Black Land Ownership Seeks Support

By Melissa Hunter Gurney | [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The following is a write-up that was solicited from a co-founder of the organization, Black Land Ownership, after receiving a press release about a current fundraising initiative:

In a little storefront, on an non-commercial block in Greenpoint, there is a community art space that’s been providing a stage for independent artists and marginalized communities to share their music, their poetry, their thoughts, and their movement since 2015. Most people have no idea that the storefront with the slogans “End Racism” and “Love Thy Neighbor” hanging boldly in the window is also a one-room schoolhouse and the Brooklyn office of Black Land Ownership.

Black Land Ownership owns 37 acres of land in Otsego County, N.Y., fifteen of which is in conservation, where they are building an Educational Eco Hub and Artists’ Residency. They are a grassroots organization put in place to combat the historical, systematic, and institutionalized marginalization experienced by people of African descent. The initiative is a call for change. An investment in the future of Black-owned land and, in turn, Black-owned community and Black-owned capital.

Christopher Banks Carr, one of the founders of Black Land Ownership, grew up in Takoma Park, Washington D.C., a predominantly Black-owned neighborhood that, 35 years later, is being met with change. Similar to many neighborhoods in New York City, the people moving in and buying up homes and businesses are no longer Black. His mom, a long-time lawyer at Howard University, bought her house in 1977 when the neighborhood was inhabited by Black professionals like her. Now, 40 years later, their house is in a different neighborhood than she moved into and she continually thinks about consolidation and change. The sale of a house being a family matter, she started talking to her only son Chris about what this process might look like. Chris’s immediate reaction was, “No, we can’t sell.” He said he needed his mom to understand that owning their home was larger than the two of them them and, although there were personal reasons that made him want to keep it, there were also societal ones.

Around the same time, Chris was traveling across the United States to share his art and learn about other places and other communities. In Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona, he continually asked himself, “Where are we?”–the “we” being other Black folks. As a musician, he understood that space mattered and that having a safe space to gather with like-minded individuals was important. In Colorado, pulling up tubers on a friend’s farm, he was struck again by the vastness of the land and asked himself, “Who owns all of this?” To his surprise, it was not Black people. He wanted to find solutions—to work together, raise funds, and figure out how to generate revenue sustainably. In 2019, after both he and his partner were diagnosed with rare cancers back-to-back and he was undergoing treatment, everything he wanted to do came into sharp focus. He and Melissa Hunter Gurney, his co-founder, got to work.

It was then that they started researching, fundraising, and learning what it meant to purchase land. Their research, although specific to the Black community, very obviously revealed the need to raise awareness for other marginalized groups—women, trans people, indigenous people, immigrants—with limited resources or capital. Black Land Ownership, as an entity, is inclusive of these groups while simultaneously holding the belief that it is imperative to recognize the outrageous mistreatment and disparity aimed at Black people, not only in the U.S. but worldwide. It is BLO’s belief that people of African descent being landless or displaced is a phenomenon that has occurred anywhere colonialism has happened and is a clear and present human rights issue. Their goal is to make data more attainable and support land projects, educational initiatives and lobbying practices that work to call out the perpetuating narrative that land is a form of wealth relegated to certain groups in this country and beyond.

Their first purchase was a 15-acre conservation plot in Fly Creek, N.Y., completely funded by small grassroots fundraisers. Shortly after that, they purchased 22 acres, clearing out their personal savings. In the past few years, they have purchased 10 acres of wetlands in Mississippi, as well as two micro plots in Arkansas for a community garden and Black Memorial project.

What’s unique about Black Land Ownership is that they are truly community-oriented. They haven’t turned to corporate investors or partners. They have been working on the ground with folks who authentically want to support their specific mission and, although that is a much harder route, it has kept them grounded thus far. That said, they do have continuous fundraising initiatives that they hope will gain visibility and support across the  board:

The Black Land Ownership Conservation Fund (BLOCF), which aims to raise funds in order to buy land while simultaneously ensuring that it cannot be developed and that the wildlife (flora and fauna) can exist unencumbered in perpetuity. Essentially, BLOCF works to promote the condition of the land’s natural state rather than the exploitation that very often comes with land use. All funds received to this end go towards the purchase of various properties that are protected wetlands, wildlife refuges, or conservation easements and cannot be turned into residential, industrial, or major commercial endeavors. The BLOCF purposefully shifts focus from having to extract resources out of the land purchased or running a business off the land purchased to ensuring that the land purchased will remain natural and pristine for generations to come.

