2022 Elections Profile: Senate Candidate Elizabeth Crowley

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Elizabeth Crowley wants to represent Queens again. And Brooklyn. Oh, And Manhattan too.

Crowley, a former city councilwoman from Glendale, is running in the newly redrawn Senate 26, which straddles Western Queens, Northern Brooklyn, and Eastern Manhattan. Crowley is no newcomer to politics, coming from a large political family (her cousin was former Congressman Joseph Crowley, who AOC upset in 2018)  and has run for a slew of offices over the years.

While the district originally encompassed her home of Glendale, Crowley said that her vision and platform apply to a greater swath of New Yorkers.

“I went to college at FIT, I went to grad school in Brooklyn. I identify with the city as a whole,” Crowley said in an interview.  Crowley said that while she represented different neighborhoods back in the council, she pushed for policies that benefit New Yorkers across the board.

Crowley pushed against firehouse closures, fought to close Rikers, and advocated for increased greenway and transit options during her time on the city council. She lost re-election against Councilman Robert Holden in 2020.

“Most of them [inmates] have some level of anxiety, depression and a significant amount of the population as a serious mental health diagnosis, such as schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. And many of them have no family and no support system,” Crowley said of her decision to support bail reform, even though she noted that the legislation went too far in offering bail to alleged violent offenders.”So either way, they’re going to cycle in and out, in and out.”

Crowley said that affordability issues, child care, and education would be among her top issues if elected. In order to tackle the affordability issue, she says that New York needs to build a massive amount of affordable housing with transit to support the development.

“I have constituents in this district, over $3 million houses, in Greenpoint, pay less than property tax, then a modest, 1,000 square-foot homeowner in the district – or even, let’s say, a homeowner in southeast Queens. It’s a city-wide issue that needs to be addressed,” Crowley said, highlighting her desire for broad-based property tax reform. Earlier this year, a group of bipartisan legislators from Albany to the city council called for the issue to be addressed in the next legislative session.

While Crowley said that she wasn’t a fan of 421(a), the city’s now expired affordable housing tax break that critics said didn’t invest enough in actually affordable units, she said there still is a role for the government to subsidize construction.

She also said that she would explore options to reduce construction by “working with unions and project labor agreements to bring down wages, or to get some guarantees or give back to them for the cost of the project.” Crowley has received the most amount of support from labor unions thus far in the race.

The other candidates in the race are Kristen Gonzalez, Mike Corbett, and Nomiki Konst. The election is on Aug. 23, with early voting occurring from Aug. 13 to the 21st.

2022 Elections Profile: Senate Candidate Elizabeth Crowley

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Elizabeth Crowley wants to represent Queens again. And Brooklyn. Oh, And Manhattan too.

Crowley, a former city councilwoman from Glendale, is running in the newly redrawn Senate 26, which straddles Western Queens, Northern Brooklyn, and Eastern Manhattan. Crowley is no newcomer to politics, coming from a large political family (her cousin was former Congressman Joseph Crowley, who AOC upset in 2018)  and has run for a slew of offices over the years.

While the district originally encompassed her home of Glendale, Crowley said that her vision and platform apply to a greater swath of New Yorkers.

“I went to college at FIT, I went to grad school in Brooklyn. I identify with the city as a whole,” Crowley said in an interview.  Crowley said that while she represented different neighborhoods back in the council, she pushed for policies that benefit New Yorkers across the board.

Crowley pushed against firehouse closures, fought to close Rikers, and advocated for increased greenway and transit options during her time on the city council. She lost re-election against Councilman Robert Holden in 2020.

“Most of them [inmates] have some level of anxiety, depression and a significant amount of the population as a serious mental health diagnosis, such as schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. And many of them have no family and no support system,” Crowley said of her decision to support bail reform, even though she noted that the legislation went too far in offering bail to alleged violent offenders.”So either way, they’re going to cycle in and out, in and out.”

Crowley said that affordability issues, child care, and education would be among her top issues if elected. In order to tackle the affordability issue, she says that New York needs to build a massive amount of affordable housing with transit to support the development.

