Sunday, February 17, 2019

Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Chin, Holden, Powers, and Torres Announce Legislative Crackdown On Placard Abuse

  New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Margaret S. Chin, Robert Holden, Keith Powers, and Ritchie Torres announced a new package of bills to be introduced on Wednesday, February 13, intended to crack down on the abuse of City-issued parking permits known as placards, as well as unofficial and counterfeit permits and placards also used to skirt the law. This package also addresses dangerous parking practices often associated with placards, including blocking bike and bus lanes, crosswalks, sidewalks, and fire hydrants. This new slate of Council bills is designed to supplement a legislative package introduced in 2018 that similarly attempted to rein in placard abuse, which included bills sponsored by Council Members Chin, Peter Koo, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Jumaane Williams.

“Placard abuse is corruption, plain and simple, and New York City cannot tolerate it any longer,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “We are in a transportation crisis and the question of how we allocate our street space is of paramount importance. As we try to fight congestion and encourage modes of transportation like buses and cycling, it is clear that cracking down on placard abuse has to be part of any serious attempt to make navigating our City easier and more efficient for all New Yorkers.”
“Placard abuse has become the norm throughout many neighborhoods, including on the already heavily congested streets of Lower Manhattan, particularly in Chinatown and Battery Park City,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “We cannot allow the status quo to continue if we are to ensure the safety of our streets for pedestrians and the general public. I proudly join Speaker Johnson and my fellow Council Members to introduce a new package of bills which will address this problem and serve to ease the transportation crisis facing our City. These new bills will urge City Hall to take placard abuse seriously and invest in strong and smart enforcement measures to hold serial placard abusers accountable.” 
“As a civic leader for over 30 years, I have fought against drivers who skirt our parking laws, create more congestion and put others in danger,” said Council Member Robert F. Holden. “I am proud to partner with Speaker Corey Johnson and my colleagues in the New York City Council in combatting placard abuse and individuals who believe they are above the law and can park wherever they please. Parking in crosswalks and blocking sidewalks and hydrants will no longer be tolerated, and should be dealt with immediately.”
“Placard misuse and abuse has gotten out of hand in New York City, contributing to congested streets and adding to public mistrust. The legislation being introduced will help bring much-need clarity to parking in New York City, including my bill to standardize the application process. Thank you to Speaker Johnson and my colleagues for working together to crackdown on placard abuse,” said Council Member Keith Powers.
“Placard abuse and associated corruptive practices, such as blocking sidewalks and bus and bike lanes, is inexcusable. It’s the City of New York’s responsibility to hold whomever is at fault, accountable. I’ve worked on this issue for many years and I hope this bill package is approved swiftly by the Council,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Transportation Committee
“The misuse of placards and parking permits has gotten out of control and threatens street safety. This comprehensive package will rein in placard abuse and ensure they are properly used and distributed. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass these bills and curb placard abuse,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.
This new legislative package includes five separate bills that together represent the strongest and most comprehensive attempt to rein in placard abuse in City history. The bills would:
Create a standardized application process for City-issued parking permits and collect information on why placards are requested and how their use supports a City agency. (Sponsored by Council Member Powers and Speaker Johnson).

Require at least 50 targeted enforcement sweeps each week with monitoring by the Department of Investigation. Sweep locations would be determined by 311 complaints regarding placard abuse and would be documented with photographs and details on all enforcement action taken. (Sponsored by Speaker Johnson and Council Members Torres and Chin)

Require enforcement officers to call for towing of any vehicle blocking a sidewalk, crosswalk, fire hydrant, bike lane, or bus lane (Sponsored by Council Member Holden and Speaker Johnson)

Prohibit official City vehicles from blocking a bike lane, bus lane, crosswalk, sidewalk, or fire hydrant unless it is an emergency. (Sponsored by Speaker Johnson and Council Members Torres and Chin)

Require 311 to accept complaints and photographs related to illegal parking and placard abuse. The City would be required to respond to complaints about blocking a bike lane, bus lane, crosswalk, sidewalk, or fire hydrant and explain why an emergency existed. (Sponsored by Speaker Johnson and Council Members Torres and Chin)

These bills are designed to supplement an existing package of legislation introduced in 2018 that also deals with the problem of placard abuse. The bills that were introduced in 2018 are:
Int. 596 (Sponsored by Council Member Williams): Increasing the penalty for a fake placard from $250 to $500.

Int. 314 (Sponsored by Council Member Rodriguez): Requiring reporting on placard misuse by the New York Police Department.

Int. 942 (Sponsored by Council Member Koo): Requiring a plan on distribution of placards.

Int. 932 (Sponsored by Council Member Chin): Providing for the revocation of placards for misuse.

Int. 927 (Sponsored by Speaker Johnson): Creates a system to track misuse of placards. 


Defendant Forced 14-Year-Old Girl Into Prostitution; Advertised Victim On Internet

 Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark announced that a Bronx man has been sentenced to five to 10 years in prison for the sex trafficking of a 14-year-old girl whom he forced into prostitution by assaulting her. 

 District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant sexually advertised the teenage girl on the website Backpage and made money by having the victim engage in prostitution. Today’s sentence will keep a predator of children off the streets.” 

 District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Santos Rodriguez, 26, of 612 East 180 Street, was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison today by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Denis Boyle. The defendant will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release. The defendant pleaded guilty to Sex Trafficking on November 7, 2018.

 According to the investigation, on or about April 28, 2017 and June 6, 2017 at different times and at several locations in the Bronx, the defendant intentionally advanced and profited from the prostitution of a teenage girl. Rodriguez used force and intimidation against the victim to instill fear and to induce her to engage in prostitution, including slapping and strangling her. Rodriguez also engaged in sexual acts with the victim.

 District Attorney Clark thanked Assistant District Attorney Jason Birriel of the Criminal Enterprise Bureau for his assistance in the case. District Attorney Clark also thanked Detective John Zerafa of the NYPD/FBI Human Trafficking Task Force.

Manhattan Man Pleads Guilty To 2018 Murder Of 17-Year-Old

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that GARY TURNER pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to the murder of Samuel Ozuna, 17, outside the George Washington Carver Houses in New York, New York on April 24, 2018.  United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman presided over the defendant’s guilty plea.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Last April, Gary Turner murdered 17-year-old Samuel Ozuna. Turner admitted in open court to committing that terrible act of violence.  We will continue our daily work with the NYPD to keep the streets safe and vigorously to investigate and prosecute those who bring murder and mayhem to our communities.”
As alleged in the Indictment and statements made in open court:
On April 24, 2018, GARY TURNER shot and killed Samuel Ozuna in the vicinity of 60 East 104th Street in Manhattan.  TURNER committed this killing in order to maintain his position in a violent gang that was operating in the residential neighborhood surrounding the George Washington Carver Houses. 
TURNER, 24, of Manhattan, pled guilty to using a firearm to commit murder in aid of racketeering, which carries a maximum sentence of death or life in prison, and a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison.  The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York City Police Department.

Owner Of New York Investment Fund Pleads Guilty To Committing $22 Million Scheme To Defraud Investors

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BRENT BORLAND, the owner and principal of a New York-based investment fund known as Belize Infrastructure Fund I LLC (“Belize Fund”), pled guilty to perpetrating a $22 million investment fraud scheme against dozens of Belize Fund investors.   BORLAND pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla to conspiring to commit, and the commission of, securities fraud and wire fraud. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Brent Borland solicited funds from investors for a project to build a new airport in Belize.  In doing so, Borland promised a high rate of return and assured investors that their funds were secured by real property.  Not only was he not truthful about the collateral for their investments, Borland used a substantial portion of investors’ funds to support his own lavish lifestyle.  Today, Brent Borland admitted to investor fraud to the tune of $22 million, and faces substantial time in federal prison.”
According to the Complaint and Indictment:
From 2014 through March 2018, BORLAND and others solicited and received approximately $21.9 million through Belize Fund from approximately 40 investors based upon representations that BORLAND would use the investors’ money to construct an airport in Belize.  BORLAND promised investors high rates of return on their investments, which he represented were temporary “bridge financing.”  BORLAND also represented to investors that their investments would be fully secured by real property in Belize that was unencumbered by any liens or obligations.
In fact, however, BORLAND misappropriated millions of dollars of investors’ funds and used those funds for his own personal benefit.  BORLAND diverted at least approximately 30 percent of the approximately $21.9 million invested by victims to himself to pay for a variety of personal expenses, including his mortgage payments, credit card bills, luxury automobiles, a beach club membership, and private school tuition for his children.  In contrast to BORLAND’s representations that investors would receive high rates of return within a specified time frame, all known investors in the scheme lost money.  And while BORLAND represented that the investments would be secured by real property, the property purportedly serving as collateral was improperly pledged to multiple investors and, in some cases, did not even exist. 
BORLAND, 48, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison; one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.  BORLAND is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Failla on June 21, 2019.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission. 
If you believe you were a victim of this crime, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact the Victim/Witness Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900.  For additional information, go to:

Attorney General James Announces Guilty Pleas Of Construction Contractors For Failing To Pay Workers On Public Work Projects

Vickram and Gayatri Mangru, Owners Of Vick Construction and AVM Construction Corp., Pleaded Guilty to Failure To Pay Prevailing Wages On Construction Work at Several New York City Public Schools 

  Attorney General Letitia James announced the guilty pleas of Vickram Mangru, his wife Gayatri Mangru, and AVM Construction Corp., of Valley Stream, NY, for failing to pay proper prevailing wages to workers and falsifying business records related to a publicly-funded New York City construction project. The defendants were charged with failing to pay three workers their required prevailing and overtime wages, as well as supplemental benefits from December 2012 through February 2015. The defendants unlawfully falsified payroll records to conceal their crimes, and thereby stole more than $280,000 from three workers. In October 2017, a Bronx County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging the defendants with two counts of Failure to Pay Prevailing Wages and Benefits and two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.   

“Intentionally underpaying workers is both highly illegal and immoral,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Not only did the defendants take advantage of innocent workers trying to earn a living, they also took advantage of New York City by falsifying records to the Department of Education. This office will never hesitate to investigate any employer who tries to cheat our workers or our government.” 
Defendants Vickram Mangru and AVM Construction Corp. both pleaded guilty in Bronx County Supreme Court before the Honorable Barry E. Warhit, to felony Failure to Pay Prevailing Wages and Benefits counts under the indictment. Defendant Gayatri Mangru pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor Failure to Pay Prevailing Wages and Benefits in the indictment for her involvement in the crimes. As a condition of their pleas, the Defendants will pay restitution to the three workers in the amount of $80,000 before their sentencing. Defendant Vickram Mangru will be sentenced to 30 days of incarceration and will subsequently serve three years probation; Defendants AVM Construction Corp. and Gayatri Mangru will be sentenced to conditional discharges and additional fines. A judgment order of restitution will be entered for the remaining amount owed.   
In addition, all defendants will be barred from bidding on or being awarded any public works contract in the State of New York for a period of five (5) years.   
“An honest days work deserves an honest days pay and when employers cheat workers from the wages they rightfully earned, regardless of their status,  it’s labor abuse at its worst,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. “Despite being debarred, this unscrupulous contractor attempted to use his wife’s name to open a company and take advantage of immigrant workers by withholding their prevailing wages yet again — now he is facing the consequences of his actions. I would like to thank the Attorney General for working side by side with my office to prosecute this contractor and bring justice to the workers who are owed their fair share.” 
Between December 22, 2012 and April 12, 2014, Vickram Mangru—as owner of Vick Construction—failed to pay several of his employees’ proper prevailing wages for construction and repair work on several public schools in the Bronx. State law requires that on certain construction projects designated as “public works,” workers must be paid a pre-determined industry minimum wage per hour, plus a benefit rate, collectively known as a “prevailing wage rate.” Instead of paying this prevailing wage rate, the investigation revealed that Vickram Mangru allegedly paid his workers between $120 and $160/day for 40-50 hours worked per week – an amount far less than what his employees were owed under the prevailing wage rate. To cover up the crime, Vickram Mangru falsified Certified Payroll Records and Reports submitted to the New York City Department of Education by claiming that he did pay workers the proper prevailing wage rate. The New York City Comptroller’s Office previously barred the defendant, Vickram Mangru, from obtaining contracts for public works projects in New York City after he was found to be in violation of labor laws. The Comptroller’s Office referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office after Mangru created a new company in an attempt to continue operating in New York City, but was allegedly still committing labor violations.  
The Attorney General thanks the New York City Comptroller’s Office, The Attorney General also thanks the New York City Department of Education Division of School Facilities.   

