Miami corrections officer charged in teen's death used bribery system, indictment says

Dangling rewards and special privileges before young inmates, an officer at Miami's juvenile lockup masterminded an attack on another inmate who was beaten so severely that he died, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

As part of a coded bounty system known in prison vernacular as "honey-bunning" — for the sweet rolls sometimes offered as rewards — detention officer Antwan Lenard Johnson ordered the attack on 17-year-old Elord Revolte at the Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Center in August 2015, the indictment says. The document refers to the victim as "E.R." because he was a minor at the time of his death.

At a news conference, federal prosecutors in Miami announced charges Monday afternoon against Johnson for civil rights violations that resulted in Revolte's death.

"This cannot and will not stand," said Benjamin Greenberg, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "The United States Constitution protects every person in the country, including those who are detained in juvenile detention facilities. When an officer abuses his or her badge and violates the civil rights of another person, this office and the FBI will hold that officer accountable."

Greenberg acknowledged that the practice of honey-bunning is commonly used at juvenile detention centers in Florida. However, he declined to comment on the specifics of any other investigations.

Elord Revolte was beaten to death by inmates at a Miami juvenile detention center on Aug. 30, 2015.Courtesy Miami Herald

Johnson "operated a bounty system in order to help ensure obedience and officer respect," the indictment alleges. He also encouraged juvenile detainees, in exchange for rewards and privileges such as extra recreational time or snacks, to assault Revolte, it says.

Last fall, the Miami Herald series "Fight Club" examined a statewide system in Florida in which officers use honey buns, candy bars and other food from employee vending machines to entice their young wards to use violence on another inmate as a form of punishment.

The Department of Juvenile Justice has previously denied that it was aware of such a system, according to The Herald. In a statement Monday, Secretary Christina Daly, the head of the department, said it was moving to fire Johnson.

"It is our expectation that any staff who jeopardize the safety of youth be held fully accountable for their actions, including criminal prosecution," she said. "The behavior detailed in the indictment is appalling and inexcusable."

Daly added that the department would work with the relevant agencies involved, and that it also cooperated with the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office during their investigations, although those resulted in no criminal charges.

According to federal prosecutors, Johnson used coded language, such as "off my face," and nonverbal gestures, including nods, to signal other juvenile offenders to attack Revolte.

The inmates took part so that they wouldn't be targeted themselves, prosecutors said.

Johnson wanted Revolte punished because the teenager had been acting out and had questioned Johnson's authority, prosecutors said at the news conference.

On Aug. 30, about 15 to 20 detainees punched and kicked Revolte in a part of the center known as Module 9, reported NBC Miami. While he was assessed by medical personnel following the brutality, he wasn't taken to a hospital until another checkup almost a day later, according to a review. He died at the hospital.

The juveniles who took part were briefly locked in their cells. After help arrived, and mere minutes after the assault occurred, prosecutors say, Johnson and another guard acting under his direction unlocked all of the cells so that the juveniles could return to the common area, where they would receive their prize: watching TV.

"While unlocking the cells, Johnson acknowledged and fist-bumped the juvenile who had initiated the attack," said Greenberg.

An inspector general's report following Revolte's death — the second last year involving a juvenile held in state custody — found that a system of employee failures led to the melee and that officers were not forthcoming about how many people were involved.

The report also noted discrepancies between Johnson's testimony about what he witnessed when the fight broke out and the written reports he had filed.

Video surveillance viewed as part of the report, however, said Johnson and another detention officer appeared to respond appropriately and attempted to defuse the situation.

Following the attack, the Department of Juvenile Justice said, five employees either quit or were fired and seven other workers were reprimanded.

Three days before the attack, Revolte was arrested in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami on an armed robbery charge, according to The Herald. He had run away from a Miami Beach foster home.

Prosecutors had been deciding whether to charge him as an adult at the time of his death.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told NBC News last fall that the allegations of detention officers exploiting juveniles to fight were "unacceptable."

"The goal is constantly to hold people accountable, and also constantly try to figure out how can you improve so there's less of a chance of this happening," he said.

This article is co-authored by Erik Ortiz and originally appeared on NBCNews.com

Snapchat's focus on the future is becoming a present-day struggle

Amid a backlash from longtime Snapchat users over a recent app redesign and mounting doubt from analysts over the company’s future, Snap did what just about any company would do: It released a series of augmented reality games that people play by contorting their faces and bobbing their heads around.

The new games, called Snappables, debuted about a week before the company’s first-quarter earnings report for 2018 and were very much in line with the company’s recent trajectory — quirky, innovative and not particularly concerned with making money.

Snapchat’s seeming disregard for its short-term business prospects has been catching up with it, as revealed Tuesday in its earnings report that the company continues to struggle to bring in advertisers and add users. Snap shares plunged to an all-time low.

"Snap is a poorly structured company that is demonstrating a clear pattern of mismanagement," wrote Piper Jaffray analyst Sam Kemp in a note to clients. "We think the negative news cycle around Snap will continue and advertisers will likely continue to approach Snap skeptically."

Snap isn’t claiming that things will get better in the near term. CEO Evan Spiegel told investors on Tuesday that the company's second-quarter revenue growth would "decelerate substantially."

It’s been about 14 months since Snap went public. The app, started in 2011 by Spiegel and two other co-founders, built a rabid following of younger users thanks to its disappearing messages, helping it become the next big thing in tech. Spiegel reportedly turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, which then started copying some of Snapchat’s most popular features. Google later reportedly offered $30 billion.

Snap’s recent struggles have been fueled by a redesign to its app that has not gone over well with users. In November, the company tried to separate “the social from the media” by moving photos and videos from users' friends to the left side of the app's interface and content from publishers and influencers to the right.

