finnerty and Matthew Fischetti |

From Rockaway Beach to Gowanus to Elmhurst, residents of Queens and Brooklyn faced the brunt of last week’s flooding as roadways, homes, subway stations and airports filled with water Friday in what has now been recorded as the worst storm to hit the city since Hurricane Ida. 

Communities worked together all afternoon to clear drains and save neighbors from rising floodwaters but as the outer boroughs return to dry warm weather this week, questions remain about Mayor Eric Adam’s ability to communicate and prepare New York City residents for the historic severe storm.

Water rose to more than three feet high on the corner of Wallabout Street and Harrison Avenue in South Williamsburg on Friday Sept. 29 as New Yorkers across the city dealt with a bout of extreme flooding that prompted a city-wide state of emergency. Anthony Calderon, a Queens-based resident who works at Top Quality Management, a management company on Wallabout St, said he was cleaning up the trash from his office that the water had swept away and spread out across the area. Calderon said when the intersection flooded, he was reminded of storms such as Hurricane Ida, when New York City was shut down under a Flash Flood Emergency for the first time in recorded history and 13 people perished due to the rains. 

“Hectic. A lot of rain. It’s just kept coming, kept coming. On Wallabout and Harrison, the flood was coming up here, to your knees at least,” Calderon said. “I was afraid, like ‘Not again, what is this flood?’ I remember a couple of years ago when the hurricanes came, all the subways flooded and Queen’s Boulevard…That’s how I felt, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Not again.’”

Mayor Eric Adams was slammed by critics for not giving proper notice of the flooding when his office knew of the dangers on Thursday evening and Governor Hochul had already issued a flash flooding warning for New York City earlier in the day. Adam’s office sent out an email alert at 11 p.m. on Thursday, but did not shut down schools and hosted a public briefing around noon on Friday, hours after the worst rainfall had subsided and the governor had already declared a state of emergency across the city. 

The New York City sewer system was originally designed to maintain 1.75 inches of rain per hour, but areas such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard were hit with 2.58 inches of rain per hour, as early as 8:00 to 9:00 a.m, according to the Mayor’s office.

“And so its no surprise, unfortunately, as a result, that that part of Brooklyn and a couple of other particularly (sic) part of Brooklyn have borne the brunt of this,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commish Rohit T. Aggarwala.

Right before noon, the mayor urged New Yorker’s to stay home or “shelter in place,” while many commuters were already at work. On the Wallabout St. and Harrison Ave intersection, Calderon said the flooding became so bad that community members stepped in and dealt with the problem on their own by removing a manhole cover and letting the storm water drain into the sewer systems. 

“People from the community thought of putting gates around, and I had to go do something, and when I came back I could just see a spiral [of water] going down right in the corner. It was amazing. I mean, you could see cars floating,” Calderon said. 

Sandy Spadavecchia was driving his car through the Wallabout and Harrison intersection when the water partially submerged his car, rising up inside and stalling his vehicle. Spadavecchia said he saw a couple of construction workers and Hasidic community members attempt to deal with the problem until someone finally pulled the manhole cover to drain the water. Spadaveccia said he was lucky his car stalled when it did because he could have driven right into the manhole as the water was running into the sewer system. 

“There was flooding and the car stalled out in the middle of going through it and that was it,” Spadavecchia said. “In some ways I was lucky because I stalled out three or four feet in front of that open manhole cover, I might have gone into that.” 

Spadaveccia said he felt the city could have prevented the piles of trash spread by floodwaters throughout the area had residents been told to keep trash inside during the storm. 

“In my personal opinion, they probably should have suspended trash pickup, because I did see a lot of trash bags that hadn’t been picked up clogging [the streets],” Spadaveccia said. “I mean, they knew this was coming so they probably should have told people to keep their trash in for the day.” 

Calderon and co-worker Peter Nieves, both at Top Quality Management, were mopping other stores on the street and picking up trash that had been spread during the floods Friday. When asked for a quote on the flooding, Nieves said he just wanted some help and maybe an alcoholic beverage.  

“Can I get a beer?” Nieves said. 

