Richards launches ‘Queens Shop Small’ program

Borough President Donovan Richards will be visiting a local small business every month as part of a new initiative to promote shopping locally.

“I want to keep supporting small businesses in underserved communities because a lot of times the aid that comes doesn’t always assist them,” said Richards.

For his first visit, Richards stopped by The Nourish Spot in Jamaica. Dawn Kelly opened The Nourish Spot in 2017, promoting healthy living with her smoothies, wraps, and salads.

“I would like his help in making sure that we could get more needed service for some of the people in the community that are down and out on their luck,” Kelly said of Richards. “There are quite a few people who need help with homelessness, mental issues, and drug addiction.

“There’s things happening around Queens like Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium that we would like to be a part of,” she added. “We want their help to be a part of that.”

Soon after taking office, Richards worked with the city and New York Mets to create the Queens Small Business Grant program to support businesses in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19. Over $14 million in no-strings-attached grant funding was distributed among 757 approved entities, 613 of which were minority owned.

During Richards’ visit, Kelly’s was busy filling online orders.

“Business is wonderful because during the pandemic every doctor and medical professional was telling people to eat a more balanced, healthy diet,” said Kelly. “We were doing okay at first, but we got a boom of business in 2020 and had to keep up with the demand.”

Before leaving, Richards presented Kelly with a citation recognizing and Kelly for her work supporting the local community, from hiring local young people to opening the shop as a true community space.

“Our small businesses are the livelihood of Queens,” said Richards. “Where can you get a taste of the world besides Queens?”

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Mini-golf comes to the North Brooklyn waterfront

A new climate change-themed mini-golf course is now open on the Williamsburg waterfront at North 1st and River Street.
Dubbed PUTTING GREEN, the attraction is operated by Two Trees Management. It is located at North 1st and River streets where the company hopes to build River Ring, a mixed-use development that would include two 710- and 560-foot towers.
The 18-hole course is meant to educate visitors on sustainability, resiliency and the effects of climate change as they go from hole to hole.
Admission is $5 for kids and $10 for adults and all proceeds will benefit local organizations, including the Newtown Creek Alliance. The course itself is made from 100 percent recycled materials.
“This mini-golf course is an opportunity to start a conversation with players of all ages about climate change and its impacts,” said Two Trees managing director David Lombino. “By repurposing this construction space, we were able to partner with local organizations and environmental groups to collectively create a space that the entire community can enjoy.”
However, the larger plans for the site continue to face community backlash.
The grassroots organization Sustainable Williamsburg argues the River Ring development is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood, and will only intesify gentrification and displacement, as well as overburden the area’s transit and other community services.
“We are at the heart of a neighborhood in the past decade that has seen more development and construction than any across America,” member Matthew Emmi said in a previous interview with this paper. “We as neighbors are asked to stomach another development before we are able to fully digest and comprehend the impacts of 7,500-plus new residents to the waterfront that are currently underway.”

Brooklyn eateries enjoy month-long NYC Restaurant Week

After over a year and a half of near constant closures, restrictions, and other setbacks, New York City restaurants finally had a reason to celebrate this past week. NYC Restaurant Week has returned to the City, this time lasting for over a month (July 19th to August 22nd) to accommodate for the business lost during the pandemic.
Since its inaugural year back in 1992, Restaurant Week has grown into a tradition for locals, students, and other New Yorkers excited by the prospect of a quick, cheap, delicious meal.
Organized by the Mayor’s Office and hundreds of partnering restaurants, the celebration offers special $21, $39, and $125 menus that allow guests to sample new foods at a reasonable price.
“It’s extraordinary, the greatest restaurants in the world — an opportunity for you and me to go out there and experience them… even if you don’t have a lot of money, great, great, deals,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the start of Restaurant Week last month. “We know the restaurant community went through so much during the pandemic, but people fought back. The restaurant owners, the employees, they fought back, they kept their businesses going, and now Restaurant Week is going to give them more customers, and a whole lot more energy.”
A total of 511 restaurants are featured throughout the five boroughs during Restaurant Week. However, only 47 of those are in Brooklyn. Queens has even less, with only 33 eateries featured throughout the month.
Our paper caught up with the owner of one of these lucky restaurants to discuss their experience.
“It [Restaurant Week] has turbo-charged everything,” explained Bart Hubbuch, owner of Prospect Heights Korean BBQ fusion joint Memphis Seoul (569 Lincoln Place). “It has been unbelievably, mind-bogglingly successful.”
Hubbuch continued: “I am from Texas originally, but I am so honored to feel at home here in New York. It’s a prestigious thing to be honored in Restaurant Week.”
Multiple North Brooklyn favorites are also featured this restaurant week, including Domino Park Taqueria Tacocina (25 River Street), Williamsburg Mexican Restaurant De Mole (2 Hope Street), and the original Junior’s Cheesecake location in Downtown Brooklyn (386 Flatbush Ave).
Sean McCloskey, General Manager at De Mole, praised the City for making Restaurant Week even more accessible this year.
“The nice feature this time with restaurant week is NYC & COMPANY has decided to waive the normal fee that is associated with participation in Restaurant Week,” McCloskey explained. “Doing so has allowed the small mom & pop restaurants to participate, where in prior years they wouldn’t due to the fee.”
He continued: “Restaurant Week has played a major role in bringing people to the restaurants after the pandemic, as the pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the restaurant & hospitality industry in NYC. This year one of the nicer features that NYC & COMPANY has added is the signa Menu, which has been a draw for our customers, hopefully it is something they will consider offering from here on.”
In addition to in-person dining, many featured restaurants are offering take-out options this restaurant week to accommodate those who are still wary of large crowds.

