Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Comptroller Stringer: “ADA Transit Deserts” Leave 640,000 New Yorkers Stranded Without a Single Accessible Station in their Neighborhood

Rents near accessible stations are significantly more expensive, worsening the affordable housing crisis for mobility impaired New Yorkers
Inaccessibility severely restricts job opportunities – over 600,000 jobs are located in ADA Transit Deserts
Comptroller calls on State to create funding mechanism that would increase resources for ADA upgrades
  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released a report, “Service Denied: Accessibility and the New York City Subway System.”  While New York’s subway remains the most expansive in the country, roughly half of the neighborhoods served by the system – 62 out of 122 – are “ADA Transit Deserts,” meaning they lack a single accessible station. Inaccessibility places an undue economic strain on families, seniors, and the mobility-impaired. 55 of these neighborhoods are in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. Combined, these communities are home to 200,000 mobility-impaired residents, 340,000 seniors, and 200,000 children below the age of five.
“Too many New Yorkers are left stranded by the MTA,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Decades of underinvestment and neglect have real life consequences. For every inaccessible station, there is a New Yorker who can’t get to work, pick up their children from daycare, or visit their doctors. It’s simple – a person’s livelihood should not be dictated by their mobility status, and we must take action immediately to address this crisis. The MTA’s Fast Forward plan is a step in the right direction, but we can and must do more.”
ADA Transit Deserts Worsen the Affordable Housing Crisis 
  • For New Yorkers with disabilities and seniors, the housing crisis is magnified by ADA Transit Desert which limits housing options and forces mobility impaired New Yorkers to pay higher rents;
  • Median rents in neighborhoods with at least one accessible station are over $100 higher than in neighborhoods with only inaccessible stations; and
  • Given that people with disabilities or injuries, the elderly, and families with young children already bear heavy expenses for medical care and other services, these higher rents can be prohibitive.
ADA Transit Deserts Restrict Job Opportunities
  • Accessibility gaps can severely restrict opportunities for the mobility impaired;
  • Those living in areas without accessible stations will struggle to reach the 2.7 million jobs in areas that are accessible by subway;
  • The 608,258 jobs in neighborhoods without subway accessibility, meanwhile, are even more challenging to reach;
  • Barriers to the labor market already exacerbate the high rates of unemployment and low rates of workforce participation among those living with disabilities;
  • In New York City, only 23 percent of the mobility impaired are employed or actively looking for work – compared to 74 percent of the non-disabled; and
  • For those who are participating in the labor force, unemployment rates are a disturbing 16 percent for the mobility-impaired.
New York Should Lead the Nation
Only 24 percent of the subway’s 472 stations are accessible, by far the lowest share among the country’s metropolitan rail systems. While some of these systems were built after ADA legislation was introduced and were pre-engineered for accessibility, those in Boston and Chicago are nearly as old or older than the New York City subway system, but are far more accessible.
Fixing ADA Transit Deserts Necessitates New Funding
In addition to offering support for the MTA’s new Fast Forward plan, the Comptroller is calling for a new funding mechanism to support accessibility investments. Comptroller Stringer’s report recommends that the state legislature introduce a new Transportation Bond Act in the next session and bring it to referendum. Voters have not had a chance to approve additional transit funding since 2005, when a $3.5 billion bond act was approved by voters, with proceeds divided fairly between upstate and downstate needs. A new bond act could vastly increase resources for ADA upgrades, dramatically enhancing the reach of the subway system and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

Democrat Amanda Septimo Raises Over $50k in First Finance Filing for Assembly Run


  Amanda Septimo, Democratic candidate running for Assembly in the 84th District, has reported raising $50,423 in her first campaign finance filing since launching her campaign. The impressive fundraising numbers come on the heels of big endorsements from the Working Families Party and the powerful public-sector union, DC 37.
"The outpouring of support for our journey has been overwhelming, and this is another major step in the direction of positive change. On the doors, on the street, and on the phones, people have been genuinely excited to hear from our campaign and have been really receptive to our message. We deserve better than just the corrupt status quo. Our students, seniors, and working families need a fighter and I am committed to being a force in the Assembly who will produce results," said Septimo.


Change will allow hundreds of thousands of NYC SNAP recipients to be automatically eligible for Citi Bike at $5 per month, expanding access to an affordable transit option

  Mayor Bill de Blasio, DOT and HRA today announced that Citi Bike would become more accessible to New Yorkers, by expanding Citi Bike’s $5 per month membership.  Previously only available to NYCHA residents, starting today, New Yorkers who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, will be eligible, bringing Citi Bike to a broader population.  More than 1.6 million New Yorkers rely on SNAP to help feed their families every day.  The new program is presented by Healthfirst, the largest not-for-profit health insurance plan in New York City, and was announced at the Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation.

“Affordable bike share for more New Yorkers helps us build a fairer and more equitable city,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Improving mobility for SNAP recipients in our city will help them make ends meet by giving them greater access to jobs, services and educational opportunities.”

To apply for this discount, SNAP recipients can visit the Citi Bike website at citibikenyc.com and enter their EBT card number or NYCHA tenant ID. Citi Bike is partnering with HRA, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and other to begin a robust community outreach program with in-person, multilingual sign up opportunities at SNAP enrollment centers, greenmarkets, NYCHA developments, and community centers.  NYCHA residents already enrolled in the discount program do not need to reapply.

“Today’s announcement of a new affordable Citi Bike membership for SNAP recipients helps to address the Mayor de Blasio’s goals for a more equitable city, by allowing thousands more New Yorkers to discover cycling -- a transit option that is healthy, affordable, and fun,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.  “It has already been a big summer for bikeshare, as we have already announced that Citi Bike will play a critical role in meeting next year’s L train disruption and are also bringing affordable dockless bike share to outer-borough locations like the Rockaways for the first time.  We expect that today’s announcement will allow us to make even more progress, and no better way to make the point than with a bike ride from Bed-Stuy Restoration, where an incredible grassroots effort to embrace Citi Bike over the last two years has led to a dramatic increase in community members hopping on bikes to get around.”

“The convenience, health benefits, and enjoyment of a bike share program are important to all, and we’re proud to work with Citi Bike to put them within reach of even more New Yorkers,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “SNAP helps over 1.6 million New Yorkers make ends meet and access healthy food – and we’re very pleased that now it also offers access to a convenient, healthy, and fun way to get around the city.”

Bronx Chamber of Commerce - Applebee's presents Dinner and a Movie: Sherlock Gnomes"

Cynthia Calls For Impeaching Trump, While Cuomo Remains Opposed

Cuomo refuses to join calls to impeach his donor, Donald Trump

  While Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon today called for the impeachment Donald Trump, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that he would instead leave discussion of impeachment to the Senate Republicans. In a characteristic move for New York’s fundraiser-in-chief, Andrew Cuomo refused to join calls to impeach his major donor, Donald Trump - just like he continues to oppose abolishing ICE, even while accepting over $800,000 from donors profiting off of it.

“Donald Trump’s remarks yesterday alongside his corrupt billionaire friend Vladimir Putin made it clear that removing the president is too important to count on partisans who have so far demonstrated zero political courage whatsoever,” said Cynthia Nixon. “Just like he trusted Republicans in New York’s State Senate, Governor Cuomo is once again putting faith in the party of Donald Trump to do the right thing and defy their president. The American people can and will remove Trump -- not corrupt, cowardly Republicans.”

Earlier this month, Cynthia for New York released a series of digital ads calling on Governor Cuomo to return the $64,000 in donations he has received from President Trump. The Governor was asked to respond to the ads at an event in Brooklyn, where he lambasted the President, and yet Cuomo stated that he was going keep the contributions.

Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos And His Son, Adam Skelos, Convicted Again Of Corruption Offenses In Manhattan Federal Court

  Robert Khuzami, Attorney for the United States, acting under authority conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, announced the convictions of former New York State Senate Majority Leader DEAN SKELOS and his son ADAM SKELOS on bribery, extortion, and honest services fraud counts, following a five-week jury trial before the U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood.  As a unanimous jury found for a second time, DEAN SKELOS repeatedly abused his official position to obtain more than $300,000 in bribes and extortion payments made to his son, ADAM SKELOS.  The defendants had previously been found guilty of the same offenses by a jury in December 2015, but their convictions were overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said:  “Yet again, a New York jury heard a sordid tale of bribery, extortion, and the abuse of power by a powerful public official of this State.  And yet again, a jury responded with a unanimous verdict of guilt, in this case of Dean Skelos and his son Adam – sending the resounding message that political corruption will not be tolerated.”
According to the evidence introduced at trial, court filings, and statements made in Manhattan federal court:
From 2011 to 2015, DEAN SKELOS served as Majority Leader and Co-Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, a position that gave him significant power over the operation of New York State government.  DEAN SKELOS repeatedly used this power to pressure companies with business before New York State to make payments to his son, ADAM SKELOS, who substantially depended on these companies for his income.  DEAN SKELOS and ADAM SKELOS were able to secure these illegal payments through implicit and explicit representations that DEAN SKELOS would use his official position to benefit those who made the payments, and punish those who did not.  In total, DEAN SKELOS obtained over $300,000 in payments to ADAM SKELOS through persistent and repeated pressure applied to senior executives of three different companies that needed legislation passed in the New York State Senate and other official actions from DEAN SKELOS. 
The Glenwood Scheme
Beginning in late 2010, and continuing for approximately two years, DEAN SKELOS repeatedly solicited payments for ADAM SKELOS from representatives of Glenwood Management Corp. (“Glenwood”), a major New York City real estate company.  DEAN SKELOS’s solicitations for payments to ADAM SKELOS took place during the same meetings when Glenwood’s representatives were asking for DEAN SKELOS’s assistance with New York State legislation that was crucial to Glenwood’s profitability.  As a result of the sustained pressure from DEAN SKELOS, representatives of Glenwood arranged for a $20,000 direct payment to ADAM SKELOS and further arranged for Abtech Industries (“Abtech”), an Arizona-based stormwater technology company in which Glenwood’s founding family owned a stake, to make $4,000 monthly payments to ADAM SKELOS.  Glenwood arranged for these payments to ADAM SKELOS due to the company’s substantial dependence on DEAN SKELOS for real estate tax abatements and other real estate legislation favorable to Glenwood, and based in part on statements from DEAN SKELOS that he would punish those in the real estate industry who defied him. 
The Abtech Scheme
After successfully obtaining ADAM SKELOS’s Abtech consulting contract for $4,000 per month, DEAN SKELOS and ADAM SKELOS then threatened to use DEAN SKELOS’s official powers to block Abtech’s bid for a Nassau County contract unless the company sharply increased ADAM SKELOS’s payments.  Abtech ultimately agreed to increase ADAM SKELOS’s payments to $10,000 per month because the company feared that, if it did not meet the defendants’ demands, it would lose the Nassau County contract that was critical to its business.  In return for the payments to ADAM SKELOS, DEAN SKELOS took and agreed to take numerous official actions to benefit Abtech. 
For example, when Abtech and ADAM SKELOS believed Nassau County was withholding funding due to Abtech under its contract, DEAN SKELOS pressured Nassau County officials to make additional funds available.  In January 2015, DEAN SKELOS was intercepted in a call with the Nassau County Executive in which he raised the issue, complaining on behalf of ADAM SKELOS that “somebody feels like they’re getting jerked around the last two years.”  The next day, DEAN SKELOS traveled with the County Executive and his Deputy to the funeral of a New York City Police Department officer, where DEAN SKELOS reiterated in person his demand that the County make payments to Abtech, which the County subsequently did. 
DEAN SKELOS also used his official position in an attempt to direct State funding that had been recovered in litigation with financial services companies (the “Settlement Funds”) in a way that would benefit water projects and contracts being pursued by Abtech.  For example, at the same time ADAM SKELOS was attempting to obtain additional Abtech stormwater projects with local municipalities by claiming that the projects could be funded with State money, DEAN SKELOS advocated for a portion of the Settlement Funds to be allocated for stormwater projects. 
The PRI Scheme
During the same time period as the Glenwood and Abtech schemes, DEAN SKELOS solicited payments for his son ADAM SKELOS from yet another company, Physician Reciprocal Insurers (“PRI”).  PRI, a medical malpractice insurance firm whose existence depends on the renewal of certain New York State legislation, complied with the request, giving ADAM SKELOS a full-time job with benefits.  Even though ADAM SKELOS was expected to work 40 hours per week, he treated his PRI position as a “no show” job from the outset of his employment.  When ADAM SKELOS’s supervisor told ADAM SKELOS that he was expected to show up to work, ADAM SKELOS berated him and said, “Guys like you couldn’t shine my shoes. Guys like you will never amount to anything, and if you talk to me like that again, I’ll smash your f**king head in.”  When the CEO of PRI told DEAN SKELOS that ADAM SKELOS was not showing up to work and was mistreating the other employees, DEAN SKELOS expressed no concern about ADAM SKELOS’s conduct and simply told the CEO to “work it out.”  Based on this conversation, among others, the CEO understood that if he did not continue to pay ADAM SKELOS, despite his non-performance and misconduct at work, he was risking DEAN SKELOS taking legislative action against PRI.
During the time period that PRI was paying ADAM SKELOS, DEAN SKELOS repeatedly voted to extend PRI’s legislative protection from liquidation as well as other legislation that was being sought by PRI.
DEAN SKELOS, 70, and ADAM SKELOS, 36, each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on Count One (conspiracy to commit extortion), a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on Count Two (conspiracy to commit honest services fraud), a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of Counts Three through Five (extortion), and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each of Counts Six through Eight (bribery).  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by Judge Wood.  Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on October 24, 2018.
Mr. Khuzami praised the work of the Criminal Special Agent Investigators of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who jointly conducted this investigation.  

Bronx Drug Dealer Pleads Guilty To Selling Heroin That Caused Woman’s Overdose Death In A Hospital Rehabilitation Clinic

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that DUANE MARTINEZ pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to conspiring to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin between 2015 and 2017.  As part of that conspiracy, MARTINEZ arranged to deliver heroin to a 41-year-old woman, Ivy Katz, while she was a patient in a hospital rehabilitation clinic, causing Katz to overdose and die.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “The trafficking of heroin and other opioids is a serious crime that often leads to the tragic overdoses that are a public health crisis in our city and around the country.  Duane Martinez sold large amounts of heroin over a long period of time, and he arranged for his heroin to be delivered to an inpatient rehabilitation clinic located inside a hospital.  Martinez’s disregard led to a tragic death and undermined the efforts of health professionals to provide treatment for someone with the courage to seek it.  Thanks to the outstanding investigative work of our partners in the New York City Police Department, Duane Martinez is out of business, and heroin dealers should know that they cannot escape the consequences of their crimes.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, the Indictment, and statements made in court and publicly available documents:
From at least in or about November 2015 through in or about April 2017, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, MARTINEZ and others conspired to sell more than one kilogram of heroin. 
In particular, on or about January 1, 2017, MARTINEZ arranged for heroin to be delivered to Ivy Katz at an inpatient rehabilitation clinic located in a hospital in Manhattan.  In mid-December 2016, Katz had voluntarily checked herself into the hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation program for opioid dependence.  MARTINEZ arranged for another individual to deliver heroin to Katz in the hospital, evading measures designed to prevent patients in recovery from receiving drugs.  Approximately 30 minutes after the person sent by MARTINEZ left the hospital, Katz was found comatose in her room with a needle containing heroin in her arm.  Katz never regained consciousness and ultimately died on or about January 16, 2017.
DUANE MARTINEZ, 44, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a mandatory term of 10 years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge. MARTINEZ is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Caproni on October 25, 2018.
Charges against the other individual named in the indictment – Anthony Dodaj – are pending.  The charges and allegations against Dodaj are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York City Police Department’s Manhattan South Narcotics Heroin Overdose Team.