Across Queens, where many residents are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Ida, floodwaters closed roads, impacted public transport and filled basements. Cars were overrun with flooding on Grand Central Parkway and in Rosedale, with a number of drivers abandoning their vehicles altogether. Waters engulfed Rockaway Beach, where nearly every home is considered to be at risk of flooding, suspending Long Island Railroad service

As early as 6 a.m. Friday, travelers at LaGuardia Airport were experiencing inclement weather delays. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for the afternoon across the airport, stopping all departing flights due to the flooding and weather in the area, canceling or delaying nearly 40% of all flights Friday. Terminal A, the oldest section of the airport, flooded with several inches of water and shut down 11 a.m. Friday until early Saturday morning. Videos captured travelers trudging through ankle-deep water at gates across the terminal. Ongoing renovations in Terminals B and C have included flood protections that have not yet been implemented in Terminal A.

Progressive Pols and Advocates Oppose Budget Cut

Critics say budget doesn’t need 15 percent cuts

By Matthew Fischetti


Lefty politicians and advocates gathered outside City Hall last week to denounce the Mayor’s proposed 15 percent budget cuts across all city agencies next year.

Hizzoner has said that the cuts are necessary due to the lack of total support from the feds and Albany in addition to COVID aid funds are running out of steam.

While Adams believes the across the board cuts are necessary to deal with the city’s finances, electeds at Tuesday’s press conference said they believed there were a range of options to stave off the cuts.

Specifically, they proposed implementing a package of reforms to the CityFHEPS program, a rental assistance program, which the mayor vetoed and the city council overrode back in July. The proposed reforms would make a series of changes to the voucher program including eligibility by changing the requirement to qualify for the program from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 50 percent the area median income. The package of legislation, which includes four bills, is estimated to cost $17 billion over the next five years, which was the Mayor’s reasoning for vetoing the package.

(Adams axed a rule that required people to stay in homeless shelters for 90 days in order to qualify for the vouchers, which was one of the four pieces of reforms proposed by the council.)

“There’s one thing we have learned in 20 months of an Eric Adams mayoralty, it’s that this man says crazy stuff every damn day. But let’s ignore the crazy stuff he says and focus on the crazy stuff that he’s doing,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chair and Greenpoint Councilman Lincoln Restler said at the rally.

“He has already cut billions of dollars from the city budget. Our services have been obliterated. People can’t access federally funded food stamps. People can’t access cash assistance. People with housing vouchers placed in apartments can’t actually get into their homes, because we don’t have the staff. And what does the Mayor want to do? Cut. And cut. And cut,” Restler continued.

Attendee from last week’s rally against the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts. Credit: Gerardo Romo NYC Council Media Unit


Additionally, state legislators and members of the council’s Progressive Caucus who attended the rally also advocated for increasing state taxes on the wealthy, getting additional funding from the state and federal government and expedited federal work authorizations. (Gov. Hochul has been reportedly considering state work permits for migrants while federal work permit authorization has stalled in Washington.)

“Eric Adams should be looking towards other opportunities in terms of how New York should increase its revenue instead of looking toward budget cuts. Year in and year out, for the past two years that Mayor Adams has been in office, he’s looked towards budget cuts prior to the migrants being here and prior to this being a crisis. Mayor Adams should be looking towards solutions of increasing the amount of money that we could be raising,” Bed-Stuy Councilman Chi Ossé said at the rally.

Ossé raised the idea of establishing a pied-à-terre tax on the ultra wealthy, which is a tax on rental properties that aren’t the primary residence of the owner. New York State Senator Brad Holyman originally sponsored a pied-à-terre tax in Albany back in 2014.

A May study from the Comptroller’s office estimates that a combined policy that would repeal Madison Square Garden’s tax free status, a partial repeal of coop-condo abatements and a luxury pied-à-terre tax could increase city revenue by an approximate $400 million per year. Within the same report, the Comptroller’s office estimates that a luxury pied-à-terre surcharge could net up to $277 million within the first year and $239 million within its third year of implementation.

Ossé also suggested that the mayor could hire more auditors to better collect revenue as a possible solution to the problem that doesn’t require austerity measures.

Attendees at the rally also casted doubt on the projected cost of migrant arrivals being the driving factor behind the mayor’s austerity measures.

“Lastly, with these cuts, I want to be clear, the mayor’s administration has proposed cuts to the budget long before the migrants got here. So to pretend the migrants are the reason to propose cuts is disingenuous at best,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said at the rally.

Some groups such as the non-partisan Fiscal Policy Institute have estimated that the proposed budget impact from the mayor’s office is overblown.

