Brooklyn Dems Communications Director Moonlighting for Lobbying Firm

By Matthew Fischetti |


The communications director for both the Brooklyn Democratic Party and party boss Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn has a third job – as a “director” in the New York office for the powerful lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs.

But ethics experts say the simultaneous holding of these positions could be a serious conflict of interest.

James Christopher has worked with Bichotte Hermelyn since August 2022 where he had held dual positions as director of communications for the county party and as Director of communications & chief communications officer for majority whip, according to his LinkedIn page. 

Last month, Christopher announced that he was accepting the position at the company where Bichotte Hermelyn’s husband, Edu Hermelyn serves as a Senior Vice President, while concurrently holding his current positions.

“Marrying his business and political knowledge allows James to help clients navigate today’s complex legislative environment while cutting through the noise to captivate audiences,” a description of his position on Mercury’s website reads.

Rachel Fauss, Senior Policy Advisor for Reinvent Albany, a watchdog group that advocates for transparency in government, said that Christopher’s multiple jobs were potential conflicts of interest.

“This appears to be a trifecta of conflicts of interest; there is no way that it is in the public’s interest for a legislative staffer to be holding positions simultaneously in a top lobbying firm and with a county democratic party while also being on the public payroll,” Fauss said.

Due to Christopher’s Albany job, he would have needed to get permission from the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission in order to take the outside employment. The body can not directly comment on guidances issued due to laws surrounding the Legislative Ethics Commission.

When James Christopher was originally reached out to for comment for this story, he declined to comment.

Jon Reinish, a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, said in a later statement that “This individual is employed in a part-time communications capacity and not involved in providing any government relations services, as cleared by the Legislative Ethics Commission.” 

Regardless of the Legislative Ethics Commission’s decision, Fauss said that the appointments still raise concern.

“If the Legislative Ethics Commission approved this arrangement, it proves that they are not independent and should be abolished,” said Fauss.  


BP Appoints Kimberly Council as Deputy

By Matthew Fischetti

Last week Brooklyn Beep Antonio Reynoso appointed Reverend Kimberly Council as Deputy Borough President.

The Deputy will serve as a surrogate for the Borough President as well as leading faith-based work for the administration, according to a Friday announcement.

Prior to her appointment she served as Assistant Pastor of Greater Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Crown Heights since 2021.

“Rev. Council’s history of specialized community service and faith-based work in Brooklyn will bring the work our administration has been dedicated to for the past year to the next level,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said in a statement. “Our borough and this city are facing serious challenges right now – issues like undignified and unaffordable housing, food insecurity, and the looming fear of violence and loss. For many years, Kim has worked alongside our communities to address these inequities and invoke change that people can feel in their everyday lives.

The former Sunday School teacher has worked on issues such as building affordable housing, fighting hunger through food pantries and violence prevention programs as the Executive Director of the Berean Community Center in Crown Heights.

She has also served as the President of the East Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation and sits on the Executive Board of Women of Faith Advocating Change – a group of female pastors, elected officials and community service providers. In 2019, she was appointed to the HBCU International Task Force

“I’ve dedicated my career to the communities and people of Brooklyn, focusing on finding ways to better lives and strengthen opportunities for all. Being appointed Deputy Borough President gives me the opportunity to carry this work out at a larger, borough-wide level alongside a colleague I’ve long respected,” Reverend Kim Council said in a statement. “Agreeing with Borough President Reynoso’s approach, policy priorities, and general strategy to reach the strongest, most sustainable future for all Brooklynites, I look forward to building that vision for the millions of people who call this beautiful borough home.”

The appointment will be effective starting on April 17, 2023.

G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store to Close

Over a Century Old Institution Closing Doors on April 10

By Matthew Fischetti

When George Esposito was eight-years-old, his first job at his Grandfather’s store was selling garlic by the pound for 25 cents. 55 years later, he’s now ready to close shop.

The over a century old and four generation family-owned G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store, located on Court Street in Carroll Gardens, will be closing its doors on April 10.

In an interview with the Brooklyn Star, Esposito said that he would have liked to keep the store open for the decades long customers who have enjoyed the store but buyers were intimidated.

“Lots of people were interested [in buying the business] but when they see what we do here – it scared them away. We make everything. You know this isn’t a Trader Joes,” he said. “This is a homemade family business that makes everything from scratch.”

Esposito’s & Sons Pork Store is known for a lot more than just their pork: they serve hot and cold sandwiches, are well-known for their sausage and rice balls, and offer everything from cavatelli to potato salad.

