Comptroller to Explore “Legal Avenues” That Will Force Congestion Pricing

By Jean Brannum |

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander announced he will work with a team of legal experts and advocates to look into legal avenues to make Governor Kathy Hochul reverse her decision to halt the implementation of congestion pricing. 

The comptroller alleges that Hochul violated the 2021 Green Agreement, the Central Business District Tolling Program, and the American Disabilities Act. Disability and transit advocates, who were also in attendance, said that the money from congestion pricing that would go towards transit improvements will be taken away due to the pause. 

“This sudden and potentially illegal reversal wrongs a host of New Yorkers, who have a right to what was long promised to all of New York,” Lander said

 The Green Agreement guarantees that all New Yorkers have the right to clean air and environment. Part of the proposed benefits on congestion pricing include better air quality in the Central Business District, which includes everything in Manhattan below 60th st. . 

The comptroller also claims that the delay violates the Central Business District Tolling Program, which was passed in 2019 and allows anyone to challenge the state’s failure to implement congestion pricing. Columbia Law School Professor Michael Gerrard said that the governor does not have the authority to go against state laws and the indefinite pause indicates that the governor could kill congestion pricing altogether. 

“The 2019 statute gives the MTA the mandatory duty to implement congestion pricing,” Gerrard said. “It is illegal for the governor to unilaterally cancel it.”

Sharon McLennon Wier, executive director of the Center of the Independence of the Disabled of New York, said that the delay on congestion pricing disrupts the MTA’s agreement to make almost all subway stations accessible. Credit: Jean Brannum

Disability advocates also expressed anger that the pause on expected MTA  funds from congestion pricing will create a significant roadblock to making stations accessible. Sharon McLennon Wier, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York, said that the pause goes against a previous agreement in 2022 in which the MTA agreed to make at least 95 percent of stations accessible by 2055. 

“We waited, and we continue to wait,” Weir said. “When is it going to be over? When is accessibility going to become universal access for everybody?”

A statement from MTA Chief Financial Officer Kevin Willens and MTA General Counsel Paige Graveson June 10 said that the pause will greatly harm potential improvements to transit due to the lack of funds. Projects such as accessible stations, electric buses, and signal improvements will likely be deprioritized. 

In addition to the harm that could be caused to riders, Lander also said that the pause will impact people who bought MTA bonds backed by the expected revenues on congestion pricing.  

The comptroller says he will wait until after the upcoming MTA board meeting June 24 and 26 to see how other agencies respond. In the meantime, Lander pushes Hochul to reverse her decision to delay. Lander also pushed Mayor Eric Adams to advocate for implementing congestion pricing.  


EPA Has Tested Hundreds of Homes at Meeker Avenue Plume, But Needs More People to Let Them In


By Jean Brannum |

Door-to-door canvassing, postcards, and tabling are some of the ways the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to encourage people to get their homes tested in the Meeker Avenue Plum Superfund Site. 

While over 200 properties have been tested for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the soil and air, the EPA needs people to get their homes tested for data collection and to prevent exposure to toxic chemicals, according to a spokesperson from the EPA. 

The spokesperson said that the EPA has had trouble getting into homes to test for VOCs and that one of the reasons is that homeowners and landlords fear that the property value may decline. However, the EPA also said that no remediation not only jeopardizes human health but could hurt the value of the home more in the long run. 

After testing, if there are no VOCs in the air or ground, then the EPA will send an official letter saying so. If there are VOCs and remediation is needed, then the EPA will do it. The EPA has said he uses those facts to convince people to get their homes tested. 

About Volatile Organic Compounds

Examples of volatile organic compounds are trichloroethylene (TCE), and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), which are the prime contaminants in the Meeker Avenue site. VOCs tend to exist in a liquid or solid form but vaporize into the air easily. Gasoline, dry-cleaning agents, and paint thinners are substances that can contain such compounds. 

The superfund site has previously been an area for many industries that use VOCs for dry-cleaning, drum reconditioning, and metal fabrication to name a few. The compounds can pollute the air inside of the home in the basement or first floor.  

VOCs have contaminated the soil and groundwater in the plume area, but residents do not need to be concerned that drinking water is contaminated. New York City receives water from an upstate reservoir and the pipes do not reach the depth of groundwater. 

