Inside Greenpoint YMCA’s Spirit of Community Awards

Honorees include Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Greenpointers and Apple Bank

By Oona Milliken

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The Greenpoint YMCA held its sixth annual Spirit of Community service awards dinner and auction at Giando on the Water on Wednesday Oct. 4 to celebrate important community leaders within the neighborhood. The honorees at the event included Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Apple Bank’s Maureen Douglas, Executive Vice President, Debbie Hootam, Vice President, Business Relationship Manager and Monika Nowicka, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager as well as those of the Greenpointers blog, Julia Moak and her team.

Poster honoring Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

Tatiana Terzouli, Regional Director for Communications, Marketing and Fund Development at the Greenpoint YMCA, said the event was a chance to highlight another year of the YMCA’s goal of making a difference in the community.

“I thought this year’s Greenpoint Y’s ‘Spirit of Community’ Service Awards Dinner was another success, providing us with a great opportunity to come together, connect with old and new friends, celebrate, and fortify our commitment to another year of making a positive impact on the community we love. The event was filled with camaraderie, inspiration, and a shared sense of purpose as we gear up for another year of giving back,” Terzouli said in an email.

La-Asia Hundley, the co-master of ceremonies, said the honorees were exceptional, not only in their fields of work and passion but also in their commitment to providing for their communities.

View from Giando on the Water. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

“These honorees are not just exceptional leaders, and I will say they are exceptional in their own right, in their own fields, but they are role models for the young people at the Y. Their everyday actions aligned with the core values of the Y: respect, honesty, responsibility and caring. They are driven by a deep passion for serving others,” Hundley said.

Elaine Brodsky, the former co-founder of Citistorage, a Brooklyn-based archival storage and records-management company, the chair of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and keynote speaker at the event, said the YMCA was an important part of her upbringing and wanted to give back to the organization.

“I was a little girl when I learned how to swim at the YMCA upstate in Elmira, New York. The was a central location for all activities back in the day, much as it is in Greenpoint now. We are so fortunate to have such a strong culture of diversity, acceptance, and solidarity in our neighborhood,” Brodsky said.

Elaine Brodsky speaking at the event. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

Terzuoli said it was important to hold community events in order to both recognize community members, bring people in the community together as well and inspire others to dedicate some of their time to service and helping others.

“First, it makes people feel valued and appreciated for the good things they do in our community. Recognizing and celebrating influential individuals acknowledges their efforts and motivates them to continue their support and involvement,” Terzouli said in an email. “Additionally, recognizing influential community members at these events can serve as an inspiration to others. When people see others getting involved with organizations like the YMCA, it encourages them to become actively engaged, volunteer, and contribute to causes they are passionate about, not just the Y. This means more support for essential community programs and services.”

Disclaimer: Walter Sanchez is a board member of the Greenpoint YMCA

G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store to Close

Over a Century Old Institution Closing Doors on April 10

By Matthew Fischetti

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When George Esposito was eight-years-old, his first job at his Grandfather’s store was selling garlic by the pound for 25 cents. 55 years later, he’s now ready to close shop.

The over a century old and four generation family-owned G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store, located on Court Street in Carroll Gardens, will be closing its doors on April 10.

In an interview with the Brooklyn Star, Esposito said that he would have liked to keep the store open for the decades long customers who have enjoyed the store but buyers were intimidated.

“Lots of people were interested [in buying the business] but when they see what we do here – it scared them away. We make everything. You know this isn’t a Trader Joes,” he said. “This is a homemade family business that makes everything from scratch.”

Esposito’s & Sons Pork Store is known for a lot more than just their pork: they serve hot and cold sandwiches, are well-known for their sausage and rice balls, and offer everything from cavatelli to potato salad.

The store was originally founded by Esposito’s grandfather, Giovanni Esposito. Originally from Naples, Giovanni immigrated to the United States in 1922 and opened up shop on Columbia and Union Street the same year. The store moved over to the Court Street location in 1977 when the original location’s nabe started to get more dangerous, said Esposito.

Back then the menu was different: selling traditional Italian foods like lamb heads and calf lungs. Around the mid to late 80s is when the store started to sell more Italian-American dishes and added sandwiches to their menus, as the nabe changed.

