Tuesday, March 28Welcome

I On Politics – Queens Gazette


PHEFFER AMATO GETS A RECOUNT: Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato’s campaign for re-election released the following statement: “When the very essence of our nation’s democratic values is under attack, Assemblywoman Amato’s campaign is committed to making sure every vote is counted. The Board of Elections staff has preliminarily invalidated the votes of close to 100 absentee voters of all parties that meet all the statutory obligations.

“With the passage of New York’s John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we are going to court to ensure that rules and regulations follow the law as stated and are interpreted ‘liberally in favor of protecting the right of voters to have their ballots cast and counted.’ Voters’ rights are paramount, and no voter should be penalized with arbitrary determinations which defy logic and prevent a voter from even attempting to cure potential errors.

“That’s why we’re pleased that the Supreme Court of Queens is taking on the important work to gather more information and review this issue to ensure voters are not disenfranchised.

“As the narrow margin will lead to a manual recount mandated by law regardless of the final outcome of this case, we are confident that the will of the voters can only be upheld once these valid ballots are opened and counted.”

State of the Current Count of Votes in AD 23:

  1. The candidates are separated by 3 votes out of 32,245 cast
  2. The recount threshold is under 161 votes. All Assembly votes will be manually counted in December to accurately count the paper ballots and determine the intent of the voter where machines were unable to do so.
  3. There are just shy of a dozen ballots which can still be cured unrelated to this court case, the latest of which is due December 1st.
  4. The court case concerns 3 types of ballots: 2 absentee categories covering 92 absentee ballots, and 2 affidavit ballots that were invalidated by ministerial errors made by the Board of Elections clerical staff.

COUNCIL APPROVES 5,000+ UNITS OF HOUSING, 65% AFFORDABLE: On Nov. 22, the Council approved two land use applications in Brooklyn and Queens that will collectively produce over 5,000 new units of housing, 65% of which will be affordable. Over 1,900 of the housing units (over 37%) would be deeply affordable for extremely or very low-income households. The projects, Innovation QNS in Astoria, Queens and Innovative Urban Village in East New York, Brooklyn, demonstrate the Council’s commitment to addressing the City’s housing crisis by approving affordable housing development, said spokespersons. With these approvals, the Council has now approved over 40 land use applications since January 2022, creating 11,447 total housing units with over 63% (7,238 units) designated as affordable.

“As our city grapples with a housing crisis that threatens communities, the Council has advanced major projects that provide tens of thousands of affordable homes to New Yorkers,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “With today’s approval of Innovation QNS and Innovative Urban Village, we are delivering affordable housing and unprecedented public benefits for the residents of Brooklyn, Queens, and the entire city. These projects affirm the Council’s deep commitment to confronting the city’s housing shortage by securing safe, stable, and affordable homes for New Yorkers. We will continue to invest in solutions to the greatest challenges facing our communities and work together to ensure residents can thrive in our city.”

The Council also voted on several pieces of legislation to prevent auto theft of catalytic converter parts, require distribution of information on the new national 988 suicide and crisis lifeline number to public school students, and enhance harm reduction and addiction recovery efforts for people with opioid use disorder.

Committee on Consumer & Worker Protection:

Catalytic converters are increasingly becoming a popular item as they contain highly valued metals and are easy to steal, taking less than two minutes to remove. Stolen catalytic converters end up costing car owners thousands of dollars to replace. This legislation would regulate secondhand dealers’ sale of these converters and protect consumers from theft. Introduction 525-B, sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer, would require that any secondhand dealer purchasing a used catalytic converter, must first obtain from the seller information about the vehicle the catalytic converter was removed from, which demonstrates that the seller either owns the vehicle or was otherwise authorized to remove the catalytic converter in connection with a repair. In addition, the purchaser would be required to determine if the catalytic converter presented is consistent with the identified vehicle. The purchaser would be required to retain records of this information for at least six years and such records would be available in real time to law enforcement.

Committee on Education:

In response to a national need to have an improved dedicated crisis hotline for mental health crises, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was rebooted with its own three-digit number and federal funding to increase its network of trained mental health professionals and volunteers earlier this year. Introduction 610-A, sponsored by Council Member Erik Bottcher, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to distribute information to students annually regarding suicide prevention, including information about the new national 988 suicide and crisis lifeline number, suicide warning signs and risk factors, and any other related suicide prevention resources DOE deems relevant. In recent years, rates of suicide and mental health related emergency visits have increased for youth under 18 demonstrating a strong need for resources to reach kids in locations where they spend significant time.

Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction:

Overdose deaths in New York City have seen an increase over the years, especially those in areas with the highest proportion of Black/African American and Latino residents. Harm reduction services in NYC, such as Overdose Prevention Centers have been proven successful preventing overdoses and death. In order to continue to provide harm reduction services, Introduction 609-A, sponsored by Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to establish a pilot buyback program for the return of needles, syringes, and sharps used for non-medical consumption at locations in the 5 highest-need council districts. DOHMH would be tasked to determine eligibility for participation in the program and to set the buyback incentive, up to 20 cents per needle, syringe or sharp, with a cap of $10 per individual per day. This would boost public health and safety efforts by reducing the littering and use of used needles and syringes. The bill would also require DOHMH to create a community-based plan of action to address the opioid epidemic in communities deemed at highest risk for opioid abuse and deaths. New York City saw over 1,900 opioid overdose deaths in 2021 with the bulk of them occurring in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

The opioid settlement fund, created in 2021, is required by state law to support opioid prevention and treatment strategies. Through litigation against corporations, the State Attorney General’s Office secured over $2.1 billion for the fund. Earlier this year, Mayor Adams outlined how dollars provided to New York City from the fund would be utilized. Introduction 404-A, sponsored by Council Member Linda Lee, would require DOHMH, or another agency designated by the mayor, to report on the monies paid to the city pursuant to the New York opioid settlement sharing agreement, or any other agreement with an opioid supply chain participant, or any successor agreements. The bill would require the agency to submit a report within 30 days of the release of each city financial plan or update that discloses the amount of opioid funds available, where the money is being spent, the number of New Yorkers being served, and anticipated spending for each fiscal year. This reporting would be required until all funds have been used.

