Wednesday, May 4, 2016


  On the National Day of Prayer, faith and community leaders, elected officials, and other members of The Bronx community will gather at 3 p.m. this Thursday, March 5, at the Kingsbridge Armory for prayer in support of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center – a transformative project many believe have been stalled due to the dispute with New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Faith and community leaders, elected officials, and other members of The Bronx community gatherers will participate in an “hour of prayer” for renewed optimism in one of the city’s most deserving communities.

“We gather in in support of this transformative project and its vision to benefit our community,” says Rev. Que English, pastor at The Bronx Christian Fellowship Church and a signatory to a Community Benefits Agreement that helps bring living wage jobs and additional resources resulting from the future redevelopment of the armory to community-based organizations. “We will issue a call to action to the city – to get behind the Ice Center and its promise to create jobs and opportunity.  We pray today because we realize this isn't about EDC vs KNIC, it's about destroying the economic future for our community and its children, the project's potential $1.9 billion in economic impact to the Northwest Bronx and the City as a whole.  We must see and embrace the bigger picture."

The Ice Center, to be located in the Kingsbridge section of The Bronx, will be the world’s largest indoor ice sports facility. The project will support an estimated 2,700 construction-related jobs and produce an estimated 820 permanent jobs. It will adapt the historic Kingsbridge Armory building and create a new space to support physical exercise, recreation, educational opportunities, and competitive sports for residents and visitors alike. The Ice Center is expected to produce a net new economic impact of $1.9 billion to the City of New York.

“Transforming the Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest indoor ice sports facility will not only revitalize a Bronx landmark, but it will have a significant economic and social impact on the Kingsbridge community and the Bronx as a whole by creating new living wage jobs and community programs for our youth,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "I urge the City and KINC to find a compromise that both protects this historic property and moves this transformative project forward."

The project has enjoyed widespread support from elected officials and community leaders, culminating in a resounding vote of approval from the New York City Council. By securing a $138 million bridge loan commitment from the State of New York, project developers believe they have satisfied the terms of an Escrow Agreement – and are entitled to take delivery of the lease. Doing so would spark the creation of new jobs, construction work and, ultimately, a state-of-the-art facility that would become a global destination.

"This is a great project, one that will not only create new jobs but also activate a long dormant landmark. It is time for this project to move forward. It is time to bring the Kingsbridge National Ice Center to the Bronx," said Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx Borough President.

EDC officials have contend they lack confidence in the funding commitment of the State and have refused to deliver the signed lease – arguing that developers have not satisfied the terms of the Escrow Agreement. Faith and community leaders demand the EDC immediately withdraw its objection and surrender the lease.

"We, as a faith community, have supported the Kingsbridge National Ice Center throughout the process because we know that the historical community benefits agreement is going to bring about the change we need for our community," said, Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera, President/CEO, Latino Pastoral Action Center, "Today, we lift our voices in prayer over our community and the project so we may all realize a better city as a result of its completion."

Project developers have secured required permits, retained architectural firms, and advanced project-related benefits for the community. They recently launched the Inline-2-Ice (i2i) program at a local elementary school. This program introduces Bronx school students to the fundamentals of skating, while inspiring a passion for ice sports and the benefits gained through life-long participation.

“My students are not just learning how to skate, they are learning how to have more personal confidence and self-esteem; they are developing positive peer interactions, [and] they are learning to have higher expectations for themselves,” said Martha Martinez, a teacher at PS 86,  an elementary school located across the street from the Armory.


   Proposed Legislation Would Improve Access to Allergy Blood Tests in Primary Care Settings To Reduce Health Disparities in Low-Income Communities

    State Senator Gustavo Rivera announced the introduction of a bill (S7450) in the New York State Senate that will require the New York State Medicaid program to cover blood-based allergy testing in addition to skin prick testing. This bill will effectively create further access to critical allergy testing in underserved communities by allowing primary care providers to perform standard blood testing as a way to determine a patient's allergy condition. It will also help align New York State's allergy testing policy with the National Institute of Health's (NIH) asthma and food allergy guidelines. This bill (A9867) was also introduced in the New York State Assembly by Assemblymember Nick Perry on April 20, 2016. It currently stands in the Assembly's Health Committee.
   "By including blood-based allergy testing to our State's Medicaid allergy testing coverage we will ensure that Medicaid patients across New York State are granted greater access to affordable allergy testing by simply scheduling a visit to their primary care physician instead of waiting for six months to see a specialist," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "This measure will not only provide New York State with significant savings in emergency care, but more importantly it will reduce the health disparities that continue to negatively impact low income and minority communities across our State."
   Even though blood-based allergy testing has been proven to be as clinically efficient as skin prick testing, only the latter is currently covered by New York State's Medicaid program. However, skin prick testing is almost exclusively available through allergy specialists, who in turn requires an initial referral from a primary care physician. With only a few hundred allergy specialist across the State, scheduling an appointment can take up to six months for Medicaid patients, delaying a proper diagnoses. Studies have consistently shown that ER visits and hospitalizations related to allergies and asthma can be dramatically reduced when patients receive guidelines-based care.
   "Frankly, this is about access to healthcare.  It is unfair, it is inappropriate; and it is even outrageous to insist on maintaining rules that deny access to healthcare that has been proven to increase your chances of better health outcomes.  Just because you are dependent on Medicaid for your health care coverage should not be the reason that you have to always wait on a long line to get treated.  Blood allergy testing is not a medical experiment.  It is accepted and proven medical practice that saves patients with asthma and food allergies from long waiting times that is currently required for allergy specialists.  Because the Department of Health maintains a deaf ear to our requests, I am pleased and enthusiastic to join my colleagues in this effort to fix this problem legislatively." said Assemblymember Nick Perry.
   Private health care insurance already cover blood testing for the diagnosis of allergies. Improving access to allergy blood tests in primary care settings for Medicaid patients will help reduce the health disparities in those suffering asthma and food allergies, which is critical for individuals from underserved populations.

Croton Filter Plant - Next FMC Meeting is June 16, 2016

  The Croton Facility Monitoring Committee will next meet on Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 7pm at the DEP office, 3660 Jerome Avenue, Bronx 10467.

   An Agenda will be posted when it becomes available.

Education not Incarceration! Event May 18th

An Invitation from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo & Other Elected Officials

Senator Klein & District Attorney Vance take aim at Gun Kingpins through new legislation

Bill would create new gun trafficking offense on the heels of Manhattan DA/NYPD takedown of ring that sold more than 80 firearms in Manhattan

State Senator Jeff Klein and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced on Wednesday the introduction of a new Gun Kingpin bill to establish the crime of “Operating as a Major Firearms Trafficker.”
The announcement comes days after District Attorney Vance and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announced the indictment of six interstate firearms traffickers for selling 82 pistols, assault weapons, and shotguns, as well as corresponding ammunition, in Northern Manhattan. The proposed bill would create a new class A-1 felony offense, which would subject major firearms traffickers to a minimum sentence of 15-years-to-life in prison.
“The fact that those who are pumping more than 80 illegal guns into the hands of criminals while operating trafficking rings throughout our state can only be charged with a class B felony is an injustice to everyone that our laws protect. I am proud to introduce my legislation, along with D.A. Vance, to create a new class A-1 felony that will elevate existing penalties for gun kingpins. These necessary protections will ensure that major firearms traffickers, who put all New Yorkers at risk, will face up to a lifetime in prison. We must be vigilant against the trafficking of illegal firearms throughout our state, and this legislation will do just that,” said Senator Jeff Klein.
“It defies logic that in a state with such strong, sensible gun laws, the penalty for selling 10, 100, or 10,000 guns is the same: a minimum of just 5 years in prison. I thank Senator Klein for his leadership and collaboration on this legislation, which will deter those who would profit off of the wholesale dealing of illegal firearms, and keep New York communities safe. This A-1 felony will be a powerful tool for combatting gun violence across New York State,” said District Attorney Vance.
Under current law, the highest criminal charge gun traffickers can face is Criminal Sale of a Firearm or Criminal Possession of a Firearm, both in the first degree. These class B felony charges, which apply to the illegal sale or illegal possession of ten or more firearms, carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, but a minimum sentence of just 5 years in prison.
However, under Senator Klein and DA Vance’s proposed legislation, those who are caught unlawfully selling, or possessing with intent to sell, at least 20 firearms could be charged with “Operating as a Major Firearms Trafficker.” Those convicted of this A-1 felony would face a minimum sentence of 15-years-to-life, and a maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life.
“I join Senator Klein and District Attorney Vance in calling for the same strong sentences for major gun traffickers that we currently assign to drug kingpins. In the last two years, my Organized Crime Task Force has seized over 300 firearms from gun traffickers, many of whom would have faced the tougher penalties proposed by this legislation. With this bill, those who believe New York is an attractive market for wholesale illegal gun distribution will be forced to think again,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 12 Years In Prison

Silver Also To Pay a $1.75 Million Fine To Take Into Account Taxpayer Funded Pension

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that former New York State Assembly Speaker SHELDON SILVER was sentenced this afternoon to 12 years in prison after having been found guilty by a federal jury of using his official position to obtain nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official acts and obtaining another $1 million through laundering the proceeds of his crimes.   SILVER was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni who also presided over the five-week jury trial.     
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption.”             
According to the evidence introduced at trial, court filings, and statements made in Manhattan federal court:
For more than two decades, SHELDON SILVER served as Speaker of the New York State Assembly, a position that gave him significant power over the operation of state government.  SILVER used this immense power – including, in particular, his power over the real estate industry and his control over certain health care funding – to unlawfully and corruptly enrich himself.  Among other things, he unlawfully solicited and obtained client referrals worth millions of dollars in exchange for SILVER’s official acts, and attempting to disguise this money as legitimate outside income earned from his work as a private lawyer.  In particular, SILVER claimed on financial disclosure forms required to be filed with New York State and in public statements that the millions of dollars he received in outside income while also serving as Speaker of the Assembly came from a Manhattan-based law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., where SILVER claimed to work representing individual clients in personal injury actions.  These claims were materially false and misleading – and made to cover up unlawful payments SILVER received solely due to his official power and influence as an elected legislator and the Speaker of the Assembly.
The scheme provided SILVER with two different streams of unlawful income: (i) approximately $700,000 in kickbacks SILVER received by steering two real estate developers with business before the state legislature to a law firm with which he was associated, and (ii) more than $3 million in asbestos client referral fees SILVER received by, among other official acts, awarding $500,000 in state grants to a university research center of a physician who referred patients made ill by asbestos to SILVER at Weitz & Luxenberg.
Unlawful Income From the Real Estate Law Firm
SILVER entered into a corrupt relationship with Goldberg & Iryami, which specialized in making applications to New York City to reduce taxes assessed on properties.  Beginning in at least 2000, SILVER approached two prominent developers of properties in Manhattan, Glenwood Management Corp. and The Witkoff Group, Inc., and asked them to hire Goldberg & Iryami.  The developers – both of whom lobbied SILVER on real estate issues because their businesses depended heavily on favorable state legislation – agreed to use Goldberg & Iryami as SILVER had requested.  Over the years, Witkoff and Glenwood Management, in particular, paid millions of dollars in legal fees to Goldberg & Iryami.  SILVER received a cut from the legal fees amounting to nearly $700,000.  SILVER had no public affiliation with Goldberg & Iryami and performed no legal work at all to earn those fees, which were simply payments for SILVER having arranged the business through his official power and influence. 
While continuing to receive the fees and in furtherance of the scheme, SILVER took official action beneficial to Glenwood Management and Witkoff.  For example, while SILVER was publicly associated with advocating for tenants, a proposal that benefitted Glenwood Management was in substantial part enacted in real estate legislation in 2011 with SILVER’s support.
Unlawful Income From Asbestos Client Referrals
SILVER also entered into a corrupt arrangement with Dr. Robert Taub, who was a leading physician specializing in the treatment of asbestos-related diseases, through which SILVER issued state grants and otherwise used his official position to provide favors to Dr. Taub so that Dr. Taub would refer and continue to refer his patients to SILVER at Weitz & Luxenberg, a firm with which SILVER was affiliated as counsel.  Specifically, SILVER arranged for New York State to fund two grants – each for $250,000, and paid out of a secret and un-itemized pool of funds controlled entirely by SILVER – for a research center Dr. Taub had established.  SILVER used his official position to provide Dr. Taub with other benefits as well, including helping to direct $25,000 in state funds to a not-for-profit organization for which one of Dr. Taub’s family members served on the board, and asking the CEO of a second not-for-profit to hire a second family member of Dr. Taub’s. 
From 2002 to the present, SILVER received more than $3 million from legal fees Weitz & Luxenberg received from patients Dr. Taub had referred to SILVER at the firm while SILVER was taking official actions to benefit Dr. Taub.  SILVER did no legal work whatsoever on these asbestos cases, his sole role having been to use his official position and access to state funds to induce Dr. Taub to provide him with these lucrative referrals. 
Silver’s Efforts to Cover Up the Scheme
SILVER took various efforts to disguise his unlawful outside income and prevent the detection of his criminal scheme.  SILVER listed on his official public disclosure forms that his outside income consisted of “limited practice of law in the principal subject area of personal injury claims on behalf of individual clients,” which was false and misleading.  Beginning in 2010, SILVER’s disclosures changed to state that the source of his legal income was a “Law Practice” that “includ[ed]” being of counsel to Weitz & Luxenberg.  SILVER never disclosed his relationship with Goldberg & Iryami or any work beyond what he claimed was a “personal injury” practice.
SILVER also repeatedly made false statements about his outside income in his public statements, including the following:
  • SILVER claimed he performed legal work consisting of spending several hours each week evaluating legal matters brought to him by potential clients and then referring cases that appeared to have merit to lawyers at Weitz & Luxenberg.In fact, SILVER did no such work on the asbestos cases and obtained those referrals to Weitz & Luxenberg based on his corrupt arrangement with Dr. Taub.
  • SILVER claimed his law practice involved the representation of “plain, ordinary simple people.”In fact, SILVER represented some of the largest real estate developers in the state, for whom favorable state legislation was critical to their business interests.
  • SILVER claimed through his spokesperson that SILVER found clients by virtue of his having been a “lawyer for more than 40 years,” in a manner that was “not unlike any other attorney in this state, anywhere.” In fact, SILVER found his lucrative asbestos and real estate developer clients solely by virtue of his official position.
  • SILVER stated through his spokesperson that “[n]one of his clients have any business before the state.” In fact, SILVER’s outside income included millions of dollars of fees obtained through Glenwood and Witkoff, both of which had significant business before the state, and Dr. Taub, to whose benefit SILVER provided state funding and other benefits related to SILVER’s official position.
In addition, SILVER thwarted the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption so that it would not learn of his illegal outside income, first by filing legal motions on behalf of the Assembly and taking other action to block the Moreland Commission’s investigation into legislators’ outside income.
 Finally, SILVER laundered part of crime proceeds through private investment vehicles that yielded him another $1 million in ill-gotten gains.
*                      *                      *
In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Caproni ordered SHELDON SILVER, 72, of New York, New York, to pay a $1.75 million fine, forfeit $5.3 million, and pay a $700 special assessment fee.  SILVER also was sentenced to two years of supervised release.  The Government had sought a fine above the Sentencing Guidelines level in light of the taxpayer-funded pension that Silver will received for the rest of his life, despite having been convicted of federal corruption offenses.  In imposing the fine, Judge Caproni took into account Silver’s pension.
SILVER was found guilty by a unanimous jury on November 30, 2015, of two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of honest services mail fraud, two counts of extortion under color of official right, and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions.  
U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the work of the Criminal Investigators of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who jointly conducted this investigation.  

Statement Of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara On Sentencing Of Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption.”