Thursday, May 31, 2012

RWDSU Slams Living Wage Veto

Statement from RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum
Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU,UFCW), made the following statement in response to Mayor Bloomberg's veto of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act:
"This veto is a slap in the face to the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who support the living wage legislation. Across the city, New Yorkers have built a movement for fairness and justice because they know the mayor's economic development policy has failed. Bloomberg will be remembered as the Mayor of Inequality. He forced taxpayers to line the pockets of a few wealthy developers while giving them nothing in return. On his watch, life has gotten worse, not better, for many New Yorkers--a shameful and alarming legacy to be sure. His policy of spending billions to perpetuate poverty-wage jobs has been an economic embarrassment and a moral outrage. Rest assured: we will work with the next mayor to implement the living wage bill, and put an end to this dark and disturbing chapter in the city's history." 

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STATEMENT FROM BOROUGH PRESIDENT DIAZ RE: Mayor Bloomberg's Veto of the 'Fair Wages for New Yorkers' Act

“It is unfortunate that Mayor Bloomberg has chosen to ignore the will of the City Council and the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers with his veto of the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act. This bill will ensure that, when our City’s tax dollars are used to make major development projects work, developers do better by their employees and pay them a ‘living wage.’

“This is an incredibly popular piece of legislation, one that has the potential to give City residents a chance to provide a better way of life for their families. I look forward to both the City Council’s override of this veto and to the day the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act becomes law,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012


 Findings of possible fraud referred to Manhattan DA; City should recoup as much as $163 million for wasteful project. 

  According to an audit released today by City Comptroller John C. Liu, the contractor selected to streamline the City’s vital 911 call system was unqualified and so poorly monitored that it was able to overbill taxpayers by as much as $163 million. Because of the severity of the findings and potential for fraud in both the vendor selection and billing processes, Comptroller Liu has referred the matter to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for further review.

This follows a previous audit released by Comptroller Liu in March that found the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP) had only one component up and running, was seven years behind schedule, and a billion dollars over budget.

Today’s audit found that severe mismanagement by DoITT has resulted in the City taxpayers not getting what they paid for. In fact, the systems integration portion of the much needed 911 upgrade could cost an additional $362 million, with taxpayers entitled to as much as $163 million in restitution.

“We have long feared that CityTime was not an isolated incident, and unfortunately what we have learned today is that our fear has become a reality,” Comptroller Liu said.  “With one month to go before the City’s budget is ratified, and with devastating cuts on the table, taxpayers should be outraged at the fleecing that transpired under City Hall’s watch.”

The audit uncovered a lengthy series of missteps, starting with the selection of an unqualified company as lead contractor and continuing throughout the life of the ongoing project.

Some of the most egregious findings include:

•       Hewlett Packard (HP) was unqualified because it failed to meet DoITT’s minimum technical requirements for selection and should have not been hired as lead contractor on the project, calling into question the solicitation process and resulting in delays and cost overruns;
•       DoITT allowed HP to drastically mark up subcontractor bills resulting in questionable billing;
•       Project consultants were unqualified and billed at higher rates than allowed;
•       Despite numerous failures and unsatisfactory reviews, City Hall failed to assess any damages against HP, in accordance with the contract.

"As the end users of the info produced by the UCT, fire officers have known right from the beginning that the system did not function,” said Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Al Hagan. “Fire officers refer to UCT as "U Can't Tell", because we never knew whether the information we were getting was accurate. Now, thanks to the diligent work of the Comptroller's office, we know we were overcharged for a shoddy system."

“It appears that we have another large billing overcharge like CityTime. It is not enough to just recover our losses after an audit; we need better oversight from the beginning to keep the City from becoming easy pickings,” said City Council Member Gale Brewer.


DoITT Hired an Unqualified Contractor

In 2004, the City received two proposals from iXP Corporation and Hewlett Packard for the systems integration portion of ECTP.  iXP passed the test for the required technical standard and was selected. However, the company unexpectedly withdrew its proposal and rather than re-soliciting the contract, DoITT selected HP, which had twice failed to meet the minimum technical score to manage and complete the project. In addition, iXP was hired by HP as a subcontractor on the project, which raised suspicion.

DoITT justified awarding the contract to HP by stating that the company had stellar recommendations from the NYPD and the US Air Force, and was at the time contracted to perform CAD system upgrades at NYPD.  Furthermore, DoITT stated that re-soliciting the contract would delay the important project. Both explanations have proven hollow.

In fact, DoITT had no record of NYPD or Air Force recommendations. Furthermore, as far back as 2004 — before the project was solicited — the NYPD gave HP an unsatisfactory review on the quality and timeliness of HP’s performance in a VENDEX performance evaluation.

It also turns out that HP paid the NYPD a $33 million settlement in 2008 for failing to deliver the very CAD system that served in part as justification for their selection on ECTP.

Finally, DoITT stated that it selected HP, instead of soliciting additional applicants, in order to avoid delays.  Nevertheless, the ECTP project is seven years behind schedule, incomplete, and $1 billion over budget, according to Comptroller Liu’s March audit.

