Saturday, August 19, 2017

Job Fair at Bronx House

  It was the Bronx Chamber of Commerce along with State Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj who co-hosted a Bronx H.I.R.E. job fair at Bronx House today. There were dozens of different employers looking for various different people to come work for them including two branches of the Armed Forces. Recruiters from the Army and the Marines were on hand, and yes they said they offer jobs and career training for the future. 

  I spoke to several people who said different answers to me of this event. One woman said she was a secretary, and could not find such a job here. two men said that they had left their resumes with different companies, and are very hopeful of getting jobs with the companies they spoke to. I asked some more people hoping to find someone who was going to join the Army or Marines, but after about twenty minutes gave up on that idea. However I did get one maybe to the Armed Forces. Other employers on hand included Chase Bank, DJ Ambulette, New York Life, Bob Bider Plumbing, and even a table taking names to canvess for the 13th council district. 

Above - The Bronx Chamber of Commerce co-hosted this Bronx H.I.R.E. event.
Below - Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj with the New York Life team. Was he looking for some more insurance?

Above - Plumbing business owner Bob Bider was looking for a counter person, and an outside sales person. The proclamation on the wall was given to Bronx House by Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
Below - A group photo with Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, and some of the people looking to hire new people.

Fair in Westchester Square

The Family of Christ International Ministries Inc. Church (located at nearby 1448 Ferris Place) took over Owen Dolan Park today for a day of food and fun provided by the church.

Above - Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, water, and watermelon was given out to those who came to this event.
Below - Costco which does not have a store in the Bronx attended, and told me they are looking for a Bronx site like some of their competitors have set up shop in the Bronx.

Above - The New York Public Library local Throggs Neck branch was on hand with a lot of information, and limited items to give away. In the background you can see that a mural is being painted by those who wanted to brush up on their artistry. 
Below - You can see that across the street from the park is the campaign office of 13th City Council candidate Marjorie Velazquez. I went over to try to get answers from the Velazquez campaign on campaign worker Rebecca Chant who was also the challenger to two of candidate Velazquez's opponents. A campaign worker came to the door and said that no one was in, but that is another story to be told.


  Mark G. Peters, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), issued the following statement on the conviction of City Correction Officer RODINY CALYPSO on a charge of covering up his use of force on an inmate by filing a false report with the City Department of Correction (“DOC”). DOI conducted the investigation in conjunction with its federal law enforcement partners, and testified at the trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. CALYPSO was convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. The use of force against the inmate took place in February 2014 in a shower at Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island. Following the incident, CALYPSO filed a Use of Force report with DOC claiming an inmate spit on him, omitting punches he delivered while holding the inmate in a headlock. A video obtained by DOI disputed the assertions CALYPSO made in his report.

  DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “This Correction Officer betrayed his oath to protect safety and security in the City’s jails when he used force against an inmate and then covered up his conduct by fabricating a story that the inmate was the aggressor. The jury’s conviction in this case stands as a firm reminder that cover ups and lies by our City’s Correction Officers will not be tolerated.”

  The video of the use of force against the inmate can be seen by this link:

  CALYPSO, 38, of Springfield Gardens, N.Y., is scheduled to be sentenced on November 30, 2017. He began working at DOC on August 2014 and has been suspended since his arrest. He receives an annual base salary of $76,500.

  To date, DOI’s investigations into DOC have resulted in the arrest of 43 Correction Officers and other DOC staff.

  DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters thanked Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his staff, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for their partnership on this investigation.


Defendants Fraudulently Submitted Reimbursement Claims for School Meals That Were Never Served

  A five-count indictment was unsealed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging Elozer Porges and Joel Lowy, the former Executive Director and former Assistant Director, respectively, of the school system known as Central United Talmudic Academy (CUTA) in Brooklyn, New York, with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and four counts of mail fraud. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky at the Brooklyn federal courthouse. 

  The charges were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Mark Peters, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation, and Special Agent-in-Charge, Bethanne M. Dinkins, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.

  As alleged in the indictment, between 2013 and 2015, Porges and Lowy submitted documents to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) that falsely claimed that school children had received meals which, in fact, they had never been served. The defendants fraudulently inflated the number of meals served at various CUTA schools in order to obtain larger reimbursement payments pursuant to the federal government’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The CACFP is a program designed to assist schools and other institutions in providing meals to, among others, at-risk children. In total, Porges and Lowy, based on their false representations, fraudulently obtained approximately $3 million in reimbursement payments to CUTA

  “Former CUTA Executive Director Porges and Assistant Director Lowy allegedly obtained $3 million from a federal program designed to fund meals for needy children by claiming to have served meals they did not serve, thus undermining a program designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our community,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to root out fraudulent schemes that misuse public funds.”

  “The Child and Adult Care Food Program strives to provide for at-risk children, and as school officials, Porges and Lowy should have strived to do the same,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Instead, they allegedly falsified documents to gain approximately $3 million in reimbursement for meals that were never served. To defraud programs designed to help those in need is simply inexcusable, and we will work relentlessly with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate these frauds.”

