Friday, March 18, 2011

Borough President Diaz celebrated Women’s History Month 2011

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., joined by his wife Hilda Diaz, hosted a special breakfast honoring a group of outstanding women in celebration of Women’s History Month 2011.

BP Diaz recognized former Bronx Borough President Freddie Ferrer, calling him # 11 as is his custom now whenever the two are together, and then turned the microphone over to his wife Hilda, the First Lady of the Bronx. Ms. Diaz spoke of the childhood romance between her and a young Mr. Ruben Diaz Jr., her ambition to become a pilot, how marriage to Ruben and their children changed her course of life, and how she is now getting closer to her childhood goal of becoming a pilot.
Women’s History Month started out as Women's History Day celebrated on March 8th. In 1981 congress declared Women's History Week, and in 1987 President Ronald Reagan then issued Presidential Proclamation 5619 proclaiming March 1987 as "Women’s History Month" and calling upon all Americans to mark the month with observances to honor the achievements of American women.
This year the theme of Women's History Month is “Our History is Our Strength”. The first of the three honorees of this breakfast was former first lady of the Bronx Ms. Aramina Vega Ferrer, Ph.D. now affiliated with Mercy College. Ms. Ferrer complimented BP Diaz on the fine job that he is doing as Bronx Borough President, and the extraordinary woman behind him, his wife Hilda. The second honoree was Judge Laura G. Douglas, the Administrative Justice, of the Civil Division of Bronx Supreme Court. The third honoree was Ms. Majora Carter , the founder of “Sustainable South Bronx”.

Caption: (from left) Hilda Diaz, Majora Carter, Aramina Vega Ferrer, Honorable Laura G. Douglas, Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Green, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Letter to Parks Commissioner Benepe, From Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Re: Ice Skating Rink in Van Cortlandt Park.

   March 15, 2011

Commissioner Adrian Benepe
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
New York, New York 10021

Dear Commissioner Benepe:

I am writing to you with respect to a proposal to locate an ice skating rink in Van Cortlandt Park.  Let me make it very clear at the onset: I like the idea of having an ice skating rink in the Bronx.  Serious questions, however, have arisen as to the process, or lack thereof, being used to make this proposal a reality.

The idea of an ice skating rink in Van Cortlandt Park was discussed at a meeting of the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy as far back as June 2010—nine months ago.  Yet it did not become known to the public until the Mayor’s budget message last month.

Despite nine months of closed-door discussions, there has not even been one public hearing on this matter.  It is my understanding that there were public hearings before a similar ice skating rink was placed in Bryant Park.  Why are no similar hearings being held in the Bronx?  I am very concerned that meetings of the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy are not open to the public and minutes are not made available to the public.

The Community Board 8 Parks Committee recently met with representatives of the Parks Department and the Chair of the Conservancy.  They were asked a number of questions regarding specific details of the rink, which they either declined to answer or were not capable of answering.  The Parks Committee was told that the details of the project wouldn’t be available to the public until after a successful bidder on the project is chosen, meaning that details would be available only after it’s too late to have any influence or even express an opinion.

At the moment, the public has not been informed of the size and footprint of the project.  This is still a public park, isn’t it?  Given the way in which the City treated Van Cortlandt Park in its dealings over the Croton Water Filtration Plant (a project which is in excess of $2 billion over budget and counting), I am naturally concerned about the future of this area of Van Cortlandt Park along Broadway.

What is the cost of this project?  Who will pay for it?  Will there be any ongoing cost to the City taxpayers?  Who will profit?  Who will be allowed to use the rink?  What efforts have been made to determine the impact of this project on the community, whether or not there is adequate parking, or if there are better alternative locations, either in Van Cortlandt Park or elsewhere in the Bronx?

There is much legitimate concern in New York by the public about reform, transparency, and openness in government.  This project is on track to become a prime example of the desperate need for reform, transparency and openness.  It was presented to the community as a fait accompli.  There has been no public input.  There has been no public review.  There was no opportunity for anyone to express their opinion.  It appears that the rink was conceived in the proverbial “smoke-filled room,” and any decisions made with respect to it were and continue to be done in secrecy.

While I think having a skating rink in the Bronx would be great, it was never on the priority list of Community Board 8, and other parks’ projects are languishing in delays.  This project seems poised to jump ahead of every one of the projects that the Community Board and the community have supported, in some cases for many years.

Given the incredibly poor way this issue has been handled and given the many unanswered questions, I ask that a detailed plan be presented to the public and a thorough review and public hearings be conducted before any further action is taken on this proposal.  Democracy, transparency, and good government demand nothing less.  Thank you.