Land Use

The Land Use items passed by the Council include the following:

Innovation Queens – Applications by Kaufman Astoria Bedrock I LLC and Silverstein Astoria Member LLC for rezoning from M1-1 and C4-2A to a special mixed-use district (MX-24) consisting of M1-4/R7-3, M1-4/R7X, and M1-5/R9-1, zoning text amendments to designate a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Area in Appendix F of the Zoning Resolution (Option 1), and special permits to modify bulk, loading, sign, and retail size regulations to facilitate a series of mixed-use buildings and publicly accessible open spaces, with over 3,100 housing units in 13 buildings ranging in height from 8 to 27 stories between 37th St, 35th Ave, Northern Blvd, and 36th Ave in Astoria. As negotiated by the Council, the project will be approximately 55% market-rate and 45% affordable as the applicant and administration have agreed to fund the development of three 100% affordable HPD buildings (approx. 478 units) and set-aside an additional 157 units for CityFHEPS vouchers, in addition to the requirements of MIH Option 1 (25% of floor area at an average of 60 AMI). The Council is modifying the proposal to facilitate the conversion of office and community facility space into additional housing and reduce the density on the outparcels included within the rezoning area but not part of the Innovation QNS large-scale development.

Housing Development Details On Approved Land Use Items:

Innovation QNS, a large scale and mixed-use development in Astoria, will now have a projected 1,436 (45%) affordable apartments out of the 3,190 total units. This includes 825 units for extremely or very low-income households or those exiting the shelter system. The project increases the number of deeply affordable housing at an unprecedented scale in the neighborhood, dedicates affordable housing units for the formerly unhoused, increases the number of affordable family-sized units, sets aside units that were previously market rate for extremely low-income people with CityFHEPS rental vouchers, and secures community benefits that include a $2 million commitment towards legal services to protect neighboring tenants from housing displacement, discrimination and harassment.

RICHARDS ON PASSAGE OF INNOVATION QNS: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. stated the following in response to the Nov. 20 City Council vote to approve Innovation QNS.

“This day is not about votes, percentages or politics – it’s about Astoria families teetering on the brink of eviction. It’s about children doing their homework tonight in a homeless shelter and seniors being priced out of the only community they’ve ever lived in. That is who this day and this transformational project belongs to,” said Borough President Richards. “With the passage of Innovation QNS, this borough has set a new standard for what community-first development can and must look like. I fully believe Queens will lead our city out of this affordability crisis because, as we proved today, Queens will accept nothing less than historic investments in deeply affordable housing from any organization, private or public, that seeks to build here.

“With Innovation QNS, such a historic investment will manifest in the form of more than 1,400 permanently affordable homes – 45 percent of the project’s units – with 500 homes available at less than $1,000 a month. Additional benefits include comprehensive construction agreements with organized labor, discounted rents and incubator space for small businesses, a community advisory board and a study on the potential use of geothermal energy.

Richards said, “I’m deeply grateful to Mayor Adams’ administration, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Zoning Subcommittee Chair Kevin Riley, Land Use Committee Chair Rafael Salamanca Jr. and the entire City Council, as well as organized labor for its advocacy and the Innovation QNS development team for their commitment to delivering a project worthy of the community and borough it will call home.”

QUEENS CHAMBER APPLAUDS INNOVATION QNS APPROVAL:     The Queens Chamber of Commerce releases the following statement from President & CEO Tom Grech after the New York City Council voted to approve Innovation QNS on Tuesday, November 22:

“On behalf of the oldest and largest business organization in Queens, we applaud the City Council for voting to approve Innovation QNS – a transformative project that will create over 1,400 units of permanently affordable housing in an area perfectly suited for development.”

“Queens, and New York City as a whole, are in desperate need of more affordable housing. We have been encouraged by the work that our elected officials have done to move important projects like Hallets Point in Astoria, the Flushing waterfront development, and the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning in the Bronx forward. The approval of Innovation QNS builds on this momentum, and will be a boon to the employers, workers and families who call Queens home.”

“We want to thank Mayor Eric Adams for his commitment to this project, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams for her unwavering efforts to create affordable housing citywide, and Council Member Julie Won for helping to reach an agreement that is a win-win for the Western Queens community. We also must offer thanks and praise for the Innovation QNS development team who were steadfast in their desire to get this done”

BILL TO FIGHT CHILD POVERTY: On Nov. 16, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) introduced the Lifting American Children from Poverty Act of 2022, legislation to address the crisis that has left one in every seven children in the United States living in poverty. The bill recognizes the need for the full scale of the federal government to collaborate across agencies to find solutions to end child poverty and creates an interagency task force on child and family economic security.

“The reality that millions of children wake up each day without enough food to eat or a safe place to sleep is completely at odds with the promise and ideals of America,” said Velázquez. “During the pandemic, Democrats passed an extended Child Tax Credit which made some of the largest gains in recent history to fight child poverty, until it expired last year. In addition to bringing back the child tax credit, more must be done to ensure children can access opportunity and reach their full potential. This legislation creates an approach that matches the scope of the problem by calling on federal agencies to prioritize ending child poverty once and for all.”

“That any child lives in poverty in the richest country in the world is deeply shameful,” said Jennifer Vallone, Associate Executive Director, University Settlement. “Every day, our programs partner with families across Lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn who are raising children while navigating the pressures of poverty. In 2021, the Child Tax Credit reduced child poverty by half, demonstrating that the federal government can succeed when it does more to support families. University Settlement calls on Congress to pass the Lifting American Children from Poverty Act of 2022 – a first step toward doing better for our community’s children and families.”

BRAUNSTEIN’S TOY DRIVE FOR CHILDREN IN NEED: Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) announced the return of his office’s annual Holiday Toy Drive for needy and hospitalized children in Queens.

All gifts should be delivered to Assemblyman Braunstein’s office at 213-33 39th Avenue, Suite 238, Bayside, 11361, by Wednesday, December 14. Gifts can also be dropped off to the Queens Community Board 11 office at 46-21 Little Neck Parkway, Little Neck, 11362, prior to the deadline.

“This December, please consider brightening the season for a local family in need by donating a new and unwrapped toy to my office’s annual Holiday Toy Drive,” said Assemblyman Braunstein. “I thank you in advance for your generosity and wish you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season.”

The toys will be donated to numerous organizations, institutions and charitable programs operating in Queens that serve local children and families in need.

If you are interested in participating and have any questions, please call Assemblyman Braunstein’s office at (718) 357-3588.

HOCHUL ENACTS MEDICAL DEBT PROTECTION: Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.6522A/A.7363A) to protect patients facing steep medical bills that can lead to wage garnishment or liens against their property.

“No one should face the threat of losing their home or falling into further debt after seeking medical care,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to sign legislation today that will end this harmful and predatory collection practice to help protect New Yorkers from these unfair penalties. With medical debt a burden for far too many, this is an important step to address this crucial issue.”

Legislation (S.6522A/A.7363A) amends the civil practice law and rules to prohibit health care providers from placing home liens on an individual’s primary residence or garnishing wages to collect on medical debt. Governor Hochul outlined her goals to protect New York’s consumers and improve their financial health in her 2022 State of the State Address, which includes addressing medical debt and protecting consumers from abusive and punitive practices that lead to increased and undeserved financial pressure.

