Saturday, March 19, 2016


By Robert Press

March Madness

     The Ides of March have passed, and March Madness is upon us. I would suggest that you check your brackets to see if you are still in the hunt to pick the winner of the NCAA Tournament. 
     It seems that Chancellor Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio are turning public school lunchrooms into what looks like Sports bars by putting in as many as six wide screen televisions.  In a recent visit to MS 80 for an event I found six wide screen televisions mounted on the walls, and one even had the Iowa - Temple NCAA game on complete with all the commercials. Is that any way to run a school Chancellor Farina or Mayor de Blasio. No wonder this is a failing school, or should we be state legislative correct and call it a struggling school. Any way you look at this it is a school where the children are failing and not struggling. This has gone on for much to long, and I hope to let the parents and community know that the mayor and his chancellor would rather have your children watching television complete with commercials rather than trying to teach them. I can only wonder if these young children are watching beer and other adult commercials that may come on at any time of the day. 
     On to local politics - With the endorsement of the Bronx Democratic County organization is that the final piece of the puzzle to a victory for current Assemblyman Keith Wright to replace Charlie Rangel in congress. The field is looking like the Republican Presidential race with candidates in the congressional race expected to drop like those in the Republican Presidential race. Who will be next to drop out of the race to replace Charlie Rangel? The other question is will State Senator Adriano Espaillat become a three time loser in this district. 
     Speaking of losers we should soon know just how much time in jail that former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will be serving as both are to be sentenced in early April. 
     As for the Democratic Presidential race - pack it in Bernie she already has the delegates to win, all you are doing is distracting her from who her real challenger is going to be. You were trumped when you entered the race. 
     Don't forget to check the archive section on the left of this blog for items such as the Community Board 6 - 26th observance of the Happy Land Social Club fire, Irish Heritage or Women of Distinction events by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. or the Bronx Chamber of Commerce to name only a few, and then there are the upcoming events by both and other such as the Bronx Jewish Project HOPE Passover Package Delivery on Sunday morning April 10th. There are also press releases by most of your local elected officials telling you of the job they are doing in office. 
     Lastly, I have been told by only one person that I picked on Assemblyman Jose Rivera last week. I thought I was going after someone else who I really didn't want to waste a whole column on, but I am being told that Assemblyman Jose Rivera's daughter the former Assemblywoman from the 80th A.D. has been making the rounds in the 78th A.D. where she is registered to vote. I guess I will have to find those old photos of her from her last election should she choose to run. Red seems to be Naomi's favorite color, right Anthony?
       If you have any political information that you want to share or have checked out, any comments about this column or would like to have an event listed or covered in this column or on this blog, you can e-mail us at or call 718-644-4199 Mr. Robert Press.   



In response to the recent wave of gun violence, State Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Councilman James Vacca, the Throggs Neck Residents Council and Stand Up to Violence (SUV) rallied at the Throggs Neck Houses today. Senator Klein gathered residents and community leaders at the site of the first shooting, where he addressed the crowd on the importance of bringing awareness to these incidents and stopping gun violence. Reverend Dr. Sidney Hargrave began the march with a prayer, and SUV interrupters offered testimonials. Participants marched to the site of the second shooting and continued to protest the violence.
“We need to stop violence in its tracks.  Last week we witnessed two brutal shootings right here, and today we march in solidarity against the recent senseless acts of gun violence. We must continue the fight to keep our streets safe for children and families,” said Senator Klein. “I am proud that I have secured nearly $1 million dollars for a cutting-edge program, SUV,  to combat gun violence on our streets.  In just a few years, this program has made a significant impact on guns and gang violence and reduced the incidents of shootings in targeted areas by over 50 percent. I hope that we see an even greater reduction.”
Over the past few years, Senator Klein has allocated over $1 million to Stand Up to Violence (SUV), which is a unique violence prevention program that deploys ‘credible messengers’ and ‘violence interrupters’ to mediate conflict in the community and help high-risk individuals in targeted, high-crime areas in The Bronx.
“Today I join with Senator Jeff Klein, Councilman Vacca,  and the active residents here at the Throggs Neck Houses to bring awareness to this problem.  We must continue to stand up to gun violence and make a change together,” said Assemblyman  Benedetto.
"Violence in our community will not be tolerated," said Councilman Vacca. "I will be working closely with the 45th Precinct, the Throggs Neck Houses Resident Council and other elected officials to offer support in dealing with these difficult issues. People should not have to fear for their safety when walking down the street. We must take a multifaceted approach in dealing with violence and crime in our community."
“It is time we take back our community.  In unity there is strength and in strength there is power.If we continue to allow fear to paralyze us we will continue to be victims and not victors, God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind ( 2 Timothy 1:7) In unity there is strength and in strength there is power,” said Monique Johnson, President of The Throggs Neck Residents Council.
If you don’t  - who will stand up to violence?” asked Minister Kwame Thompson, SUV Supervisor.  “Thank you Senator Klein for being involved and being a healing force to cure violence.”
For more information on SUV, please call (718) 822-2049.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Commercial Television in the Public Schools Chancellor Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio?