Jeffrey Dinowitz 
Member of Assembly

cc:        Bronx Borough Commissioner Hector Aponte, Department of Parks & Recreation
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Council Member Oliver Koppell
Comptroller John Liu
Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Assemblyman Dinowitz: “Assembly Budget Protects Seniors, Rejects Cuts to EPIC and Title XX”

  The New York State Assembly unveiled it’s 2011 budget plan which included full funding restorations to two of the most vital programs for New York’s seniors, Title XX and EPIC.

  As part of his Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo proposed drastic cuts to both programs: a $36 million dollar reduction in discretionary funding to Title XX, which the City claims would force 105 senior centers to close, and a $34 million dollar cut to EPIC, a program that currently provides over 300,000 enrollees with secondary coverage for prescription drugs.

  Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), Chair of the Assembly Aging Committee, led the fight in the Assembly to have this essential funding restored. “While nothing is set in stone, this is an important step in making sure our final budget for 2011 isn’t a cold and callous one,” Assemblyman Dinowitz said. “I know we have a $10 billion budget deficit to close, but doing it on the backs of our seniors is unacceptable.”

  Reductions in funding for both programs would be disastrous for thousands of New York seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes. As part of the governor’s plan, all EPIC enrollees would be forced to join a Medicare Part D plan, regardless of financial hardship. The Assembly’s proposal also continues the vital “wraparound” coverage for prescription drugs not covered by Medicare, as well as state payment assistance for Part D premiums and deductibles.  Eliminating this aid could cost seniors up to $1,000 or more annually.[1]

  “This cut was short sighted, and we had to reverse it,” Assemblyman Dinowitz said. “We can’t put seniors in a position where they must choose between putting food on the table and the medicine they need. Our budget has to consider the fiscal challenges of our constituents just as much as the fiscal challenges of the state.”

  The battle over Title XX funding was previously waged last year, when then Governor Paterson proposed a similar monetary reduction. After a furious campaign led by Assemblyman Dinowitz made clear the importance of this money, funding was restored first in the Assembly budget and then in the final budget. The Assemblyman hopes for a similar result this time around. This year’s funding was restored in the Assembly budget after Assemblyman Dinowitz sent a letter in February to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver signed by almost five dozen New York City Assembly Democrats strongly urging that this critical funding be restored. Dinowitz said, “As I’ve stated time and time again, our senior centers are vital to our neighborhoods’ quality of life, and shuttering them would be devastating to the seniors who rely on them, I will not rest until this funding is restored. WE CANNOT CLOSE SENIOR CENTERS!”
Elected Officials and Community Activists to push for immediate action in the 2012 Executive Budget 

   State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester) will join Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), other city and state elected officials and community activists to call for the restoration of funds for Foreclosure Prevention Services in the 2012 Executive Budget. Bronx County is currently ranked number two in New York State for the greatest percentages of mortgages that are at least 90 days in default. This funding directly affects more than 120 community organizations and foreclosure prevention services as well as more than 43,000 homes in New York State.
  Press conference pushing for action to restore Foreclosure Prevention funding
  Senator Klein, Senator Rivera, Foreclosure Prevention Legal Service Representatives
  Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, E. 161Street.


Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted Department of Education Chancellor Cathie Black

  On Wednesday, March 16, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted Department of Education Chancellor Cathie Black at a meeting of his education consortia in the rotunda of the Bronx County Building. The consortia, which features school leadership from all levels of education across the borough, meets regularly to discuss issues that concern their schools and to develop common solutions for shared problems. Chancellor Black said she enjoyed the discussion, which was attended by dozens of borough school leaders.

  “I am delighted that Chancellor Black took the time to join us in the Bronx and hear directly from our school leadership about the issues their schools face. I look forward, through meetings like this and other activities, to fostering a strong relationship between my office, Chancellor Black and the schools of the Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

  In photo above Monica Major, Bronx Representative to the Panel for Educational Policy; Borough President Diaz, Chancellor Black, Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Independent Democratic Conference 

IDC Calls for End to Deferral of Key Upstate Development Program

Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit to Leverage $461 M in Upstate Investment; Create 1,600+ Jobs

The Independent Democratic Conference today called for the full reinstatement of an economic development program that would create more than $460 million in private investment and more than 1,600 good-paying jobs in Upstate New York.

The Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, sponsored by IDC member Senator David J. Valesky, (D-Oneida), allows for an investment tax credit in order to spur development in distressed areas.

The credit is equal to 20 percent of the costs of repairs to qualified historic structures and is capped at $50,000 for residential properties and $5 million for commercial properties that is to be paid out over 5 years. The program, which was modeled after successful programs in other states, was signed into law in 2009.

However, under the 2010 budget, historic rehabilitation tax credits above $2 million will be deferred until 2014. With the credit set to sunset in 2014, this delay effectively kills the program as an economic development tool.