The store was originally founded by Esposito’s grandfather, Giovanni Esposito. Originally from Naples, Giovanni immigrated to the United States in 1922 and opened up shop on Columbia and Union Street the same year. The store moved over to the Court Street location in 1977 when the original location’s nabe started to get more dangerous, said Esposito.

Back then the menu was different: selling traditional Italian foods like lamb heads and calf lungs. Around the mid to late 80s is when the store started to sell more Italian-American dishes and added sandwiches to their menus, as the nabe changed.

G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store will close on April 10


“I’ll never eat sausage again anywhere. That’s a fact. I bought a shrink wrap machine just for myself,” Esposito said.

Since the announcement of the store’s closing, Esposito said he has been inundated with orders. For the first time in the store’s history they are running low on inventory.

“I have like 30 trays ordered. Whole trays that people are going to freeze. I don’t know if you like eggplant parmesan, but there’s okay and there’s bad and there’s great. Our’s is outstanding,” said Esposito.

“I was heartbroken,” Brian Geltner, a 20 year customer of G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store said in an interview while munching on an Italian combo.

Some of his favorite things to order over the years have been the sausage parm, the italian combo and the eggplant parm – “but it’s all good,” he said.

“Whenever I buy sausages here to make tomato sauce, the sauce always comes out better than any other place,” Geltner said. “I don’t know why, but I go out of my way to come here before work.”

National Grid Temporarily Withdraws Air Permits

By Matthew Fischetti

National Grid submitted a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation temporarily withdrawing their request for air permits, a necessary step in order to construct their controversial liquid natural gas vaporizers in Greenpoint.

As the Brooklyn Star has previously reported, the Public Service Commission, a state entity that regulates utilities throughout the state, previously denied National Grid’s request for rate hikes to cover the costs for their natural gas vaporizers based off of an independent consult’s report that said the project was not necessary until winter 2028/2029.

“Although National Grid disagrees with the analysis conducted by PA Consulting Group, INc. regarding the required in-service date for the Vaporizer 13/14 Project at the Greenpoint Energy Center (concluding the project is likely required by winter 2028/29) and the subsequent ORder issued by the Public Service Commission, The Brooklyn Union Gas company d/b/a National Grid NY is withdrawing the above-referenced permit application at this time,” the letter reads.

The letter continues to highlight that National Grid will resubmit an application at “some point in the future.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation previously delayed their decision regarding the air permits until the Public Service Commission issued their ruling.

National Grid Spokeswoman Karen Young declined to comment further on the decision.

During the public comment period, the Public Service commission noted the overwhelming community opposition to the proposed project.

“They’re welcome to try as much as they’d like,”Greenpoint Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher tweeted in response to the news. “Greenpoint won’t stop fighting them. And we’ll continue to win.”

First Ramadan Holiday Lights on Atlantic Ave.

By Matthew Fischetti

Growing up in downtown Brooklyn, Atlantic Ave. was the whole world to Jabr Zanta. And now, his stretch of the world represents him a little more.

That’s because the Brooklyn Avenue now sports Ramadan Holiday Lights for the first time. A week prior to Ramadan the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District hung up and illuminated lights celebrating the month-long Muslim holiday between Fourth and Third Avenue and between Court and Clinton Streets.

32-year-old Zanta first moved into the nabe when he was a year old, living on Atlantic Avenue. Today, he is the owner of Diwan Cafe, a Yemeni Coffee shop which sits on the same street.

“Now that I’m a merchant on Atlantic Avenue, it’s like a dream come true,” said Zanta. “It’s not only being recognized, It’s also being shown me the right light.”

Atlantic Avenue BID Executive Director Kelly Carroll said that the move was inspired by the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, which hung Ramadan lights for the first time in 2021.

“To me it seemed to be an obvious choice to do this for Atlantic Avenue, and odd that it hadn’t been done before,” Caroll said at a Thursday March 23 press conference, announcing the new lights.

“It is my hope that we can begin to do this corridor-wide next year and years afterwards. And beyond that, it’s my hope that more bids in New York City or commercial corridors in general that celebrate with illuminations start celebrating the holy month of Ramadan to reflect our population of New York City,” Caroll continued.

In an interview with the Brooklyn Star, Caroll emphasized the long history of Arab and Muslim populations that first arrived to Brooklyn after being displaced by the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Prior to the construction of the tunnel, many Arab immigrants lived in Manhattan in the nabe known as Little Syria’.