DA moves to dismiss over 3,500 marijuana cases

The Brooklyn DA’s Office last week asked a judge in Brooklyn Criminal Court to dismiss 3,578 pening marijuana cases.
The DA’s Office also asked Judge Keisha Espinal to vacate any relevant arrest warrants, judgments of conviction and guilty pleas related to those cases.
“For too long, criminalization of marijuana has disproportionately impacted young people and communities of color whose members made up about 90 percent of those arrested,” said District Attorney Eric Gonzalez during a virtual town hall announcing the request. “These arrests ruined the lives of thousands of people over the years, saddling many with criminal convictions that prevented them from pursuing opportunities in life.”
If the judge grants the request, only eight criminal cases involving marijuana would remain active, and all of them involve allegations of driving while under the influence of the drug.
The request by the DA’s Office comes after the state voted on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana earlier this year. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill in March.
Gonzalez’s predecessor Ken Thompson stopped prosecuting marijuana possession cases in 2014, and later stopped prosecuting most cases involving the use of marijuana.
“Since its passage, my office has moved to dismiss open cases,” said Gonzalez. “I asked the court to dismiss over 3,500 warrant cases that remained in the system, effectively clearing the Brooklyn docket from these vestiges of previous models of policing and prosecution.”

‘Fight for Sunlight’ at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A proposed rezoning in Brooklyn is pitting towers vs. trees.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) staff joined local residents last week to oppose the rezoning of 960 Franklin Avenue to allow for the construction of two 34-story towers just 150 feet away from the Garden’s entrance.
The “Fight for Sunlight” rally addressed the detrimental effects of the rezoning, chief among them blocking direct sunlight for portions of BBG.
“The proposed luxury development with towers rising up to 400 feet tall would permanently damage the garden and surrounding neighborhood,” explained BBG president and CEO Adrian Benepe. “If we had been here at 7:30 this morning with the towers built, there would have been no sunshine in the greenhouses or in this plaza. It’s an existential threat, we wouldn’t exist anymore.”
Benepe added the buildings would also block sunlight in many other locations throughout Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, including nearby Jackie Robinson Playground, Jackie Robinson School (M.S. 375), and the campus of Medgar Evers College.
Ahead of last week’s event, almost 60,000 people had already signed a petition opposing the rezoning.
“You know that song ‘Big Yellow’ Taxi by Joni Mithcell, ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot?’” asked Benepe. “Once you take away the sunlight it’s gone, and it’s not coming back.”
Supporters of the rezoning cite the affordable housing units included in the project.
“The so-called affordable units in the buildings are priced for families with incomes as high as $122,880,” countered Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society. “I don’t need to tell any of you that $122,000 a year is nowhere near the median income of Crown Heights. It’s closer to $70,000.
“Indeed, fully 80 percent of the units at 960 Franklin would be out of reach for all but the richest people in this neighborhood,” she continued. “Any suggestion by the developer that this project would address the city’s affordability crisis is as ludicrous as it is cynical.”
Another argument in favor of the project is that it will create good-paying union jobs.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about union workers on the other side, but we also have union workers here,” explained BBG gardener Lenny Paul.
BBG was closed to in-person visitors for much of last year due to the pandemic, but staff members such as Paul continued to organize virtual programming. Paul also discussed the work it took to grow plants on site before sending them to nearby schools, a process facilitated by the direct sunlight available to the garden.
Kierstan, a longtime resident of Park Slope and a public school teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant, explained how the garden was a nice change for students in cramped classrooms.
“It was always one of the students’ favorite places to go,” she said. “It is also one of my favorite places.”
Students from nearby public schools were also present at the rally, including members of the band Control the Sound. The group performed an original song written specifically for BBG, appropriately named “Fight for Sunlight.”
“We’ve been coming here since we were little kids,” explained Elijah Frechtman, the band’s frontman and guitarist. “We just want to preserve and protect this area because it is historic and it means something to us.”
The proposed rezoning of 960 Franklin Avenue must undergo theland use review process, including several hearings before a final vote by the City Council. Community Board 9 has already stated its opposition, releasing a statement in June asking that the land use review process be halted entirely.
“It’s ridiculous that they even contemplate building this monstrosity,” said Marvin, a self-described neighborhood old-timer who attended the rally. “The city invests millions of dollars into the garden, but now they want to destroy it. It makes no sense.”

