New news for a new year: BP’s top stories from January feat. rent hikes, illegal cannabis sales and utility outages

collage of top stories from january
One month into 2023, we’re already seeing plenty of big news stories, from Brooklynites welcoming asylum-seekers with open arms to city councilmembers fighting to get illegal marijuana sales under control.
Photos by Caroline Ourso/William Alatriste/Marc A. Hermann/Kirstyn Brendlen

The new year has just started, and there already are stories Brooklynites will be sure to keep an eye on in the short and long-term. The MTA is looking for better ways to transport Brooklynites, but bus passengers don’t like what they are hearing, while city councilmembers don’t like what they are seeing at smoke shops that sell marijuana illegally. Asylum seekers are coming to the borough to find a new home, and locals are lending them a hand. Rent hikes are nothing new for New Yorkers, but for some Williamsburg residents, the increase could be highly detrimental while Brooklyn Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries promises to keep working on affordability in housing and on a host of other issues, thanks to his new position in the House of Representatives.  

Southern Brooklynites blast MTA’s proposed bus redesign

The MTA released a draft plan for the Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign in December 2022 that “reimagines the current Brooklyn bus network” to cater to modern transportation needs. Some southern Brooklyn residents say it will hurt — rather than help — in a nabe where public transportation is already lacking. Public community workshops where locals are invited to share their opinions are scheduled through early March.

MTA bus in brooklyn
Residents say the proposed changes cause unnecessary difficulty for bus riders. Marc A. Hermann / MTA

New House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries delivers inaugural address in Fort Greene

Hakeem Jeffries, fresh off becoming the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, delivered his inaugural address in Fort Greene — his first-ever as House Minority Leader.

“I can promise you [that we] are going to fight for lower costs, fight for better paying jobs, fight for safer communities, fight for affordable housing, fight for police reform,” Jeffries said. “[We are going to] defend democracy and protect public interest and ensure economic opportunity in every single zip code.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries gave his 10th inaugural address at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. Jan 29, 2023.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries gave his 10th inaugural address at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. Jan 29, 2023. File photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Local electeds, community orgs step up to help asylum seekers

Brooklynites have stepped up to provide some additional relief in areas where the government has lacked, to over 17,000 asylum seekers through the ongoing flux to New York City in the last months. Mayor Eric Adams has declared a state of emergency in response to the situation.

Councilmember Shahana Hanif, Chair of the Immigrant Committee is just one of several Brooklyn leaders working to provide aid for asylum seekers.
Councilmember Shahana Hanif, Chair of the Immigrant Committee is just one of several Brooklyn leaders working to provide aid for asylum seekers. Caroline Ourso

Testing, testing: EPA working to assess size, risks of the Meeker Avenue Plume, Brooklyn’s newest Superfund

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is working to determine the size and impact of the Meeker Avenue Plume, a federal Superfund site of contaminated soil and groundwater spread across about 50 blocks in Greenpoint, below streets, homes, and businesses as it takes its first steps toward cleaning up.

monitor school
The EPA will also re-test the indoor air at P.S. 110 The Monitor School across the street from McGolrick Park. Parents worry about the possibility of their children being exposed to CVOCs while at school. Google Maps

Utility outages at NYCHA complexes increased last year, leaving thousands without heat, hot water

Thousands of NYCHA residents went without either heat, hot water or any water at all for several hours during the winter season last year. Housing advocates are calling on Washington, Albany, and City Hall to appropriate tens of billions of dollars in funding to address what they say is longstanding negligence in public housing and the residents’ basic needs.

red hook houses NYCHA
Heat, gas and water outages at NYCHA developments increased last season, according to documents obtained by the Legal Aid Society, leaving thousands of tenants without utilities for hours on end. William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit

Council seeks stronger enforcement against illegal cannabis sales as legal shops open

Local leaders are looking to crack down on black market cannabis retailers. Despite the opening of a licenced dispensary, there remains much competition from illicit sellers nearby — whose products are not regulated, and not subject to taxes. Illegal sales in unlicensed smoke shops make them targets of burglary. 

Roughly $1 million dollars worth of cannabis were gathered from Big Chief.
Roughly $1 million dollars worth of cannabis was confiscated from Big Chief in the bust. The shop had been operating in a legal “gray area,” and cops had received many complaints from the community. Photo courtesy NYPD.

‘Where would they go?’: Proposed rent hike at Williamsburg Mitchell-Lama development could price out tenants

Management at a Williamsburg Mitchell-Lama development, the Kraus Organization, is looking to increase rents by up to 80%. The hike could leave 40-year long residents of the nearly 650-unit development at risk of homelessness. If approved, the first 25% hike would come immediately.

people posing with housing for all sign at bedford gardens
Zoradia and Luis Olivo have lived at Bedford Gardens since 1988, but say the proposed increase would likely force them out. Rent in Williamsburg has skyrocketed since they moved in, and it’s unlikely they would be able to find another apartment nearby. Kirstyn Brendlen