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Texting take-down

Besides destroying the English language as we know it, the art of texting is more dangerous than anyone realizes.

Try texting and driving and you’ll see, said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who announced this week that he has drafted a bill to ban drivers from texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while operating a moving vehicle.

Text-addicts will have a hard time abiding by the rule. They will also have a hard time plugging in the name: the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers act (or ALERT Drivers for short).

“Studies have shown over and over that texting while driving is dangerous and it’s time to take action to prevent the tragic accidents that result from this activity,” said Schumer, who cited a recent report by Car and Driver Magazine, which said that texting while driving was more dangerous than drunk driving. Another report conducted by Virginia Tech showed that drivers were 23 times more likely to get into an accident when texting on their cell phones.

The federal bill will require states to craft their own anti-texting while driving legislation or risk losing federal highway funds. It will apply to anyone operating a personal car, truck, bus and most other mass transit systems, including light rail.

Voting materials translated into Russian

Two Brooklyn lawmakers representing large portions of Russian immigrants succeeded in passing legislation requiring cities in New York State with a milion or more people to translate all voting materials into Russian.

State Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblymember William Colton sponsored the bill, which was recently signed into law by Gov. David Paterson.

Kruger said the legislation will have a “profound impact” on his constituency, which includes the largest population of Russian-speaking people outside the former Soviet Union.

Currently, voting materials are printed in several other languages around the city including Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

“Voting and registration materials are printed in many languagesother than English, but Russian has long been ignored,” said Kruger.

“These people aren’t voting because they aren’t registered and they aren’t registered because they can’t read the materials in English to do so.”

Following a drawn-out battle, Gov. David Paterson signed a bill last week extending affordable housing for another 30 years to the tenants of the 5,881-unit Starrett City.

The new law allows the owners to refinance the complex, providing at least $40 million for capital improvements. In return, the owners will remain in the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program.

“As unemployment levels rise and so many New Yorkers face increasing struggles during this economic downturn, it is imperative that we do everything we can to keep New Yorkers in their homes,” said Paterson.

“Not only does this law allow for the extension of affordable housing to the thousands of tenants who live in the vibrant Starrett City community, it also allows for the developers to make necessary renovations without causing rents to rise,” he added.

Run, kids, run!

It’s time for the Big Apple Games.

From now through August 13, the city Education Department and Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) are hosting free recreational activities for children between the ages of eight and 19.

There are 48 sites in the city offering basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball, swimming, football, soccer, lacrosse, cross country, track and field, and arts and crafts.

“We are offering terrific athletic programs that are fun and provide free, healthy forms of exercise for youngsters at all ability levels,” PSAL Executive Director Donald Douglas said. “We have clinics for beginners and tournaments for more experienced athletes. There is something for everyone, so there is no excuse to sit at home this summer.”

To find locations for the Big Apple Games, call 311 or visit

Clean squad

More than 900 members of Beta Alpha Psi, the professional honors organization for financial information students and professionals, descended on Red Hook Park last week to help with a massive clean-up.

The event was sponsored by KPMG, the audit, tax and advisory firm. This volunteer opportunity was made possible by Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of City Parks Foundation and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

The newly cleaned 58.5-acre park is bordered by Otsego, Bay, Hicks, Lorraine, Court, and Halleck streets.

Bombs away

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved $1.5 million in funding for a Red Hook small business to develop a safer and more effective way to drop cargo needed for military operations.

The funding was included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Department Appropriations Act.Rep. Nydia Velázquez said the funds will support Atair Aerospace, allowing the high-tech Brooklyn manufacturer to expand and hire more workers.

“The innovative thinking of small business owners is helping lead our nation toward economic recovery.I am pleased to support a New York manufacturer in its efforts to develop a product that helps keep our troops abroad safe, while creating new job opportunities locally,” said Velázquez, who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Small Business.

The funding approved by the House will help the company complete development and field test its Onyx precision guided airdropped equipment.These GPS-guided parachute systems will be used by the United States Army for airdrops of medical supplies and other cargo, freeing up military personnel, trucks, and helicopters by reducing the number of convoys and helicopter drops.

Keep your baby safe

The city Health Department is warning parents about dangerous teething products in New York City stores.

The warning is in response to reports of a potassium bromide poisoning in an infant, which was believed to be a result of the use of a teething product called Monell’s Teething Cordial or “Cordial de Monell para la Dentición.” The product is made in the Dominican Republic and sold illegally in New York City.

Potassium bromide poisoning can cause sedation, trouble breathing, low blood pressure and even coma.

Earlier this year, the distributor of “Monell’s Teething Cordial” issued a nationwide voluntary recall. Parents have been asked to return the product to the store where it was purchased.

“Illegal teething products can be dangerous for children,” said Nancy Clark, assistant commissioner for the Health Department’s Environmental Disease Prevention Bureau. “If your child has consumed any illegal teething product, whether bought locally, brought into the United States by a family member, or purchased over the internet, call the Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (764-7667). The Call Center is there to assist regardless of immigration status and the service is available in multiple languages.”

According to Brooklyn activists, the city could be doing much better in eliminating lead paint hazards by 2010.

Make the Road New York, a Brooklyn-based community organizing group, released a report this week detailing the progress that city agencies have made after 5th anniversary of Local Law 1.The report, entitled ““If Walls Could Talk: How Landlords Fail to Obey Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Laws in Bushwick,” demonstrated that many landlords in North Brooklyn are not in compliance with the law and MRNY members urged public officials to improve enforcement of the lead laws.

The law requires owners to annually investigate units where children under the age of six are residing to find peeling paint, deteriorated surfaces and friction and impact surfaces, or more often if the owners knows about a condition that could cause a lead hazard.

Brooklyn Steppers tab new exec director

The borough’s famous marching band, The Brooklyn Steppers, announced last week that Beford-Stuyvesant native Antonio Thompson will become their new executive director.

Thompson comes to the post comes after the Steppers marched in last year’s historic presidential inaugural parade only to fall in disarray three months later amid reports of inappropriate staff relationships and funds misuse.

Thompson, a former trumpeter in the band, holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Musical Performance and Arts Management from New York University.

He also wants the Brooklyn Steppers, which was established in 1991, to maintain and improve on their stellar reputation of having performed for world leaders, celebrities and major city events.

Thompson stated that his mandate as the organization’s new chief executive is to “Rebuild the Band, Restore the Faith.”

Bike for chocolate

One of Park Slope’s oldest businesses, Dixon’s Bike Shop, will hold a Bike Chocolate Day at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27.

The event will take place across the street from the bike shop at 792 Union Street (6th & 7th Ave) and feature artist and healthy chocolatier Bill Ades, who will promote the health benefits of chocolate combined with the benefits of spreading the message of biking for health and enjoyment.

The event will include a tasting of real natural raw chocolate, as well as chocolate-themed t-shirts that express the love of bicycling and a celebration for chocolate.

$3 million for schools

Congressman Ed Towns (D-Brooklyn) announced that Brooklyn college students will benefit from $3 million in funding awarded by the US House of Representatives to Medgar Evers College, York College, and Brooklyn College for scholarships and research programs.

The funds will benefit minority students interested in pursuing careers in the energy industry, through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Minority Energy Science Initiative, available at Medgar Evers College and York College.In addition, Brooklyn College will receive $900,000 million to develop new biofuels research initiatives.Brooklyn College scientists plan to use the funding to purchase equipment to explore biofuels refining and fuel processing methods.

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