Saturday, January 29, 2011


    State Senators Adriano Espaillat (D – 31st District) and Gustavo Rivera (D – 33rd District) testified at a public hearing regarding the Department of Education’s proposal to close down John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx. The joint public hearing was observed by the District 10 Community Education Council and the JFK School Leadership Team.
    Both senators outlined their commitment to improving the educational opportunities available for local students. Sen. Espaillat and Sen. Rivera have expressed concerns about the Department of Education’s lack of communication with parents, particularly a lack of adequate notice about tonight’s hearing and other important developments. They called for a fair and transparent process that provides parents and community leaders with the opportunity to voice their opinions and inquiries, and that their input is then reflected in the Department’s plans moving forward.
    “With nothing short of our children’s future riding on our schools, it is unacceptable to leave parents and community members in the dark and out of the decision making process,” said Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
    “Parents shouldn’t be learning about their children’s school being closed through newspaper clippings or word of mouth,” said Sen. Gustavo Rivera. “Our constituents deserve a transparent process that provides them with the information they need and gives these parents a seat at the table when important determinations are being made.”
    Senators Espaillat and Rivera have laid out a set of principles they believe must be followed as the Department of Education proceeds with closings
Ø  JFK must only close if the alternative school(s) offer a quality of education that is truly excellent and significantly better than what is currently offered at JFK.   
Ø  The transition process must be smooth and carefully planned so as to limit disruptions for students.  
Ø  Parents and local community members must be given access to all information in a timely manner and allowed a voice in the decision making process. 
Ø  There must be viable placement options for the district’s “over the counter” admissions of special need students (English Language Learners/ELL, students with Individualized Education Plans/IEP, and Students with Interrupted Formal Education/SIFE) who otherwise would go to JFK.


Assemblywoman Gibson Inauguration Rescheduled

Please be advised that the Inauguration Ceremony for Assemblywoman Vanessa L. Gibson has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 5th, 2011, at 10:30AM,
Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, corner of East 165th Street, Bronx, New York. A reception will follow the ceremony.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Former State Senator Guy Velella Passes Away UPDATE

    In a story we told you on Friday January 21st of the worsening health of Former State Senator Guy Velella, we must update that to say that Former Senator Guy Velella has died at the age of 66 of lung cancer.
    Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. had this to say on the passing of Senator Velella, “I am saddened to hear about the passing of Guy Velella, who served the Bronx for many years in both the State Senate and the State Assembly. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during their time of grief". 
    Current State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellows said “I was deeply saddened today to learn of the passing of former Senator Guy Velella. Guy was close personal friend and colleague. He will be remembered for his many years of service to his constituents in the Bronx and Westchester, for his great sense of humor and his straight forward manner. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Patricia and his family.”
    Bronx Conservative Party Chairman (and close ally) Bill Newmark said" Guy Velella was an extremely hard working state senator who put in a tremendous  amount of time and effort for the people of the north Bronx. He also always won re-election despite being in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
    State Senator Jeff Klein who won election to the 34th District after Senator Velella steped down said, “Senator Velella will be remembered in my district for his dedication and service to the community. I’m a Democrat and he was a Republican. But, when it came to our mutual constituents, we worked together and never let partisanship trump people. My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Velella’s family during this difficult time.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When Will We Hear from Our Democratic Leaders about Those Senators
by New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz

   Two years ago, Senators Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada, Karl Kruger and I formed a group that we called the Four Amigos.  We met frequently – not in secret- all believing in transparency in government.  We discussed how, as Democrats serving in the Senate Majority, we could initiate much needed change in the Senate to help our constituents.  As Senators representing areas with growing Hispanic populations, we knew that our mission was long overdue. Senator Monserrate’s “parliamentary coup” folded when he returned to vote with the Democratic Party.  (As I recall, several key Senators acted like his best friends when they begged him to return, but later they led the charge to throw him out of office). Senator John Sampson was subsequently elected to serve as Senate Majority Leader.  Senator Espada was selected to serve as the Senate’s Temporary President and Acting Lieutenant Governor – the highest-ranking position that any Hispanic has ever achieved in the New York State legislature.
   The Four Amigos were branded as traitors, banditos, and extortionists.  We were labeled opportunists and thugs.  Mayor Ed Koch sat on New York 1 and called us rats. Democratic leaders throughout the state used every chance they could to make pubic statements attacking us and our intentions.  Editorial boards had a field day at our expense, and so did political pundits.
   This year, Senators Diane Savino, Jeff Klein, David Carlucci and David Valesky have dubbed themselves the “New Independence Conference” of the New York State Senate.  Those Senators have severed formal ties from Senate Majority Leader John Sampson.  They refuse to caucus with Senate Democrats.  Despite the financial stranglehold around the throats of New Yorkers, and despite the fact that the Democrats are not in the Majority, that self-anointed group of Senators has been granted millions of dollars in perks and budget appropriations for staff, parking spots, etc. They have been given preferred office space so they can remain tightly-knit and their offices are being re-designed to have walls placed or removed as they desire.  After a fair amount of kicking and screaming, those Senators been given the power to decide where they sit in the Senate Chamber.  (It was like watching passengers on the Titanic re-arranging deck chairs.) Last night, it was announced that three of those Senators were granted Chairmanship positions (with lulus) by the Republican Majority Leader.
   I’m listening hard but I don’t hear even a whisper from any Democratic leader of their criticism of those Senators who have abandoned the Democratic Party.  Is the snow muffling any outcry?  Will the Daily News’ Mr. Bramhall render this new caucus as the new Cosa Nostra? Are the actions of Hispanic legislators held to a different, higher standard?  Has the Democratic Party decided those non-Hispanic Senators should determine what’s best for all New Yorkers with no accountability?
   Please don’t try to justify the criticism the Four Amigos endured because of Hirman Monserrate’s conviction because that didn’t happened until many months after the Senate coup. And please do not justify the malicious comments because of Senator Espada’s recent indictment because that wasn’t even on the horizon in 2008.
   Please, explain this to me because I just don’t see how we were wrong and they are right. I don’t understand why we were condemned and they are being treated like prima donnas.  Please explain to me why the Democratic Leadership in New York State is leaving Senator John Sampson to fight this fight alone?
Is this a double-standard or what?
   We will only say what now State Senate Minority Leader John Sampson said to us at the swearing in of Senator Gustavo Rivera, and that was "We are still all Democrats".
IDC Members to Chair Legislative Committees

   The Independent Democratic Conference today accepted recommendations from the Senate Majority that, in keeping with recent bi-partisan tradition, would allow them to chair legislative committees.
    The IDC similarly accepted committee assignments recommended to them by the Senate Minority on Monday. 
     These chair appointments continue a Senate tradition of reaching across party lines and empowering non-majority members to have a more hands-on role in shaping legislation and are the following.
    Senator Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), being named the Chairwoman of the Senate Standing Committee on Children and Families. Senator Savino began her career in public service as a caseworker in New York City’s Child Welfare Administration.
    Senator David Valesky, (D-Oneida), has been named the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Aging.  
    Senator David Carlucci, (D-Rockland/ Orange), has been named Co-Chair of the Administrative Regulations Review Commission. This joint legislative commission is responsible for reviewing rules and regulations passed by state entities. 
    On Monday, the Independent Democratic Conference accepted the following committee assignments from the Senate Minority:
Senator Savino: Member of the Civil Service, Banks and Veterans committees.
Senator Valesky: Member of the Agriculture, Transportation, Banks, Cultural Affairs committees.
Senator Jeff  Klein: member of the Local Government, Cultural Affairs, Veterans, Mental Health committees
Senator Carlucci: Member of the Banks, Veterans, Higher Education and Elections committees.

     It is also rumored that Senator Jeff Klein will chair the newly recreated Alcholism and Substance Abuse committee, once it passes the Senate Rules committee.


Bronx Bar Incidents

  This has been reported to us.

   On January 16th at 4am a female was assaulted inside the MVP bar... beat up... someone she didn't know. She reported the incident to the police.

    On January 17th at 4am... a similar incident took place... except in this one... violence erupted onto the street. This female was assaulted and beat up outside the MVP bar. She also reported the incident to police. 

     Two acts of violence within 24 hours at a local bar seems to be a MAJOR concern for the community. Also.. the bar has been having issues with FDNY for overcrowding.

    "I'm deeply concerned with recent reports of violence at the bar MVP," said State Senator Jeff Klein. "The FDNY's violation, citing MVP for overcrowding is an indication that the bar may illegally be operating as a nightclub. My office has been in touch with the NYPD, FDNY and SLA and will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the safety of the Schuylerville community."

    "In the past there have been complaints of excessive noise at this particular location and the neighborhood is very concerned. We do not want this to turn into a another bar with violence happening on a frequent basis. As a community, we are being vigilant and taking note when these things happen at this particular location, " said Andrew Chirico, Vice President of the Waterbury Lasalle Community Association. 

    The MVP bar is located at 3392 East Tremont Avenue.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What is Joel Klein up to After his Chancellorship?

    According to Celeste Katz of the Daily news Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has been named as the chair of Education Reform Now.  

    The interesting thing however is that Klein now joins those listed below, who are heavy advocates of charter schools. In the Daily news story Joel Klein now advocates for changing teacher tenure rules as Mayor Bloomberg and new Chancellor Cathie Black are trying to do. 
You may also want to check this link to a story titled "The Billionaires Boys Club" posted on June 10, 2010.
As you read further into this story you will be able to connect the dots to see the future of public education.
     Here is the website to Education Reform Now , with the board of directors and staff as of Monday January 24, 2011. Note there are only bio's of the staff and not the Board of Directors. For more information on the Board of Directors go to The Billionaires Boys Club link.

Board of Directors

Sidney Hawkins Gargiulo - Hawkshaw Capital
John Petry (chair) - Gotham Capital
John Sabat
- SAC Capital
Brian Zied - Maverick Capital


Executive Director - Van Schoales
van_schoales.jpgVan Schoales is the Executive Director of Education Reform Now, a national education policy and advocacy non-profit organization fighting to dramatically improve the quality of public education for America's most disadvantaged children.  He was most recently a program officer at the Piton Foundation where he oversaw a portfolio of investments on state policy, district reform and new school development. He has previously been a high school science teacher, principal and school non-profit leader working as an education reform advocate. Van has launched or help start a number of non-profits including the Odyssey Charter School, Bay Area Coalition of Equitable (formerly Essential) Schools, Denver School of Science and Technology, A + Denver, EdNewsColorado and Get Smart Schools.

National Strategy Director - Myles Mendoza
van_schoales.jpgIn Myles's position as the National Strategy Director of Education Reform Now he is strengthening ERN's existing capacities and strategically developing new outposts throughout the country. He was most recently the Development Director at the Denver Scholarship Foundation and was instrumental in the foundation's transformation from a start-up non-profit to one of national fundraising prominence and visibility. Myles conceived and implemented an ambitious five-year fundraising strategy in which $62 million dollars was raised and helped to make it the sustainable organization it is today. Myles originally came to his non-profit executive career after years of front-line work in difficult inner-city school environments including East St. Louis and disadvantaged Chicago neighborhoods. "Working in these communities allowed me to become an expert in understanding the complex factors that relate to youth and their ability to achieve academic success. I was able to get to know many families and their home environments first hand. I learned that even in the most abusive home situations, children can succeed if their schools provide them with quality teaching and high expectations. These experiences gave me both the passion and the knowledge to fight for what is needed to ensure every child in America is given the opportunity to succeed." Myles received his MSW from Washington University in St. Louis. Myles has three boys, all of whom attend high performing charter schools. He sits on the Board of Directors at West Denver Prep and the American Academy Foundation.

Chief of Staff - Brienne Bellavita
Brienne Bellavita joined Education Reform Now (ERN) in the fall of 2007.  Prior to her role as the Chief of Staff, Brienne served as the Program Director of ERN, working to build up the organization's programs promoting proven education reform policies.
Previous to her work at ERN, Brienne worked for the City of New York as an Investigator at the Civilian Complaint Review Board, where she investigated allegations of police misconduct.  As a civil servant, she developed the applied skills necessary to deliver on public sector challenges and gained invaluable experience working with many segments of the population.
Previously, Brienne lived in London, England, where she served an internship in the British Parliament working for Kevin McNamara MP, a member of the Labour Party in the House of Commons.  

Office Manager - Beverly Francis
Beverly is a New Yorker by zip code, but a true Floridian at heart. Beverly joined the staff of Education Reform Now (ERN) in the Fall of 2008. Her passion for advancement in public education derive both from being a product of the public education system, and being surrounded by a family of educators.
Prior to her work at ERN, Beverly worked in the news and entertainment industry. She credits her experience as a TV journalist for her growing involvement and awareness of domestic issues.
Beverly graduated from Florida International University in Miami, FL with a Bachelor of Science in Jo

MTA’s own numbers show just how far the Bronx lags behind the rest of the city
    Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., today deplored as shocking the subway service provided to Bronx residents by the MTA.

    “The statistics released by the MTA show that the Bronx continues to be treated as the “forgotten borough” and that cannot continue,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

     Borough President Diaz noted that the MTA’s own statistics show that the number 1, 2 , 4 and 5 lines of the IRT, starting in the Kingsbridge/Riverdale, Wakefield,  Woodlawn, and Eastchester sections of the Bronx have the longest weekday wait assessments in the  system, together with the A train that Kingsbridge and Riverdale residents use via a bus connection.

    The key service-performance indicators show the same shocking results, with the number 2 train having the worst indicators in the system. Even the on-time performance statistics shown on the MTA’s Dashboard show that each of lines starting in the Bronx had a worse on-time performance record than was targeted. That this is a particularly serious problem for Bronxites is shown by the station indicators which confirm that the Bronx stations are treated unfairly, with KPI ratings of 83.8% for Bronx subway stations compared to 88.4 percent, 88.6 percent and 89.4 percent for Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens respectively.

     “These new MTA service ratings are unacceptable. Residents of the Bronx must have clean, efficient, reliable and on-time subway service to get to and from work and to go about their activities. The fares Bronxites pay to use the system are the same as everyone else, and yet the MTA continues to give us the short end of the stick when it comes to subway service. I will not tolerate anyone treating the Bronx as the “forgotten borough” and demand that the MTA offer a full account as to why service starting in this borough lags so far behind the rest of the City and develop a plan to address these deficiencies immediately. We deserve nothing less,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


     New York City Controller John C. Liu will take his audit bureau on the road for a series of borough town hall meetings to give New Yorkers a chance to learn about the power of the auditing process. New Yorkers will have the opportunity to suggest an audit to the Comptroller’s award-winning audit team. The first of five town halls will take place on Monday, January 24 in Manhattan.

City Comptroller John C. Liu,  Elected officials,
Deputy Comptroller for Audit H. Tina Kim and Audit Bureau

Learn about the Who, What, When, Where and Why of audits. Suggest an audit to the Comptroller's office. 

  BRONX  Feb.14th –  

  6-8 pm  Bronx Borough Hall, 1st floor rotunda 851 Grand Concourse Bronx, NY 10451