Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pedro Espada Jr.'s case set to go to court

 Liz Benjamin writes that September 12th is the date set for former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and his son to go to court to face corruption charges
Espada and his son Pedro G. were indicted last December, and if convicted both face up to 10 years in prison on each of the five embezzlement charges, and five years for the conspiracy charge, as well as a steep fine. 
It is also said in the story that the US Attorney's office plans to file another indictment against Espada possibly for tax fraud. 
Espada's Bronx coop is now on the market possibly signaling that the former state senator could be in financial trouble.
Senior Centers Update

Celeste Katz of the Daily News does a follow up story the Senior Center closings including listing all 105 Senior Centers to be closed by city council member. 21 are scheduled to be closed in the Bronx in all council districts. The list is a little distorted and not in any order going from borough to borough and I might have missed one or two. You should check the list and then speak to your council member or state legislator, as the last paragraph states that the governor is moving discretionary monies in Title XX funding away from where they now go to child welfare services.

This story includes a statement from New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that says the following.  “Our senior centers are a lifeline for thousands of seniors across this city.  Last year we fought and won restorations to Title XX to keep senior centers in our community open and I am committed to doing so again in this year’s state budget.”

Friday, March 4, 2011

Senior Center Closing Protest Update

  A picture is worth a thousand words as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has his say at the rally earlier today to fight proposed funding cuts by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg that could close over 100 senior centers citywide. You can see the BP's father Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. who is championing this fight n the State Senate with Senator Serrano (second row), and you can see many Bronx assembly members in the picture  who also are against the proposed cuts. 

Here is the link to the video of BP Diaz as he speaks to the huge crowd that gathered at the Bronx County Building for the rally.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

State Senator Rubén Díaz Blasts Bloomberg’s Plan to Shutter Hundreds of
Senior Centers

Today the Bloomberg Administration released its plan to shutter hundreds of senior centers in New York City and thereby putting as many as ten thousand seniors at risk of hunger, social isolation and neglect.

“Once again, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have joined forces to increase the suffering of the senior citizens in New York City who have come to rely on these centers for meals, companionship and social activities,” stated Senator Díaz.

“I am calling on Senior Citizens from throughout the Bronx – and all five boroughs if possible - to join me at a rally tomorrow, Friday March 4th at 11:00 a.m. on the steps of Bronx Borough Hall to oppose the closing of
these centers. Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg will know that the senior citizens of New York City will never accept this decision quietly.”

“The closing of these centers is beyond unconscionable,” continued Senator Díaz. “Four of the centers slated to close are in my district, and two of them – Davidson and Kips Bay Castle Hill are among the most vibrant and active. I must strongly object to the criteria the Bloomberg Administration used in arriving at its decision to close these centers,” he
Rally to Oppose the Closing of Senior Centers
Friday March 4th, 2011 - 11:00 a.m.
Steps of Bronx Borough Hall 161st Street and the Grand Concourse  


City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following in response to inquiries about his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s proposal regarding teachers:
“Rather than attempt an end-run around collective bargaining, as the Mayor has tried to do, Governor Cuomo has stood up for both the city's children and the rights of union members.

"The Governor has continued to insist that the state budget he has proposed should not require local layoffs, despite the fact that the Mayor has threatened to lay off thousands of teachers and send class sizes skyrocketing, even if the state comes through with major new revenues for the city.
“The Governor has also taken a creative approach to developing a new and more objective standard to measure teacher effectiveness – a methodology developed by State Education Commissioner Steiner and the teachers' union that helped ensure New York's success in the national Race to the Top competition.
“New York is not Wisconsin, and the kind of leadership Governor Cuomo has shown on these issues stands as an example to other states where critical services and workers' rights are under assault.”

20 Senators Join Senator Rivera in a Letter Urging Governor Cuomo to Extend Personal Income Tax for Wealthiest New Yorkers
Ensuring We Ask All New Yorkers to Share in Sacrificing During Tough Times