It also didn’t help that Snapchat suffered from a few high-profile critiques from celebrities with large social followings, including Kylie Jenner, whose tweet about Snapchat was ballyhooed as taking a chunk out of the company’s stock price.

Snapchat has already tested some changes that would undo parts of the redesign and admitted that some users found the changes “confusing,” as a Snap spokesperson said in an email.

“We are always listening to our community and will continue to test updates that we hope will give Snapchatters the best possible experience on our platform," the spokesperson said in the email.

Snap has always marched to its own tune, thanks particularly to Spiegel, who is reported to retain tight control of the company. When Snap filed paperwork to go public, it called itself a “camera company.” Some found that idea to be forward thinking, while others derided it as a gimmick.

Among Snapchat’s most ambitious efforts has been Spectacles, sunglasses that feature a video camera that connects to Snapchat. The company recently announced that it will soon release a second version, even though the first version made a big initial splash but struggled to find mainstream appeal.

Philip Napoli, a public policy professor at Duke University who studies media regulation and audience measurement, said he believes that Snap is facing backlash because it has dared to break the established mold of social media platforms.

Snap was expected to compete with Facebook but most of its new features and projects point to a distant and unsure future, leaving investors wary.

"The template for social media is fairly set at this point,” Napoli said. “The fact that Snapchat dared to tweak the formula as much as they did did more harm than good."

But investors aren’t the only ones Snap has alienated. Mackenzie Stith, an actress with a significant following on Snapchat, isn’t a fan of the redesign, but noted that the biggest issue is that most of her friends don’t use the app anymore and she’s lost followers.

"It has been a devastating loss with my followers since the redesign,” Stith said. “I've lost thousands upon thousands of viewers daily. None of my friends are even on Snapchat anymore.”

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

Parkland shooting victim Maddy Wilford speaks out following hospital release

A victim of the Parkland school shooting fought back tears on Monday as she detailed her recovery from multiple gunshot wounds, and thanked the doctors and first responders who saved her life.

Maddy Wilford, a 17-year-old junior and basketball player at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke alongside her parents, Missy and David; Dr. Igor Nichiporenko and Dr. Evan Boyar of Broward Health North hospital; and Lt. Laz Ojeda of the Coral Springs Fire Department following her release from the hospital.

“I’m grateful to be here and it wouldn’t be possible without those officers and first responders and these amazing doctors, and especially all the love that everyone has sent,” Wilford said tearfully.

Wilford was transported to Broward Health by a team of first responders, including Ojeda, who said she “appeared deceased” and in shock when she was rescued. After being shaken by a Broward County sheriff's deputy, she showed signs of life and was given oxygen and fluids.

According to Nichiporenko, the hospital’s medical director of trauma services, Wilford sustained at least three large-caliber gunshot wounds during the shooting, in her chest, abdomen and right arm. She underwent three operations in 40 hours, including one to repair her shattered ribs, and will eventually require therapy for her right hand because of tendon damage.

Nichiporenko said Wilford was one of several shooting victims brought to the hospital. “At that time, we had three pediatric patients coming to us with multiple gunshot wounds. One of them was Maddy,” Nichiporenko said. “When Maddy came in she was pale, she was not responsive, she was in shock.”

Nichiporenko noted that Wilford's young age played a large part in her relatively fast recovery, limiting her hospital stay to less than seven days.

Echoing their daughter’s praise for the medical workers, Wilford's parents also stressed the role that prayers and moral support played in their daughter’s recovery.

“I see this as, yes it is a tragedy, but I would like to try to find a way to find the positive in what has happened here in our community,” Mrs. Wilford said. "What I feel very strongly about, first and foremost, is the power of prayer. We have had an outpouring from people that we don’t know, people that now I consider to be our friends.” 

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

Tinder can’t charge older users more for premium services, California court rules

Tinder can no longer charge higher rates to users aged 30 and over after a California court ruled on Monday that the practice was a form of age-based discrimination.

Tinder Plus, a premium version of the free dating service app Tinder, violated state civil rights law by charging users who were aged 30 and over a $19.99 subscription fee, while at the same time charging users under the age of 30 only a $9.99 or $14.99 subscription fee for the same features, according to a rulinghanded down by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. The pricing had been in place since its release in March 2015.

Plaintiff Allan Candelore filed the suit in February 2016, alleging that Tinder Plus’ price differences violated the state's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which broadly outlaws discrimination based on sex, race, sexual orientation and age, among other classes.

According to the suit, Tinder’s rationale for the price difference is “reasonably based on market testing showing 'younger users' are 'more budget constrained' than older users, 'and need a lower price to pull the trigger.'"

Despite the reasoning, the practice still violated the Unruh Act, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brian Currey, who wrote the 3-0 ruling.

“No matter what Tinder’s market research may have shown about the younger users’ relative income and willingness to pay for the service, as a group, as compared to the older cohort, some individuals will not fit the mold. Some older consumers will be ‘more budget constrained’ and less willing to pay than some in the younger group,” the ruling states.

Currey also stated, however, that a contradictory ruling does exist: a 2015 casein which a San Francisco luxury health club was allowed to give an age-based discount to 18- to 29-year-olds because the policy does not perpetuate any unpleasant stereotypes and benefits an age group that is often financially strapped.

It is unclear at this time if Tinder will take up the decision with the state Supreme Court. Neither Tinder nor its lawyer could be reached for comment.

Al Rava, who represented the plaintiff along with co-counsel Kim Kralowec, noted that the decision was a significant one with “potentially thousands of potential class members.”

