Mayor announces $900M for street safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crown Heights designer hosts annual Earth Day fashion show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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