Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Explosion rocks Kingsbridge Neighborhood

  Members of the Police, Fire, EMS, and Federal Authorities look at the damage caused by an explosion in the second floor of a two story brick building at the corner of Tibbett Avenue and West 234th Street. As early as of 6 AM there were calls to 911 complaining of an odor of gas. NYFD and NYPD responded and shortly afterwards there was an explosion. NYFD Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that FDNY 19th Battalion Chief Michael J. Fahy was fatally struck with a portion of the building after it exploded.  
   In all the additional injuries according to Commissioner Nigro were six police officers, three Con Edison workers, two civilians, and nine firefighters. Commissioner Negro added that none of those injuries appeared to be life-threatening. 
   In response to a reporters question at the hospital where Chief Fahy and others were taken NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neil that there is now an ongoing investigation as to whether the explosion site was a 'Drug Lab' or 'Grow House for Marijuana'. As for the reason of the explosion, NYPD Commissioner O'Neil said that the FDNY arson squad will be the lead agency on finding out the cause of this explosion. He added that there were no arrests at the time. 

Above - A front view of the building where the explosion took place at the corner of Tibbett Avenue and West 234th Street.
Below - A view of the rear of the house where the explosion took place.

   The following statement about all flags to fly at half staff was issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio - As a mark of respect for the memory of FDNY Battalion Chief Michael J. Fahy, who lost his life today in the line of duty, all flags shall be flown at half-staff immediately and from sunrise to sunset until interment, by order of the Mayor of the City of New York, Bill de Blasio. This includes all flags—the New York State and City flags, and the POW-MIA flag on all City buildings, as well as stationary flagstaffs throughout the five boroughs.

  State Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, and Councilman Andrew Cohen  the elected officials of the explosion area issued the following joint statement - “We extend our deepest condolences to the family of FDNY 19th Battalion Chief Michael Fahy who this morning lost his life heroically serving our district. Fahy bravely and selflessly entered this home despite the danger, and his ultimate sacrifice, his character, and his commitment to this City will be remembered by all of us. He embodies the meaning of ‘The Bravest.’

We also hope for a quick recovery for the firefighters, police officers and civilians who were injured during this devastating explosion that rocked our quiet neighborhood.”


press pic.jpg

State Senator Jeff Klein announced $30,000 in funding for Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club on Saturday at Kips Bay Boys and Girls Lucile Palmaro Clubhouse at Kips Bay’s annual “Day for Kids”. Hundreds of families gathered at the clubhouse to enjoy the celebration, which included arts and crafts, food, games, give-aways, music,  and more.  

As a result of Senator Klein’s funding, Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club increased enrollment at its popular after-school programs at PS 304 Early Childhood School and MS 101 The Edward R. Byrne School.  Children, in grades 1 - 8, can now enjoy sports, such as swimming, basketball, ice skating, soccer and kickball.  They will receive academic counseling and homework help from instructors after school to ensure their educational success. Students can also participate in a performing arts program and enhance their technical skills with access to computers.

“I’m so proud that with my $30,000 in funding our children will have access to vital academic resources and meaningful enrichment activities throughout the school year.  Students will enjoy the stellar performing arts program and also can participate in a variety of sports, which will foster team building skills.  They will also receive tutoring, mentoring, homework assistance, and test preparation to enhance their scholastic performance.  Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club truly meets the needs of our youngsters,” said Senator Jeff Klein.
“Our annual “Day for Kids” fall street fair is a wonderful occasion bringing together current club members and their families, club alumni, community leaders, local merchants and public officials. I am delighted to accept State Senator Jeff Klein’s check presentation for $30,000 in support of our after- school programming at PS 304/MS 101 . Senator Klein has been a strong supporter of Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club with both operating grants, and capital allocations such as his 2015 award for the digital fine arts center that we are building at the flagship Palmaro Clubhouse,” said Daniel Quintero, Executive Director of Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bronx Tax Preparer Found Guilty Of Participation In Scheme To Steal Millions Using Fraudulent Tax Returns

Eliana Sarmiento Used Identities Stolen From A Medical Clinic In Puerto Rico To File False Tax Returns Using Victims’ Stolen Identities.