Poor oversight and failure to deliver resulted in cost overruns

HP was selected as lead vendor to complete three major components of the ECTP system integration, under a contract that was not to exceed $380 million.  Although HP failed to deliver two of the three components (a unified-CAD and PSAC 2), the estimated cost for the completion of PSAC 1 is $346 million.

In addition, the City has had to engage a second vendor, Northrop Grumman, to complete what HP has failed to do, driving the systems integration costs to $632 million.

There is no disputing the fact that HP has failed to deliver what they were contracted for.  This failure is due to a lack of oversight on behalf of the City and has resulted in another IT project drastically increasing in cost.

City Hall’s free pass to HP cost taxpayers $113 million

Despite documented dissatisfaction with HP’s failure to deliver on the ECTP project, DoITT paid the company $113 million during the first three years of the contract. City Hall refused to heed warnings from high-level agency commissioners and made no effort to recoup expended funds after HP was found to be unsatisfactory, in accordance with the contract.

In 2007, the then-DoITT Commissioner in conjunction with NYPD and FDNY officials, wrote to the then-Deputy Mayor and outlined numerous problems with HP and recommended termination. No action was taken.

In 2008, DoITT stated HP “needs improvement” or was “unsatisfactory” in response to all 20 questions on a VENDEX performance evaluation. And in 2009, a “Lessons Learned” report by the quality assurance
monitor found the same issues within the same time frame.

In the face of the striking failures by HP, the City failed to assess damages to the company, instead City Hall stood idly by and took no action.

Project consultants were unqualified and overbilled the City by an additional $50 million

DoITT and HP did not properly ensure that project consultants were qualified for their titles, that hours were billed appropriately and accurately, and that timesheets were approved in a timely manner.  As a result DoITT should move to recoup as much as $50 million for questionable timesheets (in addition to the aforementioned $113 million).

Billing errors included:

•       13 consultants were overpaid $1.5 million during the audit period. HP billed eight consultants at a higher paying title than they were working at and an additional five consultants were not qualified for their titles.  Auditors were unable to determine if an additional 71 consultants were qualified and paid appropriately
•       3 consultants who were qualified to be administrative staff were billed as Project Managers or Project Analysts (Engineers) for $396,000.
•       HP billed the City at a rate of $192 per hour for non-allowable tasks such as opening the door for visitors and handling restroom garbage.
•       Consultants submitted electronic timesheets indicating work was reported prior to actually performing the work, sometimes as far as a month ahead.

DoITT’s contract management drove up costs

DoITT’s poor management of HP and heavy reliance on subcontractors drove up costs and allowed the lead vendor to take advantage of taxpayers. For example:

•       HP was allowed to bill DoITT for the cost of leasing a management office, including payments for rent, City taxes, coffee, paper, postage, and office supplies
•       DoITT never reduced the contract amount when it was clear that HP could not finish all three components of the project
•       DoITT allowed HP to bill between 9 and 195 percent mark ups for subcontracted services  and allowed HP to change the payment structure on 8 contract components from deliverable (paid upon completion) to time and material (hourly), thus incentivizing additional billing delays

The audit also noted that there were lengthy delays in timesheet approval by HP, ranging from two to 885 days and that more than half waited two months or more for approval.  As a result of egregious timesheet errors HP may have overbilled the City as much as $106 million.  Of this $106 million, $56 million is included in the previously mentioned $113 million.  The remaining $50 million is for work billed after 2008.

As a result of the audit, Comptroller Liu’s office made 11 recommendations to DoITT, of which the agency agreed to four.  Because of the severity of these findings, and potential for fraud in both vendor selection and billing processes, Comptroller Liu has referred the matter to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for further review.

Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audits Tina Kim and her team for their hard work on the report, which can be found here:


The Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP) was initiated in 2004 to transform and consolidate the City‘s 911 Emergency Dispatch System. The objective of the ECTP is to centralize and integrate the call-taking and dispatch operations between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Fire Department of New York (FDNY), including its Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) division, into two fully integrated Public Safety Answering Centers (PSAC 1 and PSAC 2) equipped with state-of-the-art hardware and software communications systems.

On April 1, 2005, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) contracted with Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) as system integrator for the ECTP. The contract includes, but is not limited to, development for PSAC facilities, organizational transformation of the call-taking process, application integration for all Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems and the Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) system, and the communication infrastructure supporting the ECTP.

Comptroller Liu’s audit examined the awarding, management, and billing of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications’ $380 million contract with Hewlett Packard (HP) to conduct work on
ECTP. The audit reviewed the contract records over five years, from its awarding in 2005 through 2010.

Comptroller Liu has put strict payment requirements in place for the City’s second systems integration contract to complete this important project to ensure that this is not repeated:

In March, Comptroller Liu announced audit findings on the overall project management of ECTP by DoITT.  This report addresses a more detailed facet of that management, DoITT’s contract with HP.  The March audit can be found at:

On May 14th a delegation of Congressional representatives sent a letter to the Comptroller General of the United States, requesting an investigation into Mayor Bloomberg’s lack of oversight of spending on private contractors funded by the City of New York with help from federal funds.
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State Senator Rivera & Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Launch Second Year of Bronx CAN Health Initiative

State Senator Gustavo Rivera  and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., together with Montefiore Medical Center and other community health partners will launch the second year of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative on June 2nd at St. James Park. The Bronx CAN Health Initiative was launched in response to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's study that showed the Bronx as the unhealthiest county in the state of New York. This initiative will tackle issues of obesity, nutrition, exercise and access to preventative health in the Bronx. The month of June and the June 2nd launch on the initiative will be focused on physical fitness and exercise.

This event is the first in a series of Bronx CAN Health fairs. All events are free and open to the public. 

WHO: Senator Gustavo Rivera, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Montefiore Medical Center and other community partners 
WHAT: Launch of the Second Annual Bronx CAN Health Initiative
WHERE:  St. James Park- 2530 Jerome Ave Bronx NY 10468
WHEN: Saturday, June 2nd 2012 1:30-3:30 PM


Ben Franklin Endorsement 13 C.D.

  The room was packed with Ben Franklin Club members (of the 81st Assembly District), and many others to see just who the Ben Franklin Democratic Club would endorse in the Democratic Primary in the 13th Congressional District. There was also the option of a no endorsement vote, as it was the same for the other position on the agenda the 34th State Senate District. 

   The 34th S.D. was first up, and there were no challengers to incumbent Senator Jeff Klein who had just picked up the bulk of 81st A.D. after redistricting. That fact was pointed out by currentwho said that working with one state senator who has the bulk of the district is better than four who each have a small piece of the assembly district.

   A wrench was thrown into the mix by Lorraine Coyle Koppell (wife of Councilman G. Oliver Koppell) when she asked if Senator Klein would support a Democrat for leader of the state senate or a Republican if his vote would make the difference. Senator Klein said that he is a Democrat, and would support a Democrat for senate leader if the opportunity came up. 

   Next up were four of the five candidates running for the 13th Congressional District. Current State Senator Adriano Espiallat, Ms. Joyce Johnson, Current 15th C.D. Congressman Charlie Rangel, and Mr. Craig Schley. Mr. Clyde Williams the fifth candidate in the race for the 13 C.D. decided to forgo this endorsement meeting. There were some questions and then Ben Franklin Club President Ms. Ellen Feld read the rules for the voting, that there was always the choice of no endorsement also for any position. 

   Senator Jeff Klein received the endorsement of the Ben Franklin Club 59 yes to 19 no endorsement votes for a 75% margin. In the 13th C.D. Senator Espiallat won the endorsement with 54 votes (70%) to 13 for Congressman Rangel, 2 for Mr. Schley, 1 for Ms. Johnson, 1 for Mr. Williams, 4 no endorsement, and two invalid ballots with more than one candidate marked.

Left - 13 C.D. Candidate Ms. Joyce Johnson.   Right - 13 C.D. candidate Mr. Craig Schley. 

Left -  Senator Adriano Espiallat making his point for the endorsement.  Right - Congressman Charlie Rangel talking about his record in congress.

Left - A joyous Senator Espiallat after receiving the Ben Franklin endorsement for the 13 C.D. with supporter Councilman G. Oliver Koppell.    Right - Senator Jeff Klein with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Is Senate Minority Leader Sampson on his Way Out?

John Sampson 

    There are reports that several key Democrats in the state senate are being asked to replace current State Senate Minority Leader John Sampson. Sampson came to lead the Senate Democrats when they took the majority and control of the state senate in 2008. However that was after the infamous holdout by the "Four Amigos" which probably lead to the Republicans regaining control of the state senate in 2010. 
   Among those that have reportedly been approached have been State Senator Ruth Hassel-Thompson, State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, and Queens Senator Michael Gianaris. Also a long shot candidate is Brooklyn Senator Martin Dilan. 
   We could not reach State Senator Jeff Klein who was the Senate Deputy Minority Leader before Sampson took over for comment. After the Democrats lost control of the State Se4nate in 2010 Klein formed the Independent Democratic Conference with three other Democratic State Senators. 
    As far as we are concerned, Sampson can get a job at the new Aqueduct Racino.
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Mark Gjonaj 80 A.D.

    On Sunday May 27th Mr. Mark Gjonaj announced candidate for the 80th Assembly seat held a Memorial Day barbecue for veterans and the community at his campaign headquarters on Lydig Avenue. I stopped by briefly to chat with Mr. Gjonaj, some of those who attended, and took a few photos while I was there. I also asked many people about their current representative in the assembly from the 80th A.D., and got many different answers. The answers ranged from "I don't know who my representative is", "Jeff Klein", "Naomi Rivera", "Kenny Agosto", and "Jimmy Vacca". 

     When I said that Assemblywoman Rivera wants to run on her record the answers ranged from "What Record", to "I guess that means we may see her more now because she is up for reelection". Below are a few photos of the event.

Some 80th A.D. voters enjoying the barbecue by 80th A.D. candidate Mark Gjonaj.
    Some more 80th A.D. voters, who look like Mark Gjonaj fans, with one holding up a "VICTORY" sign for the election.
80th A.D. candidate Mark Gjonaj with Committee of 100 Democrats Chairman Ricky Martinez (a past candidate in the 80th A.D.).