Saturday, June 11, 2011


   Thursday night was the celebration of the 2011 Puerto Rican Day Parade by Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz Sr. On hand were Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Assembly members Marcos Crespo (85th), Vanessa Gibson (77), and Eric Stevenson (79), Councilman Fernando Cabrera, Civic activist and candidate for Assembly (76) Luis Sepulveda, Ms. Madelyn Lugo (president of the parade), dignitaries from Puerto Rico, and contestants from the Miss Puerto Rico contest.
   They were celebrating 20 years of participating in fundraising for Casa Boricua to buy toys for poor children in Senator Diaz's hometown in Puerto Rico. It was said that Reverend Diaz has never forgotten where he has come from, and his Puerto Rican heritage. Diaz said that we are Americans, but we are also proud Puerto Ricans. 
   New York City has never had a Puerto Rican mayor, and it was said that Ruben Diaz Jr. will be the first. Assembly members Gibson and Stevenson apologized to the mostly spanish speaking audience for not speaking fluent spanish, but said that they will work on it.
   We almost forgot that among the hundreds of people at the event, the Pirate Captain (dressed in full pirate garb) of the pirate ship float in Sunday's parade went to every table to say hello to all and let anyone who wanted to have their picture taken with him.

Borough President Diaz Participates in Rally for Stronger Rent Laws 

  Borough President Diaz spoke in favor of the extension and strengthening of New York's rent regulation laws outside the Bronx County Building on Thursday afternoon.
   “Not only must we fight to pass the laws we already have, we also need to strengthen our rent regulations to ensure that our tenants have the rights and protections that they deserve,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

   BP Diaz is center, with Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson on his right, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo by the BP's left shoulder, State Senator Jose M. Serrano, and with his cowboy hat on in the back row is State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. 


New Services Available Through The Bronx Borough Presidents Office

The office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is offering two new services through its constituent services unit.

First, the constituent services office has opened its doors for those residents seeking to obtain food stamp assistance. The office has been assigned a staff member by BronxWorks to assist in filing applications directly with the Human Resources Administration. Clients will be prescreened and processed on Tuesdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In addition, due to the overwhelming concern for those facing home foreclosure, the office has joined with the Parodneck Foundation to assist families at risk of losing their homes by providing counseling, starting Monday, June 20.

Both services are available in Room 209 of the Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 718-590-3554.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Company Overseen By Joel Klein Poised To Clean Up With $27M No-Bid NYC Contract

    You had to know this was going to happen, but we thought it would be later than sooner. Celeste Katz of the Daily News writes here  that part of the $700 million dollars that New York State is getting in the Race to the Top federal program will go to Wireless Generation to develop software that will track student test scores, among other things. Did we say that Wireless Generation is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Joel Kleins current employer after he left the DOE.
    Katz writes that since this is a state contract for the DOE it is classified as not being a conflict of interest to former Chancellor Joel Klein. Wireless Generation created the Achievement  Reporting and Innovative Systems or ARIS that has been widely criticized in New York City. 



On Saturday, June 11, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and State Senator Gustavo Rivera will come together to announce the launch of the Bronx CAN (Change Attitudes Now) Health Initiative.
The Bronx CAN Health Initiative will bring together individuals, doctors and other health providers, places of worship, community gardens and community centers, schools, and civic-minded groups of all kinds to promote the types of behaviors that lead to healthy lifestyles. The goal of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative is to have all the members of our community – young and old alike – build healthier lives, free of ailments like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.
As part of the initiative, community members will be encouraged to set their own health goals, whether it is losing weight, exercising a certain amount of times a week, or vowing to eat healthier. 