Nearly half of American adults struggle to afford health care costs, and more than 50,000 New Yorkers have been sued for medical debt over the past five years; this problem is most pervasive in Upstate New York. Previously, hospitals or health care providers had been able to impose and enforce liens on a patient’s primary residence to satisfy a judgment in a medical debt lawsuit, leading to housing instability and devastating financial consequences for vulnerable New Yorkers.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera said, “New Yorkers should not fear losing their homes or livelihoods as a result of seeking medical care, especially during such challenging financial times. I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing my bill into law to protect New Yorkers from facing liens on their homes or wage garnishment by medical institutions in their effort to collect medical debt. We must work together to eradicate medical debt from our State and I am thrilled that we are taking this important first step.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said, “New Yorkers struggle with health care costs even when they have insurance. People seeking care end up with bills to cover ever-increasing out-of-pocket costs, including high deductibles, copays and the various fees insurance doesn’t cover. People’s homes and income should not be threatened to satisfy medical debt. I thank Governor Hochul for signing S.6522A/A.7363A into law to help protect patients from these egregious practices. This bill would not have been accomplished without the tenacious hard work and advocacy of Senator Rivera, other legislative colleagues and advocates, especially the Community Service Society.”

GOP TO APPEAL STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS: President Biden announced that the student loan repayment pause will be extended another 6 months, until June 30th of 2023, instead of the original expiration slated for the end of 2022.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated: “While it’s wonderful to hear that payments will be on pause for several more months, make no mistake, we are not out of the woods on the larger fight against student debt. The extension was granted in part so that the Supreme Court can hear Republican legal challenges to Biden’s federal student debt relief, which granted each person up to $20,000 in student loan relief.”

BUS HIJACKER INDICTED ON KIDNAPPING CHARGES: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Dwayne Gaddy was indicted and arraigned on Nov. 16 on charges of kidnapping, robbery and other crimes for the hijacking of a crowded MTA bus in Cambria Heights last month using what appeared to be a handgun. The approximately 30 passengers on board the bus were able to escape. The driver also managed to escape before Gaddy crashed the bus into a utility pole.

District Attorney Katz said: “If not for the quick-thinking bus driver remaining calm and collected under pressure, the outcome would have been far worse. We cannot allow confidence in our public transit system to be undermined and will not let this brazen lawlessness go unanswered in Queens County. The defendant has been charged accordingly and faces justice in our courts.”

Gaddy, 44, of 201st Place in St. Albans, was arraigned before Queens Supreme Court Justice Toni Cimino on an 11-count indictment charging him with kidnapping in the second degree, grand larceny in the second and fourth degree, three counts of robbery in the second degree, two counts of assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the first degree, unlawful imprisonment in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Justice Cimino ordered the defendant to return to court on December 15, 2022. If convicted, Gaddy faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the charges, on October 27, 2022, at approximately 7:30 a.m., the defendant ran in front of an eastbound Q4 MTA on Linden Boulevard while carrying a black bag and blocked the path of the vehicle. The defendant allegedly demanded to be let on board stating, “Let me on the bus, they are trying to kill me!”

When the operator refused to let him on the bus, the defendant then produced what appeared to be a firearm and pointed it at the vehicle. The bus operator opened the door, allowing the defendant to board, at which point Gaddy allegedly walked up and down the center aisle holding the weapon. According to video surveillance later retrieved from inside the vehicle, the bus driver is seen opening the doors so that the approximately 30 passengers could safely disembark, as the defendant stood next to the driver with the weapon.

As the bus operator continued driving the bus he attempted to reason with the defendant while opening the driver’s side window. After driving several more blocks, the driver was able to jump out of the side window, leaving the defendant alone on the bus near the intersection of 231st Street and Linden Boulevard. As alleged, the defendant immediately attempted to take the steering wheel and lost control of the bus, careening into a utility pole between 223rd and 234th Streets.

The defendant was apprehended immediately after the crash across the street from the collision and taken to a local hospital.

The MTA bus operator was transported to a local Queens hospital where he was treated for bruising to his elbow and hip, lacerations and abrasions to his arm and finger and substantial pain.

CONVICTED FOR FATAL STABBING AFTER CHRISTENING PARTY: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the conviction of Antonio Martinez for stabbing to death a fellow guest at a 2019 celebration of a baby’s christening in Corona. Martinez argued with the victim before repeatedly stabbing him in the chest.

District Attorney Katz said: “From celebrating a life, to mourning a death, this violent attack was as senseless as it was brutal. The defendant is being held to account and faces life in prison.”

Martinez, 50, of 98th Street in Corona, was convicted yesterday of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree before Queens Criminal Court Judge Cassandra Mullen. Judge Mullen indicated that she would sentence the defendant on December 6, at which time Martinez faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

According to the charges, shortly before 12:30 a.m. on September 29, 2019, Martinez approached 22-year-old Roque Alvarez-Montes outside of a baby christening party held in the vicinity of 98th Street and 37th Avenue in Corona. Martinez argued with the victim just before plunging a knife into the man’s chest.

MURDER CHARGE IN DEATH OF 3-YRS SON: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Shaquan Butler, 26, was arraigned on Nov. 20 on murder charges in the death of his 3-year-old son.

District Attorney Katz said: “A defenseless young child’s life was brutally snatched from him before it even began in most ways; a case that is equal parts heartbreaking and disturbing. As alleged, the defendant is responsible for this brutal death and my Office will be sure to secure justice in this innocent child’s memory.”

Butler, of Elmhurst, was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Michael Yavinsky on a six-count complaint charging him with two counts of murder in the second degree, two counts of manslaughter in the first degree, manslaughter in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child. Butler was ordered by Judge Yavinsky to return to court on November 22. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

According to the charges, on Sunday, November 13, at approximately 7:40 p.m., the defendant allegedly struck his son in the torso inside of the family’s apartment in the Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst. The child’s mother and his two young siblings were in the apartment at the time as well.

Responding to a 911 call, the New York Fire Department arrived at the hotel and found the 3-year-old victim on the floor unconscious with bruising to the child’s head, torso and extremities. The child was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined that the child had significant internal bleeding and died from blunt force trauma to his torso.

10 YRS FOR THREATENING TO SHOOT OVER PARKING SPOT: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Jaquan Adams, 29, was sentenced on Nov. 21 to 10 years in prison for criminal possession of a weapon. Adams used a gun to threaten a motorist to surrender an open street parking spot in Bayside that he wanted for himself.