There are several other initiatives—the Community Garden & Black Memorial Fund that aims to purchase micro plots across all 50 states, the Black Land Ownership Hiking and Camping Club, which aims to bridge rural and urban communities and create a network of safe, wild lands for marginalized groups to explore. There is also the Innovation, Research & Development Hub, which is their largest fundraising project, and aims to purchase 8-12,000 acres of land, which promotes a collaborative model to explore irrigation systems, natural building methods, forest gardening models, and essentially provides space and resources for Black innovators and creators.

Right now, in order to uplift all of these projects, they have started a GoFundMe to purchase a portable saw mill and turn a sector of their Eco Hub into a Woman & Black-Owned Community Mill for their eco hub. A portable saw mill will allow them to mill their own wood utilizing fallen trees from their properties as well as trees that need to come down in order to nourish forest growth. It allows them to build without toxins, to create unique green spaces for visitors and to offer community use for projects that highlight sustainable action and equitable land practices. The cost of wood has skyrocketed, forcing those who don’t fall within certain wealth brackets to build with unnatural, often toxic materials. They hope to uplift education on what it takes to mill wood, share invaluable tools throughout a community and unite in order to create earthen spaces that support the integration of humanity and nature and uplift their artistic and educational pursuits.

You can follow their work at the following:


Instagram: @Blacklandownership


Letter From the Editor – From Feb. 1, 2024 Print Edition

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

The following first appeared in the Feb. 1, 2024 print edition: 

Dear readers,

Happy Black History Month! In this issue, I am excited to introduce you to Black comedian Hollie Harper if you do not know her already. I always find value in creating and reading transcripts of video interviews. After all, “watching a video” is not a universal experience. Somebody who is blind or vision impaired has a different frame of reference for a video interview than someone who has a more standard range of vision. Same goes for the deaf and hearing impaired versus those who are not. Reading a transcript allows us to focus on the content of what is being said, though it does of course limit our ability to observe body language or tone of voice. A transcript privileges the text, which has its pluses and minuses.

This issue also features a submitted essay on Black Land Ownership, a community organization in Greenpoint, from Melissa Hunter Gurney, a poet and fiction writer I have known since before I even moved to Brooklyn. I know reading it made me pause and reconsider what land ownership means for Black folks.

Now for some lighter fare: The letter from Jackie Cavalla on our ‘Dispatch’ page honestly surprised me. A couple of weeks ago, when I whipped out a pigeon doodle and brainstormed ways to make pigeon facts a little silly, I was not expecting any kind of response. Sometimes, we writers come up with content that amuses us or follows our personal interests. We fill a page and hope it brightens someone’s day or makes them chuckle. No further reaction required or anticipated. But it just goes to show that any story can inspire a reply–even a written one! With photos!

I cannot mention personal interests without acknowledging poetry. Your emails and social media comments made it very clear that many of you have been loving the Brooklyn Poetry Feature. Just because the New York Times stopped running poems does not mean we have to do the same! Your enthusiasm convinced me to keep the poetry series running just a tad longer, or at least until the submissions run dry. Keep ‘em coming!

Yours in all things BK,

Christine Stoddard

Brooklyn Community Editor

[email protected]

St. Stanislaus Annual 5k Race Returns for 29th Year

By Oona Milliken | [email protected]

Under blue skies and in crisp fall weather, St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy held their 29th annual five kilometer race on Sunday Oct. 15. The day kicked off with a children’s races, ranging from three years old to 12-years old, in the morning at 10:30 a.m and the adults began their 5k run at 2 p.m. Logan Yu came in first this year with a 17 minute 31 second finish, while basketball player Travis Atson came in second only 24 seconds later. Third overall in the race, and the first woman to finish, was Suzie Clinchy at 19 minutes and 33 seconds.

Frank Carbone with the young racers. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

After almost 30 years of racing, the proceeds go to supporting St. Stan’s with any needs that they might have, according to Frank Carbone, President of the school. Carbone said good weather was the key to having a successful event.

“You’ve got a beautiful day, that’s the key to it. As you can see, it’s a massive production. A lot of pieces have to fall into play, but somehow every year we manage to pull it off,” Carbone said.

Carbone said it was important to hold fundraising events such as the race because St. Stan’s was a smaller private school. He also said he wanted to reach the broader community in hosting the race.

“For us to be a smaller school and a private school, I’d like to think we put on a nice job. We put on one of the best productions in the city. I’m not just trying to boast,” Carbone said. “It’s not just the school community but we’re opening the neighborhood.”