  Saturday, June 11 @ Noon
  Mary Mitchell Center, 2007 Mapes Avenue, Bronx


 Two bills, sponsored by Council Member Oliver Koppell, were the subject of a special hearing conducted by the Council Committees on Housing and Fire & Criminal Justice on Tuesday, June 7, 2011.
The hearing was convened after a number of recent fatal fires in illegally converted multiple dwellings.  Two measures were considered.
The first bill, of which Council Member Oliver Koppell is the prime sponsor, would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to obtain a court order to enter a residential building when there has been a complaint of illegal conversion, and where two attempts have failed to provide the DOB inspectors with entry.
The genesis of the bill was Koppell’s frustration at finding out, after following up on complaints from constituents in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx about an illegal conversion, that it was the practice of the DOB to abandon attempts to inspect allegedly illegal premises after two unsuccessful attempts by its inspectors to gain entry. 
“I felt this was outrageous,” Koppell said. “There had to be a mechanism by which DOB inspectors could gain access to a building after a complaint about illegal conversion.   My bill requiring the DOB to obtain a court order directing access would provide this mechanism.” 
The second bill, of which Koppell is a co-sponsor, would allow DOB or any other law enforcement agency the authority to issue a summons or notice of violation for illegal residential conversions based on readily observable circumstantial evidence, which may include multiple mailboxes, a large number of operational utility meters, or multiple doorbells. 
The problems highlighted by the Koppell legislation, as well as the recent fires, induced Mayor Bloomberg to create a multi-agency task force, chaired by Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt, to tackle this problem. 
“I believe the bills introduced in the Council would enhance our ability to reduce the number of dangerous illegal residential conversions in the city and would facilitate the Mayor’s efforts to solve this problem,”   Koppell said. 

Free JASA Art Event

The Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) will hold a special exhibition and reception in honor of the artist Angelo Romano, who recently donated more than 60 pieces of his original artworks to the agency. The exhibition will be held on June 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at JASA’s Cooper Square Senior Residence, 200 E. 5th Street. “We’re very appreciative of Mr. Romano’s generous donation,” said Alexandra Collier, JASA’s Director of Volunteer Services and Special Projects. “More than 50 of his paintings and sculptures will be displayed at JASA senior centers across New York City, and we will be selling 10 pieces to benefit JASA programming for older New Yorkers,” she added. JASA hopes to continue displaying and promoting the work of older adult artists.

Mr. Romano is an internationally recognized Spanish-born painter, with works on permanent display at such New York institutions as El Museo del Barrio and Hostos Community College, and at other museums, cultural centers, and schools in Spain, Brazil, and across the United States. Throughout his lifetime, he has had more than 300 exhibitions of his work.

A prolific artist, Mr. Romano appropriates whatever materials he has available for his paintings. His colorful works are done on canvas, as well as on old bottles, light bulbs, and cookie tins, assembled together into new, fantastical shapes. Juan Ramirez de Lucas, a member of the International Association of Art Critics, has written of Mr. Romano’s work: “It is painting that is minutely detailed, vital, full of optimism, luminous, and comforting in its simpleness and happiness. What more could one ask?!”

Mr. Romano came to JASA through a friend who resides in a JASA housing facility, and JASA eagerly accepted his offer of a donation. After the initial reception on June 23rd, the works will be distributed to JASA’s Senior Centers and other facilities for permanent display.
For more information about JASA’s Exhibition and Reception for Angelo Romano, please call (212) 273-5222 or email

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. Since 1968, JASA and its affiliates have provided social, recreational, health, cultural and educational programs for older persons, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity, to help sustain them in their homes and communities and to offer opportunities for a better quality of life.



   The 161st Street BID has placed a Derek Jeter meter on a lamp post opposite Jeter's banner hanging outside Yankee Stadium, This Jeter Meter is keeping count as the Yankee shortstop heads for the 3,000 hit plateau. As of today the Jeter Meter is at 2989 after Jeter got a hit in last nights game, and needs only 11 more hits to reach 3,000, an almost sure fire automatic entry into the baseball hall of fame. 

    The 161st Street BID came up with the JETERBUG (a take off of the famous jitterbug, sung by Ella Fitzgerald) which the children from the Highbridge Advisory Council Head Start program danced to at the press conference kicking off the Jeter Meter clock. 
    When Derek Jeter does get his 3,000th hit there will be celebrations at the Yankee Tavern, Yankee Bar & Grill, Stan's, and Billy's to celebrate the feat with free cake to the first 100 fans after the hit. The Yankees still have 9 games left on the current homestand, and it is hoped that Derek Jeter will get his 3000th hit during the current homestand. We don't know if Jeter is going to show up at one of the celebrations, as he will be doing a lot of celebrating with his fellow Yankee players.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weinergate fallout - 
Could Alec Baldwin run for mayor in 2013?