The EPA will be testing and remediating homes for at least the next five years, according to a press release. The plume cleanup was previously managed by New York State, but escalated to the National Priorities List, and was put under EPA management, in March of 2022. The EPA is investigating the extent of contamination in the soil and groundwater. 

An illustration of how volatile organic compounds can contaminate homes without remediation. Credit: EPA
Illustration of sub-slab depressurization, one form of remediation. Credit: EPA

About Testing and Remediation 

The testing process takes three days. A staff member from the EPA will first install a sub-slab gas port into the floor of the lowest level of a building. The quarter-sized port is cemented and removed after sampling. The next day, sampling canisters are plugged into the ports and in the lowest level and outside the home to collect air samples over 24 hours. Finally, the EPA will collect everything and notify property owners and tenants of the results when available. 

If a home requires remediation, the most common method is sub-slab-depressurization. This method is essentially a tube and fan that vents compounds to the outside without going through the home. A tube starts underground and goes through the basement, then up the outside of the house to the roofline. The EPA spokesperson mentioned that some homes have been remediated privately without the EPA’s assistance. The state has installed mitigation systems to some homes and sealed the floors of two homes to keep VOCs from getting into the building. 

The EPA is planning to add more wells for additional monitoring of groundwater after predictive computer models identified areas that need more data. New monitoring wells will be scattered throughout the superfund site in the summer. The EPA will continue indoor air quality testing this upcoming winter. 

The EPA is also receiving public comments regarding the cleanup process of the superfund site. The comment period was extended until June 25. Written comments can be submitted to Rupika Ketu, Remedial Project Manager at


What to know about the G train summer shutdown

By Ana Borruto

The 11.4-mile long Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown G train subway service will be partially shut down this summer for track reconstruction and modern signal installation. 

Starting Friday, June 28, the G train will undergo the first phase of an extensive multi-week, 24/7 project to replace its 1930s-era legacy signal system with Communications-based train control (CBTC) — a wireless connectivity system that keeps trains in constant contact, and in turn, more reliable. 

Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, Senator Kristen Gonzalez and Councilmember Lincoln Restler hosted a town hall on Thursday, May 30 at John Ericsson Middle School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where representatives of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and New York City Department of Transportation explained how the shutdown will catapult the G train “into the 21st century.” 

The forum allowed for regular G train commuters to ask questions and express their concerns about the shutdown, which was described as a “huge inconvenience” to the Greenpoint community and beyond. 

“When we got this news a few months ago, we pushed and prodded the MTA to consider if there are ways to do just overnight work, are there ways to limit this so we don’t have to endure a six-week full shutdown of this train line,” said Restler. “We haven’t been able to identify an alternative path forward, they are insistent that this is the necessary way to go.” 

Sean Fitzpatrick of the MTA explained exactly why the service outages are needed on the G train, the main reason being the age of the subway line. 

The G train has some of the oldest signals left in the New York City train system, which has caused “below average” performance times, according to Fitzpatrick. The current system is fixed-blocked signaling, which means the trains are divided and registered into fixed blocks with buffers up to 1,000 feet-long installed between them.

“It’s a marvel of early 20th century engineering,” Fitzpatrick said.

However, the drawbacks of this current system include not being able to pinpoint the exact location of a train, so trains run farther apart to create a safety buffer — creating service delays. 

The infrastructure for fixed-block signaling is also expensive to install and maintain. 

CBTC signaling allows trains to transpond to one another: in simple terms, the train’s position on the track is easily located because the section of track around each train moves with the train, rather than being on pre-defined, fixed blocks. 

“We are able to run them more closely together, more quickly, while maintaining safety,” Fitzpatrick said. “We also have a better view of the entire system so we’re able to respond better when there are incidents — it’s the single biggest investment that we can make to improve the reliability of a train.” 

This transition from a fixed-block to CBTC system for the G train requires the installation of new signaling equipment, replacement of 30 miles of track and more than a dozen switches and the integration and testing of the new system. 

Fitzpatrick said replacing the 1930s-period switches and tracks is particularly challenging, especially in the underground tunnels. To create a safe, workable environment for the project, the MTA said it has no choice but to shut down the G train line temporarily. 

With ridership lower in the summertime and school not in session, Fitzpatrick said it is the ideal time for the outage to take place. 

He added the MTA is promising to be finished with the reconstruction by Sept. 2. 