“Hopefully, this decision will remind all dating apps and all businesses operating in California to do the right thing and simply treat all customers equally, no matter their customers' age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship and other personal characteristics [as] protected by California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act,” Rava said.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

Suit accuses drug distributor McKesson of fueling Kentucky’s opioid epidemic

A national opioid distributor violated state law by knowingly flooding Kentucky with large volumes of opiates amid the state's growing epidemic, the state of Kentucky alleged in a lawsuit Monday.

The suit accuses McKesson Corp., which is based in San Francisco, of practicing unfair and deceptive business tactics over a seven-year period, especially in rural eastern Kentucky.

"Kentuckians can finally put a name to a major reason for the pill mills, drug epidemic and overdose deaths in our state," Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a statement. "McKesson knowingly and intentionally distributed enormous quantities of prescription opioids throughout Kentucky with total disregard for our health and safety. This reckless behavior fueled our catastrophic drug epidemic that every community is facing."

Kristin Hunter Chasen, a spokeswoman for McKesson, told The Associated Press that the company was just one link in the pharmaceutical supply chain and that it distributed opioids only to pharmacies that were licensed with the state and registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"McKesson delivers life-saving medicines to millions of Americans each day and is committed to maintaining — and continuously enhancing — strong programs designed to detect and prevent opioid diversion within the pharmaceutical supply chain," she said.

The suit alleges that from January 2010 through December 2016, McKesson distributed 18,434,834 doses of prescription opioids in Floyd County alone, amounting to 477 opioid pills for every person living in the county.

The excessive distribution stems from McKesson's "filling massive and/or 'suspicious' orders of unusual size, orders deviating substantially from a normal pattern, and ... shipping drugs into the Commonwealth without adequate policies and procedures in place to detect suspicious orders, failing to report to appropriate authorities such 'suspicious' orders, and failing to halt such excessive and suspicious shipments," the lawsuit claims.

This isn't the first time McKesson has been sued over its distribution practices. In January 2017, it settled a suit with the federal government for $150 million, and in 2008 it settled a lawsuit for $13.5 million for failing to comply with federal reporting laws.

More than 4,400 Kentuckians died of opiate overdoses from 2012 and 2015, more than 260 in five eastern counties: Floyd, Perry, Clay, Owsley and Bell counties, Beshear said. The counties are also on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of counties at risk for a public health crisis, he said.

Beshear also sued Endo Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions in November, alleging that they violated state law and contributed to the state's opioid epidemic with its drug Opana.

"I'm committed to holding accountable these multi-national companies that made billions flooding our communities," Beshear said. "Kentucky families deserve justice."

 This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

New York Islanders distribute gifts and holiday cheer to Maimonides pediatric patients

Three New York Islanders players took a break from the ice on Monday, December 18, handing out presents and holiday cheer to pediatric patients at Maimonides Medical Center.

Besides giving gifts, Islanders starting lineup players Anthony Beauvillier, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech signed autographs, took part in arts and crafts and mingled with the patients as part of Maimonides’ Child Life, Creative Arts and Education Program. The program provides recreational and therapeutic programming that makes hospital stays a bit less daunting for children and their families.

“We’re going to deliver some toys to some kids that are in a little tough situation here at the hospital,” said Mayfield prior to giving out the goodies. “It feels really good to give back. Earlier in December we bought all these toys, so now they’re going to get a special little present here from us. I think that they’ll be happy and it brings joy to us as well.”

“We got everything from Legos to games and Barbie dolls. We went to Toys R’ Us and had a nice little shopping spree. We do it every year at the holidays, go and buy some toys and come to the hospital and deliver them personally. It’s not just for them, it’s for us too, so it’s definitely a special time,” Mayfield continued.

“It feels good. I didn’t expect them, but just knowing that people who are successful can come and be so nice here is great,” said Randy Rincon, 15, who got some authentic Islanders merchandise along with autographs from the three players.

Later on in the afternoon, the players made their way to the playroom area, where they crafted decorative tea light holders using tissue paper alongside patients Denise and William.

 Scott Mayfield and a child, William Gonzalez.

Scott Mayfield and a child, William Gonzalez.

“It’s very difficult to be in the hospital as a child at any time, but over the holidays it’s especially sad because holidays are usually times that are spent with your family at home. Anything that can brighten up the day of a child in the hospital is very special, especially around this time of the year,” said Chief of Pediatrics at Maimonides Children’s Hospital Dr. Jeffrey Avner.

Avner noted that Maimonides has partnered with other sports organizations, such as the Brooklyn Nets,  to bring smiles to the faces of pediatric patients over the years.

“Any time public figures are able to come in and give back to the community, it’s very rewarding for them, but for families to be able to have contact with people that they idolize that they wouldn’t typically have contact with, it really makes a big difference,” said Director of Child Life Lenia Batas.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Man sentenced to 15 years to life for murder of South Slope business owner

A 26-year-old-man who fatally mowed down a business owner who attempted to stop him from stealing a truck in South Slope was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison on Wednesday, December 13.

According to Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, at around 9 a.m. on April 4, 2016, the defendant, Joshua Colon, got into the driver’s seat of a flatbed truck parked in front of A&D Ironworks (305 24th Street) and began driving away. Meanwhile, Felize Dellegrazie, 63, owner of A&D Ironworks as well as the truck, gave chase in an SUV.

Several blocks later, Colon became stuck in traffic and Dellegrazie left his SUV, climbed onto the side of truck and demanded that Colon turn the engine off and leave the truck. Colon fought back, pushing Dellegrazie off of the truck. Colon then drove over the victim’s head and neck, killing him. The defendant was arrested later after he abandoned the truck and tried to steal another vehicle.