“I have constituents in this district, over $3 million houses, in Greenpoint, pay less than property tax, then a modest, 1,000 square-foot homeowner in the district – or even, let’s say, a homeowner in southeast Queens. It’s a city-wide issue that needs to be addressed,” Crowley said, highlighting her desire for broad-based property tax reform. Earlier this year, a group of bipartisan legislators from Albany to the city council called for the issue to be addressed in the next legislative session.

While Crowley said that she wasn’t a fan of 421(a), the city’s now expired affordable housing tax break that critics said didn’t invest enough in actually affordable units, she said there still is a role for the government to subsidize construction.

She also said that she would explore options to reduce construction by “working with unions and project labor agreements to bring down wages, or to get some guarantees or give back to them for the cost of the project.” Crowley has received the most amount of support from labor unions thus far in the race.

The other candidates in the race are Kristen Gonzalez, Mike Corbett, and Nomiki Konst. The election is on Aug. 23, with early voting occurring from Aug. 13 to the 21st.

Park Slope church robbed of ‘priceless’ tabernacle

St. Augustine Church in Park Slope was robbed of their tabernacle late Thursday night.

A tabernacle is an ornate encasing that holds the consecrated eucharist, which in the Catholic religion represents the literal body of christ.

The church along 6th Avenue was broken into on Friday evening according to police. The surrounding architecture was destroyed as well. The angels surrounding the tabernacle were decapitated and the eucharist was strewn across the room.

Cops say the 18 karat gold tabernacle decorated with jewels is approximately worth $2 million. But to the parishioners, a lot more was stolen.

Diane Montemarano, 68, has attended the parish for 39 years. Her father, born in 1918, was an altar boy at the church in his youth.

“I always loved coming here because, you know, he was an altar boy, and he grew up in this parish. So, personally, it’s like, a relic of my dad was taken,” Montemarano said in an interview.

The stolen tabernacle dates back to the 1890s, from when the church was built, and is described as irreplaceable by the church due to its historical and artistic significance. Burglars cut through a steel encasing with power tools. Father Tumino said that when he walked in Saturday morning he saw the door was ajar. After he walked in and saw the destruction, he could still smell the metal shavings from the tools used to break through.

Tumino also stated that the DVR that recorded the security footage within the church was stolen as well. The Father said that the parish is working with police to see if neighboring schools or businesses caught any footage of the suspects.

Tumino also speculated that due to the construction in the neighborhood, the burglars were able to break through the steel encasing without raising suspicion.

Tumino shot down the idea of an inside job at a Sunday morning press conference.

“I know it’s easy for people to say it was an inside job. But the reality is, these are also very public buildings. And so even online, there’s a history of this church,” Tumino said. “And even the history of the church does say that there is a tabernacle and that information is accessible. And because churches are available for weddings and funerals and for mass, people do come in and out.”

“This was a place where you come to gather yourself things are going wrong. You can come here and calm down and sort of get a second boost so to speak,” Michael Okebey, 58, who has been attending services at St. Augustine’s for 35 years, said. “I feel like somebody has interrupted my relationship with God in some way.

After being asked about how he felt about the crime, knowing that the approximate value of the tabernacle is $2 million, Okebey got more stern.

“Now i’m really angry,” he said, explaining that the church is currently raising funds for other projects and that this would put them further behind.

Lest We Forget: Black Veterans on Memorial Day

Black Veterans for Social Justice, founded in 1979, is a veterans service and community-based nonprofit organization headquartered in Bed-Stuy. Every year veterans can be seen marching along the little stretch of pavement between Throop Avenue and Marcus Garvey Boulevard on Willoughby Avenue in honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

The annual parade, now in its 11th year, has the usual fanfare: a hot sizzling grill pumping out burgers and hot dogs, the big banners and an even bigger line of marchers, as well as refreshments to stay cool in the first sweat of summer.