Bed-Stuy Councilman Chi Ossé speaking about potential tax revenues like the pied-à-terre

“The City estimates the total cost for asylum seekers over 2024 and 2025 is $10.9 billion — however, the City’s portion of the cost for asylum seekers over 2024 and 2025 is $8.9 billion, of which $2.4 billion was already budgeted for in the adopted budget. This puts the City’s new funding need at $6.5 billion over the next two years: $2.3 billion in 2024 and $4.1 billion in 2025. The proposed budget cuts of $10 billion per year are billions of dollars higher than the increased cost estimates for asylum seekers,” Executive Director Nathan Gusdorf said in a statement.

The rally also coincided with the recently established 60-day deadline for single adult migrants without children to vacate city shelters. If a migrant wants to stay in the shelter after that time period they must reapply.

“This mayor has attempted to eliminate the right to shelter, has broken our promise of ensuring that New York City is not run with street homelessness by adding directing like the 60 day rule,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chair and chair of the Immigration Committee Shahana Hanif said at the rally.

Hanif continued to criticize the possible implementation of a 30 day rule, which would cut the stay time for single adult migrants to 30 days rather than 60. The Adams administration is currently considering the possible rule, according to the New York Post.

“Those policies are terrible, unjust and violent,” said the Park Slope councilwoman.

City agencies will submit plans to cut an initial five percent of costs in the coming November budget update and will be required to find additional five percent cuts by the time the preliminary report comes out in January and an additional five percent in cuts submitted by the release of the executive budget in April. The final adopted budget must be reached before July 1 after negotiating with the council throughout May and June.

Colorful New Gateway Unveiled at Marsha P. Johnson Park

A group of around 20 people stand in front of a park gateway, posing for a photograph. The gateway is made of black metal with glass flowers and metal sculptures of flowers in different colors. Large trees with green leaves and light gray skies can be seen in the background.

Attendees pose for a photograph in front of the new gateway.

By Carmo Moniz |

Williamsburg’s Marsha P. Johnson Park has a new gateway honoring its namesake, complete with colorful metal and glass flowers and the Trans activist’s famous “Pay it No Mind” motto. 

Brooklyn pols, members of Johnson’s family, New York State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation and local residents attended a celebration of the gateway’s opening on Thursday, what would have been Johnson’s 78th birthday. 

The park has also been outfitted with new landscaping and informational panels highlighting Johnson’s life and community. Greenpoint Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, who spoke at the event, said that many involved in the project had wanted the park to be filled with plants, which influenced the final design.

Gallagher also said that the community fought the original plan for the park, which called for a large plastic walkway to be built across it and for its pathways to be covered in black asphalt, alongside the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform, which Johnson co-founded.

“This, as you know, had been a garbage dump for a long time, and it had never been treated with the care that the community really wanted when it had become a park,” Gallagher said in an interview. “It was a very basic park, so we wanted something really beautiful, and we were frustrated by that.”

The original plan, which was created under former Governor Andrew Cuomo, stirred controversy among local community members, many of whom felt blindsided and unheard.

The local community was notified that the park would be closed for construction for six months in January 2021, but North Brooklyn residents and activists criticized New York State Parks for lacking public outreach before the design was created. 

A community group called Stop the Plastic Park gathered more than 2,100 signatures in a petition opposing the plastic walkway design, noting that the community was only given a few days’ notice of the plan. After pushback from the North Brooklyn community, the Black Trans community, Johnson’s family and local politicians, Cuomo halted construction on the site in early March. 

James Carey, Johnson’s cousin and President of the Marsha P. Johnson Family Foundation, said the park’s current design is the result of years of community activism.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without the community,” Carey said in an interview. “We kept coming up here during COVID-19, looking at plans and going through walkthroughs, and as a result this is the fruit of our labor.”

Ryan Kuonen, a member of Stop the Plastic Park, said that pressure from the local community helped lead to more public input in the plan for the park.

“It didn’t feel respectful, it didn’t feel in the spirit, it felt gimmicky, and the one thing this neighborhood wanted, because activists had built this park, they wanted it to be a tribute to the activist that honored her truly,” Kuonen said in an interview. “Then all the groups came together, the family, the Black trans community, our community, and it was a trinity of superpowers that couldn’t be stopped.”

Councilmember from North Brooklyn Lincoln Restler, who spoke at the celebration, said he was pleased New York State Parks listened to concerns from the local community and Johnson’s family over the original design in an interview. 

“I was so happy when the state designated this park as Marsha P. Johnson Park, I cannot think of an activist and champion for trans rights and human rights who deserves this recognition more,” Restler said in the interview. “This entrance is breathtakingly beautiful, and the cobblestones and historic nature of the park have been preserved, and Marsha P. Johnson Park looks better than ever.”

