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Documentary on Gandhi wins top honor at New York Indian Film Festival 2021

A documentary feature on Mahatma Gandhi, a documentary on the Sikh tradition of ‘Seva’ and a movie that explores the state of mind of a married woman during the Covid-19 lockdown are among the films that won top honors at the 2021 New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF).

The NYIFF awards were presented during a virtual ceremony Sunday.

Other winners at the festival were “Nasir”, directed by Arun Karthick, which won the award for best film; Akshata Pandavapura was named best actress for “Where Is Pinky?”, the best actor award went to Siddharth Menon for “June” and the best director award to Ajitpal Singh for “Fire In the Mountains.”

“Ahimsa Gandhi: The Power of the Powerless”, directed by Ramesh Sharma, was awarded the best documentary feature.

As the world commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi in 2019, Sharma was inspired to revisit the iconic leader’s life and philosophy. Shot in India, South Africa, the U.S. and Europe, Ahimsa tracks the influence of Gandhi’s non-violence approach on world leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., late Congressman John Lewis, former South African President Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. International musicians U2 and AR Rahman contributed to the title track of the documentary.

Rippin Sindher-directed “Seva” won the best documentary short. It highlights the idea of service, which is an important element of the Sikh religion, and underscores it against the backdrop of rising hate crimes against people of the Sikh community in the US, including the 2012 Oak Creek Gurudwara mass shooting.

Acclaimed actress Swastika Mukherjee-starrer “Tasher Ghawr“, directed by Sudipto Roy, was honored with the best short narrative award. The film explores the state of mind of a married woman, Sujata, played brilliantly by Mukherjee, during the coronavirus lockdown.

The film festival, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), ran from June 4 – June 13 virtually, the second year in a row that the oldest and prestigious film festival that features cinema from India and diaspora has gone online due to the pandemic.

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New York passes bill creating Opioid Settlement Fund

New York Attorney General Letitia James applauded the passage of bills by both chambers of the state legislature that will ensure “all funds received by the state as the result of a settlement or a judgment in litigation against opioid manufacturers, distributors, dispensers, consultants, or resellers shall be deposited into [an] opioid settlement fund, and that such funds shall not supplant or replace existing state funding.” 

“Our state took a big step today in our efforts to end the opioid epidemic and provide justice to its victims by passing new legislation that will ensure funds recovered from opioid settlements and litigation will go where they’re needed — to fund prevention, education, and treatment programs,” said Attorney General James. “While no amount of money will ever compensate for the thousands who lost their lives or became addicted to opioids across our state, or provide solace to the countless families torn apart by this crisis, this bill ensures funds are used to prevent any future devastation. I thank Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Woerner, as well as the county and local governments, advocates, service providers, and families for working to get this bill across the finish line.”

In March 2019, Attorney General James filed the nation’s most extensive lawsuit to hold accountable the various manufacturers and distributors responsible for the opioid epidemic. 

Additionally, just a few months ago, in February, AG James co-led a coalition of nearly every attorney general in the nation in delivering more than $573 M – more than $32 M of which was earmarked for New York state – toward opioid treatment and abatement to stem the opioid crisis that has ravaged families across the county in an agreement and consent judgment with McKinsey & Company. 

The agreement with one of the world’s largest consulting firms resolved investigations by the attorneys general into the company’s role in working for opioid companies, helping those companies promote their drugs, and profiting millions of dollars from the opioid epidemic. The funds from the agreement were to be used towards abating the effects of excessive opioid use in the participating states, however, New York’s current law does not allow or enable for distribution of settlement funds in this manner, which is why this legislation was necessary.

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Suffolk County rolls out virtual traffic court

Suffolk County rolled out a new way for drivers to resolve their traffic tickets with its virtual plea bargain system.

Officials with the Traffic and Parking Violations Agency say if you get a moving violation, like a parking or red-light ticket, you don’t have to come in person to traffic court to settle it.