District Attorney Katz said: “An argument over nothing more than a parking spot escalated into a life-or-death confrontation because the defendant chose to resolve the dispute with an illegal handgun. He has now been held to full account for his criminal actions. My office will continue to fight the plague of gun violence with all resources at our disposal.”

Adams, of 212th Street in Cambria Heights, was convicted September 20 of three counts of criminal possession of a weapon and menacing in the second-degree following a two-week long trial. Queens Supreme Court Justice Gia L. Morris sentenced Adams to 10 years in prison to be followed by 5 years post release supervision.

According to trial testimony, on May 26, 2019, at approximately 11:48 p.m., in front of 39-20 Bell Boulevard, the defendant approached the victim sitting inside a parked vehicle and engaged him in a verbal dispute. During the argument, the defendant displayed a firearm and threatened to shoot the victim if he did not move his vehicle from that particular spot.

DA Katz said that when the victim left the parking space, the defendant got into a Honda Civic and pulled into the spot the victim had just vacated. The victim called 911 to report the incident and pointed out the Honda Civic to the responding officers. At the time, Adams was no longer inside or near his vehicle and an investigation was launched into the incident.

A subsequent search warrant was executed on the defendant’s vehicle and police recovered a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver loaded with six rounds from inside of a black reusable canvas bag under the hood of the vehicle. A New York State benefit card bearing the defendant’s name and photo was also recovered from the center console. Laboratory testing confirmed Adams’ DNA to be present on the gun in question.

The defendant had been arrested on unrelated charges on June 12, 2019, and later confessed to possessing the firearm and arguing with the victim over the parking spot.

CO-DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY IN SHOOTING DEATHS: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Richard Davenport and Neville Brown each pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter for the shooting deaths of two men in South Richmond Hill in late 2017 and early 2018. The judge in the case said he would sentence Davenport to 29 years in prison and Brown to 15 years.

District Attorney Katz said: “The scourge of gun violence that has brought heartache and grief to our communities will never be tolerated. My office will continue our unrelenting efforts to bring justice for the victims, no matter how much time has passed. In pleading guilty, both defendants have accepted responsibility for taking the lives of two young men and are being held to account with lengthy prison terms.”

Davenport, 46, of 139th Street in Jamaica, and Brown, 42, of 197th Street in Hollis, each pleaded guilty on Nov. 15 to two counts of first degree manslaughter before Queens Supreme Court Judge Michael B. Aloise, who indicated he would sentence Davenport to 29 years and Brown to 15 years in prison. Sentencing for Brown is scheduled for December 13; sentencing for Davenport is set for January 12, 2023.

According to the charges, at approximately 3:00 am on December 19, 2017, Brown was the driver and Davenport the lone passenger in a Mercedes Benz that drove several times past a Cadillac Escalade parked on 125th Street and Atlantic Avenue in South Richmond Hill. Security camera video footage shows the defendants parking the Mercedes and Davenport and Brown exiting and approaching the Cadillac from opposite sides. Davenport is then seen firing several times into the vehicle, striking Dail Ramessar, 21. The defendants fled the scene in the Mercedes. Ramessar was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Additionally, according to the charges, at roughly 9:30 pm on January 16, 2018, security video footage shows the same Mercedes Benz stopped on 105th Street near 135th Avenue in South Richmond Hill. Davenport is seen exiting the vehicle and approaching Omaree Morrison, 19, as he walked along 135th Avenue. Davenport fired several times, striking and killing Morrison.

Ballistics tests showed that the shell casings recovered from the January 2018 shooting matched those found at the December 2017 crime scene.

The investigation was conducted by detectives from the New York City Police Department’s 106th and 102nd Precincts, as well as the Queens South Homicide Squad.

KATZ VACATES WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz filed motions on Nov. 17 with defense attorneys to vacate two wrongful convictions.

In both cases, new evidence came to light:

 In Capers, the physical evidence indicated one gun was fired and eyewitness testimony singles out Kevin McClinton as the lone shooter. McClinton, who is solely culpable for the crime, is currently serving 25 years to life in prison. The prosecution’s only eyewitness at Capers’s trial recanted his identification of Capers as the shooter. The recantation is corroborated by contemporaneous recorded phone calls in which the eyewitness admits he lied.

 In Williams, there is newly obtained cell site location information that places Williams 10 miles away from the crime scene, contradicting the single witness who identified Williams as participating in the robbery.

District Attorney Katz said: “For there to be justice in the criminal justice system, and public faith in its outcomes, it is incumbent upon us as prosecutors to follow the facts to wherever they lead. Presented with credible new evidence that undermined the integrity of the convictions against these men, we could not let miscarriages of justice stand. In the case of the murder of D’aja Robinson, the solely culpable individual is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

“I want to thank the Debevoise and Plimpton law firm and Appellate Advocates for their years of work on these cases and for their collaboration with our Conviction Integrity Unit,” District Attorney Katz added.

People v. Capers

D’Aja Robinson, a 14-year-old honor student at the Campus Magnet School, was killed May 18, 2013, when 10 .40 caliber pistol rounds were fired into a crowded city bus in a gang-related dispute. An innocent bystander, Robinson was on the bus heading home from a friend’s birthday party. Her senseless murder devastated her close-knit family and touched the community deeply. The corner of Sutphin and Rockaway Boulevards is now named for her.

Gang member Kevin McClinton was arrested for Robinson’s murder after an eyewitness, Terrence Payne, told police and prosecutors that he witnessed McClinton fire “all 10 shots” into the bus.

A year later, Capers was arrested based on a new eyewitness account, from a second gang member, Lael Jappa. In exchange for a significant sentence reduction on unrelated felony charges, Jappa testified at Capers’s trial that he saw Capers fire first into the bus and that McClinton then took the gun from Capers and continued firing.

Capers was convicted largely based on Jappa’s eyewitness account and was sentenced to a prison term of 15 years to life.

The Queens District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) reinvestigated the case, prompted by information from counsel at Debovoise and Plimpton citing, among other evidence, a recantation made by Jappa to a defense investigator. Over the course of a year, the CIU interviewed dozens of witnesses, including Jappa, who again recanted his testimony implicating Capers.

While such recantations are rightly viewed with skepticism, Jappa’s claim that he testified falsely is corroborated by recorded phone calls uncovered during CIU’s investigation. Specifically, recorded phone conversations Jappa had from jail in 2014 with his mother, whom he repeatedly told that the information he was providing to police and prosecutors about Capers was false. There is no evidence that anyone other than Jappa and his mother were aware of what was said until recordings of the calls were reviewed eight years later.

Capers, who was 15 years old at the time of the shooting, was released on Nov. 17 after being incarcerated for more than eight years on the murder charge. The indictment will be dismissed.

McClinton will continue serving a sentence of 25-years-to-life in prison for Robinson’s murder.

