Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, James J. Hunt, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the unsealing today of an Indictment charging 12 members and associates of a Bronx-based street gang known as “Square Gang” with racketeering conspiracy and a firearms offenses.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
12 Members And Associates Of Violent Bronx Street Gang Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Racketeering And Firearms Offenses
Attorney General's Special Investigations And Prosecutions Unit Releases Report On The Death Of Ariel Galarza
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (SIPU) released a comprehensive report on its investigation into the death of Ariel Galarza in Bronx County in November 2016. The investigation, led by Chief of the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit Alvin Bragg, found no criminal culpability in the death of Mr. Galarza.
According to the report, on November 2, 2016, NYPD officers responded to a 911 call from another resident of Mr. Galarza’s building, who said that Mr. Galarza had been brandishing a knife and screaming. When the officers arrived, they found Mr. Galarza in his basement apartment holding a 12-ounce glass bottle. When ordered to lie down on the floor, Mr. Galarza stood up and lifted the bottle in the air, within eight feet of the NYPD sergeant.
When Mr. Galarza ignored orders to drop the bottle, the sergeant deployed a taser and delivered a five-second electric charge. Mr. Galarza continued to struggle with the officers as they attempted to handcuff him; the sergeant activated the taser two more times for five seconds each, before the officers were able to restrain Mr. Galarza. After he was handcuffed, Mr. Galarza lost consciousness and his heart stopped beating. EMS personnel arrived within minutes and were able to restore a heartbeat; however, once at the hospital, emergency room physicians were unable to maintain a normal heart rhythm and Mr. Galarza was pronounced deceased.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy, and SIPU also retained an independent forensic pathologist to conduct a separate autopsy. OCME and the independent expert separately reached similar conclusions that Mr. Galarza died of cardiac arrest resulting from a combination of a preexisting heart condition, drug intoxication, and obesity, combined with the effects of physical exertion, restraint, and the use of the taser.
During a subsequent search of the apartment, officers recovered the glass bottle and two butcher knives.
In light of all the evidence – including that Mr. Galarza was threatening the officers with a glass bottle, and that a police officer may justifiably use reasonable force in order to protect himself against the imminent use of unlawful force against himself or another person, or to effect an arrest - SIPU found that criminal charges against the responding officers were not warranted.
SIPU’s investigation took into account statements by civilian witnesses, as well as NYPD and emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene; autopsy and toxicology reports from the OCME and independent forensic pathologist; Mr. Galarza’s medical records; the report generated by the taser used during the incident; and the NYPD records, including the 911 recording.
“We send our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Galarza, whose death was a tragedy,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We remain committed to following the facts and providing exhaustive and transparent accounting of all cases we investigate under the executive order.”
The report was produced as part of the Attorney General’s role as the state’s special prosecutor. In July 2015, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 147, appointing the Attorney General to that role to oversee investigations into incidents where unarmed civilians die during interactions with police, or incidents where there is significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous. In cases in which it’s determined that charges are not warranted, the Attorney General’s office releases a comprehensive report that details the findings of its investigation, as part of its commitment to transparency.
Defendant’s Young Son Watched As Victim Was Beaten To Death With Metal Pipe
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for fatally beating an 80-year-old man in a dispute over money.
District Attorney Clark said, “This defendant brutally beat an elderly man with a metal pipe in front of his own 7-year-old son, all because of a dispute over money. The defendant took the life of a man who was beloved by his family and a fixture in his neighborhood and now the defendant will pay the price for this heartless act.”
District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Jason Rivera, 30 of 575 East 140th Street, was sentenced today to 18 years to life in prison for second-degree Murder by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler. Rivera was convicted by a jury on June 12, 2017.
According to the investigation, on the night of September 2, 2014, inside a store on St. Ann’s Avenue at East 139th Street, Rivera —with his son in tow — confronted Manuel Rosario over money. Rosario followed Rivera outside the store with a metal pipe he had retrieved from inside the store and Rivera took it from him, striking him repeatedly with it. Rosario died eight days later at Lincoln Medical Center as a result of blunt trauma injuries.