G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store will close on April 10

“I’ll never eat sausage again anywhere. That’s a fact. I bought a shrink wrap machine just for myself,” Esposito said.

Since the announcement of the store’s closing, Esposito said he has been inundated with orders. For the first time in the store’s history they are running low on inventory.

“I have like 30 trays ordered. Whole trays that people are going to freeze. I don’t know if you like eggplant parmesan, but there’s okay and there’s bad and there’s great. Our’s is outstanding,” said Esposito.

“I was heartbroken,” Brian Geltner, a 20 year customer of G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store said in an interview while munching on an Italian combo.

Some of his favorite things to order over the years have been the sausage parm, the italian combo and the eggplant parm – “but it’s all good,” he said.

“Whenever I buy sausages here to make tomato sauce, the sauce always comes out better than any other place,” Geltner said. “I don’t know why, but I go out of my way to come here before work.”

Greenpoint Assembly District on chopping block

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Greenpoint residents are organizing against new proposed lines for their assembly district, claiming that the lines are politically charged.

Assembly District 50, the current district represented by Emily Gallagher covers Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The proposed draft lines submitted by the Independent Redistricting Committee would currently split the district in half, along McGuinness Boulevard with the right half of the district being absorbed into Western Queens-based Assembly District 38, which is  currently represented by Juan Ardila. 

The current maps boundaries are a result of the earlier redistricting, which after court challenges only was set to be used for the last election. The maps that are currently being considered are to replace the 2023-2024 maps. 

“The bifurcation of McGuinness Boulevard under the current redistricting plan will serve to separate the longstanding Greenpoint Polish Community, diminishing its heritage, unique character, heart and spirit, like the BQE did to our Williamsburg neighborhood,” a letter from a group of local activists opposing the proposed lines obtained by the Greenpoint Star. “The split of AD50 along McGuinness Boulevard and lower along Driggs Avenue will also divide a community that has successfully faced environmental challenges threatening our neighborhood. This includes the designation of two federal superfund sites, the building of at least three power plants, and flood resiliency planning.”

Kevin LaCherra, a local Greenpoint activist, told the Greenpoint Star that the lines’ potential impact are dire.

“This is such a critical time not just for our city, but for this community – in terms of climate, housing, resources and planning. In the midst of that the state of New York wants to cut us in half. Divide our power, divide our voice.”

In reference to the unique challenges Eastern Greenpoint faces, LaCherra said that the plan was especially troublesome.

“These are some of our most vulnerable areas of the community that really need the expertise of elected officials that have and will represent the majority of Greenpoint,” he continued. “And that is not the case here.”

Karen Blatt, the co-executive director at the Independent Redistricting Commission, did not answer any questions regarding the decision making behind the change but encouraged people to participate in public hearings about the subject.

“The map that was released on December 1st is just a draft and the commissioners will redraw the lines in March, based on the testimony at our public hearings and the submissions they read on our website. Everyone is encouraged to participate and inform the commissioners how the lines affect them and their community,” Blatt wrote in an email. 

Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher urged constituents to testify at the upcoming meeting.

“Greenpoint and Williamsburg are sister communities and have never been separated politically. They share a history, a heritage and many common challenges. The new draft lines proposed by the Independent Redistricting Committee reminds me of the carelessness of Robert Moses driving the BQE through the heart of our residential neighborhoods,” Gallagher said in a statement. “Eastern Greenpoint belongs with Greenpoint and Williamsburg—not in a mostly Queens district.” 

The upcoming public hearing for the proposed Greenpoint district, and Brooklyn at-large, will be hosted both online and in-person at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15 at Medgar Evers College. 