“My thoughts today are with D’aja Robinson’s family,” District Attorney Katz said. “This motion might not be easy for them to accept, but they can take comfort in knowing that the solely culpable individual, Kevin McClinton, will be spending a very long time in jail, perhaps the rest of his life.”

People v. Williams

Williams was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison in connection with a February 2013 robbery at a Queens Village storage facility. A week before the robbery, Williams, accompanied by a friend, had rented a storage unit at the facility.

The following week, four men entered the storage facility and robbed one of the employees—leaving him bound with tape in an empty unit. A second employee of the storage facility identified Williams as one of the four men involved, recalling him from the week before.

After his arrest, Williams urged his attorneys to obtain surveillance footage from the storage facility, as well as cell phone location records, which he said would prove that he was home in Brooklyn on the phone with his superintendent on the afternoon of the robbery. Williams’s attorneys obtained call logs for Williams’s phone that showed a call that coincided with the time of the robbery, but they did not get cell site location records.

At Williams’s trial, no alibi evidence was presented and he was convicted based primarily on the testimony of a single eyewitness. Williams’s appellate attorneys continued to investigate the case and were able to obtain cell site location records showing that during a 35-minute phone call that coincided with the commission of the robbery, Williams’s cell phone was connected to a cell tower in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, one-half mile from his apartment and 10 miles from the scene of the crime. Additionally, Williams’s superintendent confirmed that the call was from him.

The CIU thoroughly and expeditiously reinvestigated the case, interviewing numerous witnesses and confirming the cell site location data. The CIU’s findings led to the District Attorney’s decision to consent to vacatur of Williams’s convictions.

Including the two motions filed on Nov. 17, the Conviction Integrity Unit has now vacated 13 convictions since it was formed by DA Katz after she took office in 2020.

STAVISKY HATE CRIMES BILL ENACTED: On Nov. 22, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.6570/A.1202), sponsored by NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, requiring individuals convicted of hate crimes to, in addition to other penalties, undergo mandatory training or counseling in hate crime prevention and education. This legislation aims to target the basis of hate crimes amid a state and nationwide surge in hate related attacks.

“We are living in an era of disinformation. Lies and divisive rhetoric are fomenting hatred and that hatred is leading to unprovoked acts of violence,” said Senator Stavisky (D-11th District). “Xenophobia has historically been used as a tool to drive disunity. These attacks are rooted in ignorance and resentment. We must do more than simply punish these attackers. Whether it be neo-nazis in the subway or hateful extremists in Colorado, it is time to replace hate with education. This legislation will help educate perpetrators in an attempt to help break this troubling cycle. I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing this legislation and demonstrating that hate has no place in New York.”

Governor Hochul said, “Our hearts are broken after a weekend during which LGBTQ Americans were massacred and Jewish New Yorkers were targeted in horrific acts of hateful violence. New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists. Domestic-based violent extremism is the greatest threat to our homeland security, and that is why we continue to remain laser-focused on combating hate and keeping New Yorkers safe.”

Assemblymember Seawright said, “Hate has no place in New York State. In response to the disturbing rise in hateful acts of violence, including attacks on my district office, I introduced Assembly Bill 1202 to mandate ‘anti-hate’ training, education and counseling for every person convicted of a hate crime. I thank and commend Governor Kathy Hochul for supporting and signing this important legislation as we are witnessing a distressing rise in threats to Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities and people of color in New York and across the country. We are deeply mourning the victims of yet another violent shooting against LGBTQ+ individuals in Colorado Springs this past weekend. Education is a key antidote to hate and intolerance, and our legislation is aimed at keeping our communities safe. I am proud to stand united with Governor Hochul against the surge in hate crimes in our State of New York,”

Under this new legislation these programs, training sessions, or counseling sessions must be authorized by the court or local agencies in cooperation with organizations serving the affected community. This bill will take effect thirty days after the Nov. 22 signing.

PUERTO RICO HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS EFFORTS: Governor Kathy Hochul announced New York State is taking additional measures to assist the island of Puerto Rico with further enhancing hurricane preparedness efforts ahead of next year’s hurricane season. During the aftermath of Fiona, many areas on the island lost power and the ability to access safe drinking water. This new commitment by Governor Hochul will ensure emergency generators for the island’s water infrastructure and local emergency response are maintained ahead of hurricane season, strengthening preparedness and reducing the chances that access to safe drinking water is effected during future storms. For the first time next spring, the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany will provide advanced, intensive training and assessment programs for Puerto Rican emergency management officials at all levels of government to further bolster their preparedness and reinforce the progress they have made in recent years in emergency response.

“New York and Puerto Rico share a special bond, and our state will always be ready to support our brothers and sisters in any way we can,” Governor Hochul said. “My administration is proud to stand with Puerto Rico, and this training will better protect people, property and critical infrastructure from future extreme weather and help the island build resiliency for years to come.”

These measures build on the state’s support provided to the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico following the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Hurricane Fiona in 2022. In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona this September and at the request of Governor Pedro Pierluisi, Governor Hochul deployed senior members of her administration, New York State Troopers and a multi-agency Emergency Operations Center support team to Puerto Rico to assist with relief efforts.

Beginning in early 2023, State Agency personnel from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Department of Transportation experienced in engineering and technical assistance will travel to Puerto Rico to provide annual maintenance on emergency generators that support island’s water and emergency response infrastructure.

Prior to next year’s Atlantic hurricane season, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will host Puerto Rican emergency management officials at all levels of Government at the State Preparedness Training Center for an advanced preparedness exchange each spring. The curriculum will be developed by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, in collaboration with Puerto Rican counterparts, and may include training exercises such as swift water and flood rescue, urban search and rescue, UAS technical operation and assessment, as well as emergency management and disaster response, based on the profile and skill needs of trainees from Puerto Rico.

Since Hurricane Maria, New York has helped Puerto Rico secure billions of dollars in federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recover and rebuild the island’s energy infrastructure, in addition to the New York Power Authority performing technical assessments of powerplants and substations on the island. In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, the worst storm to hit the island since Hurricane Maria, Governor Hochul announced New York State actions to assist Puerto Rico in relief efforts. These efforts have further strengthened New York’s long-standing commitment to help Puerto Rico in its reconstruction and recovery.

HOCHUL: REDUCE RISK OF RESPIRATORY ILLNESSES: Governor Kathy Hochul urges New Yorkers to take precautions this holiday season to protect young children, older individuals and those with underlying health conditions from respiratory viruses like RSV, influenza and COVID-19 as infections continue to rise nationwide. With statewide travel and indoor gatherings prevalent around the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Hochul asked New Yorkers to take common prevention measures – like staying up to date on vaccines and practicing proper hygiene – to protect from these viruses and reduce the patient burden on local hospitals.