“Reinstatement of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit will translate into direct and immediate economic benefits statewide, and especially Upstate, through new investment and job creation,” Senator Valesky said. “This program can reignite economic activity on our Main Streets, and bring people and businesses back to our communities.”

Studies show that for every $1 million paid through an historic rehabilitation tax credit, $1.9 million in economic activity is generated.

In just 10 upstate counties alone, the IDC – using data provided by the New York Preservation League – has identified $461 million in economic investment and 1,644 jobs that could be leveraged with this credit. 

Investment Cost of Renovated Projects
Jobs to be Created
$67 million
$221 million
$25 million
$24 million
$87.4 million
$14 million
$7 million
$3.1 million
$6.8 million

10 Counties
$461 million in possible investment
1644 Jobs Created
(*the last column on the right is jobs created, and adds up to 1644) 

A list of specific projects is included in the IDC’s companion report: “Investing in our Upstate Economy: the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.
The deferral, at the IDC's request, was included in the Senate budget resolution and is part of Governor Cuomo's “NY Works Agenda.” It was not, however, part of the Assembly budget plan.
“This is much needed program that will help create jobs and put people back to work,Senator Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), said. “While new construction costs are usually split between materials and labor, when you rehab an historic structure, 60 to 70 percent of costs are spent just on labor. These are local, good-paying jobs that will help a segment of the workforce that is experiencing 25 percent unemployment.”
New York's program is similar to programs in 30 other states. Between 1997 and 2006, nearly $952 million in private investment was leveraged by the state tax credit program in Virginia, while a 2009 a study by the Abell Foundation showed that $342 million in state tax credits in Maryland has leveraged over $1.5 billion in rehabilitation expenditures -- a threefold return on Maryland’s investment.
“This is a proven model of success that has never been given the the chance to succeed,” said Senator Jefferey D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester). “Ending the deferral of this vitally important step toward putting New York back on the right track.”
The Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program is an important tool not only to preserve our historic buildings but also to stimulate our local economies and create much needed jobs,” Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) said.  “Reinstating this program will provide relief to local residents and small businesses during these difficult economic times.”
While Upstate stands to benefit the most from this program, there are also approximately 16,200 properties in New York City that qualify for these credits. Distressed areas are defined as being located within a Census tract identified at or below 100 percent of the median family income.
Assemblyman Crespo: Assembly helps thousands of unemployed New Yorkers
Critical legislation extends unemployment benefits through this year
Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo announced the Assembly passed legislation he sponsored to help unemployed New Yorkers receive extended federally funded unemployment insurance benefits through 2011(A.6091). The bill awaits Senate passage.
“While we await for the job market to bounce back it is crucial that we extend unemployment benefits as a fundamental step towards strengthening the states economic and helping those who need it most,” Assemblyman Crespo said.
In May 2009, the Assembly enacted legislation that allowed New York State to receive a federal grant of $645 million for unemployment compensation. The law extended jobless benefits for an additional 13 weeks, bringing the total to 72 weeks of benefits. In December 2010, Congress extended the federally funded program for an additional year.
The new bill will amend state law and allow New York to qualify for a third year in the program. It is estimated that 166,000 unemployed New Yorkers will be affected by this legislation. This legislation will provide crucial aid for unemployed New Yorkers, because without it the state will forfeit an estimated $620 million in federally funded unemployment insurance benefits.
 “Extending this program will ensure those Bronx families and other New Yorkers who currently depend on unemployment benefits get the help they need while they continue to focus their efforts on finding a job.”
If you need any further information please contact Assemblyman Crespo’s office at 718-893-0202


New York City Comptroller John C. Liu today registered a $95 million fixed-price contract for the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP). This $95 million contract replaces the prior contract request of $286 million.
In December, Comptroller Liu had rejected the $286 million contract because the bulk of the contract was allotted to unspecified ‘time and expense’ costs. This type of vague budgeting formula allows contractors to bill on an hourly basis and collect exorbitant fees.
Working together with City Hall, the Comptroller’s Office was able to change the contract to a fixed-price agreement for design work that is now tied to results. This represents the first of three phases City Hall has agreed to in order to allow for more cost oversight.
In addition to the changes in the contract structure, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) has also agreed to the following:
- Every request for payment or change order submitted to the Comptroller will be accompanied by a comparison between the budgeted amount and the revised estimate.
- DoITT will provide the Comptroller with a copy of the master schedule developed under the contract. The agency will provide updated schedules each time a request for payment or change order is sent to the Comptroller.
“ECTP was intended to improve public safety for New Yorkers,” said Comptroller Liu. “Current fiscal constraints compel tighter cost management. This restructured contract enables City Hall to achieve that intent, and to do so in a timely manner within our means.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yes that is New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo pumping his own gas this morning into what looks like a state owned car that he travels around the state in at a self service station, and answering a reporter from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise's question, but why? Where is the security detail, and staffers that travel with and protect the governor? Also did the governor save the state any money by pumping his own gas?   