John Catsimatidis-Owned Oil Company Refuses to Sign Union Contract at Greenpoint Refinery

John Catsimatidis-Owned Oil Company Refuses to Sign Union Contract at Greenpoint Refinery

Claudia Irizarry Aponte, The City

Logo for THE CITYThis article was originally published on by THE CITY

Left to right: Union rep Vic Castellano with Asaaf John and Andre Soleyn at Greenpoint’s United Metro Energy worker strike, April 29, 2021.
Union rep Vic Castellano, left, with Asaaf John, center, and Andre Soleyn at Greenpoint’s United Metro Energy worker strike, April 29, 2021. | Gabriel Sandoval/THE CITY

United Metro Energy, the Brooklyn-based oil company owned by radio host and former GOP mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, declined to sign a longstanding, industry-wide collective bargaining agreement that expired last Friday, Dec. 16.

The contract had represented only three truck drivers, who haul fuel from the Greenpoint refinery, as members of Teamsters Local 553 for decades. But additional United Metro workers, including about two dozen technicians and mechanics, have been on strike for union recognition since April 2021.

In an interview with THE CITY on Thursday, Catsimatidis said — as United Metro executives have in recent months — that the company was never bound by the agreement, a matter Local 553 is disputing with the federal National Labor Relations Board.

Overall, that contract spans some 800 workers in New York City and is negotiated by the New York State Energy Coalition (NYSEC), which deals with labor contracts with unions across the state on behalf of several energy corporations. 

United Metro’s refusal to sign the master agreement was largely seen by workers as an attempt to further thwart the efforts of striking workers at the expense of the facility’s three union members.

“That’s all part of the fight to undercut the union effort that we started, and he seems to be getting away with it,” said Andre Soleyn, a terminal operator and union leader on strike at the terminal since April 2021. “So he is definitely using that as a perch to come against us as a group to prevent us from getting what we deserve.”

The new contract that went into effect on Dec. 16 includes a $5.50-hour increase over the three-year life of the agreement — the “largest increase ever,” according to a memo sent to Local 553 members — and the addition of Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Mayor Eric Adams meets with Greek American leaders at Gracie Mansion on Tuesday, February 15, 2022.
John Catsimatidis, right, attended a meeting Mayor Eric Adams held with Greek American leaders at Gracie Mansion, Feb. 15, 2022. | Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

“We are abiding by whatever terms everyone else is abiding by. And if they make an agreement with the rest of the industry, we will most likely abide by that, too,” Catsimatidis said.

“Somebody shows it to me, whatever agreement they abided by, with the other people, we will abide by it,” he added.

In response to Catsimatidis, Local 553 secretary-treasurer Demos Demopoulos said in a statement to THE CITY on Thursday: “I expect Mr. Catsimatidis to be a man of his word and that he will honor his commitment to abide by and sign the Industry Agreement when I present it to him.”

600 Days on Strike

Even as it honored the terms of past industry-wide agreements settled in 2017, United Metro Energy claimed — in a Sept. 20 letter from president John McConville to NYSEC CEO Rocco Lacertosa — that the company was not bound to the contract that expired on Dec. 16 in the first place, because it did not sign the contract.

United Metro, McConville wrote, “is not bound by the current Master Contract with Local 553. To the extent that any such agreement is in effect — which it is not — it will not renew after December 15, 2022.” 

Local 553 charged the company had “unilaterally canceled a valid collective bargaining agreement” in an unfair labor practice charge it filed against United Metro with the NLRB in October.

“For the employees that are covered under that contract, they have been paying all the wages, benefits and medical, vacation schedule — everything that’s covered under the master contract,” Demopoulos said last Wednesday. “So it’s ridiculous for them to claim now that they’ve never been covered under that contract, when for years, they’ve been more or less honoring that contract.”

Catsimatidis is the CEO of Red Apple Group, a conglomerate of energy, real estate, media and grocery companies, including Gristedes food markets, which have a longstanding collective bargaining agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500.

The dispute adds another chapter in a multi-year labor dispute at United Metro Energy, which distributes heating oil to New York City schools and hospitals and the MTA, as well as diesel fuel to gas stations. About two dozen of its Greenpoint refinery oil technicians, terminal operators and fleet mechanics are on a strike that has stretched for more than 600 days.

Those workers voted to join Teamsters Local 553 in 2019 and went on an indefinite strike in April 2021, more than two years after fruitless contract negotiations began.

United Metro workers earn hourly wages averaging $12 below the industry average, according to Local 553.