  Senator Gustavo Rivera was joined by 20 Senators yesterday afternoon in co-signing a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to maintain the personal income tax level for the wealthiest New Yorkers to ensure Middle Class and low-income New Yorkers do not bear the sole burden of the shared sacrifice necessary to get us through these difficult times.
In the letter, Senators voice their concern over cuts to education, Medicaid and public safety that would disproportionately impact our most vulnerable citizens in low and middle-income communities and communities of color.
“A majority of Democratic Senators joined me in signing this letter in order to share their concerns over tough budget cuts and a budget proposal that would disproportionately impact many of our own communities,” said Senator Rivera. “But most importantly, we are presenting solutions and hoping to start a dialogue regarding the extension of personal income tax for the wealthiest New Yorkers. Our communities understand that we are making tough choices in this budget, but we must ask all New Yorkers to share the responsibility and the burden of closing the deficit.”
The letter was signed by Senators Gustavo Rivera, Eric Adams, Joseph Addabbo, Tony Avella, Neil Breslin, Martin Dilan, Ruben Diaz Sr., Thomas Duane, Adriano Espaillat, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Shirley Huntley, Liz Krueger, Velmanette Montgomery, Suzi Oppenheimer, Kevin Parker, Jose Peralta, Bill Perkins, Toby Ann Stavisky, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Jose Serrano and Daniel Squadron.
  The letter is attached and the text of the letter is below:
March 2nd, 2011 Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York State Capitol
Second Floor
Albany, NY 12247

Dear Governor Cuomo:
In your budget presentation on February 1st, you urged the State Legislature to join you in making tough decisions. We are prepared to do just that. And we join you in wanting to provide New Yorkers with a more efficient, effective and streamlined government. We know this year’s budget will require a heavy dose of sacrifice and a heavy dose of responsibility. However, we write you today to urge that the sacrifice and responsibility be shared across the state.
As we continue to hold public hearings on the impact of the proposed budget cuts, it has become clear to us, particularly in the areas of education, health and public safety, a disproportionate burden will be placed on low-income communities and communities of color. While these cuts are being touted as a path to recovery, to many of our constituents these cuts could easily be a path to ruin with hospitals closing, classes becoming overcrowded, and streets becoming less safe.
This is a path we do not have to take. Instead, we ask that this year’s budget reflect shared sacrifice and shared responsibility for all New Yorkers. That is why we are writing to request your support for keeping in place the personal income tax (PIT) at current levels.
As you said in your budget presentation, we will not be able to cut our way out of this budget crisis. We must also ensure higher revenue for the state to offset what will otherwise be damaging budget cuts for our districts and those who have sent us to Albany to represent their interests. If we just keep the PIT rate where it is for those wealthiest New Yorkers, it would provide more than $1 billion in revenue this fiscal year and up to $5 billion in fiscal year 2012-2013.
Those revenues should be used to offset the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts proposed to education (including CUNY and SUNY), public health,  human services, mental hygiene, and public safety.
We have heard from our constituents. Those who would be impacted the most – students, low-income families and teachers – were not the cause of the economic crisis but will be the ones to bear the brunt of it. Those hit hardest by the proposed budget and the economic crisis will once again do their part and make sacrifices. But they look at this budget and wonder why it is those at the top aren’t being asked to do the same. In fact, the only change for  highest income earners is they receive relief in the form of a TAX CUT. This comes at a time when New York’s low-income earners are paying more than ever before in personal income tax, while the wealthiest New Yorkers pay less than they ever have in personal income tax.
Given the fact that the federal government extended the Bush-era high-income tax cuts, it’s fair to question whether we should be giving the wealthiest New Yorkers a state tax cut too. During these difficult financial times sacrifices must be shared by all. Should wealthy New Yorkers really receive two tax cuts?
We would have far preferred that the federal government done the right thing with tax policy. But it did not and as a result all the states (most of which are in equally bad shape for revenue) are left with the reality that they will not see much-needed revenues from Washington for at least the next two years.
Keeping taxes for the wealthiest New Yorkers at their current level will lessen the cuts to critical services like education, Medicaid and public safety funding that impact people like the residents of our districts. This is an essential first step in keeping with the ideal of a budget that truly shared sacrifice and shared responsibility.
We hope you will consider supporting our proposal and look forward to working with you as we continue to discuss this budget process. Please let us know when we can discuss this project further and set a meeting at your convenience.

Sincerely yours,

* We have omitted the names because we wanted to save some room, and they are listed above the letter as signatories.
Upcoming Events in March

Saturday March 5th
The Bedford Mosholu Community Association will be holding their annual Flea Market, starting at 10:00AM at Saint Mary's Orthodox Church of India, located at 360 Bedford Park Blvd. by Decatur Ave.