During the outage, shuttle buses will be available at impacted stations every one to four minutes during the weekdays and every five to 10 minutes on the weeknights. 

Shuttle buses can be expected to arrive at stations on weekend mornings and evenings every three to five minutes; every five to 10 minutes on late nights. 

Several tools will be implemented to keep traffic moving and areas clear for the shuttle buses, such as turn restrictions, daylighting, monitoring and automated camera enforcement. 

Here is the timeline of the shutdown and list of alternative shuttle bus transportation options: 

Phase 1: Friday, June 28 to Friday, July 5 

  • G trains won’t run between Court Square and Nassau Avenue 
  • Free B94 shuttle buses will run between Court Square and Nassau Avenue and make all ​ stops.

Phase 2: Friday, July 5 to Friday, August 12

  • G trains won’t run between Court Square and Bedford-Nostrand Avenues.
  • Free B98 shuttle buses will run between Court Square and Bedford-Nostrand Avenues and make all stops.

Phase 3: Friday, August 12 to Tuesday, September 3

  • G trains won’t run between Bedford-Nostrand Avenues and Church Avenue. 
  • Free B93 shuttle buses will run between Bedford-Nostrand Avenues and Jay Street-MetroTech, making all stops between Bedford-Nostrand Avenues and Hoyt-Schermerhorn. 

The overall long term work of the G train will continue into 2027. With this specific line becoming the go-to transportation option in some of the fastest growing communities in the state, elected officials are urging Governor Kathy Hochul and the MTA to further invest in the G train’s future. 

This includes extending the G train back to Forest Hills, Queens. According to Gallagher’s public campaign in favor of a full G train upgrade, the petition mentioned how up until 2010, the G train served parts of Astoria, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Rego Park and Forest Hills.

“The G is our lifeline in this community,” said Gallagher. “It’s going to be a very long summer.” 

To find out more information about the G train shutdown this summer, visit

Fundraiser Hosted in Windsor Terrace in support of Congressman Jamaal Bowman

by Stefanie Donayre

On Monday, May 20th, supporters gathered in a private residence in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, NY to attend a fundraiser to rally behind Democratic representative Jamaal Bowman’s re-election for the Democratic nomination in N.Y.’s 16th Congressional District.

The event featured passionate appeals for unity and support of Bowman’s candidacy from Council Member Shahana Hanif, who represents Brooklyn’s 39th District in the New York City Council, and Rana Abdelhamid, former candidate for Congress and a Muslim human rights activist.

With topics ranging from combating racism, a call for a Gaza ceasefire, and xenophobia to housing and food insecurity, Bowman addressed concerns shared by those dedicated to advancing progressive ideals.

“This is not about an election. This is about our humanity. If we are not governing from the perspective of our humanity, then we should not be in positions of power,” said Representative Bowman. “Humanity comes first, and humanity means every single life is precious and sacred, and we have to stand up and fight for those lives, whoever they are, whether they’re in the Bronx, Mount Vernon, Gaza, Israel, Yemen, Sudan, wherever they are. That is our mission.”

Abdelhamid, Hanif, and Bowman raised questions about the substantial financial resources collected by Bowman’s opponent, George Latamier, particularly focusing on Latamier’s largest donor: AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). 

“Just like this election isn’t only about me, it’s about everything we all have fought for our entire lives, and everything we represent, this election is also about what he represents,” said Bowman. “To make the conscious decision to do fundraisers with Trump donors, make the conscious decision to be endorsed by AIPAC, be supported by people who are going after our reproductive freedom and voting rights and affirmative action and supporting 200 insurrectionists. This is who this so-called lifelong Democrat is deciding to partner with to take the first black man in U.S. history out of this congressional seat.”

It was openly acknowledged that in addition to more general worries about racial fairness and reproductive justice, AIPAC’s role was strongly connected to issues concerning Israel and Palestine. 

“36 days left and millions have been poured in by AIPAC and they’re not just genocidal. They’re not just inciting violence in our communities. They are also anti-reproductive rights, they are also anti-climate reparations, they are also anti-racial justice, so we cannot have the other guy in that seat, too much is at stake” said Councilmember Hanif.

Councilmember Shahana Hanif praised Bowman’s track record as a leader dedicated to fighting for the well-being of his constituents as she discussed the challenges she faces as a woman in elected office. 