 Photo courtesy of Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez's office

Photo courtesy of Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez's office

“This defendant not only ripped an innocent, hardworking man from his children and family, but also robbed the community and his employees of a beloved colleague and friend. Today’s sentence will not heal his loved ones’ wounds, but I hope it will provide them with a small measure of solace,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

Colon was sentenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID dazzles nabe with trolley rides and tree lighting

Bay Ridge was alight with the spirit of the holidays on Saturday, December 9, as the nabe’s Fifth Avenue BID hosted its fifth annual holiday celebration, complete with trolley rides and a Christmas tree lighting.

The event kicked off at noon with a live deejay, holiday music, giveaways and more. The trolley rides, which operated between Fifth Avenue’s bus stops from 65th Street to 85th Street, offered a comforting respite from the cold, as well as a chance to meet Santa Claus and an elf.

“The snow was falling, so it did feel very festive,” said Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID Executive Director Amanda Zenteno. “It felt like we were right smack in the middle of the holiday season. When you see the little kids’ faces light up when they see Santa Claus, it’s really magical. It’s a really lovely time.”

 BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Arthur de Gaeta

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Arthur de Gaeta

The celebration also saw guest appearances by 43rd District Councilmember Vincent Gentile and State Senator Marty Golden.

“The reason we want to do these sorts of things is to highlight Fifth Avenue and all of the mom and pop shops and continue to make Fifth Avenue a real destination to go out and go shopping. These kinds of events brings the community down to Fifth Avenue and show that Bay Ridge is a really good place to live, work and shop,” explained Zenteno.

If you missed the celebration and still want to hitch a ride on the trolley, the BID will be hosting more rides on Saturday, December 16, beginning at noon.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

BREAKING UPDATE: No student with gun found at Fort Hamilton High School

Police officers from the 68th Precinct are currently searching Fort Hamilton High School (8301 Shore Road) for a student reportedly in possession of a firearm.

Reports about the armed student started flooding Citizen, a phone application that aggregates 911 calls, at around 10:30 a.m. The suspect is described as 5’10” and wearing a gray hoodie, black backpack and possibly a black mask.

As of 11 a.m., the school was on a soft lockdown and police officers have established a perimeter around the school. Officers from the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group and Emergency Service Unit are on the scene and searching for the student.

 Image via Mcyankee24 - Citizen

Image via Mcyankee24 - Citizen

The 68th Precinct tweeted at around 11:30 a.m. that there was no “active shooter” at the school.

This story is developing and will be updated.

UPDATE 12:19 P.M.: City Council-elect Justin Brannan issued a statement on the incident via Facebook:

“Regarding situation at Fort Hamilton HS: As per City Hall, a student is in custody, no one was one hurt, and no shots were ever fired. Lockdown was done out of an obvious abundance of extreme caution. More info as I receive. Thank you to NYPD, ESU and all teachers and staff,” Brannan said.

UPDATE 1 P.M.: The NYPD stated that no one has been taken into custody as a result of the incident and an investigation is still ongoing.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Rhodes Scholar Chosen From Hunter For 1st Time

A Hunter College senior is making waves throughout the CUNY system after becoming the first Hunter student to be awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship.

Thamara Jean, a political science and media analysis and criticism major, was awarded the scholarship in late November.

Jean is the only New York college student to become a 2018 Rhodes scholar, as well as one of 10 African-American students, the most ever in the scholarship’s 104-year-old history. In total, 32 U.S. residents were selected to be 2018 Rhodes scholars, out of the 866 applicants endorsed by 299 colleges and universities.

“I found out that I got the interview first and it was really exciting,” said Jean, who is also a Macaulay Honors College student, in an interview with The Ticker. “It’s a rare opportunity, so I was really excited about it.”

Jean, who plans on studying political theory while at the University of Oxford, wrote her senior thesis on the Black Lives Matter movement, a piece which she began working on at the movement’s peak in 2014.

“I wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity to connect the philosophy I was learning about in class with things that were actually happening in everyday life and it was easy at the time, because the movement was so new, to trivialize it,” Jean said. “But I knew from just the classes that I was taking that it had a background in a really strong tradition and I wanted to make sure to connect the tradition to the movement that it came from and essentially advocate why the optimistic life-affirming tradition that it comes from is the best one to use when shaping protests against racial oppression.”

She partially incorporated this thesis into the personal statement that is required for the Rhodes scholarship application. Jean said that the statement mostly touched on “the conversations that we have around race, police brutality and things of the sort. How studying it can better inform and possibly improve the conversations that we have about it.”

Jean partially credits Hunter College’s faculty and staff with helping her obtain the scholarship.

“I think that … the process of learning about the scholarship was indicative of the support that I had being a student at Hunter College,” Jean said. “I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough that every professor and advisor that I’ve had knows me personally and [has] really taken an interest in the things that I’m passionate about academically and they’ve been essential in pointing me in the right direction and every step of the way.”

 Photo courtesy of Thamara Jean.

Photo courtesy of Thamara Jean.

The Rhodes scholarship is a highly selective international scholarship that entitles a recipient to enroll in any full-time postgraduate course at Oxford for two years. Students can also apply during their second year to study for an additional year. Scholars additionally receive a monthly stipend in order to cover any living expenses while studying.

Access to a sprawling, colonial-style mansion, the Rhodes House, is also provided to all scholars. The house contains gardens, a library, study areas and numerous other facilities. The scholarship and the aforementioned benefits are funded by the Rhodes Trust, an educational charity established by British mining magnate and Oxford alumnus Cecil Rhodes.