According to the county, you log on to the TPLEAS website, plead guilty or not guilty, have a prosecutor review your case or pay your fine. County officials say you never have to step foot inside a courtroom.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “It is no secret that having to appear in-person at TPVA can be a real hurdle for many drivers. This new program provides yet another option for drivers to resolve their cases without having to take time off from work, arrange for child care, or miss school.”

County officials say there is a judge to make decisions about your case, just the same as if you were in court.

However, if you decide to reject a plea bargain then you will be scheduled for a trial in-person at traffic court.

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Grand opening of Pier 76 on Manhattan’s western shoreline

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo June 9th announced the grand opening of Pier 76, a new recreational and cultural space on Manhattan’s western Hudson River shoreline, achieving the long-awaited inclusion of the former New York City Police Department impound parking facility into Hudson River Park. The project was completed in only 81 days, or less than three months. The Governor also announced that Pier 76 will be one of the sites hosting outdoor screenings for this year’s reimagined Tribeca Film Festival.

“As New Yorkers continue to make incredible strides in defeating COVID, we must focus on rebuilding and revitalizing our state for a post-pandemic future and nothing is more emblematic of this historic effort than Pier 76,” Governor Cuomo said. “For years, Pier 76 was an eyesore that blighted the west side. However, thanks to the hard work of so many New Yorkers, this gorgeous new park will provide residents and visitors with incomparable access to outdoor recreational opportunities and cultural attractions like the Tribeca Film Festival for years to come.”

In January, New York State took possession of Pier 76, located at West 37th Street and 12th Avenue, from New York City, which had used the 5.6-acre site and structure as a police department impound lot facility. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation dismantled the 245,000 square-foot impound facility at the Pier in early spring and created interim public recreation space to include a walking area and outdoor flexible space, as well as benches for people to relax and enjoy the waterfront views. The impound facility’s steel support structure was temporarily left intact to create a unique setting and partial shade. The $31 million project included environmental abatement, repaving, and installation of railings and lighting. Nineteen interpretive panels relay the history of the area, including the indigenous Lenape of Mannahatta and the evolution of the shipping industry.

The Pier also features a propeller from the S.S. United States passenger liner, famous as the record holder for the fastest passenger ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly 20 feet in diameter, the propeller weighs 73,000 pounds. After completing 400 transatlantic voyages, the United States was retired from active service in 1969 due to the advent of affordable jet passenger service to cities across Europe.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “It’s truly exciting to provide access to this unique open space for visitors and residents of Chelsea, Clinton and Midtown communities, who’ve waited years for it to become reality. The last year has underscored how much parks mean to our communities, and Pier 76, with its astonishing urban and waterfront views, is quality open space like no other.”

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Nassau gets first Black district attorney in county history

The New York State Senate on Tuesday confirmed Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as an Associate Judge on the Court of Appeals, and her replacement is the first Black DA in county history.
The confirmation filled a key vacancy with a prosecutor and triggers an election this fall to select a new Nassau County district attorney.
Singas replaces Judge Leslie Stein, who is retiring in June. Acting District Attorney Joyce Smith, who was sworn in Wednesday afternoon, is a longtime special victims prosecutor.
It was a historic moment lost on no one, and a very candid reference to race.
“By representing the best in us, and by us, I will be very frank, I mean the Black community,” said Pastor A.R. Bernard, of the Christian Culture Center.
Smith is originally from Hollis, Queens, and graduated from the Howard University School of Law. She is the first African American DA and the third woman to serve the post in Nassau County history.
“We have a responsibility to the least among us,” Smith said. “We have a responsibility and a duty to the last in line.”
Smith previously served as the Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Community Relations Division of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office since 2018, overseeing five program offices, including recruitment, immigrant affairs, victim services, school-based programming, and community affairs, as well as the Community Partnership Program Office in Hempstead, which works to combat gang and gun violence and promote efforts to reduce recidivism and build safer communities.
“What a solemn obligation we have, what powerful, awesome responsibilities we have,” Smith said. “We dare not ever take that for granted.”