“That’s when Sahadi’s got here – Although they’re not a Muslim business. That’s when a lot of these Middle Eastern businesses started pouring into Atlantic Avenue,” Caroll explained, referencing the long standing Middle Eastern grocery store. “So we have a long history of representing this population, and this is just an obvious choice to celebrate them.”

This is a beautiful moment for us, a beautiful moment for Yemeni Americans and a beautiful moment for Muslims in general,” said Youseef Mubarez, the Public Relations Director for Yemeni Merchant Association.

Mubarez continued to emphasize the setting of the press conference, which was in front of Fertile Crescent,a muslim grocery store and Halal Butcher.

“Everyone comes here to their Ramadan food – their dates. I mean, it couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m telling you, right here’s the perfect spot.”


Members of the BID, Local Merchants and others celebrate the establishment of the Ramadan Lights

St. Joseph’s University Receives Grant for Summer Program

By Matthew Fischetti

St. Joseph’s University New York announced on March 24 that they received a $230,000 grant to provide summer courses for high school students from Brooklyn.

The grant awarded by the Teagle Foundation will be a collaboration between SJNY and Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York, a group that helps disadvantaged students become community-minded leaders. The program will serve a total of 70 students over a three-year period starting this summer, according to SJNY.

“The Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York scholars come from historically underserved communities  with little access to higher education preparation,” Lysandra Hutchinson, director of college  access and collegian support for BHGHNY said in a statement. “Through extensive programming and assistance, our  scholars will be able to experience firsthand what it’s like to be a college student thanks to the  opportunity to form this partnership with St. Joseph’s.”

The three-week program, “The Citizen’s Path, A Knowledge for Freedom Program,” will be available for high school seniors who are participants of BHGHNY. The program will give students the opportunity to earn college credit while learning about civic engagement, government and human rights by reading classical thinkers and writers and through trips and cultural events.

“The Teagle Foundation and BHGHNY are devoted to cultivating the study of liberal arts and  fostering democratic citizenship,”  Michael Burke, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy said in a statement. “I  am honored to be part of the St. Joseph’s team that is working with the Teagle Foundation and  BHGHNY to provide local high school students with the opportunity to experience a liberal arts  education through The Citizen’s Path program.”

For more information visit

Swastika found at Greenpoint Playground

By Matthew Fischetti

A swastika was found defacing one of the trees at American Playground in Greenpoint this past Sunday.

“This is one of the most wonderful spots for kids in our community,” Councilman Lincoln Restler, whose office was first alerted about the vandalism, said in an interview with the Greenpoint Star. “And I was deeply disturbed to learn of this hateful imagery appearing in the park.”

The councilman said that he turned the hateful carvings into a square with a key when he first went to check on the Franklin Street park, between Milton and Noble Street, on Sunday Feb. 26.

The councilman then alerted the local precinct and parks department about the issue, he said.

“Unfortunately, we have experienced anti semitic incidents in Greenpoint over many years. And a number of anti-semitic incidents across the city has grown exponentially over the last few years,” Restler said. “From swastikas being scraped, painted or drawn to physical attacks against Jewish people, and we need it to stop. Unfortunately, the anti-semitic attacks have been disproportionately targeted towards Orthodox Jews, who are more obviously Jewish, based on their dress and custom.”

The United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Restler said that creating cross cultural engagement opportunities with various community leaders and developing curriculum for schools are part of the solution to battling anti-semitism across the district.

Shortly after his election, Restler participated in neighborhood canvases along with Jews for Racial & Economic Justice in order to address anti-semitism, as the Jewish-Telegraphic Agency first reported.

There have been no arrests at time of publication.

Black Veterans for Social Justice receives $1M in funds

By Matthew Fischetti

Over 70 people packed into the halls of Black Veterans For Social Justice last Friday to witness the unveiling of a $1,000,000 donation to the group.

The Bed-Stuy Veterans Resource Center and Community Organization was founded in 1979. The 665 Willoughby Avenue location helps connect veterans returning home from combat with resources and helps place veterans with benefits such as housing, benefits, employment and more during their transition back to civilian life.

“Serving Black veterans – people who have fought in wars, to lift up to the principles of American freedom, liberty and justice for all, equal protection under the law, protecting democracy – you all have been a part of that black history and that American history. And were so thankful for you and your work,” said U.S. minority leader and Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who delegated the funds, at the announcement.