   Chancellor Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio why does this school lunchroom look like a sports bar with large screen televisions (six in all) placed around the lunchroom?

As you see in this photo the NCAA basketball game is on this television, why is that Chancellor Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio? 

And Chancellor Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio why is it that there are commercial like the ones above and below being shown in a public school? 

Parents would like to know why their children are watching television during breakfast, lunch, and who knows what ever other time when they should be learning. Could that be why this school is a failing school?

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj - Health and Wellness Fair


  It was billed as a Health & Wellness fair as over 25 different tables were set up by city agencies (like the one in the photo above), Community organizations Non Profit organizations, Health Insurers, and other Health or Wellness related groups. The fair was held in MS 80 located at the corner of Van Cortlandt Avenue and Mosholu Parkway, and I found out something very interesting about the school that you will see at the end of this story.

Above - There were many different options for those who came to the Health and Wellness fair including testing by Advanced Cardiovascular Diagnostics. However you had to have medical insurance to be tested, and the co-payment was waived for the event.
Below - Metro Optics with several Bronx locations was on hand to help you see better. 

Above - United Health Care Community Plan and Union Community Health Center were also on hand, but you can see a large screen television at the top of the photo.
Below - It appears that in the lunchroom of MS 80 this large screen television was showing the Iowa - Temple College Basketball game. 

Above and Below - Also interesting was the fact that commercials were being shown in a public school. 

Above - another commercial being shown in a public school.
Below - there were other large screen televisions set up around the lunchroom - six in all making the lunchroom look like a sports bar. I was told that the children watch the televisions during breakfast and lunch to occupy their time. 

Editor's Note: 
I wonder if the Chancellor and Mayor know that in this and probably other schools around the city televisions are put into rooms such as this lunchroom to occupy a child's time when they should be learning rather than watching commercial television. Are the schools at least receiving any money from the commercial television being shown in their lunchrooms and where ever else in the school Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina?

Bronx Chamber of Commerce - Women of Distinction Luncheon

    As usual the Bronx Chamber of Commerce Women of Distinction Luncheon was an event not to be missed, the Mistress of Ceremony was Ms. Juliet Papa of 1010 Wins News Radio, The Keynote Speaker was Lt. Governor Hon. Kathy Hochul, Nunzio Del Greco President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce greeted everyone, and Joe Kelleher the Chairman of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce gave the opening remarks. however if you did not attend here is what you missed.

Above (Left - Right) Tajanique Parker (Renaissance High School who sang the National Anthem), Blessing Abraham-Anoroh (Con Edison Stem Scholarship award winner), Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Kunjben Patel (Con Edison Stem Scholarship award winner), Alissa Marquez (Hutchinson Metro Center Scholarship award winner), and Vandanna Hairpersaud (Metro Optics Scholarship award winner).
Below - State Senator Jeff Klein says a few words about Michelle Dolgow-Christofaro who received a Special Recognition Award from the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

Above - Michelle Dolgow-Christofaro who received a Special Recognition Award from the Bronx Chamber of Commerce for her many years as the BCC's Executive Director. 
Below - Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark speaks about her humble Bronx Roots, and what it is to be the first Black Woman District Attorney.

Above - Bronx DA Darcel Clark was also one of the honorees of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.
Below - Bronx DOT Commissioner Constance Moran was the second Bronx Chamber of Commerce Honoree.

Above - Ms. Tracy McDermott was the third Honoree of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.
Below - Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul was seated at the table of Bronx DA Darcel Clark, and Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene (who sat in for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.).


Previously de-stabilized units restored to rent rolls

State Senator Jeff Klein announced today that, with the help of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), he negotiated the re-regulation of 82 apartments in The Bronx.

The units, which are part of several buildings owned by Goldfarb Properties, had previously been removed from the rent rolls, in some cases by the previous owner and, in others, after Goldfarb claimed vacancies. When Senator Klein learned of the de-regulated apartments at 2160 Matthews Avenue,  1135 Pelham Parkway North, and 1130 and 1540 Pelham Parkway South, his office began working closely with tenants’ associations in the buildings, eventually partnering with the Attorney General and HCR’s Tenant Protection Unit (TPU). After discussions with Senator Klein’s office, the Attorney General’s Office and HCR, Goldfarb agreed to re-regulate a total of 82 units.

“As our city works hard to try to expand affordable housing for our working- and middle-class, it is incredibly important to ensure that we are protecting the affordable housing that already exists. I am proud to announce that with this wave of re-regulation, we have been able to push this landlord to restore these 82 units, thereby protecting these tenants and their families who rely on affordable rents. I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman and New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Tenant Protection Unit for their help,” said Senator Klein.

I am pleased my office could work with Senator Klein and HCR to return dozens of Bronx apartments back to rent regulation. Today's settlement is an important example of the work we can and must do to uphold tenant rights and preserve affordable housing across the city,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

“The Governor’s Tenant Protection Unit works in every neighborhood on behalf of tenants’ rights. This case represents a win for the tenants and the Bronx. The TPU, as a member of the City/State Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, moved proactively to help the tenants in these buildings and returned over 80 units that were improperly de-regulated. In doing so, the Governor’s TPU has helped to stem the loss of rent regulated housing in working and middle-class neighborhoods, ensuring that long-term tenants can stay in their homes, said HCR Commissioner James S. Rubin.


On Friday, March 25, 2016, Bronx Community Board #6 and the relatives and friends of the victims of the 1990 Happy Land Social Club Fire will commemorate the 26th anniversary of that tragic event which took the lives of 87 people. Still fresh in our minds, we keep the memory alive by remembering those who died as well as the impact it had on this community. 

The Happy Land Social Club Fire was the largest mass murder to occur in New York City, second only to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Eighty-seven individuals lost their lives when Julio Gonzalez, who had been evicted from the club earlier after fighting with his girlfriend, poured and ignited gasoline at the entrance of the club. With the club’s windows and other means of egress barricaded, and no sprinkler system available, the individuals had no hope for escape. To its credit, the city shortly thereafter formed the Club Task Force (now known as the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots, or MARCH Operation). 

The Happy Land Fire is the legacy of this community and the month of March is Fire Prevention month; as such, community board 6 is requesting that the Fire and Buildings departments inspect all local drinking establishments (i.e. bars and nightclubs) to insure they are up to code and are a safe place to gather, with working sprinklers, clear exits, and a proper Certificate of Occupancy.

A monument was erected in 1995 directly across the street from the site of the fire which bears the victims’ names. There, family members and friends visit and place flowers on special occasions such as birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. The street in front of the monument has been renamed Ochenta y Siete Boulevard. 

Community Board #6 will observe the fire’s 26th anniversary, which falls on Good Friday this year, one of the most holiest days, by dedicating a 7:00 p.m. mass to the victims. The mass will be held at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church (1900 Crotona Parkway) followed by a procession towards the monument at East Tremont Avenue, between Southern Boulevard and Crotona Parkway, for a rosary and candlelight vigil. Flowers, wreaths, and mementos will be placed at the base of the monument, and the names of victims will be read. (The victims’ names appear on the attached page.) 

Additional information about the March 25th memorial may be obtained by contacting the community board’s district office at 718-579-6990 or by email at 

Honorable Ritchie Torres,                                   
City Council Member, 15th Council District      
Honorable Rafael Salamanca,
City Council Member, 17th Council District

Happy Land Social Club Fire

26th Anniversary

March 25, 2016

1.Lourdes Rosario Aguilar 28. Marvin Antonio Doubleday

2. Calixtro Alfara 29. Luis Gustavo Drummond

3. Jose Amilear Alfaro 30. Omar Escobar

4. Malvin Alicea 31. Alba Escoto

5. Denny Elroy Alvarez 32. Casimiro Evo

6. Hector Alvarez 33. Daisy Marie Falco

7. Jose Alvarez 34. Debra Farrington

8. Frankie Tomas Arana 35. Loretta Farrington

9. Dagoberto Barahona 36. Jose Romans Flores

10. Sandra Beltran 37. Lenny Ernesto Gamoneda

11. Victor Hugo Benavides 38. Marco Tulio Gamoneda

12. Israel Antonio Bulnes, Jr. 39. Orvin Garbutt

13. Wilfredo Castillo 40. Erlinda Gomez

14. Janet Castro 41. Jose Gonzalez

15. Carla Chavez 42. Carmen Hernandez

16. Francisco Chavez 43. Enrique Hinds

17. Norman Clark 44. Ann Marie Hunt

18. Elias Colon 45. Juan Javier

19. Juan Carlos Colon 46. Charles Joseph

20. Ramon Colon 47. Israel Laureano, Sr.

21. Carlos E. Contreras 48. Isabel Lopez

22. Victor Hugo Cordova 49. Mauricio Lopez

23. Justa Gladys Crisanto 50. Nohemy Arcely Luque

24. Lester Rolando Cruz 51. Luis Abraham Manaiza

25.Natalie Dantzler 52. Wendy Manaiza

26. Jose Alexis Diaz 53. Kim Marlow

27. Marco Tulio Dolmo 54. Jose Manuel Marquez

55. Mario Martinez 72. Samuel Ortiz

56. Aida Margarita Martinez 73. Nilda Ortiz

57. Marco Vinicio Martinez 74. Mario Pacheco

58. Marisol Martinez 75. Eli J. Pena

59. Ines Maximo 76. Juan Andres Pena

60. Daphne McKenzie 77. Carlos Roberto Peri

61. Hilda E. McKenzie 78. Wilson Efrain Pesantez

62. Samuel R. McKenzie 79. Miriam Elena Pineda

63. Elevio Mejia 80. Minerva Ramos

64. Nelson Mejia 81. Clemente (Henry) Reyes

65. Rene J. Mena, Jr. 82. Cruz Robledo

66. Mircia Moncada 83. Query Francisco Romero

67. Dionicio Moreira 84. Susan Gayle Samms

68. Ana Luisa Moss 85. Betsabe Torres

69. Yvette Murray 86. Paula Velasquez

70. Yvonne Murray 87. Nicolas Zapata

71. Juan Jose Nunez

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams - Attend Brooklyn's Open House

As Brooklyn borough president, I am honored to work every day in the People's House - Brooklyn Borough Hall. Now, in the spirit of One Brooklyn, I have the opportunity to open it up to the people like never before!

Along with Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, I am pleased to invite you to attend Brooklyn's Open House, a first-of-its-kind experience to be held on Saturday, April 16th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. During this special evening, you will have the opportunity to meet me and my fantastic team, tour this historic building, as well as learn about the work we have been doing over the last two-plus years and what we have in store for our borough's bright future!

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday, April 16th!


Assemblymember Michael A. Blake - Women's History Month Event on March 26th

Dear Members of New York's 79th Assembly District,
You are cordially invited to attend Assemblymember Michael Blake's Women's History Month event highlighting the contributions of women who actively work to help realize our vision of the 3 Es: Economic development, Education, and Equality for all.  Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, Councilmember Vanessa Gibson, and Senator Gustavo Rivera are also sponsoring the festivities.

Assemblymember Michael Blake will be honoring several distinguished members of our community with citations that recognize their important contributions to empowering women.
Women in our district continue to strive to break through the glass ceiling and pave the way for the next generation of female leaders. Through determination and hard work, women are making history and giving other women a seat at the table. Today, we look up to and applaud the first female District Attorney in the Bronx, first female African American NYC Public Advocate, first Latina Speaker of New York City Council, and the first Latina to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, all of whom are setting a grand precedence for our girls and young women just beginning their careers.  It is important that we celebrate women and promote this strength through a unified voice. This event helps empower women's successes to motivate others to reach their full potential.

The event is scheduled to take place at Harriet Tubman Charter School at 1176 Franklin Avenue, Bronx, NY, 10456 on Saturday, March 26, 2016 and will start promptly at 10:00am. We hope that you are able to join us!

Please send your RSVP HERE by Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

We look forward to celebrating Women's History Month with you on March 26th!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Conviction Of Local Doctor For Unlawfully Dispensing More Than 1.2 Million Oxycodone Pills

 New York Doctor Collected More Than $2.4 Million In Fees For “Doctor Visits”

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced today the conviction of MOSHE MIRILASVHILI, a board-certified, state-licensed doctor, for conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.  During the period of the charged conspiracy, MIRILASHVILI wrote more than 13,000 medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone, typically in return for cash payments.  MIRILASHVILI was convicted after a three-week jury trial before Judge Colleen McMahon.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “In just a matter of two years, Dr. Moshe Mirilashvili flooded the streets of New York City with more than a million pills of highly addictive oxycodone, a drug involved in the overdose deaths of thousands of Americans each year.  As the jury unanimously found today, Dr. Mirilashvili, blinded by greed, cast away his Hippocratic Oath and instead aligned himself with street-level drug dealers.  Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the federal and local law enforcement partners, Dr. Mirilashvili is no longer in the business of fueling for profit the opioid addiction that plagues too many people in our communities.”
Oxycodone is a highly addictive, prescription-strength narcotic used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions.  Every year more than 13 million Americans abuse oxycodone, with the misuse of prescriptions 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 pills at vastly inflated rates.  Indeed, a single prescription for 90 30-milligram oxycodone pills has an average resale value in New York City of $2,700 or more.
From October 2012 until December 2014, MIRILASHVILI, a board-certified, state-licensed doctor, wrote thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone in exchange for cash payments.  MIRILASHVILI did so out of a sham medical office located on West 162nd Street in Manhattan where MIRILASHVILI typically charged $200 in cash for “patient visits” that typically involved little, if any, actual examination and almost always resulted in the issuance of a prescription for a large quantity of oxycodone, typically 90 30-milligram tablets.
Virtually none of these “patients” had any medical need for oxycodone, nor any legitimate medical records 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 drug traffickers (the “Crew Chiefs”), to pose as “patients” in order to receive medically unnecessary prescriptions.  The Crew Chiefs then obtained these prescriptions and arranged for them to be filled at various pharmacies so that the oxycodone pills thereby obtained could be resold on the streets of New York.  
As established at trial, MIRILASHVILI worked directly with some of these Crew Chiefs who paid MIRILASHVILI’s cash fees in return for the oxycodone prescriptions MIRILASHVILI guaranteed for their “patients.”  As part of the scheme, MIRILASHVILI frequently accepted and even created fraudulent and fake documents – such as MRI and urinalysis reports – ostensibly documenting the medical need for the oxycodone prescriptions MIRILASHVILI was writing.  For example, among documents recovered from MIRILASHVILI’s home at the time of his arrest, were lab reports in which the name of the “patient” had been cut and pasted onto the document, as well as similar reports in which the name of the patient or other relevant information had been whited out.  More than $1.75 million in cash earned from writing these medically unnecessary prescriptions was also recovered from the defendant’s home at the time of his arrest.
In total, between October 2012 and December 2014, MIRILASHVILI wrote more than 13,000 medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone, comprising nearly 1.2 million oxycodone tablets with a street value of $36,000,000 or more.  MIRILISHIVILI collected more than $2.4 million in fees for “doctor visits” during this time period.  
Ten other participants in the conspiracy – including the drug traffickers who oversaw crews of “patients” sent into the clinics to obtain medically unnecessary oxycodone prescriptions and clinic staff, who profited by selling access to MIRILASHVILI and the fraudulent prescriptions he wrote – have previously pled guilty.
MIRILASHVILI, 67, of Great Neck, New York, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and two counts of unlawful distribution of oxycodone, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each.  MIRILASHVILI will be sentenced July 20, 2016,. before the Judge Colleen McMahon.

#NOT 62; A HEALTHIER BRONX - Wednesday March 23rd



For the past year, the City Council and the Administration have been debating Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH). In that time, significant and tangible progress was made and the council, under the leadership of Speaker Mark-Viverito, deserves credit for improving MIH.

Unfortunately, the current plan still does not require enough of a mandatory minimum amount of low-income units, and so today, I have no choice but to vote "no."  

I believe firmly - and have said from the start - that working families, seniors and low income New Yorkers are depending on us to pass a plan that includes a mandatory minimum amount of affordable homes in each option. The plan, as it stands today, can allow entire neighborhoods to be rezoned without including any low income housing; that was, and still is, a nonstarter for me.

The Mayor and the Administration must be applauded for tackling the affordable housing crisis and we shouldn't understate the difficulty in creating a housing plan that meets the needs of our very diverse city. The City Council should also be celebrated for pushing even further and to a plan that, plausibly at least,touches 30% AMI.

I am proud to have been a part of a coalition of Council Members and advocates who fought hard to get the plan this far, with deeper affordability and real commitments around preservation. Given that, I understand why many will vote in favor of this plan, as we will hear many times,  it is the strongest inclusionary housing policy in the entire country. Communities who choose the deep affordability option will benefit tremendously.  

Still, there is an unaddressed problem. While the plan now provides real options for elected officials and communities who welcome low-income units, it ignores a fundamental issue about mandating affordability in neighborhoods that have historically resisted economic integration and are unlikely to choose deep affordability.

Without addressing that question, I cannot in good conscious vote "yes."

To be clear - I'm not saying we shouldn't also include higher income bands within the same options and the exact same neighborhoods. Rather, we should not pass a plan which allows communities to avoid including any low-income options, further segregating this city.

Nearly a third of New Yorkers earn less than $30,000 and would be unable to rent even the most "affordable" apartments built in communities who choose MIH options without deep affordability. The average single mother in NYC makes $25,000 - too little to qualify for housing above 30% AMI. The vast majority of our single person senior households also have incomes too low to qualify for the other two MIH options.

Affordability should not be an opt-in policy. We need a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan that works for all New Yorkers, in all neighborhoods, especially our most vulnerable.

It is also true that MIH was not meant to solve all of our cities housing problems and look forward to continuing to work with the administration who has proven dedication to the issues as we move forward in creating additional tools.


Four new bills would expand patient access and increase the number of trained physicians across the state

State Senator Diane Savino announced a new package of bills today, aimed at expanding patient access and increasing the number of trained and available treating physicians.

The package would increase patient access hindered by access to dispensaries, as well as address concerns about an insufficient number of available doctors by encouraging more doctors to sign up for the program. The bills would also double the number of available dispensaries, expand the list of qualifying conditions, direct the Department of Health to add nurses and physician assistants, and establish an advisory committee on the program’s  regulatory development.

“I made history by passing the first medical marijuana program in New York - and have been proud to lead on this issue as we implement the program throughout the state. However, it is not enough to make this medicine theoretically available, it must also be pragmatically accessible. Now is the time to take this program further - and that’s exactly what this package will do. With my new legislation, we will be able to help patients in need become certified more easily, ensure that more of those suffering are eligible to become certified, allow each doctor to treat their patients as they see fit, and make this necessary medicine accessible to more people throughout the state,” said Senator Diane Savino.

The first bill would double the number of dispensaries throughout the state and allow direct education and marketing from companies to physician, in order to engage more doctors. Current law allows each organization licensed to distribute medical marijuana to maintain only four dispensaries each, leaving many geographic areas of the state without practical access to the medicine. Senator Savino’s legislation would double this, allowing each licensed organization to have eight dispensaries. It would also allow these organizations to approach physicians directly, in order to provide education about medical marijuana to encourage more doctors to become trained in the program.

The current list of eligible diseases and conditions leaves patients in critical need of this medicine out in the cold. However, many of these conditions are already eligible for this treatment in other states. The second bill (S.6999) in the package would expand the current list to help more of those in need. The new list would include PTSD, in response to calls from veterans and veteran advocacy organizations, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, wasting syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The legislation would also eliminate the ten milligram limit on THC per dose of medical marijuana, in order to allow doctors to treat their patients with the dosage they think is best, as well as address physician concerns that the dosage language of the law may be in conflict with existing federal law.

In an effort to expand access and available providers, the third bill (S.6998) would direct the Department of Health to add nurses and physician assistants to the list of professionals qualified to certify patients for medical marijuana use. These professionals are already able to prescribe other controlled substances under the law, however, currently only physicians are able to certify patients for medical marijuana. This legislation would allow physician assistants and nurses to undergo the same training as physicians, and thereafter certify patients, eliminating some of the difficulties in finding a cooperating physician for patients.

Implementation of the medical marijuana program has been a complex process, involving experts and professionals from a variety of industries, as well as patients and advocates. Providing an opportunity for all stakeholders to have a voice is critical to its success. The fourth piece of legislation (S.7000) would create an advisory committee of 15 members to assist in the program’s regulatory development by the Department of Health.

The committee would advise the Commissioner, as well as establish a subcommittee specializing in clinical matters. The bill would also assure that regulations remain consistent with the current law and it’s intent, as well as recognize patients certified in other states. By establishing an advisory committee, ensuring that regulations remain consistent with the intent of the law, and recognizing patients from other states, this legislation would increase the overall efficiency of the program.

New York State Continues to Lose Billions in Federal Funding Due to the Undercount of the 2010 Census

The 2010 Census undercount cost New York two congressional districts and hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal aid, Assemblyman Crespo introduces legislation to create the 2020 Complete Count Commission

    Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment, was joined by good government groups, anti-poverty advocates and other legislators to unveil legislation (A.9554) which will begin the process to prepare New York State for a proper count during the 2020 Census.  Undercounts during the 2000 and 2010 Census have cost New York two congressional seats and a loss of tens of billions in federal aid for a range of programs from education to housing to transportation.  The legislation begins a multi-year planning process to ensure that state, local and nonprofit sectors are better prepared to ensure a proper count and will prevent future funding losses, including the now projected loss of one more congressional member due to a combination of slow population growth and chronic undercounting of New York State residents.

“With rampant growth in child poverty rates and among our elderly and families, New York can ill afford another census undercount.  It has already cost us tens of billions in lost federal aid which could have been used to strengthen our communities and economy.  It has also cost us political clout in Washington as we continue to lose members of Congress as other states gain members. My legislation begins the process to ensure a proper count and bring billions in needed aid to communities across New York,” stated Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo.

“Each person not counted by the U.S Census costs New York State $3,054 dollars in lost federal funding.  Now multiply this by the more than 700,000 New Yorkers not counted and what we find is that annually our State loses $1.5 billion in federal aid for a range of programs which help our children, our families, our senior citizens with their education, their housing needs, their medical needs and more,” added Crespo. “And this figure could be much higher because New York State has done little to ensure state and local level participation in ensuring a complete count.”

At a conservative estimate, the loss of $1.5 billion each year for a decade between 2010 and 2020, New York will have lost $15 billion dollars in federal aid provided through 75 programs which are apportioned and distribute to states and localities using statistics gathered by the decennial census. An undercount guarantees not only lose in federal aid but with population shifts in the 50 states New York has lost and will continue to lose seats in Congress.

The proposed legislation creates a 61 member planning body called the 2020 Complete Count Commission.  It is responsible for putting together an action plan for state, local and nonprofit agencies to ensure a complete count.  The commission must produce three reports to document the plan and progress on implementing it prior to the 2020 Census. The commission is also required to recommend state funding levels to implement their proposed action plans prior to the enactment of budgets for FY 2017-18 through FY 2019-20.

Crespo remarked, “In 2009, NYS appropriated $2 million dollars to help with public awareness on the importance of the 2010 Census.  That amount translated into roughly a ten cents investment in every New Yorker.  That low level of investment and attention given to the important functions of the Census led to the documented undercount.   This mistake cannot be repeated.”

The undercount of the 2010 Census was very evident in New York City. There, over 8 million people living in only about 305 square miles were told that the City had only grown by about 100,000 residents even though over the previous 10 years over 1.25 million births had been recorded by the Bureau of Vital Statistics.  Simultaneously, there had been only about 500,000 deaths during that period.   The U.S. Census told New York State that it had only grown by 164,000 residents. Upstate New York covers almost 47,000 square miles and has over 9 million of the State’s 19.4 million residents.  “It is obvious that if an undercount has occurred in a smaller and highly dense populated area that Upstate New York has probably been subject to a worse undercount,” declared Crespo.

Prior to the beginning of the 2010 Census, the NYC population was estimated to be at 8.1 million residents and City officials had estimated it had grown to 8.4 million.  However the US Census enumerated only 8,175,133 residents.  Parts of Upstate and Long Island had seen growth as well but the Census count enumerated NYS residents at 19,378,102, a probable under count of some half a million residents.                                                                 

“To compound this problem, the US Census announced late last year that New York was in line to lose another congressional district based on slow population growth and rapid growth in other parts of the country.  The need for a complete and accurate count and the need for New York State to begin the planning process now for the 2020 Census is very clear,” Stated Crespo.

According to Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, member of the Assembly Standing Committee on Housing, “In the last Census, undercounting of New York’s population, especially in New York City, cost the state and city millions of dollars in aid and almost certainly — and unfairly — weakened New York’s representation in Congress,” said Assemblyman Luis SepĂșlveda (D, Bronx). “This cannot be allowed to happen again. Consequently, it is imperative that we plan ahead to ensure that the 2020 Census accurately counts all New Yorkers.”