New York State Parks New York City regional director Leslie Wright said that the planning and construction of the park have led to a greater focus on public engagement for larger-scale parks projects.

“Every park community acts and feels and behaves a little bit differently,” Wright said in an interview. “This one is home to many, many, many super passionate, extraordinarily dedicated community members, folks who’ve been working to make this particular property a public park for decades. So the feelings, the passions, that commitment runs really, really strong. And we completely respect that and embrace that and this park, and the way it looks today is proof of exactly that.”

Gutiérrez joins BetaNYC and North Brooklyn Parks Alliance in Mapping Equity Project

A digital map of a housing complex in Brooklyn in light green, grey and different shades of white. Small black spots marking different amenities are spread throughout the map.

Cooper Park Houses, which a group of attendees learned to map during the event, as mapped on OpenStreetMap.

By Carmo Moniz |

A program run by BetaNYC, the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance and councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez’s office is looking to make data on public resources in the city more equitable across communities, making it easier for communities to advocate for their needs.

The program, called Mapping for Equity, focuses on areas that have been mapped in the least detail. The program uses OpenStreetMap, a mapping software that allows the public to contribute to its features, to map amenities like benches, trash cans, playgrounds and more in public spaces. 

BetaNYC, NBPA and Gutiérrez’s office held a launch event for the program last Monday, where they presented the results of their mapping efforts thus far.

Karrie Witkin, a representative for the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, said that the mapping tool could be useful for the organization as it is focused on the maintenance of public amenities in parks. 

“We’re very interested in this tool from a planning perspective and figuring out where we need to be and how to get our services equitably distributed throughout the district,” Witkin said at the event. “This is an exciting tool, it makes visible so much that’s invisible in our maps.”

On OpenStreetMap, wealthier areas are often mapped in greater detail than low-income neighborhoods, which can make using data based arguments for better resources in those neighborhoods difficult, according to the BetaNYC website.

Attendees were able to try mapping for themselves during a field section of the event, and were encouraged to later add their findings to OpenStreetMap. Reverend Dr. Katie Cumiskey, a professor at the College of Staten Island who attended the event, said she hopes to replicate the mapping process on Staten Island.

“It’s really important that citizens of our city feel empowered to be involved in how the city comes to understand the neighborhoods that they live in, especially for those folks who live in public housing or neighborhoods that have been historically excluded or underserved by the city,” Cumiskey said in an interview. “BetaNYC has a really fun and cool way for folks to feel like they can engage with how the city interprets and views their neighborhoods.”

BetaNYC has had two cohorts of Civic Innovation Fellows, all City University of New York students who were matched with the fellowship through a university program, participate in the Mapping for Equity program. Together, the two cohorts mapped over 5,100 features in OpenStreetMap, according to BetaNYC fellowship manager Jazzy Smith.

Kinji Donald, one of the fellows who worked on the project, said that once features are uploaded to OpenStreetMap, they take around a week to be visible to the public.

“I feel like I’m actually making a change and helping the public,” Donald said in an interview. “Hopefully we can see certain patterns that will allow us to see areas that may need more amenities, or may have a lot of damaged amenities that need fixing, and we can take care of.” 

Noel Hidalgo, BetaNYC’s executive director and a Technology & Democracy fellow at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, said he hopes to work with nonprofit organizations and other community groups to use the mapping data for advocacy purposes.

“The fight for open data is about getting the opportunity for everyone, not just government, take the information and use it for analytical purposes,” Hidalgo said in the interview. “Something that we’re very, very passionate about is figuring out how communities and individuals can take that information and use it for their local advocacy purposes.”

Anya Lehr, Gutiérrez’s senior adviser, said that as chair of the New York City Council’s Technology Committee, the councilmember has seen the inequalities caused by technological infrastructure, and that it can be difficult to make arguments for addressing issues in a community without quantitative data to back them. 

“When she started thinking about all the other inequalities, which there are a lot from a long time of not having investments, the thing that we would always do is go ‘well where’s the data?’” Lehr said at the event. “Super excited to be working on this project with everyone, as soon as we saw this, as soon as Jazzy showed us what came out of this, it was like ‘this is awesome.’” 

Hidalgo said BetaNYC began working with Councilmember Gutiérrez around a year ago, and that she had continued the work of her predecessor, now Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, in providing funding for the organization’s data literacy work. 