The funds were made available through Community Project Funding, a program where congress members can appropriate funds to their district.

After the announcement was made, Veterans and attendees were able to connect with a series of government offices in a veteran resource fair: including the Veterans Justice Outreach Program, which helps connect veterans with Veteran Administration benefits; the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program; the Jobs to Build On Program, a city program that helps unemployed people with job preparation and placement; among many others.

“That’s what today’s veterans resource fair is all about – continuing that work. To make sure that our veterans upon their return can live a decent, comfortable life. Having sacrificed for us, we should always be there for them,” Jeffries said.

Army Veteran and member of Brooklyn CB-2’s Veterans Committee, Andre Parker, 65, said that he came to familiarize himself with the services and check on some of his personal benefits.

“When you get out of the military, they don’t really give you too much information,” Parker explained. “But if you look at the benefits, or if you’re looking for like medical issues – this place here is good with job placement, housing, and it’s just not widely available.”

Parker emphasized that resource centers like Black Veterans for Social Justice are especially important for younger veterans, who may have recently left and not know what kinds of benefits they qualify for.

“I think it’s good – especially since we have our congressman leading the way. That was a good thing. As you can see, it was pretty packed downstairs,” Parker noted about the recent $1 million in funds that BVSJ can now tap into.

BVSJ President and CEO Wendy McClinton said that the funds would go a long way in providing programming and services for formerly incarcerated veterans coming home.

McClinton said in an interview that the program aims to engage veterans in the 90 day period that veterans re-enter society after incarceration.

“The veteran must be engaged within those 90 days, and then set up with those wraparound services, which may mean little basic things like clothing, job readiness, employment, making sure their mental status is correct, and tying them into other wraparound services,” she said.

McClinton also said that the funds would help hire more individuals to work on the program, which could have up to nine staff people in order to help reduce veteran recidivism and “learn that time served means new beginning.”

“We can employ more veterans, with the right background and credentials, peer to peer, to make sure that these formerly incarcerated veterans transition back into society with a veteran, with tender love and care and a listening ear,” McClinton said.

U.S. Army Corps hosts resiliency town hall

By Matthew Fischetti


Over 100 Greenpoint residents packed into the Triskellion Arts Center last week in the neighborhood  to attend a town hall co-hosted by the North Brooklyn Parks Association and U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez to address draft plans from the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers for creating a more resilient waterfront.

While the town hall was attended by mostly Greenpoint residents, the event marked the first time both representatives from the Queens waterfront neighborhoods along the Newtown Creek were working cooperatively over the issue. Elected officials franging from Sunnyside Assemblymember Juan Ardilla to Greenpoint Councilman Lincoln Restler were in attendance last Thursday to discuss the draft plans.(Queens residents were able to log-on and attend the meeting virtually as well to voice their concerns.)

The tentatively selected plan would include sea walls along the coastline and storm surge barriers as well as raised promenades as mitigation measures.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer representative Byrce Wisemiller emphasized that the Army Corps main focus was reducing storm surge risk.

“Some refer to our view on storm surge as somewhat myopic. But that is the impact that has caused 10s of billions of dollars of damage and has the greatest life safety threat of all those risks,” Wisemiller said.

Many residents who spoke out at the town hall were concerned with proposed renderings for a 17 foot tall sea wall in Greenpoint, stretching from Kent Street to Newtown Creek. At the Town Hall Wisemiller noted that the rendering was five feet too high and emphasized the designs are subject to change following the public comment period.

“But the bottom line of what we’re really trying to communicate is this neighborhood goes as unaddressed, severe coastal storm risk – as you probably all know that way better than me having lived here. We need to do something,” Wisemiller said. “Maybe the seawall, bigger flood wall, maybe the location needs to change. But this is not something that cannot be addressed.”

Willis Elkins, the executive director of the Newtown Creek Alliance, raised concerns about how the plan will affect the remediation of the creek and how the current plan could limit connection between the East River and the Newtown Creek and cast aspersion on storm surge gate would adequately protect the area.

“But for us more than anything, the exchange between Newtown Creek and the East River is incredibly vital to the health and the remediation of Newtown Creek, we have strong current flows that are coming in and out twice a day,” Elkins said, referencing the proposed clean-up of the creek which is supposed to happen within the next five years. “And anything that’s going to inhibit the flow of that water is going to have, in our opinion, strong impacts on the water quality of Newtown Creek and how Superfund remediation is going to happen.”

