Ramadan Food Drive feeds 150 families in Astoria

Facing Rising Prices, Astoria Welfare Society Distributes Staples for Holy Month


By Alicia Venter



The Astoria Welfare Society partnered with Hydro-Quebec and Queens Together to support the needs of Islam-practicing Astorians with a food drive for the start of Ramadan on Thursday.

Over 150 families were fed on the first day of Ramadan, each given staple cooking ingredients including flour, dates, beans and oil — these basic items are crucial for the month of Ramadan, explained Md. Jabed Uddin, the general secretary of the Astoria Welfare Society.

“Every week, in different places, we are serving the community,” he said. The Astoria Welfare Society is also keeping a community fridge for Ramadan, and is distributing food to mosques throughout the area to break fast.

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting in Islam, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Observed by Muslims across the world, it is a month of prayer, reflection and fasting, abstaining from food and drink between dawn to sunset. This fasting is to increase spiritual discipline and strengthen one’s relationship with Allah. 

Hydro-Quebec donated $2,000 for the food drive after Peter Rose, the Director of Stakeholder Relations in New York, was told by Uddin that the Astoria Welfare Society wouldn’t be able to host a food drive this year. Without any other financial support, Rose was more than willing to offer what the Astoria Welfare Society needed. 

“This was a basic community need that was not being met. As a good corporate citizen, this was something we should help with, so I’m really happy,” Rose said.

With the Consumer Price Index showing a drastic six percent increase in inflation for New York City, the average cost of living for residents has inherently grown with it. 

“I go to the grocery store and everything is more expensive. It wouldn’t surprise me that people are going to have a hard time getting just the basics for Ramadan. So I said yeah, we are going to sponsor this, because it’s the most important month of the entire year,” Rose shared.

Hydro-Quebec is an electricity company based in Canada that generates more than 99% of its electricity from water. In a 25-year contract with the city, Rose expressed how their long-time permanence in New York gives them an obligation to participate and support the community. Notably, they have been involved in the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, and have partnered with a local laundromat to ensure low-income children have access to clean clothes for school.

“We do all these community projects because we need to leave a legacy,” Rose said. “We need to help support the community in the needs they have.”

Soon after Hydro-Quebec threw their support behind the food drive, Queens Together, with Councilwoman Julie Won’s office, provided $1,000 for the drive.

A restaurant association and community service organization, Queens Together started in 2020 — the start of the pandemic — to help small businesses and the community. 

“Give people the staples they need to cook, and that empowers them to take care of their families,” shared Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and Executive Director of Queens Together.

Briarwood family demands justice for dog euthanized by ACC

By Alicia Venter 



On March 12, the Leon family of Briarwood frantically searched for their missing dog Leona.

As a 19-year-old animal, they knew her eyesight wasn’t great and she was frail, so they spent the morning walking the blocks around their home calling her name and scouring the internet for any signs of her.

Through Facebook, they found good news — a picture of Leona on a missing pets group page. Upon calling the Good Samaritan who made the post, they found out she had been taken to an Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) shelter at 2336 Linden Blvd in Brooklyn.

This, the Leon family described on Monday at a press conference in Briarwood, is where the good news ended. Upon calling the shelter, the family discovered their dog had been euthanized by the shelter managed by ACC, which is overseen by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Standing at the intersection where Leona was first discovered by that good samaritan, on the Southeast corner of Smedly Street and Coolidge Avenue, the Leon family and local council member James F. Gennaro (D-Kew Gardens) claimed that the ACC went outside of its own policy and euthanized Leona inhumanely. They are calling upon the DOHMH to launch a formal investigation into the practices of the ACC.

“This is a grieving family that suffered the loss of their beloved pet, Leona, at the hands of the ACC for reasoning that I truly believe was completely unwarranted and atrocious,” Gennaro said. “Nothing like this should befall this family.”

“They didn’t get us the opportunity to say goodbye,” Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother said. 

Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother, meeting Councilmember Gennaro for the first time.

According to policy found on their website, ACC shelters give potential owners 72 hours to reclaim their pet.

“We also will check for a microchip and search through various databases for any reports of lost pets that may fit the description of that animal. If no one claims during the holding period, he/she will receive a Placement Evaluation to determine next steps,” the website states.

