Saturday, April 15, 2017

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz Supports Michael Heller for new CB 8 District Manager

At the October 2016 meeting of Traffic and Transportation committee Mr. Michael Heller chairs the following is in the minutes of the meeting as taken from the CB 8 website.

The meeting opened at 7:40 PM. The September 2016 minutes were reviewed. The Committee approved unanimously. 

Below are the minutes (all three pages as noted) of the September 20, 2016 Bronx Community Board 8 Traffic and Transportation meeting as taken off the boards website on Saturday April 13th at 7:00 PM that were submitted by Mr. Michael Heller the committee chair. 
Please read my comment at the bottom.


BRONX COMMUNITY BOARD NO. 8, Traffic and Transportation Committee Minutes of September 20, 2016 

Meeting Committee Attendance: 

M. Heller 
D. Fuchs 
A. Creaney 
E. Bell 
N. Friedman 
S. Alexander 
G. Santiago 
Myra Joyce Community Committee member 

Committee Absences: 

M. Donato 
S. Sarao 
J. O’Brien 

Board Attendance: 

Paul Ellis 
Amy Joy Robateau 
David Gellman 
Bob Bender 
Herb Young 


Maria Nochimson – local resident 
Richard Nochimson – local resident 
Michael McCormick – Horace Mann School 
Peter Clancy – Horace Mann School 
Walter Hickey – MTAB&T 
Joyce Mulvaney – MTAB&T 
Cassandra Edgehill – MTAB&T 
Richard Campisi – MTAB&T 
Bruce Furman – local resident 
Joshua Stephenson - Office of Councilman Cohen 
Hugh Keenan – St. Margaret of Cortona School 

The meeting was conducted at the Fieldston Lodge Care Center, 666 Kappock Street, and was called to order at 7:40 PM by Chairman M. Heller, with a quorum present. The minutes of the March meeting were approved 9 – 0 – 0 by members M. Heller, R. Press, A. Creaney, D. Fuchs, E. Bell, N. Friedman, H. Young, G. Santiago, M. Joyce. 

Mr. Heller welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the next several months, including meeting on west 254 street, north Riverdale transportation plan and TA bus issues.

Minutes of the Traffic & Transportation Meeting, September 20, 2016 Page 2 

He Announced presentation by Joyce Mulvaney, director of community affairs of MTA B&T who introduced her staff to talk about the Henry Hudson Parkway (HHP) toll booth and other projects. 

She described the previous conversion to open road tolling, HHP cashless pilot since 2012 and we were the first. The goal is convert all MTA bridges and remove HHP tool booths starting at the end of 2016. A gantry system will read all ez passes and license plates. The Upper level will start at the end of 2016, lower level will take longer. 

Skew backs, which secure the bridge arch are to be rehabilitated starting early next year. Concrete pedestals will also be replaced over a 33 month period with all work at ground level and no impact on traffic. There will be an incentive for contractor to reduce duration to take off three months. Work is to be done only 8-4 pm weekdays on Bronx side. 

Replacement of bridge plazas, upper and lower: 45 months total contract period for both decks. The lower level is a much larger job requiring 31 months and reduction to 2 lanes. The upper deck will require five months. There will be incentives to shorten work on the lower level by 9 months and the top by 2 months bottom to three lanes. 

The bike path will be closed during lower level work. A bus shuttle service will run from Kappock to Dyckman during daylight continuously from March 1 through November, not during winter months due to low usage. 10.6 in lanes. 

Representatives confirmed the MTA jurisdiction is from Kappock to Dyckman Street. 

There was discussion as to the feasibility of turning over a lane to the Hudson River Greenway or somehow expanding the existing walkway. TBTA staff has rejected giving up a lane. Traffic too heavy, 1800 vehicles per hour requires three lanes to relieve congestion and requires a small shoulder. 

Bob Bender and David Gellman say the only issue is where the two lanes of the southbound HHP turn to three lanes, on bridge or south of it. MTA looked at a possible cantilever for an additional lane, but of course it would be a huge cost though the bridge is ready. Low bike usage does not justify such an expense. 

Gellman suggested move the Jersey barrier slightly over, to which they said no. He also objected to length of pedestrian path closing, saying nothing is being given back to the community. MTA staff also said they cannot create a path to Dyckman Street. 

Mr. Heller said the community board is not altogether happy with a lack of flexibility on bike path issues, and may engage in further correspondence with the MTA. 

The meeting turned toward discussion of requests to install Play Street in various locations. 

1- St. Margaret of Cortona: The principal discussed the merits of the application, safety provided, etc. Approved 9 – 0 – 0 by members M. Heller, R. Press, A. Creaney, D. Fuchs, E. Bell, N. Friedman, H. Young, G. Santiago, M. Joyce. 

2- PS 307, Eames Place: Mr. Heller mentioned the difficulty of the plan as it blocks access to Claflin Avenue, one way northbound from the T intersection with Eames. DI O’Toole agreed that street configuration is difficult. A teacher Rochelle Matera (?) from the school spoke and reiterated the situation, with a bit of disagreement as to how it could happen. There could be a plan to reverse part of Eames but that would have to be an application to DOT. It was mentioned that reduction of their application from full day to one hour in the morning and evening might be more acceptable or mid-day even better. Sylvia 

Minutes of the Traffic & Transportation Meeting, September 20, 2016 Page 3 

Alexander reiterated the need for the closing due to the poor condition of school facilities. After discussion, it was recommended that a meeting take place with the school staff to see if compromise is possible. 

3- Horace Mann: Mr. Heller spoke about how the application is not in compliance with the intent of the application. Mike McCormick, Director of Security told about current configuration of staging on parts of Tibbett Avenue by using the whole street. School security regulates street traffic. The question is, is it necessary to formalize the process, which DOT will not accept. It was asked whether the PD had another process they could implement, or if the traffic flow could be reversed. The current process is in compliance with what FPOA wants. Residents of Tibbett Avenue spoke and said Horace Mann staff has been very cooperative. CB member Paul Ellis spoke and advocated for a solution, even approving the application though it does not fit with the intent. After much discussion, a two tiered approach was selected to continue to flag cars through and explore if the PD or DOT has another methodology. 

It was recommended that the committee take another look at north Riverdale proposal on their website. 

At the next meeting of the committee, scheduled for October 19, there will be discussion of the West 254 street sidewalk issue. 

The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 PM. 

Minutes submitted by Michael Heller. 

Editor's Note:

As the former Vice-Chair of the Traffic and Transportation Committee from June 2014 until May 31, 2016 when I was not reappointed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to CB 8, I took the minutes of the meetings, and sent them to the chair Mr. Heller for any revisions or changes. 

I was not present at the September 2016 meeting as I am not listed in the attendance log. However note that I voted twice on two different issues (which are highlighted in bold) as a Community Board 8 member. 

As full disclosure I applied for the vacant position of District Manager of Bronx Community Board 8, and I was the only person to openly admit that I had applied. The Riverdale Press had a front page article for the past two weeks about the secrecy of the process, and revealed that Mr. Michael Heller also applied for the position of District Manger which became known when he and another applicant from the board were asked to leave an Executive Session to discuss the screening committee results since it would be a conflict of interest if they were to be in the room during the discussion.

Rockland County Man Indicted In White Plains Federal Court For Narcotics Trafficking

   Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced that an indictment was returned by a grand jury charging MATTHEW DRAPER, a/k/a “Mata,” a resident of Haverstraw, New York, with allegedly trafficking wholesale amounts of cocaine in and around Rockland County, New York. DRAPER was arrested on a criminal complaint on October 6, 2016, and has been in custody since that date.

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment and the Complaint[1] charging DRAPER:

DRAPER was part of a cocaine distribution conspiracy responsible for transporting wholesale amounts of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to the New York area on commercial airline flights. The conspiracy relied on contacts working in airports both in the Dominican Republic and in the United States to facilitate the deliveries. From in or around September 2016 through October 5, 2016, DRAPER worked with a confidential informant and a supplier in the Dominican Republic to facilitate the transport of approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to New York. DRAPER intended to have the confidential informant retrieve the cocaine from the airport and provide it to DRAPER at a predetermined location. On October 5, 2016, DEA agents learned from the confidential informant that the 20 kilograms of cocaine DRAPER purchased from the Dominican Republic had been secreted in luggage, and placed on an airplane scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport. DEA agents were able to locate the airplane and the luggage in question. DEA agents recovered approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine that had been wrapped and sealed in a clear vacuum-sealed bag. DRAPER was arrested that same day attempting to obtain the cocaine from the confidential informant at the predetermined location. Upon his arrest, law enforcement recovered approximately $23,000 in cash and what appeared to be an additional kilogram of cocaine from DRAPER’s vehicle. Law enforcement agents also executed a search warrant on DRAPER’s residence. During the search, agents recovered an additional half-kilogram of a substance that appeared to be cocaine.

DRAPER, 49, of Haverstraw, New York, is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, which also carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the Court.

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Mr. Kim also thanked the Rockland County Drug Task Force and the Town of Haverstraw Police Department Street Crime Unit for their cooperation and assistance in this investigation.

The charges contained in the Indictment and Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the texts of the Indictment and the Complaint, and the descriptions of the Indictment and the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrests Of Two Tax Preparers For Allegedly Filing False Returns

Schneiderman: We Will Not Allow Unscrupulous Individuals To Line Their Own Pockets At The Expense Of Honest Taxpayers
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Acting Taxation and Finance Commissioner Nonie Manion today announced the arrests of tax preparers Anibell Perez, 33, of New York, and Sorangel Carrasco, 34 of the Bronx, for charges related to the filing of fraudulent tax returns. According to documents filed in court, both women are alleged to have fraudulently filed tax returns on behalf of taxpayers in which they claimed deductions for false dependent nieces and nephews and requested refunds in excess of what the taxpayers were entitled to receive.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “We will not allow unscrupulous individuals to line their own pockets at the expense of honest taxpayers. Those who cheat the tax system are stealing from their fellow New Yorkers, and I am pleased to work with my partners in law enforcement as we continue to root out tax fraud.”
Both defendants were arraigned on felony complaints filed in Albany City Court.  Carrasco, a registered tax preparer located in Bronx, NY, has been charged with five counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (a Class E Felony), one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a Class E Felony), and one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a Class E Felony).  Perez, also a registered tax preparer in Bronx, NY has been charged with four counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree.
These arrests are the result of a concerted enforcement effort carried out by the NYS Tax Department to crack down on tax preparers filing fraudulent returns. Attorney General Schneiderman partnered with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, and Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon. The allegations against other individuals by other law enforcement agencies include the following:
Thomas Keeley, 59, of Staten Island
  • Prepared several thousand returns since 2011, but nearly half claimed what appeared to be unsubstantiated itemized deductions with usually high job expenses;
  • Failed to file his own income tax returns from 2008 through 2015;
  • Faces 49 new felony counts for Criminal Tax Fraud and Offering a False Instrument for Filing;
  • Pleaded guilty to similar crimes in 2008.
Kevin Webb, 58, of The Bronx
  • Filed more than 20 suspicious tax returns with unverified data;
  • Faces Criminal Tax Fraud charges;
  • Failed to file his own income tax returns from 2013, 2014, and 2015. 
Lorenzo Almanzar, 61, of White Plains
  • Filed returns with inflated job expenses on clients’ returns without the client’s knowledge;
  • Faces Criminal Tax Fraud charges and;
  • Offering a false instrument for filing.
Chatise Thomas, 41, of Brooklyn
  • Accused of engaging in schemes aimed at providing her clients with deductions that fraudulently lowered their tax liability;
  • Faces both felony and misdemeanor counts of offering a false instrument for filing;
  • This year, several of her clients were interviewed, all denying they gave her permission to claim inflated itemized deductions as claimed on their state income tax returns.
Jefferson Sanchez, 33 of New York, Wanda Ramirez, 23 of New York
  • Accused of adding false dependents to clients’ tax returns to inflate refunds;
  • Both face felony charges of offering a false instrument for filing and; 
  • Misdemeanor criminal tax fraud charges. 
Carol Rati, 61, of Brooklyn
  • Faces felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing;
  • She allegedly filed fraudulent tax returns for her clients claiming false deductions to either increase the refund amount or reduce their tax liability;
  • Investigators interviewed more than a dozen of her clients who all said their returns contained false information that they never provided.
“Everyone loses when a tax preparer commits tax fraud, including honest citizens and NYS communities deprived of revenue needed to fund vital services. We will continue to work with all our partners in law enforcement to ensure that unethical tax preparers are held accountable and face justice,” said Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The Attorney General encourages all New Yorkers to review his tax day tips to avoid frequent tax season frauds.
The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for their assistance in this investigation.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Sentencing Of Former Non-Profit Employee For Diverting $400,000 For Personal Use

Former Human Resources Manager Of Hope Community Inc. Sentenced To 1-3 Years In Prison
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of the former Human Resources Manager of the non-profit Hope Community, Inc., Chantel Rodriquez Pierre, for using her position to steal over $400,000 from the organization. Hope Community owns and operates low-income housing in Manhattan and is currently under contract with the New York City Department of Homeless Services for $8.9 million over five years to operate a homeless shelter for families. Rodriquez Pierre previously admitted that from June 2014 to February 2016, she manipulated the payroll system in order to issue bogus vacation time and additional reimbursements to employees at Hope Community. Instead of sending the money to the employees of the organization, Rodriquez Pierre ended up sending the money into accounts that she controlled. Rodriquez Pierre will serve 1 to 3 years in state prison, and will pay full restitution over time. Rodriquez Pierre was sentenced in front of Acting Supreme Court Justice Abraham Clott.
“Non-profit employees who steal from taxpayers and use their organizations as a personal piggy bank will be punished,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I thank our law enforcement partners in the Department of Investigation for their continued partnership as we work to root out fraudsters who think they can skirt the rules.”
DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “This defendant committed a reprehensible crime: Stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a not-for-profit that provides refuge to some of the City’s most vulnerable New Yorkers.  She cheated the system for personal gain. Now, she’ll serve prison time. DOI thanks the New York State Attorney General’s Office for their collaboration and partnership on this case.”
The Attorney General would like to thank the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for their assistance with the investigation.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces New Legislation To Criminally Crack Down On Tenant Harassment

New Legislation Would Broaden And Strengthen Existing Tenant Harassment Laws, Make It Easier To Criminally Prosecute Landlords Who Force Rent-Regulated Tenants To Vacate
Schneiderman: With Affordable Housing As Scarce As Ever, It’s Time For Lawmakers To Give Prosecutors New Tools To Stop The Menacing - And Often Dangerous - Measures These Landlords Use To Force Tenants Out Of Their Homes
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman unveiled new legislation today aimed at holding the city’s most unscrupulous landlords criminally accountable for tenant harassment. Current state law demands prosecutors reach an inexplicably high bar in order to criminally charge landlords with harassment of rent-regulated tenants—which is why in the past twenty years, not a single landlord has ever been convicted of the crime of Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant. The AG’s legislation would change that, by setting a more reasonable standard that removes the need to prove physical injury to a tenant, and opens the door to prosecutions arising out of more commonplace and insidious tactics, such as turning off heat and hot water, exposing young children to lead dust, and making rent-stabilized buildings deliberately uninhabitable for current tenants and their families.
The legislation introduced today is just the most recent action taken by the AG to stem a rising tide of tenant harassment complaints across New York City. The AG's other work includes:
“Our current laws are outdated, ineffective, and totally inadequate to keep tenants safe from unscrupulous landlords seeking to unlawfully evict New York families. With affordable housing as scarce as ever, it’s time for lawmakers to give prosecutors new tools to stop the menacing - and often dangerous - measures these landlords use to force tenants out of their homes,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Protecting vulnerable tenants has been, and will remain, a top priority of my office.”
“Toughening up criminal penalties helps us level the playing field and protect tenants victimized by greedy, negligent landlords who put their own profit ahead of the rights of those paying the rent,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman's move to make it harder for bad actors to harass tenants, and will join him in advocating for this important penal law change.”
“Stronger tenant harassment legislation will deter potential unconscionable acts and help tenants feel more secure in filing charges against any unscrupulous landlords,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for his work on this very important bill that will extend protections to all tenants. The New York City Council last week introduced a tenant harassment protections package of legislation that will work conjunction with this bill, and we will continue to partner with the Attorney General to protect everyone in our City — especially the most vulnerable.”
Under the existing Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant statute, a prosecutor must not only prove that the offending landlord intended to cause the tenant to vacate their home, but also that the tenant sustained physical injury due to the landlord’s actions and that the landlord actually intended to cause (or acted with criminal recklessness in causing) such injury. This existing Penal Law statute creates an inexplicably high bar that – in the nearly two decades since the law was enacted – has never been met. In fact, a recent analysis of NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services data shows that not a single landlord has ever been convicted of the crime of Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant.
The Attorney General’s legislation would eliminate the need to prove physical injury to a tenant, and a landlord’s specific intent to cause it, in order to secure a criminal conviction against an offending landlord. Specifically, the legislation:
  • Adds a new class A misdemeanor that would apply to landlords and their agents who, with the intent to cause a rent regulated tenant to vacate their home, engage in a “course of conduct” that is reasonably likely to, and does in fact, interfere with and disturb the comfort, repose, peace and quiet of such tenant in the use of their home;
  • Expands the existing class E felony Penal Law statute to make it unlawful for landlords or their agents to attempt to force tenants in two or more rent-regulated units to move out by engaging in a “systematic ongoing course of conduct” or “repeatedly committing acts over a period of time” that “is or are reasonably likely to interfere with and disturb, and does or do interfere with and disturb, the comfort, repose, peace and quiet” of such tenants in the use of their homes; and
  • Makes it a class E felony for a landlord to commit the new class A misdemeanor offense after he or she has been convicted of that crime within the preceding five years.
These provisions make it easier for prosecutors to curb common tactics used by landlords to force out tenants, including long and disruptive construction projects, deprivation of hot water and heat for extended periods of time. The new class A misdemeanor imposes a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. The class E felony carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison.
Earlier today, Attorney General Schneiderman released new “Know Your Rights” guidance for immigrant tenants facing landlord harassment on the basis of immigration status.


Defendant Bludgeoned Victim Over Counterfeit Bill 

  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison for the fatal beating of a 28-year-old man, who was pummeled to death with a wooden tree stake after a drug deal went sour. 

  District Attorney Clark said “The defendant viciously beat to death a young man, ending his life over fifty dollars. Now, at the age of 20, Mr. Rodriguez will spend the majority of his life behinds bars for this brutal crime.” 

  District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Ruben Rodriguez, AKA Butta, 20, of 1424 Walton Avenue, was sentenced today before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Alvin Yearwood to 25 years-to-life in prison. Rodriguez was convicted by a jury of second-degree Murder on March 24, 2017. His co-defendant, Marquis Carter, 24, pleaded guilty to first-degree Manslaughter and was sentenced on April 4, 2017 to 14 years in prison followed by five years post-release supervision. 

  According to trial testimony, on the early morning of April 23, 2014, in the area of Grand Concourse and Rockwood Street in Mount Eden, Rodriguez and Carter met with Luis Melendez to engage in a drug deal. After receiving a fake $50 bill from Melendez, the defendants repeatedly hit the victim with wooden sticks, striking his head and body, and causing his death.

  DA Clark thanked Detective Edwin Perez of the 44th Precinct and Detective Peter Cullen from Bronx Homicide, as well as the BXDA Video Unit and BXDA Detective Investigators for their assistance.


Defendant Will Also Have Ten Years Post-Release Supervision and Register as Sex Offender Bronx 
  District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for criminal sex acts involving a 13-year-old boy, and will register as a sex offender. 

  District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant committed heinous crimes against a child, a jury convicted him and now will serve time in prison and register as a sex offender. We hope the victim can now move on with his life knowing this predator is behind bars.” 

  District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Edward Gordon, 56, of 1451 Washington Avenue, was sentenced today by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Efrain Alvarado to eight years in prison, followed by ten years of post-release supervision. Gordon will have to register as a sex offender. He was convicted by a jury on February 10, 2017, of three counts of second degree Criminal Sexual Act, and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. 

  According to trial testimony, on February 25, 2014, Gordon engaged in oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct with the child in Gordon’s apartment.


Re-Investigation of Killing Followed Bronx DA Darcel D. Clark’s Dropping of Charges Against Enger Javier in 2016 

   Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that, after a thorough reinvestigation of the murder of Hansel Arias, two Bronx men have been indicted for fatally stabbing Arias on August 19, 2012 in the Claremont section of the Bronx. 

   District Attorney Clark said, “After I moved to dismiss the case against Enger Javier in February, 2016, Bronx Homicide started a re-investigation of the crime, and I assigned a new Assistant District Attorney to the case. They re-interviewed witnesses and re-examined physical evidence. We re-examined the killing of Hansel Arias very carefully and we would not be pressured or hurried to a conclusion.

  “We needed to make sure that we could bring justice and a semblance of closure to Hansel Arias’ family. Now, two men will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for this brutal crime.” 

  District Attorney Clark said that defendants, Jose Rodriguez, AKA “Bebo,” 24, of 184 East 164th Street and Jesus Reyes, AKA “Cibao,” AKA Darinso Marte, 26, of 291 East 162 Street were arraigned today before Bronx Supreme Court Justice George Villegas. They were remanded and are due back in court on September 5, 2017.

  The defendants were indicted on second-degree Murder, first-degree Manslaughter and first-degree Gang Assault. They face up to life in prison if convicted.

   According to the investigation, on August 19, 2012, at about 2:15 a.m., the defendants, members of the Trinitarios gang, were part of a large group that had been dispersed by police and then re-congregated near 1645 Webster Avenue.

  Arias was asked about his gang affiliation and an argument broke out, and Arias was attacked by several people. According to the investigation, Rodriguez allegedly grabbed a knife from Reyes and allegedly stabbed Arias in the chest, killing him.

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt. 


Investment will expand Cornerstone Program at Mariner’s Harbor Houses  

   Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Debi Rose announced the City would invest $5.7 million to renovate a community center at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Mariner’s Harbor Houses on Staten Island. The renovated community center will expand the Department of Youth and Community Development’s (DYCD) Cornerstone Program at Mariner’s Harbor Houses, providing an additional 150 residents with access to quality, community-based programming in two facilities that span more than 5000 square feet. The renovation is expected to be completed in early 2020.

Opened in 2016, the Cornerstone Program at Mariner’s Harbor Houses is funded by DYCD and operated by United Activities Unlimited. The initiative offers community members a variety of programming determined by residents, including homework assistance, sports clinics, mentoring programs, clothing drives and special events and trips.

“Community centers are the heart of our neighborhoods, and provide a place for all New Yorkers to come together, learn and have fun,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This renovation will ensure that more residents have access to engaging programs and activities, and strengthen the community as a whole.”

“We know that when our young people have nowhere to go after school, they are far more likely to run into trouble with the law” said District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. “This substantial investment into the Mariners Harbor Community Center will provide invaluable programming, services, and most importantly a safe place for the residents of that community to learn & play. Investments like these have ripple effects throughout the neighborhood, and I applaud Mayor De Blasio, NYCHA, DYCD, for recognizing that all Staten Islanders need spaces like this to feel safe in their communities.”

"I commend Mayor de Blasio and Council member Rose for their investment in the renovation of this important program. Mariner's Harbor is a community that is farthest away from much of the North Shore development, so important upgrades to the community like this ensure the residents are getting the vital services they deserve,” said New York State Senator Diane Savino.
“The addition of a renovated center right next to the Cornerstone Program funded by DYCD and operated by United Activities Unlimited will give residents access to even more vital community services, and another place to keep them safe and engaged,” said Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong.
“For NYCHA residents, community centers are more than just a building, they are a foundation for our​ neighborhoods,” said NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly. “Investing in Mariner's Harbor Houses to double the current community center space means Staten Island youth will have an expanded area to call their own whether they're receiving help at a computer lab or homework assistance. Today, with the partnership of Mayor de Blasio, we're moving closer to achieving our NextGen NYCHA goal of creating safe, stable and connected communities.”
Mariner’s Harbor is one of 94 Cornerstone Programs at NYCHA community centers in all five boroughs. Started in 2010, the program is a joint NYCHA and DYCD effort to create vibrant, multi-generational community centers on NYCHA developments that are responsive to local needs and improve quality of life and well-being of neighborhood residents.

This investment is a part of the Administration’s ongoing efforts to build stronger neighborhoods through enhanced community engagement and expanded programming for NYCHA residents. In March, Mayor de Blasio pledged $1 million to help build a community center at NYCHA Marcy Houses. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio expanded summer hours at 107 community centers in NYCHA developments, including Cornerstones, so that they remain open until 11 P.M. The later hours provide young people with a safe space for recreation and learning.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bronx Chamber of Commerce Irish Heritage Celebration

It may not have been St. Patrick's Day as Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Nunzio Del Greco explained why the Irish Heritage Celebration was being held during Easter Week. Mr. Bob Nolan was the emcee of the event which honored five fine Irish Americans. The Honorees were Ms. Carolyn Murphy VP of Marketing for Country Bank, Mr. John Doyle local civic activist, Mr. John McEvoy NYC Account Manager for Optimum Lightpath, Mr. Brian Anderson Community Outreach Director for Woodlawn Cemetery, and Mr. Mark Doyle (no relation to John Doyle) of Just Nuts entertainment. Sister Purificacion Ferrero gave the invocation, and blessed the BCC Luncheon. 

Left - Bob Nolan Emcee of the BCC Irish Heritage Luncheon.
Right - Sister Purificacion Ferrero giving the invocation.

Left - BCC President Mr. Nunzio Del Greco welcomes everyone, and tells of how the BCC has grown in the past year.
Right - The packed room for the BCC event.

Above - The proud Doyle family of Honoree John Doyle (center rear) includes his mother, father, brother, and friends. 
Below - BCC Chairman Joseph Kelleher sings some Irish songs with the Just Nuts Entertainment Group with Honoree Mark Doyle.

A group photo of the honorees, Sister Purificacion Ferrero, and the President and Chairman of the BCC, Mr. Nunzio Del Greco and Mr. Joseph Kelleher.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Explains New State Budget at Bronx House

  Joined by State Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca (Not pictured), Bronx House Executive Director Howard Martin, and a full room of area residents Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul gave a power point presentation on major aspects of the newly passed New York State budget.

Above - The elected officials and the audience listen to Councilman Jimmy Vacca who is pictured below.

Above - Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul shows her enthusiasm about the just passed state budget while she explains some of the key points of the state budget.
Below - Senator Klein and Assemblyman Gjonaj thank her for the informative presentation.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lieutenant Governor's Post- Budget Announcement at Bronx House

Please join
NYS Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj
Lieutenant Governor of New York
Kathy Hochul 
for a
Post-Budget Announcement

Thursday April 13,2017
Bronx House
990 Pelham Parkway S
Bronx , NY 10461
** Doors open at 10:00am**

PLEASE RSVP TO 718-409-0109


   "I would like to thank my colleagues and Speaker Heastie for remaining strong and united throughout these important budget negotiations. While it was a long - and sometimes frustrating - journey, I am proud of our final agreement. This year's $153.1 billion budget is an investment in our neighborhoods, education and quality of life. I know it will serve as a blueprint to move our state forward and continue our progress in expanding opportunities for those that need a helping hand.

"This year's budget prioritized education. Tuition-free college for working and middle-class families is now a reality thanks to the Excelsior Scholarship Program. No one should be turned away from earning a college degree because of cost, and I am overjoyed that students will be able to achieve their career goals without the extreme financial burden many graduates feel today.

"Education is a great equalizer, but to make that a reality we need to keep driving funding to our schools. This year's budget invests in our kids and eliminates barriers so that every student can get an education that helps to shape their future. The budget includes a $50 million increase in Community Schools aid for a total of $150 million. This will allow schools to be converted into community schools that deliver valuable services to both students and families, including critical support to at-risk children, strengthening neighborhoods and preventing schools from being taken over by the state. This budget will also work to protect public libraries, an essential part of our neighborhoods. Additional funding was allocated to ensure that they can continue to provide services and resources to residents.

"A secure, affordable place to live is vital to every family's health and stability, particularly for children. This budget allocates $200 million for New York City Housing Authority capital repairs, $150 million for the Middle-Income Housing Program, $125 million for senior housing, and $41 million for home ownership programs. By ensuring that every household has adequate support brings stability and vitality to our neighborhoods.

"Millions of New Yorkers rely on mass transportation and ridership is only growing, so we must make smart investments when it comes to our infrastructure. The Assembly secured $65 million for the MTA Capital Plan to help accommodate more passengers and improve efficiency.
"New Yorkers should never have to worry about the water coming out of our faucets and drinking fountains. This budget includes $200 million for drinking and wastewater infrastructure improvements in New York City's watershed. We have all seen the devastating effects contaminated and polluted water can have on a community. Clean water is absolutely essential to our health and safety, it is important that we make robust investments in replacing our pipes and water mains.

"My colleagues and I work hard to ensure a fair and equitable quality of life for all, and I am confident this budget does exactly that," said Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj.


 Yesterday Council Member Andrew Cohen, Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris-Rodriguez, Rosa, and members of the community broke ground at the Van Cortlandt Park Skate Park.  The skate park is part of the Master Plan for Van Cortlandt Park and funds were allocated to the project by the Mayor’s office and the New York City Council. Current Councilman Andrew Cohen said that this skate park project was started by former Councilman Oliver Koppell, his predecessor. Photos of the event are below 

Above - The original concept drawing which was brought to Community Board 8 for approval.
Below - A slightly different concept which I was told 'Has Evolved' by Parks Department officials. Certain items in the skate park were redesigned for safety reasons, and as more skate parks have been built, better qualities have been incorporated. 

Above - Councilman Cohen tells of the start of the skate park beginning under his predecessor Councilman Koppell. Note Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz with the VCP hat speaking to CB 8 Chair Dan Padernacht in the background.
Below - CB 8 Chair Dan Padernacht thanks the Parks Department and elected officials for the soon to be built skate park.

Above - Everyone grabs a shovel to throw out a ceremonial pile of dirt to start the construction of the new skate park at VCP, including future skaters.
Below - With shovels down all pose for the photo below.