“There’s no, there’s no roadmap, there’s no blueprint on how to show up with dignity with the identities that we hold as a Muslim woman, as an Arab woman, as a Palestinian woman,” said Councilmember Shahana Hanif. “But Jamaal doesn’t need that blueprint because he knows how to show up with dignity. He knows how to show up compassionately and with empathy.”

Bowman expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from not only his volunteers but the women in leadership working alongside him and pledged to continue fighting for a future where social justice causes and equity are prioritized. 

The fundraiser concluded with calls to action, encouraging attendees to donate throughout the event by scanning QR codes placed around the host’s home, volunteering, and spreading the word about Bowman’s campaign as they emphasized their urgency with just 36 days remaining until the primary election.

Protest Erupts at Hochul’s Office Against the Delay of Congestion Pricing


By Jean Brannum |

In a shocking twist of events, Governor Kathy Hochul put an indefinite pause on congestion pricing and supporters of the plan are not taking the news quietly. 

Rider’s Alliance, a group for congestion pricing, gathered outside the governor’s office on June 5 to show their anger towards Hochul’s change of plans. Protesters waved signs calling on Hochul to stop waiting to implement the program. 

“Governor Hochul is turning her back on the promise she made to riders and  New Yorkers,” said Rider’s Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum.

The Gov, who has pushed to implement a $15 toll for people commuting to the city business district, was supposed to be implemented on June 30. The toll was meant to persuade commuters to take public transportation to improve air quality and decrease gridlock in Manhattan. In addition, the money from toll payers would provide funding for improvements to the subway and commuter rail systems. 

However, critics have said congestion pricing would be a burden to New Yorkers who do not live near public transportation and cause more pollution in the outer boroughs. 

Protestors against the Governors decision gathered outside her New York City office holding up signs calling for congestion pricing. Credit: Jean Brannum

“Let’s be real: a $15 charge may not mean a lot to someone who has the means, but it can break the budget of a working- or middle-class household,” Hochul said in her announcement. “And given these financial pressures, I cannot add another burden to working- and middle-class New Yorkers – or create another obstacle to continued recovery.”

There were also opposers of congestion pricing at the event. Jack Nierenberg from Passengers United, a group against congestion pricing, said that while he was shocked, he believes it is the right decision.

“I’m glad to see the governor is now finally taking the action that she should have taken a while ago,” Nierenberg said. 

Plum mentioned that New York State is required to mitigate the potential air quality issues that would worsen in the South Bronx. An MTA environmental report showed that air quality in the area would worsen due to westbound traffic circumventing Manhattan through the Bronx. 

Two men disrupted the conference to protest congestion pricing. Their yelling was promptly drowned out with chants from protesters. The police outside the building eventually escorted them away from the crown. The counter-protesters continued to make noise to disrupt the rally. 

It is not clear what Hochul’s next steps are, but in her speech, she said she was committed to further improvements to the subway and rail systems. 


“We Won’t Pay to be Poisoned” Rally to Shut Down National Grid at Defunct Baseball Field


By Jean Brannum |

Editors Note: A previous article incorrectly stated that NYC residents would receive a 20% increase in their rates. Current proposals say that New York City residents would have an increase of about $28. This article was also updated to add additional context and background from National Grid.

Residents of Greenpoint gathered outside a now-defunct Little League field to call for the shutdown of the company that gifted it to the community.

Sane Energy Project, a green energy and anti-fracking advocacy group, hosted a rally and bike ride protesting Nationals Grid’s rate hike proposal and called for the cleanup of contaminated land to make way for green energy and green space in North Brooklyn. The organization previously fought against the final part of the North Brooklyn Pipeline and the building of more LNG vaporizers in March. 

Before the rally, community members took part in a bike ride around North Brooklyn to raise awareness about sustainable energy. Credit: Jean Brannum

National Grid is a gas and electricity company that services upstate New York and several places in the city. The company does not provide electricity for New York City, residents.

In April, the company reached a three-year rate plan agreement promising commitment to introducing green energy alternatives and ensuring safe distribution networks. The agreement also promises $210 million in rate credits for New Yorkers who are struggling financially. The settlement was reached after feedback from the community, environmental advocates, and key stakeholders. The plan is pending approval from the Public Service Commission and it would mean that customers in Brooklyn could pay about $28 more monthly for the first year of the agreement. National Grid said that state and federal mandates, and the cost of delivering fuel efficiently, were a large part of the proposal.