Gabrielle Sikorksi, a former student at St. Stan’s and a volunteer for the event, said she has been volunteering for the event for the past five years. She graduated from St. Stan’s in 2013 and said she loved volunteering because the school, and the Greenpoint neighborhood, has been important to her growing up.

“The school did a lot for me, all my siblings go here,” Sikroski said. “Greenpoint is an amazing neighborhood and I love living here.”

Contestants starting the race. Photo credit Oona Milliken

Hippolito Almonte, an 86-year old contestant in the race, could be found stretching at various points throughout the day in preparation for the 5k event. Almonte said he felt fantastic about the race and had been training in Central Park to get ready. He said he did not have any children at St. Stan’s (Almonte is pushing 90) but loved racing in general. Almonte came in 23rd in the race with a 23 minute 4 second finish.

“Look at me. Kids? No, no kids,” Almonte said. “I love races.”

Carbone said the school was hoping to raise anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000 but would not know the final amount garnered until days after the race. He said the school had to be self-sufficient because they did not receive funding from the state like public schools. Instead, St. Stan’s looks to donations from the community, as well as support from sponsors, to cover costs throughout the school year.

Young boys running in the children’s races. Photo credit Oona Milliken

“We’re relying on our fundraising, we have to be self-sufficient,” Carbone said. “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers, we had about 50 volunteers that helped us in many ways, about 30 sponsors that help us, and of course, all the kids and families and everybody that just came out and had a great day.”

Residents Launch Last Minute Effort to Save Park Church

By Oona Milliken | [email protected]

An abandoned notice board in front of Park Church. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

The fight to keep Park Church on 129 Russell Street in Greenpoint alive has been ongoing for years ever since the Metropolitan New York Synod, a chapter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, announced Dec. 2021 that it would pull funding for the church due to declining membership. Currently, MNYS is in the process of selling the building, originally built in 1907, to GW Equities LLC, led by developers Avraham Garbo and Berish Wagschal. On Thursday Aug. 31, activists and community members gathered in a Zoom public hearing in front of Judge Richard Latin to halt the sale and attempt to repurpose the building for community use. In a statement from MNYS, Robert Lara, Assistant to the Bishop and Officer of Communications for the synod, said that the decision came after considerate deliberation.

“The Metropolitan New York Synod Council approved the sale of the former Messiah Lutheran Church building, where Park Church Co-op operated, following careful evaluation,” Lara said in an email. “This decision was made due to declining worship attendance and safety concerns with the building’s structure. The sale proceeds will support the growth of viable congregations, particularly those serving marginalized communities, in alignment with the synod’s commitment to anti-racism. ”

Other community members disagree. Jeremy Hook, a long-time Greenpoint resident working to keep the church in place, said that the sale of the church would be incredibly detrimental to the community, and that the synod is behaving like a developer rather than a religious organization.

“It’s ironic that they identify as Lutherans when you recall where Lutherans come from, what the 101 Lutheran theses actually were about, which was Martin Luther saying, ‘Hey, the Catholic Church is just kind of acting a whole lot like a business here and just about making money,’” Hook said. “And I would say that there’s a bit of a similar thing going on with the ELCA.”

According to Hook, the Church was not just a spot for religious worship, but a place for Greenpoint residents to gather, organize events and create a community space. Community members at the hearing gathered and shared their favorite stories and events over the years, including dance parties, Drag Queen Reading Hour, drives to give out free food and shelter as well as birthday parties for children.

Kaki King, a Greenpoint resident and the creator of a silent disco event at McGolrick Park, said at the hearing that there were many spaces for adults to hangout in the area, such as bars and restaurants, but almost none for children. According to King, the church was a place for her family to hangout in.

“Some of my happiest memories of raising my children are definitely from the inside of the park church and I truly hope that our words are heard and that something can be done to help the sale or in future events, you know, preserve the community spirit that is very strong in this in this community,” King said.

As the sale moves forward, this is a last-ditch effort to halt the process, according to Hook. Community members submitted a request for a hearing to the Attorney General’s office, and were approved by Assistant Attorney General Colleen McGrath, who wrote in a letter that Attorney General Letitia James had no objections to the sale but was open to hearing the dissenting voices of the community. According to McGrath, the sale is valid according to New York state law, so there could be no objection to the transaction on that front, but still wanted to raise the concerns of Greenpoint residents.

However, the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau has received a number of complaints objecting to the proposed sale of the Property due to its perceived negative impact on the Greenpoint, Brooklyn community, where the Property is located,” McGrath wrote.

GW Equities have not announced their plans for the church, but have several large-scale projects under their belts, including 13-story residential and commercial development in Downtown Brooklyn. Greenpoint Assemblymember Emily Gallagher said at the hearing that the church was affordable and accessible for all types of community members, and that Greenpoint had enough large developmental projects.

