Saturday, December 20, 2014

Two NYPD Officers Fatally Shot in Brooklyn


    Just before 3 PM today two Police officers from the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn were shot dead while sitting in their patrol car at the corner of Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues by the Tompkins NYCHA housing complex in Bedford Stuyvesant. 

   The officers were taken to Woodhull Hospital a few blocks away where they both died. 

    It has been reported that the shooter ran into the nearby subway station where he shot himself in the head. The shooter was then taken to Kings County Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

   No identification of the officers or the shooter has been released yet, and Mayor de Blasio will be having a press conference on the matter soon with Police Commissioner Bratton.

   The last officer to be shot and killed was 22-year veteran Peter Figoski in December 2011

Statements are now coming in from the elected officials, and will be pouriong in all night.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and fellow officers of the two NYPD officers who were shot and killed today in Brooklyn. Though we may at times be critical of tactics, that does not diminish the support and admiration I have for New York's Finest. These men and women put their lives on the line everyday to keep our communities safe, and their sacrifice demands our respect. The people of The Bronx are praying for these two heroes.

Councilmember Ritchie Torres .

"I am horrified, as all decent New Yorkers should be, by the recent murder of two police officers in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Any one who shoots a NYC police officer, much less executes one in cold blood, should be aggressively prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."  

Assemblyman Luis SepĂșlveda 

“The death of two NYPD officers this weekend is nothing short of a tragedy. Our city stands in mourning for these two men, heroes, sworn to protect it. Sources throughout my district have recognized these men as officers having previously served the 43rd Precinct, which has in turn served its citizens loyally for many years. My community and I send our prayers and condolences to the families of these great men.”


Department Of Justice Takes Legal Action To Address Pattern And Practice Of Excessive Force And Violence At Rikers Island Jails That Violates The Constitutional Rights Of Young Male Inmates


  Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Vanita Gupta, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights for the Department of Justice, announced today that the United States has taken legal action to ensure that critically important reforms are put in place to address conduct at Rikers Island that has violated the constitutional rights of New York City’s youngest inmates, who are between the ages of 16 and 18 (“Young Inmates”). Specifically, the Department of Justice has filed a motion seeking the Court’s permission to join and become a plaintiff in a pending class action lawsuit against New York City, Nunez v. City of New York (the “Nunez Action”), which alleges that the Department of Correction (“DOC”) has engaged in a pattern and practice of using unnecessary and excessive force against inmates. The Department has taken this legal step as part of its ongoing effort to ensure that DOC implements all needed institutional reforms promptly, and that these reforms are lasting, verifiable, and enforceable through the judicial process.
Attorney General Eric Holder said: “With this filing, the Department of Justice is taking an important step to ensure the safety and constitutional rights of young people incarcerated at Rikers Island. We’ve seen alarming evidence of unnecessary and excessive use of force against juveniles, as well as a systemic failure to protect them from violence and deeply troubling -- and potentially scarring -- use of solitary confinement. This action allows the Justice Department to seek necessary reforms to remedy these unlawful conditions, to ensure fair treatment, and to provide all incarcerated young people with the protections, and opportunities to build better futures, that they deserve.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Sometimes it’s the case that bureaucracy can get in the way of reform-minded thinking and comprehensive cultural change. We hope that won’t be the case here. We welcome the aspirations articulated by Commissioner Ponte but we hope those aspirations will find concrete expression in the form of permanent, enforceable, and verifiable terms in a court-approved settlement agreement. The devil, as they say, is in the details and we have come to the conclusion that joining the pending case as a formal party is the best and most efficient way to get those details done. That is why we are now taking the steps necessary to carry out our responsibility under the law. Given the longstanding sad state of affairs at Rikers Island, our impatience is more than understandable. As I’ve said before, one way or another, we will get enduring and enforceable reform at Rikers Island.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said: “Today we are taking legal action to ensure that critically important reforms are put in place to address the culture of violence and overuse of punitive segregation at Rikers Island that has violated the constitutional rights of New York City’s youngest inmates. We stand ready to work with the City to remedy these deeply disturbing conditions for the safety of confined youth, remedies that will ultimately also promote public safety and the safety of correctional officers.”
On August 4, 2014, the Department issued a report that concluded that “a deep-seated culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent facilities at Rikers, and DOC staff routinely use force not as a last resort, but instead as a means to control the adolescent population and punish disorderly or disrespectful behavior.” The report urged the City to adopt and implement over 70 specific remedial measures. Although DOC’s new leadership has taken some positive steps in response to the report with respect to the 16- and 17-year-old population, including reducing the inmate-to-staff ratio, developing new programming, and moving toward eliminating the use of punitive segregation, much more needs to be done.
The Department’s proposed 36-page Complaint-in-Intervention (“Complaint”), filed today along with a motion to intervene in the Nunez Action, alleges that the City has engaged in a pattern and practice of violating the constitutional rights of Young Inmates, and that the City’s deliberate indifference to these constitutional rights has caused these inmates serious physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Like the August 4, 2014, report, the Complaint focuses on use of force by staff, inmate-on-inmate violence, and the use of punitive segregation.
Specifically, the Complaint alleges:
  • Staff use force against Young Inmates with alarming frequency. In Fiscal Year 2014, there were 553 reported staff use of force incidents involving Young Inmates at the Robert D. Davoren Center (“RNDC”) and the Eric M. Taylor Center (“EMTC”), the two facilities that housed most Young Inmates. These incidents resulted in 1,088 injuries.
  • Inmate-on-inmate fights and assaults are pervasive in large part because inmates are inadequately supervised by inexperienced and poorly trained officers. In Fiscal Year 2014, there were 657 reported inmate-on-inmate fights involving Young Inmates at RNDC and EMTC.
  • Staff use of force and inmate-on-inmate fights and assaults have resulted in an alarming number of serious injuries to Young Inmates, including broken jaws, broken orbital bones, broken noses, long bone fractures, and lacerations requiring stitches.
  • Staff frequently punch, strike, or kick Young Inmates in the head or facial area.
  • Force is used as a means to punish Young Inmates, and staff unnecessarily continue to use force against inmates who already have been restrained.
  • Force is used in response to inmate verbal taunts and insults.
  • Specialized response teams, including probe and cell extraction teams, use excessive force.
  • Staff regularly tell inmates to “stop resisting,” even though the inmate has been completely subdued, to justify the use of force.
  • Use of excessive force is common in areas outside video surveillance coverage. DOC recently transferred many 18-year-old inmates to housing units that have no video surveillance at all.
The Complaint further alleges that, notwithstanding a long and troubled history of pervasive use of force against inmates at Rikers, the City has for years failed to address systemic deficiencies, including:
  • Failure to ensure that use of force is accurately reported, and allowing a powerful code of silence to persist.
  • Failure to conduct thorough and comprehensive investigations into use of force incidents.
  • Failure to appropriately discipline staff for using excessive and unnecessary force.
  • Failure to ensure that inmates are adequately supervised.
  • Failure to implement an adequate age-appropriate classification system.
  • Failure to provide staff with effective training on the proper use of force and how to appropriately manage youth.
In addition, the Complaint asserts that the City has engaged in a pattern and practice of placing Young Inmates in punitive segregation at an alarming rate and for excessive periods of time.
Since issuing its report in August, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has had several meetings with the City’s Law Department regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s proposed remedial measures. Some of these discussions have included attorneys representing the Nunez plaintiffs, who have been engaging in settlement discussions with the City for several months. However, thus far, although there has been some constructive dialogue, the City has been unwilling to commit to an enforceable agreement including the type of reforms and oversight that are necessary to fully address the long-standing problems at Rikers and safeguard the constitutional rights of inmates.
Mr. Bharara thanked the Board of Correction for its continuing assistance in connection with this matter.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey K. Powell and Emily E. Daughtry are in charge of the case.
14-379

Former Consultant To New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Sentenced In White Plains Federal Court To Three Years In Prison For Tax And Fraud Convictions


This comes from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Melvin Lowe Sentenced for Conspiring with New York State Senator John Sampson To Defraud the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee


  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MELVIN LOWE, a former consultant to the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ("DSCC"), was sentenced today to 36 months in prison for conspiring with New York State Senator John Sampson to defraud the DSCC of $100,000, and for personal income tax offenses. LOWE was convicted by a jury in September 2014. United States District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Melvin Lowe’s corrupt actions were another example of a political figure in New York State putting his own personal greed ahead of the public’s trust. I hope that today’s sentence will send yet another powerful signal to any public official who questions the resolve of this office to root out public corruption.”
According to the Complaint, the Indictment filed in federal court and the evidence presented at trial:
LOWE was retained as a consultant by the DSCC after New York State Senator John Sampson was appointed as the Senate's Democratic Conference Leader following the June 2009 "coup" that temporarily shifted the balance of power in the New York Senate from the Democrats to the Republicans. In early June 2010, Sampson asked LOWE to arrange for a covert payment of $20,000 to Michael Nieves, a Queens-based political operative who had previously worked for former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate and who had helped engineer the resolution of the Senate coup that had brought Sampson to power. LOWE then arranged for a New Jersey-based political consultant to submit a false invoice to the DSCC for $100,000 in printing services. Sampson approved payment of the invoice and the DSCC sent $100,000 to the New Jersey-based consultant. LOWE instructed the consultant to send $20,000 of the proceeds to Nieves, $75,000 of the proceeds to LOWE's consulting company, and to keep $5,000 for himself. The jury heard evidence that LOWE and Senator Sampson had a close relationship of trust that included LOWE giving Sampson an envelope of cash.
LOWE received more than $2.1 million in consulting income from 2007 to 2012. He reported less than $25,000 in income in each of his federal income tax returns for 2007 through 2009, which he did not file until late 2010. LOWE never filed tax returns for 2010 through 2012. He never made any payments toward his taxes for the years 2000 through 2012.
LOWE also caused a bank to make a false statement to his mortgage lender regarding the balance in his checking account. When the mortgage lender sent LOWE’s bank a Verification of Deposit form to verify LOWE's claim that he had $65,000 in his checking account, LOWE caused the assistant manager to claim that LOWE's account had a balance of more than $80,000. At that time, the balance in LOWE's checking account was $2,156.
*                      *                      *
In addition to the prison sentence, LOWE, 53, of Manhattan, was sentenced to three years’ supervised release.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the investigators from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Perry A. Carbone and James McMahon are in charge of the prosecution.


Team Diaz 2014 Christmas Party



 That was what the banner read - State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, and Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda Merry Christmas - Happy New Year.
  It was standing room only at Maestros last night for the Annual Senator Diaz Christmas Party, and with every seat taken people were lined up outside the door waiting to get in. As you will see in the photos below there was no shortage of elected officials on hand.


Could this be Team Diaz 2015 - Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, New York State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli, Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, and Assemblyman Michael Blake?



  On hand was Mr. Larry Blackman of Fresh Direct who were one of the sponsors of the party.


State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli waves to the crowd. It was Controller Dinapoli who received the most votes of any statewide candidate in the November election.











Left - Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson speaks to the audience, as Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda translates the speech into Spanish. The two look at each other as some people think Sepulveda is going to run for Bronx DA next year. 
Right - Those rumors can be forgotten as the pair appear to be good friends.


Newly elected Assemblyman Michael Blake address the audience. Could Assemblyman Blake be the next member of Team Diaz in 2015? Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj is standing in the back, and also spoke to the audience. Assemblyman Gjona is the first Albanian to be elected to the state legislature.


Senator Diaz Sr. is calling Senate Dempocratic Conference Leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (in red) to the mike.

In the three photos below - 1. Senate Democratic Conference Leader Stewart-Cousins is speaking to the crowd , 2. is a group photo which includes Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson on the far left. 3. Senator Diaz Sr. holds up the hand of his conference leader Stewart-Cousins. 





Senator Diaz Sr. Toy Giveaway




  This was what it was on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 4:00 PM in the auditorium of P.S. 216, on Fox Street. Giving toys to about 1,000 children no matter what political party you belong to. I say that because it was the New York State Republican Party with state Republican leader Ed Cox, incoming State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Republican candidate for governor (and Westchester County Executive) Rob Astorino, and Salsa legend Willie Colon who helped Democratic State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. (and Santa). 


  That was what the Banner read - State Senator Ruben Siaz Sr. and Hon. Edward F. Cox.














Left - The senator's helpers fill up the stage with toys before the crowd comes in.
Right - Is only part of the crowd that filled the auditorium, and stretched around the corner of the school. 






  The children of Rompedores de Atmosfera gave a beautiful performance before the toy giveaway.


It was Rob Astorino, Ed Cox, then after the man from one of the toy companies was Dean Skelos, Willie Colon, Luis Sepulveda, and a representative of the armed forces. 


  Rob Astorino spoke first, and thanked Senator Diaz for his endorsement in the governor's race in the November election.

 Salsa Legend Willie Colon says hello to the crowd.


 Senator Diaz Sr. even received a gift of a guitar from the new leader of the state senate Dean Skelos, who said that Senator Diaz Sr. could now become 'The singing cowboy state senator'.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wave Hill Events Jan 2–Jan 9


SAT, JANUARY 3    FAMILY ART PROJECT: FLIP THROUGH THE SEASONS
Join Manuel Acevedo, visiting artist and past Glyndor Gallery exhibitor, as he shows us how to make simple flip books packed with action! Watch a sun set, a flower grow or a tree lose leaves as you create a moving narrative about nature. Free, and admission to the grounds is free until noon. 
WAVE HILL HOUSE, 10AM‒1PM


SAT, JANUARY 3    TAI CHI CHUAN
Quiet like a mountain, moving like a river, Tai Chi is a sequence of gentle movements based on images found in nature. In this hour-long class, Irving Yee, a member of the William CC Chen Tai Chi School, introduces students to the internal martial arts and promotes an awareness of its benefits. Sessions are held indoors in winter. Session fee, which includes admission to the grounds: $25/$15 Wave Hill Member. Advance registration offered online only and includes a $2 discount. Online registration closes at 8AM on the day of the session. Drop-ins will be accommodated as the limited space permits. 
MEET AT PERKINS VISITOR CENTER, 10AM


SAT, JANUARY 3    FREE COMMUNITY MEDITATION
Keep your New Year’s resolution and learn how to exercise your brain, just as you exercise your body. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to relieve stress, help you focus and even make you happier. Led by a member from the Yoga for Bliss team, this is a beginners’ level class, but is open to all levels. Drop-ins will be accommodated as space permits. Free, and admission to the grounds is free until noon.
MEET AT THE PERKINS VISITOR CENTER, 11:30AM–12:30PM


SUN, JANUARY 4    FAMILY ART PROJECT: FLIP THROUGH THE SEASONS
Join Manuel Acevedo, visiting artist and past Glyndor Gallery exhibitor, as he shows us how to make simple flip books packed with action! Watch a sun set, a flower grow or a tree lose leaves as you create a moving narrative about nature. Free with admission to the grounds. 
WAVE HILL HOUSE, 10AM‒1PM


SUN, JANUARY 4    HATHA YOGA
Reduce stress and increase your energy by focusing on your posture, breath and mind/body/spirit. Classes are led by Yoga for Bliss Director Neem Dewji and other certified instructors, and last for an hour and a quarter. Ms. Dewji is certified in Hatha and Therapeutic Yoga from The Yoga for Health Foundation, England, and The Integral Yoga Institute, NYC. All levels welcome. Sessions are held indoors in winter. Session fee, which includes admission to the grounds: $25/$15 Wave Hill Member. Advance registration offered online only and includes a $2 discount. Online registration closes at 8AM on the day of the session. Drop-ins will be accommodated as the limited space permits. 
MEET AT PERKINS VISITOR CENTER, 10AM


SUN, JANUARY 4    MEDITATION
Let nature inspire you to find your center and reconnect with your true self using guided mindfulness and other meditation practices. Each session includes instruction in simple techniques, followed by guided meditations. Led by Yoga for Bliss director Neem Dewji and other qualified instructors. Sessions are held indoors. All levels welcome. Session fee, which includes admission to the grounds: $20/$10 Wave Hill Member. Advance registration offered online only and includes a $2 discount. Online registration closes at 8AM on the day of the session. Drop-ins will be accommodated as the limited space permits. 
MEET AT PERKINS VISITOR CENTER, 11:45AM


SUN, JANUARY 4    GARDEN & CONSERVATORY HIGHLIGHTS WALK
Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the grounds.
MEET AT PERKINS VISITOR CENTER, 2PM

MON, JANUARY 5
Closed to the public

A 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River  and Palisades, Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscape, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.

HOURS  Open all year, Tuesday through Sunday and many major holidays: 9AM–4:30PM. Closes 5:30PM, March 15October 31.  
ADMISSION  $8 adults, $4 students and seniors 65+, $2 children 6–18. Free Saturday and Tuesday mornings until noon. Free to Wave Hill Members and children under 6.

PROGRAM FEES  Programs are free with admission to the grounds unless otherwise noted.

Visitors to Wave Hill can take advantage of Metro-North’s one-day getaway offer. Purchase a discount round-trip rail far and discount admission to the gardens. More at http://mta.info/mnr/html/getaways/outbound_wavehill.htm

DIRECTIONS – Getting here is easy! Located only 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan, Wave Hill’s free shuttle van transports you to and from our front gate and Metro-North’s Riverdale station, as well as the 242nd Street stop on the #1 subway line. Limited onsite parking is available for $8 per vehicle. Free offsite parking is available nearby with continuous, complimentary shuttle service to and from the offsite lot and our front gate. Complete directions and shuttle bus schedule at www.wavehill.org/visit/.

Information at 718.549.3200. On the web at www.wavehill.org.

Assembly Dinowitz Lights the Riverdale Menorah for the 21st Time


  Ever since he was elected to the state assembly in 1994 Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has made it an annual event to light the Giant Riverdale Menorah on at least one of the eight nights of Chanukah.



 Above - Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz climbs into Con Edison bucket to be brought up to light the giant Riverdale Menorah for his 21st annual time.
 Below - Assemblyman Dinowitz holds the propane torch that will light the lanterns of the giant menorah as Rabbi Levi Shemtov has joined him in the bucket.



You can see how high up Assemblyman Dinowitz and Rabbi Shemtov are as the first of three lanterns are lit.


Here in a close up view, you see Assemblyman Dinowitz reciting the Chanukah prayer as Rabbi Shemtov prepares the first lantern to be lit.


Here Assemblyman Dinowitz is lighting the last of three lanterns on this third day of Chanukah.


The pair are lowered back down to ground level as Rabbi Shemtov points to the three lights on the menorah.


BP Diaz hosts Chanukah Celebration at Borough Hall



   It was much more than Latkas and Jelly Donuts at the Bronx County Building this afternoon for the Bronx County celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights called Chanukah. 



  The crowd assembled for the Annual Bronx Chanukah Celebration included elected officials and judges.





Left - BP Diaz hugs Rabbi Israel Greenberg of the Bronx Jewish Community Council. Rabbi Fewzner of Pelham Parkway is in the background.
Right - The two pose for this photo.



Below - The Kinneret Day School Students perform.





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Councilman Cohen Helps Light Bronx's Largest Menorah



  With a propane lighter in his hand Councilman Andrew Cohen went up in the Con Edison truck bucket with Rabbi Shemtov who had the blessing in his hand to begin the festival of lights, better known as Chanukah.


   At the Monument on West 239th Street and the Northbound Henry Hudson Parkway this giant menorah (the largest in the Bronx) was set up. It took a Con Edison bucket truck to list the rabbi and elected official to light this giant menorah.


   Councilman Andy Cohen has put on his safety harness so he can go up with Rabbi Shemtov to light the menorah.


   The center light is lit first.



  Rabbi Shemtov places the lantern to be lit on the right end of the menorah. This was the first night, and each day foward another light will be lit until all eight lights of the menorah are lit with the middle light also.


   Councilman Cohen says the prayer before he lights the the first light of the first day of Chanukah. You can see that in one hand is a microphone so everyone can hear him, and the propane torch to light the oil lantern.


  And the first light of Chanukah has been lit. Each day foward another lantern will be lit until all eight are lit with the middle lantern lit.



Monday, December 15, 2014

The Good, Sad, and Ugly of the Holiday Season on Riverdale Avenue


THE GOOD --


  The stores here on Riverdale Avenue have placed red bows on those metal bike racks which were once parking meters. Here you see that one of the merchants who brightens up this section of Riverdale Avenue at various times with beautiful planters or flowers has placed a giant Candy Cane on this former meter to get into the holiday season.


   Here on the corner of Riverdale Avenue and West 238th Mario the owner of Street Salvatores of Soho has spruced up this bike rake also with a giant candy cane, and at night the tree in front is aglow with holiday lights. However you can see part of the ugly Con Edison never ending construction in the background


  One block up Riverdale Avenue the largest menorah in the Bronx has been set up for the Holiday of Chanukah. At sunset starting on Tuesday December 16th, (and for the next 7 nights) a light will be lit and added to the menorah to celebrate the festival of Chanukah.  

THE SAD --


  Longtime favorite on this section of Riverdale Avenue Ginger Grill will be closing on Thursday December 18th. Owner Jeff Rabak said that the lease is up and he can not afford to pay the new rent and stay in business. He hopes to reopen nearby in a smaller setting, but where? The sign on the door below says it all.


THE UGLY --


  This bunch of garbage left on West 238th Street at Riverdale Avenue by the Con Edison contractor has earned another fine for the contractor by the DOT. The permit for this work site expired on December 2nd, and of course the contractor let it expire without picking up this mess of materials and garbage. It took the DOT 2 weeks, but today a DOT inspector wrote up the summons. 


More Bronx Church's To Close


  After 112 church mergers were announced by the Archdiocese of New York, it has become known that an additional 38 parishes would be merged to close 11 more Church's entirely. Below are the 7 Bronx Church's that would be effected.


St. Simon Stock Parish 2191 Valentine Ave.

with 

St. Joseph Parish 1949 Bathgate Avenue.

St. Joseph Parish would close.



St. Philip and James 1160 East 213th Street

with 

Our Lady of Grace 3985 Bronxwood Avenue

Our Lady of Grace would close.



St. Francis of Rome 761 East 236th Street

with

St. Francis of Assisi 4543 Baychester Ave.

and with  

St. Anthony 4501 Richardson Avenue

St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony would close.