According to the Rhodes Trust, applicants must meet a large array of criteria in order to be considered for the scholarship. This includes “literary and scholastic attainments,” “energy to use one’s talents to the fullest,” “truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship” and “moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one’s fellow beings.”

In order to apply, a student must obtain the endorsement of their college or university, provide five to eight letters of recommendation, including one that endorses the applicant’s character and four that are written by the applicant’s instructors and also write a personal statement that describes their academic interests and the areas that the applicant would study at Oxford.

After her time at Oxford, Jean hopes to apply to Ph.D. programs, eventually become a professor and hopes to do research in the same topics she is studying now. She would also like to do work through nonprofits or community organizations that are “closely involved in what’s happening on the ground in the communities that I care about.”

This article originally appeared in the The Ticker.

Baruch College's Early Learning Center Celebrates 25th Year

For the more than 4.8 million undergraduate college students in the United States who have dependent children, juggling school with child care is no easy task. A study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in September 2017 found that four in 10 women at two-year colleges were “likely or very likely to drop out of school” due to child care obligations, meaning that now, more than ever, student parents are requiring a support system.

Just blocks away from the Newman Vertical Campus stands a place trying to provide just that for Baruch College students — the Baruch College Early Learning Center. The center, which was originally known as the Baruch College Child Care Center at its inception in 1992, has just celebrated its 25th anniversary last month, marking a long history of engaging the children of Baruch students in workshops, relationship building, group and individual activities, exploration and much more.

Lorraine Mondesir serves as the center’s current director, bringing 30 years of childcare experience.

She began her tenure at the center in February 2017. Previously, she served as the director of the Early Childhood Center at Brooklyn College, an assistant teacher at Columbia University and has also worked at a private day care.

“We had a curriculum showcase for our families to talk a little bit about what we do here at the center and to have the parents become involved in an actual activity that their child would be involved in at school,” said Mondesir.

The center also offers a strong family support network, including a family worker that offers support to student parents and parenting workshops.

The topics of this academic year’s workshops include “Handling Your Child’s Anger, Frustration and Fears,” “Juggling Demands of Work, School and Home,” “Power Battles — Why They Happen and How To Avoid Them” and “Setting Limits.”

“I told her she was going to come to school, she was excited and I’ve seen her develop so much. I even opted from putting her in pre-K to keep her here until she’s five because I really like what they do here,” said Lilliana Sarmiento, an accounting major whose 4-year-old daughter, Esmeralda, attends the Early Learning Center.

“I used to be an evening student most of the time in my beginning semesters and I still would bring her [Esmeralda] 8 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.]. I wanted her to have an experience with other children because she’s an only child, so I thought that was really important for me, to prepare her for when she really has to go to school … for me to be able to go to the library and have some time just relax and do my study things means a lot,” said Sarmiento, who went on to state that the center’s child care services made it possible for her to attend her “dream school.”

This sentiment was echoed by Yessenia Interiano, a psychology major whose 3-year-old son also attends the Early Learning Center.

“It’s easier because I can have the access, I’m close to him. If something happens, I can just run and come to the center and see what’s going on. I like it because he can learn more, rather than just sitting at home watching TV,” Interiano said. “You know that your child is secure here and not in someplace else,” she said.

The center’s relatively low costs also attract parents. According to Mondesir, “tuition” costs for the center range from $40 per week to as little as $5 for parents who meet the income requirement for grants. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 may be enrolled in the center, which is licensed to accommodate up to 30 children.

In 1997, The Ticker reported that the Early Learning Center, which was serving 41 children at the time, was in jeopardy of cutting back services or even closing due to lost funding in years past. Fortunately for Baruch’s student parents, the center remains open.

The Early Learning Center is one of 16 child care centers across CUNY, including ones at Queens College, Kingsborough Community College and College of Staten Island, among others.

It is located at 104 East 19th Street on the second floor and operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.

Parents must be currently enrolled as Baruch students for their child to attend the center. For further information, call 212-387-1420 or visit the Office of Student Life for an application.

This article originally appeared in the The Ticker.

CUNY Rising Alliance Protests Tuition Hikes

Chants of “Hey hey, ho ho!/Tuition hikes have got to go!” filled Baruch College’s 25th Street Plaza on Oct. 23, as dozens of protesters representing the CUNY Rising Alliance, a coalition that includes CUNY Professional Staff Congress, New York Communities for Change and other organizations, rallied prior to a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus.

The meeting pertained to a number of issues, including voting on the Fiscal Year 2019 University Budget Request.

This request includes the predictable tuition policy, annually increasing tuition by $200 at all of CUNY’s senior colleges since the policy was enacted in 2011. The policy was recently renewed.

PSC President Barbara Bowen, along with others who attended the rally, highlighted the need for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide funding for New York City’s public university system, which serves over 245,000 undergraduate students, according to 2015 student profile statistics.

“It is wrong that New York state, this rich state in this richest of cities, that this rich state will not provide the funding that’s needed so that students have totally free access to CUNY. And so that your classes are staffed fully, so that there are enough counselors, enough professors, enough folks in the library, enough spaces in the lab. There is no reason in this rich state that that should not be true. And right now, on Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s desk, is a bill that would provide steady — every year, not just this year, every year — funding to cover the increases … normal increases at CUNY,” Bowen said during the rally.

“We want our trustees to take a strong stand and tell the governor that he must sign that bill. So far, we have not seen the trustees taking that stand,” the PSC president continued.

According to the student profile statistics released by CUNY in the Fall 2015 semester, 38.5 percent of CUNY students have a household income of less than $20,000. In addition, 30.2 percent of CUNY students work at paid jobs for more than 20 hours a week.

