5Pointz Owner Libel for Destroying Graffiti Art

Nov 12, 17 5Pointz Owner Libel for Destroying Graffiti Art

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A jury found owner of the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens, guilty of destroying graffiti art when he tore down the building as part of his plans for developing the area. Three years ago, Jerry Wolkoff, a New York City real estate developer, had the 5Pointz group of buildings torn down after close to twenty years of allowing graffiti artists to decorate the buildings with colorful swirling murals. The unusual collaboration became a tourist site over the years, and helped to transform the area into a growing residential enclave. Although the site was a popular attraction, and many graffiti artists added their own works frequently, it was always understood that eventually the buildings would be torn down to make way for luxury apartments. After the demolition in 2014, 21 artists brought a law suit against Wolkoff, arguing that he had violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, a law enacted to protect public art of “recognized stature” which was created on someone else’s property. Eric Baum, lawyer for the artists, said that Wolkoff had violated the artists rights by failing to notify them 90 days in advance of the destruction. According to the complaint, Wolkoff had brought workers at night to cover the graffiti in a layer of white paint without giving notice. David Ebert, Wolkoff’s lawyer, said that the VARA law does not apply in this case, since the law was intended to protect art and not his client’s building. He added that the artists always knew that one day the buildings would be torn down. He also argued that the artists themselves had destroyed much more art than his client did, saying that over the years about 11,000 murals had been painted and destroyed at the 5Pointz complex. The trial lasted about three weeks. At the end the two lawyers agreed that the jury’s decision would be merely a recommendation to guide the judge, Frederic Block to make his decision. The jury decided in favor or the artists, but Judge Block...

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ISIS Sympathizer Gets Maximum Sentence in Brooklyn

Oct 30, 17 ISIS Sympathizer Gets Maximum Sentence in Brooklyn

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Despite pleas for sympathy and a show of regret, Uzbek national Abdurasul Juraboev was handed the maximum sentence of 15 years for plotting attacks of a terrorist nature. Juraboev pleaded guilty to following ISIS and planning overseas terrorist attacks as well as attacks on US soil in 2014. He also threatened then-President Barack Obama with death online and declared he wanted to fight for ISIS in Syria. If he couldn’t get to Syria, he said, he would do violence in New York, said federal prosecutors. Juraboev purchased a plane ticket to Turkey with the intention of traveling on to Syria, but he plans were thwarted when he was arrested along with others who were making similar plans. Lawyers for the defendant pressed the judge to sentence their client to about 5 years in prison. They argued that their client was alone in the United States, after being awarded a green card in the lottery. Without family or friends, it is no wonder Juraboev joined ISIS. Several months after he was arrested Juraboev pleaded guilty to giving material aid to a terrorist group. The 27-year-old man tearfully described his regret for supporting ISIS, saying that now he disdains extremism and now knows that ISIS “wasn’t the real Islam.” “I didn’t know my religion correctly,” Juraboev said, adding that ISIS fighters and propagandists were “doing many things wrong.” Acting Brooklyn US Attorney Bridget Rohde said that the sentence “holds Juraboev to account for his plans to join ISIS and engage in violent jihad overseas or carry out a terrorist attack in the United States if he was unable to travel to...

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Prospect Park Says No to Cars

Oct 24, 17 Prospect Park Says No to Cars

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After a successful trial period as a car-free zone from July to September, Prospect Park is about to embark on this ambitious move on a permanent basis. Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement on Monday: Prospect Park will no longer allow entrance to cars on the parks entire loop drive, beginning on January 2, 1918. The New York City Department of Transportation carefully monitored the traffic on the roads adjacent to the park during the trial period from July 17 until September 11 and decided that closing the park had no significant impact on traffic. “Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s backyard. I married Chirlane here. This is where my kids played little league,” said the mayor. “And I have always wanted it to be the safe, quiet refuge for Brooklyn’s families that it was intended to be. Restoring Prospect Park as a car-free oasis will improve the lives of the millions who use this park today and of generations to come.” Prospect Park is one of Brooklyn’s most visited sites, with between 8 and 10 million visitors each year. The park’s West Drive has already been car-free since 2015, while the eastern route stayed open only on weekdays. Pedestrian park-goers outnumber cars in the park by a margin of 3-1 during the morning hours, making their desire for a car-free park a convincing reason to ban cars. Joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and others that come to the park brought 1,100 signatures requesting that the summer’s car-free status be made permanent. The neighborhood will be notified about the upcoming change using social media as well as posting signs at the entrance to Prospect...