“As many New Yorkers look forward to gathering with friends and family during the Thanksgiving holiday, we should also embrace the commonsense measures we know to be effective at reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses,” Governor Hochul said. “Be sure to stay up to date on vaccines – including flu shots and COVID-19 boosters. And if you do fall ill or develop symptoms, stay home and first seek treatment from your primary care provider.”

RSV, influenza and COVID-19 can be especially dangerous for very young children, New Yorkers 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions. As a result of this threat, the state Department of Health issued a Health Advisory Notice this fall to alert hospitals, local health departments, laboratories, emergency rooms, and other health care providers to remain vigilant against rising respiratory illnesses.

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “ This holiday season, we can protect our children and elderly, keep our family out of the hospitals and reduce the pressure on our local healthcare system by taking many of the same protective measures that became commonplace from the outset of the pandemic more than two years ago, including masking in public indoor spaces. While the simplest thing to do is regularly wash your hands and practice good respiratory hygiene, like covering your cough, one of the key things we learned in our battle against COVID-19 is that wearing a well-fitting mask can also dramatically reduce the spread of other respiratory viruses, including flu and RSV.”

The Department of Health’s statewide surveillance of influenza found activity levels were geographically widespread for six consecutive weeks. The number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases reported to the agency has nearly tripled over the past three weeks, while hospitalizations have more than doubled.

The agency’s weekly flu tracker displays the number of cases and hospitalizations cases across the state. This site is updated throughout flu season, which is typically October through May of the following calendar year.

Nationally, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 1.6 million and 3.7 million people were sick with the flu in October; with between 760,000 and 1.8 million seeking a healthcare provider; and between 13,000 and 28,000 being hospitalized. Between 730 and 2,100 people died from the flu or flu-related causes last month, the federal agency estimates.

Simultaneously, RSV cases continue to emerge with more frequency than in recent years and can strain pediatric hospital capacity. A common respiratory virus, RSV can be especially harmful to older adults and very young children – particularly those under one year of age or born preterm.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to pose a significant threat, particularly for unvaccinated or under-vaccinated New Yorkers. COVID-19 is one of the leading causes of death in the United States; all New Yorkers 6 months of age and older should stay up to date with their shots, particularly those who are older or immuno-compromised, as well as everyone 5 years and older who are eligible for the updated, bivalent booster dose.

This fall, New York State prepared for a potential increase in COVID-19 infections, which spiked during the fall and winter months for two consecutive years. Case levels remain at moderate levels as of now – between about 5 and 25 per 100,000 people in every region -and hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have been similarly steady and are now between approximately 0.6 and 2.3 per 100,000 in every region.

On November 16, 2,686 New Yorkers who tested positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized. The Department of Health also continues to conduct wastewater surveillance to check transmission levels in communities, enabling the agency to detect prospective surges statewide.

New Yorkers who test positive for COVID-19, but don’t have a health care provider, can call a new hotline or submit an online form to be evaluated for treatment. All New Yorkers are eligible regardless of income or health insurance coverage. Outside of New York City: Call 888-TREAT-NY (888-873-2869) or complete an evaluation at the NYS COVID-19 ExpressCare Therapeutics Access website: nys.expresscare.video/landing. New York City residents should call 212-COVID-19.

To protect against respiratory viruses, the Department of Health recommends commonsense precautions, including:

Staying up to date on vaccines, including Flu and COVID-19.

Washing your hands often with soap and hot water for least 20 seconds.

Not coughing or sneezing into your hands.

Regularly washing hands and using good hygiene.

Staying home when sick or symptomatic.

Wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask when in public indoor spaces.

Individuals who have someone in their home who is higher risk, including those under 1 year of age, over 65 years of age, or with a compromised immune system, should be especially vigilant with mask wearing when outside the home or when others come into your home, with scientific evidence supporting this simple, precautionary measure.

CONDITIONAL CANNABIS DISPENSARY LICENSES ISSUED: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. stated the following in response to the New York State Cannabis Control Board issuing 36 Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary licenses, with six conditional licenses going to six Queens organizations and individuals: “Societal shifts don’t come quickly or easily, but this week’s milestone approval of six conditional cannabis dispensary licenses for Queens organizations is nothing short of transformational. What was once a tool used to target communities of color is now a crucial, and legal, piece of our economic puzzle that will create jobs, create wealth and create opportunity in those same communities,” said Borough President Richards.

“Congratulations to all six Queens licensees for making history. My office, along with members of our Cannabis Task Force, looks forward to working with each entity to ensure this emerging sector of our borough’s economy is one rooted in equity and empowerment,” Richards concluded.

GAS RESTORED TO BLAND HOUSES: Residents in one building at Bland Houses, who have been without gas since it was shut off on May 2 due to a leak in the main line, were able to cook a Thanksgiving meal in their own homes. Con Edison restored service to 82 units at 133-20 Roosevelt Avenue on Wednesday, Nov. 23, one day before the holiday.

“It was unacceptable that these rent-paying NYCHA tenants were without gas for so long, but I am thankful that NYCHA and Con Edison were able to restore service in time for the holiday,” said Council Member Sandra Ung, who delivered 36 turkeys to the Bland Houses Tenants Association last week. “Not only was it an inconvenience, the elderly and other residents had dietary needs that were being unmet, adversely affecting their health. After being forced to either use hot plates or eat out for nearly six months, families will finally be able to enjoy a true home-cooked meal for Thanksgiving.”

On October 4, Council Member Ung organized a press conference with her fellow elected officials to call on the New York City Housing Authority to expedite the necessary repairs. The next day, staff from the Council Member’s office met with the Bland Houses superintendent and tenants to discuss a timeline for the work to be completed.

“This is very welcome news and while it’s a great Thanksgiving gift, it should not have taken this long for the gas to be restored,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “It is outrageous and unacceptable that tenants were forced to live without essential gas service since May. These hard-working, rent-paying residents deserve better, and NYCHA must be quicker and more efficient in making these types of urgent repairs. But I’m glad that those who were impacted will have now gas for the holidays, and the cold winter months ahead.”

‘PROHIBIT RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS IN CRYPTOCURRENCIES’ New York Attorney General Letitia James urged congressional leaders to adopt legislation that would prohibit investing retirement funds in digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies, digital coins, and digital tokens. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution retirement plans, like 401(k) plans and 457 plans for government employees, are key retirement investments for millions of hardworking Americans. Recently, a major financial institution has offered Bitcoin as an investment option in its 401(k) plans, and other financial institutions are expected to follow suit. With recent crypto market crashes and other market turbulence, Attorney General James stressed the need to protect workers’ retirement funds and avoid the dangers of risky cryptocurrencies.