Protesters also called on Cuomo to sign off on the enhanced Maintenance of Effort bill, which was passed by both the New York State Assembly and Senate in the final days of legislative session earlier this year. The bill, if passed, would increase New York state’s investment in public higher education, but it must be signed by Cuomo in order to become a law. According to PSC, the current version of the MOE bill, which “provides essentially flat funding, requiring that State allocation for the public universities be no less than it was in the prior year,” does not do enough to cover the necessary overhead associated with keeping the university system running, such as rent, energy and other operating costs.

Other chants heard at the rally included “What do we want?/CUNY for all!/When do we want it?/Now!” and “Governor Cuomo, can’t you see?/CUNY needs more money/Increasing tuition is not the way/Sign college MOE today.”

According to Alliance for Quality Education member Maria Bautista, tuition hikes hurt CUNY’s black and brown students most.

“My last semester at the City College of New York, I owed $800, and they would not let me register for the semester. $800,” said Bautista, who graduated from CCNY 10 years ago and now teaches in the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She further detailed how she could not pay this extra amount of money, and that a professor at CCNY had to help her get the fee waived. “And these are the same obstacles that our black, brown and poor students are facing today. And we need this racist attack to stop. Today,” said Bautista.

“… While I was at City College they attacked CUNY students with the same nonsense: a tuition hike. And time after time, it is black and brown low income students that have to bear the burden of getting a high quality education. Is this right?” Bautista asked the crowd of protesters, who subsequently responded with a resounding “No!”

After about one hour of rallying, the protesters entered Baruch in order to attend the meeting.

This article originally appeared in the The Ticker.

Northwell Health-GoHealth debuts newest urgent care center in Park Slope

Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care has announced the opening of its newest center in Park Slope on Monday, August 21. This brings the total number of Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care centers to two in Brooklyn and 37 throughout the New York Metro area.

The facility was designed to create transparency and comfort for patients, as well as the center’s team. The center’s exam rooms are 25-50 percent larger than the average urgent care center in order to accommodate families.  Its color scheme, lighting and music create a warm and inviting environment that facilitates healing.  The center is equipped to handle a higher acuity patient than a physician’s office, with x-ray and laboratory services on site.

The partnership between Northwell Health and GoHealth Urgent Care allows the facility to bring high quality clinical care paired with industry-leading customer experience, innovative technology and award-winning design.  When a patient walks into the center, they will be treated within the four walls of the center and referred within the larger Northwell Health network for additional follow-up care.

 Photo courtesy of Northwell Health-GoHealth

Photo courtesy of Northwell Health-GoHealth

The health center will offer a variety of services to patients, including treatment for colds, flu, minor skin lacerations, sports injuries, x-ray and lab services and is in network with most major insurance plans.

The center will be open 365 days a year, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

This opening follows that of the first Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care facility in Brooklyn, which opened in Williamsburg in February.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Bay Ridge condo asking nearly $7,500/mo in rent

Want waterfront views while living in the Ridge? It’ll cost you a pretty penny.

A penthouse condominium on Shore Road that boasts breathtaking views of New York Harbor and the Verrazano Bridge is currently available to rent for $7,450/month, down from an initial price of $8,400/month.

The post-war condo, located at 9935 Shore Road (between 99th Street and Third Avenue), features three bedrooms,a jacuzzi, steam shower, private terrace, outdoor grill, in-home washer/dryer, indoor parking space, onsite fitness center and other amenities, all packed into a spacious 1,800 square foot space. Natural light seeps into the apartment via a wall of windows that span across the entirety of the apartment.

 Photo courtesy of Madison Estates

Photo courtesy of Madison Estates

As for transportation, the condo is steps away from the B16 and B63 buses, as well as the X27 and X37 express buses to Manhattan.

For more information or to schedule a viewing, call Joseph Baglio at 718-797-2222.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Shore Parkway path suffering from increasing trash problem, locals say

Bath Beach residents are noticing an ever-growing problem that has consistently detracted from Shore Parkway’s scenic views of Gravesend Bay — litter, illegal dumping and overflowing trash receptacles.

“I entered through the Bay Parkway entrance toward the ball field on Shore Parkway and noticed food, paper trash, cups and bags of garbage strewn about,” said Bath Beach resident Mary Glicksman, who often walks along Shore Parkway and noticed a large amount of trash on September 12. “I was absolutely outraged at the conditions I encountered along the shore. An absolute disgrace! Bench areas were cluttered with debris and walking paths where garbage was strewn. I didn’t go beyond that because there’s no way I was going to sit there or even walk there.”

Residents have also noted that rats and raccoons are attracted to the refuse, often crawling along the Shore Parkway path.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

 Photo courtesy of Mary Glicksman

Photo courtesy of Mary Glicksman

“Part of the problem is the [NYC] Department of Parks and Recreation handles the garbage disposal and they’re on a schedule. We’ve requested timely pickups and Parks is working on that service,” explained Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia.

However, Pavia stated, it is also the community’s responsibility to keep the area clear of trash by not littering.

“I haven’t received complaints but I’ve seen it firsthand,” she said. “The issue of litter is disheartening because there are litter baskets all over. People are leaving cups, food and bags of trash along the curbside. There needs to be some compliance from the people that use the area; use the litter receptacle and keep the area clean because what’s going to happen is that litter is going into the bay.”

According to the the Parks Department, keeping Shore Parkway clean is of utmost importance. Parks noted that on summer days, around 120 tons of garbage is picked up from beaches, ball fields, picnic areas and other properties.

“NYC Parks shares the community’s concern about litter in our parks, and as such, our crews work very hard to keep Shore Park and Parkway as clean as possible,” a Parks Department spokesperson said. “Like all of our parks, Shore Parkway is cleaned regularly.”