Monday, March 14, 2011

--Borough-Wide Strike Averted--
--Workers Maintain Healthcare and Retirement Savings--

32BJ and the Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB) reached a tentative four-year agreement this evening that raises standards for more than 3,000 apartment building workers by  providing annual wage increases while maintaining employer-paid family health care and secured pension benefits. The agreement narrowly averted a strike, which would have affected 250,000 Bronx residents throughout the borough including Riverdale and the South Bronx.

“A strike would have been costly, not only to building workers and to landlords, but to the  Bronx tenants whose buildings would have been affected. I am pleased that a deal has been reached, and that we have avoided what would have been a devastating strike,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. 

Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) praised 32BJ and Bronx Realty Advisory Board for coming to the table to reach a tentative four-year agreement that provides for annual raises and maintains healthcare and pension benefits for building workers. Senator Rivera joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and other legislators on Sunday, March 13, 2011 in calling for the Bronx Realty Advisory Board and 32BJ to reach a fair agreement to avoid a Bronx-wide strike of building workers.
"Bronx workers stood together to make sure these jobs remained good jobs.  Thousands of Bronx families will benefit from this contract, which provides much needed wage increases during this tough economy," said Kyle Bragg, 32BJ Vice President. "We want to ensure workers can support their families and save for their futures."
The tentative agreement provides a 6 percent wage increase.  In addition, the agreement maintains employer paid family healthcare and pension benefits, which were sticking points during negotiations.
"We were able to keep what’s most important to our families, affordable healthcare and pensions," said Angel Ortega, who is a father of five and a Riverdale super. "It was a tough few months, but we're glad we didn’t inconvenience the residents and are eager to keep serving the Bronx."
The new tentative contract covers more than 3,000 supers, assistant supers, janitors, handypersons, porters, firepersons, doormen, elevator operators and garbage handlers. This deal averts a strike that would have directly affected a quarter of a million New Yorkers living in over 1,000 apartment, condo and co-op buildings in the Bronx.

Bronx members of 32BJ will vote on ratifying the contract later this month.
With more than 70,000 members in New York, 32BJ is the largest private sector union in the state. For more information, visit .



Monday, March 14, 2011

Borough Taxis: Let the City Know What You Think! New York City is Looking for Your Opinion. 

You may have heard about the Mayor’s proposal to establish a new category of livery cars that can make on-street pickups outside of Manhattan ­– just like yellow cabs do.  It will give New Yorkers in all five boroughs another safe, reliable and convenient option for getting around. The program aims to improve taxi availability while bringing yellow-taxi-like amenities (e.g., metered fares, credit/debit card payment, easier-to-spot cabs) to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The City wants to hear from residents about your experiences with taxis and car services, and has a developed a short online survey where your voice can be heard.  The survey, available in both English and Spanish, is available at Spread the word!

Title XX Funds Restored in Senate Budget Bill

March 14, 2011 For Immediate Release

State Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz (SD 32) announced today that the New York State Senate has completely restored Title XX funding for discretionary programs in its one-house budget bill.

 “I am pleased and grateful that Senator Skelos and the Senate Republicans, as well as my conference Leader John Sampson and the Senate Democrats, worked to ensure that this very important funding was restored,” stated Senator Díaz.

New York State receives $103 million in Title XX funding from the federal government which is allocated to the Office of Children and Family Services.  $66 million is used for mandated programs: Adult Protective Services and Domestic Violence Programs. The remainder, $37 million, is distributed to the counties to fund programs at local discretion.  These discretionary programs may include senior services, low income day care, and supportive housing services, as an example.

“Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget for the 2011-2012 Fiscal Year would have eliminated all the funding for the discretionary programs and kept it for mandated services.  While the mandated programs are important, I could not stand by while other programs, such as services to senior citizens faced the possibility of being completely decimated,” continued Senator Díaz.

The New York City Department for the Aging recently released a list of 105 Senior Centers in all five boroughs that were slated to close, resulting in the loss of 2.5 million meals, in order to cope with this expected loss of funding.

“Now that we have passed this first hurdle and restored Title XX funds for discretionary programs, I call on  Governor Cuomo to follow our example,” concluded Senator Díaz. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

After State Senator Carl Kruger's Indictment, is State Senator Shirley Huntley Far Behind?

The New York Post writes a story here about New York State Attorney General Eric Schniederman 's office  investigating State Senator Shirley Huntley, and her ties to a certain non-profit that may have received over $400,000.00 of questionable grants, and possible nepotism. 

The Post lists names and amounts of money received by said names, and how they may be involved with the Queens state senator. The Post also asked questions of the involved parties including the AG's office, getting no comments from all. This is very interesting reading, and could signal  the end of another state senators career.