Saturday, April 16, 2011


   City Comptroller John C. Liu today released an audit that found a company that ran three City carousels overcharged customers, maintained little or no records of its cash transactions, and violated health codes.
    The vendor, New York One, was required to pay the City whichever was higher — either a flat fee or a percentage of its sales.  Without fail, the company reported the flat fee was the higher amount.  But the company kept such poor sales records that it was impossible to determine if it paid the City what it owed in 2008 and 2009. Auditors could not find any evidence to back New York One’s claims of its cash revenue from rides, hot dogs, and souvenirs.
    “Our kids want to go for a spin on the merry-go-round, but taxpayers don’t want to be taken for a ride,” Comptroller Liu said.  “This contractor needs to straighten itself out.  The Parks Department needs to monitor the company to ensure taxpayers are getting their due or find someone who is up to the job.”
  Additional financial issues
       Auditors found the operator owes the City $454,325 for restoration and repairs that were not made at the Central Park and Forest Park carousels.
       Auditors found the operator under reported its take from special events at the Central Park carousel by at least $58,424.
       Auditors found the operator charged more than Parks Department guidelines for admissions, food, and souvenirs at the Flushing Meadows
Corona Park carousel.
       Auditors found the operator should spend $110,000 on capital improvements at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park carousel.
       Auditors found that the Parks Department failed to collect up to $151,375 in operating fees from New York One when the vendor ran the Central Park carousel without a contract from January to September 2008.
Health issues
       Auditors found that the operator’s employees built a makeshift toilet in the Central Park carousel’s mechanical room using buckets and a funnel.
       Auditors found that the operator did not maintain the three carousels’ pushcarts, snack bars, and surrounding areas in a safe and sanitary manner.
       Auditors found that the operator continued to use a dirty popcorn
machine and hot dog roller at the Central Park carousel despite a
Parks Department order to halt sales.
       Auditors found that the operator’s food carts at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park carousel were not properly licensed by the Department of Health.

    The audit determined that the Parks Department failed to properly monitor the carousel operator or promptly use the tools at its disposal to enforce the terms and conditions of the contracts.
    New York One currently runs only the Flushing Meadows Corona Park carousel.  The Parks Department cut short the company’s contract to operate the Central Park carousel in February 2010 when it failed to improve its operations.  The Forest Park carousel has been closed since the operator gave up its contract in 2009.
    According to the Annual Concession Report of the City Chief Procurement Officer September 2010, New York One and its related entities operated 25 concessions for which the City received gross revenues of approximately $5 million in fiscal year 2010.
    The Parks Department agreed with the majority of the audit finding and recommendations.  New York One disagreed with most of the audit findings, but agreed with most of its recommendations to get proper licenses and maintain records.
    Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audit H. Tina Kim and the Audit Bureau for presenting the findings.  The full report is available at

Friday, April 15, 2011

Senator Reverend Diaz to Mayor Michael Bloomberg:“Don’t Fluff Off My Request”

New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) released the following statement regarding the one-page letter he received in response to his Freedom Of Information Law request asking for details about Chancellor Cathie Black’s salary and benefits:

“This afternoon, I received an inadequate response to my FOIL request to the New York City Department of Education for any and all information regarding the entire salary, benefits, and other compensation that New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has received or will receive, including any severance or retirement benefits.
The reply only contained a one-page letter dated January 3, 2011 to Cathie Black, signed by both her and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appointing her as Chancellor of the City School District of the City of New York.  While Mayor Bloomberg actually hired Cathie Black to serve as Schools Chancellor, the Department of Education maintains her records, and I am certain the one-page letter is merely part of the response.
Nothing in that one-page letter explains the “standard benefits package for at-will managerial employees of the Department of Education.”  Nothing in that one-page letter explains if Cathie Black received zero dollars after she left, or if she has received a severance package for her 3-month tenure.
On behalf of my constituents, I will continue pursue this request for information and look forward to a complete reply."
     We must add that while the letter from Mayor Bloomberg is dated January 3rd 2011, there is no date below Ms. Blacks acceptance signature, it just states dated without any date. So was she even chancellor, and if so as of when was it?

Freedom of Information Law Request

This came in from Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.

Records Access Officer
NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers Street, Room 308
New York, New York 10007

To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is a FOIL request for any and all information regarding the entire salary, benefits, and other compensation that New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has received or will receive, including any severance or retirement benefits.
Should there be any portion of this request that is denied, please state the reasons for denying my request.  A prompt response to my request is mandated by statute.


Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz


Assemblyman Marcos Crespo
  Helped Launch New Small Business.