“Investing Americans’ hard-earned retirement funds in crashing cryptocurrencies could wipe away a lifetime’s worth of hard work,” said Attorney General James. “Over and over again, we have seen the dangers and pitfalls of cryptocurrencies and the wild swings in these funds. Hardworking Americans should not have to worry about their retirement savings being wiped out due to risky bets on unstable assets like cryptocurrencies. I urge Congress to take action to protect working families from having their retirement accounts dry up because of crypto investments.”

Two congressional bills have been proposed to allow crypto investments in retirement plans and prevent regulators from restricting access to these investments in such plans. The Retirement Savings Modernization Act would put 401(k) retirement savings at risk by exposing them to the volatility and illegality of cryptocurrencies. In her letter, Attorney General James explains that recent high-profile failures of crypto companies make digital assets unsuitable retirement investments. Just this month, the value of many cryptocurrencies fell precipitously after one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, FTX Trading Ltd., collapsed. In May 2022, many cryptocurrencies reached significant lows following the crash of a so-called stable coin, TerraUSD. The failure of TerraUSD spread and resulted in $500 billion in losses into the broader crypto market.

Aside from such failures, Attorney General James cautioned that cryptocurrency prices swing wildly because they are purely speculative rather than an investment in future cash flow. Bitcoin, for example, the first and most popular of cryptocurrencies, peaked at $68,789.63 on November 12, 2021, and traded as low as $15,599.05 just yesterday. Yet no underlying fundamentals explain why it traded at over $64,000 one year and under $20,000 the next. Many once well-established cryptocurrency businesses have frozen customer withdrawals, announced mass layoffs, or filed for bankruptcy, while investors have been left in financial ruin.

In addition, Attorney General James warned that cryptocurrencies are often an instrument for fraud and crime. For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that since the start of 2021, more than 46,000 people have reported losing over $1 billion total in crypto to scams. The FTC further noted that there is no institution to flag suspicious transactions and attempt to stop fraud before it happens and that crypto transfers cannot be reversed. Most issuers of cryptocurrencies are not examined by any regulator, state or federal. Safeguards like those provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) are unavailable to protect investors from the failures of digital asset companies.

Congress historically has enacted laws to help American workers save for retirement. In her letter, Attorney General James described legislation that Congress could adopt to protect workers’ retirement savings from crypto losses, including making minor amendments to existing statutory restrictions on how retirement savings may be invested.

Her letter is the latest action that Attorney General James has taken to protect the investing public from the risks posed by digital assets. In March 2021 and June 2022, Attorney General James issued alerts warning investors about the risks of investing in cryptocurrencies. Attorney General James has also brought investigations into, and civil actions against, several crypto companies to put an end to their fraudulent or illegal practices, including Coinseed, Inc., Bitfinex and Tether, GTV Media Group Inc., BlockFi, and Nexo Capital Inc.

PROOF-OF-WORK CRYPTOCURRENCY MINING MORATORIUM: NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following statement upon the enactment by Governor Kathy Hochul of the Proof-Of-Work Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium: “After an environmentally damaging delay, I’m glad that Governor Hochul signed into law a two year moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining. This type of mining is known to cause significant damage to the environment and local economy, which is why many countries have completely banned the practice, and this moratorium is a welcome step.

“As I’ve long argued – and heard from communities across the state – it is essential to pause proof-of-work mining now rather than dealing with the fallout later – particularly when there are other, much less damaging ways of using this new technology. Enacting this moratorium is the kind of meaningful, unifying work that New Yorkers need. This legislation will allow our state to create the kind of infrastructure we need to protect New Yorkers and our environment from harmful economic and environmental impact, and I applaud the advocates and legislators who pushed for this progress for months and years.”

QUEENS CIVIC CONGRESS TO HONOR VETS: The Queens Civic Congress Legislative Reception honoring all who have served our country in the American Armed Forces is being held on Sunday, December 4, 1:00 PM To 4:00 PM at the Douglaston Club (600 West Drive, Douglaston Manor, NY).

“QCC urges everyone to make reservations for the Legislative Reception. Uniformed military members, including a Color Guard, will join us as we honor WWII Veteran Sey Schwartz. Don’t miss this special occasion.”

Attendees can purchase tickets through Eventbrite:


You can also make a reservation by providing names and sending your check for $50 per person, payable to the Queens Civic Congress Foundation, to James Trent, 242-33 90th Ave, Bellerose, NY 11426.

QCC said don’t hesitate to contact Warren Schreiber at 917-494-2247 or by email: at queenscivic@gmail.com for additional information.

“QCC looks forward to seeing you at the Douglaston Club on December 4th.”

NEW POLL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR BANNING SOLITARY: Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following statement in response to new polling that shows broad nationwide support for policies to restrict and end the use of solitary confinement. His bill with Committee on Criminal Justice Chair Carlina Rivera to create an enforceable ban on solitary in New York City has supermajority support in the City Council “in spite of continued efforts to advance misconceptions and misinformation about the legislation,” noted Williams.


“This new polling shows that there is nationwide bipartisan support for ending solitary confinement, a torture that is currently permitted and practiced within our city. Furthermore, this support falls in line with the framework our bill codifies – prohibiting the harm of isolation, while allowing for separation to ensure safety, de-escalation, and investigation of misconduct.

“Americans are united against continuing torture. Yet here in New York City, purported to be a progressive beacon, some still deny not just the need for an enforceable ban, but the existence of solitary confinement in our jails at all. If the city wants to ‘own’ the problems on Rikers, it has to admit that this problem still exists. Continuing to repeat falsehoods about solitary, and the bill to ban it, is harmful to people on both sides of the bars.

“Our bill has supermajority City Council support, and it’s time to pass it. As elected leaders, we need to stand up for our values and stand behind the facts and data, not the hysteria and misinformation. Rikers is in crisis, and changing that status quo will require coming together to address the reality of the harm, not ignoring it.”

You can read the full poll and methodology from Data For Progress at www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2022/11/16/

CITY HOSPITALS GET NATIONAL RECOGNITION: NYC Health + Hospitals announced all 11 of its hospitals and 7 of its Gotham Health sites were recognized by the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association for their work in managing hypertension, or high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have some form of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke or heart failure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but with timely diagnosis, research-based treatment and education, this condition can be managed.

“1 in 4 New Yorkers has high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart attack and stroke,” said Machelle Allen, MD, Chief Medical Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Patients are often surprised to learn they have high blood pressure because they don’t feel sick. That’s why it’s so important that our hospitals and primary care sites are committed to helping patients manage their high blood pressure. I thank the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association for bringing attention to this critical issue.”