  “As charged, these defendants stole food from children in need by diverting millions of dollars in public funds intended to pay for their dinners,” stated DOI Commissioner Peters. “Public funds must be spent for public purposes and, when they are not, DOI will expose the fraud and arrest the wrongdoers. DOI thanks our dedicated law enforcement partners on this case: the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture.”

  “The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) was created to provide nutrition assistance to children and adults who are truly in need,” stated Special Agent-in-Charge Dinkins. “Those involved in fraud and abuse of USDA feeding programs will be investigated by our office to the fullest extent. In this joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Department of Investigation, we worked together to identify and hold accountable those who sought to profit from the CACFP through illegal schemes. The USDA, Office of Inspector General will continue to dedicate investigative resources, working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, to protect the integrity of these programs and bring to justice those who commit fraud.”

  The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud count, as well as on each of the mail fraud counts.

  The Defendants: 
ELOZER PORGES Age: 43 Brooklyn, NY 
JOEL LOWY Age: 29 Brooklyn, NY 
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-431 (NGG)

Free Community BBQ Sat. August 26th Assemblyman Sepulveda and State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.

NYCHA Melrose Houses to Receive $3 Million for Much Needed Security Upgrades

Funding from Council Member Salamanca will allow for 'layered access' 

Council Member Salamanca and Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark were on hand to announce Salamanca has secured $3 million for security improvements at Melrose Houses

Today, Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. was joined by Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and residents of NYCHA"s Melrose Houses at their annual family day to announce that he has secured $3 million dollars to be utilized for security upgrades, including 'layered access' door locking systems. 

"I'm pleased to be joined by our District Attorney for what is a very big deal that I hope will help Melrose Houses residents feel safer in their homes," said Council Member Salamanca. "With this $3 million in funding, we'll be able to make much needed safety improvements, and I hope to replicate this allocation with additional dollars for our other NYCHA developments in the South Bronx as well." 

NYCHA’s Layered Access Control Program can provide further security for storefronts and building entry doors for tenant security. Components of the Layered Access Control Program include electronic access with key tags (or “key fobs”), a direct call intercom system, and new door locks.

In recent years, Melrose Houses has been the scene of numerous heinous crimes, including a murder in 2015 that occurred in a stairwell of one of the development's towers. Layered access will almost certainly help to prevent non-tenants from entering easily, thus lowering crime. 

Since taking office, Council Member Salamanca has made NYCHA families a priority, with over $3.2 million secured for improvements to our NYCHA buildings, increased safety in developments and for tenant association programming.

Additionally, Salamanca has allocated funding our local police precincts to be utilized for community engagement and other safety needs in the area.  Salamanca has fought for additional resources in the 40th precinct in particular, including for patrol officers.

Attorney General Schneiderman And Governor Cuomo Announce New York State Suing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Over Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site Designation

Lawsuit Filed By New York State Cites Ocean Dumping Act And Coastal Zone Management Act Violations And EPA’s Failure To Address Environmental Impacts On The Long Island Sound

  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State has filed a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging EPA’s decision to designate a permanent open water disposal site in eastern Long Island Sound for tens of millions of cubic yards of dredged sediments. The EPA’s site designation violates the Ocean Dumping Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. 

“Our waters are not dumping grounds. EPA’s first job is to protect our natural resources – yet by designating this unneeded disposal site, EPA is allowing huge amounts of dredged waste to be poured into yet another area of the Long Island Sound. That’s unacceptable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We won’t hesitate to act when the federal government fails to uphold its obligation to protect New Yorkers’ health and environment.”
“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect New York’s environment, and with the EPA’s unfathomable and destructive decision to turn the eastern Long Island Sound into a dumping ground – now is the time for action,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will establish that this designation not only poses a major threat to a significant commercial and recreational resource, but that it also undermines New York’s long-standing efforts to end dumping in our treasured waters.”
In August 2016, the Governor announced New York's intention to fight the EPA's designation of the eastern Long Island Sound disposal site because of its adverse effects to the waterway. Subsequently, the New York Department of State objected the EPA’s proposed site designation as being inconsistent with the Long Island Sound Coastal Management Program policies. In December 2016, New York State filed a Notice of Intent to Sue immediately after the EPA finalized its designation.
“New York’s waters remain one of our State’s most valuable and cherished assets,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “This action directed by Governor Cuomo to protect Long Island Sound sends a clear message that he will utilize any and all legal means to prevent any use of the Eastern Site as we continue efforts to safeguard this and other natural resources throughout the state.”
“The Long Island Sound is a vital economic and ecological treasure that needs to be protected – not undermined by the U.S. EPA’s outdated dredging management decisions,” said Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “Governor Cuomo has made it clear that New York State will not tolerate the federal government gutting its commitment and denying its responsibility for reducing or eliminating the disposal of dredge spoils in the open waters of this irreplaceable ecosystem.”
In 2005, the states of New York and Connecticut called for, and EPA subsequently established by regulation, the important and long necessary goal of reducing or eliminating dredged material disposal in the estuarine waters of Long Island Sound. In contravention of the intent of that regulation, in 2016, EPA increased the number of permanent open water dump sites in Long Island Sound by designating a third one in eastern Long Island Sound.
The lawsuit charges that, in designating the dump site, EPA failed: to identify the navigational conflicts that will be caused by the dump site location, to examine the environmental impacts of dumping dredged materials under differing testing regimes, to designate historically used or ocean disposal sites and to properly quantify the existing capacity at already designated sites. Further, the EPA has been unresponsive to New York’s stated concerns about the reliability of sediment testing and has made insufficient assurances that the dredged material will not have a negative impact on the environment, as it has in the past.
New York also maintains that increasing the volume of open-water disposal of dredged materials, and the number and availability of open water disposal sites, is inconsistent with public investment and policies that are already in place aimed at restoring the Long Island Sound. This lawsuit underscores New York’s continuing commitment to pursue upland alternatives for beneficial reuse of the material to preserve and protect the integrity of Long Island Sound for future generations.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Restitution For Hundreds Of Students Duped By Devry University