Thursday, March 10th, 7:30pm
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Council Member Oliver Koppell, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat will be holding a town hall meeting at the Riverdale YM-YWHA 5625 Arlington Avenue 10471.
This town hall meeting is to discuss critical issues such as the City and State budgets, education funding, job creation and economic development, housing and the upcoming expiration of tenant protection laws, senior citizen concerns, the MTA, and parking and transportation issues.  They are eager to hear their constituents’ concerns and opinions. You can call  (718) 548-8200 for more information. 
Thursday March 31st thru Sunday April 3rd
The 161st Street BID will be hosting an opening week schedule of events to coincide with the Yankee 2011 baseball season opening day home game. 
Events start on Thursday March 31st at 8AM with a concert in Ruth Gehrig Plaza scheduled for 9AM. There will be a free exhibition about the Negro Leagues on Saturday April 1st at the Bronx Museum from 6-8PM, and on Sunday April 2nd from 1-3PM there will be Free Autographs available at Stan's across the street from Yankee Stadium. Game time Sunday is 4PM. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


NYS Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs issued the following statement today regarding the NYS Senate GOP's Promises Made/Promises Broken:

“Since Senate Republicans regained the Majority, they’ve flip-flopped more than the International House of Pancakes. They promised fiscal discipline only to massively expand their own staff, adding more than two-dozen employees and $1 million in new salaries. They promised ethics reform, yet won’t walk the walk by requiring legislators to reveal the names of their legal clients.”   

“And, now, after promising voters that they would support independent redistricting, Republicans claim that the whole initiative is unconstitutional.  The Constitution didn’t change after the election.  The only thing that did change was the Senate GOP’s willingness to live up to their commitments to New Yorkers.”

“Sadly, Republicans believe breaking their campaign pledges on the budget and on ethics is easier than making the hard decisions necessary to confront the challenges facing this state.”

Promises Made/Promises Broken
By NYS Senate Republicans
Promises Made:
"State Senate Republicans appreciate the effort that NY Uprising is undertaking to bring about much-needed reform to the State of New York," said Skelos, who signed the pledge on July 21. "Our Republican conference supports further budget reform, stronger ethics reforms and independent redistricting in line with what NY Uprising is calling for, which is why we decided to sign the NY Uprising pledges."

Promises Broken:
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is accusing Senate Republicans of "derailing" redistricting reform, and breaking a pledge they made to the ex-mayor’s reform group during the most recent election campaign. A number of legislators, including nearly all of the Senate Republicans, signed a pledge to former Koch and his reform group saying they would back an independent redistricting commission to draw the new Senate, Assembly and Congressional lines, as required every 10 years under the Census Bureau rules.

Promises Broken:
The state's fiscal crisis hasn't stopped Senate Republicans from boosting their payroll by $1.3 million since the start of the year. Incumbent GOPers, who've boasted of belt-tightening since taking over the Senate in January, have hired 27 new staffers - at a cost of $1 million to taxpayers. Republicans have also handed out more than $284,600 in raises to existing employees since the start of the year, Senate payroll records show.

Promises Broken:
The report also revealed that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau), a lawyer with large Long Island firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek that represents health-care clients before state agencies, was refusing to agree to disclose the names of legal clients, although he backs the disclosure of outside income. Asked again yesterday if he’s willing to join Silver in agreeing to divulge the names of legal clients, a Skelos spokesman yesterday repeatedly refused to answer.


February 28, 2011.

Statement from Executive Director Charlie King 

“I read the breathless AP story about 40 local Democratic officials who disagree with Governor Cuomo’s budget.  I looked at the list and recognize only some of the names and I am the Executive Director of the Democratic Party.  The lack of state legislators on the list would have been the more fair and important story to report.  On any  issue, given the nature of the Democratic Party you should be able to find hundreds of differing opinions given the thousands of Democratic elected officials in the state.   The New York State Democratic Committee recognizes the State’s fiscal crisis and stands strongly in support of Governor Cuomo's budget.”

-           Charlie King, Executive Director, New York State Democratic Committee


The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) is assisting DJ Ambulette Service to hold an on-site recruiting event in The Bronx to help fill numerous driver positions available.

DJ Ambulette Service is looking to hire 60 drivers. The requirements are:

·        Regular Class B license or CDL

·        Be able to pass a drug test and a criminal background check

·        Driving experience preferred but not mandatory

The on-site recruiting event will take place on Wednesday, March 9, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, at the Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse, 1st floor. 

