Saturday, September 16, 2017


Defendants Obtained $750,000 from Relief Programs Intended for Residents Displaced by the Superstorm

  A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Nagwa Elsilimy and Ahmed Arafa with fraud by making false statements to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in connection with their obtaining more than $750,000 in disaster relief from New York City’s Build It Back program (BIB) and FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The defendants allegedly misrepresented that a home in Staten Island, which they had abandoned months before the storm, was their primary residence at the time the superstorm devastated New York and New Jersey. The defendants unlawfully obtained over $750,000 in aid intended for people displaced by the storm. Elsilimy was arrested this morning, and her initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann. 

  The charges were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Christina Scaringi, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD OIG), Mark Tasky, Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG), Washington Field Office, and Mark G. Peters, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (DOI). 

  “Taking advantage of funds intended for disaster relief misappropriates taxpayer dollars, reduces monies available to true victims and erodes public confidence in relief programs,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “This Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to root out such alleged illegal behavior.”

  “The Defendants’ alleged conduct is disturbing, especially during this time when the public is reminded of the devastation that historic storms leave with thousands of victims,” stated HUD OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scaringi. “The taxpayer has no tolerance for those who would steal from Federal public aid – the sole goal of which is to help victims rebuild and move forward with their lives. We, along with our federal and state law enforcement and prosecution partners, will continue to aggressively pursue fraudsters who engage in such unacceptable behavior to both the public and their neighbor.”

  “DHS OIG will continue to target fraudsters who seek to turn the tragedy of a natural disaster into an opportunity of personal gain at the expense of taxpayers,” stated DHS OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Tasky. “Today’s arrest is a tangible step of our commitment with our law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to identify, investigate, and pursue prosecution of fraudulent activities that undermine federal programs.”

  “Hurricane Sandy ravaged shoreside communities and displaced hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from homes made uninhabitable by the storm,” stated DOI Commissioner Peters. “While homeowners applied for aid to rehabilitate and rebuild, these defendants were capitalizing on the destruction, collecting benefits to which they were not entitled and exploiting federal funds to restore property they didn’t live in, according to the charges. DOI has monitored the City’s rebuilding effort since its inception, and will continue to investigate the programs and those dishonest homeowners who take advantage of finite disaster relief funds.”

  According to the complaint, in the days and months following Hurricane Sandy, which struck New York and New Jersey on October 29, 2012, the defendants obtained and attempted to obtain federal funds appropriated for Sandy disaster relief by submitting material misrepresentations in their applications for disaster relief. Specifically, the defendants falsely represented that a home they had abandoned before the storm was their primary residence at the time Sandy hit the Eastern District of New York. The defendants had been residing at a different address since at least March 2012, and, at the time Sandy struck Staten Island, the defendants’ alleged primary residence was vacant, and had been vacant for at least seven months. Evidence obtained in the investigation suggests that the defendants fraudulently obtained federal aid totaling more than $750,000 based upon their misrepresentations in applications to FEMA, HUD and BIB, the New York City program established with federal funds to aid residents in rebuilding private homes damaged or destroyed due to Hurricane Sandy.

  The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment for major disaster relief fraud and five years’ imprisonment for making false statements to a federal agency,

  The Defendants: NAGWA ELSILIMY Age: 59 Staten Island, NY AHMED ARAFA Age: 59 Staten Island, NY E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-MJ-805

Comptroller Stringer Report: High Number of Middle and High School Students Aren’t Taught “Sex Ed”