Senator Jeff Klein brought Herman's Hermits with lead singer Peter Noone to perform at Riverdale's Seton Park as part of the Senator's Summer Symphony Series. Over 500 people enjoyed songs from the audience favorites Mrs. Brown You Have A lovely Daughter, I'm Henry the Eighth I Am, I'm Into Something Good, and many others sung by Peter Noone and the band. People came with chairs or blankets and those who came early got front row seats. Senator Klein introduced the group, and then the songs started lasting long after the sun set and the park was dark. On hand to provide a safe setting was Deputy Inspector O'Toole and several of the officers and Auxiliary police officers of the 50th Precinct. I asked Deputy Inspector O'Toole his favorite Herman's Hermits song, and his answer was he had several.
Above - On either side of Peter Noone (the lead singer of Herman's Hermits if Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. Next to senator Klein is Community Board 8 member Eric Dinowitz, next to Assemblyman Dinowitz is his Chief of Staff Randi Martos, and next to Ms. Martos is Deputy Inspector O'Toole of the 50th Precinct.
Below - Lead singer from Herman's Hermits Peter Noone waves to the crowd.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced today that his office will allocate more than $2 million in capital funds to help support higher education institutions throughout The Bronx this year.
“I am committed to providing all the necessary resources the school system in The Bronx needs to help our students to strive for a higher education,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “We have always been known as ‘the borough of universities,’ and investing in our higher education institutions is imperative in order to provide a top-flight education for all of our residents.”
Funds will go towards improving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance routes, as well as other improvements, for Bronx Community College’s Roscoe C Brown Jr. Student Center Hall of Fame Playhouse; upgrades for Hostos Community College’s Allied Health Building; converting 25 Lehman College classrooms into state-of-the-art “Networked Smart Classrooms,” as well as provide equipment for their Access & Technology Center; and renovating a new state of the art facility at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
In total, Borough President Diaz has allocated $2,138,000 million across four colleges and universities in FY18. Since 2009, Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. has invested $13,142,000 in capital funds towards higher education.
“The Bronx is producing top-level talent that can compete in the job market with graduates from any higher learning institute in the country. That is why it is very important we invest in our colleges and universities,” said Borough President Diaz. “Bolstering our borough’s higher learning institutions, both at public institutions as well as private colleges and universities, not only provide The Bronx with a more highly-skilled work force that can compete in the global job market, but it also helps in bolstering our local and citywide economy in the long-term, helping our borough continue to build on the success of our current renaissance.”
“Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. funded two projects, whose funds will be matched by the state, that will help with additional needs be met so that we can operate at full capacity,” said Elizabeth Friedman, Director of Campus Planning for Hostos Community College. “We appreciate the Bronx Borough President’s support of Hostos Community College, who is helping make our buildings more energy efficient while also helping us maximize addressing the needs of our students.
“We are very grateful to Borough President Diaz for funding our Access and Technology Center,” said José Luis Cruz, Lehman College President. “These funds will enable us to deliver state-of-the-art assistive technology to a growing population of students with disabilities. Borough President Diaz has been a true partner in our efforts to expand educational opportunity to young people throughout the borough.”
“Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr has been a staunch supporter of Bronx Community College,” says Bronx Community College President Thomas A. Isekenegbe. “As a CUNY alumnus, he knows firsthand the importance and need for an elected official to support and invest in public higher education. For Fiscal Year 2018, the Borough President appropriated $500K for the renovation of the Hall of Fame Playhouse in BCC’s Roscoe C. Brown Student Center. This project will provide a fully accessible route from the Playhouse’s exterior entrance, through the lobby and onto the stage. It will also upgrade the telecommunications, AV systems, signage and mechanical equipment. This funding will have a positive impact on the BCC student experience. Our College is proud of the partnership we have with the Borough President and we are grateful for his years of friendship.”
“Thanks to Borough President Diaz, families across The Bronx that struggle with various forms of mental illness will continue to receive the treatment they need at the Parnes Family Psychological and Psychoeducational Services clinic at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology,” said Phil Goldfeder, assistant vice president for Government and Community Affairs at Yeshiva University. “This critical investment will allow us to build a new mental health clinic to enhance services and increase our capacity to serve additional residents. The new state-of-the-art clinic will include 17 assessment and therapy rooms, as well as space for conducting play therapy with children, group therapy, and a patient waiting area. Families deserve a mental health clinic that can effectively provide for the community and prepare our students for the future and with this investment, we are another step closer to a stronger Bronx.”
