Saturday, June 18, 2016

IDC: End of Session Policies Will Create a Better New York

  Key legislative achievements address the foreclosure crisis, ethics reform, public safety, and the heroin epidemic

As session came to a close, members of the  Independent Democratic Conference praised key accomplishments, many of which derived from policy proposals in the IDC’s agenda, NY 2020: A Blueprint for a Better New York.

After passing numerous signature issues as part of the 2016-2017 budget, including Paid Family Leave, a $15 minimum wage, and the largest investment in education in state history, the IDC praised the wave of achievements for the state including holding banks accountable for zombie properties, improving day care safety and strong ethics reforms.

“As we close out this legislative session, I am proud of the strides we have taken, and of the accomplishments of the Independent Democratic Conference. After laying out a comprehensive policy plan, we have passed significant passed legislation to keep our children safe, help mothers in need, and ensure greater transparency in our public school system. After having long-championed legislation to cure derelict bank-owned and zombie properties, which pose significant problems in communities all across this state, banks will now be held responsible to maintain zombie properties. I can truly say that as we close session, this year we have created a better New York,” said Independent Democratic Conference Leader Klein.

“This year’s legislative session delivered a number of accomplishments for New York State. For Central New York, which has long struggled with the rising heroin epidemic, I am proud that we have announced a heroin package that  looks to prevent addiction while increasing and enhancing services to those who need help. I am also happy to have sponsored, and passed in both houses, my legislation to provide opportunities for struggling communities to recover after the foreclosure crisis, through nonprofit land banks. This year, the Independent Democratic Conference has delivered these and so many more achievements for all New Yorkers,said Senator David Valesky.

“The Independent Democratic Conference truly delivered for New York’s working families this year. After passing Paid Family Leave, and winning the Fight for $15, I am proud to announce that we have passed legislation to establish the Community Restoration Fund. This fund will go a long way toward helping New York’s homeowners who are still struggling from after the foreclosure crisis, and will ultimately keep families in their homes. Alongside Senator Klein, we championed protections for our children in day cares, to ensure that every parent has the peace of mind that their day care is safe. With our accomplishments this year, New York truly supports its working families,” said Senator Diane Savino.

“At the start of this year’s legislative session, one thing was clear: New York needed stronger ethics reform. I have long advocated for increased transparency and robust ethics laws when it comes to government, and I am proud to say that this year we have delivered. Among the many accomplishments of this session, our ethics reform package included a proposal I championed in the Senate - the disclosure by political consultants who have business before the state. Through this and other reforms, we are one step closer to transparency, and towards rebuilding the public’s trust,” said Senator Tony Avella.

“This was a landmark year for New York State, and I am proud to have championed proposals to address one of our state’s most pressing concerns - the heroin epidemic. Having been at the forefront of fighting this crisis, I am pleased that this year we passed a legislative package that enhances services for those who need help, and that will put New York State on the map as the first state to require over-the-counter Naloxone by law. I am also thrilled to have delivered oversight with funding to restore critical programs to the East Ramapo school district. This is an important step for the students of this area,” said Senator David Carlucci.

Addressing the foreclosure crisis and zombie properties

The foreclosure crisis hit New York State hard - and in more ways than one. Bank-owned and zombie properties have ravaged communities, creating a blight on property values throughout the state.

Senator Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation that will protect neighboring home values while ensuring the speedy rehabilitation of properties. To address the zombie property blight, banks and servicers will have a duty to maintain vacant and abandoned properties, a new toll-free hotline will allow people to report potentially vacant or abandoned sites, and an electronic database will provide streamlined access to information for affected communities. An expedited foreclosure process will protect neighboring homes, while improvements to mandatory settlement conferences will protect homeowners facing foreclosure. Finally, the establishment of a Consumer Bill of Rights will inform property owners of of their rights in foreclosure proceedings.

To help struggling communities recover after the foreclosure crisis, Senator Valesky led the way with legislation, which passed both houses, that provides nonprofit land banks with opportunities to redevelop and rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned residential and commercial properties. This bill expands the ability of land banks to help struggling communities recover after the foreclosure crisis.