Saturday, February 16, 2019

News From Councilman Mark Gjonaj

NYC has released the 2019 Holiday Alternate Side Parking Suspension Calendar. The City also suspends alternate side rules due to weather and emergencies. If you have any questions, please call 311.

Nos Quedamos' PHOENIX - February 2019

2019 has taken off like a Phoenix! And we're not just saying that because it's the name of our newsletter, as well as the back story of our community, but because we're so pumped about all the great things that are lining up as a result of the work we put in during 2018. This edition is intended as a brief overview to our community, its stakeholders, and partners.

Here are a few projects, events, and initiatives we're excited about (there is also some history within)


This past year, Nos Quedamos, in partnership with Neture, was awarded two Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grants as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's 'Bronx Civic Center' initiative, a $10 million state investment to revitalize portions of the South Bronx. One grant is for a broadband demonstration project that will provide free, although limited, internet access for the residents of El Jardín. The second DRI project anticipates working with three regional community gardens to install a set of photo-voltaic panels to provide each garden with power for lighting, utility needs, and Wi Fi access.

These two projects represent Nos Quedamos' ongoing expansion of its community grounded mission. We will keep the community and our partners informed and engaged as we move forward. Read project summaries.

The modern history of Melrose Commons is one of tenacity and steadfast determination over adversity, and no other person's contributions have had more of an impact in the region than Nos Quedamos' founder, Yolanda García (1961-2005), including spearheading the legendary Melrose Urban Renewal Plan that helped transformed Melrose into a livable and sustainable community.  Now 25-years later, the NYC Department of Parks (Bronx) is finalizing its capital construction of Melrose Commons Park on the site that García always envisioned as a central public green hub in the heart of Melrose (see inset). In honor of her examples as a roll model and selfless advocate of the South Bronx, we are working to have the park (projected to be completed by September 2019) re-dedicated as the 'Yolanda García Memorial Park.'

Unsurprisingly, support for the renaming has been unanimously positive. But we want this to be a community-led victory and are asking for Letters of Support (LOS) from the extended Bronx community as a tribute to García's organizing legacy. Join us in putting an exclamation (!) on her life's work. Send your LOS to Edwin Pagán at

Nos Quedamos is busy working on the 3rd annual WE ARE MELROSE Street Festival that celebrates the vast diversity and broad cultures that makes up the community. Our 2019 celebration will take place on Saturday, July 20, 2019 from 12-6PM (rain date: Sunday, July 21, 2019). Please add the date to your calendars and let's make it a day of sharing and mutual community building, including cultural programming, environmental and health demonstrations, and child appropriate game-play and other family-friendly activities. For sponsorship opportunities contact at Ana Melendez.

Keep an eye out as we reveal this year's event theme and key-art on April 22, 2019 (Earth Day). Stay tuned. ;)

Nos Quedamos and Asociasión Huerto Y Cultura (Harvest & Culture Association) will be hosting the NYC Parks Department (Bronx) for a community input session on the future of the pending Melrose Commons Park on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 from 6:30-7:30pm. This is an important phase in the park's development and your chance to inform the process at its earliest stage. Bring your vision.
Download the flier here.

The Bronx County Chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association (NLPAO) and 40th Precinct Community Council will be hosting a Soup Kitchen and Distribution day on February 23, 2017 from 11am-3pm at the Church of St. Anselm and St. Roch, located at 685 Tinton Avenue, Bronx. Among the items being provided to the extended community are canned foods, blankets, and coats (for people and pets!). Download the flier.

We Stay / Nos Quedamos
754 Melrose Avenue 
BronxNY 10451