Juan Leon described how the official time of death has not been provided for their dog, but that he expects it was just hours after she arrived at the shelter.

“Part of us is truly gone. She was the first love of my life,” Juan said, adding that he doesn’t understand how the ACC is able to operate in this way.

“We keep getting told different answers and we’re starting to notice that with every comment the ACC makes, they change the rules. They have a loophole for every action that they do,” he said.

However, the ACC shared in a statement to the Queens Ledger that the pets’ deteriorating health conditions led them to step outside this policy.

“She had no identification, no dog license and was not microchipped. Upon intake, Leona was seen spinning in circles and was wobbly when walking.  A comprehensive physical exam was done by a veterinarian indicating that she was in a very debilitated state and suffering from progressive neurologic symptoms.  She was minimally aware of her surroundings, non-reactive to stimuli, weak and unable to stand for more than a few minutes before falling.  She was emaciated with a body condition of 2/9 indicating possible chronic illness. The doctors at ACC do not take euthanasia lightly.  It is their job to direct a course that is in the best interest of the animal.  In Leona’s case, given her present state and in addition to all the other chronic, debilitating conditions she had (heart disease, blind, deaf, and severe dental issues) the doctors believed her to be suffering,” the statement read.

The emailed statement then stated that the law was on their side.

“For dogs with serious medical conditions and especially those stemming from extreme old age who are in pain and suffering, it is the duty of veterinary staff to provide peaceful end of life care. This decision is not made lightly but is always made in the best interest of the pet. In these cases, if a pet has been lost or abandoned, we scan for identification that ideally will lead us back to an owner before any end-of-life decision is made. However, if there is no information at all from a microchip or any other identification, we must make the decision on our own within the most humane timeframe. Euthanasia of stray animals is regulated by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/AGM/A26. The law specifically states that if an animal is suffering, euthansia may be performed before the stray hold period is over.”

Juan shared that their veterinarian had described how there was little that could be done regarding the age-related issues that Leona had, but the family made the decision with the veterinarian that she would live the rest of her life at home.

“Leona never stood a chance the moment she walked to ACC and that’s not fair,” he said. “That’s not fair. She should have came home to us, and she should have died on our terms. Our family should have made that decision of when to start her end-of-life story.”

Juan’s sister Ericka expressed heartbreak over what happened to her dog, adding that she “thought shelters were a safe haven.”

“They took my dog from me,” she shared, holding back tears, adding that while she plans to fight with her family for justice for Leona, “at the end of the day, I’ve already lost.”

The Leon family suggested that their dog was cremated without their permission, and when they went to retrieve their pet, they were met with a hostile environment, claiming they were reminded more than once that there were officers near the property.

They also insinuated that they plan to take legal action.

The Leon family is planning a rally on April 15 at the ACC Administrative Offices at 11 Park Place in Manhattan.

Gennaro is calling upon the New York City Council’s Legislative Integrity Unit to ensure that the city is on-track in construction of a full-service shelter in Queens and the Bronx, as mandated by Local Law 123 of 2018. The law requires that the shelters be completed by July 1, 2024, and the Queens shelter is under construction in Ridgewood. The mayor’s office did not reply by publication with details of how far along the construction is.

Through having a fully-functioning city shelter in each borough, Gennaro believes that capacity will no longer be a consideration in the decision-making by veterinarians regarding euthanasia.

“I don’t know if it’s a capacity issue, where they have to do whatever it takes to minimize capacity,” Gennaro said. 

Variety Boys & Girls Club & Magnolia Gardens Awarded $1M by NYSERDA

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a round of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) buildings awards this month, two of which were given to Queens-based projects.

$13.5 million was awarded to 14 projects throughout New York State through the third round of the more than $48 million Buildings of Excellence Competition. These awards recognize the design, construction and operation of clean, resilient and low-carbon or carbon neutral multifamily buildings.

The Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (VBGCQ), located on 21 Street and 30th Road in Astoria, has received a NYSERDA Buildings Award of Excellence and a $1 million prize for its $225 million expansion project.

Rendering of the expanded Boys & Girls Club of Queens. Groundbreaking is set for 2024, with notable features of the building including a planetarium and a pool.