Keeping our day cares safe

Working parents across the state deserve to know that the day care that cares for their children is safe and sanitary. After working to expose the shocking problems the IDC discovered in day care centers throughout New York City, Senator Klein was proud to announce that a report card will be posted in the window of all licensed centers in New York City, that will provide a clear way for parents to access streamlined information for parents on the safety of their day care center.

Ethics Reform

An agreement on ethics reform addresses pension forfeiture, transparency, and sweeping reform to independent expenditures. Under the pension forfeiture agreement, an elected official who has committed a crime will have their pension stripped. After Senator Avella fought for transparency in political consulting, legislation will require consultants to disclose the elected officials with whom they do business. Finally, sweeping reform to independent expenditures will ensure that shady money stays out elections.

Ensuring Justice for Job Seekers

Throughout the past year, Senator Klein championed legislation after releasing an undercover investigation into the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices occurring at New York City employment agencies. The report unveiled the shocking frequency with which properly registered agencies often violate existing laws, and the more disturbing trend of unregistered and illicit agencies scamming workers out of cash with promises to secure employment that does not exist.

Senator Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation to modify licensing procedures for employment agencies; make it more difficult for them to defraud workers; improve enforcement of existing regulations; and enable victims to seek legal recourse if they have been taken advantage of.

Investing in the future of East Ramapo’s students

The students of East Ramapo deserve access to the resources they need for a strong education. Legislation sponsored by Senator David Carlucci, and passed in both houses of the legislature, provides a $3 million investment into the school district of East Ramapo.

The proposal requires that the new funding be used to restore programs that had been previously eliminated, including extracurricular activities, support services and full day kindergarten, as well as oversight requirements that will be provided by the Commissioner of Education.

Combating the Heroin Epidemic

The legislature, along with Governor Cuomo, announced a comprehensive legislative package to address the heroin and opioid addiction crisis throughout the state. The package includes limits opioid prescriptions from 30 to 7 days, requires mandatory prescriber education on pain management to stem the tide of addiction, eliminates burdensome insurance barriers to treatment. Expands supports for New Yorkers in recovery, increases treatment beds by 270 and expands program slots for substance use disorder by 2,335 in New York.

Helping mothers who depend on WIC

Due to a restrictive policy change in 2014, many mothers who depend on the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program to buy formula were no longer able to readily access WIC-participating stores. The 2014 policy created formula deserts across New York City, severely cutting off access to mothers on WIC.

Senator Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation to allow all stores that participate in the WIC program to accept WIC checks for prescription formula. These stores, like supermarkets and smaller grocery shops, also carry other healthy food items included in WIC packages, such as fresh fruits, and vegetables. The legislation passed both houses, and

Protecting homeowners through the Community Restoration Fund

For many homeowners, New York’s foreclosure crisis is all too real. For those homeowners who are delinquent, at risk of entering default, or may have already fallen into foreclosure due to economic hardship.

Senators Savino and Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation to establish the New York State Community Restoration Fund. This bill would authorize State of New York Mortgage Agency to utilize fund resources to rehabilitate distressed properties, demolish homes that are dilapidated beyond repair, and fund not-for-profit and affordable housing developers, in order to address the foreclosure crisis, repurpose or rehabilitate foreclosed or vacant properties into affordable housing, and keep families in their homes.

Increasing rail grade crossing safety

After several tragic accidents due to outdated rail grade crossings, this year’s legislative agenda included a series of initiatives to increase safety for motorists, pedestrians, and train passengers alike. Senator Carlucci carried the torch, and legislation that passed both houses will now require coordinated, frequent inspections of traffic control devices, while imposing penalties on companies and repeat offending drivers who ignore public safety requirements.

Mayoral Control

New York City students deserve greater transparency and accountability from their public school system. This year’s agreement on mayoral control extends control for one year, while requiring School Community Districts to publish spending information. This new requirement will streamline information  for parents and taxpayers, and enhance understanding of New York City’s public school spending.


   Washington Heights Residents will Rally in Celebration of Saving their supermarket 
   There has been a supermarket at 592 Fort Washington Ave on 187th Street for nearly 30 years, providing quality affordable produce to the many residents in the area. After the community learned that the Associated may be evicted at the end of its lease term, hundreds rallied and over a 1000 residents signed a petition to keep their supermarket and prevent a food desert.  After intense pressure, the Associated signed a new lease that will keep it in the neighborhood for years to come. Tomorrow, at 3:00pm, elected officials and Washington Heights residents will rally in celebration of the Associated supermarket staying in the neighborhood and for all the mom and pop stores that make the community whole. 