“We have quite a lot of luxury and high end housing that is being developed in this community that is not providing for the same number and diversity of people. So I’m here to ask you to think about justice, rather than nearly law, and see if we can preserve something that is such a vital space for our wonderful community,” Gallagher said. “We really do not have many free spaces in this community where people can meet and gather and have important discussions, especially in the long winter months.”

Other community members do not see the church sale as a loss. Stefan Rysek, a longtime Polish resident of Greenpoint, said that churches were valuable to the community, but did not oppose the residential project.

“People need some kind of mental help from the churches, for example, the Polish churches,” Rysek said. “You know what? I’m not against the apartments being built.”

Park Church had a declining congregation for years, a national trend as Gallup reported that church membership in the United States dipped below majority for the first time in 2021. Churches across the country are closing their doors because there are not enough people to create a significant congregation. Hook, who describes himself as allergic to religion, said that he understood the difficulties MNYS must have faced in keeping their parish open, but advocated for keeping the church as a secular community space.

“In fact, the problem that I will address tomorrow is that, you know, I acknowledge that the congregation itself was shrinking, at the end of the day they probably only had about 15-20 tiding congregations,” Hook said. “So I understand that it must have been a lot of trouble from that end. But the building simultaneously was thriving as a community center.”


Jeremy Hook speaking at the Park Church Hearing

Katie Denny Horowitz, Executive Director of North Brooklyn Park Alliance, speaking at the hearing.

Council member Lincoln Restler.

Fifth generation Greenpoint resident and community activist Kevin LaCherra.

Get to the point 5k entertains locals

By Billy Wood

[email protected]

Greenpoint residents came out on Sunday afternoon to participate in the 28th edition of the St. Stan’s Catholic Academy Get to the Point 5K run. 

The Oct. 17 event was founded by Frank Carbone, president of the pre-k3 to eighth grade catholic school. He has been involved with the school for 50 years. Carbone attended the school as a child, founded their sports program and served as a chairman of the board of directors throughout the years. 

“We wanted to do a community oriented event, something that was fun and that would hopefully raise a few dollars for the school,” Carbone said. “It has just evolved into a terrific well attended event.”

Sunday’s event had an estimate of 350 people total, with about  220 runners for the 5K race and an additional 80-90 for the children’s dashes. 

If you did not want to run that was not a problem either as the event had bouncy houses for the children, a clown handing out balloons and a Pikachu mascot. There were also adults and children singing along in the streets to Taylor Swift that the DJ was playing  throughout the event.

The event began with the children’s dashes, which saw children from the ages of 2-12 competing. 

“We give the kids a nice opportunity to compete in a very friendly setting,” Carbone continued.“And then we do a ceremony for them, to make ‘em feel special.”

When their award ceremony concluded, the adults got ready for the 5K race.The race started on Driggs Avenue and Newel Street and went throughout Greenpoint, finishing at the corner of  Humboldt Street and Driggs Avenue. 

“I’m looking forward to being out there and the great energy,” said Tom Meany, a member of the Prospect Park Track Club. This year was his second year participating in the event; he previously ran 10 years ago.

The 220 runners from different areas of the city and from nearby states gave everything for a good cause. 

“It’s good exercise and a celebration of life,” said Meany.

Carlos Gonzalez was the first person to cross the finish line with a run time of 17:23.09. Once all of the runners crossed the finish line everyone went to the school’s auditorium for the final award ceremony and the after party where they were treated to refreshments, food, dancing, raffles and more.

This event was a hopeful step in the right direction since last year’s event was not as elaborate due to the COVID-19 pandemic; last year’s run was the first 5K race since 2019. 

“It’s a nice chance for everybody to kind of reconnect, whether it’s alumni, people from the neighborhood, you know, we have people who used to live in the neighborhood who came back, or they circle it on the calendar and they can make it every couple of years they come back,” Carbone said.

The Lady in Greenpoint: North Brooklyn’s newest spooky walking radio play

The map for the Lady in Greenpoint, which starts at the Pulaski Bridge and ends in McGolrick Park.

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Rick Paulas always loved Greenpoint. He wanted to do a project based in the neighborhood, especially after being able to move in due to a pandemic rent discount, but after 45,000 words and over a year into a novel – it wasn’t working. While stressing about a $400 rent increase with his girlfriend at local watering hole The Palace, Paulas got the idea to convert the novel into a radio play.

And that’s how “The Lady in Greenpoint”, the new three mile walking audio play was born. 

