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Exclusive Proof of the Elusive Prospect Park Snapping Turtle!

Turtle power!

7:00 AM EDT on May 7, 2022

Hello and welcome to the inaugural Hell Gate newsletter. It’s been a hell of a week over at the site, and we’re deeply appreciative of your support. More about Hell Gate’s first week later, but first, some wonders from the not-very-deep.

For years, many Prospect Park-goers have claimed that a giant snapping turtle lives in the depths of the Prospect Park lake, and occasionally rises to the surface for a breath of fresh air or to feast on an unlucky bird. That reptile could be “Godzilla,” a turtle that lived in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden starting in the 1970s, but was moved by the park authorities to Prospect Park Lake in 1999 while the Japanese Garden underwent renovation. Godzilla, after more than two decades of blissful existence in the garden, resented the move, and made a dash for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden—across Flatbush Avenue. Miraculously, he survived the journey, was found at the locked Botanical Garden gates, and was once again removed back to the lake. He has lived there resigned to his fate ever since.

Or has he? When officials drained parts of the lake for maintenance, they apparently found multiple snapping turtles—meaning that Godzilla, who would be nearing the end of a snapping turtle’s 40-year life-expectancy, either was a proud father, or that there were several snapping turtles living amid the muck in the lake, each one accruing the title “Godzilla.” Perhaps Godzilla had a long-distance relationship with one of the snapping turtles in Greenwood Cemetery, and is slowly repopulating the snapping turtle population in the borough of Kings (albeit at a much slower pace than the invasive red-eared slider).

Well, now Hell Gate has more fuel to add to the fiery debate over the existence of Godzilla or Godzillas.

Hell Gate’s resident fishing columnist Esther Wang “snapped” a video of the elusive turtle, shared below. “I literally thought it was a trash bag in the water,” Wang reports.

Godzilla? Daughter of Godzilla? The mystery remains as murky as the depths it swam off to.

The Week In Hell

The week began with a literal bang as New Yorkers were awoken Monday to the crack of lightning…. Or so they thought! Instead, it was the birth pangs of Hell Gate, arising from the frothing waters of the East River.

NYPD's Stonewalling Attorney Called Out for Lying and Forging Emails by Nick Pinto: Our first story broke the news of an NYPD attorney who lied and fabricated emails in a civil case stemming from misconduct during the 2020 protests/uprising. Dara Weiss, an 18-year veteran of the New York City Law Department was fired last week—but it was hardly the first time she has been penalized by a court for misconduct.

What Was the New York City Crab Boil Boom?” by Kate Mooney: Why crab boils? Why so many all of a sudden? And why during a pandemic? These are the many questions that Kate Mooney set out to answer in her investigation into the city’s curious crab boil boom.

“Former Rikers Watchdog: ‘This Whole Fucking Thing Is A Racket’ by JB Nicholas: Until Eric Adams became mayor, Sarena Townsend was tasked with investigating and prosecuting staff misconduct in New York City’s jails. But Townsend was fired shortly after Adams took office. In a revealing and tell-all interview, Townsend talks about how deep the rot goes at Rikers Island, pointing the finger directly at the correctional officers’ union.

NYC’s TikTok Zoomers Want You to Meet Them in West Village” by Calder McHugh: Turns out Zoomers, TikTok, and NYC neighborhood names are a cosmic gumbo for getting people worked up. Yes, the TikTokers are funny and deeply misguided, but are we just Principal Skinner? No, no. It’s the children who are wrong. Anyways, much fun was had and we got re-reported by the New York Post. We’re ambivalent about that.

NYPD Detectives Made a $2 Million Mess. Why Is the Queens DA Still Relying on Them for a High-Profile Murder Trial?” by Max Rivlin-Nadler: Hell Gate reveals that two detectives that led the high-profile Prakash Churaman investigation in Queens allegedly withheld evidence in another case, keeping two innocent men on Rikers for years, and costing taxpayers millions. In response to Hell Gate’s reporting, Queens judge Kenneth Holder has called for an emergency hearing in Churaman’s retrial next week. We’ll give you live updates from that hearing.

“New Yorkers Have a Message for Democrats on Abortion” by Sydney Pereira:  It's looking bleak out there, and sometimes you just want to be together with other people. Hell Gate reported from Foley Square on Tuesday night, as people swarmed the streets in response to a leaked SCOTUS draft overturning the right to an abortion. Many attendees set their ire not on SCOTUS, but on Democrats, whose only response so far has been to ask people to vote harder. "They haven't done shit," one young person told Hell Gate. "A lot of people my age are feeling very disillusioned with electoral politics right now."

“What the Hell Is Happening at the NY State Court of Appeals?” by Ross Barkan: If New Yorkers are giving up hope on any chance to reform SCOTUS, there is a conservative court closer to home they can set their sights on—the NY State Court of Appeals, which has gone from wacky to wackier, from imperiling tenants and the rights of the accused, to possibly flipping the House of Representatives to the Republicans. For Hell Gate, noted court-knower Ross Barkan breaks down the madness, with a clarion call for action and hope: “If the Supreme Court is a lost cause, the Court of Appeals doesn’t have to be.”

Return to Fear Cityby Felipe De La Hoz: Crime is low, but panic is high. Felipe De La Hoz dives into the politics of fear, pushed by local news media and our current mayor. “If they're afraid,” De La Hoz writes, “it's because they've been led to that fear, cynically and deliberately, by media and political sleight-of-hand artists who find it more advantageous to scream about the symptom than to treat the cause.”

Chasing the High: Fishing in NYCby Esther Wang: We close the week with the inaugural edition of our new column, OnlyFins, where the Hell Gate co-publisher leads us on a journey through the sensuous world of urban fishing. Wang writes: “Sending out cast after cast, the line between my discrete existence and everything outside of myself would blur, as pleasant as tripping on shrooms without the subsequent crash. For those hours spent on the water, I wasn't thinking about sickness, about worry; I wasn’t thinking at all.” We hope you’ll get hooked.

Briefly Noted: NYC Astrology, Eric Adams Crypto Playboy, Tish James’s Homework Is Late, and Max Lost His Dog.

Join Us In Hell

Here’s the deal—Hell Gate is free for the rest of May, but we’ve got bills to pay. So we’re putting up a paywall starting in June, because local reporting that breaks news and speaks truth to power and covers Zoomer TikToks and all that other heady stuff doesn’t just pay for itself. (Otherwise, we’d have jobs!)

You’re receiving this email because you already gave Hell Gate your email address, and maybe some of you even gave Hell Gate a tip. That rules! We’re so happy.

We hope that you love Hell Gate so much already that you’ll forward this newsletter far and wide and get other people to sign up for our newsletter. Also, please consider tipping Hell Gate (or tipping us again!)—that money goes directly to hard-hitting investigative journalism that has already been cited by several news institutions and slighted by others. (We’ll see them at dawn.)

Also, if you are an extremely wealthy person with no real agenda besides truth-telling and who would like to unburden yourself of some of that soul-crushing weight of prosperity, please email us at tips@hellgatenyc.com—we can absolutely help you with that.

If you want to advertise in the bi-weekly Hell Gate newsletter, you can also reach out at tips@hellgatenyc.com.

That’s it for this week! We’ll be back on Wednesday with more subscriber-only content.

Turtle power,

Hell Gate (Christopher Robbins, Esther Wang, Max Rivlin-Nadler, Nick Pinto, & Sydney Pereira)

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