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Shantelle P. Kitchen, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced that ELIANA SARMIENTO, a former tax preparer at K&S Tax Solution, Inc. (“K&S”), was found guilty last Friday of multiple charges in connection with her participation in schemes to file fraudulent tax returns, in order to receive tax refunds in the form of checks and wire transfers.  Together with her co-workers at K&S, SARMIENTO stole more than $19 million in tax refunds by submitting false tax returns using stolen identities, largely stolen from residents of Puerto Rico.  To date, 14 employees and associates of K&S, in addition to SARMIENTO, have been convicted in connection with this scheme.  SARMIENTO was convicted after a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood.
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment as well as the evidence presented during trial:
Since January 2010, SARMIENTO, along with her co-conspirators, perpetrated a large-scale scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) through the filing of fraudulent tax returns, so as to receive tax refunds in the form of checks and wire transfers.  Specifically, SARMIENTO obtained stolen identities in part through one co-conspirator, based in Puerto Rico, who stole the identities of patients of a medical clinic in Ponce, Puerto Rico.  She then obtained electronic filing identification numbers (“EFINs”), which are used for the purpose of filing hundreds of electronic tax returns, under the names of the victims of the defendants’ identity theft scheme.  SARMIENTO and her co-conspirators used those EFINs to file tax returns bearing the names and Social Security Numbers (“SSNs) of additional identity theft victims.  Additionally, SARMIENTO and other employees of K&S used the stolen identities of children as false “dependents” on the tax returns of certain K&S clients.
In these ways, SARMIENTO and others at K&S obtained millions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury.  To date, and based on a subset of EFINs associated with SARMIENTO and her co-conspirators at K&S, the IRS has identified $281,348,627 in attempted fraudulent returns and $19,799,175 in Treasury funds successfully stolen by SARMIENTO and her criminal associates.   
SARMIENTO, 32, of Passaic, New Jersey, was found guilty of two counts of theft of public funds, each carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; two counts of conspiring to steal public funds, each carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and two counts of aggravated identity theft, each carrying a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.  The statutory maximum and minimum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the IRS-CI for its work in the investigation and expressed his appreciation to the United States Secret Service for its assistance.

The Joke is on Community Board 8 Traffic and Transportation Chair Heller with Broken Curbs on Riverdale Avenue Still not Fixed by DOT

  When the city DOT milled and repaved Riverdale Avenue during the warm weather in March the contractor hired by DOT ripped apart many sections of the curb between West 235th and West 239th Streets. That could be one reason that a car went onto the sidewalk crashing into Sotheby's last month. There was a section of the curb that was broken (not the photo above) where the car may have went over and on to the sidewalk. 
   Community Board 8 Traffic & Transportation Chair Michael Heller was notified of the broken curbs after the milling of the road was done. The answer he received was that the DOT would repair any broken curbs which its contractor did. That answer was in June, and it is now September and the curbs are still broken. One would have to guess the joke is on T&T Chair Heller and Community Board 8. 
   Well Mr. Heller what is it going to take for the DOT to repair the broken curbs? Is there going to have to be another accident where someone is hurt or worse? School children walk right by the place where the car ran into Sotheby's storefront. It was a good thing that school; was out, or we might have been writing an obituary or two. Below are just a few photos of the broken curbs, some still with the metal wire sticking out which was placed in the cement. 

Above and Below are sections of broken curbs caused by the milling of Riverdale Avenue. Yes that is the Fieldston School from where students enter and exit from.

Above - Grass is already growing where there was once a curb.
Below - Yes that is metal wires which can and probably have punctures car tires are still protruding from the broken curb.

Above - One can see that the handicap ramp was repaired, and new crosswalk lines have been painted, but a pedestrian can trip on the broken sidewalk where grass is growing from at this corner.
Below - Below - Another corner with a broken curb in the crosswalk. A garbage pail has been placed in the way so no one will get hurt here.

Above - Another section where the curb was broken by the DOT milling contractor.
Below - More broken curbs this time in front of stores where a car can easily drive into another storefront.

It's a real shame that the community board is powerless, as over six months have passed since this section of Riverdale Avenue was milled and then repaved. It is also over four months since the Bronx DOT Commissioner said that the broken curbs by the DOT milling contractor would be repaired by the DOT. Mayor Bill de Blasio - is this anyway to run a city. City Comptroller Scott Stringer - the city has known about this situation for over four months now. 
Just get it fixed before someone is hurt.