According to National Grid’s website, The Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanks hold fuel for the winter months, when gas usage is greater. The Department of Energy explained on its website that LNG is fuel cooled to -216 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps the fuel in a liquid state. Gas is transported to National Grid and liquefied in storage, a spokesperson from National Grid said. 

Sane Energy Project Director Kim Fraczek said that LNG is volatile and toxic.  

Fraczek mentioned that National Grid customers used a measly 3% of the energy stored at the facility from 2019 to 2022. She received this information from a discovery question. She claimed that there was no need for such a facility. 

“If we would just make our buildings better and put our unions to work making the buildings weatherized and remediated, We wouldn’t even need to have extra gas on hand that’s toxifying our community,” Fraczek said.

State Assemblymember Emily Gallagher pushes for National Grid to end fuel storage in Brooklyn and for green energy creation. Credit: Jean Brannum

State Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, a longtime supporter of green energy, said that she is working to divest fossil fuels in New York. Gallagher is also fighting National Grid due to its footprint in the Greenpoint area. 

“National Grid is not in charge of this state nor should they be,” Gallagher said. “Go and fix the system. Go Green, clean up our land, and put it back in the hands of the people, of the communities that live here”

Joe Therrien plays Dr. Frackenstein, a satirical character based on National Grid. Credit: Jean Brannum

A Home Run to Finish

The rally took place in front of the Greenpoint Little League field, which was National Grid’s gift to the community before being shut down due to concerns of contamination in the ground. 

Parent Katherine Thompson, whose son played at the Little League field when it was open in 1999, said it’s “sickening” to think about how she and her children played and picnicked on toxic ground. 

To conclude the rally, the community launched “mudballs” over the barbed wire fence into the overgrown field. Ecologist and Team member of the Sane Energy Project JK Canepa explained that the balls of dirt were packed with microbes necessary to clean the contaminated land.

But before the balls of dirt could fly, Dr. Frankenstein, a satirical character of National Grid, disrupted the rally to challenge everyone to a game of baseball outside the field. The character claimed to have billionaire counter-protesters. His team, the New York “Tankees” lost their fake game. 

One of the protesters then exclaimed that they should play a new game under their own rules by pitching their mud balls into the field.

National Grid stated that it voluntarily cleaned up the field in 2001 in partnership with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health. In 2022, National Grid notified Little League that the ballfields would be closed for the “foreseeable future.”

Additionally, National Grid wrote the following in response to the rally:

“The organizers of Sunday’s protest ignore the fact that New Yorkers need reliable, affordable access to energy now, and the Greenpoint Energy Center provides that energy to our 1.9 million downstate customers and is the only on-system reliability resource available to our customers in the event of a supply interruption as we experienced during Winter Storm Elliot. Maintaining our existing energy networks is critical to New York’s energy future. National Grid is committed to achieving the State’s decarbonization goals and to working closely with our partners in Albany, City Hall, and communities across the state to execute a clean energy transition without leaving anyone behind.”

National Grid also mentioned that the safety of its customers is a top priority and that the Greenpoint facility is subject to regular inspections from the Public Service Commission Staff and the New York City Fire Department.

DA Announces Indictment of 18 Alleged Gang Members Tied to 12 Shootings


By Jean Brannum |

Eighteen men between the ages of 18 and 21 were indicted on murder charges linked to twelve separate shootings that injured ten and killed two around Brooklyn, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced May 29

Fifteen of the alleged gunmen were tied to the H-Block/Billy’s gang, which branches from the Bloods gang. Three allegedmembers of Gates Fam and Gotti Gang were also charged with homicide.

15 guns were seized from the 18 alleged gang members. Credit: Jean Brannum


The gangs operate on the borders of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy. The members were charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and weapons possession. Fifteen firearms were seized in the arrests. Some of those allegedly tied to the shootings were as young as 14 when the crimes were committed.

“As a father of three young boys myself, this is simply appalling and shocking,” Gonzalez said.

The District Attorney showed some of the shootings the men are allegedly tied to.  In August 2021, a man mistaken to be in a rival gang was shot point-blank in the face. He survived, but then the gang members shot and killed 16-year-old Jaquan Gause, who was allegedly part of the Gates Fam gang, and injured three others in two hours.

In Brownsville in June 2022, Nayshawn Campbell, an alleged Woo gang associate was shot. He was also sixteen years old.