State Senator Adriano Espaillat
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez
Councilman Mark Levine 
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer 
Community Board 12 Chair Shah Ally 
Store Manager Oswald Rodriguez 
Scores of local residents 

Associated Supermarket (Ft. Washington Ave. and W.187th St.)

TOMORROW - Sunday, June 19th starting at 3:00pm


  This supermarket was a Daitch Shopwell over 35 years ago. It was then turned into an A & P supermarket when Daitch Shopwell/Food Emporium was bought by the A & P chain. Prices went up in the store, and people went elsewhere. As an Associated supermarket the prices did not go down, and will have to go up again to pay for the new lease. 
  Is this a coincidence that this was done just before the 13th Congressional primary on June 28th? 

Friday, June 17, 2016



  Even after 30 deaths under ACS’s watch in the last decade, this agency still can’t do its job; “ACS continues to put children in harm’s way,” Stringer said.

Required managerial reviews for two-thirds of the most urgent abuse cases were late or incomplete, leaving children in potentially dangerous situations

Mandatory meetings to assess if children were in danger were late; in one instance, caseworkers didn’t meet with a child for over a month

  New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is potentially putting thousands of children at risk by violating its own requirements on how to properly investigate allegations of abuse, according to a new audit released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. Over the last decade, reports have identified 30 instances in which children died due to shoddy investigations and poor oversight at ACS. Despite these fatal consequences – and ACS’s pledges to enact immediate reforms – auditors still found multiple instances in which ACS regularly failed to conduct required check-ins with alleged victims of abuse or neglect on a regular basis, didn’t evaluate homes for signs of domestic violence, and ignored staff members’ concerns about being overburdened by high caseloads.
“The Administration for Children’s Services continues to put our City’s children in harm’s way,” Comptroller Stringer said. “After years of horror stories about children dying under their care and pledges by ACS to reform itself, our audit uncovered an unchanged agency, rife with mismanagement and bureaucratic inaction. No child should have to spend a single night in an unsafe home, and it’s government’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. This agency must take responsibility for decades of inaction and make the desperately-needed changes to protect our City’s most vulnerable residents.”
ACS investigates an average of 60,000 reports of child abuse and neglect each year through its Division of Child Protection. Each case is handled by a team consisting of a Child Protective Manager, a supervisor and a caseworker. Upon receiving a complaint, the team is expected to determine the safety risk level of every child in a household.
The Comptroller’s audit probed ACS’s protocols for handling of child abuse and neglect allegations from July 1, 2013 through May 31, 2015 and examined a sample of 25 cases. Auditors focused on whether the agency had adequate controls over its processes to investigate allegations of child abuse, which included whether supervisors enforced its policies and procedures.
Today’s findings reflect an agency that continues to resist persistent calls for change despite several reports over the past decade that found significant issues that endangered the lives of children. Investigations by ACS, the Department of Investigation, and a Brooklyn District Attorney Grand Jury identified at least thirty children in ACS custody that died between October 2005 and October 2013 due to inadequate investigations and shoddy casework.
Major findings of Comptroller Stringer’s audit include: 
After allegations of abuse, investigations were incomplete, shoddy, and left kids at risk 
ACS did not properly oversee investigations of alleged child abuse, as required by the agency’s own policies. During the course of an investigation, ACS staff must meet with children every other week to make sure that they are safe.
  • Out of 25 abuse cases reviewed, auditors found that these required regular meetings occurred in just one case. In the most egregious instance, no contact was made with a child for 31 days.
  • In one example an allegedly-intoxicated father of a 15-year-old child grabbed her by the hair and slapped her across the face, then threw the child’s mother to the floor, slapping and choking her – seriously injuring both the daughter and mother. However, instead of meeting with the 15-year-old child every other week to ensure her safety, nearly a month passed between visits from the child’s caseworker, leaving the child in prolonged periods of danger.
  • In an investigation of neglect, a mother told caseworkers that her child was absent from school because of asthma, but didn’t provide any evidence to back up her claim. There was no record in ACS files that the caseworker had followed a supervisor’s directive to verify the child’s condition with their pediatrician and ensure the absence was due to asthma and not abuse or neglect.
Supervisors did not review cases consistently or on time, allowing children to remain in potentially unsafe conditions 
ACS supervisors and managers are supposed to monitor how their staff track each abuse case on a regular basis. These reviews would allow supervisors and managers to assess the progress of investigations, offer guidance to case workers, and ensure children are removed from dangerous situations before tragedy strikes.
  • Auditors found that managerial reviews for two-thirds of “high-priority” cases – those that involve fatalities or families with a history of four or more prior instances of abuse – weren’t completed on time.
  • In a sample of 25 abuse cases, which should have been reviewed by supervisors 75 separate times, auditors found that 27% of reviews were late and 11% were never completed.
ACS did not properly screen homes for signs of domestic violence in close to two-thirds of cases 
ACS guidelines require caseworkers to do a domestic violence screening for all families as part of an investigation. In a sample of 25 cases auditors looked at, nearly half involved some form of domestic violence, however:
  • In 16 of the 25 of the cases reviewed, however, auditors identified problems with ACS’s screenings. Issues included six cases in which there was no evidence that any screening took place and ten cases where screenings began, but were never completed.
ACS did not ensure that caseworkers took notes on cases, meaning supervisors may not detect when children are living in dangerous situations  
Each ACS case worker is responsible for overseeing at least ten cases, and typically conducts dozens of interviews per case to determine whether children are at risk. ACS policy requires case workers to take notes and enter them into a computer database – this helps case workers keep track of details, allows supervisors and managers to review progress, and ensures children aren’t left in unsafe homes.
  • Auditors, however, found that staff kept did not keep any notes for 20 out of 25 cases, and in the five other cases, notes were either conflicting, mixed with other information, or otherwise insufficient.
ACS leadership ignored calls for greater staffing resources, but doesn’t know how much staffing it actually needs to protect all children
ACS employees repeatedly told auditors that staffing resources were not adequate to fully investigate all cases of child abuse and neglect.
For each investigation, caseworkers are responsible for conducting safety assessments, interviewing dozens of witnesses, and conducting home visits. In addition to these duties, when necessary caseworkers also set up additional services for children, testify in court, and work with contractors to place children in foster care.
  • However, caseworkers repeatedly told auditors that staffing resources were inadequate to fully investigate all allegations of abuse and neglect. Employees were required to work 10-12 cases at a time – double the number they said they could reasonably handle.
  • Leadership at ACS claimed that the caseworkers’ workload was manageable, but could not show that it had any data to back up that claim.
The Comptroller’s audit made several recommendations that will make sure ACS does its job and protects children in New York City. They include: 
  • Demanding that staff fully investigate all allegations of abuse by following guidelines and keeping proper notes;
  • Ensuring managers and supervisors complete reviews on time so that children aren’t left in dangerous situations; and
  • Studying if the agency actually has adequate capacity to perform thorough investigations.
ACS did not agree with the audit’s findings and continued to maintain that it is able to ensure the safety of children.
“Children are being left to suffer in abusive households, and in the face of this damning audit, ACS has the audacity to claim that everything is under control. With our children’s lives at stake, we simply cannot let this go on any longer,” Stringer said.

Manager And Two Debt Collectors Plead Guilty In $31 Million Fraudulent Debt Collection Scheme

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that HEATHER GASTA, a/k/a “Heather Brez,” a former manager of a Buffalo, New York-based debt collection company (the “Company”), pled guilty today to participating in a scheme to coerce thousands of victims across the country through false threats and representations into paying a total of more than $31 million to the Company to resolve debts these victims purportedly owed.  Earlier this week, COLUMBUS SIMMONS, a/k/a “Timothy Ham,” and WILLIAM CLARK, a/k/a “John Harvey,” two former debt collectors at the Company, also pled guilty for their roles in the debt collection scheme.  GASTA, SIMMONS, and CLARK each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.  To date, nine former employees of the Company have pled guilty to participating in the scheme. 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As they admitted in court this week, these defendants were key members of a band of predatory debt collectors, or as they called themselves, ‘the elite team.’  Armed with telephones and a litany of threatening lies, they and others at the Company coerced thousands of desperate, debt-ridden victims to send them tens of millions of dollars.  In a practice they called ‘juicing the balance,’ these defendants also falsely inflated the debt owed by the victims so they could collect even more.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment to which GASTA, SIMMONS, and CLARK pled guilty and statements made during their plea proceedings: 
Between 2010 and February 2015, GASTA, SIMMONS, CLARK, and their co-defendants (collectively, the “defendants”) routinely attempted to trick and coerce thousands of victims throughout the United States into paying millions of dollars in consumer debts through a variety of false statements and false threats.  The defendants, using a variety of aliases, falsely told victims, among other things, that: (1) the Company was affiliated with local government and law enforcement agencies, including the “county” and the district attorney’s office; (2) the consumers had committed criminal acts, such as “wire fraud” or “check fraud,” and if they did not pay the debt immediately, warrants or other process would be issued, at which point they would be arrested or hauled into court; (3) the victims would have their driver’s licenses suspended if they did not pay their debts immediately; (4) the Company was a law firm or mediation firm and that the Company’s employees were working with lawyers, a law firm, mediators, or arbitrators; and (5) a civil lawsuit would be filed, or was pending, against the victims for failing to pay their debts. 
As a further part of the scheme, the defendants lied to victims by falsely inflating the balances of the debts so that they could collect more money from the victims than the victims actually owed, a practice known within the Company as “juicing” balances. 
GASTA, SIMMONS, and CLARK were members of the Company’s so-called “elite team,” which used particularly aggressive and egregious tactics in attempting to trick consumers into paying debts.  GASTA also served as a Company manager.
GASTA, 41, SIMMONS, 46, and CLARK, 30, all of Buffalo, New York, each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
GASTA, is scheduled to be sentenced on September 30, SIMMONS on September 23, and CLARK on September 29, 2016, respectively, before Judge Failla.  
In total, nine former employees of the Company have pled guilty to defrauding consumers as part of this debt collection scheme.  In addition to the pleas of GASTA, SIMMONS and CLARK, former Company mangers Mark Lavin and John Salatino and debt collectors Jessica Mann, Charles Starks, Michael Calandra, and Jennifer Sherk each pled guilty for their roles in the fraud.  The other defendants who have not pled guilty are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.   
On or about May 20, 2016, Mann was sentenced by Judge Failla to a prison term of one year and one day.  The sentencing of the other defendants who have pled guilty is pending. 

Special Bronx Community Board #6 committee meeting June 20th 6 PM

  Please be informed that an additional items has been added to the agenda for the Monday, June 20, 2016 special meeting of the Housing & Land Use and Transportation committees of Bronx Community Board #6.

The additional item is:                                   

The consideration of a request from the Department of Transportation and School Safety Division of the New York City Police department to convert of East 187th Street between Park and Webster avenues from a two-way to a one-way street.

The meeting will be held at the community board’s district office, which is located at 1932 Arthur Avenue, Room 403-A, Bronx, New York, and will begin at 6:00 p.m.

“Brunch Bill” Vote Explained

   Assemblyman Dinowitz Statement on Nay Vote for “Brunch Bill”

   “New York State’s Blue Laws are archaic, outdated, and frankly, biased against those communities that don't observe their Sabbath on Sundays. Though I believe we must update these laws to more equitably treat those who observe the Sabbath on any day of the week, I simply don’t feel it is our job as legislators to be in the business of encouraging activities such as drinking early on Sunday mornings, or on any other day for that matter.”

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj - Morris Park Gas Main Project


On Wednesday June 1, 2016, employees from ConEd met with the Morris Park Association to explain the work being done in the Morris Park area.  They explained that the work being done is part of a Gas Main Replacement Program which is part of a green energy program and will assist in converting from oil heat to gas heat and replace the existing piping to plastic piping, which is more durable and has a longer life.
The work being done is targeted to areas based on historical data that has been shown to have leaks. The piping in these areas are being updated, even if there have been no leaks, in an effort to prevent leaks in the future.
The primary focus of these updates will be from Williamsbridge Road to Bogart Avenue, which can be seen on the map below. The area highlighted in the blue is the "Accelerated Main Project" where the most significant amount of work has and will be done.  The area highlighted in green indicates the "Non Prone Leak Pipes" which has already been completed, while the red highlighted area shows additional piping that will be replaced.
The entire area may take up to one year to complete with 6 months to a year total time to convert to the use of natural gas. Each project area will take 3 weeks to one month to complete, depending on the amount of homes on each block.
We do not have dates in which the work will be done in each area; however, we will update the community when that information becomes available.

We ask that you be patient during the time in which this work is being done.



  Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, reacted to the arrest and indictment of Yury Baumblit, along with his employee, Edwin Elie, on charges that the duo illegally evicted tenants who lived in 3/4 houses between April 2014 and March 16, 2016. The defendants allegedly unlawfully evicted at least 10 tenants who occupied rooms for over 30 days - even though landlords cannot evict a tenant who occupies a room or a bed for 30 consecutive days without a court order.

"No landlord in New York City should be able to take advantage of our city's most vulnerable residents - whether they are seniors, disabled citizens, low-income families, or those living in transitional housing, such as three-quarter houses,"said Council Member Williams. "Any owner who doesn't think that law enforcement officials, along with elected legislators, aren't watching you and ready to respond should you abuse your tenants, are sorely mistaken. The Committee on Housing and Buildings intends to consider several pieces of legislation in the coming months that cracks down on the exact behavior that Mr. Baumblit and Mr. Elie are accused of in the Brooklyn District Attorney's indictment. We know that we have many tools in the toolkit to protect tenants, and I thank Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson for using one of these tools. I look forward to working with him, along with Speaker, and the administration to ensure that where the City can act, it will."

Kingsbridge Library Reading Hour

   Library Reading Hour sponsored by Rotary Club of Riverdale

  Youngsters 3-12 years old are invited to participate in the Reading Program on Saturday, July 9, 2016 at the Kingsbridge Library, 291 W. 231st St., 1-1:45.  (The Library is closed the prior weekend for July 4th holiday.)  Readers will be grouped by skill level and encouraged to read, helped with pronunciation and word understanding and, for those without reading skills, interpret pictures.  There is no charge for participation.  Enjoy the beauty and air conditioning comfort of our newest area library.
The Rotary Club of Riverdale is part of Rotary International and sponsors the library reading project as a local community service.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bronx Chamber of Commerce - 2016 Business & Health Expo

  The people who were involved in this years Bronx Chamber of Commerce 2016 Business and Health Expo which was held at 'The Mall at Bay Plaza'. 
  It was only on the first floor of the three floor mall so when you entered the Mall at Bay Plaza everything was on one level. There were stores on all three levels, with the food court on the third level.

Dozens of merchants and service providers were on hand in the awesome Mall at Bay Plaza, in this photo taken from the third level of the mall. 

Above - The Dodge Boys from Eastchester/Riverdale Dodge/Jeep were on hand, as they hold up one of many booklet filled with facts about Dodge and Jeep vehicles. 
Below - The People from TD Bank were on hand, and while they had many free gifts for those who attended no money was handed out. It has to be earned at one of TD banks many Bronx branches.

Above - The owner of POSTNET a Bronx based company shows off his wares.
Below - The Master Greeter from Joe's Crab Shack explains what Joe's Crab Shack is all about to someone who is just out of the photo.

Above - Nunzio Del Greco President and CEO of The Bronx Chamber of Commerce (right) stands by the Simone Visionary Development table. Simone Development has built many important projects around the Bronx and neighboring Westchester County. 
Below - Mr. Phil Cardone Director of Events for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce is on the left of, Ms. Maranda Ashkar the Executive Director of the Mall at Bay Plaza, Councilman Andy King, and Mr. Nunzio Del Greco President and CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce pose as they are talking about next years Bronx Chamber of Commerce Business and Health Expo. Next year I was told the expo would be on all three levels of the Mall at Bay Plaza, and include several workshops. There is a lot of work to be done by all to make that happen.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz

We Condemn California Pastor’s Message That Rejoices In Orlando Massacre

You should know that Sacramento California Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California, has been reported in the media as rejoicing in the massacre that took place this weekend at the Orlando gay nightclub.
It is very important for you to know that as the President of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, my fellow ministers and I condemn his rejoicing in those killings.  We condemn Pastor Jimenez’s statements: “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die,” and “I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job because these people are predators.”
Pastor Jimenez’s message is deplorable, and any preacher who shares that mindset does not understand the Bible.  Pastor Jimenez should realize that all of the victims of the Orlando shooting are human beings, and any preaching to harm their lives is un-Christianly.
As Christians, the Members of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization know that all human life, at all of its stages of development, is sacred. This is why we are pro-life, and work to protect the lives of the unborn. This is why we are against the death penalty. Only God, the Creator of all life, can decide when a life can be taken.
You should already know that my ministers and I have joined the Bangladesh community in solidarity in my district when they have been targeted and assaulted, and we have joined with churches, mosques and synagogues when members of their communities have been singled out for attack. We have condemned all acts of violence.
My fellow ministers and I will continue to keep the victims and the families of this awful massacre, as all of the Orlando community who grieve and fear, in our thoughts and prayers.
I am Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.


  Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda and State Senator Gustavo Rivera's bill (A5548/S992), also known as the Translation Services bill, passed the New York State Assembly. This bill, which seeks to ensure due process for incarcerated individuals whose first language is not English and who are hearing impaired by providing a certified translator at parole board interviews, passed the Senate last week and has now been sent to Governor Cuomo's desk for signature.

"How can we expect an incarcerated individual to answer questions about their potential release when they are not addressed in a language they understand?  The implementation of this common sense measure will grant incarcerated individuals the opportunity to fully understand and participate in their parole board interviews. While this is a simple measure, it is necessary if we are to make the parole process more equal for all New Yorkers, regardless of their origin or disability. I urge Governor Cuomo to join the Legislature in enacting this bill into law," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera.

"Echoing my colleague, state Senator Gustavo Rivera, this Translation Services bill, a result of hearings that I held in the Assembly as chair of the subcommittee on Transitional Services, with testimony from several former parolees, simply makes sense.
As with any due process measure, whether in the courts or before a parole board, the right to a fair hearing, with all the necessary procedures and safeguards, is fundamental - or should be - to the American system of justice," said Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda. 

Approximately 35 percent of the incarcerated population in New York State prisons are of either Hispanic origin or foreign born, with many of them not being to fully fluent English. In order to address this reality, this bill will require Department of Correction and Community Supervision's (DOCCS) employees to determine if an incarcerated individual requires an English language interpreter and inform the respective parole board accordingly. In addition, this bill aims to codify into law the existing practice of providing deaf language interpreters for those incarcerated individuals in need of such services.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Reminds New Yorkers Of His Guide To Protect Consumers From Summer Scams

Schneiderman Urges New Yorkers To Report Home Improvement And Vacation Scams To His Office At 1-800-771-7755
   Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman reminded New Yorkers today of common scams that occur during the summer and offered tips to protect against abuse. Scam artists are known to prey on New Yorkers, particularly during summer months, as consumers embark on home improvement projects and plan family vacations. The Attorney General urged New Yorkers to notify his office of any summer scams designed to dupe unsuspecting consumers.
“As the temperatures rise in the summertime, consumers should proceed with caution in regards to unsolicited offers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Unscrupulous scammers prey on families seeking vacation or timeshare deals, seniors looking to escape the heat, and homeowners working to improve their property. It’s vital that consumers report seasonal scams to the proper authorities so that we may hold these criminals accountable for their actions and prevent them from victimizing others.”
This year, the most common summer scams were related to unsolicited home improvement projects, such as weatherproofing and paint jobs. Other common scams that target consumers include vacation rental and timeshare fraud. Attorney General Schneiderman continued to urge consumers who believe they have been victimized by a summer scam to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint Hotline at 1-800-771-7755 or online at
Below is the Attorney General’s guide to protecting New Yorkers from summer scams. It is also available online here
The Drive-Bys
"I'm painting a house (or a barn or a garage) in the neighborhood. I am paving a driveway (or patching a roof) around the corner. I have material left over and can do yours for next to nothing."
Too often this kind of offer results in a watered down stain instead of paint, inferior shingles on half the roof, or a thin smear of blacktop on the driveway. These scammers typically demand a payment upfront and, if they actually finish the job, it probably won't last through the next rainstorm. Their guarantee? Good luck finding them. 
"I was passing by and noticed you had some branches down…your trees really need a trim."
Frequently, the branches are down because the scammer broke them off. If hired, they do work on "unexpected problems" that run up exorbitant charges.  Too often, the scammers threaten consumers if the extra charges are disputed, and sometimes follow the owners to the bank for cash payments.
Weatherproofing Scams: $15,000 Solutions to $150 Problems
“Free Basement Inspections!”When a community has been hit by a series of rainstorms, you can bet the offers for "free basement inspections" will start rolling in. The answer? It's usually an expensive pump or excavating the foundation to waterproof, when the problem was really clogged gutters or a drain blocked by root growth.
"Free Chimney Inspections!"
Same thing. This money saving coupon will usually result in a recommendation for a new chimney or a "cleaning" that involves the sweep spreading soot around to make it look as though the work was done.
Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Be suspicious about any unsolicited offer to work on your home. Remember, there is no problem so serious it can't wait a day or two for you to do some research.
  • Checkout the contractor with the local Better Business Bureau.
  • Get references, particularly about jobs done a while ago.
  • Use local companies whose addresses you can verify.
  • Get more than one written estimate that includes details about the materials.
  • Check with your town or city to see if permits are required. Don't let a contractor work without the necessary permits.
  • Don't assume the lowest estimate is the best deal. Check the quality of the materials.
  • Be clear that you won't pay for any work not included in the estimate, unless it's agreed upon in writing.
  • Always be sure the contractor has valid insurance.
  • Always report a scam to local law enforcement and the Attorney General's Office.
Whether it's to escape the heat of summer or the chill of winter, everyone considers finding a good deal on a vacation a big win. Except when the good deal isn't so good. Vacation fraud is on the rise, and as consumers troll the internet looking for a good price on a dream vacation, scammers are trolling for victims to make a quick buck.
Here are some common vacation scams, and what you can do to make sure you're not caught in the net.
Vacation Rental Scams
The setup: It's just what you wanted! A cottage overlooking a quiet lake; a beachfront condo; an apartment in the heart of the city.  The problem?  It doesn't really exist. Especially prevalent on listing sites like Craigslist, consumers are drawn in by a great deal, they pay upfront and arrive to find that no such address exists.
Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Make sure the seller has a valid address and phone number.
  • Use a mapping website to verify the address exists and looks like the photos.
  • Ask for references before signing any agreements or making a payment.
  • Use verified payment sources such as PayPal or a major credit card, which can be traced in the event something goes wrong.
  • NEVER make a payment using a wire transfer service such as Western Union or Money Gram.
Vacation Certificate Scams
The set up: you buy a certificate entitling you to deep discounts on flights, hotels or other vacation opportunities. The problem?  There are many. You are paying in advance for a vacation at an unspecified time. The companies frequently are out of business before you use the voucher, or there are so many restrictions that it is nearly impossible to make reservations. And, use of the certificates is often dependent upon using specific, high-priced facilities that negate any other savings, or the facilities are not the five-star resorts they claim to be.
Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Check to see if the seller is registered with NYS and with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
  • Check out reviews of the facilities available to the certificate users.
  • Read the purchase agreement carefully, looking for cancellation policies and making note of blackout dates and other restrictions.
Timeshares and Vacation Club Scams
Although a timeshare or vacation club may be a legitimate enterprise, the marketing techniques frequently involve high pressure sales that trap people into long term financial commitments they can't afford and may not use.
The set up: Firms offer free vacations if you agree to attend a presentation.  Potential buyers are offered "discounts" if they sign up "right now" for a multi-year membership. The problem? The supposed discounts are frequently more expensive than regular offerings, the advantages and protections offered in the pitch are not the same as what's in the contract, and future costs and fees can escalate without notice.
Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Never consider this an "investment." There is little market demand for resale and you will almost certainly lose money on it. In addition, the resale market place is rife with fraud.
  • Never sign a contract for a multi-year commitment on the day of the pitch. Take the time to read it carefully, perhaps asking a lawyer to review it.
  • Look carefully at how costs can change over the life of the membership or ownership.
 If you believe you have been victimized by a summer scam, please contact the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint Hotline at 1-800- 771-7755 or online