Saturday, May 5, 2012

BRONX WEEK 2012--Health Day!


Health Day 2012


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  City Comptroller John C. Liu today issued the following statement on the decision by the Mayor’s Office to disclose, after delaying, the partial contents of a taxpayer funded consultant report on the City’s 911 call system upgrade:

“It’s sadly ironic that the City hired an expensive outside consultant to review the work of other expensive outside consultants. This report is not only a waste of more taxpayer dollars, but seems to be duplicative of what my auditors have already found.  My audit team is currently finalizing our second report on this project, which will delve further into issues regarding the financial management of this important initiative. We will review the details of what is being released today but it won’t change the fact that City Hall has consistently shirked its responsibility to properly manage IT projects during the past decade, which has resulted in fraud, cost overruns and massive completion delays.” 

Comptroller Liu recently released a year-long audit which detailed massive mismanagement, seven years of delays, and one billion dollars in costs overruns in the upgrade of the 911 system. The report is available at

In addition, Liu’s office is currently finalizing a second report on the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP) which delves further into the financial aspects associated with the project. The audit will be released in the coming weeks.

In December 2010, Comptroller Liu’s office rejected the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications’ (DoITT) request for a $286 million contract for ill-defined services based on hourly consulting fees for ECTP. That contract, which was with Northrop Grumman, was restructured to clearly defined deliverables, with a cost revised down to $95 million.

In a related report, Liu released an audit on the Fire Department’s reporting of response times in the Mayor’s Management Report, which found discrepancies in the calculation and reporting of emergency response times. Link to the report:

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  On Wednesday, May 2, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined the staff of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center to welcome the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, during his visit to the Woodlawn section of the Bronx. Borough President Diaz presented President Higgins with a proclamation declaring it “ Ireland Day” in the Bronx, which reflects the close relationship the Bronx and Ireland have shared through the years, as well as the numerous contributions the Irish-Americans of the Bronx have made over the decades. 

(From left to right), Sabina Higgins, wife of President Higgins; Martin Galvin, volunteer, Emerald Isle Immigration Center; President Michael Higgins; Borough President Diaz; Brian O’Dwyer, chairman, Emerald Isle Immigration Center.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ben Franklin 52nd Annual Dinner

  On Wednesday May 2nd the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club held its 52nd Annual Dinner. Club President Ellen Feld welcomed everybody, and Ms. Delores Dixon sang "God Bless America". The elected officials then came up beginning with Former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson. See the photos below for the  elected officials in attendance.
  The Honorees were Ms. Marcia Allina (former State Committeewoman) receiving the "Jonathan B. Bingham Award" presented by 81st A.D. District Leader Bruce Feld. Ms. Lillian Roberts (Executive Director of DC37) receiving the "Labor Leadership Award" presented by 81st A.D. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. Mr. Dirk McCall (Director GMHC) receiving the "Timothy R. Sullivan Community Service Award" presented by Congressman Eliot Engel. Ms. Sarah Gund (Riverdale Neighborhood House) receiving the "Lee Heimlich Community Service Award" presented by Councilman G. Oliver Koppell.
  During the evening comments ranged from Congressman Charlie Rangel's "The way the state legislature drew the district lines it did not allow for input by the people", to Rangel's opponent Current State Senator Adriano Espaillat who thanked the Ben Franklin Club for helping elect him as a state senator, and hoping that they can help him be elected to congress. The best line of the night had to belong to Manhattan Borough President (and mayoral candidate in 2013) Scott Stringer, who said that he stayed for the entire press conference that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn walked out of last week. Below are photos of the dinner. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Left- Ms. Marcia Allina receives the Jonathan B. Bingham Award from District Leader Bruce Feld.   Right- Ms. Lillian Roberts receives the Labor Leadership Award from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.

 Left Mr. Dirk McCall receives the Timothy R. Sullivan Award from Congressman Eliot Engel.  Right Councilman G. Oliver Koppell between his wife Lorraine Coyle Koppell (left) and CB 8 member Rita Pochter Lowe (right).

Left- Congressman Eliot Engel speaking to Congressman Charlie Rangel before the dinner started.  Right- State Senator (and Congressman Rangel's opponent)  Adriano Espaillat sitting with fellow State Senator Gustavo Rivera and staff members.

Left- Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.  Right- Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz with CB 8 Traffic & Transportation Chair (and possible City Council candidate in 2013) Mr. Dan Padernacht.

Left Congressman Eliot Engel greets Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, as former District Leader Mr. Michael Heller looks on.   Right State Senator Jeff Klein poses for the photo with Manhattan Borough President Stringer, both are former colleagues in the State Assembly.

New York City Comptroller John Liu and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (Both probable 2013 candidates for mayor) pose for photo.




  After City Comptroller John Liu’s budget meeting with Mayor Bloomberg this morning and in response to questions about the Mayor’s FY 2013 Executive Budget, Liu issued the following statement:

“In this challenging economic environment one of the best ways to maintain critical services for New Yorkers like daycare, fire protection, and libraries is to strengthen our fight against the waste of taxpayer funds and wasted subsidies to large corporations.”

Note: New Yorkers who wish to report waste and abuse of taxpayer funds are encouraged to call Comptroller Liu’s 212-NO-WASTE (212-669-2783) hotline. All calls are confidential. 

Statement by Council Member Annabel Palma
In Response to the Mayor’s FY13 Executive Budget Proposal

The Executive Budget outlined by Mayor Bloomberg this afternoon is extremely disheartening.  This budget again underfunds vital services and programs that benefit low- and moderate-income New Yorkers and includes the loss of child care and after-school services for approximately 47,000 children.  This is simply unacceptable.

Of particular concern, are the continued drastic cuts to child care and after-school programs, which are slated to lose approximately $170 million combined.  The Executive Budget proposes just 26,000 child care slots, down from over 53,000 in FY09.  The Executive Budget also offers only 27,000 after-school slots through the City’s OST program, down from approximately 85,000 in FY09.  These programs offer critical early childhood educational opportunities that have been proven to enhance students’ academic futures.  Moreover, they provide safe and affordable care that allow parents to stay in the workforce and stay off of public assistance.  At this point, far too few working people have access to these critical services and this budget will only continue to bleed the system.

Another area of serious concern is the approximately $6.2 million in cuts to the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) that will devastate supportive housing and nutritional programs that literally save lives.  While this may save the City money in the short-term, it will only shift these individuals into programs that are more costly in the long-term.  The City Council has continually restored cuts to these programs over the last couple years, but the Administration has again chosen not to baseline this funding. 

The Mayor has often sought to portray himself as a fiscal conservative who has taken an axe to wasteful spending.  However, the reality is that the programs slated for cuts in this year’s budget are programs that invest in low- and moderate-income people and serve as key tools for promoting economic growth.  Once again, it will fall on the shoulders of the City Council to engage the Administration in negotiating a responsible budget that will make necessary investments in our City’s future.  

Taxi Contract Violates Civil Rights and Is Dead on Arrival Until It Meets Requirements of Americans With Disabilities Act

NEW YORK, NY – City Comptroller John C. Liu today called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to modify the proposed “Taxi of Tomorrow” agreement before sending the contract to the Comptroller’s Office for approval as required by the City Charter.  Comptroller Liu vowed to reject the agreement, until New York’s entire taxi fleet follows in the footsteps of cities like London and makes all cabs wheelchair accessible.

“The new contract for taxis presents us with a historic opportunity to right a wrong that New Yorkers with disabilities have been fighting to achieve for nearly two decades,” Comptroller Liu said.  “Requiring cabs to have independent passenger climate controls is nice, but when you fail to make them accessible to a growing number of New Yorkers, it’s not just a slap in the face, it’s illegal.  We will send back any plan that does not uphold the civil rights demanded by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

New York City’s 13,000 yellow cabs are famous, but for individuals with disabilities they represent the frustration of a separate and unequal transportation system.  Just 231, less than 2%, of City taxis are wheelchair accessible.  Although the City controls the sale of taxi medallions, it has failed to require that all taxis be accessible to wheelchairs.

“With the Taxi of Tomorrow, Mayor Bloomberg had the opportunity to transform the way New Yorkers get around the city whether they’re on two feet or four wheels,” said Assembly Member Micah Kellner.  “Sadly, his choice for the Taxi of Tomorrow – the Nissan NV-200 – will be remembered as the Cathy Black of taxis. The Mayor should scrap his contract with Nissan and commit to making every taxi accessible to people with disabilities.”

“The Taxi of Tomorrow contract should be rejected,” said City Councilmember Oliver Koppell. “The contract includes terms that, in my view, violate the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The City has a responsibility to come down on the side of civil rights.”

“The Mayor and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner have chosen to deny access to new taxis to wheelchair users and require only some to be accessible,” said James Weisman, SVP and General Counsel United Spinal Association.  “They would force wheelchair users to depend on a dispatch system instead of being able to hail any cab like all other New Yorkers and visitors.”

In December 2011, a federal court ruled that the City, through its Taxi and Limousine Commission, was in violation of the ADA.   Recent proposals have failed to directly address this violation of civil rights.  A proposal for a separate dispatch system for passengers using wheelchairs, for example, fails to address the underlying problem — there are not enough wheelchair accessible taxis in the City.

“The so-called “Taxi of Tomorrow” is really the taxi of yesterday,” said Edith Prentiss, Chair of the Taxis for All Campaign.  “It rolls us back to the days before the Americans With Disabilities Act became federal law, two decades ago.”

Making the City’s taxi fleet wheelchair accessible is not just a civil rights issue, but is also simple common sense.  Expanding access to taxis would reduce the financial stress on the MTA’s Access-A-Ride program.

“Let’s face it, anyone could find themselves in a wheelchair tomorrow,” said Comptroller Liu.  “We should do everything possible to ensure that New York City’s iconic yellow cab does not become a symbol of exclusion by telling wheelchair users ‘find another ride.’ That’s not what New York City is about.”


May 2, 2012

Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY  10007

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

The New York City Charter (“Charter”) requires that all contracts or agreements executed pursuant to the Charter or other laws are registered by the New York City Comptroller’s Office (“Comptroller’s Office”).  The Comptroller’s Office understands that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (“TLC”) and Nissan have entered into a contract to provide  the “Taxi of Tomorrow” for use on New York City streets by taxi medallion owners. 

On December 23, 2011 a federal court held that the City, through TLC, was in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which prohibits discrimination in governmental activities.  The court further held that TLC was not providing meaningful taxicab access to disabled people who required wheelchairs, and that the lack of access was a direct result of TLC’s pervasive policies, practices, and regulations of taxicabs in the City.

The court also required TLC to propose a comprehensive plan describing how it would provide meaningful access to wheelchair users, including targeted goals and standards, as well as measurable results.  The court further ordered that until TLC proposed such a plan, all new taxi medallions sold must be for wheelchair accessible vehicles.  It should be noted that “meaningful access” was defined, not as a Utopian goal or a political promise, but as a basic civil right for those with disabilities. 

Moreover, the United States Department of Transportation has mandated that vans seating less than eight people are required to be accessible. The "Taxi of Tomorrow" does not meet this requirement.

Based on the TLC’s website, the “Taxi of Tomorrow” design lists a number of features; however, wheelchair accessibility is not one of them.  We understand that the City is cobbling together a dispatch system and a plan to retrofit Nissan NV200 taxicabs to make them wheelchair accessible in an attempt to comply with the federal court ruling.  However, without a comprehensive plan to provide meaningful access it is clear that any contract to provide a “Taxi of Tomorrow” that is not accessible to the estimated 60,000 New Yorkers who use wheelchairs would violate the ADA and the federal court’s decision.

The City should take immediate steps to modify the contract so that the entire “Taxi of Tomorrow” fleet is wheelchair accessible.  New York City ought to be a leader, not a follower, on this important civil rights issue.


John C. Liu

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo Letter To 

NYS DOT Commissioner McDonald

Re: Bronx River Parkway Accident 

And Response by Commissioner McDonald

May 1, 2012

Joan McDonald
NYS Department of Transportation
50 Wolf Road
Albany, NY 12232

 Dear Commissioner McDonald,

I am writing to officially join Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and many of my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate in calling for an expeditious and thorough investigation and review of the safety conditions of our city and state roadways, particularly the sections of the Bronx River Parkway where the most recent and tragic accident took place last weekend.

I have lent my support to the Rodriguez family, who reside in my Assembly District, as they mourn their loved ones and seek assistance from the public for the tremendous cost of properly burying their deceased family members. Additionally, as their State Assemblyman, I see a greater responsibility on my part to assist in any effort we can undertake as State officials to review the circumstances that led to this and other accidents on the Bronx River Parkway, to consider more appropriate safety measures along our roads, especially in sections which are adjacent to steep drops, and the immediate installation of any additional safety measures.

Hopefully, we can take action in our State and help prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred last weekend.  As we begin this effort to study the safety conditions of the Bronx River Parkway, I expect that we will further this effort throughout our State roads and transportation infrastructure.

As a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I respectfully urge your consideration of this request and I look forward to working closely with your office in this effort.

Assemblyman Crespo's Signature fileRespectfully,

Marcos A. Crespo
85th Assembly District


New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said today: “The New York State Department of Transportation shares community concerns about the safety of the Bronx River Parkway in the wake of the tragic crash that claimed the lives of seven family members on April 29.

“Since Sunday’s accident, we have been working on interim actions that will be implemented on the parkway beginning this morning.

“For the viaduct over the Bronx Zoo, as well as two other similarly constructed viaducts south that cross over East Tremont Avenue and Amtrak respectively, NYSDOT will install concrete barriers along the outside (right hand) travel lane so that these barriers will abut the viaduct curbing on both the north and southbound lanes. 

“Beginning today, NYSDOT crews will be installing signage and will be striping the approaches and decking of the three BRP viaducts in question.

“During the installation of the barriers on each of these viaducts, motorists will be informed that they will be traveling through a construction zone, which will limit their legal speed to 35 mph.

“We are working cooperatively with the New York Police Department on enhanced enforcement activities in the area to help raise driver awareness and reduce travel speeds.”

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo said:  “As a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I am proud and grateful for the expeditious response from the State Department of Transportation.  We are paying our respects in part through this timely effort to improve safety measures along the Bronx River Parkway as we continue to mourn the tremendous loss of three generations.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said: "I am grateful that the State Department of Transportation has heard our calls for safety improvements on the Bronx River Parkway. We must do everything we can to avoid a similar tragedy in the future, and this announcement is an important first step towards the goal of an improved Bronx River Parkway that is safer for drivers and the community alike. I thank the State Department of Transportation for moving quickly to address these issues, and I look forward to assisting them in the implementation of these improvements in the future.”

Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera (in whose district the accident occurred) said:  “I'm extremely pleased that the State Department of Transportation has responded swiftly and in a meaningful way to the calls for new safety measures on the Bronx River Parkway. Drivers on the parkway will immediately be safer as a result of the State DOT's actions today. 

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Monday, April 30, 2012

ECPW Comes to Morris Park

  It may not have been the WWE with wrestling stars like John Cena, The Rock, or CM Punk, but it was great fun for the hundreds that came to the St. Francis Xavier gym Saturday night.  They saw stars and former champions like Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Scottie 2 Hottie, Rocky Jones, and even Bronxite "Ghetto Brown" who stole the hearts of many in the crowd when he defeated the mean spirited winner of the "Battle Royal" Trista Law. One little girl even said that her favorite wrestler was "The New Kid Dynamite", because he wrestled at St. Francis Xavier last year. Below are photos of the action, click any to enlarge the photo

Left- Announcer John Pantozzi and Ref Vinnie Ramano.   Right- Ghetto Brown takes care of a former manager who gave him bad advice.

Left- Close up of Ghetto Brown.  Right- close up of Scottie 2 Hottie before the action started.

Left- Ghetto Brown gives out t-shirts to the fans.  Right- Ghetto Brown before his match.

 Left - Vito "Mr.Italy" Carusso has Sal "The Shore Thing" DeMarco on the mat, right before the 123 count that sent DeMarco back to the Jersey Shore.   Right- Action going on in the Battle Royal.

Left- A wrestler is eliminated from the battle Royal landing next to the metal railing Ouch.  Right- Ghetto Brown going to the top rope for his finishing move to defeat Trista Law.

Left- "The Foreign Exchange with their manager Sir Lance Profit enter for their match against, (on the right) "America's Team" of Greg "The Hammer " Valentine and Andrew Anderson.

Left- The Hammer comes in to help his partner.  Right- Andrew Anderson about to go for the pin.

Left- Scottie 2 Hottie enters for his match.   Right- Scotties opponent (out on good behavior) "Crazy Ivan" in his prison jumper waits as Scottie warms up in the ring.

Left- Scottie flips Crazy Ivan.  Right- Crazy Ivan gets the upper hand over Scottie.

Left- Scottie 2 Hottie sets up to do the worm on Crazy Ivan.  Right- Scottie 2 Hottie raises his arm in victory after defeating Crazy Ivan.

 It was a great night of entertainment for those in the audience, and a few dollars for St. Francis Xavier School. 
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Liberty Democratic Association "Spring Fling"

  The annual Spring Fling  by the Liberty Democratic Association (based in the 80th A.D.) was a huge success, as over 75 people and many elected officials came to cheer on the LDA.
  New York City Comptroller John Liu, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilman Jimmy Vacca, State Senators Jeff Klein and Gustavo Rivera, State Assembly Members Jeffrey Dinowitz, Marcos Crespo, and Honoree Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson. Conspicuously absent was 80th Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, while her announced challenger Mr. Mark Gjonaj was in attendance. 
  All the elected officials praised the LDA in one way or another for their joint or individual help, as all the members of the LDA joined together to say that it is a team effort that makes the LDA so successful in what they do. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Members of the LDA pose with honoree Assemblywoman Gibson

Bronx County Committee Chair Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz with 80th A.D. District Leader Kenny Agosto and Assemblywoman Gibson.

Left Senator Klein  -----  Right Councilman Vacca  Address the LDA.

Manhattan Borough President and 2013 candidate for Mayor Scott Stringer listens as Kenny and the LDA sing happy birthday to him.
Left-Comptroller John Liu shakes hands with 80th A.D. candidate Mark Gjonaj. Right- Members of LDA pose for a photo with 80th A.D. candidate Mark Gjonaj. 80th A.D. Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera did not attend the event.