    Actor and star of the hit NBC show 30 Rock Alec Baldwin has announced that he will be leaving that show after the 2012 season, and could the down fall of Congressman Anthony Weiner the leading candidate for mayor in 2013 mean that Alec Baldwin might run for mayor in 2013.
    He said that he would not rule it out, and that it is something that he is very interested in doing now that it looks like front running mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner hopes have exploded in his face. 
    Celeste Katz of the Daily News has more on the story here.

Klein Bill To Make Graffiti Vandals Clean Up Their Blight Passes Chamber

 The bill, (S.585), came as a result of Senator Klein's work to clean up graffiti and other blights in the communities that he represents. Senator Klein sponsors a graffiti removal program that cleans up 80 to 90 sites a month in the Bronx and Westchester areas.
Legislation by Senator Jeffery D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), that would mandate convicted graffiti vandals to participate in clean-up programs as part of their sentence recently passed the State Senate.
Graffiti is more than a quality of life issue. It creates blight, damages property and creates financial hardship for taxpayers and business owners,” Senator Klein said. “My legislation will help alleviate some of these burdens, while giving these vandals an up-close look at the damages that they caused.”
The legislation will require courts to assign anyone convicted of making graffiti, or being in possession of a graffiti instrument, to participate in a local graffiti removal program. There are exceptions in the event that no such local program exists, or that such a clean-up would be unnecessarily dangerous. Permission from the owner would also be needed to clean up private property.

Senator Klein's graffiti removal program can be reached at 718.822.2049 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Today, the New York State Democratic Committee released a new robo-call from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo where he asks New Yorkers to call their legislators and urge them to extend and strengthen New York’s rent laws. Calls will go out starting this week in regions across the state. The script of the robo-call is included below:

Before I was Governor Cuomo, I was Secretary Cuomo.
I worked as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration and was the head of housing for our nation.
There's no doubt that affordable housing is the foundation of strong communities.
But for too many New Yorkers, affordable housing is just out of reach.
More than 1 million people in our state are protected by New York’s rent regulation program.
However, this program is set to expire next week on June 15th.
That would be a crisis for our state.
But we need to do more than extend our rent laws we need to strengthen them.
Under current standards another 130,000 apartments could be removed from rent regulation in the next few years.
Having affordable housing works for all New Yorkers – a strong middle class is the heart of our state.
As New Yorkers we need to work together to protect the quality of life for all our people.
Please contact your state legislators and urge them to extend and strengthen our state’s rent laws.
Thank you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The End to Weinergate: He Comes Clean

  The Smoke has lifted, and Congressman Anthony Weiner has come clean about what has been called Weinergate. Weiner has admitted to sending the lewd photo to a Washington State college student, and 6 other women, but will not resign he said. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has asked for an ethics investigation of the matter. 

  Celeste Katz of the Daily News has more here on the whole matter and exactly what was said by  Congressman Weiner. It looks like the race for mayor in 2013 is now wide open, with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer looking like the candidate who gains the most from Weiners departure in the race for mayor in 2013.



   New York City Comptroller John C. Liu today presented testimony before the New York City Council Finance Committee regarding Mayor Bloomberg’s Fiscal Year 2012 Executive Budget.
   Comptroller Liu’s testimony as prepared for delivery is below:
   Good afternoon Chairman Recchia and members of the Finance Committee, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present testimony on the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2012 Executive Budget.
The Mayor’s FY 2012 Executive Budget totals $65.7 billion after various prepayments.  The FY 2012 budget is the product of a series of actions which closed a $3.26 billion gap in the July 2010 Financial Plan stemming from a structural imbalance where expenditures exceeded revenues.  The gap was further exacerbated by State actions that took place during the year.
   While it is estimated that FY 2011 will end with a $3.217 billion surplus, when compared with the $3.646 billion surplus similarly transferred from FY 2010 to FY 2011, it becomes clear that in the current year, the City is drawing on more resources than it is generating. However, if past history is any indication we can anticipate that the year may end with a budgetary surplus.
   Overall spending in the FY 2012 budget has decreased by 0.4 percent when compared to the FY 2011 budget.  But these numbers mask the fact that while overall expenditures have been held flat,  the City-funded portion of the budget has increased from 67.1 percent of the FY 2011 budget to 70.7 percent of the FY 2012 budget.  The City-funded portion of the budget is $2.2 billion greater than the FY 2011 budget and $2.1 billion more than was planned a year ago.  The Financial Plan assumes that by FY 2015 the City-funded portion of the budget will exceed 74.5 percent.  This trend is a direct result of a reduction in State and Federal aid to New York City.
   As we hear talk of layoffs and cutbacks it is critically important for the City to identify as many areas of  savings as possible.
   You are well aware of the outcome of my office’s work on the CityTime issue.  As a result of our steadfast oversight, the project is now nearing completion without any additional cost to the taxpayers. While that may be good news, it does not make up for the fact that the costs ballooned from $68 million to more than $700 million.  My office will continue to work closely with the investigative authorities on this issue in hopes of possibly recouping some of the money that has been allegedly funneled to subcontractors on the project.
   In addition, it was a welcome sign that the Department of Education has decided to cancel a $43 million contract with another high priced consultant, Future Technology Associates, who have been suspected of utilizing subcontractors to overbill the City.  My office has been conducting an audit into the vendor for quite some time and will continue to do so in order fully disclose what really went on.
   While we are discussing the DOE, I would like to point out that a review of OMB documents within the past week has found that after years of looking the other direction, the Department of Education has decided to finally seek additional Medicaid reimbursement funding from the State for occupational and physical therapy and speech and language services.  The Executive Budget assumes an additional $100 million in revenue as a result of increased Medicaid reimbursements on top of the previous estimate of $17 million presented in the Preliminary Budget.
   My office has been working with the City’s Office of Management and Budget and the UFT to identify the actual value of funds eligible for the City. While the current estimate of $117 million is enough to significantly impact the cuts proposed to the classroom, we believe this to be a cautious estimate.  The City may be eligible for greater reimbursements, which would free up funds for use elsewhere.
   The $100 million in additional reserves have been allocated to cover various other expenses in the DOE budget, such as $48 million for general education non-personal service and $26 million for charter schools. These dollars and any additional Medicaid funds realized during Fiscal Year 2012 should be used to help offset the proposed teacher layoffs, which have a more direct negative effect on classroom services.
   In the Executive Budget, the Mayor has allocated nearly $1 billion towards funding anticipated changes in the actuarial assumptions and methods used in computing pension contributions.  The City actuary is currently reviewing an independent audit of the rate change and will offer his recommendations to the pension boards. While it is expected that the actuary will recommend a change in the assumed rate of return of the City’s pension funds, there is more uncertainty about what other modifications would be proposed.  As such, the eventual cost of the any recommendations is unknown at this point.  It is also uncertain as to when the recommendations and the eventual changes would take effect.
   Another potential area of savings is through the City’s settlement of claims.  My office is responsible for authorizing monetary amounts of settlement where we feel the City may have been at fault for personal injury or property damage. The City has indicated that they expect a rise in the cost of settlements to occur.  However, my office anticipates that based upon historical data, the City is overestimating this total by at least $50 million.
   As always, my office will seek the most fair and equitable results in our claims settlement process and continue to act in the best interest of the taxpayer when doing so.
   We have also identified some risks to the Mayor’s plan.  Most significant is the assumption that contract discussions with the UFT and CSA will not result in any additional cost to the City.  These are placed as risk because the Mayor has not budgeted for raises consistent with those of other municipal unions, and has instead relied on a labor strategy that uses productivity initiatives to offset cost.
   Another risk to the Mayor’s plan is his underestimation of overtime. In fact, my office has estimated that the overtime costs will be upwards of $195 million more than the Mayor anticipates.
   As we gradually move out of this recession, it is important to note that the City is continuing on a steady but slow path to recovery. Despite mostly positive indicators for the City’s short-term economic condition there exist the possibility of negative externalities that could hinder the current expansion.  Factors outside of the City’s control such as rising energy prices, the continued depression of the construction industry specifically  produce additional drag on the US and local economies.
   One area that has shown strength is our City’s pension systems.  After posting returns of 14 percent last Fiscal Year, the most recent data show that the funds are up more than 20 percent in the current year. These gains will help offset future payment towards the pension systems.
   My office released a study last week, the first of its kind, which revealed the past decade of fluctuation in the markets will cause pension costs to rise in the short term.  However, due largely to already enacted benefit reforms that took place between 1995 and 2009 the long term costs to the City will steadily decline.  These
projections are sound and have been verified by independent professional actuaries.
   The study shows that over the next 30 years City pension costs as a percentage of the City's budget will decline from 11.4 percent in FY 2016 to 5.1 percent FY 2040.
   I hope I was able to be helpful today in presenting an accurate look at the City budget, as well as provide some areas worth exploring during phase of the budget process.  As always my office is available to assist you in any way necessary.

Senator Reverend Diaz Prays for Congressman Anthony Weiner

New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) has released the following statement today about United States Representative. Anthony Weiner (D-NY):
“The Bible teaches us to take care of others and to help others when they are down.
It is appalling to witness the way that Congressman Anthony Weiner’s colleagues have been running away from him during these past few days.  It is just shameful to see how many of Congressman Weiner’s supposed friends – especially those who are elected officials – have abandoned him as the media makes a total mockery of him.
Although Congressman Weiner has never defended my positions on some of the issues that matter most to me, I know that he has fought hard for New York State.  He has fought hard for the Democratic Party, for his colleagues in the Democratic Party, and for the President of the United States.
I am not defending any mistakes he may have made – who knows – but it is shameful to watch this ongoing ridicule of Congressman Weiner.
I am praying for Congressman Weiner and I ask everyone to join me and pray for him during these difficult times.”

Jeter Meter

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Public Hearing on Access to the Jerome Park Reservoir
      On June 2nd a public hearing was held by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on the subject of access (or lack of) to the surrounding area of the Jerome Park Reservoir. On hand were local elected officials, members of the Croton Monitoring Committee, as well as representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection including Deputy DEP Commissioner Tim Walters.
     BP Diaz said first that DEP needs to live up to their promise of pedestrian access to the perimeter of the Jerome Park Reservoir. He added that the report done by the DEP for only three days of access to the reservoir was not enough, and that the reservoir was a major civic amenity for the surrounding community that should be enjoyed.
     Councilman G. Oliver Koppell said that upstate people fish and swim in the Croton Reservoir area, and the fences around the Jerome Park Reservoir were not protecting the water here. Ha asked for a reasonable plan of more than just three days of public access.
   Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz spoke of growing up by the reservoir, and the wonderful view that his family had from their windows. He added “this is our lake, and that we the people of the Bronx want access to our lake”.
    Father Richard Gorman (Chairman of Community Board 12) said that he never thought that the water filtration plant for the Croton water supply should have been built in Van Cortlandt Park. He added that CMC members (like himself) are not getting information in a timely fashion, and wanted to know why the DEP spent thousands of dollars on a thirteen page report filled with pictures.
     Mark Lanagan of the DEP said that the DEP feels that public access to the reservoir is not feasible, and that the DEP can explore what it is that the public want, to modify the pilot access program of three days after the construction is done in 2013. Another DEP engineer spoke about why the Croton water system had to be filtered, and that for the past 30 years there was no public access to the JPR. He added that the roadway around the JPR is very narrow and filled with potholes.
     Kevin Mcbribe of the DEP Police spoke of the danger of terrorist attacking the infrastructure of the city water system, and that the Homeland Security bases JPR as a national defense thus not allowing public access.
     Then it was the communities turn to speak, and one after another residents mentioned how wonderful it would be to enjoy the JPR as people in Manhattan enjoy the Central Park Reservoir, and its jogging track around that reservoir. There was mention of the JPR being empty for years now, and how lax security was by reports of a cut security camera cable (for an undetermined time) by local elected officials. Representatives of Bronx High School of Science mentioned the great potential of an ecology lab at JPR. Speaker after speaker mentioned how important access to JPR is, that the DEP had lied to the community, no filtered water would be at JPR, and that the outer fence should be replaced with concrete barriers that would allow people more access while really stopping any vehicle that could break through the current outer fence.
     The best line of the night however had to come from Gary Axelbank when in comparing JPR to former President Regan's speech about the Berlin Wall by saying “MAYOR BLOOMBERG TEAR DOWN THIS FENCE”. BP Diaz closed the meeting by thanking all who came out, and said “THIS IS TO BE CONTINUED”.