Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Quick Updated Look at the 2021 NYC Elections

Candidate List

2021 Citywide Elections

Candidate Classification Office Sought
Adams, Eric L Undetermined Undeclared
Brannan, Justin L Undetermined City Council District 43
Constantinides, Costa Undetermined Undeclared
Diaz Jr., Ruben Undetermined Mayor
Diaz, Sr., Ruben Undetermined Undeclared
Eisenbach, David Undetermined Public Advocate
Espinal, Jr., Rafael L Undetermined Undeclared
Gjonaj, Mark Undetermined City Council District 13
James, Letitia Undetermined Undeclared
Katz, Melinda Undetermined Undeclared
Lancman, Rory I Undetermined Undeclared
Lander, Brad Participant Undeclared
Lopez-Pierre, Thomas A Undetermined City Council District 07
Matteo, Steven Undetermined Undeclared
Quart, Dan Undetermined Undeclared
Salamanca, Jr., Rafael Undetermined Undeclared
Stringer, Scott M Undetermined Undeclared
Vallone, Paul A Undetermined Undeclared
Van Bramer, James G Undetermined Undeclared
Whitehead-Miller, Lamor Undetermined Brooklyn Boro President
Participants: 1  
Undetermined: 19  
Total Candidates: 20  
While it is still only a few days away from June 1, 2018 above is how current elected officials or those who want to be elected officials have filed with the NYC Campaign Finance Board. 

It is interesting to see that current Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has filed to run for Mayor of New York City.

There is also an announced candidate for Public Advocate who ran in the 2017 Democratic primary, David Eisenbach.

Three of the candidates have declared for a city council seat including current 13th Councilman Mark Gjonaj. 

The interesting thing however is that current Councilman Rafael Salamanca, and current Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. have applied to the NYC Campaign Finance Board, but when it came to office that was marked 'Undeclared'. 

Also note that the current City Comptroller, Queens Borough President, and Brooklyn Borough President, while being term limited out of office are 'Undeclared' candidates. Current Public Advocate Leticia James is also term limited out and is an 'Undeclared' candidate for the NYCCFB. Public Advocate James has been nominated for the position of NY State Attorney General by the State Democratic Committee.   

Statement from Comptroller Stringer on the Passing of Herman “Denny” Farrell, Jr.

  “For more than 40 years, Herman “Denny” Farrell served New York with unparalleled grace and integrity, as an Assemblymember and as a proud, big-D Democrat who never wavered in his commitment to lifting people up.

“As someone who knew him since the age of 16, he was the ultimate mentor to me throughout my life, as he was for so many others. New York lost a giant in the passing of Denny Farrell, but he leaves behind a legacy of service that will live on for decades. His wonderful family is in my thoughts and prayers.”


Senator To USPS: Let Veterans Distribute Memorial Day Poppies At Post Offices 

  U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today publically demanded the U.S. Postal Service, specifically Postmaster General of the United States Megan Brennan, immediately reverse the Jefferson Road Post Office in Rochester from blocking veterans from distributing and accepting donations for poppies on post office property. Schumer said every year around Memorial Day, veterans far and wide distribute and accept donations to help local veteran groups.

“Preventing veterans from distributing Memorial Day poppies is simply disrespectful to our veterans who protected and defended us,” said Senator Schumer.  “Not only is it exasperating that the post office would stand in the way of this long-standing tradition that helps so many veterans, but also that the post office shamed a group of veterans by forcing them to vacate the post office against their will. I strongly urge the U.S. Postal Service to immediately reverse this overly bureaucratic policy and formally apologize to the veterans who were wrongfully treated by the Jefferson Road Post Office.”
Schumer’s public call comes in response to the Jefferson Road Post Office forcing local Rochester veterans to leave the premise, citing a rarely enforced United States Postal Service policy against soliciting on post office property.
We commend U.S. Senator Schumer in his effort to help veterans, but in this time of cutbacks in service, attempts to close post offices, and price increases for all types of mail we think the last three should be the priorities of not only U.S. Senator Schumer, but also U.S. Senator Gillibrand.
The public can no longer deal with short staffed post offices, post offices with equipment constantly in need of repair, and post offices that are constantly closed during business hours for one reason or another. 
The number one priority of both U.S. Senators should be that post offices are kept open, are properly staffed, and that the effort by the USPS to close post offices when the reason is that customers are mailing elsewhere because their local post office if understaffed, closed for lunch or closed because the computer network is down.
Deal with what the real problems at the post office are U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Hedge Fund Founder Pleads Guilty To Fraud In Connection With Bribery Of Former Correction Officers Union Leader

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the guilty plea of MURRAY HUBERFELD to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with funds used to bribe the former president of the nation’s largest municipal correction officers union.  Specifically, HUBERFELD, founder of the Platinum Partners hedge fund (“Platinum”), pled guilty to conspiring with an intermediary, Jona Rechnitz, to cause the fund to pay $60,000 to Rechnitz’s company by falsely representing that the money was payment for courtside tickets to eight New York Knicks basketball games.  Instead, as HUBERFELD knew, the actual purpose of the payment was to reimburse Rechnitz for having paid Norman Seabrook, then-president of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association (“COBA”), for Seabrook’s efforts to get COBA to invest millions of dollars in Platinum.  HUBERFELD pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Murray Huberfeld caused his former hedge fund to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a criminal partner in order to enable another crime – paying off the head of the correction officer’s union for the investment of millions of its members’ funds.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to fight fraud and corruption.”
According to the Superseding Information, Superseding Indictment, Indictment, and Complaint filed in this case, other public filings, statements made during the plea proceeding, and evidence and testimony presented at trial proceedings in October and November of 2017:
HUBERFELD was the founder of Platinum, a hedge fund that he continued to help operate unofficially even after his formal affiliation with the fund had ceased.  In late 2013, HUBERFELD and Rechnitz, a real estate businessman who was an acquaintance of HUBERFELD, sought to attract public and institutional investors to the fund.  At or around that time, Rechnitz told HUBERFELD that a contact of his – COBA President Norman Seabrook – would likely invest COBA’s money in Platinum.  Over the next few months, Seabrook caused COBA to invest approximately $20 million of its funds into Platinum, including $15 million from a retirement benefits program funded by the City of New York that invests money for correction officers’ retirements.
In or around December 2014, arrangements were made to pay Seabrook personally for the millions of dollars the Union had invested over the course of that year.  Rechnitz paid Seabrook $60,000 in cash, delivered to Seabrook in a men’s luxury handbag.  HUBERFELD and Rechnitz then arranged for Platinum’s management company to receive a fraudulent invoice for $60,000 – generated by Rechnitz – that, on its face, billed Platinum for eight pairs of courtside tickets to New York Knick games given to Platinum by Rechnitz, who owned Knicks season tickets.  In truth, and as HUBERFELD knew, the reason given to Platinum was false, and no Knicks tickets had changed hands.  The real purpose of the payment was to reimburse Rechnitz, who had paid Seabrook for his efforts in securing COBA’s investments.  Three days later, Platinum issued Rechnitz a $60,000 check. 
HUBERFELD, 57, of Lawrence, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  The charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison. HUBERFELD is scheduled to be sentenced on September 14, 2018. The maximum potential penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Trial against Seabrook, on charges of (i) conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, (ii) the substantive offense of honest services wire fraud, and (iii) the substantive crime of wire fraud with respect to COBA’s right to control its assets, is scheduled to commence on July 30, 2018, before Judge Hellerstein.  As to Seabrook, the charges in the various charging instruments are merely allegations, and Seabrook is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department, Internal Affairs Division.

A.G. Underwood Issues Reminder To Victims Of Western Union Wiring Scam Of May 31, 2018 Deadline For Filing Refund Claims

Over 30,000 New Yorkers Were Affected by Scam, Losing Approximately $35 Million
Eligible New Yorkers Can File Online Claim Form at
AG Underwood Warns Against Fraudsters Seeking to Charge Consumers for Refund Claims
  Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today issued a reminder to New Yorkers that the deadline for filing a refund claim in connection with a nationwide settlement with Western Union is May 31st, 2018. Consumers who were induced by scammers into wiring money via Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 are eligible to file claims. 
In accordance with January 2017 settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, 49 states, and the District of Columbia, Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to provide refunds to victims of fraudulently induced wire transfers nationwide, including for New York victims. The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for administering the refund program.
“I encourage any consumer who lost money through a Western Union wire transfer and who is eligible for a refund to file a claim through the FTC’s website,” said Attorney General Barbara Underwood. “The process for filing a claim is quick, painless, and free.”
Attorney General Underwood has also warned New Yorkers to be aware of fraudsters who may try to charge them money for filing their claim. There is no need to hire a lawyer to file a claim, nor can any third party obtain a refund more quickly.
Consumers who think they may be eligible for a refund should visit the website of the Federal Trade Commission at to file a claim online, download a claim form, and/or obtain information on how to file a claim.


Criminal Justice Reform That Aids Defendants And Focuses on Victims; As Bronx Murders Rise, Complex Homicide Program Aids Loved Ones  

  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark announced policies for bail and discovery, as well as enhanced services and new initiatives for assisting crime victims, dovetailing with her Office’s mission of pursuing justice with integrity. 

 District Attorney Clark said, “We must never let crime victims feel as if they are not a priority in the criminal justice system. We can be fair in our treatment of defendants while we ensure full assistance and protection of victims and witnesses. The residents of the Bronx are counting on me to keep them safe and to be fair to their family members who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Our purpose as prosecutors is to do justice while maintaining public safety.

 “So far this year the Bronx has seen a surge in homicides—34 victims, a more than 60 percent increase over last year—so our enhanced services for victims’ loved ones as well as witnesses to these crimes are proving even more crucial.” 

 The Bronx suffers from an inordinate share of the city’s crime, and much of it is fueled by poverty and other social ills. No longer will jail be used as a tool for leverage or unfair advantage; neither will an accused’s financial handicap be a reason for losing their freedom. The Office will now consider the least restrictive options that will ensure a defendant’s return to court, such as Supervised Release. But the safety of the public must also be considered, and as such prosecutors will continue to look at each case individually, giving it a thorough, fair, objective evaluation at arraignment and throughout the life of the case.

 Expanding discovery gives defendants increased access to materials and documents used by the prosecution, injects more fairness in the system and helps the trial process flow, but it must also take into consideration the need to protect the safety of witnesses, victims, and ongoing investigations. The delicate balance between these competing interests influences thE speed of disclosure. Assistant District Attorneys must weigh the import of efficiency and exercise caution when turning over material that may compromise victim and witness safety and on-going investigations.

 Ultimately, on misdemeanor cases, discovery will be turned over to defense counsel as early as possible in the adjudication process, well before the 15 days prior to trial required by the Chief Administrative Judge’s model order used by trial courts. In order to protect privacy, privilege, and attorney work product, each case may require appropriate redactions, the filing of motions for protective orders, and delivering materials to the defense. As such, the entire Office has a role in expediting discovery. 

 District Attorney Clark also announced that The Bronx is the only District Attorney’s Office in New York State and one of seven nationwide with a Complex Homicide Program, for gang and interfamilial killings. Last year the office was awarded a grant for $593,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime for a three-year period to identify promising victim-centered and trauma-informed responses to loved ones left behind after a homicide.

 The Bronx DA’s Office partnered with the NYPD, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner and the Center for Court Innovation to create a multidisciplinary team to respond to the needs of the family and other loved ones of the homicide victim within 24 to 48 hours. Detectives at the Homicide Task Force make referrals to a victim advocate who is on site. The advocate and a trauma therapist immediately assess the family’s needs and put a plan in action, involving the the Bronx DA’s Homicide Bureau and Domestic Violence Bureau in the process. Since the program began a year ago, 124 family members or loved ones have been assisted. 

 District Attorney Clark also has restructured crime victims’ and witnesses’ services, to provide comprehensive assessments, support, direct assistance and referrals, as needed, to increase safety and security. This will allow the Crime Victims Assistance Unit to focus solely on the psychological and social needs of victims and witnesses who suffer the trauma that often accompanies crime. Last year, 238 witnesses/victims were assisted with safety related services.

 In addition, the Office has recently implemented the Early Victim Engagement (EVE) program, which connects advocates with victims of intimate partner violence as soon as possible after an abusive incident, including immediately following a criminal court arraignment of an abusive partner or following a complaint report filed with the NYPD, to inform them if the defendant has been released. EVE is funded by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Comptroller Stringer Delivers Testimony on Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget to the New York City Council Committee on Finance

Stringer calls for a rigorous four-year citywide savings plan – to add $1 billion to City surplus in each of the next two years

  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer testified before the New York City Council Committee on Finance’s Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget Hearing. 

In his testimony, Comptroller Stringer repeated his call for rigorous agency savings and greater preparedness for the possibility of tougher times ahead. As such, Comptroller Stringer proposed a four-year savings plan with a goal of adding a billion dollars this year and the next to the City’s surplus in order to reach the minimum target level of the optimum budget cushion.
Comptroller Stringer again called for increasing agency efficiencies in the Citywide Savings Program as part of the savings plan. Currently agency savings represent less than 1% of agency spending in the outyears of the financial plan.
Comptroller Stringer also released a three-part Agency Watch List report detailing the need for greater accountability for spending and results at three agencies: Department of Correction, Department of Education, and on City spending on homeless services. These reports can be found here.
In addition, Comptroller Stringer released a report on the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget and Financial Plan for Fiscal Years 2018 through 2022, which includes an economic and revenue forecast for New York City. That can be found here.
Testimony of New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer Before the New York City Council Finance Committee on the FY 2019 Executive Budget, as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon Chair Dromm and members of the Finance Committee.  I’m here today to discuss the Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2019.  I’m joined by my Deputy Comptroller for Budget, Preston Niblack.

Since my testimony here in March, our economic outlook has remained largely unchanged.  The economy remains strong, thanks to a strong labor market and a boost from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the federal budget.
But increased federal spending and ongoing tax cuts will ultimately lead to higher federal budget deficits and rising interest rates going forward.  As a result, we expect economic growth to peak this year, and begin to taper off in the later years of the financial plan period.  Depending, in part, on how well the Federal Reserve is able to manage that transition, it should be possible to avoid a recession, and we are not projecting one as of now.  But if the Fed misjudges the timing and magnitude of interest rate increases, or if other events intervene – like a trade war – the solid footing of our economy could be undermined.
Let me turn to the budget and fiscal outlook.
The Mayor has proposed an $89.1 billion budget for FY 2019.  The Administration was able to increase the surplus in this Executive Budget, thanks to a nearly $1 billion increase in tax revenues this year.  But as of now, the projected surplus for this year, of $3.7 billion – remains below the $4 billion surplus in FY 2017.
The boost to FY 2018 tax revenues is related to several factors, including the changes in the federal tax law, the repatriation of overseas hedge fund earnings, and a booming stock market.  The Executive Budget recognized an additional $800 million in personal income tax revenues for this year due to these various factors – $600 million of which the Administration believes to be non-recurring.  My office expects that tax revenues will ultimately go even higher this year, growing by 7.9% over FY 2017.
Despite this extraordinary one-time boost in revenues, the outyear budget gaps grew in the Executive Budget financial plan.  That’s because, although increased revenues for the most part do not continue through the outyears, new spending commitments do.  These commitments are in part to make up for gaps in the State budget, such as the cost of the Close to Home program and last year’s Raise the Age legislation.
Let me be clear – the Mayor’s Executive Budget included a number of important programs which I support.  From raising Fair Student Funding up to the highest average in more than a decade, so we can ensure more dollars are actually reaching the classroom, to funding $418 million for the Subway Action Plan, including $164 million in the Capital Budget.
These are critical steps forward that will serve students and working people in our city – that is our top priority. But there is still much more work to do.
We need to fund the Fair Fares proposal, to level the playing field for low income New Yorkers, because no one should have to choose between buying a MetroCard and putting food on the table.  Affordable transportation should be a fundamental right in this city, and Fair Fares will get us a lot closer to that goal.
We also need to launch the New York City Citizenship Fund, a public-private partnership I proposed to help tens of thousands of legal immigrants cover the ever-rising costs of becoming a U.S. citizen.  Supporting our immigrant communities has never been more important, and creating a Fund to finance the citizenship process is a realistic opportunity to make a measurable impact.
We have to remember that budgets are not just about numbers.  Budgets are about priorities, about creating opportunities to give everyone a fair shot and provide a boost to people in need.  That’s why we cannot let even a single dollar go to waste.  We must ensure that we are getting the results we’re paying for.
I’ve been watching these numbers for a long time, and this year, to share our focus areas with the public, we launched the Comptroller’s Agency Watch List.  This month, over the course of the Executive Budget hearings, we have released our first watch list reports on the Department of Correction (DOC), Homeless Services spending, and the Department of Education (DOE).  These agencies have seen tremendous growth in spending, but it remains unclear if we are getting adequate programmatic results for those investments.
Take the DOC.  Since 2014, New York City’s inmate population has fallen 20%, yet total agency spending is projected to rise 29% over the same period, as of the FY 2019 Executive Budget.  The ratio of inmates to correction officers has fallen, while the annual cost of keeping an inmate on Rikers has increased from $97,000 in FY 2014 to over $144,000 in FY 2017. We need to see results for that spending, but many of the relevant indicators to measure those results in fact seem to be going in the wrong direction.  It’s time to ask when we will see results.
I’ve testified before this committee for years about our ballooning spending on homeless services.  Since 2014, spending has more than doubled from $1.2 billion to $2.9 billion across agencies, but we still have a crisis on our hands. Close to 60,000 New Yorkers will sleep in a shelter tonight.  We need to see more results, and soon. That includes reporting on the use of commercial hotel rooms, the success in finding permanent housing for homeless families, and the most effective strategies for preventing homelessness.  Some of that data is currently unavailable to the public, and when it is available, lacks enough detail to evaluate the impact.
And lastly, the Department of Education has invested heavily in a variety of programs to improve student outcomes, but does not report on whether those programs are making a difference for our kids.  We need to ensure that our spending is going to the classroom and not to Tweed – where the rate of hiring has been more than twice that of new teachers, even with the addition of a whole new grade for UPK.
In addition to being smart about our spending now, we need to be mindful of potential challenges down the road.  While the economy is strong, we have to prepare for an inevitable slow down.  To avoid hard choices that could undermine the progressive goals we all share, we have to increase our budget cushion – now.  The current financial plan projects a cushion of $9.2 billion at the start of FY 2019.  This is 10% of adjusted FY 2019 expenditures.  That is $1.8 billion short of even the lowest bound of the optimal range of 12% to 18% of adjusted expenditures.  I commend the City Council for calling for a $500 million addition to reserves, but I believe we must do more.
We have a four-year spending plan – we also need a serious four-year savings plan to increase our budget cushion and reduce the outyear gaps.  As I have said repeatedly, we must demand that our agencies work harder to identify efficiency savings.  This year’s Citywide Savings Program, by our reckoning, contains only 14% of savings that are truly efficiencies – the rest are debt service savings, funding shifts, or spending re-estimates.  And however you categorize them, agency savings represent less than 1% of agency spending in the outyears of the financial plan.
We need to raise the bar for agency savings targets.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in favor of the heavy-handed, arbitrary, and indiscriminate application of savings targets that was too often the practice in the past, regardless of the consequences.  But I am in favor of giving agencies real targets for their savings efforts, in order to push them to work harder.
Over the last 3 years, the increase in the surplus roll has gone down each year, from $1.6 billion in 2015, to just $147 million last year.  We should be growing that amount, and increasing our budget cushion.  By adding $1 billion this year and next to our surplus, we could reach a budget cushion equal to 12% of spending by FY 2021.  Doubling the agency savings target to 2% per year could get us half way there.
I know the City Council shares my view that instead of spending our revenue windfall, we should be looking for more efficiency savings from our City agencies, and putting additional resources aside.  I look forward to working with you to keep our City’s fiscal position strong enough to weather future challenges.
Thank you.