Restitution Comes After A.G. Schneiderman Investigation Found DeVry Misled Students Regarding Post-Graduation Employment And Salary Prospects

  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that hundreds of students will receive restitution following the Attorney General’s investigation into DeVry Education Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries DeVry University, Inc. and DeVry/New York, Inc. (collectively, “DeVry”). The Attorney General’s investigation found that DeVry lured students with ads that exaggerated graduates’ success in finding employment and contained inadequately substantiated claims about graduates’ salary success. The Attorney General reached a $2.25 million settlement with DeVry in January 2017.

On average, each of the 809 students will receive approximately $2,800 in restitution. The Better Business Bureau, which is administering the restitution process, is expected to begin sending out checks to the students later this month.
“DeVry exploited students who were simply trying to further their education,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will not allow hardworking New Yorkers to be ripped off by greedy companies – which is why DeVry is now paying millions in restitution to hundreds of students. My office will not back down from policing unscrupulous for-profit colleges in New York State.” 
The Attorney General’s investigation found that many of DeVry’s advertisements centered on a claim that 90 percent of DeVry graduates who are actively seeking employment obtain employment in their field of study within six months of graduation.  The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that the 90 percent claim was misleading because a substantial number of the graduates included in the 90% figure were graduates who were already employed prior to graduating from DeVry. In fact, many of the graduates included in the 90 percent figure were employed before they even enrolled at DeVry. 
In addition, DeVry’s employment outcome statistics inaccurately classified a significant number of graduates as employed in their field of study, when in reality the graduates were not working in their field.  For example, DeVry counted graduates of DeVry’s Technical Management program as “employed in field” where the graduates were employed as retail salespersons, receptionists, bank tellers, and data entry workers.  In some cases, graduates were counted as employed in their field of study despite holding positions that did not require a college degree.
DeVry also mischaracterized certain unsuccessful job-seekers as “inactive,” despite evidence that the graduates had in fact carried out an active, though unsuccessful, job search.  Furthermore, DeVry’s 90 percent claim did not accurately reflect outcomes at all programs offered by DeVry.  Certain programs had employment outcomes that were significantly lower than 90 percent over consecutive years. 
DeVry also made inadequately substantiated claims in its advertisements concerning DeVry graduates’ salary outcomes.  For example, some DeVry ads touted that DeVry bachelor’s degree graduates earned 15 percent more one year after graduation than all graduates with bachelor’s degrees from all other colleges and universities.  This claim, which was based on commissioned studies carried out by a third-party entity, was inconsistent with other data DeVry had concerning graduates’ salaries. 
DeVry graduates eligible to participate in the claims process included:  (1) graduates of associates and bachelor’s degree programs at DeVry campuses in New York who began their program between July 2008 and September 2015; and (2) New York residents that graduated from DeVry online associates or bachelor’s programs and who began their program between July 2008 and September 2015.  To be eligible for restitution, graduates had to return a claim form indicating that they were not able to find employment in their field of study within six months of graduation, despite seeking such employment.  
The Attorney General has made cracking down on illegal activity by for-profit colleges a priority. The office reached a $10.25 million settlement with Career Education Corporation for fabricating placement rates, and was part of a settlement with Education Management Company to resolve allegations that the school misled prospective students on program costs, graduate rates, and placement rates. As part of the settlements, EDMC agreed to forgive over $100 million outstanding loan debt.
In July, the office was part of a coalition of Attorneys General that sued the U.S. Department of Education for abandoning critical student protections related to for-profit colleges.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Consent Decree With Accolade Construction Group Inc. For Violating Lead Paint Safety Rules

Defendant Admits Violations and Accepts Responsibility; Agrees to Injunctive Relief and to Pay $58,000 in Disgorgement

   Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Catherine R. McCabe, Acting Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), Region 2, announced today that the United States entered into a Consent Decree settling a civil lawsuit against Accolade Construction Group Inc. (“Accolade”) for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) and EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (“RRP Rule”).  The provisions of TSCA and the RRP Rule that Accolade violated are designed to protect public health by minimizing the risk of lead exposure during renovations of residential buildings.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim stated:  “Accolade repeatedly ignored rules designed to protect children and others from lead poisoning.  By requiring Accolade to turn over profits it made by evading these requirements, this Consent Decree ensures that Accolade will not benefit from its misdeeds.  And because Accolade’s future work will be subject to court oversight, the public health will be protected.”
EPA Acting Regional Administrator McCabe stated:  “Lead paint is very dangerous when it is being stripped or sanded during renovations. By not complying with EPA rules designed to ensure that the paint dust is properly handled by properly trained workers, Accolade put people, including its own workers, at risk. This Consent Decree protects the public by requiring company officials to get training to ensure that the company follows the rules in all future renovations.”
The Consent Decree, which is subject to public comment and approval by the court, will resolve a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court in 2015, which alleged that Accolade repeatedly violated TSCA and the RRP Rule in the course of renovating six different Manhattan apartment buildings.  The lawsuit also alleged that Accolade violated TSCA and the RRP Rule by failing to provide EPA with records necessary to enable EPA to monitor Accolade’s compliance.  Accolade committed these violations despite a prior administrative settlement with the EPA for violations of the RRP Rule.
In the Consent Decree entered today, Accolade admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the fact that it “violated the RRP Rule and, consequently, TSCA” as a result of the following conduct at each of the six buildings at issue: 
  • Failing to have a certified renovator direct the renovations and to ensure that all other persons performing the renovations received training on lead-safe work practices;
  • Failing to post warning signs defining the work areas and cautioning occupants and other persons to keep out;
  • Failing to provide the owner of the units being renovated with an EPA pamphlet on lead hazards, The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools;
  • Failing to contain the renovation work areas to minimize the risk of lead exposure;
  • Failing to clean the work areas after the renovations were completed to ensure that no dust, debris, or residue remained in those areas; and
  • Failing to make available to EPA the records necessary to demonstrate Accolade’s compliance with the RRP Rule.
Pursuant to the Consent Decree, Accolade will disgorge $58,000 in profits obtained from the conduct alleged in the lawsuit.  Further, the Consent Decree requires Accolade’s principal to receive training before Accolade conducts future RRP Rule-covered work and requires Accolade to comply with safe work practices and other RRP Rule requirements in the future.  Failure to comply with the Consent Decree will give rise to significant penalties. 
To provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the Consent Decree, the Consent Decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval.
Acting U.S. Attorney Kim thanked the attorneys and enforcement staff at EPA Region 2 for their critical work in this matter.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mónica P. Folch and Sharanya Mohan are in charge of the case.
To view the entire 49 page Consent Decree go to
Notice at the end the address of 340 Canal Street Bronx N.Y. which is just north of East 141st Street. The question is how many Bronx buildings were done, and their safety now?


  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has pleaded guilty to promotion of child pornography that depicted children as young as 3 years old being sexually abused.  

  District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant promoted disturbing videos of young children—even toddlers—engaged in sexual acts. His actions are abhorrent and we will continue to prosecute anyone who causes irreparable harm to children while hiding behind a computer screen.” 

  District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Raymond Fontanez, 43, of 175 Alexander Avenue in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, pleaded guilty before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary to Promoting an Obscene Sexual Performance by a Child. He will be sentenced to two to six years on Sept. 20th, 2017

  According to the investigation, a detective with the New York Police Department’s Vice/Major Case Squad saw that an Internet Protocol (IP) address was offering to share ten images and videos of child pornography. The address was traced to a computer in Fontanez’s apartment. Detectives obtained a search warrant and retrieved Fontanez’s laptop, which contained more than 500 videos and images of child pornography. The defendant did not participate in the sexual acts depicted. He was indicted for 1020 counts of child pornography promotion and possession in August 2016.

  District Attorney Clark thanked the Vice/Major Case Squad as well as Detective Phil Adaszewski and Detective Damon Gergar.


New Yorkers should not look directly at the sun and should wear glasses or use hand-held solar viewers; motorists must be cautious about increased darkness.

  Mayor Bill de Blasio today recommended safety tips to New Yorkers viewing the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. In New York City, a partial solar eclipse will occur between 1pm and 4pm – and peak at 2:44 pm, when more than 70 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon. City officials are urging New Yorkers to take proper safety precautions when enjoying this event, especially to prevent permanent damage to the eyes.

“Solar eclipses are extraordinary and beautiful cosmic events, and we want to make sure New Yorkers enjoy next Monday’s eclipse safely,” said Mayor de Blasio. “New York City is hundreds of miles from the total solar eclipse that will be experienced in the Carolinas, but a partial eclipse can also do serious and permanent damage to the eyes. Even if it’s a cloudy day, we are asking that anybody who is outside Mondayafternoon make special preparations and drive safely.”

To prepare for the eclipse, City officials recommend purchasing eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers that comply with the international safety standard ISO 12312-2. High-quality or dark sunglasses and homemade filters are not safe. Visit the American Astronomical Society website for a list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of glasses and solar viewers.
Before looking at the sun, check the solar viewer or eclipse glasses carefully. If they are scratched, ripped, or have holes, do not use them. Read and follow any instructions from the filter’s packaging. Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer – the concentrated solar rays will damage the camera’s filter and serious injury to the eye.

If driving, carefully guard against direct sunlight exposure to the eyes. Also, during the 2 p.m. hour, drivers should turn on headlights.

“New Yorkers have a rare opportunity to enjoy a partial solar eclipse, one of the most awe-inspiring events in nature,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Looking directly at a partial solar eclipse can permanently damage the eyes. It is best to enjoy this phenomenon safely by using proper eye protection. We ask New Yorkers to take safety precautions like using proper eclipse glasses or solar viewers.”

“When the moon blocks the sun, a solar eclipse creates one of Mother Nature’s rarest and most beautiful events,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.  “New Yorkers should of course enjoy this unique event, but should do so safely – with proper eye protection.  New Yorkers who have to drive on Monday should know it will be a very unusual day, with dusk-like darkness in the middle of the afternoon.  We are urging extra caution – especially in the 2pm hour, when we strongly recommend you drive with headlights.”

“New Yorkers should be able to enjoy this beautiful and rare act of nature without fear of damaging their eyes,” said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We want to remind consumers to only purchase solar viewers or eclipse glasses from reputable vendors and to be wary of scammers selling fake lenses. Vendors should be able to provide certification that their product complies with the International‎ Organization for Standardization's safety requirements for eye protection.” 

“Although a solar eclipse is a rare and magnificent phenomenon, viewing it without appropriate eye protection can result in a potentially blinding condition called solar retinopathy,” said Dr. Mrinali Guptaa retina specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Light rays can damage the retina—the light-sensing tissue that lines the back of the eye and acts like the ‘film of the camera’ of the eye.  While solar retinopathy can occur any time someone looks directly at the sun for too long, the risk is higher during an eclipse because the partially blocked sun is easier to look at for prolonged periods of time, and because so many people are looking directly at the sun.”

On August 21, the Great American Solar Eclipse will occur as a total eclipse in a band about 70 miles wide through the American states of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Total solar eclipses are exceedingly rare events, with New York City last experiencing one on January 24, 1925. The next major partial solar eclipse visible in New York City will be on April 8, 2024 (90 percent obscuration), while the next total solar eclipse visible in New York City will be on May 1, 2079.


Last night, it came to our attention that Michael Fernades, the "owner" of 2800 Bruckner Blvd, indicated that he would be opening social service offices with reimbursement coming through his partnership with ACP, a Medicaid Service Provider. Since Medicaid is a state-run program, we immediately looked into his claims. Upon further discussion with both Advantage Care Physicians (ACPNY) and Advocate Community Partners (ACP), neither of these providers are working with Michael Fernades, or his company Steward Redevelopment to bring services to 2800 Bruckner Blvd. So we ask again Mr. Fernades -- what are you planning to do with 2800 Bruckner and why won't you come before Community Board 10 with your real plans?

Engel, House Dems Introduce Resolution to Censure President

  Congressman Eliot L. Engel issued the following statement after cosponsoring a resolution to censure President Trump for his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia:

“President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville was a disgrace to the office of the President. In equating the actions of counter protesters to those of white supremacists and Nazis, he displayed a callousness that cannot be ignored or trivialized. His defense of individuals who stood on the side of white nationalists, saying some of them were ‘very fine people,’ was outrageous. His words were an affront to our shared American values and deserve our condemnation, which is why my colleagues and I have taken this extraordinary step to introduce a resolution to censure. We must send a clear message to the President that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable from the Commander-in-Chief.”   

Censuring and condemning President Donald Trump.
Whereas on August 11, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a gathering of white supremacists, including neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members, and other white nationalist groups, marched through the streets with torches as part of a coordinated ‘Unite the Right’ rally spewing racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred;
Whereas on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a car driven by James Alex Fields, Jr. rammed into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 20 others;
Whereas President Donald Trump’s immediate public comments rebuked “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and failed to specifically condemn the ‘Unite the Right’ rally or cite the white supremacist, neo-Nazi gathering as responsible for actions of domestic terrorism;
Whereas on August 15, 2017 President Donald Trump held a press conference at Trump Tower where he re-asserted that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and attempted to create a moral equivalency between white supremacist, KKK, neo-Nazi groups and those counter-protesting the ‘Unite the Right’ rally;
Whereas President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with, and cultivated the influence of, senior advisors and spokespeople who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic principles and policies within the country;
Whereas President Donald Trump has provided encouragement and little to no denunciation of white supremacist groups and individuals who promote their bigoted, nationalist ideology and policies;
Whereas President Donald Trump has failed to provide adequate condemnation and assure the American people of his resolve to opposing domestic terrorism: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1)   does hereby censure and condemn President Donald Trump for his inadequate response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, his failure to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism, for re-asserting that “both sides” were to blame and excusing the violent behavior of participants in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, and for employing people with ties to white supremacist movements in the White House, such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka; and
(2)   does hereby urge President Donald Trump to fire any and all White House advisors who have urged him to cater to the white supremacist movement in the United States.
Members have signed on as cosponsors:  Joe Crowley (D-NY), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Bill Foster (D-IL), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Scott Peters (D-CA), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Al Lawson (D-FL), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Greg Meeks (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Tim Walz (D-MN), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), David Loebsack (D-IA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Al Green (D-TX), Mark Takano (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Don Beyer (D-VA), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Norma Torres (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), James Langevin (D-RI), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Michael Capuano (D-MA).

Salamanca Secures $300,000 for Leon Senior Center to Update Gardens

  Council Member Salamanca surprised senior citizens from the community at the Douglas Leon Senior Center today to announce that he has secured $300,000 to utilize for a complete upgrade of their outdoor patio and garden. The outdoor space has fallen into disrepair in recent years, and was badly in need of an upgrade. 

For years, seniors have advocated for funding and improvements to be made, but with funding scarce, work has been long overdue. Now, with the $300,000 secured through the City Council, work will be able to be completed. 

"I cannot think of a better way to utilize city capital funding than this, in a way that will allow for the seniors in our community to socialize with friends, garden and just enjoy themselves," said Council Member Salamanca. "This funding was long overdue, and I look forward to continuing to assist our seniors as best I can." 

Along with the Leon Senior Center, located on 152nd Street and Concord Ave in Melrose, Salamanca has has invested over $3.1 million to support our seniors, with funding going to South Bronx senior centers, new senior affordable housing, senior center improvements, and meal programs.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

13th City Council Democratic Primary - UPDATE

  Former 13th City Council candidate Victor Ortiz (pictured above in the white shirt and gold tie) was knocked off the ballot when his petition was challenged, and after the Board of Elections had ruled in favor of his challenger Ms. Rebecca Chant. The Specifications of the objection had taken the approx. 1,500 signatures handed in by candidate Ortiz to below the needed 450 valid signatures. The only way to get back on the ballot was for Mr. Ortiz to go to court to Validate his petition which would possibly change enough of The Board of Elections rulings to make Mr. Ortiz, candidate Victor Ortiz again. 

  After getting a Petition to Validate, and some very hard work by Mr. Victor Ortiz he had proven to the court that he had found more than enough signatures that were ruled invalid by the Board of Elections to be valid signatures. This is not uncommon as this is the way used to get back on the ballot by candidates who feel they did meet the minimum required number of signatures.

There is also a process called Petition to Invalidate when a challenger believes that there may have been signatures ruled valid, but that the Board of Elections does not rule on certain items which can be similar hand writing, and varying degrees of fraud. That was not the case here as there was no Petition to Invalidate against Mr. Ortiz's petition. 

Congratulations to Mr. Victor Ortiz for being reinstated to the ballot for the September 12th Democratic primary. There are still several questions to be answered such as why Ms. Chant challenged Mr. Ortiz's petition, and if the other candidate Alex Gomez that was knocked off by Ms. Chant is to be also returned to the ballot or not. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Conviction Of Rikers Island Correction Officer In Connection With Cover-Up Of Inmate Assault

Officer Rodiny Calypso Convicted of Filing a False Report

  Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that RODINY CALYPSO, a New York City Correction Officer, was convicted yesterday of filing a false report in connection with the assault of a handcuffed inmate at Rikers Island.  The jury acquitted the defendant on one count of violating the inmate’s civil rights and one count of obstruction of justice.  The jury returned the verdict after a one-week trial before the Honorable Valerie E. Caproni.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “Prisoners at Rikers Island have the same constitutional rights we all enjoy, and corrections officers do not have the right to abuse inmates in their custody and care.  Rodiny Calypso’s lies about his use of force undermined the investigation into his brutal beating of a handcuffed, defenseless inmate.  We will continue to aggressively protect the rights of prisoners and the integrity of investigations into uses of force to ensure that justice reaches everywhere, including isolated corners of Rikers Island.”
According to the Complaint, Indictment, and evidence presented at trial:
Rikers Island is a jail complex, located in the Bronx, New York, maintained by the New York City Department of Correction.  At the time of his assault, the inmate (“Inmate-1”) was a pretrial detainee in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (“OBCC”), a facility that houses, among other inmates, inmates in need of maximum security.  Inmate-1 was housed in 5 North, a dormitory area within the OBCC in which inmates were generally kept in solitary confinement in individual cells for 23 hours per day.  The shower facilities within 5 North were individual stalls, to be occupied by one inmate at a time, and to which inmates were brought handcuffed, then uncuffed through a port in the shower stall door, and then handcuffed again through the port before being brought out of the stalls by correction officers.
The Assault and Cover-Up

Shortly before noon on February 27, 2014, CALYPSO relieved another correction officer at 5 North while Inmate-1 was in the shower.  Inmate-1 and CALYPSO had an extended and heated verbal exchange, during which CALYPSO picked up some personal items Inmate-1 had dropped outside the door through the port.  At one point, CALYPSO stepped away from the door and spoke to a fellow correction officer one level down within the dorm area.  That person left the dorm area and returned with another officer (“Officer-1”).
CALYPSO rear-cuffed Inmate-1 for removal, and then opened the door to the shower stall.  Within seconds, CALYPSO punched Inmate-1 several times in the face.  He followed Inmate-1 into the shower area, where he put Inmate-1 into a headlock and punched him several more times in the head.  CALYPSO began to lose his footing at this point, and clung to Inmate-1’s side.  Officer-1 then arrived outside the stall.  As Officer-1 restrained Inmate-1, CALYPSO regained his footing and elbowed Inmate-1 repeatedly – approximately five times – in the head.  As a result of the assault, Inmate-1 suffered lacerations to his face and the back of his head.  The entire assault was captured on surveillance video and witnessed by multiple inmates whose cells were positioned across from the shower area.
The New York City Department of Correction issues directives governing the circumstances under which the use of force against inmates is appropriate.  Under these directives, when a restrained inmate is still dangerous to himself and others, force is to be used as a last resort.  The directives also dictate that any use of force must be reported – on a “Use of Force” report that is filled out truthfully and promptly.
A full day after the assault, in violation of the directives, CALYPSO filled out a “Use of Force” report on which he was supposed to report truthfully the circumstances of that assault.  In this report, CALYPSO attempted to justify his conduct by lying about how he and Inmate-1 had acted.  He mischaracterized and misstated portions of the assault, omitting the close-fisted punches he delivered to Inmate-1 while holding him in a headlock and claiming that he had hit  Inmate-1 only in the “upper torso” area.           
RODINY CALYPSO, 38, of Springfield Gardens, New York, was convicted of one count of filing a false form.   CALYPSO faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  CALYPSO is scheduled to be sentenced on November 30, 2017.
Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Mr. Kim also thanked the New York City Department of Investigation, the New York City Department of Correction, Investigative Division, and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in the investigation, which remains ongoing.

New Paltz Man Sentenced To More Than 18 Years In Prison For Sex Trafficking Of Minors

  Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that MARK CASTAGNETTA was sentenced to 218 months in prison and a lifetime term of supervised release for child sex trafficking.  CASTAGNETTA pled guilty on November 21, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel, who imposed today’s sentence.  In imposing sentence, Judge Seibel characterized the defendant’s misconduct as some of the most serious conduct she had encountered during her time on the bench.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “This defendant callously robbed two children of their innocence, inducing them to travel to his home in New Paltz, New York, where he not only sexually abused them, but forced them to have sex with other men in exchange for drugs and money.  Today, for his reprehensible crimes, he has been sentenced to over 18 years in federal prison.”

From 2014 through July 2016, CASTAGNETTA engaged in trafficking of minors by contacting two minor victims through an adult fetish website and enticing them to travel to his residence to engage in a sexual relationship in which he played the role of “slave master” and the victim played the role of “slave.”  Once there, the defendant engaged in abusive sexual conduct with the victims, supplied the victims with illegal drugs, and induced them to engage in sexual conduct with other individuals in exchange for drugs and money.  The defendant also produced an image containing child pornography of one of the victims. 
CASTAGNETTA, age 52, pled guilty to one count of sex trafficking of children.
Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the FBI’s Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force and the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Squad and thanked the New York City Police Department, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Town of New Paltz Police Department, the Westchester County Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Westchester Department of Social Services for their valuable cooperation in this matter.     

31 Members And Associates Of Two Rival Poughkeepsie Street Gangs

Charged In Federal Court With Murders, Attempted Murders, Racketeering, Narcotics, And Firearms Offenses

  Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), William V. Grady, Dutchess County District Attorney, Thomas Pape, Chief of Police for the City of Poughkeepsie, Adrian Anderson, Dutchess County Sheriff, and George P. Beach, the Superintendent of the New York State Police (“NYSP”), announced today the unsealing of two indictments charging 31 members and associates of two rival street gangs operating in Poughkeepsie, New York: Uptown and Downtown.  The gangs are charged in two separate Indictments – United States v. Douglas Owens et al., 17 Cr. 506 (NSR) (the “Uptown Indictment”), and United States v. Ronald Johnson et al., 17 Cr. 505 (the “Downtown Indictment”) – with murders, attempted murders, racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, and firearms offenses.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As alleged in the indictments unsealed today, two violent Poughkeepsie street gangs have been at war with each other for the last several years.  Their war has left in its wake a bloody trail of tragedy – alleged murders, attempted murders, shootings, and rampant drug dealing.  One of the innocent victims of this alleged gang war was Caval Haylett, an 18-year-old basketball star whose bright future and promise was extinguished on March 9, 2016, in a hail of senseless gunfire.  With today’s charges and arrests, we seek to dismantle these gangs from the top down, and together with our federal and local law enforcement partners, we seek to stem the tide of gun violence and drug dealing in Poughkeepsie.  When gangs flourish, neighborhoods suffer, parents grieve, and children die; it is as simple as that.  And we will not sit by and let that happen.”    
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Two young lives were lost in the alleged ongoing criminal activity of these street gangs. We will not sit idly in the midst of violence, as shown by the diligent and dedicated work of our FBI Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force and our law enforcement partners. As gang rivalry continues to stir strife in our community, we won't stop or slow down in our pursuit to take these members off the streets and keep our residents safe.”
District Attorney William V. Grady said:  “There is no question that gang activity in our community has resulted in drug dealing, shootings, violent crimes and homicides, and this cannot be tolerated.  All possible efforts must and are being made to insure that our community is a safe place to live and work.  These indictments today send a clear message that law enforcement agencies at all levels will join forces to insure that these violent offenders are held accountable and removed from our streets.”
Chief of Police Thomas Pape said:  “On December 23, 2012, a senseless act of violence took the life of a young resident of Poughkeepsie.  This act was the beginning of many more shootings and homicides that plagued our City and took the lives of too many young men. Today, through the cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement, the persons responsible have been taken into custody and will have to answer for their actions.  I want to personally thank the United States Attorney, Mr. Kim, his office, and all of the law enforcement agencies that through a collaborative effort, removed these violent individuals from our community.”
Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian Anderson said:  “Today was an enormous victory for law enforcement by the taking of these individuals off of our streets. These charges are evidence of the strong commitment that we share with other law enforcement agencies, both local and federal, and should serve as a great example of what can be achieved when everyone works together. I commend all of those involved for their outstanding efforts to remove dangerous individuals from our communities and prosecute them to the fullest extent.” 
NYSP Superintendent George P. Beach said:  “This investigation is another example of our law enforcement partners working collaboratively to put an end to the dangerous gang activity that brings violence and crime into our neighborhoods.  I commend all of our law enforcement partners for their hard work in dismantling these rival gangs and for their commitment to making our neighborhoods safer.  We have no tolerance for those who bring drugs and the threat of violence to our communities.”
According to the Indictments[1] unsealed today in White Plains and Manhattan federal court and other documents in the public record:
The Indictments arise from a joint investigation by the FBI’s Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office, and the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office into the gang war between Uptown and Downtown, which has led to multiple fatal and non-fatal shootings between 2012 and the present in the City of Poughkeepsie.
Uptown is a criminal organization whose members referred to themselves by, and were known by, several different names.  Those names include the “Spready Gang,” the “400 Savages,” the “Boogotti Boys,” and the “Mob Stars.”  Uptown gang members referred to themselves by different combinations of these names, all of which referred to the same criminal enterprise: the Uptown street gang.  Uptown is based within the eastern portion of Poughkeepsie, from east of Hamilton Street to the city line and, more specifically, within the Hudson Gardens housing development (commonly referred to as the “Bricks”).  Uptown gang members and associates control the narcotics trade within the Bricks, distributing primarily heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana.  Uptown gang members stored shared guns in various locations known to gang members to protect the narcotics business, to protect each other from rival gangs, and to strike against rival gangs.  The case of United States v. Douglas Owens et al. charges 12 members and associates of Uptown, including its leaders: DOUGLAS OWENS, a/k/a “Born Truth,” and JIHAD WILLIAMS, a/k/a “Goodie.”
Downtown, like Uptown, is the name of a large-scale criminal organization that went by many different names.  Those names include the “420 Boys,” “L-Block,” “Most Hated,” “Hamo Gang,” the “C-Eazy Gang,” and the “Bully Hard Hunna” faction of the Bloods street gang.  Despite the existence of several different names, each one referred to the same criminal enterprise: the Downtown street gang.  Downtown’s base of operations was located in the western portion of Poughkeepsie, from west of Hamilton Street to the Hudson River and, particularly, within the Martin Luther King and Rip Van Winkle housing developments (commonly referred to as the “Ville” and “Rip,” respectively).  Downtown gang members and associates controlled the narcotics trade within the Ville, Rip, and the surrounding area, also distributing primarily resale amounts of heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana.  Downtown gang members also stored their shared firearms in different locations known to members and associates.  This allowed Downtown gang members to arm themselves quickly when confronted by rivals and to protect each other and their narcotics business.  The case of United States v. Ronald Johnson et al. charges 19 members and associates of Downtown, including its leader: RONALD JOHNSON, a/k/a “Top Gun.”
In addition to countless non-fatal acts of violence against rival gang members and innocent victims, the rivalry between Uptown and Downtown has led to the following two murders:
  • The murder of Downtown gang member Daquell LeBlanc, a/k/a “Hamo,” who was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest at the age of 16 in the vicinity of Main Street, between Academy and North Hamilton Streets, on or about December 23, 2012.
  • The murder of Caval Haylett, 18, an innocent bystander and local high school basketball star, who was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head while attending a barbeque in the vicinity of Winnikee Avenue and Harrison Street, on or about March 9, 2016.
In a coordinated operation, 11 defendants were arrested in and around Dutchess County yesterday and early this morning, one defendant was arrested in North Carolina, and one defendant was arrested in Florida.  The Uptown defendants will be presented later this afternoon in Manhattan federal court, while the Downtown defendants will be presented later this afternoon in White Plains federal court.  Eighteen defendants were in custody on state charges and will be transferred to federal custody in the next day.  Charts identifying each defendant, the charges, and the maximum penalties are below.
Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the Dutchess County Drug Task Force, as well as the United States Marshals’ Service, the New York State Police, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for their assistance in today’s arrests.  Mr. Kim also thanked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for their assistance in the investigation.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher J. Clore and Maurene Comey are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.