     On Thursday April 14, 2011   Bronx State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo helped inaugurate a new business in the Soundview section of The Bronx.
    The new Glamour Beauty Parlor will employ seven (7)  community individuals as part of its effort to provide employment locally.   The store's Proprietors are Ana Lucia, and Sirvana Urena.  Mr. Giovany Urena helped design and construct the store.
     The store owners have employed 10 local residents, and will offer on the job training for 7 new applicants as apprentices.  The business will open from 10AM to 7PM Monday to Saturday, and will open Sundays from 10AM to 4PM.  the owners intend to train females and males, ensuring that no employment discrimination mysogyny is practiced against one gender.
     "This is the kind of job growth that keeps America going.  Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need to do more in terms of tax breaks, and incentives for small businesses." said Assemblyman Crespo.
     Ms. Brenda Candelario, Chief of Staff to Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. was also present representing the Senator.
      The event was filled with music, refreshments, snacks.
       Glamour Beauty Parlor is located at 745 White Plains Road in the Soundview section of the Bronx.
Pictures are Assemblyman Crespo, Senator Diaz's Chief of staff Brenda Candelario, along with the owners and friends of the new business. Our thanks to Mr. Frank Strongbow for the picture, and information.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


  On Thursday, April 28th, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli will speak about the State Budget at SoBRO’s South Bronx Leadership Forum (SBLF). DiNapoli, New York’s chief fiscal officer, is responsible for auditing the operations of all State agencies and local governments, managing the State’s pension fund, overseeing the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviewing the State and New York City budgets, approving State contracts, administering the State’s payroll and central accounting system. Since first taking the position in February 2007, DiNapoli has transformed the way the Comptroller’s office does business, instilling reforms to make government more effective, efficient and ethical. He has pushed for increased transparency and accountability in government, and identified billions of dollars in waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.
  At SoBRO’s forum, DiNapoli is expected to field questions about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 Executive Budget, which called for a $400 million spending cut in selected social services. According to Albany, the budget “reduces [the] state’s current year deficit without raising taxes [and] outlines a broad effort to redesign state government with the goal of producing long term cost savings and better services.” Some of the affected programs such as adult education and senior centers are in the Bronx, where thousands of low-income residents depend on publicly funded social initiatives.
  The SBLF gives individuals that play a key role in this city an opportunity to discuss their plans and priorities by addressing leaders from the public, private, non-profit and business sectors, along with members of the community. Previous guests have included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Former Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Charles E. Schumer and many more of the region’s most influential figures. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will make an excellent and honorable addition to this distinguished roster.
  South Bronx Leadership Forum 
  New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli
  Thursday, April 28th, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.  
  SoBRO Center, 555 Bergen Avenue, 3rd Floor, Bronx, NY
  Because space is limited, reservations are requested to be made in advance by either emailing Linda Yantz at or calling, at 718.732.7522.   

Senator Klein will hold his 17th Annual Easter Bunny Breakfast and Magic Show

  Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) joined by more than 300 children from the Bronx and Westchester, will hold his 17th annual Easter Bunny Breakfast and Magic Show. Families will enjoy a free breakfast, magic show and build-a-bunny workshop. The Easter Bunny will also make a special appearance. 
  Saturday, April 16th, 8:30 AM
   Villa Barone Catering Hall, 737 Throggs Neck Expressway, BRONX 
   For more information call Senator Klein's office at (718) 822-2049 .


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Independent Democratic Conference

  IDC Calls For MTA Forensic Audit

   Calling it the only sure way to get to the bottom of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's spending practices, the Independent Democratic Conference today unveiled legislation sponsored by Senator David Carlucci, (D-Rockland/ Orange), that would commence a forensic audit of the public authority.
   Under the legislation, (S.4501), the audit, which would be the first true top-to-bottom review of the MTA, would be conducted by an independent outside auditing firm and be paid for by the authority.
Through a series of questionable financial practices, the MTA has jeopardized the public trust,” Senator David Carlucci, (D-Rockland/Orange), said “New Yorkers have to manage their hard earned dollars in a responsible and competent way, and so should the authorities that tax dollars fund.  A full top-to-bottom forensic audit of exactly how these tax dollars are expended by the MTA will illuminate any discrepancies, move it toward fiscal solvency and eliminate the need for the payroll tax.”