104th Precinct Police Blotter (7/19/2021-7/25/2021)

Monday, July 19
Vanessa Mendez was arrested at 1863 Hart Street for criminal mischief by Officer Rodriguez.
Joshua Escobar was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for criminal possession of a weapon by Detective Rochford.
Jorge Ruiz was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Detective Bublin.
Ligia Reinozo was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Detective Bublin.
Dariusz Mrozek was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for leaving the scene of an accident with injury by Detective Gerardi.

Tuesday, July 20
Joseph Murphy was arrested at 59-51 70th Street for criminal contempt by Officer Fleischman.
Jimienez Adonys was arrested at 1894 Dekalb Avenue for criminal trespass by Office Dimatteo.
Jorge Pinto was arrested at Putnam Avenue and Myrtle Avenue for forgery by Detective Wright.
Aleinkov Flores was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Officer Hynes.

Wednesday, July 21
Marcia Y. Lojano Largo was arrested at 60-56 Fresh Pond Road for misdemeanor assault by Detective Wright.
Rajay Erksine was arrested at Palmetto Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Bonilla.
Michael Zbierajewski was arrested at 58 Avenue and 69th Street for grand larceny by Officer Candelaria.
Amari Moore was arrested at 58th AVenue and 69th Street for grand larceny by Officer Candelaria.

Thursday, July 22
George Perkins was arrested at Myrtle Avenue and Centre Street for making graffiti by Officer Gluck.
Winnie Li was arrested at 60-61 70th Avenue for felony assault by Officer Bonilla.
Hong Li was arrested at 60-61 70th Avenue for felony assault by Officer Bonilla.
Joseph Moidafferi was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for criminal contempt by Officer Cronado.
Alfonso Ocampo was arrested at Cooper Avenue and 64th Lane for misdemeanor assault by Officer Mancini.
Tiheem Washington was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Babyev.
Jose De Los Santos Candelario was arrested at Myrtle Avenue and Cypress Avenue for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Gonzalez.
Pedro Chanmorales was arrested at 329 Wyckoff Avenue for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Chowdhury.
Wayne Fields was arrested at Cypress Avenue and Cypress Hills Street for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Iannuzzi.

Friday, July 23
Matthieu G. Zeichner was arrested at 78th Avenue and 76th Street for obstruction of governmental administration by Officer Moise.
Francisco Torres was arrested at 1125 Irving Avenue for criminal possession of stolen property by Officer Nardello.
Lamale McRae was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for grand larceny by Officer Denis.
Everette Wilson was arrested at 560 Grandview Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Bonilla.
Linwood Adams was arrested at 54-11 Myrtle Avenue for robbery by Officer Chowdhury.
Tyrone Long was arrested at 54-11 Myrtle Avenue for robbery by Officer Chowdhury.

Saturday, July 24
Tristian Allen was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Officer Hopson.

Sunday, July 25
Julias Vargas was arrested at 69th Place and Central Avenue for grand larceny by Officer Moise.
Sapphire Villamil was arrested at 69th Place and Central Avenue for grand larceny by Officer Moise.
Jose Cesari was arrested at 69th Place and Central Avenue for grand larceny by Officer Moise.
Erick Fuentes was arrested at 69th Place and Central Avenue for grand larceny by Officer Moise.
Shane Arnold was arrested at 78-16 Cooper Avenue for felony assault by Officer Bayizian.
Kevin Rodriguez Inoa was arrested at 60th Street and Metropolitan Avenue for aggravated unlicensed operator by Office Lin.
Maribel Gordon was arrested at 60-32 78th Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Officer Sheehan.
Henry Simbaba was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for felony criminal contempt by Officer Feliciano.
Johnathan Agudo-Perez was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for felony criminal contempt by Officer Armond.

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