Just 57 percent of eighth grade students completed the New York State-mandated requirement of one semester of health
Comptroller calls on DOE to implement new Chancellor’s Regulation guaranteeing sexual education for all middle and high school students
  A new report released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer shows that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) is not providing comprehensive health education — as required by state law — to all middle and high school students, and is not prioritizing “sex ed” as part of a larger health curriculum. The Comptroller’s report, Healthy Relationships: A Plan for Improving Health and Sexual Education in New York City Schools, highlights the deficiencies in the City’s ability to provide sex ed, with just over half of all middle school students receiving their mandated semester of health education and only 7.6 percent of all health instructors receiving any professional development related to sexual health education over the last two years. The new report comes as several indicators regarding sexually transmitted infections (STI) rates and sexual risk behaviors are ticking up among teenagers.
“Our goal is to paint a broad picture for everyone with a stake in City schools, and to create a roadmap that ensures our kids are getting the comprehensive education they deserve. Most parents expect their schools to be teaching sex ed, and as our report shows, it isn’t happening. We know there are many competing demands for City schools, and many critical areas of growth on which to focus. We did this report to elevate the conversation about a topic that is serious and, I believe, crucial for our students – and we hope to see the needle move in the right direction in the future,” Comptroller Stringer said. “We, as a city, are defined by how we treat our children. Yet, when just a fraction of eighth grade students are getting mandated instruction, I’m alarmed. That’s why I’m calling on the DOE to implement a Chancellor’s Regulation that guarantees sexual health education for all middle and high school students. It’s commonsense, it should be codified in the rules, and it should be considered part of a standard classroom education for all – not a luxury for a few.”
Specifically, Comptroller Stringer’s report found:
  • Only 57 percent of eighth grade students completed the New York State-mandated requirement of one semester of health taught during the middle school years;
  • Only 7.6 percent of all health instructors participated in any professional development related to sexual health education within the last two years;
  • Of all 6-8 middle schools specifically, 28 percent do not have a teacher assigned to teach health;
  • 88 percent of schools that teach students in grades 6-12 (844 schools) have no teacher who is licensed by New York City for health education. This includes:
    • 92 percent of middle schools (398 middle schools)
    • 53 percent of high schools (446 high schools)
  • Across all grades in New York City, 568 out of 1043 – or 45 percent – of health teachers are not state certified;
  • Just 144 of the 4,560 teachers in middle and high schools who were assigned to teach health are actually licensed by the City to do so;
At the same time, public health data shows that:
  • 4 percent of New York City teenagers reported experiencing sexual dating violence during the past 12 months, according to a 2015 survey of public high school students in grades 9-12. On average, New York City teenagers place over 1,400 calls to the City’s Domestic Violence hotline each month;
  • While pregnancy rates among New York City teens have dropped overall in recent years, they remain elevated in some parts of the city. Teen pregnancy rates in the Bronx, for instance, remain the highest in the state – in 2014, there were 69 pregnancies per 1,000 females age 15-19 years, compared with the citywide rate of 48.1 per 1,000;
  • In New York City among youth ages 13-19, incidents of chlamydia and gonorrhea both were on the decline after reaching peaks in 2011. However, both began to inch up again in 2015, the most recent year for which there is city data, for the first time since 2010; and
  • According to the 2015 National School Climate Survey, 85 percent of LGBTQ students reported verbal harassment, while 13 percent reported being physically assaulted. Public health data show that LGBTQ youth are more likely to engage in risk behaviors that contribute to attempted suicide and substance abuse, and are at increased risk for homelessness – making the need for comprehensive sexual education all the more important.
The report comes as sexual health education is under attack in Washington. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that all grant funding through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program would be terminated two years early, and the Republican Congress has already moved to strip its funding along with the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), opting instead to support abstinence-only sexual education. These funding streams support many Community Based Organizations that are providing sex ed instruction in both schools and communities, making it even more critical that schools are consistently delivering quality comprehensive sexual health education to students.
New York State law requires that all students receive health instruction, and that students in grades 6-12 be taught health by a certified health instructor. While New York State law does not explicitly require that sexual health be included in mandated health instruction, the NYC DOE has advised principals since 2011 to include sexual health as part of health instruction for grades 6-12. As the most recent data shows, very few schools are in compliance with either the state requirement or the City’s policy. What is needed is deepened accountability and greater communication prioritizing the importance of sexual health education. As a result, the Comptroller called on the DOE to implement a Chancellor’s regulation that guarantees sex ed for all middle and high school systems as part of a comprehensive – and common-sense – middle and high school education.
The Comptroller’s report puts forward a series of findings and recommends a set of reforms based on best practices from other cities aimed at helping students develop healthy, informed outlooks on their own sexual health and identity.
DOE Should Issue a Chancellor’s Regulation Regarding Sex Ed
The DOE should mandate sexual health and wellness instruction in the health curriculum taught in 6th to 12thgrades through a Chancellor’s Regulation, and expand the mandate to include K-5th grades following National Sexuality Education Standards.
DOE must comply with State law by ensuring all secondary school health instructors are certified to teach health
Schools that do not have certified health instructors in grades 6-12 should provide a pathway for certification for at least one health instructor. This may include covering or subsidizing the cost of certification or other incentives.
Improve methods of evaluation and public reporting
A review of sexual health education should be included as part of every school’s quality review, conducted by the Department of Education.
Expand School Wellness Councils to all schools
School Wellness Councils are existing volunteer bodies that can provide oversight and emphasize the importance of sexual health education but they are not in place in every school.
Coordinate sexual health and wellness efforts
The Department of Education needs to better synchronize efforts and resources specific to comprehensive sexual health offered by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV).