Attendees at Black Veterans for Social Justice Memorial Day rally in Bed-Stuy.

“This traditionally is the start of summer. And I’ve had so many people text me saying Happy Memorial Day. And although I say thank you, or sometimes I just give a thumbs up emoji. But Memorial Day is to commemorate those who have fallen, primarily on active duty, but we want to remember those who are soldiers for life, and who did not get a chance to enjoy the fruits of their retirement,” Walter Gist, a veterans outreach coordinator with the Services for the Underserved, said.

Gist is manning one of the many different types of services tables Black Veterans for Social Justice hosts to connect veterans with different kinds of support services ranging from job training and interview preparation to helping people apply for social services like ERAP funding, a pandemic-era rent relief program.

William Lugo has been attending the Black Veterans for Social Justice parade since its inception. It’s the easiest for him to get to at 73-years-old, as a local resident of Bed-Stuy. Lugo said the parade has helped him in the past get connected with all his benefits.

“Remember the men and women died defending this country,” Lugo said in an interview. “That’s why there will always be a Memorial Day.”

While thanking a veteran for their service may seem customary in today’s America, Vietnam Veteran Errol Vanmooden said that Americans have still failed to recognize the service of his fellow Vietnam service members.

“I remember my fallen brother in Vietnam. I remember the good times and the bad. I remember the holidays. Christmas, Birthdays. I remember the disrespectful welcome that I received back from Vietnam. I remember one person saying ‘are you part of the baby killers?’,” Vanmooden said.

While Vanmooden says he wants the day to be about celebrating the contributions of fallen soldiers, he couldn’t shake the bad memories that come with the day.

He remembers when he was injured on the battlefield, his buddies coming to help him. He was the only Black member of his unit, but that didn’t matter. Army green was the only color that mattered, he said.

He remembers his 22nd birthday. He was awoken by a barrage of heavy artillery fire early one morning in the jungles of Vietnam. Rockets would land and get stuck in the thick mud. He was sure he was going to die.

“I remember my brothers were always there for me,” Vanmooden said solemnly.

Exclusive: Kellogg’s added to historic registry

Kellogg’s, the famous 24-hour Williamsburg Diner, was added to the Historic Business Preservation Registry on Saturday.

The Historic Business Preservation Registry was created with the goal of providing educational and promotional assistance to businesses that have been located in a neighborhood for over 50 years. The program, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, can receive nominations from local legislators and are decided on a rolling basis.

Elected officials and restaurant workers inside Kellogg’s Diner with the historical designation award.

Since around 1973, Kellogg’s has served Williamsburg residents morning, noon, and night. Despite the pressures the COVID-19 placed on local businesses, the Metropolitan Avenue-based eatery was able to continue serving families during the pandemic.

Navigating a business throughout a pandemic is difficult, but Irene Siderakis was able to pull it off – without any restaurant experience at all.

Before the pandemic, Irene was a stay-at-home mother for her four boys. She inherited the restaurant after her husband passed away unexpectedly in 2019.

“The worst things in life can hate you. But it doesn’t mean you can’t move forward in a positive direction, as long as you believe in yourself,” Siderakis said about what this moment meant to her. “As a woman I want to say that I’m proud of myself. I know I put my heart into it. I put all my strength into it. Just because my husband died there is the excuse to say we can’t. I’ve got four children in this world I’m responsible for. There is no can’t”.

Before her husband passed she didn’t know anything about the business—who the vendors were, how to handle payroll, or the day-to-day responsibilities. Now, she says she feels closer to him, knowing everything he did to help provide a life for her and her kids.

“It is just a fantastic, fantastic testimony to the community that this place holds that Kellogg’s fought through COVID and rose again, and reopened and kept their staff and kept everyone safe,” State Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, who nominated the business for the registry, said while presenting the award. “They closed for two months during COVID, during which the owner became very, very ill, but still made sure that she was feeding the community. And I just think this is a beautiful example of what small businesses can do for our city and our states.