Several other gun-related deaths have occurred at the hands of the gang members, and many non-gang-affiliated people have been caught in the crossfire. Gonzalez showed a video of an incident where the gang members fired indiscriminately toward a crowd watching a music video shoot. The videographer was shot in the leg and that was the only bullet to hit a person out of the 30 shots fired. Bullets narrowly missed a baby in a stroller.

In another incident, several gang members fired at a car. Investigators believe the shooters thought the car belonged to a rival gang that was slowing down to kill them. The people in the vehicle turned out to be non-gang-affiliated and were not injured, but there was severe damage to the vehicle, according to the District Attorney.

The Dodge Charger occupied by four people. Two defendants shot at the car. A bullet struck the passenger headrest, but none were injured. Credit: Brooklyn DA

The eighteen were arraigned on May 29 and the 85-count indictment showing various charges between the men was unsealed

Investigators also identified gang affiliates who were not associated with the shootings and referred them to Project Restore Bedstuy, an anti-violence organization that provides job and education opportunities. 

Gonzalez said that there are many causes of young people getting involved in gangs, one of them being social media popularity, which was one source of evidence for the investigation. Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman pointed out that some have gone as far as to incriminate themselves with celebratory posts of crimes. 

Edelman also pushed the public to come forward with any information related to gang activity in the borough. 

Gonzalez used the announcement to give an imminent warning to young people in gangs ahead of the Summer months when gun violence tends to trend upwards. 

“This is our approach here in Brooklyn, We’re gonna go hard on you if you dare fire a weapon in our communities, and we’re going to build these strong cases against you, and we’re going to send you to prison.”

Gun violence was the lowest in Brooklyn last year, according to Gonzalez. The latest CompStat for North Brooklyn shows a 5% decrease in shooting reports. South Brooklyn shows a 30% decrease in shooting incident reports since May 2023


Who Has the Most Diabolical Evil Laugh in Greenpoint?


By Jean Brannum |

There was sweat, drive, and laughs, evil laughs in Greenpoint’s Nighthorse Bar on May 16  for a new kind of competition. 

Mera Caulfield hosts the contest with her friends/roommates. Competitors gathered in Greenpoint for an evil laughing contest.

Roommates Mera Caulfield, Alix Matos, and Megan Mandrachio hosted a tournament to see who had the best evil laugh. Out of 39 contestants, comedian Ena Da took home the grand prizes, which included a T-shirt saying “I Won an Evil Laughing Competition” and homemade cinnamon rolls. 

High-pitched, Low-pitched, old-man-like, and super-short, all laughs were welcome. 

Charlie Flynn wins the first round with an old-man-like evil laugh. Competitors gathered in Greenpoint for an evil laughing contest.

Contestants completed in groups of five. After the whole group laughed, three judges picked a winner for the group. There was one “wild card” round for random members of the audience to enter. Some entrees sent in their laughs by video recording. In the end, the winners of each round showed their laughs once more to be picked, by audience applause, to be the winner. 

Many contestants did more than just laugh or flash an evil grin, some screamed, danced, lit fires, and even shot confetti. Many wore costumes and embodied a character. Many competitors practiced their laughs for days. 

Ian Smith laugh includes the final notes of defying gravity. Competitors gathered in Greenpoint for an evil laughing contest.

Ian Smith, dressed as Elphaba from Wicked, even received a complaint from his neighbor while practicing.

“My neighbors knocked on my door and told me to shut up,” Smith said.

Smooth concluded his laugh with the famous final notes of Defying Gravity while shooting confetti into the air from outstretched arms. 

Mackenzie Thomas shows off her wicked laugh with a fiery finale. Competitors gathered in Greenpoint for an evil laughing contest.

Mackenzie Thomas, dressed as a witch for her laugh, gave a high-pitched evil laugh that included a fiery finale. She lit several small pieces of tissue on fire. 

“My roommates have been enjoying it,” Thomas said, referring to her frequent practice sessions before the contest. 

The venue was packed with spectators in the backroom of Nighthorse. Spectators stood in the back and even on tables. The place was more electrified when it came time to vote for the winner.  The final two contestants faced each other for the final laugh. Comedian Ena Da received thunderous applause. Da heard about the contest that day through social media and messaged one of the hosts to enter. Despite her lack of time to prepare, she took home the gold. 