Starting at the Pulaski bridge, “The Lady in Greenpoint” takes you through Greenpoint with stops at The Astral Apartments on Franklin Street, St. Anthony’s on Manhattan Ave., as well as Capri Social Club on Calyer Street, before ending in McGolrick Park –  all while delving into Greenpoint’s history amidst a spooky backdrop. The 46 chapter play, complete with charcoal drawings at each stop, follows main character Pauline as you descend deeper into the neighborhood. 

“I’ve always been obsessed with ghost tours,” Paulas said in an interview, noting that he always attends the tours in whatever city he’s visiting. “It gives you history that isn’t otherwise available to you. Good ghost stories or good ghost walking tours, they take place in areas where they have a lot of old buildings.”

And Paulas thought with Greenpoint’s rich history, it would be a good fit. 

Paulas said that most of the historical research stemmed from reading local history books by Geoffrey Cobb, who has published a series of books about North Brooklyn including the 2019 “Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Forgotten Past.”

“This used to be an Irish place named Murphy’s,” he explained during an interview in Capri Social Club. “The separation exists because men and women back in the olden days, workers would come in at the side door to get their breakfast.”

Author Rick Paulas at Capri Social Club, one of the stops in “The Lady in Greenpoint.”

Part of the inspiration came from a Greenwood cemetery grant program for a walking tour that he never heard back from. Once he decided to pivot from a novel, he was able to get the script done in a weekend.

“Figuring out the path was a little difficult, because three miles is a lot. But also I wanted it to be something long, I didn’t want it to be a half hour, I wanted there to be an element that you’re stuck with this for a long time,” he said.

Paulas enlisted a slew of friends to do voice acting, which include New York City based writers and journalists. They did it D.I.Y style, simply recording into their phones. 

While creating a project like this could be daunting, Paulas said that he had a lot of fun learning more about audio production, working with actors and picking up charcoal drawing.

“You get the idea in your head of wanting to make something. And for something like an audio project, its not the hardest thing in the world. It takes a lot of logistics,” he said “I would hope that someones inspired to make their own thing somewhere else,it was really fun.”

“I came up writing blogs and those things are immediately disposable, the next day they’re gone. But something like this, you put it out there and hope for the best, people find it or they don’t.”

Readers who want to check out the play can find the project on The suggested ticket price is $10, to be sent via Venmo (Rick-Paulas, last four digits: 0608) or PayPal ([email protected]).

Greenpoint resident find calling in cooking

Robert Valle, a Greenpoint native, found his life’s calling in cooking.

By Mattthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Robert Valle knows you need the right ingredients to make something special.

He first started flipping burgers at 17-years-old and from there worked his way up every position in the kitchen, from busboy to sous chef, and from the hole-in-the-walls to Michelin starred eateries, to eventually designing his own menus as an executive chef at noted restaurants like Diner in Williamsburg.

But he didn’t always have the right ones of his own. 

Valle, 31, grew up in Greenpoint in a poor immigrant family. He didn’t have options for school. And still living in poverty wasn’t an option. So Valle, in his young teens and early twenties, got involved in gangs and selling drugs. 

“Being a gang member and a drug dealer, you cause a lot of misery,” Valle said. “I wanted to rebrand myself in a way where I changed what I was in the past. Take all the bad that I’ve done, move forward and figure out how to only bring good from the acts that I commit and not feel bad, because of the past that I lived.”

Valle chose to devote his life to food and make becoming a chef his life’s work. It was mostly because of that fact that despite whatever was going on in his home – kids going crazy, parents being overworked and tired – the dinner table was where everyone would “shut up,” enjoy their food and be happy.

Valle doesn’t like the term “New American”–the cooking lingo for upscale restaurants that do new takes on classic dishes. He prefers to call it New York-style inspired. From the elote carts to the hole-in-the-wall Polish joint he grew up eating in the slice of north Brooklyn he calls home, to the Uzbeki or Taiwanese places he now visits–it’s all inspiration. 

“All these meals have inspired my food. I feel like with food that’s the only way that you can be inspired. By eating all these different dishes and like exploring the world around you without actually having to travel,” Valle said.

Valle takes his New York Style cuisine seriously. After being introduced to farm-to-table cooking at One Stop Beer Shop, Valle has not turned his back. Seeing the level of care that went into the food there, from picking out every garnish to the creation of the final project, is what got Valle serious about cooking and permanently giving up his drug-dealing past. 

While it can create challenges to make traditional dishes from around the world by shopping at the Greenpoint market or from Empire state farmers, Valle says that it also pushes him to think about his dishes in interesting ways by figuring out to work with what he has. 