The project includes more than 200 units of affordable housing and an 110,000 square foot club expansion, which includes two swimming pools, a planetarium, a 1,000 seat multi purpose sports arena, a theatre, STEM Lab, Teaching Kitchen and education space.

“A non-profit and business incubator/lab and club operated retail space on 21st street is also part of the plan,” according to Costa Constantinides, CEO of VBGCQ.

MEGA Development Corp. is the developer partner while Ettinger Engineering Associates is the lead engineering firm on the project. ICL is the housing development partner.

According to Constantinides, the list of firms partnering with the Boys & Girls Club in the development project is growing.

“The investment in our children by the corporate community is impressive. These companies are investing in our capital project as well as funding programming for the 16,000 children we will serve each year for the next half-century,” he said.

GrubHub is investing $1.25 million for the Teaching Kitchen. Hydro- Quebec is investing $1.25 million for the Renewable Energy Learning Lab. Attentive One is investing $1.5 million for the Teen Academy and Equinor Beacon Wind Technology is investing $1.75 million to build as well as help operate and support the Media Center.

“It’s an extraordinary project that will revolutionize learning in Astoria and Long Island City,” continued Walter Sanchez, president of the Board of Directors at Variety.

Representatives from Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, MEGA Contracting, Ettinger Engineering Associates and ICL receive buildings award at NYSERDA event on March 21 in at the American Institute of Architects Building in Manhattan. A $1 million Grant was awarded to the development for meeting the highest standards of developing to carbon neutral standards.

NYSERDA pointed out that the awardees not only offer affordable housing but also are all-electric and carbon neutral at their core — with no use of fossil fuel combustion in daily use — making them highly efficient.

“We are also including solar energy with the caveat of having a hands-on educational component for the children we serve, to be able to learn about how our geo-thermal energy source works,” said Sanchez. Groundbreaking is planned for spring of 2024.

An award with a $1 million Grant was given to Flushing-based Magnolia Gardens. A first-of-its-kind for New York City, Magnolia Gardens plans to offer 90 modern apartments of transitional housing and offer Asian language services for families in the development, which is intended for families with at least one child under the age of 21.

Families will stay there for a year before moving to permanent affordable housing. Magnolia Gardens is at 133-04 39th Avenue in Flushing and is developed by Asian Americans for Equality and Urban Resource Institute. Groundbreaking was set for the fall of 2022, but has been postponed for environmental remediation and other requirements. The public will be notified of the groundbreaking when a date has been confirmed.

NYSERDA pointed out that the competition supports the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050 and ensure at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed toward disadvantaged communities.

Rendering by Urban Architectural Initiatives

The awards event took place at the AIA Building in downtown Manhattan on Tuesday, March 21. “We congratulate today’s winners” said NYSERDA CEO Doreen M. Harris at the event, “and are particularly proud of their commitment to advancing low-carbon building design that sets a new standard for climate-friendly construction and operation. These awardees join a group of thought- leaders that are paving the way to tackle one of the highest greenhouse gas emitting sectors in the state by demonstrating that building with a low carbon footprint is profitable and in-demand.”

Funding for this program is through the State Clean Energy Fund and is part of NYSERDA’s more than $165 million investment in new construction and gut rehab projects in the multi-family building sector.

Community is Therapy at Venture House

Members Sarah, Dave, Richard and Janet outside of the clubhouse.

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com

Venture House stands unassuming on Hillside Ave in Jamaica, Queens with its yellow brick exterior and arched windows. 

To a passerby, there’s not enough to guess that a vibrant community, known as a clubhouse, dedicated to helping people with serious mental illness (SMI) find their place in society exists on the other side of the lofty teal door. 

Unlike other mental health service providers structured around a hierarchical model that puts psychiatrists at the top and patients all the way on the bottom, Venture House aims to give its members autonomy without skimping on support and resources. Members are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the clubhouse, while also countering the isolation that can come with their diagnosis through friendship.

“We are not in the business of turning people away,” said David Plotka, the Program Director at the Queens location. Anyone over the age of eighteen diagnosed with a SMI — bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and severe depression — living in the five boroughs is welcome to become a member for life. 

Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a mental health agenda that plans to invest $20 million in the expansion of mental health services such as overdose prevention and serious mental illness support. One key proponent of his plan is to expand clubhouse capacity across five boroughs. Currently there are 14 locations across the city and four in Queens. Venture House also has a second location in Staten Island.

The clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation first sprouted in 1943 by a group of New Yorkers who were discharged from a psychiatric facility but wanted to sustain the mutual support they found in each other. In 1948, the first clubhouse, Fountain House, was opened in Manhattan and is still supporting members today. There are 320 clubhouses around the world in 30 countries that are accredited by Clubhouse International. 

One study found that eighty percent of people with mental illness are unemployed, despite around sixty percent wanting to work, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Employment rates also decrease with an increase in the severity of the mental illness. 

Since day one, Venture House’s employment strategy has focused on transitional employment — a part-time temporary work placement that lasts approximately six to nine months. For those with a checkered employment history or blank resume due to their psychiatric history, completing a temporary placement evokes a sense of accomplishment, without the pressure of holding it down forever. 

“It’s a little bit of a reframe, if you will. It’s not that you left a job, or maybe you couldn’t sustain the job after a year or nine months, it’s more like, congratulations, you finished the placement and that’s reason to celebrate,” said Plotka. “We want people to feel a sense of success and then maybe they’re looking for more permanent employment.”

Members attended a work readiness group where they discussed how to deal with issues that arise in the workplace.

Members are currently employed at UBS Arena, Citi Field, West End Tennis Club at Forest Hills, and Turn the Page bookstore in Bayside, among others. Earlier this month, Venture House also partnered with RDS, a courier service based in Long Island City, for more transitional employment positions for their members. 

“I had extensive work history and education. However, when you have a gap of ten years, it’s intimidating, and it’s embarrassing, there’s a lot of shame,” said Janet Perisa. “And Venture has helped me to not be ashamed.”

Natellie Philip, a St. Albans resident, and clubhouse member since 2015 completed a six month placement at Turn the Page bookstore in Bayside. Through a scholarship she learned about at the clubhouse, she also became certified as a Clinical Medical Assistant following a 6-month course at York College. 

But before members pursue employment in the real world, they are encouraged to participate in the clubhouse’s work-ordered day, which runs parallel to typical nine to five working hours. Members can choose to prepare lunch in the kitchen or answer phones at the front desk. Some give visitors tours of the facility and process intake data while others ensure its cleanliness. 

A healthy daily lunch is available for just a dollar. And at the member run coffee shop on the first floor, a cup of coffee goes for an affordable 35 cents. 

Staff at Venture House describe the clubhouse as “purposely understaffed” as part of the clubhouse model. While daily attendance averages at 80 members, there are only 18 paid staff members, many of whom are visually indistinguishable from members. This is part of the effort to make carrying out clubhouse responsibilities impossible without member involvement. 

“You’re hearing voices. That’s okay. We don’t care. You can slice a tomato. We’re making a salad,” said Juliet Douglas, Venture House CEO for the past six years.

Douglas, who has thirty years of experience in almost every corner of the mental health field, says that the freedom and lack of structure at Venture House can be startling for some newcomers. If individuals have a history of being institutionalized at psychiatric facilities, where restrictive structures are in place, it can be startling to be asked, “What do you want to do?” 

The International Standards for Clubhouse Programs states that “There are no agreements, contracts, schedules, or rules intended to enforce participation of members.”

“People can come just to socialize, because socialization in itself is a goal. So no one is forced to do anything, but we try to help them to understand that we need them to participate,” said Douglas.

Growing up in Flushing, Janet Perisa, 44, first began displaying signs of serious mental illness at age ten. After struggling to attend school regularly like her peers and running away from home, she was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for two months at 15 years old. 

Despite her struggles, she was able to obtain her GED and start attending CUNY City Tech to study fashion marketing at 22. Perisa thrived while pursuing her passion and is proud to say she made it on the Dean’s list. She went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in creative writing at The New School, where she wrote the fashion column for her school’s paper, all while holding down several jobs.

When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Perisa says her dreams crashed alongside the stock market. Like many others who graduated into the recession, she struggled to find a job after college. This triggered her severe mental illness symptoms and she found herself in a partial hospitalization program. She describes the next decade as a hamster wheel of hospitalizations at psychiatric hospitals and stints at out-patient programs that were too rigid and induced a sense of loneliness.