This year, Borough President Diaz’s office has provided $58,718,000 in total capital dollars across 146 projects. Since coming to office in 2009, Borough President Diaz has provided $248,646,000 in total capital funding to 725 projects.
IDC exposes loophole in law which allows predators to live near standalone pre-ks and to show other instances where offenders are in violation of current law
Senators Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), Diane Savino (D-Bronx), Jose Peralta (D-Queens) and Marisol Alcantara (D-Manhattan) released, “Preying on Pre-Ks,” a report examining a dangerous loophole allowing sex offenders to live near standalone pre-kindergartens throughout the city.
Under the current law the definition of the word school does not include standalone pre-kindergartens, and an investigation found 93 sexual predators convicted of committing crimes against children living within 1,000 feet of these facilities across New York City. Pre-ks attached to traditional elementary schools are covered, and 60 predators are violating the law which prohibits Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from living within the set distance.
“It flies in the face of spirit of the law that standalone pre-kindergartens and kindergartens are not considered schools. With a growing number of students attending pre-kindergarten programs, this glaring loophole in the law allowing predators to live right next door to children must be closed,” said Senator Klein.
“As we fight in Albany to increase access to school seats for younger children, it is imperative that we do all we can to keep them safe. We have been successful in implementing Universal Pre-K, and an expansion of that to 3 year old children- so naturally it is our duty to ensure that our most vulnerable are kept out of reach of predators,” said Senator Savino.
“It is unconceivable to me that sex offenders can be residing within one thousand feet of pre-k and kindergarten program locations in the city. Current law prohibits them from living within that distance from schools grounds, but incredibly, they can live near pre-k and kindergarten facilities. This is just unreal. We must act immediately to prevent this situation from happening, since it endangers the lives of thousands of children. We must ensure we keep those who preyed on our kids as far away as possible from schools. This is why the Assembly must act and pass these two bills that will go a long way to protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers. I want to thank Senators Klein and Avella for their efforts on this particular front,” said Senator Peralta.
“It is important that we do not stand idly by in the face of sexual abuse, and the loophole in current law that allows sex offenders to live near kindergartens and pre-K's urgently needs to be closed. Sexual abuse takes a terrible toll on our communities, and New York State must address the issue with the utmost seriousness,” said Senator Alcantara.
“As lawmakers, we have a duty to make sure that our children are always protected to the best of our state’s abilities. We also have a duty to make sure that the laws that are designed to protect us are as clear and enforceable as possible. It is my hope that, by requiring uniform standards, my legislation can once and for all clear up any confusion that existed so that we can begin enforcing this important law,” said Senator Tony Avella.
Senator Klein’s bill, S.1787, expands the 1,000-foot prohibition to include pre-kindergarten and kindergarten facilities. Without it, sex offenders can and will continue to live within steps of a pre-K or kindergarten facility with no repercussion.
Senator Avella also proposed S.1271, which would require uniform standards for measuring the distance between a sex offender’s home and nearby schools. This will clarify and correct any discrepancies in determining the distance between a sex offender’s residence and schools to ensure compliance with the current law.
NEW YORK CITY ANNOUNCES INVESTIGATION INTO TENANT HARASSMENT IN QUEENS CONDO BUILDING DISPLAYING NAZI IMAGERY AND CONFEDERATE POSTERS
Day of Action also held in Sunnyside to promote tenants’ rights amidst reports of housing discrimination and discriminatory harassment
New York City announced today an investigation into allegations of tenant harassment at 47-55 39th Place in Sunnyside, Queens, which has displays of Nazi and Confederate imagery, swastikas and other hate symbols in the lobby. The NYC Commission on Human Rights launched the investigation on behalf of the City following public reports from Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, tenants and condo owners of a hostile environment due to alleged tenant harassment by the property manager or managers connected to the offensive displays in the common area. Under the NYC Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate against or harass tenants because of their race, color, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation and other protected classes.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Community Affairs Unit, Public Engagement Unit and the Human Resource Administration also held a Day of Action outside the 40th Street & Lowery Street and 46th Street & Bliss Street train stations and in front of PS 199Q at 39-20 48th Avenue in Sunnyside Queens where they distributed flyers on tenants’ rights and discriminatory harassment and answered questions on legal protections and services against discrimination and harassment.
“It is now more important than ever for New Yorkers to stand united as one city and reject discrimination and intolerance,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will not let tenants in Sunnyside or across the five boroughs be intimidated or threatened for speaking out against hatred.”
“Discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in New York City and the NYC Commission on Human Rights is cracking down on anyone who thinks they are above the Law,” said Deputy Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights Hollis V. Pfitsch. “Despite hostile rhetoric on the national level, no one in New York City has permission to harass or threaten another person because of who they are, what they believe, or what they look like. The Commission will continue to use every tool it has to investigate and prosecute violators and encourages anyone who witnesses or is a victim of discrimination or harassment to step forward and report it to the Commission.”
“New York City is at the forefront of protecting tenants’ rights and we are here to ensure that New Yorkers are aware of all the resources this Administration has put in place to defend them from harassment and discrimination,” said Department of Social Service Commissioner Steven Banks. “Nobody should be exposed to blatant symbols of hate in their own homes and we want to support these tenants and any other tenant who can benefit from our services.”
“We want to send a clear message that we will not stand idly by and allow tenants to feel victimized in their own homes,” said Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “I want to applaud the Mayor’s Office and the NYC Commission on Human Rights for their advocacy on behalf of the New York City residents. We look forward to our continued collaboration as we fight to protect tenants across our city.
In New York City, it is illegal for housing providers, landlords, or their employees or agents to:
- Discriminate against tenants by creating a hostile environment of harassment based on their race, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation, or any other protected class.
- Harass or threaten tenants because of their race, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation or any other protected class.
- Refuse to make repairs or provide equal services to tenants because of their protected class.
- Retaliate against tenants who report discriminatory behavior or neglect to ensure employees and agents are trained on their responsibilities under the NYC Human Rights Law, including superintendents, maintenance workers, brokers, and salespeople.
Over the past two years, the Commission has significantly increased enforcement efforts to address housing discrimination and tenant harassment, tripling the number of investigations in this area. The Commission is currently investigating 565 claims of housing discrimination, over 75 claims of which directly involve tenant harassment.
It’s also illegal in New York City for people to engage in discriminatory harassment, which occurs when someone uses physical force — or threatens to use physical force — against a victim because of their protected status, and knowingly intimidates, injures, or interferes with a legal right of the victim. Discriminatory harassment also occurs when someone damages or destroys another person’s property because of their protected status. Amid hostile national rhetoric, hate speech and violence over the last year, the Commission has increased outreach and enforcement efforts across the City so people understand their rights. Reports of discriminatory harassment increased by 480% in 2016, with 203 reports of discriminatory harassment made in 2016 compared to 35 in 2015.
The Commission also recently created a “Bias Response Team” to respond to incidents of bias and discrimination across the City following reports/tips from callers, advocates, and city agencies, such as the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, and from news media and social media. Over the last six months, the Commission’s Bias Response Team members have monitored and conducted numerous site visits to affected communities following bias incidents, including displays of hate symbols and images such as swastikas, hateful drawings, and written discriminatory threats, among others.
The Commission has the authority to fine violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the Law and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits. The Commission can also order trainings on the NYC Human Rights Law, changes to policies, and restorative justice relief such as community service and mediated apologies.
If you or someone you know believes they are the victim of discrimination or harassment, call the Commission’s Infoline at 718-722-3131. Reports may also be filed anonymously. People may also report discrimination on the Commission’s website.
The candidates for the 14th City Council District Democratic Party line (L - R), Candidate Randy Abreau, Candidate Fernando Cabrera, Candidate Felix Perdomo.
Bronxtalk host Gary Axelbank goes over the ground rules for this Democratic Debate with the candidates.
It was a lively at times, and back and forth at times on some of the issues of the 14th City Council Democratic primary debate, Councilman Fernando Cabrera stressed his experience as a legislator, while his two opponents (mostly Randy Abreau) questioned just what the councilman had done for the district.
Candidate Randy Abreau spoke of growing up in the district, attending District 10 public schools, leaving the district at age 18 to attend college on a scholarship. He then spoke of his experience at the federal level working in Washington, and that he was back in the district to help other do what he had done.
Candidate Fernando Cabrera spoke of his almost eight years in the city council, and his 28 years being a pastor. Cabrera said that his opponent Randy Abreau did not have a track record after leaving Washington, and went on to say how crime and unemployment have gone down in the district.
Candidate Felix Perdomo spoke of coming to the United States as an immigrant, and he is now a teacher. Both Perdomo and Abreau questioned Councilman Cabrera's figures, but could not provide any other numbers.
As the debate went on it appeared to be a more of a back and forth between Councilman Cabrera and challenger Randy Abreau with little input into the conversations by candidate Felix Perdomo.
The back and forth continued on the subjects of the Jerome Avenue rezoning, with Councilman Cabrera saying that the community has been involved in the land use matter. Candidate Abreau and Perdomo said that the community has not been included by saying why then is the community marching against the proposal, and why has there been so few meetings with the community.
Another topic was the issue of Marriage Equality, the LGBT community, and anti gay comments made by Councilman/Pastor Cabrera. Councilman Cabrera brushed off the comments saying it was only against gay marriage as a pastor, and that has a 100 percent voting record for the LGBT community. Candidate Abreau disagreed with him.
To a question about small business, candidate Perdomo said that small business owners need help and training, which the city is not providing. Councilman Cabrera spoke of the monies he gave to one merchants association for Christmas lights and other help. Candidate Abreau called for passage of the 'Small Business Survival act', to which Councilman Cabrera replied that the current speaker will not let come to the floor for a vote because she is against it.
All candidates agreed on the current Opioid crisis, with candidate Perdomo saying that the people need to be educated on the subject. Candidate Abreau spoke of his work with the U.S. Attorney and that the problem is transportation across state lines. He questioned why the councilman was not using monies from other areas in the budget to fight the crisis. Councilman Cabrera said that monies allocated to repair a park is a capital expenditure, and can only be used for that purpose. He added that discretionary funding is what can be used, commenting that candidate Abreau does not know about budgeting, which candidate Perdomo said that he agreed with Councilman Cabrera that candidate Abreau does not have experience.
To the subject of education, candidate Abreau said that Councilman Cabrera needed to bring more resources to the public schools, and that Cabrera was funded in his failed state senate bid by the charter school PAC. Candidate Perdomo said that he was a teacher, and that charter schools were not the answer, as he opposes them. he added that the district has lower performing schools. Councilman Cabrera repeated his experience in the council, he is endorsed by the UFT, that he has brought 15 million dollars to the local schools, which is the most of any council member.
In closing statements candidate Abreau continued hammering the incumbent by saying that Councilman Cabrera is being supported by right wing organizations against tenants and the public school system.
Councilman Cabrera once again stressed the figures he had of unemployment down to 6.2 percent, and the lowest crime figures.
Candidate Perdomo said that he is not going to lie about having experience, but that he wants to improve the district.
As for who was the winner, Councilman Cabrera stayed to his script of few facts that were in his favor and his two terms in office. Candidate Abreau looked like a boxer looking to land that one knockout blow, but kept bouncing off the ropes with little ring experience. Candidate Perdomo reminded me of the 2009 14th council race where there was a candidate from the 86th Assembly District as Mr. Perdomo is to take away votes from the incumbent Councilwoman who current Councilman Cabrera defeated in a close primary race. Candidate Perdomo's campaign manager whom I was sitting next to during the debate denied that Felix Perdomo was in the race to take votes away from Councilman Cabrera's opponent Randy Abreau as the third candidate did in 2009.
My prediction in my political column 100 PERCENT in the Wednesday September 6th edition of the Bronx Voice.
Bronxtalk host Gary Axelbank with the three Democratic Candidates in the 14th City Council Democratic primary.
Monday, August 28, 2017
New laws will help reduce number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 by 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed a series of bills to help reduce the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 by 2020. While smoking rates in New York City have declined from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.3 percent in 2015, the city still has more than 900,000 smokers. These new bills will help decrease the smoking prevalence to a historically low rate of 12 percent by 2020.
These seven bills will put New York City at the forefront of smoking and tobacco control by: (1) raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, and imposing a new 10 percent local tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes; (2) capping and reducing through attrition the number of tobacco retailers citywide; (3) creating a retail license for e-cigarettes and capping the number of e-cigarette retailers; (4) increasing the fee for a cigarette retail dealer license; (5) requiring all residential buildings to create a smoking policy and disclosing it to both current and prospective tenants; (6) prohibiting smoking and the use of e-cigarettes in common areas in multiple dwellings with fewer than ten units; and (7) banning the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies.
This package of legislation was introduced by Council Members Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera, Ritchie Torres and James Vacca. The bills were heard by Mayor de Blasio on August 25, 2017.
“Even though tobacco is a leading cause of premature death across the country, Big Tobacco will stop at nothing to hook people on these deadly products,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are sending a loud and clear message that we will not let their greed kill any more New Yorkers without a fight. These new laws will not only help reduce the number of smokers in our City, but also save lives.”
“Tobacco kills thousands of New Yorkers each year and the Council is proud of the City’s role as a national leader in enacting smart, effective tobacco control policies that save lives," said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "This package of bills will further strengthen our already tough tobacco laws in order to help decrease the number of smokers across the City.”
“I am excited to witness the impact these bills will have on the lives of New Yorkers," said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. "These bills tackle smoking and tobacco in a comprehensive manner that will both save lives and reduce preventable diseases. In offering New Yorkers healthier options – from where they shop to the buildings they live in–we bring all of our City’s resources to bear so that we can all live longer and healthier lives."
“If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “As a former smoker, I know how hard it is to quit. That’s why these laws are so important – they will make it easier for New Yorkers to quit smoking or never start.”
"With the Mayor's partnership, we are moving towards creating a safer, healthier City for public housing residents," said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. "Through this important legislation, we're not only going to decrease the number of smokers in New York City but also raise critical funds to support the future of NYCHA."
Tobacco continues to be a leading contributor to preventable, premature death in New York City, killing an estimated 12,000 people annually. Despite an overall decline on smoking rates among young people, youth have increasingly used a range of other tobacco products. Youth cigar, cigarillo, little cigar, smokeless, and hookah use, together, exceed cigarette use. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers first tried smoking before age 18. In the city, adolescent use of e-cigarettes is more than double the current smoking rate, 15.9 percent compared with 5.8 percent. This package of proposals will help all New Yorkers live healthier and longer lives by:
1. Raising Minimum Prices on Tobacco
This bill (Int. 1544, Johnson) raises the minimum price of cigarettes and little cigars to $13 a pack from $10.50 and sets a first-ever price floor and tax for other tobacco products, such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, snus, loose tobacco and tobacco-containing shisha. Increasing the cigarette price floor to $13 is projected to lead to a 6.4 percent decline in adult cigarette smoking, decreasing adult prevalence from 14.3 percent to 13.9 percent. The bill also imposes a tax of 10 percent of the minimum price on these other tobacco products for the first time, which is expected to generate revenue of $1 million annually dedicated for public housing.
2. Limiting Tobacco Retail Licenses
This bill (Int. 1547, Lander) will reduce the number of stores that can sell tobacco products by capping the tobacco retail dealer licenses in each community district at 50 percent of the current number of licenses. No new tobacco retail dealer licenses will be issued in a community district until its total decreases through attrition below the cap. No current tobacco retail dealers will lose their license as a result of this proposal.
New York City has high tobacco retail density, with about 8,300 licensed cigarette retailers’ citywide, averaging almost 30 dealers per square mile. Easy access to tobacco retailers makes it harder for smokers to quit. Moreover, youth who frequent retail stores that sell tobacco every week have double the odds of trying smoking. Based on conservative Health and DCA estimates, ten years after implementation, this bill could achieve up to a 40 percent reduction in the number of tobacco retailers. Reducing licenses by community districts will decrease density and promote health in neighborhoods citywide.
The bill also updates the New York City retail license for selling cigarettes to encompass all types of tobacco. These changes will improve enforcement of existing laws, including the minimum legal sale age of 21 for tobacco.
3. Creating a Retail License for E-Cigarettes
This bill (Int. 1532, Cabrera) requires retailers of e-cigarettes be issued a license, like cigarette retailers, and caps the number of these licenses. E-cigarette use has increased dramatically since e-cigarettes were introduced in U.S. markets less than 10 years ago. In 2015, 15.9 percent of New York City high school students were e-cigarette users.
This bill will cap the number of e-cigarette retailers at half the current number by community district, with the reduction in number coming through attrition. Existing sellers will be able to continue to renew their license so long as they meet all applicable licensure requirements.
It would also prohibit pharmacies from selling e-cigarettes.
4. Increasing Cigarette License Fee
This bill (Int. 1471, Johnson) will raise the biennial fee for the new tobacco retail dealer license that includes all types of tobacco sales to $200, from the $110 currently charged for a cigarette retail dealer license. There are currently 8,305 of these licenses in New York City.
5. Instituting a Residential Smoking Disclosure Policy
This bill (Int. 1585, Torres) requires owners of residential buildings to create a policy on smoking and disclose it to both current and prospective residents. All residential buildings with three or more units will be covered, including rentals, condominiums and cooperatives. Buildings would not be required to adopt no-smoking policies.
Disclosure or prominent posting of a building’s policy on smoking will be required annually and any time a building changes its policy. An owner who fails to disclose the policy may face a $100 civil penalty. Tenants would not be fined by the City for smoking in non-smoking areas of buildings.
Disclosing a building’s smoking policy will help tenants to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to live in a building. This information may be especially important for parents with young children and for others, such as older adults, who may spend more time at home and consequently might have higher exposures to secondhand smoke.
6. Prohibiting Smoking in Building Common Areas
This bill (Int. 484, Vacca) prohibits smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in common areas in residential buildings with three or more units. These activities are already illegal in common areas in residential buildings with three or more units. This is an expansion of the current law which prohibits these activities in residential buildings with more than 10 units.
7. Banning Tobacco Products in Pharmacies
This bill (Int. 1131, Lander) prohibits pharmacies, or retail stores that contain pharmacies, from selling tobacco products, including cigarettes. There are over 550 pharmacies in New York City licensed to sell tobacco products. The prohibition would begin after these current licenses expire in 2018. Pharmacies are places of health and should not sell deadly consumer products.
This legislation builds upon the de Blasio administration’s current effort curb tobacco usage and smoking. The Health Department has spent $14 million in the last three fiscal years on public awareness campaigns that support cessation efforts and to provide Nicotine Replacement Therapy through the New York State Smokers’ Quitline. In 2016 alone, the Department of Consumer Affairs issued more than 5,270 violations to ensure that current tobacco laws are being followed, and that tobacco and nicotine are not being sold to youth. While most licensees are in compliance, DCA revoked 434 licenses and suspended 271 licenses in 2016.
Council Member Fernando Cabrera said, “We are seeing far more e-cigarettes sold in low income, minority neighborhoods than affluent communities and marketing that targets young people, who are more likely to choose e-cigarettes than other tobacco products. The World Health Organization and American Heart Association have recommended stricter laws and regulations for e-cigarettes and the CDC and the Surgeon General have found that local licensing programs help prevent e-cigarette use by youths. We are taking bold action now to protect the health of New Yorkers, especially our youth.”
“By making clear what a building's smoking policy is, potential tenants and current residents can be better informed about their living conditions, environment and health impact. Residents deserve to live in clean, smoke-free buildings, if they wish, and the smoking disclosure law can bring transparency that'll help residents make informed decisions,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.
“Currently, smoking is prohibited in the common areas of buildings with ten or more dwelling units. Yet, there are buildings throughout the five boroughs, particularly in the outer boroughs, that have fewer than ten dwelling units. As of now, the law fails to protect people living in these buildings from harmful second-hand smoke and this disparity is wrong,” said Council Member James Vacca. “This legislation addresses this imbalance, prohibiting smoking in common areas of all multiple dwelling units, regardless of size, thereby extending the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s power to enforce the ban in these buildings.”