Siderakis has an emotional moment after being presented with the award

The 15 or so patrons got excited by the unexpected announcement, taking out their phones to capture the moment they got to be a part of.

“One of my first memories in about 1950 was that this [referring to her booth] was a caboose you know, like real diners used to be like train cars,” longtime patron Lorraine Franzese Scorsone, 68, said.

And she’s kept the tradition alive for the latest generation, regularly taking her two grandchildren to Kellogg’s.

“Kellogs has always been probably one of the biggest staples of this community,” 13-year-old Dahlia Prettr said. She said that she can’t even remember the first time going as it’s always been a piece of her life.“ So this community, no matter how much it’s changed, it’s always still been like that. Not a close-knit family by any means. But it’s still a family.”

“If you’re born and raised here, you know everything about Kellogg’s. You know how important it is early in the morning or very, very late at night,” South Williamsburg native and Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso said to some laughs. “And I just want to thank you again for being here for 50 years, when no one wanted to be in Williamsburg 30 years ago, you were here 50 years ago, and you guys maintained it and stood strong.”

And while much was made about the history of Kellogg’s on Saturday, Siderakis is even more excited for the future.

Siderakis receives Historical Business Award

Siderakis recently held their first comedy show at the diner the previous week, where Brooklyn Magazine reported over 75 people attended. She’s also been looking at expanding their takeout options, working to supply the food for ghost kitchens. She’s even gotten a request for someone to hold their wedding reception there.

But some things are going to stay the same. The friendly service the staff at Kellogg’s are known for will continue. The menu will be just as long. And, of course, it will stay open 24 hours a day.

“They believed in me, which was the biggest thing for me,” Siderakis said about how none of this would be possible without her staff. ”I didn’t know nothing. But they believed in me. And they stuck by me. And we got it together and we made it happen. And we supported one another with the customers that believed in us. I’m so grateful for everyone that kept coming back.

Brooklyn Debate League raises $1.3M after viral post

Conyers with his debate coach DiCo (Credit: Gabriel Taliaferrow)

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

This quote is how coach K.M. DiColandrea would begin almost every debate team practice at Frederick Douglass Academy.  He would urge his students to figure out their ‘why’.

At 15, Jonathan Conyers couldn’t answer the question.

Conyers, now 27, has figured out the answer. When he was selected to tell his life story with Humans of New York, he opted to talk about his teacher, nicknamed DiCo, instead. And that’s when over $1.2 million started rolling in.

Through 12 different posts on the account, Conyers shared his life story, overcoming ‘hows’ like drug-addicted parents, getting evicted numerous times, and seeing his friend locked up at 14.

Conyers enrolled in Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem after avoiding charges for breaking into a home in middle school. The principal made him enroll in an extracurricular program. After sitting silently in the back of the debate room, Conyers finally participated when the topic of drug addiction was brought up.

“But one day they were discussing drug addiction, which is a topic I know a lot about,” Conyers said in the Humans of New York post. “So I stood up and shared my story. Afterwards Ms. DiCo asked me to stay behind. Mainly she just wanted to make sure I was OK. She was like: ‘Do you need anything?’ But after that, she was like: ‘You should join debate.’”

In hindsight, Conyers wishes he paid more attention to DiColandrea.

“She was white, from Manhattan. She’d gone to Yale. I just assumed she didn’t have any problems,” Dico said in the Humans of New York post.

But that wasn’t the case. DiColandrea revealed to his students that he was in the process of transitioning.

“They waited until I was ready to tell them,” DiColandrea said in an interview, explaining that some students had suspicions when Dico would bring his “friend” to school events. “And then it was just unconditional love.”

“DiCo could have told me he was a dinosaur, and I’d be like: ‘That’s cool. Just stay DiCo,’” Conyers said in the Humans of New York Post.

DiColandrea and Conyers knew the biggest tournament of the year was a real shot when the topic was announced: “Should juvenile offenders be tried as adults?”