‘Always Welcome’

“Basically, they’ve just been dragging out negotiations,” union rep Vic Castellano told THE CITY last year. “And we wouldn’t take this action if they were negotiating the way they claim to be. Nothing should take over two years.”

In April, a year after the strike began, Local 553 called on Mayor Eric Adams to halt a $52 million contract with United Metro brokered by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, because of the dispute. The mayor’s office said it could not sever the deal because the company is in compliance with local regulations, the New York Post reported.

Catsimatidis told THE CITY that the workers “are always welcome to come back to work.”

“Check my record — in 50 years in labor, in New York City, I’ve been a CEO for 50 years, we’ve never had a strike. And the union just on a Monday morning, decided to put these people on strike,” he said.

United Metro responded by firing nine terminal operators at the onset of the strike in 2021 — union leader Andre Soleyn among them. The company was ordered by the NLRB to reinstate the nine employees in July of this year; those workers are separate from the truck drivers whose contract the company is disputing.

The company complied, and all but two of those workers remain on strike, taking other jobs to make ends meet while holding the line.

“There’s a certain resolve that the guys have, and that’s because we all have families that we need to take care of, and we want them to do better than we did,” Soleyn said.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

Park advocates holding social media campaign today

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Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park – the local green space advocacy group calling on the City to purchase the former CitiStorage site and turn into a park on the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront – is hosting a campaign today to pressure Mayor Bill de Blasio into acquiring the site.

They are asking fellow advocates to tweet @nycmayor or @billdeblasio or to call 311 to demand the City sign a deal to acquire the space. They posted the following message on the campaign:

The City has done a great thing by making a generous offer for the final parcel of Bushwick Inlet Park. The time is now to close this deal with the land owner. The City and the owner of the CitiStorage property have been in discussions, and we believe that both sides are close. Close enough that the time is now to close this deal. Please call 311 to tell Mayor de Blasio to please bring the CitiStorage property out of harm’s way, and Tweet him as well @nycmayor @billdeblasio #wheresourpark now!  Please act today.

Cops search for men behind attacks, robberies

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Last month, Greenpoint neighbors expressed concerns about a seemingly increasing rate of assaults and attacks, particularly on women, in the neighborhood.

Last week, the police reported a series of incidents that appear to be connected. It has left the neighborhood on edge yet again after the attacks and robberies.

The four incidents all happened on Sunday, September 25th in the afternoon. According to the police, here’s a timeline of what happened:

  • 3:10 p.m. – A 26-year-old man was skateboarding with friends near Jackson Street and Meeker Avenue. Four unidentified man approached him to “engage in conversation. One of the suspects grabbed the victim from behind, forcing him to the ground. Another suspect took 26-year-old victim’s backpack, which had a Pentax camera worth $100, an iPhone 6, an ID, a passport and three books (“Just Kids”, “Philosophy of Andy Warhol” and “Lolita”). Another suspect then took the victim’s skateboard and hit him in the back with it. The victim suffered back pain but refused medical attention. The suspects fled on Jackson Street.
  • 4:15 p.m. –  A 34-year-old man was walking near Jewel Street and Meserole Avenue when three unidentified men approached him. One of the suspect hit the victim in the face, then removing his iPhone, wallet $300, an ID and a MetroCard. The victim was taken to Wyckoff Medical Center, where he got eight stitches to close a large cut in his chin.
  • 4:30 p.m. – A 32-year-old man was walking near Diamond Street and Meserole Avenue when two unidentified men, yet again, approached him from behind. One of the suspects punched him in the face. They went through the victim’s pockets, taking a Samsung Galaxy S7, a wallet, $80, an ID and bank cards. The victim refused medical attention while the suspects ran away.
  • 4:45 p.m. – A 33-year-old man was walking on Leonard Street and Engert Avenue when two unidentified men, one of them holding a skateboard, asked him for the time. One of the suspects then displayed a knife and demanded the victim’s possessions, a request with which he complied. They left with an iPhone 6 and an American Express card. Luckily, the victim in this case was not hurt.

Police believe all four of these incidents are related, and surveillance footage took photos of the possible suspects in the photo above.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM.