Saturday, February 8, 2014

Funds Dedicated for Highway & Bridge Capital Projects Continue to be Diverted for Operating and Debt Costs

  New York State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli has issued a report that says -
Money in the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund continues to be diverted for non-capital purposes, leaving critical highway and bridge projects at increased risk as the state faces fiscal challenges and shrinking debt capacity, according to a report issued today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. 
"Taxpayers have paid billions in taxes and fees into a fund that was created to keep our roads and bridges in good repair. Now, more than three-quarters of this money is siphoned off to pay for borrowing and operating costs of state agencies, leaving fewer dollars for improving our infrastructure,”DiNapoli said. “While the state is making progress with its capital planning, New York needs a reliable source for investment in its transportation infrastructure and should restore the use of this fund for capital purposes.”
Created in 1991, the fund was initially intended to provide dedicated funding to reconstruct, replace and preserve the state’s highways and bridges. Funding comes from dedicated taxes and fees, including a gas tax, petroleum business tax, vehicle licensing fees and rental car tax. By 2002, debt payments had surpassed capital projects. Just 22.2 percent of its $3.8 billion disbursements were spent on capital construction in state fiscal year (SFY) 2012-13, according to DiNapoli’s report.
State operations costs also consume the greatest share of the fund: nearly $1.6 billion in the last fiscal year, including the costs of snow and ice removal by the Department of Transportation and day-to-day staff expenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Typically, staff expenses and snow and ice removal costs are regarded as ongoing costs of state operations and maintenance, not capital expenses.
The proposed Executive Budget for SFY 2014-15 projects capital disbursements to account for 23.5 percent of all trust fund disbursements, a slight increase from the current year. Meanwhile, combined debt service and operations spending is projected to remain at more than three-quarters of all fund spending.
The decline in cash support for New York’s highway and bridge program has continued since the Comptroller’s 2009 report, which found that the fund had shifted from support for the capital highway and bridge program to a broader transportation program. 
A useful measure of the health of the fund is called pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, which gauges the amount of cash in the fund that the state dedicates to pay for capital and operational expenses. PAYGO is an alternative to debt, which must be repaid over time with interest. PAYGO levels have declined steadily over the years, dropping to just over 28 percent in SFY 2012-13 and expected to fall to about 23 percent by SFY 2018-19. 
While some debt is appropriate for the state’s capital program, debt becomes a burden when the payment of debt service becomes such a large use of the fund.  When this happens New York’s ability to fund highway and bridge capital projects is constrained, DiNapoli’s report concludes.
The report also found:
  • In state fiscal year 2012-13, debt service accounted for 40.7 percent of all fund disbursements;
  • Since the creation of the fund through SFY 2012-13, capital disbursements have totaled $14.5 billion, or just 30.6 percent of all disbursements; and
  • The fund’s reliance on increasingly large transfers from the state’s general fund and federal funds shows no signs of reversing. The general fund subsidy is expected to climb to $849.6 million by state fiscal year 2018-19.
He called for a long-term plan to restore the fund to its core mission and increase pay-as-you-go financing for road and bridge capital purposes. The report includes revenues and spending for the past 20 years.
For a copy of the 2009 report, visit: 

Bronx Elected Officials & RWDSU Announce New Living Wage Bill

Bronx Elected Officials Unite to Introduce New City Council Bill that will Promote Labor Harmony at Future Living Wage Retail Developments 

***Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Annabel Palma, Ritchie Torres, and Stuart Appelbaum Jointly Announce New Living Wage Bill Today***

  The historic campaign for living wage jobs that grew out of the Bronx is re-emerging with a coalition of Bronx elected officials and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW announcing today the framework of a new City Council bill.

  Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilwoman Annabel Palma, Councilman Ritchie Torres, and  RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum are jointly announcing legislation that would include a labor harmony requirement for all future living wage retail developments subsidized with $1 million or more in city taxpayer money.

Councilwoman Annabel Palma will be the lead sponsor of the new bill, with Councilman Ritchie Torres serving as co-sponsor. The legislation will be introduced with the full support of RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Labor harmony promotes respectful relationships between workers and employers, and protects taxpayers by removing conflict from development projects and the tenant businesses that anchor them. Under the framework of the new bill, labor harmony would apply to all retail tenants of development projects subsidized at $1 million or more.

Labor harmony agreements for economic development are well-established in New York and around the country. They benefit taxpayers, workers and businesses. Employers maintain neutrality when it comes to workers’ efforts to join unions. And in return, unions agree not to engage in picketing and other disruptions in the operation and flow of commerce at tenant businesses in development projects.

“Under my administration, the Bronx has come a long way toward improving the quality of life of the hard working people of my borough.  Unfortunately, we still have far too many people struggling to make ends meet in every corner of this great city.  By strengthening our current living wage with a labor harmony requirement, we can do more to provide good jobs to the people of this city. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Bronx, I am proud to be working with the RWDSU and my colleagues in the City Council to introduce this powerful and necessary bill.  It’s a top priority for everyone involved in this coalition, and I look forward to the day that this bill is signed into law,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a leader of the recent living wage campaign that grew out of the Bronx.

When it comes to economic justice and workers’ rights, the Bronx is united.  We led the fight to pass the Living Wage Law and establish an essential linkage between public dollars, private development, and good-paying jobs. Now, through the use of labor harmony agreements, we intend to strengthen this link and more fully realize what we envisioned four years ago when we began this fight. There is a growing economic crisis in our communities, and this new living wage legislation will help us tackle it. I am committed to working with this coalition and my colleagues in government to get this done,” said Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who was a lead sponsor of the living wage legislation passed in 2012 and will now be the lead sponsor of this new living wage legislation.

“I grew up very poor in public housing in the Bronx, so the fight for living wage jobs has always been personal for me, my family, and my community. My brother has worked in many low-wage retail jobs. It's fitting that the fight for living wage jobs in our city is being driven by the Bronx, the borough with the lowest average wage for retail workers and where 1 in 3 residents lives in poverty. I am proud to stand with such a strong and unified coalition to support the very fundamental right of workers to earn a paycheck that can sustain a family. We are going to do everything in our power to ensure that this legislation is passed as soon as possible,” said Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Deputy Leader in the City Council, who will co-sponsor the new living wage legislation with Councilwoman Annabel Palma.

“The campaign for living wage jobs began in the Bronx at the Kingsbridge Armory, and I’m thrilled that several prominent Bronx leaders want to finish what was started there. The new bill will ensure that future taxpayer-subsidized living wage retail developments promote labor harmony. Greater unionization in retail, one of the fastest growing low-wage sectors of our economy, will help lift more New Yorkers out of poverty. A union contract is still the greatest anti-poverty program in our country’s history. We look forward to working with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio in this effort,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) UFCW, which led the campaign that passed the existing living wage legislation covering economic development in the City Council in 2012.


Friday, February 7, 2014

How Much has the City Spent on Snow Removal in 2014 and is Mayor de Blasio Cutting Back Already

How Much Has Snow Removal Cost the City in Recent Years?

  • The amount the city budgets each year for snow removal is set by a formula in the City Charter. The formula is the average of spending on snow removal in the five prior years—so the budget for 2014 is based on the actual amounts spent in fiscal years 2008–2012.
  • In some years the formula provides more funding than is needed while in other years, such as 2011 when the city had an extraordinary amount of snow, the formula-driven budget fell $87 million short of need. The formula budgeted $13 million more in 2012 than the city needed for snow removal and $19 million more in 2013.
  • If there is unused funding in the snow budget, that money is reallocated or becomes part of the city’s end of year budget surplus. Conversely, if the budgeted amount is short of what is needed, funds are drawn from other parts of the city budget to cover the expense.
Print version available here.
New York City By The Numbers

De Blasio Taps Transition Co-Chair as City Planning Commissioner

  This comes from the City & State website and begins -
Either Carl Weisbrod was the best and only man for the job, or he was the last man for the job. The mayor went to great lengths to make it clear that Weisbrod, the co-chair of his transition committee, was indisputably the right choice for a permanent job, drawing on his managerial experience and his history as a former executive director of the Department of City Planning. This was said at a Friday press conference announcing Weisbrod who will be working with Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

  “We need someone who not only understands the neighborhoods and communities we’re fighting for, but knows every tool that we have to get the job done. Because of his experience, Carl knows where those tools are,” de Blasio said writes City & State. “We see the City Planning Commission as a central piece of a strategy to change this city’s reality,” de Blasio said. “This is about getting all of the different agencies that have to interconnect in this process to work towards a common goal. That has not been the government that we’ve had here for a number of years.”“The housing authority [NYCHA] was fairly independent from what HPD and HDC was trying to accomplish; it had its own goals, and was moving in its own direction,” the source said. “It would be great if the new administration could bring them closer into the fold.”

  C&S goes on to say Weisbrod worked under both former mayor David Dinkins and Bloomberg, and later served as the head of the real estate division of Trinity Church. However, there are some who feel that de Blasio made an uninspired pick by not bringing in new blood. Harvey Robins, Dinkins’ former director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, called the selection “very disappointing.” Robins said that Weisbrod’s real estate past and Glen’s previous stint at finance giant Goldman Sachs contrasted with the mayor’s efforts to strike a progressive tone in developing the city’s economy.

  C&S ends with this - both Carl’s appointment and [Glen] if you put those together, it appears to be more of a continuation of Bloomberg.”


Mayor de Blasio Appoints First Lady Chirlane McCray As Chair Of The Mayor's Fund To Advance New York City

Also Appoints Gabrielle Fialkoff As Senior Advisor And Director Of The Office Of Strategic Partnerships 

   Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that he is appointing First Lady Chirlane McCray as Chairwoman of The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. This is a voluntary, unpaid position. Her office will be at 253 Broadway.

Established more than 20 years ago, the Mayor's Fund fosters strong public-private partnerships and investments across the city in the fields of youth development, health, the environment and the arts. The 2012 annual budget for the Mayor's Fund was $37 million.

As Chair, McCray will guide the Mayor's Fund's mission and priorities by building on its previous successes, and, after a thorough review of current projects, charting new territory reflecting the de Blasio administration's agenda. McCray will also serve as an ambassador to the Mayor's Fund's community partners and funders.

"My mission is to help families get the support they need. No matter how much they earn or what zip code they call home, I want them to have access to the same kind of resources my family depended on," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "We have our work cut out for us, and I am eager to roll up my sleeves and get out into the communities and start building one New York, where everyone rises together."

"I can't think of anyone with a better grasp of the core mission of this administration than my wife and partner, Chirlane," said Mayor de Blasio. "The Fund is an exciting opportunity to offer vital support to worthy projects and causes across the city, and I know Chirlane will help direct the Fund's resources to shine a light on communities and families in need. We have been handed a very strong foundation by Mayor Bloomberg, and we look forward to building on it."

The mayor also appointed Gabrielle Fialkoff to serve as Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. Fialkoff will oversee and direct public-private partnerships for the administration, with oversight of The Mayor's Fund, The Fund for Public Schools, the Fund for Public Health, and other 501c3's.

"The Office of Strategic Partnerships has incredible potential to direct private funds toward vital city agencies and projects," said Gabrielle Fialkoff. "I look forward to harnessing these resources to further the mayor's agenda of fighting economic inequality and lifting all New Yorkers up together."
"Gabrielle has been a close friend and trusted advisor for years, and I'm proud to officially bring her on to the de Blasio team today," said Mayor de Blasio. "As Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, Gabrielle will offer valuable leadership and direction to the city's public-private partnerships - and as senior advisor, she will continue to lend her expertise and knowledge to this administration."

About The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City: The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which facilitates innovative public-private partnerships throughout New York City's five boroughs. The Fund relies on individuals, foundations, and corporations to support public programs in areas including the environment, youth development, financial empowerment, health, volunteerism and the arts.

About the Office of Strategic Partnerships: The Office will oversee and direct public-private partnerships for the administration with oversight of The Mayors Fund, The Fund for Public Schools and the Fund for Public Health, among other 501c3's associated with city agencies. The Office will coordinate the mission and strategy of the Funds, leverage assets and administer private funds to the agencies where applicable.  The Office will coordinate inter-agency efforts as they relate to raising private funds to further the strategic initiatives established by the Office to help the people of New York.


Toll Reduction on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for Staten Island Residentss

Current Crossing Charges — Effective 2AM March 3, 2013 by the MTA

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (Roundtrip toll collected entering Staten Island only)


Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, & RFK Bridges; Hugh L Carey1 & Queens Midtown Tunnels

Henry Hudson Bridge (non stop cashless operation)
Toll by Mail

Cross Bay and Marine Parkway Bridges

Token*** $2.50

Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
Under the new pricing scheme, Staten Island drives with an EZ pass will pay $5.50 per trip, a drop from the already discounted $6 that many EZ pass users currently pay. Commercial drivers would also benefit from the plan — trucks using the bridge more than 10 times a month would see about a 20 percent cut in tolls.
- See more at:
Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
Under the new pricing scheme, Staten Island drives with an EZ pass will pay $5.50 per trip, a drop from the already discounted $6 that many EZ pass users currently pay. Commercial drivers would also benefit from the plan — trucks using the bridge more than 10 times a month would see about a 20 percent cut in tolls.
- See more at:
 Under a plan announced Thursday by Governor Cuomo Staten Island residents will see the toll they pay for crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge reduced from the current discounted EZ-pass toll of $6.00 to $5.50. 

So how come the Henry Hudson Bridge which was 10 cents to cross at the same time the Cross Bay and Marine Parkway Bridges were 10 cents costs more to cross now?

Also why is the Henry Hudson Bridge not discounted to Bronx residents as the Cross Bay & Marine Parkway Bridges and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are Governor Cuopmo?

If you can do it for residents of Staten Island and Queens why not then for the Bronx residents.

The toll details are taken from the MTA bridge & tunnel toll information site.

Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday. - See more at:
Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
Under the new pricing scheme, Staten Island drives with an EZ pass will pay $5.50 per trip, a drop from the already discounted $6 that many EZ pass users currently pay. Commercial drivers would also benefit from the plan — trucks using the bridge more than 10 times a month would see about a 20 percent cut in tolls.
- See more at:
Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
Under the new pricing scheme, Staten Island drives with an EZ pass will pay $5.50 per trip, a drop from the already discounted $6 that many EZ pass users currently pay. Commercial drivers would also benefit from the plan — trucks using the bridge more than 10 times a month would see about a 20 percent cut in tolls.
- See more at:
Staten Island residents traveling across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will pay less in tolls under a plan announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
Under the new pricing scheme, Staten Island drives with an EZ pass will pay $5.50 per trip, a drop from the already discounted $6 that many EZ pass users currently pay. Commercial drivers would also benefit from the plan — trucks using the bridge more than 10 times a month would see about a 20 percent cut in tolls.
- See more at:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Is Set to destroy The National Puerto Rican Day Parade

By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
District 32 Bronx County, New York

  Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Is Set to destroy The National Puerto Rican Day Parade

You should know that since 1958, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade has been the greatest source of Puerto Rican unity in New York City.  In good and bad times, this Parade has been the Number One symbol of Puerto Rican pride. The Parade draws more than one million people annually to celebrate Puerto Rico’s rich heritage and culture.  All Puerto Ricans – even people like me who don’t march in Sunday parades – appreciate the magnitude of the day.

You should also know that since 1988, I have hosted an “Abrazo Boricua in New York” a Banquet to celebrate the Puerto Rican community for its outstanding commitment to New York State’s success.  Each of these events, held during the week of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, has been a tremendous success!

Our community should know that this week, El Diario la Prensa, the New York Post, and various media outlets have been reporting that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is expected to oust some or all of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade’s Board Members.  So has my fellow Puerto Rican Gerson Borrero, who continues to bring this issue to light on NY1 during the Political Rundown.  He rightly continues to hammer Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose late findings to severely penalize the Parade Board will ruin the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

You should know that with only four months to go until the 2014 Puerto Rican Day Parade steps off on Fifth Avenue, any negative announcement about the Parade Board by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman it is intended to and most definitely hurt the Puerto Rican community.

You should also know that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has taken almost seven months to conclude his investigation about an alleged conflict of interest between certain Board Members of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Miller/Coors Brewery.

My dear reader, if something seems to be wrong, it should be investigated, but it is hard to imagine that there is any good reason for such an investigation to conclude and coincide with the timing of final parade commitments.  Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s untimely announcement – only 4 months before the actual Parade takes place – will certainly raise skepticism and put fear into Parade advertisers, sponsors and participants.  Whether or not any allegations of misconduct against the Parade’s Board Members are even established, the timing of this announcement is detrimental to the prospects for this year’s Parade and definitely hurts the Puerto Rican community and its parade.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to make clear that I am not defending any action or any wrong doing, neither I am defending any board member, but I am a proud Puerto Rican and I have to ask myself: Why has New York State’s Attorney General waited so long to make this announcement?  If Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decides so late in the game to release any findings to oust Parade Board Members, doesn’t he know that he will rob the new Parade Board of effective leadership, leaving very little time to have new Board Members elected and be able to review and authorize contracts and make other necessary arrangements by June 8th?  Is Attorney General Eric Schneiderman determined to jeopardize the 2014 National Puerto Rican Day Parade and make it a failure?  Does he know how this will hurt the Puerto Rican community, and does he care?

I am Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo to host a FAFSA & NYS Unclaimed Funds Workshop

  New York State Higher Education Services, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, State Senator Ruben Diaz, State Senator Jeffrey Klein, Councilmember Annabel Palma and myself will be bringing a FAFSA & NYS Unclaimed Funds Workshop to Clason’s Point Library which is located at 1215 Morrison Avenue Bronx, NY 10472 on February 8th, 2014 from 3pm-5pm. 

I am hoping you can help me spread the word. Even if you know someone who doesn’t have children they should still come to this event because there is an opportunity for them to see if the State Comptroller’s Office has any unclaimed funds. Unclaimed funds range from but not limited to bank accounts from banks who no longer exist, security deposits to cell phone providers  that no longer exist, tax returns that was never received, accounts that a relative or someone close to you may have created and never told you.
  New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, State Senator Ruben Diaz, State Senator Jeffrey Klein, and Councilmember Annabel Palma, and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo -
Present a Workshop on:

FAFSA  (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

NYS Unclaimed Funds

February 8th, 2014

3pm – 5pm

NYPL Clason’s Point Branch

1215 Morrison Avenue Bronx, New York 10472

For more information or for community related services please contact Assemblyman Crespo's office at 718-893-0202.


  The MTA's two-year rehabilitation of the Dyckman St 1 station, which greatly improves conditions for customers and adds a new elevator, was marked today by a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by MTA Board Vice Chairman Fernando Ferrer, NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco, NYC Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa, MTA officials and community leaders from Upper Manhattan.

This $31 million rehabilitation project, which includes the addition of a new state-of-the-art elevator from the station mezzanine to the southbound platform, was completed in November.  Over the past two years, the station has undergone major repairs to its interior and exterior finishes.

"We have been able to fully rehabilitate this historic station improving the structural aspects and customer amenities while retaining the unique architectural features that have made this station so visually special," NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco said.

"As part of this contract, NYC Transit was also able to carry out line structure steel repairs, waterproofing and track replacement," said MTA Vice Chairman Fernando Ferrer.  "Together with the other work we have completed along this corridor, customers will see more reliable service and vastly improved amenities."

After years of deferred maintenance, the finished station now has new concrete platforms, a refurbished Fort George Tunnel Portal, new platform windscreens, new canopies (which include salvaged wood rafters), and a refurbished control area with restored historic finishes. 

Some of these finishes include wood frame windows, mosaic tiles, granite floor tiles, plaster ceiling, ceramic wall tiles and "iron-spot" bricks, replicated cast iron guardrails, and restored mosaic tile signage at the platform level.  New cast iron lighting was installed at the entrance and platform level, designed to reflect the historical era of the originals.  

The new elevator, serving the downtown platform, is the first of its kind to be installed inside New York City Transit.  It features an energy-efficient, reliable, machine room-less (MRL) elevator system.  This type of elevator uses conventional steel cord ropes as hoisting cables operated by a motorized traction hoisting machine installed at the top side wall.       

Other upgrades that will also improve access for the disabled include a ramp at the station entrance, realignment of the station platforms, modification of the staircases, and the installation of new railings and door handles.  The sidewalk leading to the station head-house has been reconfigured to improve pedestrian safety.

In addition to the Dyckman St 1 Station Rehab, component work at a cost of approximately $23 million was completed at five other stations: 207 St, 215 St, 225 St, 238 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St.  Platform edges and canopies were replaced at all five stations.  Street stairs were also replaced at the 207 St and 225 St stations.

At Dyckman St, MTA Arts for Transit commissioned an artist to create additional artwork during the station's rehabilitation.  In creating the artwork for the station, Wopo Holup found inspiration in nature.  "Birds in Flight-Moon View" consists of ceramic tile reliefs of birds in flight that were originally installed in 1991 within the white tile of the mezzanine wall and stairwells.  The new work provides a view of the earth as seen from the moon.  In the artist's words, "Birds in Flight-Moon View" greets customers upon entering the station and emphasizes nature and the vastness of the universe.'' 

Opened in 1906, the Dyckman St 1 Station is a design unique in the system and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The outdoor station situated just north of the Fort George Tunnel portal has two side platforms above a masonry head house. The fare control area is located in the station building below track level. 

"For Upper Manhattan residents, the 1 train is nothing short of a lifeline.  It's a vital route that our community relies to get to work, school and everything in between," said Senator Adriano Espaillat. "After fighting for urgently-needed improvements at this heavily trafficked station, it is exciting to unveil the results for our neighborhood. The new station is safer, better designed and more accessible. Dyckman Streetcommuters are going to be thrilled."

"These repairs - which will include an increase in accessibility for the thousands of strap hangers using the newly refurbished Dyckman Street 1 station is a breath of fresh air for Inwood and Washington Heights residents," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I applaud the work New York City Transit and my colleague Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez have done to ensure that our residents get the best this transit system has to offer."

NYC Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said: "Lack of accessibility to Uptown subway stations has long been an issue for this community. With these station upgrades, the MTA is taking a strong step toward expanding the scope of transportation for the many disabled persons in Northern Manhattan. Combined with the recent structural renovations, the Dyckman St 1 station is now one of which our community can be proud. I hope we can continue to locate areas to improve accessibility both uptown and around NYC so that all New Yorkers are able to use our great public transportation system."

"As Inwood continues to see a commercial resurgence, I'm excited to see the Dyckman 1 train station receive an essential renovation to ensure that residents in the area have access to a much-needed upgraded public transportation," said Council Member Mark Levine. "This station proudly served the area for 108 years, as part of the National Register of Historic Places in New York City, and has long needed to be revamped. Now the community can reap the transportation benefits of a modern station that they need and deserve."

Dinowitz Legislation Will Increase Access to Life-Saving Overdose Antidote Naloxone

  Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) has announced that he is sponsoring legislation in the Assembly, A.8637, which would help prevent accidental opioid overdoses and save thousands of lives in New York by increasing access to the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone. The legislation expands on a 2005 law Assemblyman Dinowitz authored to establish opioid antagonists as effective treatments. If administered during an overdose, Nalaxone can effectively and safely reverses the overdose by blocking the effects of opiates on the body.

“In the last few months and particularly in the last few days there has been a new light shed on accidental overdoses related to opioid abuse” said Assemblyman Dinowitz. “This legislation will create further access to a life-saving drug that when administered properly is known to stop the effects of accidental overdoses. If we create more access in conjunction with ramping up outreach efforts, we can help save thousands of lives each year.”

Accidental drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death in New York, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. Studies have shown that most overdoses are witnessed, and there is a 1-3 hour window in which an opioid overdose can be reversed, making many deaths preventable. Naloxone has proven to be a highly effective tool in reversing overdoses when properly administered.

This new legislation will allow for health care professionals to issue standing orders, also known as non-patient specific prescriptions, to certified training programs that would in turn train individuals on the signs of overdose and provide them with the Naloxone kits. By increasing availability of Nalaxone and access for those most likely to need the antidote, this legislation will decrease the number of accidental deaths caused by accidental opioid overdose dramatically.

The problem of opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the country and although Assemblyman Dinowitz has been working on expanding Nalaxone access for several weeks, two recent headlines, including the tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to a presumed heroin overdose, have highlighted the need to expand opioid treatment options. An instance of a man’s life being saved in Rensselaer County by a sheriff’s deputy trained as an EMT who administered Nalaxone has also been in the news, and serves as a reminder that overdoses can be effectively treated with lives saved. Both tragedies show just how widespread the problem is, both geographically and societally.

“Now is the time to take the next step in expanding access to this critical antidote.  Law enforcement organizations are taking steps to train their members in administration, community based organizations are asking for help in obtaining more Naloxone, and the families of victims and potential victims of accidental overdose are asking for our help” said Dinowitz. “I call on my colleagues to join me in supporting this vital legislation.”

The legislation in the State Senate, S.6744, is sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon. The bill was reported out of the Senate Health Committee this week, there has been no action yet in the Assembly.
To become a law this bill must pass both the state senate and state assembly, and then be signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bronx Clinic Owner And 23 Other Individuals Involved In Illegal Distribution Of More Than Five Million Oxycodone Pills

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Bridget G. Brennan, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York (“SNP”), James J. Hunt, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and William Bratton, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment against 24 defendants in connection with a massive drug distribution ring that operated out of a purported medical clinic with multiple locations in the Bronx, New York, known as “Astramed,” and unlawfully distributed more than five million tablets of the prescription painkiller oxycodone over a three-year period. The participants in the distribution ring included doctors, clinic employees, and drug traffickers who oversaw crews of “patients” who they sent into the clinics in order to obtain medically unnecessary prescriptions. The prescriptions were then filled at pharmacies, and the resulting pills resold on the streets of New York and elsewhere.
  Twenty-one defendants were arrested yesterday in connection with today’s charges. The defendants will be presented in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein later this afternoon. Related charges against one of the clinic doctors were also unsealed today by SNP. The defendant is expected to be arraigned later today in Manhattan Supreme Court before Judge Bruce Allen.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The world of prescription drug trafficking is looking more and more like the world of old-school trafficking in narcotics like heroin, cocaine and crack. In this case, the drug spot was a clinic controlled by traffickers, often through intimidation and violence. The traffickers were supplied with prescriptions by corrupt doctors and clinic employees, dispensed to lower-level ‘pretend’ patients so that massive quantities of oxycodone could be distributed wherever the most money could be made, often in communities hundreds of miles away. This is poison by prescription, and the volume and money allegedly involved would make hardened illegal drug traffickers envious – over 31,000 medically unnecessary oxycodone prescriptions for 5.5 million tablets sold with a street value between $170 million and over half a billion dollars. Even legal drugs illegally obtained can be deadly, and more people have been dying from prescription drug abuse than heroin and cocaine combined. Unnecessary painkillers can simply end up being killers. This has to stop and we will do everything we can to stop it.”
  Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said: “These clinics have long been a source of community concern and complaints. Dr. Robert Terdiman is charged with selling prescriptions for highly addictive painkillers on a scale we have not seen before – flooding the black market with oxycodone carrying a street value of over $90 million. Not only is he charged with perpetuating a practice that did little to heal and much to harm, both he and The Clinic reaped huge profits. We would like to recognize the extraordinary commitment and dedication of all of the agencies that participated in this investigation.”
  DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said, “Twenty two arrests, the dismantlement of the largest pill mill in the northeast and the ability for residents living near Southern Boulevard and Westchester Avenue in the Bronx to reclaim their neighborhood from drug dealers are the end results of unified police work by local, state and federal law enforcement in New York. I commend the diligent work of the numerous law enforcement agencies who participated in this investigation.”
   NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said: “Instead of abiding by the Hippocratic Oath, these doctors scheduled pseudo physical exams for greed and self-profit. They fueled a criminal operation which distributed highly addictive prescription drugs in the Bronx community and surrounding areas. Thanks to the investigators and prosecutors in this case, Lowe and his crew will no longer traffic illegal drugs.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment and other documents unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
   Senator Jeff Klein applauded the work of New York City and State law enforcement in arresting and indicting Dr. Robert Terdiman, Dr. Kevin Lowe and 21 individuals who took part in an illegal scheme to sell prescriptions for oxycodone at their clinic, Astramed Physicians, PC, in the Bronx. The two year investigation leading to yesterday’s arrest and indictment came from a tip provided by Senator Klein’s office, alerting them of potentially illegal activity at that site in 2010.  
 Senator Klein said: “For years, the physicians at Astramed have illegally sold narcotics prescriptions to individuals who could score up to $30 per pill on the black market. But the impact of Astramed’s illegal activity went beyond just the illegal sale of prescriptions. Astramed – which moved three separate times in the Bronx before being caught – fundamentally disrupted the quality of life for residents and small business owners in the surrounding area. When I first learned of possible suspicious activity at Astramed, I reached out to partners at stage agencies immediately, and eventually teamed up with law enforcement to monitor activity.
 “I commend Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan, the DEA, the NYPD and the U.S. Attorney’s office for putting an end to the despicable practices of Astramed’s physicians. We cannot – and will not – allow pill mills like Astramed open doors in our communities. I am proud of the immediate action my office took to bring attention to Astramed’s illegal activities and am thrilled that our community will finally be rid of this scourge to our way of life.”
 Four years ago, a constituent of Senator Klein’s notified Klein’s office of a possible methadone clinic instituted without notification to the community. Klein’s office tried to call the clinic, but both the physicians and their office administrators did not return calls. After contacting numerous state agencies, including the NYS Dept. Of Health, NYS OASAS, NYS Office of Mental Health and NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities to learn more about the services Astramed provided, Klein’s office contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration.
 Working with investigators from the NYS Department of Health in the summer of 2010, Klein’s office established through video surveillance that between 75 – 100 people were coming out of the office in any given day, along with a preponderance of cars with out-of-state plates surrounding the location.
 In October 2010, Astramed moved to 2029 Westchester Avenue in Castle Hill. Klein’s office continued to field complaints from the surrounding community while the investigation by law enforcement was ongoing. They subsequently moved to a location on Southern Boulevard.
   Oxycodone is a highly addictive, prescription narcotic-strength opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. More than 13 million Americans abuse oxycodone, with the misuse of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone leading to as many as 500,000 annual emergency room visits. Oxycodone prescriptions have enormous cash value to street level drug dealers, who can fill the prescriptions at most pharmacies and resell the resulting pills at vastly inflated rates. Indeed, a single prescription for 180 30-milligram oxycodone pills has an average resale value in New York City of more than $6,000, and up to $18,000 in nearby states.
  From approximately January 2011 until January 2014, a drug distribution ring centered at “Astramed,” a purported medical clinic with multiple locations in the Bronx, including a primary location on Southern Boulevard (the “Clinic”), unlawfully diverted and trafficked millions of oxycodone tablets, which netted participants in the distribution scheme hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds.
Astramed was owned and operated by KEVIN LOWE, a medical doctor, who reaped millions of dollars by charging cash for the thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions written by the clinic doctors (the “Doctors”). The Doctors were corrupt, Board-certified, state- licensed doctors who, in exchange for cash, were willing to write medically unnecessary prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone. The Clinic typically charged $300 in the form of a money order for “doctor visits” that usually lasted just a minute or two, involved no actual physical examination, and consistently resulted in the issuance of a prescription for large doses of oxycodone, typically 180 30-milligram tablets, or a daily dosage of six 30-milligram tablets. Indeed, the Doctors, who worked directly for LOWE, were paid only for each prescription they wrote – rather than for each patient they saw – and they were paid nothing if they did not write a prescription.
Various employees of the Astramed clinics controlled access to the Doctors and created false documents in exchange for cash payments. To avoid detection by law enforcement, the Doctors sometimes asked the “patients” for medical documentation, such as MRIs, purporting to document injuries, or urine samples purporting to show that the “patient” was taking oxycodone. Fake MRIs and urine samples were sold by members of the conspiracy to Astramed’s “patients,” typically inside the Clinic or immediately outside its premises.
  The Clinic itself bears little resemblance to a standard medical office. For example, on a daily basis during the time set forth in the Indictment, crowds of up to one hundred people gathered outside the Clinic, clamoring to see one of the doctors at the clinic and thereby get a prescription for oxycodone. The majority of these individuals had no medical need for oxycodone, or any legitimate medical record documenting an ailment for which oxycodone would be prescribed. Instead, most of these individuals were members of “crews” – that is, they were recruited and paid by high-level drug traffickers, oxycodone distributors (the “Crew Chiefs”), to pose as “patients” in order to receive medically unnecessary prescriptions from the Doctors. The Crew Chiefs then arranged for and oversaw the filling of the resulting prescription at various pharmacies and took possession of the oxycodone pills to be resold on the street. Crew Chiefs also paid the Clinic’s employees hundreds of dollars in cash at a time to get their Crew Members into the Clinic to see one of the Doctors. The Crew Chiefs maintained their joint control over the operations of the Clinic, in part, as a result of intimidation and the threat of violence.
  In total, between approximately January 2011 and January 2014, Astramed Doctors issued approximately 31,500 medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone, comprising nearly 5.5 million oxycodone tablets with a street value of up to $550 million. LOWE alone collected nearly $12 million in fees for “doctor visits” during this time period. Based on the street market value of the pills distributed, the participants in the distribution ring together made hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the clinic fees charged and the proceeds obtained from the resale of the illegally obtained oxycodone.
*                      *                      *
All of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
A chart containing each defendant’s age and residence information is attached. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield.
  Mr. Bharara thanked the DEA and the NYPD for their work in the 15-month investigation, which he noted is ongoing. Mr. Bharara also thanked, the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the Town of Orangetown Police Department, the Westchester County Police Department, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Marshals Service, the New York State Health Department’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, New York City's Human Resource Administration, the New York State Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Beacon New York Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the El Dorado Task Force for their assistance.
  The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward B. Diskant and Tatiana R. Martins are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney Micah Smith of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit is responsible for the forfeiture of assets.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


A Bronx Councilman Goes his Own Way

  The story in Capitol New York begins with a photo of Councilman Ritchie Torres of the 15th council district here in the Bronx. At age 25 freshman council member has played his cards as a pro. It continues he went alone against the Bronx Democratic County organization with his energetic endorsement of Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito for the position of Speaker, and now reaps the reward as the new chair of the committee that he wanted that being Public Housing. 

  Capitol New York then goes into a personal history of Ritchie Torres before he was elected to the City Council, and why Torres was for Councilwoman Mark-Viverito over the rest of the Bronx council delegation who pledged support for her opponent to become speaker.
The last line quotes a comment from Bronx Democratic County Leader Assemblyman Carl Heastie on the events of Councilman Torres. Heastie said he's currently focused on this year's election cycle.
“Councilman Torres should be focused on serving his constituents, strongly representing their interests and fighting for their needs". 

  You can find the entire Capitol New York Story on Councilman Ritchie Torres here.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

50th Birthday Party Fundraisr for Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.

This fundraiser comes from Sepulveda for Assembly.

Contribution Form

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City: ______________________ State: _____ Zip Code: __________

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Mail contributions to: Oshrie Zak, Treasurer

Sepulveda for Assembly

 881 Gerard Ave, Bronx, NY 10452

Thank you for our generous support.

Paid for by Sepulveda for Assembly.

A Few Questions for Mayor Bill de Blasio Regarding the New York City Housing Authority

By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
District 32 Bronx County, New York

A Few Questions for Mayor Bill de Blasio Regarding the New York City Housing Authority

You should know that the problems within the New York City Housing Authority are among the biggest headaches that our new Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to confront during his tenure as New York City Mayor.

The rampant problems in the New York City Housing Authority are well known and have been well documented in a series of articles written in the New York Daily News by journalists such as Greg B. Smith, Denis Slattery, Lisa L. Colangelo, Jan Ransom, Kerry Burke and Bill Hutchinson among others. They all have written vast stories about the unhealthy conditions, mismanagement, neglect, abuses, poor maintenance and lack of respect and consideration to New York City Housing Authority residents.

“Be careful what you wish for, you may get it,” is an old proverb attributed to a classic horror story that appeared in Harpers Monthly in 1902.  I fully realize that Mayor Bill de Blasio was not the Mayor when all these problems occurred. Nonetheless, they were one of the central topics and issues during his campaign.  Therefore, I have a few questions for our Mayor Bill de Blasio.

1) As a candidate for Mayor, Bill de Blasio, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the other Democratic candidates for Mayor: Christine Quinn, John Liu, Bill Thompson and Anthony Weiner, spent one hot, humid July night sleeping in an apartment in the Lincoln Houses.  After that sleepless night, Mr. Mayor, what did you learn from that experience and how will you use that experience to help the millions of residents who live in New York City Housing Authority apartments?

2) As recently as August, 2013, the New York City Housing Authority failed to spend fifty (50) million dollars that was allocated for repairs. While this money was allocated by the New York City Council, it was taxpayer money that should have been used for much needed repairs.
Mr. Mayor, what has happened to the fifty (50) million dollars and have the repairs been made?
3) In July, the New York Daily News reported that while forty-two (42) million dollars had been set aside for security cameras, only 11 had been installed out of a total of 86.  Mr. Mayor, what   is the status of the installation of the remaining 75 security cameras?
4) In August, in the heat of the summer, raw sewage was flowing from toilets and bathtubs in Senior Citizens’ ground floor apartments in the Throggs Neck Houses.
Mr. Mayor, what has been done to fix this disgusting problem and serious health issue that our Senior Citizens have been living with in the New York City Housing Authority apartments?
5) In December, the New York City Housing Authority agreed to clean up mold and related problems within 15 days and it signed off on a settlement agreeing to the supervision of a federal court.
Mr. Mayor, the 15 days have come and gone.  Has anyone been assigned from your administration to find out what is the status of the mold remediation?
6) Senior citizens were freezing in their apartments in the Throggs Neck Houses and Mott Haven Houses two days before Thanksgiving, and just last week the same problem occurred in the PS 139 Conversion Houses in Harlem because the heating systems failed.
Mr. Mayor, what will be done to fix the heating systems in every NYCHA building, especially those that have been so neglected in minority areas such as the Bronx and Harlem, so we don’t have to worry about Senior Citizens freezing to death?
Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know that these problems are not Mayor de Blasio’s fault, but they are now his problem and he has the duty and responsibility to find answers and solutions, because after all, he slept in one of these apartments on the condition and promise that if elected Mayor he would find remedies to these problems. And as I said before “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” 
And now Mr. Mayor, you got it.  

I am State Senator Ruben Diaz and this is what you should know.