Then someone told her about Venture House. 

Janet Perisa, a longterm member and new peer specialist at the Brooklyn location.

“We have freedom of choice to lead self directed lives,” said Perisa. “When you’re in the system, you’re oftentimes invalidated by the place.”

Initially she sought friendship from the clubhouse, but as she found her footing she discovered a sense of purpose in helping out other members by utilizing her strengths and experience. Eventually she was appointed to the Board of Directors in 2016, on which she served for seven years. 

This past February, Perisa was hired as a Peer Specialist at Venture House’s young adult supportive housing program in Brooklyn. She is the only member that has been hired on Venture House’s staff. 

While Venture House connects its members with psychiatrists and therapists, there are no clinical mental health treatments offered inside the clubhouse. 

“Our therapy is in creating community,” said Perisa. “We’re like this beautiful bouquet of personalities and we are all instrumental in making the clubhouse work.”

Astoria Starbucks Workers Strike, Again

Workers and supporters chanted, “If we don’t get it, shut it down!”

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com

Workers at two unionized Starbucks in Astoria joined over a hundred stores across the country to strike for fair labor practices on March 22, the same day as the company’s ‘Founder’s Day’ celebration.

The majority of workers at the store on Astoria Boulevard and the corner of 31st Street, were outside at 7 a.m., armed with posters and chanting their demands for a contract negotiation to secure better wages and working conditions. Despite the train loudly rumbling overhead and complaints of strained voices, close to 20 people marched on the corner until 1pm. 

“I’m happy to join other union stores on strike today because it’s never been more necessary than right now,” said James Carr, a Starbucks partner for four years. “Our union is small but now unstoppable, and we’re ready to start making moves.”

This location became the first Starbucks store in Queens to unionize after securing a unanimous vote on June 6, 2022 following a months-long effort in which one employee was illegally fired for unionizing. But, despite the successful unionization of 280 stores since 2019, not a single contract has been signed in food faith due to Starbucks failing to negotiate with union representatives. Workers say that while unionization has given them more bargaining power and a sense of national solidarity, they are still experiencing unfair labor practices such as illegal cuts to work hours and inconsistent scheduling. 

“There’s a huge disconnect here between what we’re seeing on the shop floor, and the kind of money that executives are making,” said Maria Flores, who has worked at this location for three years. “We’re being priced out of New York as it is. We can’t afford rent, we can’t pay bills, we can barely afford our medical coverage.”

Outgoing Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz, is being investigated for union busting that started in 2019. He is set to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 29, to avoid being subpoenaed. Shultz stepped down as CEO on March 20, two weeks earlier than previously announced amid growing scrutiny. He still remains on the Board. 

“Rather than publicizing rallies and protests, we encourage Workers United to live up to their obligations by responding to our proposed sessions and meeting us in-person to move the good faith bargaining process forward,” said a Starbucks spokesperson in an email to the Queens Ledger. 

A Dunkin cup and bag can be seen at the table the organizers of the strike set up.

Workers say that Starbucks has failed to meet them at the bargaining table in an earnest way. Earlier this month, prosecutors at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that Starbucks violated labor law by refusing to engage by refusing to bargain if some workers attended the session remotely. The objection to the hybrid model in negotiation sessions has been the main way Starbucks has delayed granting unionized stores their demands. 

Several workers said that the company is illegally cutting their work hours under the New York Fair Work Week Law in Fast Food that bans a reduction of work hours by more than 15% week to week. After the rush of the holiday season is over, employees typically know to expect a reduction in hours due to a slower rush. 

According to the law, employees are entitled to a regular schedule that has at least 85% of the work hours in their baseline regular schedule. Employers cannot request employees to consent to a reduction, but hours can be reduced if there is a just cause or good faith economic reason.

Workers allege that there is a four dollar pay differential between shift supervisors whose responsibilities include tracking inventory, opening and closing the store and handling money, compared to baristas who are responsible for taking orders and preparing food and beverages. Employees say that at this location, shift supervisors are being denied both covering barista shifts and shift supervisor shifts due to the pay differential. 

“We make every effort and have invested significant resources to ensure partner scheduling practices are in alignment with New York City’s Fair Workweek Law,” said the Starbucks spokesperson by email.