“This recognition from the AHA and AMA is a testament to the hard work that our staff do each day to support patients with hypertension,” said Nichola Davis, MD, MS, Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Blood pressure control is critical in reducing risk of cardiovascular events, and our staff work with patients in many ways including teaching them about their medications, as well as assisting them in making lifestyle changes to improve their blood pressure. I am extremely proud that as a health system, we recognize the importance of treating blood pressure and are able to provide patients with the tools they need to achieve and sustain blood pressure control.”

Target BP awards from the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association this year in Queens: Target BP Gold was won by NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and Target BP Silver was won by NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens.

“Addressing blood pressure management is key for better cardiovascular health – and critical today, when heart disease and stroke continue to be leading causes of death for Americans,” said Howard Haft, M.D., MMM, CPE, FACPE, volunteer science expert for the American Heart Association and executive director of the Maryland Primary Care Program, in Baltimore. “The American Heart Association is pleased to recognize NYC Health + Hospitals for its commitment to managing patient risk factors related to high blood pressure.”

The American Heart Association and American Medical Association confer Target BP Gold+ status to practices that meet the Gold status criteria and complete 4 of 6 evidence-based BP activities; Gold status to practices that have 70 percent or more of their adult patient population with high blood pressure controlled; Silver status to practices that submit data and complete 4 of 6 evidence-based BP activities; and Participant status to practices that submit data for the first-time and commit to reducing the number of adult patients with uncontrolled blood pressure.

TWO SEX TRAFFICKERS OF MINORS PLEAD GUILTY: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Lawrence Winslow and Alan Velvett each pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a child and rape for forcing three underage victims into the sex industry in February 2021. One of the victims was also coerced into having intercourse with both defendants.

District Attorney Katz said: “I created the Human Trafficking Bureau to remove the most unscrupulous and callous predators from our communities and we will continue to be relentless in this mission. In pleading guilty, these defendants admitted responsibility and now face serious prison time.”

Winslow, 28, of East High Street in Coaldale, Penn., and Velvett, 29, of Roscoe Street in Jamaica, each pleaded guilty before Queens Supreme Court Judge Peter Vallone, Jr. to three counts of sex trafficking of a child and one count of rape in the first degree. Justice Vallone indicated that he will sentence both defendants on January 12 to 10 years in prison, to be followed by 10 years post release supervision. Winslow and Velvett will also be required to register as sex offenders upon release.

According to the charges, in February 2021, the defendants met two teenage victims, aged 13 and 14, at La Quinta Inn on Queens Boulevard. The defendants took nude photos of the youngsters and posted the images online, stating that the girls were “for sale.” One of the teenagers had sex with a stranger and the defendants kept every dollar from the exchange.

DA Katz said that same week, Winslow and Velvett met a 15-year-old victim at the La Quinta Inn where she was told she would engage in sex for cash. Winslow took semi-nude photos of the child and posted them as online advertisements. The victim was then forced to have sex with Winslow, followed by a string of strangers. Every dollar from those proceeds were pocketed both defendants.

Afterwards, the victim was relocated to the JFK Inn, where she was forced to have intercourse with Velvett, followed by another string of strangers. All the proceeds from the exchange with strangers were kept by the defendants.

The teenager was rescued when an undercover police officer responded to the online ad and met with the girl in person at one of the hotel rooms. Velvett was arrested after arriving in the room. Winslow was arrested after being found in the second hotel room across the hall.

SUPPORT SURVIVORS ENACTED: Speaker Adrienne E. Adams and Council Member Tiffany Cabán celebrated two bills to expand services to victims of domestic and gender-based violence being signed into law on Nov. 22. The “Support Survivors” legislative package, to increase services and provide resources for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, was passed during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It would require city agencies to establish a housing stability program for survivors and create an online portal and resource guide for survivors.

“The Council has been laser-focused on expanding support for crime victims, who too often are underserved despite being frequently referenced in public safety debates,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Supporting survivors of domestic and gender-based violence requires thoughtful consideration of their most urgent needs and the best ways to meet them. The Support Survivors legislative package enacts solutions that will provide critical resources to promote health, safety, and stability and make available services easier to find and navigate. I thank Council Member Caban for her advocacy and leadership, and all of our Council colleagues who supported this legislation that will help survivors access the recovery they need.”

“When I first became chair of the Committee on Women & Gender Equity, I shared that my focus this term would be on shifting resources and power away from patriarchal systems of violence and punishment and toward the compassionate, life-giving systems which we have sidelined and devalued for too long. I am very proud to be delivering on that promise with the two bills the Mayor is signing today,” said Council Member Cabán. “These two laws WILL save lives. The online portal and written resource guide, available in all major languages and in braille, will make it much more likely that survivors will know about, and take advantage of, the great life-saving programs already available in our City. And the low-barrier urgently-accessible grant program will directly address one of the most significant barriers survivors face in leaving dangerous situations: economic precarity. I look forward to working with the Mayor to fully fund and thoughtfully implement these laws and can’t wait to celebrate many survivor success stories together.”

The legislative package contains the following:

Introduction 153-A, sponsored by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, would require the Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV), in consultation with the Department of Social Services (DSS) and community-based organizations, to establish a program to provide survivors of domestic and gender-based violence with a low-barrier grant and supportive services that would help survivors with expenses related to maintaining housing. The bill would also require ENDGBV to report on the program on an annual basis.

Introduction 154-A, sponsored by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, would require ENDGBV to establish an online portal and a written resource guide of available services for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in New York City. The portal and guide would be available in the designated citywide languages. The guide would also be available in Braille. The portal would also include a clear and conspicuous link to any other relevant City-run websites and portals that provide information on survivor services located within the city, and a description of the types of such resources. The bill would also require ENDGBV to conduct outreach on the portal and guide and ensure the portal is secure and confidential to protect the privacy of survivors.

ROZIC RESUMES FLUSHING MOBILE OFFICE: Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Fresh Meadows) announced the return of mobile office hours at the SelfHelp Community Services Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center in Flushing. Rozic’s mobile office will offer assistance and provide local residents the opportunity and convenience to share their personal concerns face-to-face without leaving their neighborhood. This week, Rozic met with SelfHelp Rosenthal Senior Center’s Program Director Jane Qiu. She toured the senior center, met several community members, and kicked off constituent services at the site.

“I know that people do not always have the time to drop by my district office, especially during a pandemic” Rozic said. “That is why I am bringing my office to them. My mobile office makes it more convenient for residents to talk with my staff and me about their concerns and questions.”

The mobile office availability is every Wednesday from 10 – 11 AM.

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts                   

This column was originated by John A. Toscano


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