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A Different Draft

For one of the football teams in town, the draft provided little-to-no drama, playing out the way you thought it would a week ago.
It was the worst-kept secret for the last two months that the Jets were selecting Zach Wilson out of BYU as their next quarterback.
Wilson’s baby face and outward charisma will be touted in commercials and on billboards across the Big Apple in the months ahead.
Media attention for a rookie quarterback in New York City is par for the course, however the plan of attack for the Jets in building around this particular rookie quarterback is drastically different than the way they built around their prior rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold.
The Jets did a terrible job of surrounding their last quarterback with offensive talent.
Clearly, Jets general manager Joe Douglas wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past. The Jets traded up for an offensive tackle in the middle portion of the first round.
They drafted a wide receiver in the second round, and they added a running back in the later rounds.
The message from top to bottom was simple: we are going to do our best to set up a rookie quarterback in the best position imaginable.
Can I tell you for sure that in five years the Jets will be a competent, well-run organization? Of course not, but the plan in place is certainly set up for success.
For the other football team in town, the drama was all about a draft-day narrative that was squashed for good after Friday night.
In the days leading up to the NFL Draft, Giants general manager Dave Gettelman heard a pretty basic critique of his draft day strategy: “when will Dave Gettelman trade down in a draft?”
It was a fair question considering that Gettleman in his years running both the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants has never traded out of a draft pick to accumulate more assets.
In 2021, it seems like hell may be freezing over. Dave Gettelman not once, but twice traded down.
When the Giants missed out on the chance to land Alabama standout wide receiver Devonta Smith, the team made a practical move.
The Giants identified the Chicago Bears as a quarterback needy team and worked out a deal to acquire the Bears first-round pick next year plus additional assets.
In addition, the Giants found themselves in a similar position in the second round of the draft. They traded back with the Miami Dolphins and picked up their third round pick next year.
The Giants landed Florida Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney and Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari, who should both fill obvious needs for the team.
It’s a win-win for the Giants, because they are also set up next year with a bundle of draft picks, a bundle of draft picks that could be used to build around Daniel Jones or to land the franchise’s next quarterback.
I look forward to grading these draft results in the years to come, but I know this, draft day was certainly done differently in New York this time around.

You can listen to me on my new podcast “New York, New York” on the Ringer Podcast Network which can be found on both Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

New exhibit at Queens Museum examines truth

In Strange But True, a new exhibit opening at the Queens Museum, artist Sydney Shen takes a look at the construction of truth and methodologies used to establish facts, focusing on photographic documentation practices and their power to shape culture norms.
In her work, the New York-based artist often creates sculptures and environments that commingle historical and contemporary symbols.
For her new solo exhibition, she explores various photographic techniques, juxtaposing early medical photographs with contemporary forms, like closed-circuit television, to cull a visual vocabulary focused on our voyeuristic sensibilities of “othered bodies.”
Literally a sideways world, Strange But True is an immersive installation that blurs the line between amusing and sinister, using the distance of metafiction in conjunction with optical manipulations to demonstrate that the study of evidence can never offer a complete and unbiased picture.
Strange But True was in part inspired by Shen’s interest in the philosopher Georges Bataille, whose writings on macabre and taboo subjects have long been a touchstone for her. With this exhibition, Shen contends with a friction that arises between her alignment with Bataille’s sensibilities, and the factual inaccuracies that his assertions can leverage and sustain, from his Western White male gaze.
Bataille was transfixed by photos of “lingchi,” an obsolete Chinese method of execution, also known as “death by a thousand cuts.” He heralded it as a rare depiction of a person in a spiritual state of rapturous suffering.
“Bataille’s flawed interpretation shaped assumptions still held today about Chinese culture, religion, and society,” said Shen. “This leads me to wonder how I can reconcile my relation to these photographs and Bataille, when my own racial selfhood is subject to — perhaps even influenced by — the gaze that the discourse around these photos has perpetuated?”
The role of photography in pathologizing bodies is also connected to the culture of world expositions, which dating back to the 19th century notoriously presented both official and unofficial exhibitions of marginalized bodies, such as foreign peoples, women, and the disabled, as curiosities to be consumed.
The two New York World’s Fairs of 1939-40 and 1964-65 were no exception: the fairgrounds were surrounded by plentiful adult amusements, including sideshows and peep shows, voyeuristic invitations that are inextricably linked to the mechanics and aesthetics of photographic technology.
Both fairs liberally deployed spectacle to promote an unrelenting optimism toward technological innovation.
The 1939-40 Fair celebrated the 100th anniversary of photography and featured an entire pavilion dedicated to the Eastman Kodak Co., where, among elaborate installations, fairgoers were first introduced to Kodachrome color film, billed as a surefire way to “capture life, just as you see it.”