Employees on strike say that the inconsistency in scheduling is affecting their financial security and ability to afford essentials amid inflation and a rising cost of living in New York City. 

“We’re being nickeled and dimed here at the store level,” said Flores.

On Wednesday, workers filed an additional ten complaints against Starbucks to the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), after filing 28 complaints last month. DCWP confirmed that there is an open investigation into complaints around the NYC Fair Workweek Law. 

Last July, Austin Locke was fired from the Astoria Blvd. location for engaging in unionization efforts following a successful vote. He was reinstated with $21,000 in back pay and penalties after DCWP found that his termination was in violation of the “just cause” protections of the Fair Workweek Law.

On a wider scale, the NLRB has issued 80 complaints against Starbucks, including illegally firing more than a dozen workers in retaliation for unionizing across the country. There have been over 500 unfair labor practice charges lodged against this company. 

During the time of the strike, the store appeared empty and was not accepting mobile orders as usual. Two employees, and the general manager, did not participate in the strike and were able to keep the store open despite low traffic due to community support of the strike. 

A table outside the store held up signs that read “We Demand a Seat at the Table Now!” and “Starbucks: Respect your Workers’ Right to Organize.” Next to a megaphone, sat a Dunkin’ cup. 


St. Josephs University New York Receives $230k Grant

Funding to Provide Summer Programming to 70 Students over 3 years

By Matthew Fischetti


St. Joseph’s University New York announced on March 24 that they received a $230,000 grant to provide summer courses for high school students from Brooklyn.

The grant awarded by the Teagle Foundation will be a collaboration between SJNY and Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York, a group that helps disadvantaged students become community-minded leaders. The program will serve a total of 70 students over a three-year period starting this summer, according to SJNY.

“The Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York scholars come from historically underserved communities  with little access to higher education preparation,” Lysandra Hutchinson, director of college  access and collegian support for BHGHNY said in a statement. “Through extensive programming and assistance, our  scholars will be able to experience firsthand what it’s like to be a college student thanks to the  opportunity to form this partnership with St. Joseph’s.”

The three-week program, “The Citizen’s Path, A Knowledge for Freedom Program,” will be available for high school seniors who are participants of BHGHNY. The program will give students the opportunity to earn college credit while learning about civic engagement, government and human rights by reading classical thinkers and writers and through trips and cultural events.

“The Teagle Foundation and BHGHNY are devoted to cultivating the study of liberal arts and  fostering democratic citizenship,” Michael Burke, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy said in a statement. “I  am honored to be part of the St. Joseph’s team that is working with the Teagle Foundation and  BHGHNY to provide local high school students with the opportunity to experience a liberal arts  education through The Citizen’s Path program.”

For more information visit sjny.edu

Pol Introduces 25c Online Delivery Tax Bill to Raise Funds for BQE

By Matthew Fischetti


State Senator Andrew Gounardes has introduced a bill that would charge 25c for online delivery sales in order to raise funds for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and other infrastructure projects.

The senator, who reps nabes including Red Hook and Sunset Park, argues that the bill would help offset the negative ramifications of trucking industries.

“Heavy-duty diesel vehicles are responsible for roughly half of on-pipe tailpipe emissions even though they represent only a fraction of total vehicle activity in the city. These tailpipe emissions create a long list of externalities for environmental justice (EJ) communities in the form of polluted air, stressed infrastructure, increased traffic congestion, and decreased quality of life,” the bill reads.

The bill also notes a 2021 Department of Transportation report which stated that shifting freight networks to water and rail would be necessary in order to limit “last-mile warehouses”, which is why Gounardes’s bill would include port, marine terminals and rail lines as areas that could receive new funds.

Over 2.3 million packages are currently delivered to New Yorkers every day, which increased from an average of 1.8 million pre-pandemic, according to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The bill also notes that five more e-commerce facilities are scheduled to come into Sunset Park and Red Hook.

Back in February of this year, Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, who also reps Sunset Park introduced legislation that would limit the zoning requirements for the “last-mile warehouses.”

The bill is currently sitting in committee. If passed, the bill would take effect on January 1 of the following year it is signed into law.