DJ Ambulette Service has been committed to providing affordable transportation services for nursing homes, adult day care centers and hospitals for over 15 years.

This recruiting event is part of BOEDC’s program to assist companies in their search for employees. For more information, residents can call 718-982-5825. 

JASA Helps Feed the Hungry with Food Drive March 1st to 10th

Throughout the five boroughs, approximately 1.4 million people — mainly women, children, seniors, the working poor and people with disabilities — rely on soup kitchens and food pantries, according to the Food Bank for New York City. “Because the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) recognizes this is such a critical issue, we are spearheading a local food drive from March 1 to 10,” said Alex Collier, JASA’s Director of Volunteer Services and Special Projects. JASA will be joining UJA Federation’s and Americorps’ efforts to help defeat hunger in the community by participating in Pack It Up for Purim. “Each year, Jews around the world send food packages to their neighbors as part of the Purim celebration. In the spirit of the holiday, we’re hoping to collect 1,000 food packages for needy New Yorkers,” said Collier.

“JASA is inviting the community to donate nutritional non-perishable goods that will be contributed to local food pantries,” said Aileen Gitelson, JASA CEO. “Team up with your neighbors, friends, and family and arrange to donate today. Then drop off your package at the most convenient JASA site March 3 through March 10. Your generosity will provide a safety net for the impoverished in New York,” Gitelson added.

Collier offered a suggested list of goods including: whole-grain cereal or oatmeal; pasta; canned vegetables; rice; 100 percent fruit juice; dried fruit or granola bars; canned tuna; canned or dried beans; plastic containers of peanut butter; and dessert (non-perishable). “For safety concerns, please do not include glass containers. Pop-top cans are a plus,” she said.

Donations will be accepted at JASA Central, 132 W. 31st Street, 10th Floor, New York City. Contact Carmen Fonseca at or (212) 991-6572 for additional JASA drop-off locations throughout the metropolitan area.

“Through your help, we can reach our goal of helping the most vulnerable,” said Gitelson.

JASA is one of the largest community-based, voluntary social service agencies serving the aged in the United States. Its mission is to sustain and enrich the lives of the aging in the New York metropolitan area so that they can remain in the community with dignity and autonomy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Independent Democratic Conference
IDC: State Insurance Department Can Help Redesign Medicaid Now.  Independent Dems Call for Action on Klein law that will save $61 Million.
The Independent Democratic Conference today called on the State Insurance Department to take the first steps to streamline the Medicaid system by quickly completing regulations to implement a new law that is projected to create more than $61 million in savings.

The IDC also issued a report detailing more recommendations to reform Medicaid spending for Long Term Health in New York.

The measure was sponsored by Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), and signed into law on Dec. 20, 2010. It  allowed health insurance companies to offer life insurance policies in which a portion of the benefit can be used to cover long term care costs. Specifically, it allows an accelerated life insurance payout to go toward long term care if a person is confined to a nursing home for three months and was expected to remain in such a facility for the the rest of their lives.

The State Insurance Department needs to draft and issue guidelines governing these new long term care policies in order for them to be implemented.

“Having this law in full effect now will start the process of redirecting long term care costs away from New York's Medicaid system and, in just a few years, create more than $61 million in savings,” Senator Klein said. “The Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team has made it clear that they want to further expand insurance options in order to reign in Medicaid spending. I urge the State Insurance Department to do everything in their power to get the ball rolling now.” 

The intent of the law, which brings New York in line with every other state in the country,  is to ease the burden on the Medicaid system, where long term care costs frequently fall, by encouraging the use of long term care insurance.

Medicaid spending on long term care was at least $12.4 billion and accounted for 27 percent of all Medicaid spending in 2009. During that same time period, there were only 321,011 private long term care policies written in New York State, which has a population of 19 million. By contrast there were roughly 9 million life insurance policies.

The table below shows projected savings under Senator Klein's measure (S.7196), which became Chapter 563 of the laws of 2010.

# individual diverted from Medicaid
Average annual Medicaid costs to State & Localities

“This law is a good first step that will help not only streamline, but also strengthen New York's long term care system,” said Senator Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), who was a co-sponsor of this legislation. “I, and the other members of the Independent Democratic Conference are committed to improving the efficiency of the system, while ensuring that the most vulnerable receive the help that they need.”