Ena Da, a last-minute entry, wins the competition. Competitors gathered in Greenpoint for an evil laughing contest.

Caulfield, a comedian,  said she got the idea for the contest after hearing about similar tournaments. She would like to host more competitions, possibly twice a year. 

“That was electric,” Caulfield said. “It was just so much fun to see so many people excited about something.“


Community, Politicians Call on Mayor to Make McGuinness Safe


By Jean Brannum |

Elected officials and community advocates spoke to the press at the intersection of McGuinness Blvd and Calyer St to advocate for a safer McGuinness Blvd after opponents lobbied against the changes.

Council Member Lincoln Restler calls on Mayor Adams to approve the proposed changed to McGuinness Blvd. Credit: Jean Brannum

Speakers addressed reporters in front of several posters with the names of people killed in traffic collisions on McGuinness Blvd. Organization Make McGuinness Safe started advocating for a safer McGuinness Blvd after the death of teacher Matthew Jensen in 2021. However, politicians and communities have fought since at least 2009 to make the road safer noting several collisions and near-misses. 

The organization pushed for several changes to improve pedestrian safety. Mayor Eric Adams initially agreed to the changes verbally, but walked back his agreement in 2023. He instead encouraged the Department of Transportation to work with both opponents and supporters of the plan, according to The CITY. The CITY reported that the campaign against the changes was backed by Broadway Stages owners Gina and Tony Argento. The film company has produced shows such as “Law and Order: SVU” and “Blue Bloods.” The Argentos have donated over $15,000 to Adam’s campaign. 

A modified plan was implemented, which included adding bike lanes on a part of McGuinness in the Summer of 2023. Despite the changes, community members want the bike lanes to extend to Meeker Avenue and for one traffic lane in each direction to be cut to ensure safer pedestrian crossing.

Community members hold up signs of people killed on McGuinness. Credit: Jean Brannum

But not everyone wants the plans the group is advocating for. Many businesses have joined to form the Keep McGuinness Moving organization, which wants to keep the four lanes of traffic and says that removing one lane will cause congestion and destroy local businesses in the industrial zone. The organization supports the safety of everyone who uses the boulevard, according to its website. 

One of the speakers, Bronwyn Breitner, mentioned that owners of the company Broadway Stages lobbied against the changes to Adams’ aide Ingrid Lewis-Martin, which reportedly caused Adams to walk back on his promise. 

A petition recently collected 10,000 signatures. Local City Council Member Lincoln Restler called on Adams to honor the demands of the residents who signed the petition, after Restler said there were rumors the mayor would never approve the changes.  

“I want him to know that if he fails our community, if he fails to make Greenpoint safer, we are going to keep organizing until we win.”

At the conference, several members of the community shared their safety concerns with the current state of McGuinness Blvd. 

Local resident Jordana Jacobs tells the story of narrowly avoiding a collision with a truck while crossing McGuinness with her son. Credit: Jean Brannum

Jordana Jacobs used to let her son walk to many places by himself, except places where he had to cross McGuinness Blvd. She discussed with her son several times how the street was not safe and one had to be hyper-vigilant to cross. 

She was about to cross McGuinness with her eleven-year-old one day when a truck nearly hit them. The walk sign was on, but Jacobs and her son knew the truck was not going to stop as it came barreling toward them with no sign of slowing down. Since then, Jacobs said her son does not feel safe walking around outside by himself. 

“My son was shaking. His entire body was shaking. Since then, my kid, who has always had a pretty healthy sense of independence, does not feel comfortable crossing streets by himself”

State Assemblymember for Greenpoint, Emily Gallagher, used to live next to McGuinness. She told stories of the injuries and deaths she witnessed outside her apartment. 

“I watched people get hit by cars,” Gallagher said. “I wiped up blood from the street. I brought my own dish towels out to hold against elders’ heads who got in a car crash right on this very intersection.” 

Jeanine Ballone, who has lived in the area her whole life, has helped several elderly people cross the street by stopping traffic on both sides. She has witnessed several cars be hit, and cars ride through stop lights.

 As someone who has seen many changes in the area, she said that something needs to be done to accommodate the new development. Saying that the area cannot accommodate the new growth and influx of outside traffic that speeds down the boulevard. 