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Bay Ridge R-Train Station Open Again for Business

Oct 16, 17 Bay Ridge R-Train Station Open Again for Business

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After a six-month closure for major improvements, the 102-year-old station in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn is serving commuters again. The station, which offers R train service, now has new digital information signage, countdown clocks, charging ports for phones and other devices, better, brighter lighting, and beautiful new artwork. MTA head Joe Lhota did the honors of cutting the ribbon to officially open the station. “The work that we’ve done here was to bring it into the 21st Century,” Lhota said. This station is just one of many on several subway lines which will be renovated under the $836 million subway rescue plan. Quality of service is also high up on the agenda of improvements. “We’re not letting one minute go to waste during nonpeak hours,” Lhota added, saying that when new train cars arrive and new signal equipment is installed, the MTA will be able to run more trains. Some commuters were disappointed that the MTA did not add an elevator as part of the station’s upgrade. Having an elevator would be a great benefit to elderly, people in wheelchairs, and others who find using stairs a burden. “If you’re completely redoing a station, keep in mind the people who need to use it, not just the cosmetic improvements,” one commuter commented. Lhota said that putting in an elevator at the Bay Ridge station was not possible. “We couldn’t do it for this site because of the logistics,” Lhota said. “If we were able to do it, we would do it.” Four other R stations will be getting elevators in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act- at 59th St, 77th St, 86th St and Bay Ridge-95th...

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Blow Up the Old, Bring in the New: Kosciuszko Bridge

Oct 02, 17 Blow Up the Old, Bring in the New: Kosciuszko Bridge

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After 78 years of service connecting Brooklyn and Queens above Newton Creek, the old Kosciuszko Bridge was demolished in a controlled explosion. It took 944 coordinated charges to bring down large sections of the left and right spans of the bridge, which were then carted off. The debris from the bridge will amount to an estimated 22 million pounds of scrap metal. With the destruction of the old bridge, named for a Polish military engineer, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who was a soldier during the American Revolutionary War, workers can now work on the completion of the second span of the new bridge over the creek. That bridge is due to open in 2020. The demolition caused a delay in traffic of about 5-10 minutes on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway just before 8am. The explosion was billed in advance as an “energetic feeling”, a term that was made fun of on social media. “An energetic felling. What does that mean? I don’t know,” Cuomo said as people laughed. With the destroyed bridge and new bridge in the background, Governor Cuomo discussed the future of New York City. “You look around this city and ask yourself, ‘What makes New York New York?'” he said to a crowd of city representatives and neighborhood residents. “What it was, was that our forefathers had vision, had guts, had determination and they built a place that was...

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Teachers in Experimental School Face Pay Cuts

Sep 25, 17 Teachers in Experimental School Face Pay Cuts

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In 2010 an experimental public elementary school, the New American Academy, was launched in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Classrooms are open, with as many as 60 students in classes that use open classrooms utilizing progressive educational philosophies. The several teachers are part of the class, and they travel together with their students as they move up to higher grades. There are as many as four teachers associated with each class, who all work together as a team, with one master teacher in charge of the entire group. In this arrangement, the master teacher, who assists her less experienced colleagues to improve their teaching skills, was paid an annual salary of $125,000. Substantially more than the usual pay scale for teachers in the New York City school system. As of September 7, of this year, the first day of the new school year, 21 teachers at the New American Academy will have their incomes seriously slashed, in some cases by as much as $50,000 less per year. Teachers and parents at the Academy are angered by the Education Department’s decision to bring the school’s remuneration policy in line with other schools in the system. “It’s gross, it’s horrible, it feels hopeless to try to change the system,” one New American Academy teacher said. The teacher will suffer a $50,000 pay cut under the new system. “It’s heartbreaking,” the teacher added, who wants to remain anonymous to protect her job. “This is the most inspirational place I’ve worked in. But I don’t feel represented by either my union or the Department of Education.” The principal of the school did not comment on the cuts. A spokeswoman for the DOE, Toya Holness did not explain why the city was cutting the teacher’s salaries, only that they did it. “The agreement ended and we didn’t renew it,” said Holness, who asserted that the city really does support its teachers. The teacher’s union has decided not to fight the decision. “While we believe that the program was a worthwhile experiment...

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