Elimination of fee will remove barrier to college application and enrollment 

Estimated 37,500 families able to save $65 application fee 

Fee Elimination part of College Access for All, one of Mayor de Blasio’s Equity and Excellence initiatives

   Mayor de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Fariña, and CUNY Chancellor Milliken announced today that the CUNY application fee will be eliminated for all low-income NYC public high school seniors starting this fall. The expansion increases the number of CUNY fee waivers more than fivefold – under the expansion, an estimated 37,500 high school seniors will qualify for fee waivers, up from approximately 6,500 waivers issued annually in previous years.

The elimination of the fee for low-income students removes a significant financial barrier to students applying to college and is part of the College Access for All initiative, one of the Mayor’s Equity and Excellence reforms. The initiative builds on a high school graduation rate over 70 percent for the first time, and the highest-ever postsecondary enrollment rate and college readiness rate.

The CUNY application fee waiver allows a student to complete and submit an application listing up to six CUNY schools free of charge. Currently, over half of college-bound graduates of NYC public high schools enroll in CUNY colleges.

“We need to give all our children – no matter the neighborhood they live in, or background they come from – the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century, and that means removing barriers to applying, enrolling, and succeeding in college. Eliminating the application fee for low-income seniors will have a profound impact for thousands of students and their families” said Mayor de Blasio.

“As the first person in my family to attend college, I understand the barriers that stand between students and college, and we must break down those barriers to deliver equity and excellence for all students,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Today’s announcement will make a real difference for thousands of students and families across all five boroughs, and we are going to keep breaking down barriers through College Access for All and our Equity and Excellence initiatives.”  

“CUNY is proud to partner with Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education's College Access for All initiative to expand waivers for the University’s $65 application fee from 6,500 to 37,500 high school seniors. Nearly 60 percent of New York City’s college-bound public school students enroll in CUNY and the application fee allows a student to apply to up to six CUNY schools,” said CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken. “This dramatic increase in fee waivers eliminates a hurdle for thousands of low-income students seeking higher education and is consistent with CUNY’s historic mission to increase access to quality higher education.”

This initiative costs $2.4 million total annually, with this administration adding $2 million for the expansion and CUNY continuing to fund around 6,500 waivers for approximately $400,000.

Application fee waiver codes are being made available to DOE school administrators and counselors, who will provide them to eligible students. School administrators and counselors are already responsible for disbursing a number of application and test fee waivers to students; they will also receive additional specific guidance to ensure students and families are aware of the expanded CUNY fee waiver and able to utilize it.

In addition to providing waivers to students eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program, schools will be instructed to provide waivers to students living in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home, or who are homeless; and students whose families receive public assistance. Undocumented students who fit the above criteria are eligible for the waiver, as well.

College Access for All is one of the initiatives in Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda, and will ensure that, by the 2018-19 school year, every student will have the resources and support at their high school to graduate with an individual college and career plan. In addition to the expansion of the CUNY application fee waiver, College Access for All also includes the SAT School Day, through which all 68,000 New York City high school juniors will be able to take the SAT free of charge during the school day on April 5, 2017. The initiative is also supporting new training and funding at 100 high schools this year to build a schoolwide college and career culture.

Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj Host the 2nd Annual Taste of Morris Park

  Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, and The Morris Park Community Association hosted the Second Annual Taste of Morris Park at  Loreto Park, this past Saturday.  Local businesses showcased their culinary specialities, 'Just Us' provided live music for the crowd, and Children enjoyed miniature golf, baseball games, spin -art activities, face-painting, popcorn, and cotton candy. Photos of the event are below.

Above - Face painting.
Below - Popcorn and cotton candy.


Above - Assemblyman Gjonaj visits his friends at Go Better Healthy Eatery.
Below - Go Better was giving out samples of its fruit/vegetable salad complete with a vinaigrette dressing.

Above - Samplers of 'Cheese Meat Balls' are given out.
Below - Burger Time of Morris Park Avenue had Sliders, hot dogs and french fries. 

Above - Senator Jeff Klein checks with some tasting goers about the food and his district.
Below - Senator Klein congratulates Patricia's of Morris Park Chief Chef Carlos on the food he is cooking.

Above - Patricia of Patricia's of Morris Park chats with Senator Klein and Assemblyman Gjonaj, as both enjoy some of Patricia's delicious food.
Below - After eating it was time to go on stage and thank those who made this event possible by Senator Klein.

Above - Senator Klein give the Microphone to Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj to say a few words.
Below - A group photo with the two elected officials and the merchants who made the food for the second annual 'Taste of Morris Park'.