While Conyers recalled feeling out of place at the tournament, he found his home on the dais.  Conyers recalled in the post that there was nothing special about his opening speeches, but on cross-examination, he destroyed his opponents asking his predominantly white and affluent opponents whether they should be the person making this argument if they don’t know anyone. 

“Jonathan needs to stick to the facts. His life story gives him an unfair advantage,” Conyers recalled a judge saying, in the Humans of New York post. 

DiColandrea taught all his students to be calm and collected. But that’s when she snapped.

“You will not do this to him. These rich kids have access to every resource. But you’re penalizing Jonathan because his life is f***ed up?” Conyers recalled DiColandrea saying, in the Humans of New York Post.

Ever since that tournament, DiColandrea has been working hard to break down those barriers in debate. A few years later, DiColandrea founded the Brooklyn Debate League – a group that seeks to eliminate the gatekeeping in debate by expanding programs and teams to urban areas.

“But it’s not always just about personal anecdotes, it’s a more fundamental, personal confidence,” DiColandrea said about teaching students a more personal and unconventional debate style. “It’s helping students understand at a really visceral and deep level, that regardless of what neighborhood they live in, or how much money their parents make, or what school they go to, or what color their skin is, or who they’re attracted to, or how they identify. Regardless of any of those identity markers, they belong in a space where the only weapon is words, because their words matter”

“And that’s priceless. Knowing your voice matters,” Conyers said. “Especially as a young Black man, presentation and how you articulate yourself are important.”

And although it’s priceless, it still costs.

DiColandrea started the GoFundMe to cover the $6,000 he personally invested to cover payroll for the small mostly volunteer staff. It was covered in 10 minutes. After two days, it already hit a million. Now over a week later, it has raised over $1.3 million.

“It feels like a mix of the day I got married, all of my birthdays combined, and the day that my student won Harvard,” DiColandrea said about the newfound attention and funds. “It feels like everybody in the world is just reaching out with this abundant outpouring of love and kindness.”

The Brooklyn Debate league operated on a small and scrappy budget, reaching around 250 people on their mailing list and about 100 students coming to tournaments.

“That’s chump change now. We can change our whole mission now,” DiColandrea said with excitement in his voice. DiCo said that he’s looking to reach every person, school and program he can throughout Brooklyn and other urban areas.

“You don’t need to look any further than the New York State Championship that was held two weekends ago, right? There were over 60 schools there. And there were five of them that were public schools in New York City. And three of those were specialized schools. And we are the biggest school district In the country, we have, what, 1.1 million students? They weren’t in those spaces. And they’re not in the speech and debate circuit,” DiColandrea said, explaining the still urgent need for something like Brooklyn Debate League.

While Conyers credits a lot of how he got by in life due to his coach’s help, DiColandrea disagrees.

“I don’t know how to express it. You know, that kind of selflessness is what’s always made him so special; he’s a very humble person,” DiColandrea said. “And he wanted me to have this moment. And man, am I having it?”

Conyers now says he has figured out his why. 

“I learned that giving back and being selfless can change lives. And what he [DiColandrea] did to me has allowed me to help so many people,” Conyers said. He has been on the front lines of COVID working as a respiratory therapist. He also started a home for children who had been orphaned during the pandemic and owns juvenile rehabilitation centers in Virginia to give kids like him the resources and opportunities he didn’t.

For DiColandrea, it’s a wish come true. 

DiColandrea originally gravitated to the quote when he was 16. His high school was only a few blocks from the World Trade Center on September 11. In the weeks after, she asked for book recommendations for helping to understand and process her trauma. The teacher recommended Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. 

“As someone who experienced this firsthand, we then had an obligation to speak up about it, to make sure that it wasn’t forgotten to make sure that people understood what happened,” DiColandrea said.

And that became DiColandrea’s reason. Helping his own students to process their trauma and make sure they know that their voice matters.

“We’re talking about racism. We’re talking about, people who are undocumented. We’re talking about people who come from low-income communities. There are traumas that kids are carrying from those communities as well. I  want them to feel empowered to speak up about what is meaningful to them and what is their lived experience. To teach them about what matters and for them to feel empowered to share that on whatever level they want. That might be just in front of a friend or a classmate or it might be on a national stage at the Speech and Debate championship,” DiColandrea said.