Mayor cracks down on Sheepshead party boats with curfew

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday, September 15, a curfew on party boats that populate Sheepshead Bay. Starting next spring, all of the party boats in Sheepshead Bay will be subject to a 11 p.m. curfew. The move serves to quell the noise, overcrowding and other quality-of-life issues stemming from the boats, which have been seen as a plague by some community members.

According to 45th District Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, the most recent party boat season has resulted in major traffic issues and scuffles, including a near-melee on Emmons Avenue in August that began after the arrival of a party boat one night.

 Image via Google Maps

Image via Google Maps

“As long as we have thousands of people cramming onto our docks, spilling out into the streets, getting off the boats drunk and noisy, throwing litter around and causing a ruckus in the middle of a residential neighborhood, my opposition to the party boats will remain,” said Cymbrowitz.

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Gentile legislation aims to protect Southwest Brooklyn from environmental hazards

In the wake of a large oil spill into Gravesend Bay that nearly went unnoticed, 43rd District Councilmember Vincent Gentile has introduced legislation whose goal is to protect those living in the area from hazardous chemicals present in city water bodies.

According to a statement issued by his office on August 24, Int. 1689 and Int. 1690,  part of Gentile’s Shorefront Notification Package, would mandate that the Office of Emergency Management, Department of Environmental Protection and the Department Of Health and Mental Hygiene notify local councilmembers and community boards of environmental hazards, including oil spills.

 Image via Google Maps

Image via Google Maps

“Earlier this year, a 27,000-gallon oil spill off the coast of Southwest Brooklyn was nearly swept under the rug, if not for the vigilance of environmental advocates and the media. By failing to notify any local elected officials, the state potentially jeopardized the health and safety of our constituents,” said Gentile, referring to the oil spill that leaked diesel fuel into Gravesend Bay in March of this year.

“When an oil spill, sewage overflow or any other related ecological disaster dangers water or shoreline quality, the city should use all the tools at our disposal to expeditiously notify the City Council, affected councilmembers, and affected community boards of such toxins. Local elected officials are better equipped to disseminate this information to residents than officials in Albany,” continued Gentile.

Both pieces of legislation are endorsed by the Natural Resources Protective Association, according to an email from its President Jim Scarcella to Gentile’s office.

But, local environmental activist Ida Sanoff, who serves as executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, contends that the crux is stepping up enforcement using existing laws. With respect to Gentile’s legislation, she told this paper that the state already is responsible for oversight.

“To me, it’s like asking the cart to pull the horse,” she said. “We have laws on the book, but what good are the laws without enforcement?

“The state has to step up its game,” she added, suggesting that more inspectors “may be what the issue requires.”

Gravesend Bay — where the city, despite a years-long protest, is in the process of constructing a waste transfer station — has long been a nexus of concern for area residents and environmentalists. Unexploded World War II munitions lie at the bottom of the body of water, which is also contaminated by a variety of toxins spewed by the Southwest Brooklyn incinerator, which was found to be operating without a permit from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Among the chemicals believed to be in the soil, as a result of the operation of the incinerator, are contaminants such as Class C acutely toxic levels of dioxins, lead, mercury, chlordanes and Mirex (an ant killer insecticide banned by the EPA in 1976.

The current bills are co-sponsored by fellow Brooklynite 45th District Councilmember Jumaane Williams and 22nd District Councilmember Costa Constantinides of Queens.

Additional reporting contributed by Helen Klein. This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Golden criticizes formation of city panel to consider removal of “symbols of hate” citywide

Following a statement by Mayor Bill de Blasio promising to form a panel tasked with reviewing and potentially removing “symbols of hate” on city property, State Senator Martin Golden has denounced the plan as “divisive and counterproductive.”

De Blasio first brought up the idea of the panel on Twitter on August 16, following a rally surrounding the removal of Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent on August 12, resulting in three deaths.

“America is a great nation built upon a foundation created by many ‘larger than life figures’ throughout our history. Often it is difficult to judge their contributions in a current context. Regardless, they have contributed to the greatness of our nation and are an important part of our past,” said Golden in a statement released on August 23. “The mayor’s panel may be tempted to base its decision to remove statues based upon current politics rather than historical significance. This methodology has the potential of being divisive and counterproductive.”

Prior to announcing the review panel, which will last for 90 days, de Blasio joined Ninth Congressional District Congressmember Yvette Clarke and other local pols in calling for the removal of street signs on Fort Hamilton Army Base named for Confederate Army generals.

 Photo courtesy of Senator Golden

Photo courtesy of Senator Golden

Golden went on to state, “I disagree with the creation of this panel and as a city we must proceed with caution. Instead of focusing on the removal of statues, let us engage in honest and open discussions, listen quietly and intently to opposing views, and finally, respect and acknowledge what unites us as Americans.”

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Three women arrested for operating illegal Dyker massage parlor

Just a few months after separate sting operations conducted by the 68th and 62nd Precincts led to nearly 50 arrests at 45 massage parlors operating illegally across Southwest Brooklyn, several employees of a Dyker Heights massage parlor were arrested for operating it illegally.

According to 68th Precinct Commanding Officer Captain Joseph Hayward, police went to the business on the morning of Wednesday, August 24, due to community complaints. Once there, they found it suspicious that a massage parlor was open at midnight and, upon entering, discovered that the business had no license to operate as a massage parlor. Three employees were arrested for operating without a license.

Dyker residents were the first to suspect that the parlor, located at 7002 Fort Hamilton Parkway, was operating illegally and suspect that it also served as a prostitution den, as evidenced by its late-night hours, covered windows and out-of-state clientele.