   Decades of increased debt service and rising costs and – as well as a history of questionable spending practices – have left the MTA with projected out-year deficits of $247 million in 2012, $37 million in 2013, and $482 million in 2014. This is despite recent fare hikes and a 2009 rescue package that gave new revenue streams to the MTA, including the unpopular payroll mobility tax.
  A forensic audit is a specialized review of an entity's finances that is conducted with the aim of finding evidence of inappropriate financial activity. Compared to other audits, they are more complex and labor intensive, and require special expertise.
   The IDC believes that a forensic audit for the MTA is warranted due to a history of questionable behavior and spending decisions by the agency.
   A 2003 report by the State Comptroller's Office showed that the MTA overstated the severity of its fiscal problems and hid a $512.5 surplus in order to justify a 33 percent fare increase. This scandal caused a serious erosion in the public's trust of the MTA.
  Since then, the agency has taken steps to make its finances more transparent. However, reports of questionable spending decisions by the MTA continue.
This includes:
  • A 2010 report by the MTA Inspector General showing that the authority doled out millions of dollars to sub-par contractors. According to the report, the MTA attempted to hide this shoddy work in order to spare the authority embarrassment.
  • A 2010 audit by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that found problematic policies regarding overtime at the MTA. The findings led to the comptroller ordering a forensic audit of just overtime at the authority. This forensic audit, the first of its kind by the Comptroller's office, is much narrower than what the IDC is proposing. The MTA has a $12 billion operating budget and is expected to spend $478 million on overtime this year.
  • Another report by Comptroller DiNapoli documented that the MTA spent $5.76 million to maintain a nearly empty building, its former headquarters in Brooklyn, as it considered renovations. At the same time, the MTA spent $1.4 million a year to rent office space for the displaced workers.
  • A report released last week by the Citizens Budget Commission that ranked the Long Island Rail Road and the MTA's bus systems among the most expensive mass transit networks in the country when compared by cost per-passenger mile.
Each of these little smoking guns adds up to one big fire,” Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, (D-Bronx/Westchester), said. “If we are going to work together to fix our mass transit system, we are going to need to be on the same page and know all the facts. I truly believe that the only way to accomplish this is through a forensic audit of the MTA's finances.”
Senate bill 4501 is not the first attempt by the Legislature to have a forensic audit of the MTA conducted. The MTA rescue plan gave the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly the power to initiate an audit the MTA in 2009, and possibly every two years going forward. However, the language of the bill left the scope of the audit subject to an agreement of legislative leaders and it did not have a dedicated funding stream. The time frame to conduct such an audit lapsed with no action taken.
Under S.4501, the scope of the audit will be comprehensive and the MTA itself would be responsible for payment. The MTA estimates that a full forensic audit of itself would cost up to $10 million.
The IDC believes that the MTA would be able to cover the costs by lowering unnecessary overtime and aggressively collecting back rent from tenants of MTA buildings. As of mid 2009 they were owed $9 million alone in back rent.
This is a one time expense that will pay dividends down the road,” Senator Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), said. “By undertaking this forensic audit, the MTA can put itself on the road to recovery and reclaim its reputation with the public.”
This proposal does have support in the State Senate, which included a forensic audit in its 2011-2012 budget resolution.
In these difficult economic times, where resources are scarce, it is extremely important that organizations funded by the state undertake all possible efforts to operate as efficiently as possible,” said Senator David J. Valesky. “This legislation is a first step toward getting the MTA back on the right track to ensure state resources are being used in the best way.”

  Photo-Senators David Valesky (D- Oneida), Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester), Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), David Carlucci (D- Rockland and Orange Counties.)
This went out to Democrats throughout the state today -

A Message from the New York Senate Dems
Dear Friend,
The State Budget is complete and now comes the hard work: cleaning up Albany.

Last November, a majority of legislators from both sides of the aisle and in both houses made a promise to change how business is done and raise the ethical bar for public officials in New York through ethics reform and independent redistricting.

Keeping Our Promise
Senate Democrats, Governor Cuomo and the Assembly are in agreement – meaningful, effective and lasting ethics reform must:
  • Increase transparency and restrictions on the personal use of campaign funds to ensure contributions are used only for elections, not personal use (S.3053/Krueger).
  • Strengthen oversight and enforcement for all public officials by giving the Public Integrity Commission the power to investigate the legislature and refer any findings to District Attorneys or the Legislative Ethics Commission for possible action

Senate Republicans have already reneged on their promise to give New Yorkers independent redistricting; now they appear to be stalling progress on ethics reform. It’s frustrating, but anyone who has watched Albany over the years isn’t surprised. I ran for the Senate last fall on the promise to clean up state government, and that promise will be kept.

Senate Republicans: Do As I Say, Not As I Do
In January of 2009, Senate Republicans killed the most significant ethics reforms in more than a generation. That package was not enough, but it was a good first step. After pressure mounted from the public and good government groups, they relented and joined Assembly and Senate Democrats to pass the plan, only to turn their back on it again two weeks later. They claimed their support changed because the proposal did not go far enough.

Well, now is their chance. Senator Dean Skelos is partner in a law firm with lobbying business before the state. This is his opportunity to keep his promise to voters and pass an ethics reform package which requires full disclosure, strips lawmakers from both sides of the aisle convicted of public corruption of their pensions, and ensures that the Legislature – after decades of working in the shadows – will finally be held accountable to the public.