Friends of Van Cortlandt Park - Hike-toberfest is One Week From Today!

Hike, Eat, Drink & Celebrate with Friends during our new fun fundraiser for the hiking trails of Van Cortlandt Park. Come see why VCP is Where NYC Hikes.

Hikes start at 2pmHikers will have the option of going on a 4-5 mile hike throughout the park OR a 2 mile leisurely nature hike or Loving the Bronx history tour. All hikes will be led by guides and take about 2 hours. All registered participants will receive a VCP Where NYC Hikes giveaway. 

Oktoberfest is from 4-7pmAttendees will receive a Hike-toberfest Souvenir Mug, eat German food by Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten, enjoy local beers served by The Bronx Beer Hall and listen to a performance by The Third Wheel Band. Special thank you to all the breweries for donating! Yard games will be set up to challenge your friends as you hang out on the Van Cortlandt House Museum Lawn. 

Tickets at the door are more expensive and cannot be guaranteed.

Friends of Van Cortlandt Park

Friday, September 15, 2017

Former Mobile Phone Industry Employee Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 33 Months In Prison For Role In Multimillion-Dollar Consumer Fraud Scheme

  Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FRANCIS ASSIFUAH, a/k/a “Francis Assif,” was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for participating in a massive scheme to defraud consumers by placing unauthorized charges for text messaging services on their cell phone bills, through a practice known as “auto-subscribing.” Through their fraudulent scheme, ASSIFUAH and his co-conspirators charged millions of mobile phone customers $9.99 a month for unsolicited, recurring text messages about topics such as horoscopes, celebrity gossip, and trivia facts, without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The fraud resulted in the theft of over $100 million from consumers throughout the United States. ASSIFUAH pled guilty to his role in the fraud on February 7, 2017, and was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court by the Honorable Katherine B. Forrest.

To date, four additional defendants, Andrew Bachman, Lin Miao, Michael Pajackowski, and Erdolo Eromo, have pled guilty in connection with their participation in the fraud, and one additional defendant, Fraser Thompson, was convicted by a jury on September 5, 2017, following a three-week trial.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Francis Assifuah and his co-conspirators charged millions of cell phone customers for text message services they never signed up for, ultimately reaping more than $100 million from their scheme. Together with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to uncovering and prosecuting schemes that defraud consumers.”
According to the Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court, other court documents, and statements made in connection with ASSIFUAH’S guilty plea and sentencing:

ASSIFUAH is a former employee of Mobile Messenger, a mobile “aggregator” that compiled, or “aggregated,” charges for premium services – such as monthly horoscopes, celebrity gossip, and trivia facts – on consumers’ mobile phone bills. In the auto-subscribing scheme, Mobile Messenger worked with multiple different “content provider” companies, which sent consumers the unwanted text messages that ultimately resulted in the consumers being charged for services they had not authorized. Those content providers included a company called Tatto Media, which was operated by Miao; companies called CF Enterprises and DigiMobi, which were operated by Eugeni Tsvetnenko, a/k/a “Zhenya”; and a company called Bleam Technology, which was operated by ASSIFUAH.

While he was working at Mobile Messenger, ASSIFUAH worked with and befriended Eromo. In early 2012, Eromo approached Pajackowski, a fellow Mobile Messenger employee, and asked to participate more actively in the auto-subscribing activities that Pajackowski and others were engaging in with Tatto Media. After Pajackowski told Eromo there was no room for him in the Tatto Media auto-subscription, Pajackowski suggested that they recruit another content provider with technical expertise to help them expand the scheme. Eromo then met with ASSIFUAH at a trade show in Las Vegas and presented him with the plan to auto-subscribe, using Bleam Technology as the content provider. By the time Eromo returned from the Las Vegas trade show, ASSIFUAH had agreed to become involved in auto-subscribing. Shortly thereafter, Eromo, Pajackowski, and ASSIFUAH began to auto-subscribe consumers through Bleam Technology, using Mobile Messenger as the mobile aggregator.
The auto-subscription scheme, through all of the content providers that it involved, affected millions of consumers and generated over $100 million in criminal proceeds. 
In addition to the prison sentence, ASSIFUAH, 44, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced to two years of supervised release.

Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and expressed his sincere gratitude to the Federal Trade Commission for their support and assistance with the investigation.

If you believe you were a victim of this crime, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact the Victim/Witness Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900. For additional information, go to

Businessman Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Forge A Federal Judge’s Signature

The Defendant Used Counterfeit Court Orders to Get Websites Containing Unfavorable Postings About His Company De-Indexed From Google Search Results

  Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Michael Greco, the United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York (“USMS”), announced that MICHAEL ARNSTEIN pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. to one count of conspiracy to forge a federal judge’s signature.  ARNSTEIN is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Carter on January 16, 2018. 

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As he admitted today, Michael Arnstein exploited the authority of the federal judiciary in a blatantly criminal scheme. By forging court orders and the signature of a U.S. District Judge, Arnstein was able to effectively erase websites critical of Arnstein’s business from its search results. Now Arnstein awaits sentencing in the same court he impersonated.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Arnstein’s attempts to remove any trace of unfavorable information about his business posted online sent him down a slippery slope.  Not only did he commit a federal crime by forging a judge’s signature in furtherance of his scheme, but he now finds himself back on the Internet.  This time, however, it’s a story no search engine can erase.”
U.S. Marshal Michael Greco said:  “The outstanding combination of investigative efforts by the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service enabled deputies and special agents to expose an egregious attempt at forgery and deception by Michael Arnstein.  The Deputy U.S. Marshals assigned to the Southern District of New York’s Protective Intelligence Unit work tirelessly to investigate any and all forms of inappropriate communications in order to thwart such schemes.  As always, the U.S. Marshals Service is committed to protecting the safety, security and integrity of our federal judiciary and court family.”     
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, the felony Information to which ARNSTEIN pled guilty, and statements made during the plea proceeding and other court proceedings:
Between February 2014 and February 2017, ARNSTEIN engaged in a brazen scheme to submit counterfeit federal court orders to Google, Inc. (“Google”) in an effort to get websites containing unfavorable postings about ARNSTEIN’s business de-indexed from Google’s internet search results. In furtherance of this scheme, ARNSTEIN and others forged the signature of a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York on over ten counterfeit court orders.  These counterfeit orders listed the websites containing purportedly defamatory information about ARNSTEIN’s business and ordered the removal of such information from the websites.  ARNSTEIN then submitted the counterfeit orders, which appeared to be valid on their face, to Google and requested that Google de-index the websites containing the purportedly defamatory information.  ARNSTEIN often succeeded in getting the websites de-indexed using the counterfeit court orders.   
ARNSTEIN, 40, of Kailua, Hawaii, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to forge a judicial signature, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. 
Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Marshals Service.  Mr. Kim also thanked Google for its helpful assistance in this investigation. 

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Guilty Plea Of Bronx County Man For His Role In Heroin Trafficking Ring

Jeremey Collazo Sold Over 2,000 Glassines Of Heroin To An Undercover Detective, Will Be Sentenced  To 3 Years In Prison

  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the guilty plea of Jeremey Collazo for his role in a drug trafficking ring that distributed heroin throughout New York and Bronx counties. On four separate dates, Collazo was captured selling plastic bags filled with heroin to an undercover detective.  In one instance, Collazo smuggled the heroin inside audio speakers into a storage unit that was utilized by law enforcement and outfitted with undercover cameras.  Once inside of the storage unit, Collazo opened the speakers and removed the hidden heroin bags to give it to the undercover detective. In total, Collazo sold more than 2,000 glassines of heroin during the course of this investigation.