“It [seeing farmers talk about their produce] made me start to see that that was the route that we have to go. Providing for the people within your community instead of buying stuff from Mexico and supporting like, Dole and all these conglomerate producers. There’s plenty of hard-working Americans who are in our own state that produce fabulous products and need our business,” Valle said. 

Currently, Valle is working as a private chef while talking to some friends about potentially working full-time again at a restaurant. On April 5, he will take over the menu at Rolo’s in Ridgewood, and is creating a menu heavily inspired by his Guatemalan roots. 

Whenever Valle’s family would visit him in the states, his extended family would bring a suitcase full of treats. The first thing he would devour every time was fried chicken from Pollo Compero – or as Valle calls it “G.F.C. baby”, Guatemalan fried chicken. And it is going to be his signature dish for his one-night takeover of Rolo’s.

He’s tried cooking it a few times for his personal friends but this will be the first time he will be cooking it professionally – as the spices needed are hard to source from Guatemala. 

The menu will also feature side dishes including several different types of ceviche inspired from different Latin American countries; a grilled corn dish with lime mayo; a pickled relish with corn, hot chili, carrots, cilantro and feta cheese;plátanos maduros; a slaw; mashed potatoes; and even a flan for dessert. 

While Valle is staving away at the Queens restaurant, he won’t forget his Brooklyn Roots. He doesnt ever. Especially while cooking. Because on the inner palm of his left hand is a tattoo of a hard eight – the four and four dice roll – to remind himself that nothing good in life comes without hard work. Nothing worth celebrating, at least. 

Valle always had the ingredients. It just took him a while to find out the right way to cook them. 

UMEC on strike for nearly 11 months

UMEC workers striking outside of their workplace

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]


The workers at United Metro Energy Corporation (UMEC), one of the largest energy producers in the city, have been on strike for nearly 11 months.

They have been standing outside their Greenpoint workplace every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. since April 19, 2021. Throughout the heat, throughout the rain, throughout the cold winter months and throughout the pandemic; they have been fighting for better wages, better healthcare and for a better workplace.

Ivan Areizaga, who has been working at UMEC for over five years, said that he is on strike but is not looking for a ‘handout.’ He just wants to be paid what he and his co-workers deserve. In his five years of employment, the only days he missed were when his mother passed away. He returned to work three days later.

“We dedicate ourselves to work to be loyal. But the bosses and owners are not loyal to us,” Areizaga told The Greenpoint Star.

A few months into the strike, John Catsimatidis, the billionaire CEO of Red Apple Group, sent a letter to some of the striking workers that they would be “permanently replaced.” Striking workers said they were paid $26.78, which is $10 less than the industry average. When the replacement workers were hired they had a starting wage between $30 and $32.

In an interview with The Greenpoint Star, Catsimatidis said that the figure was an “unfair extrapolation” and represented an “apprentice wage.” Paystubs from April 2021 reveal that terminal operators were paid $26.78 per hour.

Catismatidis also claimed that between February 2019 and April 2021 that the union had never met with management and blamed COVID-19.

Demos Demopoulos, the principal officer of Local 553, refuted those allegations and provided several dates from his calendar of virtual bargaining sessions that were held.

Catsimatidis and the Red Apple Group did not respond to requests for a follow-up interview.

Local Teamsters 553, the union representing UMEC workers, has three open cases for unfair labor practices against their employer, according to the National Labor Review Board’s case search. The cases include claims of the company refusing to bargain in good faith, coercive statements and discriminating against union employees.

Areizaga, a father of four, said that UMEC’s inability to come to the bargaining table has put a significant financial strain on his family. One of Areizaga’s sons is type-one diabetic, and was unable to get his medication due to losing health benefits.

“I just thank God nothing bad happened,” Areizaga said.

Andre Soleyn, the strike captain and father of three daughters, echoed the financial strain the strike has placed on his family.

“We have to literally sit down and budget every penny that I could use. There’s nothing extra, I have to budget down to how many trips I can take to the grocery in a week. And that’s very exhausting,” Soleyn said. “It’s hard for me to look in their eyes sometimes and say, ‘Okay, we can’t – because they don’t ask for anything extra. They ask for the bare necessities.”

Striking workers had six months of unemployment but have been relying on a GoFundMe fund ever since. To date, the fund has raised $13,786.

Union members on strike also expressed concern about the safety of UMEC hiring what they say are unqualified workers to handle the dangerous and technical work of operating the facility.

“I’m not running some kind of Mickey Mouse operation,” Catsimatidis said on the claims that the workers weren’t properly trained or licensed to operate the facility.

“They [workers on strike] know how difficult it can be to obtain those certificates of fitness from the fire department, because they are specific to the terminal. And it takes time and effort to study and be taught. So there’s no way that in the amount of time that he fired these replacements that they were having, you know, had all the proper qualifications,” Demopoulos said.

“We’re willing to fight now more than ever. Because look at all of the other strikes that have been going on like John Deere, Warrior Met Coal, Columbia teachers [referring to the graduate student union] and so forth… just to name a few,” Soleyn said. “All of that is part of that labor movement that we’re a part of. Saying enough is enough. We need to be paid what we are worth. We put our lives on the line, we did everything necessary to keep this place open while they were at home.”



Gonzalez runs for new Senate district

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Kristen Gonzalez is running in the the Senate district that covers Greenpoint and parts of Queens

As a working-class girl from Elmhurst who commuted to middle school on the Upper East Side, Kristen Gonzalez developed an early political consciousness.

Even though she was in the same city, she realized she lived in two different worlds. At her Roosevelt Avenue station in Queens, she saw lines of immigrants waiting to get free breakfast from a Catholic charity. 

When she got off the subway at 86th Street in Manhattan, she saw lines of businessmen in fancy suits and coats grabbing their morning Starbucks. 

Even though Gonzalez is only 26 years old, she already has an impressive background in politics. At Columbia University, she was president of the local College Democrats chapter where she got involved in Get Out The Vote campaigns. 

From there she worked at the City Council writing policy recommendations through the Young Women’s Initiative, but felt like she didn’t see the needle moving. So during what would have been her senior year, she dropped out to work in Washington as a Latino Engagement intern for the Obama administration and then in Senator Chuck Schumer’s office. 

While she says the experience was informative, it also made her realize the change she wanted to make wouldn’t be found in the confines of City Hall or in the Capitol Rotunda, but rather, “it was in the working-class communities that raised me back in Queens.”

Less than 24 hours after the new State Senate district maps were released, Gonzalez declared as a candidate for District 17, which includes areas of Woodhaven, Maspeth, Long Island City, Glendale, Ridgewood and Greenpoint. 

She was first approached by the Democratic Socialists of America to run for office in December. Gonzalez thought it was a real opportunity to build a larger socialist movement in Albany.

“Next week, the strategy is to start down in southern parts of the district and, and really try to build on the movements we’ve seen with campaigns like Felicia Singh to turn up more folks in the Punjabi, Bangladeshi, and Guyanese communities,” she said. “Then coming back up to really engage and build a base of more Latino working-class families, as well.”

Gonzalez has assembled over 20 veteran progressive politicos who worked on campaigns for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán.

Gonzalez’s top three priorities are passing single-payer health care, building publicly owned renewable energy, and passing good cause eviction and ending subsidies for luxury developments.

She first got involved with DSA in 2018, organizing their tech action working group, rallying support for privacy bills like the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act to force the NYPD to be more transparent about the types of surveillance technology the department uses.

When asked about Mayor Eric Adams’s push to make New York City a hub for cryptocurrency, Gonzalez rolled her eyes.

“It’s a replication of the issue where the city moves forward in a way that benefits the very wealthy who are invested in things like crypto, but without thinking about those who are behind who just don’t have basic access to the internet,” Gonzalez said. 

A recent report from the state comptroller’s office found that over one million New Yorkers lack access to quality broadband services. As a member of the tech action working group, Gonzalez helped create the Internet For All campaign, a 46-page blueprint on how to achieve municipal ownership of broadband utilities.

Gonzalez has already raised over $23,000, and her Twitter account had such a quick influx of support and followers, the social media service put her account under review for “suspicious activity”.

“I could not be more grateful and just humbled by the support that we saw in this last week,” Gonzalez said. “We believe this is the best campaign for the district because we are representative of it.”

Restler looks to hit the ground running

Lincoln Restler is one of the newly elected NYC council members. Can he pull off his progressive agenda in an Adams administration?

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]


Lincoln Restler has big dreams for North Brooklyn. 

The freshman councilman for the 33rd District won a crowded Democratic Primary on an ambitious agenda of making the district the first to be carbon neutral in the city, reallocating part of the NYPD budget to create a new public safety agency of social workers and mental health care providers, and preventing the overdevelopment of the Brooklyn waterfront. 

But can he pull it off? 

The 37-year-old councilman may be a freshman in the City Council, but he is far from new to New York City politics. 

Restler first got involved in politics during the 2008 primary for Barack Obama. Inspired by the success of Obama, Restler looked to make the movement more than a moment but a real coalition. 

He helped found, and served for one year as vice president, of the New Kings Democrats, a progressive reform-minded organization that has challenged the Brooklyn Democratic machine. 

At only 26 years old, Restler won his first election in 2010 as a district leader in a successful rebuke against disgraced Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman Vito Lopez’s preferred candidate, Warren Cohn. 

Even though district leaders are unpaid positions with very limited powers, Restler’s upset generated buzzy media coverage. 

After nearly 12 years, a few stints in city government and working for former Mayor Bill de Blasio, Restler still sees himself as the same outsider trying to reform New York City politics. 

Restler may have his work cut out for him under Mayor Eric Adams, a fellow native son of Brooklyn but also a product of the old school machine politics Restler has fought against. 

“I’m committed to pushing for ethical government, for our city to be as ethical as it can possibly be,” Restler said in a recent interview. “And my experience challenging the Brooklyn machine molded me to feel like you have to speak truth to power, you have to call out corruption directly to affect change, and you never have a hard time sleeping when you do the right thing.” 

More recently, Adams has made waves for two controversial appointments: Philip Banks, a former NYPD Chief and un-indicted co-conspirator in a federal police corruption case, as Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, and appointing his younger brother, Bernard Adams, as Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD. 

When asked about the appointments, Restler chose his words carefully. 

“I’m concerned any time a family member is appointed to a senior position or a position of power,” said Restler. “I look forward to understanding how they plan to structure the appointment of the mayor’s brother. I’m concerned about the appointment.” 

In regards to Banks’ appointment, Restler said “there are a series of open questions that still need to be answered regarding the investigations relating to Mr. Banks.” 

While Restler’s progressive bonafides and ambitious agenda may be in contrast with the person now sitting in Gracie Mansion, Restler sees opportunities to work with the Mayor to deliver for the residents of North Brooklyn. 

“My goal is to work with the mayor and his team, to work with the speaker and her team, to work with my colleagues in the council to get sh*t done and solve problems and make sure that the most pressing issues in our community are being addressed,” he said. “But I was elected by the people of the 33rd Council District, and it’s my job to faithfully represent their values and their priorities. 

“Sometimes that’s going to be in agreement with the mayor, sometimes that’s going to be a disagreement with the Mayor,” he added. “And that’s okay. We can disagree without getting into a nuclear war. I’m not going to shy away from my beliefs.” 

Specifically, Restler referenced Adams’ intent to reinstate solitary confinement as his public statements about how council members have no right to question the 22-year veteran of the NYPD. 

“Solitary confinement is torture, and we cannot allow it in New York City jails,” Restler said. “No matter what the mayor’s perspective on that is, I’m going to rally my colleagues in the council to push that legislation forward with a veto-proof majority.” 

Restler said the three biggest problems he wants to address are tackling the affordability crisis in his district, protecting the Brooklyn waterfront from the effects of climate change, and “making our community safer through intelligent, compassionate policies that don’t rely on the police to solve every problem.” 

Even though Restler has just been a Councilman for a little over a week, he has been busy on those issues. 

On December 27, the city announced $75 million for Bushwick Inlet Park, a project Restler has been working with local officials behind the scenes months before his inauguration. 

After a recent anti-Semitic assault in Bay Ridge, Restler canvassed Brooklyn neighborhoods with Councilman Chi Ossé, providing information on how to defuse and 

intervene in hate crimes as a bystander. 

Restler told the Star the first bill he is going to introduce will be repealing Option C of the 421(A) Program, a tax break that developers can qualify for providing affordably housing in new projects. 

Under Option C, affordable housing is defined at up to 130 percent of the average median income for the area. 

“The 421(A) program allows for developers in New York City to get massive tax breaks for building, quote unquote, affordable housing for a single adult making $108,000 a year,” Restler said. “Why are we possibly subsidizing, quote unquote, affordable housing for single adults earning triple digits? It doesn’t make sense.” 

When asked how he would define success when his first term is up, Restler said it would be “if neighbors in our district have more confidence that government can help them solve real problems.” 

“About 15 years ago, there were two massive rezonings in the 33rd Council District, on the waterfront and in downtown Brooklyn, and they have led to massive new developments,” Restler said. “They have contributed to significant displacement of longtime residents and amounted to a set of broken promises.

“Fifteen years later, I am angry about the promised park spaces, the promised schools, the investments that were supposed to come to accommodate a growing community,” he added. “And I am laser focused on making sure that those broken promises get remedied and that we hold the city accountable.”

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