Senator Gustavo Rivera


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RE: Rat infestations in Bronx Community Board Area's
  In response to new data from the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) concerning rat infestations in various Bronx community board areas,  Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. released the following statement:
“The rising incidents of rat infestation in our Bronx neighborhoods show just how significant the DOHMH’s recent decision to eliminate the jobs of 63 pest control workers, workers whose jobs were specifically to battle the City’s rat population. Rats are dirty and disgusting, and their presence in any neighborhood is a major blow to the quality of life of that community.
“It is time for the City to rethink their actions and rehire these pest control workers, so that we may begin in earnest our assault on the borough’s rat population and the associated problems that come with these vermin. A small amount of savings is just not worth destroying the quality of life in neighborhoods across the City,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has made a similar statement about the Manhattan community board areas. 


Democrats and the Lost Opportunity for Affordable Housing

   New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) released the following statement: 

   “As the June 15th rent stabilization deadline approaches, I remain deeply concerned for the well-being of 2.5 million New Yorkers and their families who voted for Democrats to take control.  They elected us so that we would not let the opportunity to protect their right to affordable housing slip through their hands. 

   Democrats missed the chance to force a vote on rent control during Budget negotiations.  Democrats especially Black and Hispanic legislators should never have agreed on the Budget until the issue of rent control and stabilization was determined.  If affordable housing were addressed during that great race to beat the clock, New Yorkers would have won. 

   Unfortunately, the opportunity for Democrats to do something about rent control has passed. I have no delusions that the Senate Republicans will ever compromise on rent control or even bring this to the table for a vote this Session.  In their defense, I must wonder, why should they?  Since they are in the majority, why should they capitulate? 

   Governor Andrew Cuomo, (who actually served as HUD Secretary) met today to discuss rent control and stabilization laws with Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, Senator Adriano Espaillat (who serves as the Top Democrats on the Senate Housing Committee) and Senator Liz Krueger (who has championed this cause more than any other Senator prior to the Early Budget vote).  The issue of rent control has been cast aside until sometime – perhaps in May – after our Senate 2-week vacation from Albany.  We know that if these laws are not in place by June 15th, they will sunset, expire, and be nearly impossible to resurrect.



  A coalition of aging service advocates lead by the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS), Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), United Neighborhood House (UNH), CityMeals on Wheels, the Human Services Council, and UJA-Federation will assemble on the Steps of City Hall to inform the public and to speak out against the proposed cuts to case management. 
    Mayor Bloomberg is proposing the $6.6 million cut, a 30 % cut to case management. The Mayor tried this cut mid-year, but the funds were restored by the city council. Now, the mayor is trying to cut case management again.

·         Impact to seniors: Based on a CSCS survey done last November when the cut was first proposed –
Ø  Upwards of 8000 homebound elders, average age 85, will lose case management services
Ø  Almost 900 seniors were already on case management waiting lists
Ø  The average caseload, already 70, would increase to 85 and higher
Ø  112 social workers (called case managers) would lose their jobs

·         Social workers provide a valuable service to home bound seniors and can help to save lives

·         The coalition is working to “baseline” case management funds:  Baselining is a budget word which means that the Mayor allows the case management funds to remain in the Department for the Aging (DFTA) budget so there is not a cut and the funds flows into the budgets of case management agencies immediately.  This will ensure continuity of services to home bound elderly New Yorkers   
Thursday, April 14 from 10:00 – 11:00    --  Steps of City Hall  

for more information contact -- Matthew Hynes,, 212-398-6565 X237


Monday, April 11, 2011

Onion or Corn for State Vegetable

   The New York Farm Bureau, a non profit organization out of Albany is looking to name the vegetable of New York State on their facebook page here. The competition is down to either onion and corn, and since the state budget is done this has now come to the attention of some of our state legislatures. The Independent Democrat Conference here, at least three of the four members support "onion"as their choice for state veggie. It appears that one member is still on the fence not wanting to take sides on the issue. 

   We made some calls to local elected Bronx officials, but received "we will have to get back to you on the matter" from some staff members. We will update this posting as the responses come in from the elected officials as to their choice, but as it stands now the only Bronx state legislature who has weighed in on this is Senator Jeff Klein who favors onion as the state vegetable.

  Word came in from Senator Gustavo Rivera, that Senator Rivera is going with "TEAM ONION",


New Yorkers to spruce up 11 neighborhood sites in the Bronx after an especially hard winter  

More than 300 volunteers will clear leaves and debris, paint benches and picnic tables, and spread woodchips as part of New York Cares’ Hands on New York Day on Saturday, April 16 from 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. at Van Cortlandt Park (Enter at Broadway Ave and Van Cortlandt Park S) in the Bronx.  New Yorkers will also rejuvenate planting areas impacted by the hard winter.
17th Annual Hands On New York Day, sponsored by HSBC Bank USA, NA., is a citywide day of spring cleaning where 5,000 volunteers will spruce up 70 parks, gardens, playgrounds, and other public spaces across the five boroughs.