“But that voice belongs to them. And that power belongs to them to use it, to speak up about what they think matters.”

Even though Conyers said he never had a good answer to what his “why” was – he always knew a bit of the answer. 

“All I knew was that I wanted to be like Ms. DiCo,” Conyers said in the Humans of New York post.

“I just want the world to know that there is so much more to Jonathon Conyers, there’s so much more to DiCo,” Conyers said in an interview. “We pray that we can continue to share our story and continue to share the things we have been through in much more detail, and we hope the world is supportive.”

Donziger celebrates freedom in Williamsburg

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Steve Donziger is doing all right.

After 993 days under detention, Steve Donziger can celebrate freedom. Donziger, an environmental lawyer, was part of the team that won a multi-billion dollar settlement against Chevron for polluting millions of gallons of contaminants into the Amazon over decades. Later, Chevron lawyers claimed that Donzigers team tried to solicit a bribe in the case; the judge who made the original accusation later admitted in court that it was a lie and that he had been prepped over 50 times by Chevron lawyers, as Vice has reported.

A group of U.S. Representatives including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have called on President Biden to pardon Donziger.

The first-day Donziger was able to unstrap his ankle monitoring unit, he was welcomed by dozens of his Upper West Side neighbors at a block party. 

“It was complete exhilaration. Made me a little sad, thinking of the lost opportunity I’ve had with my wife and son over the last three years. But it was really really awesome to know we stood up to what they threw at us when we came out the other side intact, happy and stronger” Donziger said in an interview about the moment he first experienced a slice of liberty and walked outside his apartment. 

But on Thursday Night, Donziger took his newfound freedom to Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. Advertised as a “Donziger Release Party”, the event first hosted a panel discussion between Donziger and Amazon Labor Union founder Chris Smalls and was moderated by socialist podcast host Will Menaker of Chapo Trap House before musical performances. Tickets to the event supported the Donziger Legal Defense fund.

“[Donziger is] battling the real Amazon, I’m battling the retail Amazon. So there’s always a commonality with that – just beating up on billionaires and their lawyers,” Smalls, the fired Amazon worker who beat the odds to form the first independent Amazon Labor union in Staten Island, said in an interview. Both Amazon and Chevron have retained the law practices of Gibson Dunn to fight against Donziger and Smalls.

“I would say it’s important to know about because I think primarily because it’s not really being talked about in the corporate media very much,” Olivia Riggio, 25, a critic with progressive media watchdog FAIR who attended the party said. FAIR has released numerous reports highlighting much of the mainstream media’s lack of coverage concerning the case.  “I think it says a lot about corporate influencing corporate greed. And I think it’s important because it kind of is it sits at the intersection of corporate greed, of environmental rights, of human rights, of indigenous rights.”

The moderator of the panel, Will Menaker, said that the discussion was important to have at a moment when politics seemed stagnant and the future seems doomed.

“I don’t know about you guys, but the last two, three years now, it’s felt pretty f*cking grim out there,” Menaker said to kick off the panel. “It’s my pleasure to be on stage tonight with two men who have caused more stress and billable hours for America’s top corporate law firms.”

In an interview, Menaker said that both Donziger and Smalls’s stories were important as they are people taking up the seemingly unwinnable fights against the “worst people in the world” – and securing victories.

“It’s because I think, we as a society, have quite rationally given up on the future. Because it’s been decided for us. We have no voice or agency, in our political process, and even our culture; just like the dignity in our day-to-day lives to varying degrees. And I think the solution to that is embodied by these two guys, because they’re two individuals but they couldn’t have done it without a movement supporting them,” Menaker said. “I think that is what I take inspiration from. That’s what I was happy to try to highlight.”

Donziger said that one of the first Brooklyn spots he was going to hit would be Vinegar Hill in DUMBO. He still plans on fighting to get his law license back.But, for now, he’s just enjoying his freedom and the first beer he’s had in a bar for years.