The narcotics dealing was part of “Operation Steal Horses” a long-term investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York Police Department’s Auto Crime Division, which resulted in the arrest of a ten individuals in Bronx County for participating in organized motorcycle-theft and narcotics rings.
“We’ll continue to act to take dangerous drugs – and those who deal them – off our streets,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Too many New York families are plagued by the opioid epidemic and the violence that often come with it. We’re committed to continuing to work tirelessly with our partners in local law enforcement to stop the flow of illegal and dangerous drugs.”
As part of the long-term investigation, law enforcement also employed street-side covert cameras, confidential informants, and undercover officers. 
Collazo, 30, of Bronx County, pled guilty on September 13, 2017 to Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a B level felony conviction.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by Bronx County Supreme Court Justice Steven L. Barrett, on October 4, 2017, to 3 years in prison, with 5 years of post-release supervision. The Bronx County motorcycle and heroin indictments against the remaining defendants are still pending.
The Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) has now taken down 25 large drug trafficking gangs, made more than 580 felony narcotics arrests, and seized more than $1.5 million and more than 2,000 pounds of illegal drugs since 2011. In the past several months alone, Attorney General Schneiderman’s new Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic (“S.U.R.G.E.”) Initiative—a crackdown on New York’s growing heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks—has resulted in 260 alleged traffickers and dealers taken off the streets across New York, through Operation BricktownOperation Un-WiseOperation Gravy TrainOperation BloodsportOperation Pipeline, and Operation Wrecking Ball.
The charges against the remaining defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces First-Of-Its-Kind Partnership With Four NYC Non-Profits To Demonstrate Benefits Of All-Electric Trucks

Project "E3” (E-Cubed) Will Equip Wildlife Conservation Society, NY Botanical Garden, Habitat For Humanity NYC, & Big Reuse With Electric Delivery Trucks For Two Years
E3 Funded Through Attorney General’s $9.5 Million Clean Air Settlement With American Electric Power 
In NYC, Trucks Produce Over 70% Of Traffic-Related Soot Pollution – Pollution That Causes 320 Premature Deaths And 870 Emergency Room Visits And Hospitalizations In The City Every Single Year
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, along with four prominent New York City-based non-profits, today announced a first-of-it-kind partnership, coined "E3” (E-Cubed), to highlight the economic, efficiency and environmental benefits that all-electric delivery trucks could have for New Yorkers. The innovative project will give the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York Botanical Garden, Habitat for Humanity New York City, and Big Reuse the opportunity to lease battery-powered electric delivery trucks for two years, while documenting the benefits of the trucks’ use in New York City. The initiative furthers the Attorney General’s commitment to protecting New Yorkers from dangerous pollution and its public health impacts, as the project is funded by a $9.5 million settlement the Attorney General’s Office reached with American Electric Power, the largest U.S. power company, over the company’s violations of the federal Clean Air Act. 
"New Yorkers deserve access to clean, safe and healthy environments,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Electric trucks offer an alternative to the gas and diesel powered delivery trucks that pump noise, greenhouse gases, and other pollution into our neighborhoods – and have a dire impact on our public health and environment. This innovative partnership will showcase how zero-emission vehicles can offer a cleaner, greener, healthier, and more affordable solution for New Yorkers.” 
The participating non-profit organizations, chosen through a competitive application process, will each receive funding from the Attorney General to lease two all-electric Mitsubishi Fuso “eCanter” medium-duty delivery trucks to support core operations and services for two years.  
During this period, the Attorney General and M.J. Bradley & Associates—a firm with an established practice in the implementation of advanced vehicle technologies—will study the performance of the electric trucks deployed in the project, and document their utility and benefits in New York City. The Attorney General’s Office will then prepare a report on the study’s findings with the goal of addressing common concerns of private truck fleet operators about adopting electric trucks by validating the reliability and business case for these vehicles.
John Calvelli, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “As a global conservation organization working in 60 countries and all the world’s oceans, as well as managing the world’s largest network of urban zoos, we have seen firsthand the impacts of climate change and other air pollution on wildlife and wild places. Attorney General Schneiderman has shown real leadership in tackling this issue head on, and we are grateful and honored to be part of the solution by participating in this project to use electric trucks at our zoos in New York City.”
Gregory Long, Chief Executive Officer and The William C. Steere Sr. President of The New York Botanical Garden, said, “We are very grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for this opportunity to add two all-electric trucks to our fleet of vehicles. As an institution, we are committed to being on the cutting edge of energy efficiency and to reducing our carbon emissions to the greatest possible extent. We are extremely proud to have been chosen by the Attorney General to demonstrate these electric trucks, and we intend to use them both at the Botanical Garden and on the streets of New York City so people will see the important role that these innovative vehicles can play in protecting our environment.”
Because they deliver more than 91 percent of all goods in New York City, trucks have a substantial impact on the city’s air quality. According to the American Lung Association, New York City is one of the worst cities in the nation for soot pollution, which contributes to heart disease, respiratory illness, and death. This is underscored by the fact that soot pollution from traffic in the New York City has been found to cause 320 premature deaths and 870 emergency room visits and hospitalizations annually, according to the New York Health Department. Trucks are responsible for over 70 percent of traffic-related soot – more than twice as much to this soot pollution as passenger cars and ten times than buses. Notably, the impacts of soot pollution are most acutely felt by the city’s low-income communities, with the poorest neighborhoods experiencing 1.7 times higher soot exposures and 9.3 times the rate of emergency department visits for asthma due to emissions from trucks and buses.  
Experts argue that delivery trucks operating in urban centers are ideally suited for "electrification." This is because urban delivery trucks typically work out of a central depot, and travel relatively short, well-defined routes. In this way, two major obstacles to all-electric vehicles – limits on vehicle range and the availability of charging stations – are largely irrelevant to operating electric delivery trucks in cities.  In addition, electric trucks are less polluting, more fuel efficient, and cost less to maintain than conventional gas and diesel-fueled trucks.  
Today’s announcement follows a number of other steps Attorney General Schneiderman has taken to protect New Yorkers’ air and health, including filing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for its illegal delay of smog regulations; within days, the EPA reversed course.