Elkins’s presentation also noted that he believes the storm surge gate as it ignores other causes of flooding like sea level and groundwater rise.

In a Feb. 17 letter addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance also had several critiques of the draft plan ranging from that is cuts access to long fought for waterfront parks; that the plan doesn’t protect the Williamsburg waterfront; that the sea gates will restrict water flow and lead to increased combined sewer overflow, thereby slowing down the Superfund clean up; and not having enough “natural and nature-based solutions.”

“In summary and conclusion, the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance feels it is incumbent on the USArmy Corps of Engineers plans to fully incorporate community feedback and visions; employ an environmental justice framework; consider the potential impacts of past, current, and future New York City and State projects; and clearly address existing environmental conditions—especially where hazardous toxins, contaminated sites, and greater risk of flooding are involved,” the letter reads. 

During the question and answers point of the town hall, western Queens Councilwoman Julie Won raised equity issues with how Queens and Brooklyn are getting their flood protections.

“We have had the least amount of public and social infrastructure investments in all five boroughs. And Brooklyn is not too far behind that,” Won said at the meeting, noting that Manhattan has received funding for flip-up barriers, a type of flood protection that would leave pedestrian spaces unimpeded. 

Construction for the project would start around 2030 with a duration of 14 years.

Comments are available until March 7th about the proposed design. Readers interested in voicing their position can email their comments  to

North Brooklyn Pols Slam State’s BQE Plans

By Matthew Fischetti

NorthBrooklyn elected officials and advocates slammed the state on Monday, after the State Department of Transportation told Streetsblog that Hochul administration has no intention of addressing the state portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Earlier this year, the Adams administration announced a public engagement session for redesign of the BQE due to funds available from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The BQE is split into two major parts: one dubbed BQE Central, the city owned part which stretches from Atlantic Ave. to Sands St; and the second being BQE North and South which is under state purview.

The officials took their frustration to Jaime Campiz Playground on Marcy Ave, more commonly known as “Green Grass”, which lies right across from the BQE.

“This is not about division. From Greenpoint to Brooklyn Heights. From Bay Ridge, down further south – we are unified. And we are all claiming that we want to see a corridor-wide plan. And it needs to happen now,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said at the press conference.

On Thursday, after Streetsblog broke the story over the state’s lack of plans, 18 elected officials across Brooklyn released a statement condemning the state’s decision to just provide technical assistance rather than a full redesign.

For years, the city and state has considered different ways to redesign and fix the crumbling highway. The BQE was originally designed to carry  47,000 vehicles a day but carries an estimated 150,000 vehicles per day now, according to Curbed.

““New York State DOT’s refusal to commit to participating in NYC DOT’s visioning process for their portions of the BQE is completely unacceptable and irresponsible. This historic opportunity to rebuild the BQE extends beyond the Triple Cantilever and our communities deserve a forward thinking vision that redesigns the entire BQE and addresses the significant environmental justice impacts of the thruway,” their statement read.

Greenpoint and Brooklyn Height Councilman Lincoln Restler did not hold back his words at Monday’s press conference.

“One thing that we all learned when we read the Power Broker is that highways can be racist,” Restler said, referencing the 1,336 page tome that chronicles city planner Robert Moses’s implementation of highways.

“Infrastructure can be racist. The BQE is racist. It has caused enormous harm to communities all throughout Brooklyn,” he continued.

Restler also specifically called to move forward with the BQGreen proposal which would add a decked 3.5 acre park

Williamsburg Councilwoman Jennifer Gutiérrez noted that perhaps Brooklyn needed to remind the state what it means to be an environmental justice community.

“It means that since the BQE, since Robert Moses, it has been our communities that have had to breathe the fumes that have to deal with the environmental issues of this racist highway. It’s us dealing with the risk every single day and not state DOT,” she said. “What it means to be an environmental justice community is to be unapologetic, and what we demand and in the future that we see for all of us, for many of us that are here, the damage is done. We don’t stand here for ourselves. We stand here for our descendants. We stand here for our future.”

While not in attendance on Monday, Emily Gallgher’s Chief of Staff represented the Assemblymember, who’s exchange with the State DOT Commish raised the concern of the state not being interested in a full redesign of the bridge.

“We are not going to kick the can down the road any further,” Andrew Epstein said. “We’re going to tackle this racist infrastructure once and for all and we’re going to bring New York State DOT to the table as soon as we possibly can.”

Editors Note: Emily Gallagher is a former columnist for the Greenpoint Star.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing