East New York Man Indicted for Carjacking 73-Year-old Woman In Mill Basin, Punching Victim and Dragging Her from Vehicle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 15, 2021

 

East New York Man Indicted for Carjacking 73-Year-old Woman
In Mill Basin, Punching Victim and Dragging Her from Vehicle

Defendant Allegedly Took Off in Victim’s Honda Civic with Therapy Dog in Car

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with robbery, assault, grand larceny and other charges for allegedly carjacking a woman as she sat in her car with her therapy dog, dragging her from the car before stealing it.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Thankfully this woman and her beloved dog were reunited following their frightening alleged encounter with the defendant. Luckily, the victim did not sustain more serious injuries, despite allegedly being brutally dragged from her car.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Kamani Romain, 21, of East New York, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino on a 12-count indictment in which he is charged with second- and third-degree robbery, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-degree attempted robbery, fourth-degree grand larceny, and other related charges. He was ordered to return to court on November 23, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on June 6, 2021, at about 1:15 p.m., the defendant allegedly approached a 73-year-old woman while she was sitting in her Honda Civic in the vicinity of Mill Avenue in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. The defendant allegedly punched the woman, dragged her from the driver’s seat, and drove off with her car. Her credit card, identification card and therapy dog Luna, a toy poodle, were inside of the car.

The victim suffered swelling to her head and lacerations to her knees and hands. She was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where she was treated and released.

Furthermore, it is alleged, on June 10, 2021, at approximately 6:30 a.m., on Berry Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the victim’s vehicle was recovered. A cigarette butt, a water bottle and an iPhone were recovered from inside the vehicle. According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the defendant’s DNA was recovered from the items.

On June 13, 2021, the victim’s dog, Luna, was found in the vicinity of Utica Avenue and Linden Boulevard in East Flatbush by a good Samaritan.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Evan Hannay and Assistant District Attorney Christopher Rainwater of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Karla Watson, Bureau Chief.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Driver Who Struck and Killed Six-Year-Old Girl in Dyker Heights Crosswalk Indicted for Manslaughter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 13, 2021

 

Driver Who Struck and Killed Six-Year-Old Girl in
Dyker Heights Crosswalk Indicted for Manslaughter

Allegedly Drove into Opposite Lane of Traffic and Around Another Vehicle
To Make a Left Turn, Striking Child as She Crossed the Street with her Mother

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other charges for striking and killing a six-year-old child as she crossed a street in Dyker Heights.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly recklessly drove into oncoming traffic to get around a vehicle that was in front of him and ended up striking and killing an innocent child. We will now seek to hold him accountable for his actions. I am committed to protecting pedestrians and all who use our streets from unsafe drivers who endanger our community.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Qiuhua Zhu, 30, of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Harrington on a 12-count indictment in which he is charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, and related charges. He remains out on $50,000 bail and was ordered to return to court on December 1, 2021. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on August 24, 2021, at approximately 8 p.m., the defendant was allegedly driving a 2017 Lexus GX460 southbound on 12th Avenue, crossing over the solid yellow pavement markings into the opposite lane of traffic and driving around another vehicle directly in front of the defendant’s vehicle. The other vehicle had stopped and had motioned for the child to cross the street. After driving around the other vehicle, the defendant allegedly made a left turn at the intersection of 67th Street and struck the child, Tamy Hiromi Quema Guachiac, who was crossing 67th Street in the east crosswalk, from north to south, with the pedestrian signal in her favor.

The child was taken to Maimonides Medical Center and died a short time later.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Steven Bravo and Assistant District Attorney Jessica Wishart, of the District Attorney’s Blue Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kin Ng, Bureau Chief.

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An indictment is merely an accusation and not proof of a defendant’s guilt

Brooklyn DA’s Social Workers and Advocates

Shibinksy Payne
Director, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
With over 15 years of experience in the field of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and trauma, I received a Master’s degree in social work at Long Island University and have since dedicated my professional career to advocating for victims of crime. From a young age, I knew I wanted to make the world a safe and better place, and the job of Wonder Woman was already taken. My role as the Director of the Victim Services Unit allows me to do my part to explore emotional and physical safety with victims. It also allows me to work with an amazing team of dedicated social workers and victim advocates who provide support, advocacy, and information to individuals who have been criminally victimized in Brooklyn.

What should someone know about working with you?
I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds and feel that it is my calling to help anyone work through difficult times and situations. Compassion, acceptance, and understanding are only a few of the qualities that I bring to my work. I aim to create a restorative experience with victims engaging with the criminal justice system, by creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment for anyone who interacts with the Victim Services Unit.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that the voices of victims need to be heard, and it is important that Social Workers and Advocates in our Unit lift up those voices every chance we get.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It is the collaborative relationship between the social worker and prosecutors that attracted me to the DA’s office and still motivates me today. The innovative work being done in criminal justice and forensic social work to increase public safety continues to evolve and I want to be part of that process.


Emmanuel DeJesus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I believe my path began from before my birth. My mom was studying to become a Social Worker as I was in her womb. Though I received my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature and Anthropology, I did my practicum at a community center in Madrid, Spain. I worked with underserved children in an afterschool program. Since then, the majority of my jobs have all been in social services, though with various communities and different roles. Along the years I have worked with children, homeless LGBTQI+ youth, victims/survivors of IPV, just to name a few. I was fortunate to be able to continue my education and receive my MSW in both Clinical Social Work and Community Organizing while working at KCDA. The support I received from the office was a huge help in achieving that goal.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am extremely passionate about my work and am very open to learning from those around me. I truly believe that we can only create a better future working as a community and not just working individually.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Core values that shape my work are transparency and clear communication. This also means that I will not have all the answers or resources and am open to partnerships with others in order to fully approach a victim’s need.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation comes from both the importance of the work and the joy that can come from it. The continuous learning that I receive from this work brings me a great sense of personal and professional growth. And growth is what life is all about.


Hyeseung Yoo
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My father got his PHD in Social Work in South Korea that, after immigrating to America, he was unable to use due to language barriers. It was natural for me to follow in his path to do what my dad wanted to do in America – I always have been passionate towards advocating, organizing and serving those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.

What should someone know about working with you?
I try to be patient with everyone and I am always here to learn, listen, and understand.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
My parents taught me to be non-judgmental, compassionate and to always lend a helping hand to those in need. I do my absolute best to understand, learn, and assist in the ways that benefit the survivors and victims I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do the work I am doing because I know from personal experience that it is not easy being a survivor, feeling alone and that you have no one to turn to for help. I hope that whoever I get to help can find comfort, peace, and support that they may not find anywhere else.


Alba Espinal
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Serving as a Spanish speaking translator for my father during appointments made me realize how important it was for people to be able to have the capacity to receive and obtain services in the language they speak. Since I was in high school, I always knew I wanted to help and work with people, especially the Spanish speaking community.

What should someone know about working with you?
I’m very passionate about my job. I will go above and beyond for the survivors I work with. I make sure that the survivors understand how the criminal justice works. I make sure to stay present and give them the opportunity to express themselves on how the process is affecting them and how I can assist them. I also ensure that survivors are connected to services when needed.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I empower survivors to advocate for themselves and to have self-determination in order to make the best decision, taking into account their safety and the safety of their family.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation continues to be my father and the survivors I work with. At 72 years old, my father continues to need my assistance translating and explaining services in Spanish. Even when their criminal court case is closed, survivors also continue to call for resources and I will continue to assist them in any way I can.


Anna “Jovi” Lombardo
Teen Services Coordinator, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
In high school, one of my friends was assaulted. I remember being confused about how to help and unsure what her options were as a victim of a crime. I knew that whatever I did as a career, I wanted to be the person with the answers. I didn’t know advocacy was a job until an internship in college where I studied criminal justice. I met an advocate who worked with victims through the criminal justice system. I immediately switched internships and started working with her. Next, I decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work to better understand trauma and to be able to provide clients with long-term therapy and advocacy. I have been working with victims and survivors ever since.

What should someone know about working with you?
I do not base my practice or approach on what crime has been committed. My starting point is always with the individual and their experience. I know that I cannot understand your experience because I have not experienced it myself. The criminal justice system can be frustrating and not always trauma-informed. I am here to listen to frustrations and your experience. My focus is you, your needs, and your comfort.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I strive to approach work, life, and advocacy through the Humanistic Perspective. This social work theory states that we cannot understand a person’s experience without having lived that experience and their life ourselves. When I work with clients, I know I cannot fully understand their experience or their mindset because I have not personally walked a day in their shoes. I start by listening to understand their perspective and base my advocacy on them as an individual.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated by the amazing, strong, and resilient people I have met through this work, both clients and coworkers. This work is difficult, but being able to help a client through a long and difficult case and seeing their resilience is an incredible experience. My motivation is being able to meet people at one of the most difficult times of their lives and making that experience just a bit less difficult. My hope is that I can be there for clients throughout the criminal justice process to help support and advocate for their needs.


Ashley E. Wright
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
When I was in college, I worked at a drop-in center and soup kitchen for women. Since then, I knew I wanted to be of service.

What should someone know about working with you?
I hope my clients and colleagues would say that I approach everyone with kindness and a profound level of respect.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and be heard.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Unfortunately, crime in general and gender-based violence specifically are part of our fractured society. I continue to find motivation when I witness my clients pursue their path to healing. I’m honored to meet them on their way.


Denise Briales
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?

Growing up in Brownville during the 60s, I witnessed high levels of gang related crimes in my community. My mother, a pastor, would walk right into an active beat down that would occur on our block and dissolve it with her voice and demeanor. I would not recommend this action on any level. She was a fierce woman whose faith in God, and love for humanity captivated her and motived her to care for the hurting and seek to protect them however she could. She never walked away from an opportunity to help someone in need.

This level of compassion was instilled in me as a child and motivated me to seek to help those who are hurting because of crimes committed against them. For the past 35 years, I have been walking alongside crime victims to assist in advocacy, healing, and recovery from trauma through counseling. These injustices committed against them, such as childhood and adult sexual and physical assault/abuse, domestic violence and bereavement caused by homicide, are among a few of my primary focuses.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am a team player, dependable and eager to share whatever resources I have for the greater good of the client, colleagues, and to those I collaborate with within the field.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with Crime Victims?
I learned early on in life the art of putting others first and being empowered to acknowledge when to get assistance for the greater good of those I seek to help and finding a balance for myself in the process.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Assisting others does not stop because of the status of age or position. It is our responsibility as members of society to find the balance in how we continue to share our experience and expertise in supporting others who are in need.


Katherine Celardo
Barrier Free Justice Coordinator, VSU

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My path to becoming a social worker started when I joined AmeriCorps as a national service volunteer. I had recently graduated from college and was pretty lost. I didn’t know what direction to take my life in. So, I joined AmeriCorps and started working at a Veterans Affairs Hospital. I was suddenly surrounded by all these people in many professional fields, including a lot of social workers. That was a very formative year for me. I started to learn about who I wanted to be, and it was only the start of my journey. After my service year, I went straight back to graduate school to study for my social work degree.

What should someone know about working with you?
I’m a hard worker and I try to bring that energy to work with me and to every case that comes across my desk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I practice kindness and aim to leave things a little better than I found them in all the areas of my life, including in my approach to crime victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It’s all about the little victories. They’re the thing that keeps you going. For example, I once gave a crime victim a referral for long term therapy a few years ago. She’s been in therapy since I gave her that referral and every time she calls me, she’s doing better. And each time she calls to let me know she’s doing better, that’s a small victory. As long as you’re looking for them, these victories are everywhere.


Maddy Strassler
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
While I was working in the restaurant industry as a baker/pastry chef, I began volunteering at an agency that provided assistance and support to survivors of sexual assault. I found myself drawn to social work, so I changed careers and pursued a Master’s in Social Work and obtained my LMSW. I interviewed for a position in the Victim Services Unit when the pandemic began. I am excited to now be here.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am always looking to learn new things and have already learned a lot from my colleagues in my time here thus far. I look forward to collaborating and supporting everyone here at KCDA as we engage in this work.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Empathy, social justice, and seeing the strength in each person inform my approach. These values have shaped my worldview and I take that into the work I do. I aim to provide a sense of support and safety.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I feel privileged that I am able to be here, interacting and learning from people from all walks of life who work with this office, as well as my colleagues. While there is a lot of uncertainty happening in this country and the world right now, I wish to contribute my skills and compassion as a social worker to those who are working through challenging times.


Stephanie Gonzalez
Victim Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
In high school I wanted to work in a field related to the criminal justice system. Unsure of what I wanted to do, I spoke with my school counselor and told her all of my interests. She informed me that I could be a social worker that works in the criminal justice field. I wasn’t aware that social work had such a wide variety of options. So when I went to college, I majored in Social Work. My internship was the catalyst that set the spark. It ignited my interest in the criminal justice side of social work and led me to where I am today.

What should someone know about working with you?
The criminal justice system can be tricky to understand so I am here to explain the process in the best way possible. I am also here to listen and understand what you are going through and help with resources. I speak Spanish. It may be a huge relief for Spanish speakers to know they have someone who can explain the system in their own language. I also always have candy in my cubical for people to take!

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I learned from an early age to always help those who ask for it. I am here for crime victims and I am willing to help in any way that I can.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Whether it is crime victims, colleagues or even people on the street, being a helping hand for those who need it feels great. I hope that whoever I get to help feels supported and knows that they have an advocate to help them.


Rachel Saewitz
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
After studying criminal justice and having a career as an American Sign Language interpreter, I joined the Victim Services Unit as a Victim Advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. It rapidly became apparent that this role was more social work than interpreter and I fell in love. After a few years in this position, I decided to make it official and earned my Master’s of Social Work from New York University.

What should someone know about working with you?
I approach all my interactions with clients and colleagues with empathy and a trauma-informed approach while taking individual’s social, economic, and cultural factors into consideration. You should also know that while we deal with very serious matters, I am also very silly and try and find levity around the difficult and challenging work we do.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Respect and dignity are two core values that are part of every interaction I have with crime victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue doing this work because assisting people who experience gender based violence find physical, emotional, and psychological safety and the freedom that comes with that safety is an important step in finding empowerment to take back control of one’s life.


Darlene Ellison
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I did not want a job just to be gainfully employed. I wanted a job that would allow me to have an impact on people’s lives. I am not the type of person who wants to sit and wonder if what I was doing would make a difference. Though I have not been here long yet, I can tell from the people I have been honored to be trained by and work alongside that “am I making a difference?” will not be a thought I will have to entertain.

What should someone know about working with you?
I come across as quiet, but I like working with a team.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I have always been interested in the behaviors and mental health of others and I am curious about what motivates people. People’s lives change when they are empowered. And that’s what we do here.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because I want to give back to those that need it most.


Emily Kline
Social Worker, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
From the time I was young, I have always been interested in assisting and serving underprivileged communities. As a white person, I often acknowledge in my work this fact, and the privileges that I have been privy to based on my race. I understand stress and trauma present themselves in a variety of forms, and it overwhelms our ability to cope. I have been motivated to help others, as others have helped me in the past.

What should someone know about working with you?
I offer an empathetic and strength-based approach while developing rapport with those in need. I use humor when appropriate and feel one of the most important skills in this work is active listening.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I feel that simply supporting individuals and providing compassion in a patient way can be paramount in this work. I also understand achieving justice in the criminal justice system looks different for many people. I am committed to exploring this to help bring survivors of crime to a place of holistic peace.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Social work is a rewarding career choice, and I am blown away everyday by the resiliency of the clients I work with. I feel honored to be a part of helping survivors make positive changes in their lives, no matter how small that change is – every success should be celebrated!


Patricia Bacchus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My path to becoming a social worker started at Clara Barton H. S. in the Rehabilitation Services Program. I took my first psychology course and volunteered at Interfaith Hospital and Kings Brook Jewish Nursing Home. That is where my aspiration and journey began to become a professional social worker. I grew up in East New York in NYCHA Housing. My family migrated from Trinidad, so education was a core value in our home. I attended Hunter College and received a BA in Psychology/African History.
Hunter College School of Social Work/Silberman is where I earned my Master’s in Social Work. Getting a college education and an advanced degree literally lifted me out of economic poverty. The profession of Social Work changed my life and was ultimately my destiny. I truly believe that it is an honor to serve others.

What should someone know about working with you?
I believe that employing a trauma-informed approach starts the process of healing.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Compassion, competence, dignity, excellence, empathy, humility, kindness, passion, and respect are some of my core values. I incorporate all of those values when I work with client witnesses.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Working with crime victims has been transformative for me in many ways. My life and professional experiences motivate me to serve in this position.


Marianne Lane
Elder Abuse Unit Coordinator, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I went to John Jay College to get my Master’s Degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling and while there I started volunteering with an organization called SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention) which led me to want to work with victims.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am 110% dedicated to helping victims as much as I can and to be there to listen when they just need/want to talk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Being in the Elder Abuse Unit, I think my family values are what helps me understand and be empathetic toward victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I strongly believe mental illness is a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Many of my victims have loved ones who are mentally ill, and I think our approach to defendants with mental illness is the best way to help the victims.


Lauren Waldman
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I majored in Criminology in college, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my degree. I only knew that I was interested in the human condition and learning about ways to make society equitable for all people. I found my calling as an advocate when I started volunteering for a non-profit that supports children in foster care by providing them with a court appointed advocate to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks of the system. I felt that these children were really the most vulnerable and in need of a voice in court.

What should someone know about working with you?
Those working with me should know that I will be persistent and very rarely take “No” for an answer. My feeling is that most problems have a solution if you are willing to look hard and long enough for one!

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Even as a young child, I always found it natural to stick up for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t do so for themselves. Advocating for other people comes more naturally than doing so for myself.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Being able to make a positive impact on those who have suffered is its own reward. I cannot foresee a time in my life when that will not be my role in one way or another. For me, life would have little meaning if I wasn’t able to serve others.


Brigitte Tibana
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Being a daughter of first-generation immigrants, I grew up in an underserved community. It was a community of minorities from all backgrounds who shared common struggles. Like my parents, struggles had to be handled on their own out of fear of asking for help and fear of being discriminated against. Becoming a social worker has allowed me to give back to underserved communities. It has helped me advocate for those who don’t speak the language, those who need help navigating the system, and those who often remind me of my own family.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am a fierce advocate who, while empathetic, assures my client’s needs and concerns are addressed.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
From a young age, I learned the selfless act of helping others without judgment. I learned to show compassion and offer a helping hand to someone who needs it without expecting anything in return. As I work with crime victims, I offer my services with compassion and empathy while validating their experience.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Being a social worker is challenging yet such a rewarding career. As social workers, we often go above and beyond for our clients, we deal with the vicarious trauma, and yet when we can empower someone to make the changes and seek help for a better future. That’s when we are reminded why we continue to do this work every day.


Margarita Sionova
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Throughout my life, I have always been always drawn to idea of helping and supporting people. During my graduate studies at Fordham University, I earned my Master’s of Social Work; with a certificate in Law, and I was always mesmerized by how both fields complimented one another so well; finding themselves inextricably involved with one another. I found my fields of study to be complementary to one another and this is the primary reason I feel that my course of study made me a well-rounded social work advocate.

I completed my clinical internships at the Truancy Bureau at KCDA, followed by Jewish Board of Family and Children Services. In these internships, I provided psychotherapy and individual counseling; undergoing internal turmoil, and upheaval when confronted with modern day issues of adolescence and young adulthood. Finally, my journey brought me to my dream position as a social worker in the KCDA Victim Services Unit. Here at VSU, I get to work as part of an interdisciplinary team of assistant district attorneys, investigators, detectives and my fellow social workers in order to help our borough’s most fragile, exploited and traumatized victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking and various violent crimes overcome their trauma and fear.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am tenacious and won’t rest until I have provided emotional support, comfort, and aide to our complaining witnesses. I like to be thoroughly involved in every case that I am assigned. I also have good interdisciplinary skills and work well and in close collaboration with all my colleagues. I am also able to speak, write and read in Russian fluently.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with Crime Victims?
I have always sought to protect the fragile voices of those who were scared to speak up. I go out of my way to help those who are in a disadvantaged position to help themselves, and I try to empathize with and empower every survivor that I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
This is more than a job to me. It has become a way of life. As much as it allows me to help others, it has come to define who I am and how I view the world. It is truly incredible and rewarding knowing you are able to give a hand to people in need. This work gives me purpose and a sense of fulfillment.


Melissa A. Castello
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
My path to becoming a victim advocate began in social services with homeless individuals. I would hear so many heartbreaking stories of broken relationships, domestic violence, loss of income and falling on hard times from homeless men and women. From working as a case manager to becoming a social service supervisor, I was inspired to reach more individuals in need.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am compassionate, dedicated, loyal and determined. Helping others is my life’s passion.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that it’s important to be attentive and supportive. Crime victims have not asked to be in the position in which they are placed. My job as an advocate is to provide as many resources and moral support as possible.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because there is a great need to heal. I believe I have what it takes to heal and to assist.

QA Emmanuel DeJesus

Q&A: Combating Abuse in LGBTQ+ Communities

Social Worker Emmanuel DeJesus, Victim Services Unit

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity. However, studies show that those who identify as nonbinary or LGBTQ+ are likely to experience intimate partner violence at rates that are equal to or higher than heterosexuals. In this interview, Emmanuel DeJesus, a social worker in the Victim Services Unit, discusses his commitment to minimize the risk of abuse and provide culturally competent services to LGBTQ+ survivors and other marginalized groups in Brooklyn.

Tell us about your role in the Victim Services Unit. Why are you passionate about providing services to vulnerable groups in our community?

I am a social worker who specializes in working with male victims, including those who identify as LGBTQ. I work with diverse populations, including survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and families of homicide victims. In my role, I provide victim support through a trauma-focused, victim-centered, and strengths-based approach.

I am very passionate about supporting victims of crime because crime can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, or socio-economic status. I also understand how complex and confusing the criminal justice system can be. I am proud to provide any type of support that I can to ease the stress and discomfort for these victims. In this role, I am also privileged to provide training focused on male victims and survivors of crime in addition to training focusing on the LGBTQ community and the criminal justice system.

What can we do to better serve and support LGBTQ+ survivors?

I truly believe that preventative services are critical in disseminating information that can serve and support individuals before they find themselves in these types of relationships. Ensuring that communities across our city have information about services for these victims is crucial for them to know how to seek help and support.

DeJesus and members of the Victim Services Unit commemorate Victims’ Rights Week with an awareness event at Brooklyn Borough Hall on April 11, 2019.

What are some barriers to seeking services?

Some barriers that we have been working to combat within this community includes language barriers and stigmas against LGBTQ individuals. I am a native Spanish speaker, which has helped immensely when working with LGBTQ individuals who only speak Spanish and are able to share their experiences in their native language, without having to use language line. As someone who identifies as gay, I too have experienced stigma because of my sexuality. This has helped me to relate to victims in a greater capacity and enable a greater sense of rapport with victims. Tearing down these barriers has been a priority in my work and in my personal life.

Why is LGBTQ training important?

Providing LGBTQ training across Brooklyn, including social service agencies and law enforcement, is essential in combating biases and prejudices that exist within even those who are supposed to be protecting and supporting victims.

What’s your message to LGBTQ+ individuals who are experiencing domestic violence?

I would like to reiterate that you are a survivor. No matter where you are in your process, there are services and support available for you. One of the best parts of this job is that we are always available to assist with supporting survivors no matter how much or how little time has passed.

If you are experiencing domestic violence in our borough and need help, call the Brooklyn DA’s Domestic Violence Bureau at 718-250-3300 or New York City’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673). In an emergency, call 911.

Know Your Rights: Cyber Sexual Abuse

Know Your Rights: Cyber Sexual Abuse

Technology has given abusers new ways to harass, intimidate and inflict harm on their victims. One way that an abuser may try to extend their control is by threatening to post intimate photos or videos of the victim on the internet. But what happens when an abuser follows through on that threat? In this Q&A, Jessica Morak, a Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families and co-chair of the New York City Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force, discusses how survivors can fight back against nonconsensual pornography.

What is nonconsensual pornography and what role does technology play in this? 

Nonconsensual pornography is a form of gender-based violence called cyber sexual abuse.

Nonconsensual pornography most often refers to the nonconsensual dissemination, or threat of dissemination, of intimate photographs or videos shared without the survivor’s consent. These can be intimate photos or videos that the survivor shared with the abuser during the course of the relationship, those recorded or taken without the survivor’s knowledge, or can be fake photos or videos, otherwise known as “spoofs,” that the abuser themselves created.

Nonconsensual pornography is just one type of cyber sexual abuse. One other type that we often see is when abusers use dating apps or social media platforms to create fake accounts in survivors’ names. Once created, abusers then invite individuals to solicit the survivor for sexual acts, often times by giving out personal and identifying information.

There are many different forms of cyber sexual abuse, but all feature an abuser using technology to exert power and control over the survivor. For this reason, cyber sexual abuse falls under the umbrella term of technology-facilitated abuse. This term appropriately describes the behavior, as it is the abuser’s choice to utilize routine and ordinary technology in a specific and intentional way – to cause harm to another individual.

 

Source: Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

What are some misconceptions about ‘cyber sexual abuse’ or ‘revenge porn’?

The term “revenge porn” in and of itself illustrates a huge misconception about this form of abuse. “Revenge porn” is a term that has become popular when referring to the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images. Webster’s dictionary defines the word revenge as “to avenge (oneself or another) usually by retaliating in kind or degree” or “to inflict injury in return for.” Therefore, use of the word “revenge” would suggest that the survivor deserved to have their photos or videos shared without their consent as payback for some past wrong. This is nonsense and victim-blaming in its most classic form. The nonconsensual sharing of, or threat to share, intimate videos or photographs is gender-based violence that no one deserves.

People are often confused about what “nonconsensual” in the term “nonconsensual pornography” refers to. The “nonconsensual” refers to the dissemination, or threat of dissemination, of the photographs or videos to others without the survivor’s consent. It does not have anything to do with whether or not the photograph or video was consensually created or taken. If an individual A consensually shares a nude photograph with their partner, B, it is still nonconsensual pornography if B disseminates, or threatens to disseminate, that photograph without A’s consent.  It is completely irrelevant that A consented to sharing the photograph with B; the fact that A did not consent to B disseminating to others means that B has engaged in nonconsensual pornography, cyber sexual abuse and gender-based violence.

Another huge misconception when it comes to nonconsensual pornography and other types of cyber sexual abuse is its effect on the survivor. People often react to narratives of this type of abuse with a certain amount of levity and humor, questioning, “what the big deal is” or claiming that the conduct “is just a joke.” But the harm is real, tangible and well documented. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative:

  • 93% of victims reported they had suffered emotional distress as a result of being victimized;
  • 82% of victims reported significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning due to being a
    victim; and
  • 51% of victims reported having had suicidal thoughts as a result of being victimized.

For these very real survivors, cyber sexual abuse is more than just a “big deal.” It is a debilitating type of gender-based violence that has affected them personally, professionally and emotionally.

 

(L-R) Rebecca Dince-Zipkin, Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, and Jessica Morak, discuss resources available to student survivors of gender-based violence at the Third Annual Symposium on Campus Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence.

What civil or criminal actions can you take if nude photos or videos have been shared without your consent?

If someone has disseminated your intimate photographs or videos without your consent or threatened to disseminate your intimate photographs or videos, you can report this conduct to the police. It is both a state and local crime
(in New York City, Suffolk, and Nassau counties) for which the perpetrator could face arrest and criminal prosecution, often resulting in the survivor being issued an order of protection through Criminal Court.

If you have an eligible relationship with the perpetrator, i.e. you were formerly or are currently married, related by blood or marriage, have a child in common, or were involved in an “intimate relationship,” you could also file for an order of protection in Family Court based upon the cyber sexual abuse.

Additionally, victims of nonconsensual pornography can initiate civil cases (i.e. lawsuits for money damages) against perpetrators. All of these legal options are not mutually exclusive and survivors can choose one, or more than one, of these legal avenues as their pathway to safety and justice.

Is there anything that survivors can do to get intimate photos or videos removed from the internet? 

Many websites have mechanisms allowing you to report the photograph or video that was disseminated without your consent. For example, Pornhub, a website that many survivors’ have unfortunately discovered their intimate photographs and videos on, has a specific form that survivors can fill out. Most of these mechanisms can be located by accessing the website’s Help or Support page.

Survivors can also initiate the process to have a takedown notice sent to an internet service provider, requesting that the provider remove specific material because it constitutes copyright infringement (if you took the photograph or recorded the video, you can argue that you have a copyright to it).

Under New York State law, a survivor may also be able pursue an action for a court order against a website that is hosting the material through a special proceeding, pursuant to NY CLS Civ. R. §52-b.

What’s your message to those struggling with cyber sexual abuse? 

My message to those struggling with cyber abuse is this: You are not alone. There is an incredible amount of resources available to survivors of cyber sexual abuse. I would encourage anyone who is experiencing this type of abuse or other forms of gender violence to seek help if it is safe to do so. You can call the Sanctuary for Families Legal Helpline at 212-349-6099, Extension 246, where you will be connected with an attorney who can assist you with legal issues, including those related to cyber sexual abuse. We know that this abuse can be difficult to talk about, but you do not have to suffer through this trauma alone. We see you. We hear you. We support you. We believe you and we know this is not your fault.

What to Expect at Trial

What to Expect at Trial

Being a victim of a crime can be a traumatic and confusing experience. If a case is brought against your alleged perpetrator in Criminal Court, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, scared or anxious. Understanding the court process can help you to feel more comfortable participating in the justice system.  

Does every case go to trial? 

No. The majority of cases do not go to trial. In fact, most cases are resolved by a plea of guilty.  If a case does go to trial, a jury of everyday citizens will decide the verdict. A guilty verdict is never a guarantee. Additionally, the process itself may cause both emotional and mental stress on the victim. Thus, a careful analysis is done in each case to assess whether the case should be taken to trial or whether a plea agreement should be reached.

What happens if a case goes to trial?

The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) assigned to the case will have likely already discussed this case at length with you as part of their initial and ongoing investigation. It can take many months, even over a year in some cases, for the case to reach the trial phase. Once the case is ready to go to trial, the ADA will reach out to witnesses and schedule a convenient time for trial preparation. It is important to remember that when a trial starts, witnesses need to be flexible with their schedules.

What kind of support is available to victims during the hearing and trial process? 

The Brooklyn DA’s Office has a team of caring and compassionate social workers and advocates who are available to provide support throughout this process. They are known as the Victim Services Unit (VSU). They are experts in this field and will be able to provide not only guidance and emotional support, but also practical support, such as helping you file a claim to help cover costs resulting from being the victim of a crime, including but not limited to medical bills, counseling expenses, burial and funeral costs, and lost wages. 

What can I expect if I am asked to testify during a trial? 

There are three major components to testifying: Preparation, direct examination and cross examination. To prepare you for testimony, the ADA who will be trying the case will schedule an appointment for you to come into the office. Additional appointments are scheduled when necessary. During that time, the ADA will let you know what questions they anticipate asking you on the witness stand and what questions to expect from the defense attorney on cross examination. If there are any questions you don’t understand, or don’t know the answer to, that’s okay. Just let the ADA know, so that they can clarify their questions.

On the day that you’re scheduled to testify, you will be asked to wait outside the courtroom (usually in a witness room or at the DA’s Office), until the court is ready to hear your testimony. This can take some time, so come prepared to spend the day (i.e. bring reading material, a phone charger, snacks, water).

Once called to the witness stand you will be asked to take an oath to swear to tell the truth. This is referred to as “testifying under oath.” After you have been sworn in, the ADA will begin their questioning. This is called direct examination. Direct examination is an opportunity for the ADA to elicit testimony about what happened and submit any relevant evidence for the jury’s consideration.

Once the ADA has completed their direct examination, the defense attorney will begin their questioning. This is called cross examination. Cross examination is an opportunity for the defense attorney to ask you questions about what happened. After cross examination, the ADA will be permitted to ask you follow up questions if needed. This is called re-direct examination.

There are many rules of evidence that dictate what questions attorneys are permitted to ask witnesses. For example, you may want to tell the jury about something that happened before or after the incident occurred, the Judge will have to rule on whether it is relevant and/or permissible. In addition, the Judge may also ask you questions for clarification during your testimony.

What are some courtroom rules or guidelines that are important to be aware of during a trial? 

Basically, follow the Judge’s instructions. Only answer the questions you are asked. Sometimes an attorney will object to a question. You must not answer that question until, and only if, the Judge “overrules” the objection. If the judge “sustains” the objection, you are not permitted to answer it. Try to speak clearly and project your voice so that you can be heard. Take your time and remember to breath. Remember that attorneys are human too, so they may incorrectly phrase a question. If you don’t understand a question being asked, simply let the court know and the attorney will rephrase the question. Once questioning by both the ADA and defense attorney is completed, the Judge will excuse you and you may leave the courtroom. Witnesses who have not yet testified are not permitted to observe the trial. This is to prevent a witness from being tainted by another person’s testimony. You also may not be permitted to sit in the courtroom after you’ve testified if there’s a chance you may be called to testify again.

Who will be in the courtroom? 

One of the most common questions we get is “will the person who did this be there?” That is a good question, and the answer, in almost all cases, is yes. That is because each person accused of a crime, referred to as the defendant, has a Constitutional right to confront the witnesses against them. They will be seated at a table with their defense attorney. There will also be court officers to maintain safety and decorum both in the courtroom and in the courthouse. In addition, there will be a jury, seated in rows of seats next to the witness stand. There will be a court reporter transcribing everything that is said. There will be other court staff such as the Judge’s law secretary and court clerk. The ADA will be there and of course, the Judge, who will be presiding over the trial.

Finally, all courtrooms, unless ordered sealed by the Judge, are open to the public. Thus, sitting in the pews will be other people which may include family members and friends, other people who have cases on that day in that court, attorneys, law enforcement or members of the press. 

Can I have anyone in there to support me when I testify? 

Yes. You can have members of your family or friends present in the courtroom. In addition, if you choose, a counselor from VSU can accompany you to and from the DA’s Office and can be present in the courtroom when you testify.

What happens after the trial has ended? 

After the ADA has called their last witness, they will “rest” their case. The defense can then present a case and call witnesses to testify.  The defendant can also testify if he or she so chooses. Once the defense has called all their witnesses, they will also “rest.” Then both the ADA and the defense attorney make their closing arguments. This is known as summations. The Judge then charges the jury on the applicable laws.  The jury is then sent to a private room to begin deliberations. There is no set time that a jury has to deliberate; they can take as long or as little time as they need. During that time, they may ask for testimony to be read back to them or to see items that have been admitted into evidence. Once the jury reaches a verdict, they send a note to the Judge. The case is re-called in the court part and the verdict is rendered or read out loud.

There are three possible outcomes. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the jury is considered “hung” and a mistrial is declared.  If this happens, the case can be re-tried at a later date before a new jury.

If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then all the charges are dismissed and the case is sealed.  The defendant is then free to leave.  If the defendant was being held in jail on bail, the bail will be exonerated and the defendant free to leave unless they have holds on other criminal matters. If there was an order of protection in effect, that order is no longer valid. However, VSU counselors are still available to work with the victim to help safety plan and look for civil remedies when appropriate.

If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the case will be adjourned for a sentencing date. On that date the Judge decides what the sentence should be and sentences the defendant. This will be based on strict sentencing guidelines that determine the minimum and maximum sentence a person can receive based on the type of crime they’ve been convicted of and their criminal history. In some cases, a victim may choose to give a victim impact statement. This is an opportunity for the victim to tell the Judge and the defendant the impact their criminal actions had on their lives.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, VSU and the assigned ADA are available to answer any questions and to help a crime victim access services.  Keeping victims safe and informed is of utmost importance to the Brooklyn District Attorney. We will do our best to make this process trauma informed and manageable.

Tracey Downing is a Deputy Bureau Chief in the Domestic Violence Bureau, where she is responsible for supervising the prosecution of cases in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Previously, she handled serious felony domestic violence crimes as Senior Trial Attorney in the Domestic Violence Bureau and was the designated point person for all domestic violence crimes relating to strangulation. Tracey also provides training to law enforcement, attorneys, advocates and medical practitioners on strangulation, trauma-informed interviewing, nonconsensual pornography and stalking.