BetaNYC has been running literacy classes for OpenData, a government platform that includes public datasets ranging from crime statistics to film permit data, since former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed the “Open Data Law” in 2012. The law required that by the end of 2018,  all public datasets be accessible on a single portal online.

Hidalgo said that the organization uses mapping to teach how to use OpenData, an idea that arose when gathering in office spaces for literacy programs became difficult due to the pandemic. He also said that the next step in the project is working with BetaNYC’s community partners, such as NBPA, and teaching them to run data collecting events, data entry and how to maintain the data.

“This project is just one rung in the ladder of a very long ladder of data literacy,” Hidalgo said in the interview. “We now have a nuts-to-soup perspective of how to teach and how to collect data, and walk you as the general public into the context of collecting data.”

Migrants Being Housed in Brooklyn Rec. Centers Amid Crisis

A red brick building with columns at the entrance stands in front of a blue sky. The U.S., NYC Parks and New York State flags hang off the building. The words "Sunset Play Center" are written on the building's facade, and people can be seen walking up the steps to the entrance.

The Sunset Park Recreation Center.

By Carmo Moniz |

As New York City’s migrant crisis continues, the city has taken to housing the influx of asylum seekers in unconventional locations, most recently in the recreation centers of Brooklyn’s McCarren and Sunset parks. 

Over a hundred asylum-seekers are being temporarily housed in the centers as shelters and emergency hotel space in New York City have exceeded capacity. In a statement, a City Hall spokesperson said the number of asylum-seekers coming through the city’s intake system has left it to deal with a national crisis on its own. The spokesperson also said almost 100,000 asylum seekers have passed through the city’s system since last spring.

“We are constantly searching for new places to give asylum seekers a place to rest their heads, and recently located a wing of the McCarren Recreation Center and the Sunset Park Recreation Center in Brooklyn to house adult asylum seekers,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

The new shelter spaces, which have been met with mixed reactions from local residents, will house around 80 and 100 migrants, respectively. Those housed in the centers receive three meals per day and have access to onsite shower and bathroom facilities.

When a group of 60 or so migrants moved into the Sunset Park center last week, around 100 local residents protested their arrival, while others offered them food and other resources, according to Gothamist.

Councilmember Alexa Avilés, who represents Sunset Park, said she asked those planning the protests to instead focus their efforts on community funding and problems with the immigration system in a statement.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity,” Avilés said in the statement. “I recognize community frustrations and share them over a lack of communication from the Mayor’s Office and a temporary disruption of services, but we must not fear monger. Whether you’re the Governor of Florida or a local, I will not stand for the use of human beings for political gain.”

A group of six city, state and federal Brooklyn politicians, including assemblymember Emily Gallagher, councilmember Lincoln Restler and councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez, said they were notified that the McCarren Park center would be used to house asylum seekers ahead of time and that access to pool and fitness facilities would remain open in a joint statement.

“We will continue pushing to secure more appropriate facilities to house people in need and expedite moving New Yorkers from our shelter system into vacant permanent housing,” the statement reads. “In the interim, we will do whatever we can to galvanize compassion and support for our new temporary neighbors.”

Benjamin Rodriguez, an asylum-seeker staying in the Sunset Park center, said that he came to New York from Peru seven months ago, and that he was previously being housed in a hotel. He said that while he has been able to find employment in the city, many others have not and would benefit from more government assistance with employment, such as work permits.

“We have a roof to live under, and for that I give thanks,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. “We know we are going through a very difficult situation, but it will pass one day.”

Mohammed Yamdi, who traveled to the city from Mauritania and is also staying in the Sunset Park center, said that there is little work available for migrants. He also said he has been told his request for asylum could take six months to a year to be processed.

“I want to bring my family here,” Yamdi said in French. “My children would learn to write and go to school and be alright, not like in Mauritania.”

Currently, there is a backlog of over two million cases in U.S. immigration courts, according to a 2023 Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse report. The average wait time for a hearing is more than four years, and receiving a final decision can take even longer.

Luke Petrinovic, a city employee who lives near Sunset Park, said he had worked in a migrant shelter in El Paso, Texas last summer, and he thinks it is important to be welcoming of asylum seekers.

“It’s talked about like it’s a crisis, but migration is a fact of human civilization,” Petrinovic said. “People oftentimes get very discouraged because it’s an unsolvable problem, but that means it’s the sort of thing that you have to accept and learn to be a good person in that circumstance.”

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