Strange But True is organized by assistant curator Sophia Marisa Lucas and is on view April 28 through August 22.

Borough Hall dubbed ‘One Claire Shulman Way’

When Claire Shulman passed away last August at the age of 94, Queens lost one of its greatest advocates. However, the legacy of the borough’s trailblazing first female borough president continues to live on and inspire.
This past Monday, Borough President Donovan Richards presided over a ceremony unveiling “One Claire Shulman Way” as the vanity address of Borough Hall.
“Claire Shulman was a larger-than-life figure who consistently defied expectations with her uncanny ability to get things done for the people of Queens,” said Richards. “Her death last year was a huge loss to all of us who relied on her friendship and counsel, but we keep her legacy and memory alive by permanently and prominently affixing her name to Queens Borough Hall.
“From now on, everyone who visits the people’s house will see the name of Claire Shulman and reflect on the great work she did to build a better Queens,” he added.
Shulman was one of the first people to get behind Richards’ campaign for borough president.
“Claire Shulman was my unofficial campaign manager,” Richards said. “I can’t believe she supported me.”
Shulman served as Borough President from 1986 until 2002, and played a role in a wide range of issues.
Her accomplishments included the rezoning of dozens of neighborhoods to curb overdevelopment, expanding the borough’s infrastructure, and increasing funding to senior citizen centers, cultural programs and libraries.
“She expected a lot out of me and she expected a lot out of everyone,” explained Larry Schulman, the son of the late borough president. “She could not give up the task of making Queens a better place.”
Former borough president and current Queens district attorney Melinda Katz echoed similar sentiments.
“Claire was a loving person, there was no doubt about it, but she was tough,” said Katz. “I am proud of the years I had working under her and the years I had working with her.”
Taking part in the ceremony were former borough president Sharron Lee and City Council members Karen Koslowitz and Barry Grodenchik.
“There is B.C. Queens and A.C. Queens, before Claire Shulman and after Claire Shulman” said Grodenchik. “There is not a single neighborhood she didn’t touch.”

Large rally in Queens protests attack on Asians

Amid rising attacks on Asians, more than 1,000 people took to the streets in Flushing calling for an end to Asian hate crimes.
The event was organized by the Borough President’s Office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio reminded everyone of the important role Asian Americans have played in shaping the city.
“If you love New York City, you can’t take the contribution of the Asian-American community out of it,” he said. “The only way we are New York City today is because of what Asian Americans have done for us.”
Senator Chuck Schumer spoke of a city of diversity, immigrants and unity and discussed the recently passed “COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act,” which among other things will make the reporting of hate crimes easier.
“We want to tell those evil few who propagate the Asian hate that you are not new Yorkers, you are not Americans and under the new law we passed we will prosecute you and give you the punishment you deserve,” he told the crowd.
Calling for a unified front against the attacks, Reverend Al Sharpton urged all community leaders to speak out and stop the violence.
“When Blacks attack Asians, Black leaders need to stand up,” he said. “When whites attack others, whites need to stand up.”
State Senator John Liu became emotional discussing reports of passersby refusing to intervene in some of the attack. He said it made him wonder if Asians are seen as less than human.
“We are not dogs,” he said. “We are not the coronavirus. We are people, we are human, we are Americans.”
According to the NYPD, in 2020 there was a 1,900 percent increase in attacks on Asians. But a presentative from the Asian American Federation said the statistics represent a huge undercount because many attack go unreported by the victims out of fear of retaliation or that they won’t be taken seriously.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James created a Hate Crimes Task Force to combat the crisis.
“Please do not be silent because you are not alone,” she said. “All of us stand with you against Asian hate.”

Federal funds offer lifeline to hospitality industry

More than $28 billion in pandemic-relief grants are now available to restaurants, bars and food suppliers, thanks to a new SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Online applications opened May 3 at noon, and will remain open until all funds are exhausted.
“These grants are going to provide direct aid to hospitality businesses that have suffered great losses throughout our country and especially here in the epicenter of the epicenter in Queens,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Tom Grech, who was joined last week by elected officials and other business leaders in Flushing to kick off the federal effort.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who helped secure the grant program through the newly enacted American Rescue Plan, is encouraging Queens businesses to apply.
“Queens deserves more because we have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. “We need to make sure that our restaurants get their fair share back.”
Before the pandemic, there were 23,000 restaurants and bars throughout the five boroughs providing more than 300,000 jobs. According to the state Comptroller’s Office, employment in the city’s restaurant industry fell to 91,000 in April, with sales plummeting more than 70 percent.
“It’s essential for us to support and enact policies to help these businesses in their time of need,” Meng added.
Yoon Joo Lee said her family’s once bustling Korean barbecue restaurant, Hahm Ji Bach, is barely surviving.
“We almost had to close, but with the money from these funds, we hope it will help us continue towards the American Dream,” she said.
The new program will provide restaurants and other eligible businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss. For the first 21 days, however, the SBA will approve claims from priority groups, which include businesses owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Establishments that are publicly traded or owned by a state or local government are not eligible, nor are franchise owners that operate more than 20 restaurants.
Businesses can apply through SBA-recognized Point of Sale vendors or directly through the SBA using the application at The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
“The diversity of our restaurant industry is really what makes Queens great,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “We’ve been suffering over the last year and New York City is a little slower to open than the rest of the state.
But the worst is behind us, the vaccines are here and we are beginning to get out of this mess,” he added. “Hopefully the best is yet ahead.”

Art contest doubles as cancer fundraiser

A virtual art contest and breast cancer fundraiser broadcast from Ridgewood Savings Bank in Forest Hills last Friday attracted 33 artists.
Money raised from the event benefited Elmhurst Hospital and local nonprofit Paddle For The Cure (PFC).
It was produced and co-hosted by this columnist and PFC founder Leah Salmorin. Technical support was provided by Michael Wechsler.
“Salmorin is a former patient of our Hope Pavilion Cancer Center, where our excellent team of cancer specialists provide more than 12,000 visits a year treating people with cancer,” said Ruchel Ramos, associate director of Public Affairs & Community Engagement for Elmhurst Hospital.
“Faith, Hope, and Goodness” is a drawing by Judy Pesantez, a Middle Village resident who immigrated from Ecuador.
“The faith of cancer patients, represented in the background behind a pink ribbon, has a large sun for everyone to grasp,” she explained. “Hope is represented by the pink ribbon. Goodness is represented by caduceus on an evergreen field, which symbolizes the work of health professionals and first responders.”
“Unravel My Heart” by Forest Hills resident Nelly Lester took top prize in the painting category.
“My canvas is mostly filled with bright acrylic colors and clean designs,” she said. “My preference is usually flowers, women, and children in abstract form. My artwork tends to represent reality and true happiness, and that’s a sign of freedom.”
Photographer and animator Amy Lipson was the winner in the photography category with “N.Y. City: Home Base.”
“The symbolism of a strong foundation surrounded by plant life relates to the resilience of New York City and the comforting power of nature that my home base of Forest Hills provides during these trying times,” she said. “Staying local this past year allowed me to profoundly explore its beauty and peacefulness while on my daily walks.”
David Chatowsky, an artist and owner of three galleries from Rhode Island, entered his painting “Hope.”
“It features a young woman harvesting dates from the Judean Date Palm, which was extinct until recently when it was cultivated from 2000-year-old seeds,” he said. “The sun rays represent a blessing on her of health and security, and they go back into the rising sun, which represents a hopeful new day for all creation.”
The winner in the drawing category was 17-year-old Tina Zhao of Elmhurst.
“Tina decided to draw my older sister Panny because she has so much respect for her,” said her cousin, Amy Zhao. “Panny is an emergency room nurse who had to work countless hours. Being surrounded by death and mourning families and being separated from her loved ones just to keep them safe took a toll on her mental and emotional health.”
“I jumped out of my seat when I heard I was one of the winners,” said Glendale resident and Poland native Dorothy Stepnowska, who owns Flower Power Coffee House NYC.
Stepnowska won in the mixed media category for her installation “COVID-19 Memorial.” She donated her $100 prize to Elmhurst Hospital.
The prizes were made possible thanks to a donation by Ridgewood Savings Bank.
“Ridgewood Savings Bank believes that banking is all about people, helping them obtain their dreams, and making a positive impact on each other and the communities we share,” said Forest Hills branch manager Nancy Adzemovic.

Liu, Meeks back Shafran in City Council race

Austin Shafran was joined by Congressman Gregory Meeks and State Senator John Liu outside the Bayside Long Island Railroad station last week. Both announced they were supporting Shafran’s bid for City Council.
“Having known Austin and his family for years and worked with him inside and outside of government, I know that he has the right experience and deep motivation to deliver for our communities in the City Council,” Liu said.
“We’ve seen what happens when certain power hungry politicians pull a bait-and-switch on voters,” he added. “And that’s why it’s important we elect Austin Shafran as the real and reliable Democrat that Northeast Queens deserves.”
The “power hungry politician” Liu is likely referring to is Shafran’s opponent, former state senator Tony Avella, who held the same northeast Queens City Council post from 2001 to 2009.
In 2014, Avella joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of renegade Democratic state senators in Albany who allied themselves with Republicans.
Avella and his colleagues dissolved the IDC in April of 2018, but the four years they caucused with Republicans was a major issue when Liu challenged Avella for the seat later that year.
Liu would eventually go on to win the Democratic Primary and eventually the post.
In addition to Avella, the other Democratic candidates in the race include Adriana Aviles, Francis Spangenberg, Richard Lee and Nabaraj KC.
Liu joins the Queens Democratic Party, several of the city’s largest labor unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU and District Council 37, and others in supporting Shafran’s campaign.
“John Liu is a force of nature, one of the most energetic and effective public servants I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Shafran said. “As proud as I am to have his support in this campaign, I am even more honored to call him my friend and mentor.”
Meeks said Shafran feels the need to serve.
“Some people run for office because it’s about them,” he said. “Austin feels an obligation to give the people the voice then deserve and have earned.”
Shafran said he was just an “ordinary” guy who grew up in Bayside and still calls it home, and is focused on day-to-day concerns like improving education and increasing services for seniors.
“But I guess the ordinary things we do can be extraordinary in these trying moments,” he said. “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together to make their communities a better place.”
The Democratic Primary will be held on June 22. Early voting begins on June 12.

Pair trafficked teens at hotels in Suunyside, sout Queens

Two men have been indicted twice by a Queens County grand jury on kidnapping, sex trafficking, rape and other charges.
According to the charges, Lawrence Winslow and Alan Velvett coerced a 15-year-old girl to trade sex for cash for three days in February 2021 in two hotels in Queens.
In the second case, the defendants are accused of trafficking two other teens aged 13 and 14, as well as posting nude images of the victims online and stating that they were “for sale.”
“These three teenage victims were allegedly forced to trade sex for cash with strangers and the 14-year-old was coerced into having intercourse with both defendants,” said District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Winslow, 27, of Pennsylvania and Velvett, 27, of Jamaica were arraigned on a 28-count indictment. If convicted, Winslow and Velvett each face up to life in prison.
They were also arraigned today on a 13-count indictment. If convicted on these charges, the defendants face up to 25 years in prison.
According to the first indictment, in February the 15-year-old victim met the defendants at the La Quinta Inn on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, where she was told she would engage in sex for cash.
Winslow paid for two rooms at the hotel and took semi-nude photos of the child and posted online advertisements. Both Velvett’s and Winslow’s cell phone numbers were used with the ads.
Before the victim had sex with strangers, she was forced to have sex with Winslow twice. That was followed by a string of strangers who had intercourse with the girl, and every dollar was pocketed by the defendants.
Velvett then relocated the victim to the JFK Inn in Springfield Gardens, where the victim was again forced to have sex with strangers for cash. Velvett also coerced the girl into having sex with him.
The teenager was rescued when an undercover police officer responded to the online ad and met with the girl in person at one of the hotel rooms. Velvett was arrested after arriving in the room. Winslow was arrested after being found in the second hotel room across the hall.
In the second case, the two teens met Winslow at the La Quinta Inn where he took nude photos of the youngsters. One of the teenagers had sex with a stranger.