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Curran launches committee to increase diversity in Nassau Police Dept.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced the launch of a Police Diversity Committee last week after a media report highlighted a disparity in the hiring of minority applicants for police departments throughout Long Island.

Curran said the 10-member committee, composed of various community, civic, civil rights and religious leaders would be tasked to aid in the improved diversity of the Nassau County Police Department. The committee, she said, would file recommendations on how diversity can be improved throughout the department ahead of the next police officer civil service exam sometime in 2022.

“My administration is committed to increasing diversity in Nassau’s police force and will advocate for the changes we need to accomplish this goal,” Curran said. “I thank the members of the Nassau County Police Diversity Committee for their commitment to police reform.”

Since 2012, the Nassau and Suffolk Police Departments hired just 67 out of the pool of 6,539 Black applicants, according to the findings. The number of Black applicants who choose to sit for Nassau County written exams fell from 2,055 in 2012 to 1,213 in 2018, according to the findings. From 2012 to 2018, according to Newsday, only 36 of the 2,508 total Black applicants were hired by the county’s police department. In the past 20 years, the number of Black officers in the county’s police department fell from 110 to 103, according to the findings.

 

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Free open air Bollywood movie nights at Eisenhower Park

The Nassau County Film Commission, the Nassau County Parks Department and the Office of Asian American Affairs present Bollywood movie nights on two Thursdays at Eisenhower Park, Harry Chapin Lakeside Theater, East Meadow. Shahrukh Khan and Kajol starrer ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Layenge’ will be screened on June 17 followed by Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor’s ‘Jab We Met’ on June 24th.  

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GOPIO Manhattan’s musical evening raises funds for Covid hit India

New York: The GOPIO-Manhattan, NYC and SwarTaal Musicals organized a Virtual Fundraising Musical Evening to raise funds for ‘The Covid-19 Relief in India.’ The fundraiser was initiated by Pallavi Verma Belwariar of SwarTaal Musicals & Founding Life Member of GOPIO-Manhattan. 

Verma was joined by Bhargavi Naidana, Kaushal Sampat & Smita Sinha served as the MC for the evening.  The singers chose soulful romantic songs of the yester years of Bollywood music mesmerizing the attendees. Additionally, few paintings by Verma were exhibited and sold to support the noble cause.

 Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO Chairman; said “GOPIO International has been raising funds and GOPIO Connecticut and Manhattan chapters have sent Oxygen concentrators to India while other chapters in the US and around the world are providing medical supplies and food for the needy.”

Dr. Abraham complimented GOPIO-Manhattan, NYC for taking this initiative and organizing several other programs during the covid period in the last one year.

Shivender Sofat, President GOPIO-Manhattan shared a few pictures and slides of health kiosks to be set up in five villages in India that will be supported from the donation proceeds collected by GOPIO-Manhattan. 

 

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Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla to contest for second term

New York: Hoboken, New Jersey Mayor Ravinder ‘Ravi’ Bhalla June 2 formally announced his re-election bid, pledging to serve as a regional and national leader in a post-pandemic world.

The campaign will formally kick off June 24.

The Indian American mayor, who was first voted into office in 2017, has the distinction of being one of the first mayors to issue “shelter-in-place” orders in March 2020, as the pandemic was making its presence known in the US. New York and New Jersey were hit particularly hard in the initial months of the global crisis.

Bhalla also holds the distinction of being the first Sikh American directly elected to office. He won his seat in 2017, emerging victorious from a crowded field of six candidates, by earning the endorsement of former Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who decided not to seek re-election.

Previously, Bhalla had served on Hoboken’s city council for six years.

Currently, no other candidates have announced a challenge to the incumbent. Bhalla has already received the endorsement of the Hoboken Police Superior Officers Association.

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