Service Changes and Resources in Response to COVID-19


Last Updated: 8/19/2021

Statement from Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez

DA’S ACTION CENTER

The District Attorney’s Action Center is available to assist the people of Brooklyn with criminal justice matters such as domestic violence, child abuse, fraud, human trafficking, gun and illegal drug activity in their community and other crime-related or quality of life issues. Complaints can also be made anonymously. Trained specialists in the DA’s Action Center are available to evaluate complaints and determine the next step to resolve the matter.

DA’s Action Center Hotline: (718) 250-2340


VICTIM SERVICES & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

If you are suffering from abuse or intimate partner violence while being quarantined, require safety planning, shelter assistance, referrals or other services, help is available.

Victim Services Unit: (718) 250-3820 or VSU2@BrooklynDA.org

Brooklyn Family Justice Center: (718) 250-5113

New York City 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 621-HOPE (4673)

Safe Horizon 24/7 Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline: (212) 227-3000

***For emergencies, call 911.

How to Virtually Apply for a Civil Order of Protection in Family Court

All temporary orders of protections that have been issued by criminal and civil courts in NY have been extended until the next court date.

To file a temporary order of protection (when no arrest has been made):

  • You will subsequently appear before a judge via Skype or phone

***For inquiries, call 646-386-5299  or email NYFCinquiry@nycourts.gov


SPECIAL VICTIMS

We are still here to help sexual assault survivors and are working closely with hospitals to ensure that rape kits can be performed safely during this public health emergency.

If you are the victim of sexual assault and are seeking resources, we will continue to be here for you.

Special Victims Bureau: 718-250-3170

24-Hour NYPD Special Victims Division Hotline: 646-610-7272

Brooklyn Family Justice Center: 718-250-5113

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)


Child Abuse

Our Special Victims Bureau works in close partnership with the Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center.  The Brooklyn CAC remains open and has developed a COVID-19 Response Protocol to ensure that all child victims and their families remain our top priority.

To report suspected cases of child abuse or maltreatment, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720.  If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Special Victims Bureau: 718.250.3170

Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center: 718.330.5400


HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

The Human Trafficking Unit remains committed to holding accountable those who, through such means as psychological and physical coercion, beatings, extortion, starvation, confinement, and compelled drug use, have forced individuals (often young girls and women) into prostitution and instances of labor trafficking.

COVID-19 Effects on Human Trafficking Responses

Report Incidents of human trafficking: (718) 250-2770

National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888)-373-7888


FRAUD

In addition to white-collar crimes, scams targeting immigrants and homeowners, wage theft and healthcare schemes, our Action Center’s Hotline is open to report scams related to COVID-19.

DA’s Action Center: (718) 250-2340

NYC311: Call 311 or (212) NEW-YORK

New Yorkers Can Now Report Vaccine-Related Fraud by Calling 833-VAX-SCAM (833-829-7226) or Emailing STOPVAXFRAUD@health.ny.gov

NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Coronavirus Overcharge Complaint Form

New York State Attorney General Price Gouging Complaint Form

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to avoid coronavirus scams:

  • Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
  • Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

Brooklyn DA’s Community Notification: Coronavirus Scams to Avoid


RE-ENTRY SERVICES

The Re-entry Bureau is available to connect individuals with emergency shelters, substance abuse treatment, health insurance enrollment, clothing assistance and other services. If you have a NYSID or DIN number, please include it in your request.

Re-entry Bureau: 718-250-4374 or Reentry@BrooklynDA.org


KCDA COMMUNITY RESOURCE EMPOWERMENT CENTER

Our Community Resource Empowerment Center is still available to assist with health insurance applications, mental health services, housing and referrals to community-based organizations. In addition, our community partner Brooklyn Perinatal Services will continue to process health insurance applications over the phone. To learn more, call 718-250-3995.


HATE CRIMES

The Hate Crimes Bureau investigates and prosecutes crimes that are motivated, in whole or in substantial part, by a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of the victim, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.

Report bias-motivated crimes to our Hate Crimes Hotline: (718) 250-4949

NYPD Hate Crime Task Force: (888)-440-HATE

* To report a hate crime in progress or any emergency, call 911.


ADDITIONAL SERVICES & RESOURCES

COVID-19 Testing & Vaccine Distribution

Mental Health 

  • New York City has launched Mental Health for All— a new comprehensive website and public education campaign to connect New Yorkers and their families to mental health resources. Visit https://mentalhealthforall.nyc.gov to learn more.
  • During this difficult time, New Yorkers can access a range of mental health services by phone or online—regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status. Find FREE support here.
  • New York State is partnering with Headspace, a global leader in mindfulness and meditation, to offer free meditation and mindfulness content for all New Yorkers at www.headspace.com/ny.
  • New York State’s Office of Mental Health operates a COVID-19 Emotional Support Line at 1-844-863-9314. The Help Line provides free and confidential support, helping callers experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency.
  • If you’re an older New Yorker feeling lonely or isolated, the Friendly Visiting program can connect you with a friendly volunteer to talk with over the phone. Call 212-Aging-Nyc (212-244-6469) and ask about the Friendly Visiting Program.

NYC Department of Education

  • New York City’s full-time, in-person learning starts with the Academic Recovery Plan, a new vision for New York City’s students with a special focus in the upcoming 2021–22 academic year on transformative, far-reaching investments in seven critical areas: early literacy for all, developing students as digital citizens, preparing students to be college- and career-ready, special education services and support, support for multilingual learners, building a rigorous and inclusive universal curriculum, and social emotional supports for every student.
  • All New Yorkers age 12 and up can now receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. In partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, some school sites will offer vaccination.

Face Masks

  • New York City is distributing FREE face coverings in parks across the city! Find out where you can get yours at http://nyc.gov/facecoverings

Housing

  • The New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will provide significant economic relief to help low and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by providing rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears assistance. There are no immigration status requirements to qualify for the program.
  • The City has many resources to help New Yorkers get, afford, and keep housing. Use this website to find resources that are right for you.

Food 

  • Coronavirus NYC Food Resource Guides
  • Elite Learners offers a Community Food Pantry every Wednesdays in the Brownsville/Flatbush area. Visit their Facebook page for further details.
  • The Pakistani American Youth Society provides free food and groceries every Thursday from 4PM -5PM at 1045 Coney Island Avenue. Call to 718-415-9492 TO pre-register or email info@payousa.org.
  • Pantry take-home packages are distributed every day, Sunday – Thursday at Masbia of Flatbush and Masbia of Boro Park.
  • Three free meals will be available daily for ALL New Yorkers in more than 400 Meal Hubs across the 5 boroughs. To find a location near you visit http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals or text
    “NYC FOOD” to 877-877.
  • One week of free groceries are available to all New Yorkers in five boroughs at the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) Nutrition Kitchens, in partnership with the Food Bank of NYC and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)

Learn more: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/neon/programs/nutrition-kitchen.page

  • Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guides
  • COPO’s Halal Food Pantry is still open with COVID-19 safety measures in place. The food pantry is held every Friday from 1:30-4:30 PM. The senior shopping hours are every Friday from 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM. Please call 929-282-2766 to register. Visit https://copo.org/ to learn more
  • The Salvation Army in Sunset Park is also offering emergency food pantry services Monday – Friday from 10 AM – 12 PM and hot grab and go meals on Tuesday and Thursday from 12 PM- 1 PM. Bring an ID to participate. To learn more, call (718) 438-1771.
  • Local churches offering food pantries.

Unemployment Assistance

  • New York State is waiving the 7-day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. Visit the
    New York State Department of Labor website for more information.

Funeral Rites and Burial Assistance

  • In order to ensure that those we’ve lost are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, the City signed an emergency rule to expand the number of low-income people who can receive burial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistance is available to everyone, regardless of immigration status, with proof of low-income status. For more information, visit the Help Now NYC website, call 929-252-7731, or email BurialServices@hra.nyc.gov for application assistance.

Resources for Immigrant Communities

  • Many city services are available to everyone no matter what your immigration status is and regardless of your ability to pay, although other eligibility requirements may apply. Learn more HERE.

Resources for People with Disabilities

  • The Excluded Workers Fund (EWF) provides financial help to New Yorkers who lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic and were left out of various federal relief programs, including unemployment and pandemic benefits.
  • Many city services are available to everyone no matter what your immigration status is and regardless of your ability to pay, although other eligibility requirements may apply. Learn more HERE.
  • The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has gathered information specifically to inform people with disabilities on the resources available to the population during NYC’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more HERE.

Resources for LGBTQ+ Communities 

  • KCDA Pride Connect is designed to empower and assist LGBTQIA+ survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault to navigate through the criminal justice system by providing culturally competent and trauma-informed support. To learn more, contact the Brooklyn DA’s Victim Services Unit at 718-250-3820.
  • On May 12, the NYC Unity Project in the NYC Mayor’s Office, in partnership with representatives from 15 city agencies and over 200 LGBTQ+ community partners across NYC, launched the NYC LGBTQ+ COVID-19 Guide. The guide includes LGBTQ+ affirming programs and services—both city and private/non-profit resources— still available during the COVID-19 pandemic include: mental health, physical health and wellness, and sexual health services; peer and community support; food assistance; legal services; housing and shelter; and financial/funding opportunities. Learn more HERE.

Resources for Seniors

  • Older adult centers have started resuming in-person programming (outdoor and/or indoor). All participants are required to wear a face covering and maintain a social distance of at least six feet apart. Please reach out to your local older adult center for more information. Stay up to date with the Department for the Aging here.

To stay up-to-date with the Brooklyn DA’s Office, follow @brooklynda on Twitter and Facebook.

Q&A – Kelli Muse

Q&A: Hate Crimes Bureau Chief Kelli Muse on Making Brooklyn Safe for All

ADA Kelli Muse, Chief of the Hate Crimes Bureau

In 2018, the Brooklyn DA’s Office announced the creation of a dedicated Hate Crimes Bureau to offer the most adequate response to the growing problem of bias-motivated crimes. The Hate Crimes Bureau investigates hate crimes from the early stages and enhances prosecutions whenever appropriate. In this interview, ADA Kelli Muse, Chief of the Hate Crimes Bureau, discusses the Bureau’s role in assisting victims, educating the community and holding perpetrators of hate crimes accountable.

How does the Hate Crimes Bureau determine if a crime was motivated by hate?

We determine if a case should be prosecuted as a hate crime if, through our investigation, we learn that the person intentionally selected a victim in whole or substantial part because of the victim’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

What steps has the DA’s Office taken to help prevent hate crimes in the community?

The Hate Crimes Bureau was created to not only prosecute individuals who commit certain crimes that are motivated in whole or substantial part by bias, but also to educate the community about hate crimes.  In doing so, Assistant District Attorneys have engaged the community at Precinct Council Meetings, religious events, rallies, community board meetings, churches, synagogues, mosques, and schools.  Our goal is to explain what a hate crime is, distinguish between hate crimes and protected hate speech, explain the process when someone believes that a hate crime is committed from the time the incident takes place through disposition and to inform the community of services that are available to victims.

What is your message to those who may be reluctant to report a hate crime?

We believe that a hate crime committed against an individual is a crime committed against the entire community because these acts impact everyone.  Every person in Brooklyn and throughout this country should be free to walk the streets and feel safe regardless of what they look like, their culture, gender, who they worship and who they love. We want everyone to know that The Hate Crimes Bureau is a safe space. We know that, for many reasons, victims are not reporting all hate crimes that take place. Some victims feel intimidated by the police, some may fear immigration consequences and others may fear judgment. We want all our victims to know that their immigration status or sexual orientation does not matter to us when investigating and prosecuting crimes. All of our victims are treated with respect.

What do you enjoy most about the work you’re doing?

The best part about my work as Hate Crimes Bureau Chief is doing work that indelibly affects the community—work that matters. I believe that hate crimes impact the very fabric of who we are as a society. We are all proud of our culture, religion, and who we’ve grown up to be.  We should be able to raise our families free of attacks born out of racism, prejudice, Anti-Semitism, homophobia, and trans-phobia. I enjoy going into schools, synagogues, churches, and community events to educate the public about bias motivated incidents. I like sitting with the community in the community, listening to concerns, and helping to resolve them.  Of course, the most rewarding part of my work is being able to call a victim and telling them that justice has been served.