Debate over Open Street program intensifies in Greenpoint

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused cultural conflicts both nationally and locally. Maskers vs. Anti-maskers, vaccines and anti-vaxxers, open streets and…closed streets?
Throughout the past year, a strange and intense animosity has been growing in Greenpoint regarding whether or not certain city streets should be shut down to allow for more COVID-conscious outdoor pedestrian space.
The tension began last May when Mayor bill de Blasio announced the NYC Open Streets initiative, which placed barricades to stop car traffic on hundreds of miles of streets in the city, including several Greenpoint thoroughfares.
Initially, the NYPD was in charge of the initiative, placing the barricades every morning at 8 a.m. and removing them at 8 p.m. each night. After various complaints that the officers were neglectful of their duties, community organizations volunteered to take charge of the open streets program.
Most notably, the North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition stepped in to manage the situation. With the support of councilmen Antonio Reynoso and Stephen Levin, the volunteer group successfully maintained and facilitated open streets on portions of Berry, Nassau, Russell, and Driggs streets since last year.
However, the open streets program has faced significant pushback since its inception. Last November, a petition titled “Stop Open Streets from becoming a permanent fixture in Greenpoint” gained 962 signatures on
“Many members of the community feel they were misled on the original plan, and were unaware that they were signing to completely remove the streets of Greenpoint and turn them into pedestrian-only walkways,” the petition read. “This petition is on behalf of my neighbors and car owners of Greenpoint, our voices are being silenced and we are getting increasingly worried and upset that we are not being represented in the plans for Open Streets.”
Last month, the situation reached an unprecedented fever pitch. A man in a “counterfeit” Amazon delivery truck stole 16 of Greenpoint’s open street barricades overnight, then proceeded to throw the barricades into Newtown Creek.
Members of the community organization North Brooklyn Mutual Aid searched for the missing barricades. Five were found washed up on the shoreline at the end of Apollo Street. Two were fished out of the creek by volunteers in a rowboat. The other nine were lost completely.
While less dramatic, the open street drama continues up to this week. Greenpoint local Logan Reeves recently published an op-ed calling for changes to make the open streets program more focused in its intent.
“Residents have asked multiple times to see the data that was collected in order to figure out what streets to close, and the North Brooklyn Open Streets Coalition declines to share the information,” he wrote. “Do better NYC.”
Despite the pushback, the mayor has expressed his intention to maintain the program. Many of the major Democratic candidates for mayor, including Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Ray McGuire, Diane Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, and Andrew Yang, have also pledged to upkeep the open streets initiative.

Library systems to begin opening branches

The city’s three library systems – The New York Public Library (NYPL), Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and Queens Public Library (QPL) – will expand services to include browsing and computer use at select branches throughout the five boroughs beginning on May 10.
The three systems, which closed their physical locations in March 2020 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, have been carefully and gradually reopening locations and reinstituting services to safely serve the New Yorkers who need them.
In addition to a robust suite of virtual programs and resources, including e-books, online storytimes, virtual book clubs, and remote homework help, resume assistance, and job search help, the libraries began offering grab-and-go book pickup and on-site library card sign-up in July.
Beginning on May 10 in select locations, patrons will be able to browse shelves for a set period of time and make appointments to use computers.
All patrons must follow safety protocols, including wearing masks, social distancing, and respecting time limits to ensure that as many patrons as possible can utilize services.
The systems are working towards opening additional locations this summer, and a full reopening as soon as possible in 2021.
The branches opening in Brooklyn are Brownsville, Canarsie, Central, Clinton Hill, Coney Island, Crown Heights, Flatbush, Fort Hamilton, Greenpoint, Kings Highway, Midwood, Mill Basin and Red Hook.
The branches opening in Queens include Arverne, Astoria, Auburndale, Bellerose, Cambria Heights, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Hillcrest, Long Island City, Peninsula, Queensboro Hill, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood and Rochdale Village,
The branches selected were based on a number of factors, including proximity to public transportation, size, building condition and location, with the goal of covering as much of the City as possible.
“Libraries are essential to building a strong, fair, and equitable city, especially in the face of a global health crisis,” said Queens Public Library president and CEO Dennis Walcott. “Given the current public health conditions, the growing need for our resources and the eagerness of our staff to provide more services to the public, now is the right time to take the next step.”

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