“I’m giving myself away like I’m some fancy guy. I love good food.”

Mayor announces $900M for street safety

Mayor Eric Adams has announced a historic $900 million investment over the next five years for street safety.

The announcement made Sunday in downtown Brooklyn comes off the heels of straphangers and politicians advocating for Mayor Adams to fully fund the NYC Streets Plan. Last year, the city had its deadliest year for traffic-related deaths since Vision Zero was started in 2014, according to a report from Transportation Alternatives.

The new announcement will include physical upgrades to two bike lanes in Brooklyn: 20th Street, from 7th Avenue to 10th Avenue; and Grand Street, while exact limits are still being determined.

“Far too many people are not biking because they don’t feel safe. And the more we make it safe, the more we are going to see people utilize their bikes, which is good for exercise. It’s good to interact with everyday New Yorkers, and it is just good for our environment. You’re talking about a win, win, win,” Adams said at the announcement after biking over the Brooklyn Bridge.

The legislation passed under the previous city council requires the Department of Transportation to create five-year plans for traffic improvements including 250 miles of bike lanes, 150 miles of protected bus lanes, and one million feet of pedestrian space.

While the City Council advocated for $3.1 billion in their response to the Mayor’s Budget so that the program would be fully funded, both transportation advocates and zealous politicians celebrated the investment.

“This is a big, big, big day for street safety in New York City,” Councilman Lincoln Restler, a transportation advocate who represents parts of Downtown Brooklyn, said. “This investment, $900 million-plus dollars over the next five years, will save lives. We are going to achieve, with the great work of Commissioner Rodriguez and the team at DOT, safe, protected bike lanes, not paint barriers, that are going to keep our community safe.”

10 constituents of Lincoln Restler’s 33rd council district died from traffic fatalities in 2021, making it one of the most dangerous in all of the city per a Transportation Alternatives report.

“The ‘NYC Streets Plan’ is a critical investment in our city’s future,” Sara Lind, director of policy for Open Plans, said. “Freeing New Yorkers from car dependency will save lives, improve public health, support the millions of New Yorkers who rely on public transportation, and help to mitigate the climate crisis. Reclaiming space for pedestrians is a matter of equity — while only a minority of New Yorkers drive, every New Yorker uses our sidewalks. We are all pedestrians.”

United Metro Energy Corporation Strikers call on Mayor to ‘honor the picket line’

While Mayor Eric Adams likes to fashion himself as the working-class Mayor, the rank-and-file of one of the city’s biggest energy providers say the city is crossing the picket line.

Workers at the Greenpoint-based United Metro Energy Corporation, took to City Hall to rally against billionaire owner John Catsimatidis as part of an ongoing strike that has been going on for over a year. UMEC is one of the largest energy suppliers in the city and last year had contracts with city agencies totaling $23 million.

The strike began on April 19 of last year after contract negotiations stalled. Since then, United Metro Energy Corporation has “permanently replaced” eight of the striking workers, including Strike Captain Andre Soleyn.

The union representing UMEC workers, Teamsters Local 553, has filed suit for illegal termination with the National Labor Review Board. If the NLRB finds that the workers were illegally fired they would have to be reinstated per the agency’s rules.

“This is a union town!” Demos Demopulos, the head of Teamsters Local 553, said to a roar of cheering union members. “These are essential immigrant workers who risked their health to get the city through the pandemic. Now they need our City and Mayor Adams should stand with them, not their billionaire owner. So we’re here to ask Mayor Adams to honor our picket line.”

Striking workers said they were paid $26.78, which is $10 less than the industry average. When replacement workers were hired, they had a starting wage between $30 and $32.

In a previous interview with The Greenpoint Star, John Castimitidis claimed that the union’s figures were an “unfair extrapolation” and represented “apprentice-level wages.” Pay stubs reviewed by the Greenpoint Star showed that terminal operators, a licensed position that is not an apprentice level job, were paid $26.78 per hour.

