Wake me up when September ends: Here are Brooklyn Paper’s top stories of the month, feat. union elections, book bans, and sewage

collage september top stories
It’s Sept. 30, and Brooklyn Paper’s top stories of the month include a union election, some very old sewers, community meetings, and more!
Photos courtesy Brooklyn Public Library/Cate Corcoran/State Sen. Andrew Gounardes

There was no shortage of news in Kings County this month — school started, employees fought for their rights, thousands of asylum-seekers arrived in New York City, and federal officials announced a tentative flood-protection plan for the city’s shoreline nearly ten years after Superstorm Sandy devastated the city. Here are some of the most-relevant and still enduring stories that shook Brooklyn during September.

National Grid gets chilly reception at Greenpoint Energy Center rate case hearings

Utility giant National Grid, which provides natural gas to more than 1 million customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, proposed a customer rate hike that would pay for new fossil fuel infrastructure at the Greenpoint Energy Center. The company requested to spend $65 million of ratepayer money to build two new liquified natural gas vaporizers on the banks of Newtown Creek.

“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure in 2022 is climate denial, and to make all of us pay for that climate denial adds insult to injury.”said local Assemblymember Emily Gallagher.

greenpoint energy center LNG tanks
National Grid says the project is necessary to meet demand for gas as non-fossil-fuel options are being brought online. File photo by Kirstyn Brendlen

Dyker Heights residents, pols call on city to finish Y2K-era sewer replacement amid flooding, sewage backups

intersection of 10th avenue and 77th street in dyker heights
“A forecast of rain shouldn’t bring panic to Brooklynites – but for community members on 10th Avenue, that has been the case for over 20 years,” State Senator Andrew Gounardes, said in a statement. Google Maps

 The city started replacing the sewer system around the turn of the century and never finished quote finished the job. State senator Andrew Gournades’ office said the unfinished renovation has caused even the lightest rainfall sewage backups and flooding of up to four feet south of 77th Street.

Families seeking asylum have few resources at emergency shelter, find warm welcome at Prospect Heights school

crystal hudson with people at p.s. 9
There are more than 10,000 asylum seekers currently staying in city shelters, a DSS spokesperson said, and more than 1,000 have been placed in the last week alone. File photo by John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

In early September, parents and administrators at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights found out 25 new students, would be enrolling at the school. All of them are recently-arrived asylum seekers from Venezuela who were staying in a nearby emergency shelter with their families.

“It turned out that they really weren’t being helped, they weren’t being connected with all of the resources that could be available to them,” P.S. 9 PTO president Jessica Flores said. 

Williamsburg Trader Joe’s mployees file for union election

exterior of williamsburg trader joe's store
Crew members at the Williamsburg Trader Joe’s have filed petitions to unionize, which would make it the first unionized store in NYC. File Photo by Cate Corcoran

Seeking better pay and benefits and fairer treatment, 185 base level employees — or “crew members” at the Kent Avenue store sent petitions to the National Labor Relations Board indicating they would like to join Trader Joe’s United.

The union argues management has a history of unevenly applying discipline, disproportionately punishing workers of color.

New York businesses say cash advance firms sent threats and looted bank accounts

Laurence Girard sought out over a million dollars in funding for his new business, Fruit Street Health, from merchant cash advance services — and quickly realized he was in trouble when they broke the terms of their agreement and threatened him via text messages. He’s one of many small businessowners who have found themselves in a dangerous situation after borrowing money from predatory cash advance companies.

cash advance threatening text messages
Businessowners in New York say cash advance lenders are draining their bank accounts and threatening their livelihoods and safety — and there are few regulations to keep them in check. Screenshot

As book bans become ‘more numerous, more organized, more effective,’ Brooklyn Public Library fights back

teacher standing outside brooklyn public library banned books week banner
Oklahoma teacher Summer Boismier, who was fired after sharing Brooklyn Public Library’s project “Books Unbanned” with her students, spoke at the BPL. Courtesy Gregg Richards/Brooklyn Public Library

From March 2021 to July 2022, 86 school districts in 26 states have banned more than 1,400 books. The bans, carried out at the directive of local elected officials, affect nearly 3,000 schools and over 2 million students. For Banned Book Week, the Brooklyn Public Library invited students and experts to discuss book-banning and its impacts on students and young people, and touted their “Books Unbanned” Project, which connects readers with restricted books and other materials.

$52 billion climate vulnerability plan would bring flood gates, sea walls to Brooklyn

Nearly ten years after Superstorm Sandy flooded Brooklyn and destroyed homes and businesses, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft plan that would seek to fortify vulnerable neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens against future floods.

The corps called the plan a “significant milestone,” but some environmental groups, including the Newtown Creek Alliance and Gowanus Canal Conservancy, have previously said seawalls and gates may be ineffective and too difficult to coordinate, especially as the Superfund cleanups in Brooklyn continue.

coney island after superstorm sandy
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a $52 billion climate resiliency plan for vulnerable neighborhoods like Coney Island and Redhook. File photo by Paul Martinka.