Many residents and politicians at the conference pledged to keep advocating for a safer McGuinness. The Mayor’s office said the following in an emailed statement: 

“Traffic safety is public safety, and the Adams administration remains committed to making McGuinness Boulevard safer for all road users, whether walking, biking, or driving. Throughout this project, we have listened to community members about their needs and updated our design accordingly, and we will continue to weigh the needs of all area stakeholders as we continue to work on safety improvements.”

The DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in another emailed statement, “Traffic safety is a key priority for Mayor Adams, and we are delivering a redesign of McGuinness Boulevard that will make this corridor safer for everyone. Too many New Yorkers have been injured or lost their lives on McGuinness Boulevard, and working with the community we will continue to make significant safety improvements.” 

According to the DOT, construction resumed last week to improve conditions on McGuinness Blvd and add speed limit enforcement equipment. The DOT also said that it added traffic counting equipment to analyze traffic volume changes since last winter in addition to data collected in 2021.

Rent prices continue to rise in Brooklyn, reports say


By Jean Brannum |

Real estate reports show that rent in the city continues to increase with little end in sight, and the number of apartments available is decreasing ahead of the busy summer moving season. 

In Brooklyn, the median rental price for April rose about four percent in the last month, according to a Douglas Elliman report. This increase was slightly less than Manhattan, which rose 4.2 percent in April. 

Molly Franklin, a real estate agent for The Corcoran Group, said that while the Brooklyn market has always been hot, the number of affordable units, especially in Greenpoint, is dwindling. 

“Brooklyn isn’t an affordable borough anymore,” Franklin said. 

The Corcoran Group released a report with similar findings. According to its report, rent in Brooklyn increased ten percent since April 2023. One and two-bedroom apartments increased by over ten percent in the last year. 

Real estate agents are noticing more competition for places. While April is typically busy, this year’s market shows uniquely high competition. 

“I like to call it the Hunger Games,” Elina Golovko said, referring to the fierce competition for places in the summer months. Between new people moving to the city for jobs or school, and people looking to upgrade or downgrade within the city, there are so many people looking and fewer units available. Golovko is a real estate agent for Elliman. 

And she does not see it improving in time for summer, or even in the slower fall and winter months. 

Golovko said that the decrease in inventory has led to tense bidding wars between buyers and sellers. She has seen apartments rent for twenty to thirty percent over the asking price because the area is in high demand. She also noticed that more people are renting to move in up to 90 days in advance, the average earlier was up to 45. 

Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel who created the Elliman report, said that since mortgage rates in April were the highest they have ever been, would-be home buyers are “camping” in the rental market. This increases competition for everyone looking for a place to rent. Those wanting to buy a home also have to afford a down payment and interest, which drives more people to rent, according to Golovko. 

“High mortgage rates are not the friend of would-be homebuyers, but they’re also not the friend of renters,” Miller said. “Higher rates push more people from the sales market to the rental market and the economy.”

Surprisingly, average rent in Northern Queens, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside decreased slightly. Miller suspects that it is due to the expectation that prices will be lower. The number of units has remained steady in the area. 

But even though rent prices are declining in the area, many units rented for about 20 percent over the asking price, indicating another area for tight bidding wars, according to Miller. 

Miller clarified that he can only make educated guesses for the future, but he does not see rent prices declining or more home buying in the next season. As long as mortgage rates are high, more people are likely to stay in the rental market. 

“It’s become clear that we’re not expecting mortgage or interest rate cuts, imminently, as was the thinking just a month ago,” Miller said. 

For those looking to rent or buy, the realtors shared some helpful tips. 

Start early, Golovko said. Due to the competition, starting earlier and creating a game plan will allow you the best chances of finding a place by the time you need to move. The summer rush is starting now. She also advises looking specifically for apartments available on your start date. 

Before you start searching, get documents ready and find a realtor. Co-op units usually have a longer approval process, while rental properties have the fastest. 

Franklin advises her clients to keep an open mind when looking for a place. Don’t be afraid to look into areas you never thought about, or consider moving to commuter cities if you work from home or don’t commute to the city daily. 

Franklin had two clients, a couple, who were dead set on living in Astoria. She found a place for them in Jackson Heights, and they were happy with their choice to live in a spacious apartment in the neighborhood. 

If you want to stay in an area with higher rent prices, be ready to downgrade or live with a roommate. 

Overall, Franklin emphasized that a “strong stomach and an open mind” will make the process survivable.