City Hall in Your Borough: City Resource Fair - Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - TO BE HELD IN HARLEM

  On Wednesday, September 27Mayor Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer will host a City Resource Fair during City Hall in Your Borough week. Top representatives from City Hall, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, the Department of Transportation, Department of Finance, NYPD, Economic Development Corporation, Department of Education, Department of Health, Small Business Services, Department of Parks and Recreation, among others, will be available to answer Manhattan residents’ questions. 

Manhattanites can sign up to attend via at or call (212) 748-0281.

WHAT:           City Hall in Your Borough: City Resource Fair

WHEN:           Wednesday, September 27, 2017
                                10:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M.

WHERE:         Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center


New traffic configuration on Park Row removes conflicts, improving safety of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists; new two-way bicycle lane creates a more seamless connection to the Brooklyn Bridge from Lower Manhattan

  Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a new traffic configuration on Park Row next to City Hall, including a two-way protected bike lane, a new crosswalk and a network of lanes of more than two miles around lower Manhattan and the Financial District, increasing safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists trying to reach the Brooklyn Bridge from the Financial District. DOT crews expect to complete final elements of the project in the next week.

“We are committed to making cycling in New York City safe, and that includes making changes right on the doorstep of City Hall. For thousands of cyclist who cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day, this means a much safer ride,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Two weeks ago, we announced our plans to next year bring pedestrian and bicycle access to Park Row north of City Hall going to Chinatown.  Today, on a different stretch of Park Row, we have already created the new City Hall two-way bike path that will also make a big difference.  In Lower Manhattan, where every inch of real estate is in incredible demand, credit goes to DOT engineers and planners who found the way to make these streets safer for everyone -- all while relocating vehicle parking and traffic with minimal disruption.”

The new City Hall bike lane is less than 400 feet long but is in an area of high pedestrian and cycling demand, where the previous one-way southbound bike lane often led to unsafe interactions.  For example, according to DOT counts, on a single weekday in 2015, more than 500 of 1647 total cyclists cycled the wrong way (north) on Park Row -- riding against traffic on the street’s west side, often on the sidewalk. 

Between 2009 and 2014, these few blocks of Park Row saw four cyclist injuries, including one severe injury.  The project’s major pedestrian improvements include a new crosswalk across Park Row at Spruce Street, where in a peak hour, DOT counted 55 pedestrians making the previously unprotected crossing on the north side of Spruce Street.  As part of the project, other pedestrian crossings across Park Row were also shortened with widened curbs and the expansion of center medians.  As part of the redesign, authorized parking that had been previously located on the west side of Park Row was relocated to the expanded center median area.

“Under Mayor de Blasio and Vision Zero, we have added hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes and improved countless intersections and crosswalks around New York City, but this relatively small Park Row project proves that sometimes it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.  “In one of Lower Manhattan’s busiest areas, a few hundred feet of bike lanes and a single new crosswalk will make a real and consequential difference to the safety and convenience of thousands of daily users.”