“We’re going to dig into the contract that is providing funding to John Catsimatidis as he turns his back on working people. Via oversight hearings, potentially through legislation, and definitely through robust advocacy, we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that working people are treated with respect and dignity,” Councilman Lincoln Restler said in an interview.

“We need to start putting pressure on our own city government and hit UMEC in its pocket,” Restler said. “If John Catsimatidisis going to continue to fail to provide decent pay and benefits to working people, then we can’t afford as a city to pay him.”

The current contract, worth $55 million, expires in 2025 and was started in June 2021 under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Mayor Adams believes workers have the right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. This contract has been in place for almost a year, and is in compliance with all city procurement rules,” a spokesperson for the Mayor said.

Crown Heights designer hosts annual Earth Day fashion show

For the fifth year running, Crown Heights artist Bobby Stone and The New Old School hosted the annual Earth Day Fashion Show to a sold-out crowd.

Dedicated to independent designers, fashion models, and the preservation of Mother Earth, the fashion show held at 12 Park Place featured more than a dozen unique and original designs from different NYC-based creatives.

“The show started out with just promoting independent designers and models. And then we switched it to replace and we can also pay homage to mother earth. I just personally feel like people don’t appreciate her,” Stone said in an interview, referencing his decision to include the Earth Day theme after two years. Stone also highlighted that the shows utilize upcycled or sustainably sourced materials.

IVIT, a clothing line created by Stone that sponsored the event, was inspired by the sound of hip-hop DJs scratching vinyl records, the local fashion show featured more than a dozen original designs.

Stone opened up the show with the debut of Earth Goddess Sasha, who donned a white dress with greenery and flowers strewn throughought. Stone led the audience north of 50 people to raise their fists in the air – a reference to the Black power salute— to “honor the ancestors” before giving a fist bump to someone at the show you didnt know. A cash bar and Jamaican food from Jaleesah’s Kitchen were served throughout the night.

Besides just highlighting first-time models and designers, Stone took the opportunity Staurday night to highlight people in the industry who have given back. Tamara Ivey, a former backup dancer who pivoted into the plus-sized fashion industry for 10 years, was recognized with the award for her contribution to the field

“I love that it’s all independent designers. I love that it’s community designers from different boroughs and the tri-state area. To be doing something for five years is a milestone. I love the fact that you know, he has a community of people that follow him. And that speaks volumes, right? When you have a following that means that people love you and they want to be around you and they want to see you succeed,” Ivey said in an interview.

Rather than opt for well-established designers, Stone looks to find people from his local community or friend groups to support.

“Were going to prove to the corporate world, the mainstream world, that were dope. That, in fact, we are competition,” Stone said about his decision.

James Walker, the designer behind Love is Wealth, started designing clothes two years ago and only began to take it seriously this past year.

But once he saw the models wearing his deput collection of T-shirts and hoodies in the dressing room before they hit the runway, he knew he made the right decision.

“When they put on my clothes, that was IT for me. I was like… GONE,” Walker said in an interview. “This gave me everything I need to keep going.”

Sean Whitler, the designer of the Style brand, said that he often didnt feel like continuing with the fashion show. He had attended the show in years past after meeting Bobby through mutual friends. But three months prior to the show, he felt unsure of himself and that he wasn’t ready. But Stone kept encouraging him.

“Man, Bobby really helped me and kept encouraging me like because a lot of times I wanted to give up. Maybe two to three times I told him that ‘I wasnt ready for this, that I cannot do this its too much stress.’ But he kept saying like ‘No, you got it bro. We got to do it.’ So the pushing helped me a lot,” Whitler said in an interview, adding that he plans to take a long eight plus hour sleep after the show.

Whitler also said the show was important to him since it was celebrated on Earth Day, the same day as his deceased older brother’s birthday.

“And every year I support [the fashion show] and every year it’s my brother birthday on the same day, on the 23rd,” Whitler said. “So you already know we here for the whole ship,you know what I mean?”

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