The IDC has made further recommendations to the State Insurance Department, including that they:
·         Investigate allowing additional forms of hybrid life insurance/long term care insurance policies to be written and sold in New York State. This step was also recommended by the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team.
·         Explore joining the interstate compact allowing reciprocity between New York and other states participating in Partnership for Long Term Care programs.
·         Find ways to expand the New York Public Employee and Retirement Long Term Care Insurance Plan in order to build a large and effective pool of participants that have long term care insurance policies. This might include accepting Health Department recommendations to allow state employees to use sick time to buy long term care insurance policies and allowing for broader intervals of open enrollment  to subscribe to long term care insurance.
·         Examine ways to help self-employed workers and private companies and unions to create pools of long term care insurance as a way to give more individuals access to group long term care insurance.
“The Medicaid system has grown to the size that it has after years of doing the same old thing in government,” said Senator David Carlucci, (D-Rockland/ Orange). “We are going to need to think outside the box to fix Medicaid and put New York back on the right track.”
The Independent Democratic Conference also recommended changes to the Medicaid Long Term Care system that would make it more efficient and less costly. These changes include:
·         Creating a uniform standard to determine what long term care services are needed. Currently, no such standard exists. 
·         Streamlining the current Medicaid long term care program, which is currently made up of many different programs, many of them having very similar demographics.
·         Expanding already successful and less costly Medicaid managed long term care programs..
·         Find ways to better integrate informal caregivers with the long term care system and increase the support they receive. One way may be to implement a tax credit   program for these caregivers.
Many of these have also been recommended by the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team.
“We believe these to be important and vital reforms,” said Senator David J. Valesky, (D-Oneida). “I, and my fellow members of the Independent Democratic Conference, are looking forward to working with our partners in government to move our Medicaid system into the 21st Century.”

NYC COBA President Norman Seabrook and Local Community Members Honored

  In celebration of Black History Month, State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester) hosted a complimentary breakfast at Villa Barone Catering Hall Saturday morning. Norman I. Seabrook, President of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association delivered the keynote address. This year's celebration also honored everyday heroes from the education, business, civic and law enforcement communities. Honorees included: Monica Major, President of District 11 Community Education Council; Gregory Perry, President of the Westchester Square Merchants Association; Yolanda Robinson, Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Mount Vernon; Officer Jay Sturdivant of the NYPD’s 49th Precinct's Community Affairs Division; and  Al J. Everett, Deputy Chief of the Mount Vernon Fire Department.

“It is easy to recognize the significant contributions of African-Americans to the rich cultural fabric of our communities. African Americans have played a significant role in shaping both our national history and our magnificent city - whether in the classroom, on the beat, running businesses or in their dedication to public service and safety. It has been my great privilege to work with these exemplary members of our community that I consider everyday heroes - committed to working tirelessly for the benefit of us all,” said Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester).

"I am honored to join Senator Klein and distinguished leaders from our communities in the Bronx to celebrate not just Black History month, but Black future everyday moving forward. We're proud to support those individuals who work diligently every day and who make countless sacrifices to make a positive difference in the lives of all of us no matter where they come from," said Norman I. Seabrook, President of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

In addition, honorees and members of the community enjoyed a special live performance by the Trinity Baptist Church Choir.

 Pictured are Greg Perry, Monica Major, Senator Klein, Officer Jay Sturdivant, Yolanda Robinson, Deputy Chief Al Everett and Keynote Speaker Norman Seabrook) 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hall of Famer Duke Snider Passes Away

 Duke Snider, the Hall of Fame center fielder for the charmed “Boys of Summer” who helped the Dodgers bring their elusive and only World Series crown to Brooklyn, died early Sunday of what his family called natural causes. He was 84 years old, and you can read about the "Duke of Flatbush" and his baseball career here .
 This leaves only Willie Mays (age 79) as the remaining survivor of the threesome known as "The Mick" (Mickey Mantle), "Willie" (Willie Mays), and "The Duke" (Duke Snider).
Pedro Espada's Bedford Park Coop up For Sale

  The Daily News reports here that you too can live as former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. did, as his Bedford Park residence is up for sale. The asking price of $199,999.00 is said to be $25,000.00 less than what was paid only a few short years ago. The maintenance charges are said to be $675.00 a month. 
  A word of warning however, it is reported that the coop is still under investigation whether it was purchased illegally with Medicaid funds from his Soundview Healthcare Clinic.