IMG_0497.JPG.jpeg

“I’m able to see everything that goes on through my front window all day long,” said Jessie Harrison, who owns E and J Boutique with her husband. The store sits on Fort Hamilton Parkway, directly across the street from 7002 Fort Hamilton.

“When they first opened I saw them put up cubicle walls and I saw them bring in couches and beds. I thought they were making an illegal apartment at first, but then I saw it was a beauty spa,” Harrison continued.

Harrison has had her suspicions for some time, due to both the business’ unusual hours and far-reaching client base.

“They used to open at 8 p.m. at night and closed at 1 or 2 a.m. Now they’re opening up earlier in the day and allowing men to come in. I noticed out-of-state plates on their cars. Several of my customers have brought it to my attention. We know exactly what’s going on,” she said.

Residents also suspect that 6921 Fort Hamilton Parkway and 911 72nd Street in Dyker are home to illegal massage parlors.

Both Harrison and her husband had complained to Community Board 10, the 68th Precinct and State Senator Martin Golden in regards to the businesses, which are located just blocks away from McKinley Intermediate School. With the new school year starting soon, Harrison fears that children from the school could too-easily come into contact with the salons.

“This is on the path kids take home from McKinley. These are young girls and boys that have to walk past this, it’s an uncomfortable situation. My niece goes to McKinley and I tell her to walk on my side of the block,” said Harrison.

“Dyker used to be a great neighborhood to live in, but then all the mom-and-pop shops closed down. The landlords know what’s going on but they don’t seem to care because they’re money hungry,” she added.

According to Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, Harrison is not the only Dyker resident to be suspicious of the businesses. Beckmann noted that CB 10 has received dozens of complaints regarding the massage parlors’ activities.

“There’s a lot of complaints about each of these locations, with the greatest number about about 7002 [Fort Hamilton Parkway],” said Beckmann. “A lot of residents have mentioned to me that they feel that they just move locations using different store names. The residents are very concerned about the proliferation of illegal massage parlors, from the concerns about human trafficking to the safety of the building. Thank you to the 68th Precinct for addressing this, and investigating and responding to residents’ concerns. We continue to be concerned about illegal adult businesses in the community.”

Additional reporting contributed by Helen Klein. This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.

Bay Ridge’s Doctors’ Row in line for historic district status

A century-old block in Bay Ridge is under review to become a designated historic district, thanks to efforts of the block association and the Historic Districts Council (HDC).

Doctors’ Row, a historic section of the 400 block of Bay Ridge Parkway between Fourth and Fifth Avenues known for its elegant limestone rowhouses, is currently being reviewed for Historic District Status by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). If granted, Doctors’ Row would see its structures protected from demolition, a key to keeping intact one of the neighborhood’s most distinctive blocks.

“Historic District Status will preserve the facades of the buildings and the aesthetic beauty of the buildings and streetscape. In most cases it prevents demolition of buildings and things like the faces and stucco being ripped off, ironwork being removed and original doors being removed,” explained Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy and community outreach for HDC.

“We see a lot of this happening in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, where architectural features are shaved off and inappropriate features are applied. These rows derive beauty from their continuity so if one house is destroyed it really obscures the whole look and feel of a place,” she continued.

 Photo by Helen Klein

Photo by Helen Klein

According to the HDC, the distinctive, Neo-Renaissance rowhouses of Doctors’ Row were constructed around 1899 by a single company, the Bay Ridge Development Company, giving the homes a homogenous look. The homes’ uniformity stands out, as many blocks in Bay Ridge vary greatly in their architectural style, because they were not constructed by the same company.

Besides their signature look, the homes of Doctors’ Row also represent an exciting time in Bay Ridge’s history — Bay Ridge’s evolution from a suburban neighborhood to an urban one, complete with transportation advancements, such as the Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues trolley lines.

Interestingly enough, early real estate ads for Doctors Row touted the block’s proximity to the Fourth Avenue subway line in order to make the homes more enticing, despite the fact that the line did not open until 1916. According to the HDC, this makes many of the homes on Bay Ridge Parkway representative of early transit-related speculative development in Bay Ridge.

“This has been an elegant, well-kept block ever since I can remember,” said Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association member Linda Assini, a resident of Doctors’ Row who credits the block association’s relentless efforts with kickstarting the effort to obtain Historic District Status for the block.

Assini has owned her home since the 1980s, but rented it out while she lived on Long Island. When she returned to the block, she found that its beauty had begun to fade.

“I moved back a few years ago and was taken aback at how the block was starting to lose its luster and elegance,” recalled Assini. “It was not as well kept. There was a lot of trash. The trees were needy and the houses were beat up. Our architectural heritage was being torn up. People were coming and willy-nilly removing cornices and irreplaceable stonework just because.”

It was this realization that eventually led Assini and the block association to contact LPC in an attempt to get the block Historic District Status. With the help of the HDC, the block association submitted a request for evaluation of the block to the LPC in early August, 2017. On August 21, the commission responded to the request with a letter stating that it had “reviewed the material” and “determined that [Doctors’ Row] may merit designation, but requires further study within the contexts of the commission’s priority.”

“The block association has been unified behind this push. What I like about our block association is that we also welcome people who rent on the street. We want them in the association,” said Assini. “Everyone takes an equal role.”

Local Councilmember Vincent Gentile has also stood behind the block receiving historic status.

“[It] will benefit both local residents commuting to their homes and tourists exploring Brooklyn’s history,” said Gentile. “[The street] maintains a distinct ‘sense of place’ and a coherent streetscape identifiable by the naked eye. It’s about time the commission recognized Bay Ridge’s special nature.”

This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.