Senators Klein, Savino & Senator-elect Alcantara release new investigation on Airbnb ads that explicitly skirt laws

Airbnb and the Rentals of Doom: air mattresses in kitchens, beds in laundry rooms & bunk beds galore all to dangerously cram guests in apartments in violation of State & City code

Legislators propose new measures; call on Governor Cuomo to sign Airbnb bill

New York, NY — State Senators Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, and Democratic Senate Nominee Marisol Alcantara, released a new investigation, “Tourist Tenements in the Making,” revealing shocking advertisements for apartments and homes across New York City where hosts offer accommodations for between 13 and over 30 guests. In order to fit so many visitors inside, investigators turned up shocking ads with mattresses placed in odd areas in serious violation of state and city housing codes.

“This truly is a case of Airbnb and the rentals of doom. It’s frightening to see listings where guests are offered dangerous accommodations that violate state and city housing codes. We must take legislative action to prevent potential tragedy that could occur from illegally packing people into spaces and hold sites like Airbnb accountable,” said Senator Klein.

“Cramming tourists into kitchens lined with air mattresses or lining up beds next to washers and dryers is nonsensical. It might be a cheap way to stay in New York City, but it certainly isn’t legal or safe. We need to ban one- and two-family homes from turning into dangerous short term rentals and stop companies like Airbnb from advertising places that already violate the law,” said Senator Savino.

Sites like Airbnb have been granted far more leeway than their traditional counterparts due to the lack of regulation in New York State. We need to take the blurred lines these businesses walk and bold them. As shown through Senator Klein’s investigation, it is a must that legislation be signed into law by the Governor so the State can have meaningful and appropriate regulation to proactively prevent irresponsible or criminal activity from taking place. The unique business model of sharing services is not a reason to omit regulation, it is a reason to tighten regulation,” said Senator Tony Avella.

When affordable housing is stolen from our community and converted into illegal hotels, rents go up and and tenants suffer,” said 31st Senate District Democratic Nominee Marisol Alcántara. “From the Upper West Side to Inwood, Airbnb's illegal rentals are giving predatory landlords new incentives to harass and evict struggling families. With the highest number of rent-stabilized apartments in the state, our diverse district has become a key battleground in the fight to protect our already scarce affordable housing. That's why we need the pro-tenant safeguards passed by the Senate and Assembly this year signed into law immediately, before additional apartments are lost. And we need to go further next year, before the illegal hotel operators profiting off of Airbnb find new loopholes to exploit.”

The Independent Democratic Conference’s investigation examined advertisements on Airbnb for parties of 13 or more.

In New York City 110 hosts offered up apartments and homes to groups this large, and many configured their places in stunning ways — with air mattresses lined on kitchen floors, beds in laundry rooms and bunk beds in a dining room.

Of the 110 apartments, 91 advertised for overnight stays across the city. The remainder promoted their spaces for parties and movie sets. The majority of ads indicated that the rental could accommodate 16 or more people. While 16 is the cap on Airbnb, one host wrote in that accommodations could fit 32 guests.

Most of the ads were from Brooklyn, followed by Manhattan and Queens. The Bronx had one advertisement.

The sole advertisement in The Bronx, posted for ‘Fenton Lounge 2.0,’ came under scrutiny in December 2015 when Senator Klein exposed the house as a site for wild parties that included strippers, DJs spinning into the wee hours and neighborhood disturbances.

The Pelham Bay listing, yanked by Airbnb, resurfaced advertising accommodations for up to 16 people much to the chagrin of neighbors. Airbnb even marked the bad actor as a “super host.”

The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement recently cracked down on ‘Fenton Lounge 2.0’ issuing multiple violations for failure to provide a means of egress, failure to provide a fire alarm system and for a lack of a sprinkler system.

This illustrates how listings violate the Multiple Dwelling Law created to protect tenants as tenement buildings rose in the city. These laws explicitly prohibit more than four lodgers from boarding in a unit without direct access to an exit.

Other laws, including the Fire Code, appear to be violated. Fire extinguishers in hotels, for example, are routinely checked and safety plans are placed on doors so guests know how to safely exit a building.

The IDC will introduce two measures to protect tourists and residents from hazards created by short term rentals in homes.

First, the IDC plans to introduce legislation to ban one- and two-family homes from short term rentals by clarifying the Multiple Dwelling Law.

Another piece of legislation set to be introduced will hold Airbnb and sites like it accountable for ads that advertise illegal units and will fine the company for the postings.

The Senators also urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-SI)  and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) that bans the advertisement of illegal units on Airbnb and similar sites.