“Our streets are clogged, our highways are weakened, and our neighborhoods are polluted because of the volume of online deliveries made each day in New York City,” State Senator Andrew Gounardes said in a statement. “This bill is a common-sense solution to our city’s infrastructure problem as e-commerce retailers struggle to keep pace with our demand for overnight deliveries.”

In Our Opinion: Hochul Housing Compact Needed

Governor Hochul’s Housing Compact is a necessary policy to address the city and the state’s dire housing crisis. The plan calls for 800,000 new homes across the state over 10 years.

In New York City and throughout the state, we trail behind many other state’s and municipalities. The plan suggests a three percent growth in the housing stock for every three years in the downstate region while suggesting a one percent growth in the housing stock every three years in the upstate region.

The plan also has a focus on transit-oriented development by requiring “that localities with rail stations run by the MTA undertake a local rezoning or higher density multifamily development within half a mile of the station unless they already meet the density level.”

In a town of 10,000 homes, the town would have the option to build 100 homes to hit their target or 50 affordable regulated homes as “affordable multi-family units” are given two times the weight as regular market rate homes.

While the plan suggests many good things, it is lacking in expanding tenant protections, chiefly the Good Cause Eviction law. Strengthening tenant protections and capping rent increases to three percent annually,  will help ensure we have quality housing stock.

A combined plan to expand our housing stock and make sure that tenants are protected is the recipe needed to alleviate New York of the crisis we are in now. What good is new housing if your Landlord astronomically raises prices and forces you out of your home? In order to have more sustainable development, we need a pro-building agenda that also robustly protects tenants.

Pol Position: Santos Could Get Plea Deal: Reports

One prosecution down. Who knows how many left to go?

The country of Brazil has reportedly offered Rep. George Santos a deal in an over decade old fraud case, per CNN reports.

The embattled and factually challenged Congressman has been facing a series of investigations, since reports have found him to fabricate nearly every aspect of his life.

Santos was being accused by Brazilian prosecutors of writing bad checks back in 2008. Under the deal, Santos would admit to the $1300 fraud and pay damages to the victim. Santos’ attorney requested non-prosecution due to his “re-socialization” and now gainful employment.

Even though his “gainful employment” and “resocialization” hinges on lying through his teeth, Santos still has no sense of irony or shame.

At time of publication, Santos is currently under several other investigations: ranging from the House Ethics Committee, the State Attorney General’s Office, the Queens District Attorney Office, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York. There may be more by the time this paper comes out, due to the sheer volume of allegations and headlines circulating around the controversial congressman.

It is doubtful that every other office looking into the Queens-based Congressman will offer similar sweet-heart deals as these investigations stem from more recent alleged wrongdoings

Hopefully, one of these prosecutor groups will finally nab the liar so we don’t have to waste more ink talking about this fabulist and can dedicate inches to more substantive New York issues.

On The Record: Kimberly Engels

Philosophy Professor

By Stephanie Meditz

Bed-Stuy resident Kimberly Engels pondered fundamental truths about the universe even before her first philosophy class.

Originally from Fayette, Iowa, she took an introductory philosophy course as a junior at Luther College.

“When I got to college, I was originally going to be a music major, but my intro to philosophy teacher was so great, and she was so enthusiastic that I just loved the class,” she said. “I would get so excited every day about what we were going to talk about…I remember I would call my dad sometimes and talk to him about the ideas and what was going on in the class. I found it really exciting.”

She went on to earn her master’s degree and Ph.D. in philosophy from Marquette University.

After she earned her Ph.D. in 2017, Engels was hired at Molloy University, where she is now an associate professor.

She teaches courses in biomedical ethics, existentialism and contemporary, Native American, Latin American and Africana philosophy.

Engels is also the editor of “The Good Place and Philosophy,” “Westworld and Philosophy” and “The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy.”

Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her 15-year-old son, and she is involved with The Sanctuary Shamanic Healing Center in Callicoon, NY.

“Shamanic healing work is any type of healing work that makes use of non-ordinary states of consciousness, and also through connections with the natural world,” she said.

She especially enjoys acquainting herself with the plants and animals in local parks.

“When you’re able to fully love yourself, you can fully love others and you can interact with others and also with the earth in a much more loving, humane, compassionate, altruistic way,” Engels said. “ I think it starts with a healthy sense of self love that can be really hard to cultivate in our society.

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