As part of its continued commitment to expanding New York City’s bike network, which now has over 1,130 miles, DOT also announced that it expect to this fall complete a new two-mile network of bicycle lanes around lower Manhattan that connect the Brooklyn Bridge to Battery Park.  The network, including the new City Hall bike lane, adds bike lanes and shared lanes onto streets in the Financial District. This project is among several designed to improve bike access and connectivity to bridges, including at both sides of the Brooklyn Bridge this past year, with plans for the Williamsburg Bridge in the next year.


  Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) released the following statement in response to the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. In his letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rep. Espaillat urges the Department of Justice to reject the merger if independent voices like Televisión Dominicana are not protected, as not taking them into consideration would have adverse and direct impacts on minority consumers and minority on- air talent.   

“I am deeply concerned about the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner and have called upon the Department of Justice to provide strict oversight during its analysis and to reject this deal,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “AT&T U-verse and DIRECTV have recently demonstrated their indifference to keeping independent voices and minority talent on air with its decision to remove Televisión Dominicana from its lineup, and it has become more clear than ever before that DOJ must closely scrutinize such transactions in order to protect diversity and competition within the media marketplace.

“As the first Dominican-American elected to serve in the U.S. Congress, I take this issue very seriously. Televisión Dominicana is AT&T and DIRECTV’s only channel that services the Dominican community, the 4th largest Hispanic community in the U.S.  Televisión Dominicana provides a necessary pipeline of culturally significant news and information directly from the Dominican Republic, as well as offering programming produced by Dominican-Americans in the U.S.  The network plays a critical role in strengthening communities, both for immigrant families establishing new lives in the United States and Dominican-Americans seeking connections to their homeland. Yet, the decision to remove the program was made at the most critical time as families prepared for the impact of Hurricane Irma, leaving many in the dark during an emergency.

“I have repeatedly contacted AT&T about this matter and have received a series of unsatisfactory answers regarding Televisión Dominicana’s removal.  I believe this decision directly contradicts AT&T’s commitment to protecting diverse voices and minority communities as promised during its acquisition of DIRECTV, and I urge the Department of Justice to strongly consider rejecting the recent proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner in an effort to protect independent voices like Televisión Dominicana and other stations popular within minority communities.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bronx Primary Day Review

  In looking at the final results from primary day several thoughts can come from the voting. Yes the Bronx Democratic County organization had a Clean Sweep of the contested races that were contained entirely in the Bronx. In the one Manhattan/Bronx council race everyone was the winner since current City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is term-limited out of office, and gone.

  Mayor Bill de Blasio while he won only received three out of every four votes against a field of nobody's. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was most impressive by getting the results expected by blasting both his opponents combined by almost the percentage that the mayor received. However Diaz Jr. may have been the only good thing for the County organization with the exception of no primaries in the 11th, 15th, and 16th council districts.

  Incumbents won their races where primaries occurred. Incumbent 17th Councilman Rafael Salamanca did the best with  73 percent of the vote in his one on one race with Helen Hines who received 27 percent of the vote. In the 12th Council district incumbent Councilman Andy King won with 69 percent of the vote over two opponents. However the third incumbent 14th district Councilman Fernando Cabrera was only able to pick up 55 percent of the vote with his second place finisher Randy Abreau picking up 35 percent of the vote, with 10 percent going to 86th A.D. based Felix Perdomo.

  The county organization seemed to have problems in the two open council districts. While Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. received 86 percent of the vote, in the 18th council district his father Ruben Diaz Sr. won a five person race with only 42 percent of the vote. Second was Amanda Faris 21 percent, third Elvin Garcia 15 percent, fourth Michael Beltzer 14 percent, and fifth William Moore at 9 percent. 

  The hottest race this primary was in the 13th council district, which I said back in January right after Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj announced he was running would be. In this race it was much closer than expected (even by me), as Assemblyman Gjonaj won with 39 percent of the vote (which I had projected he would get), coming in second was Marjorie Velazquez with 34 percent, third John Doyle with 19 percent, fourth Victor Ortiz with 5 percent, and fifth Egidio Sementilli with 3 percent.

  In the 13th council race several things happened including the return to the primary ballot of one candidate (of two) who were knocked off, which sparked charges of fraud on the challenger of that candidate after some testimony by said challenger. It also made the record books with the amount of money spent by one candidate, of which the total figure has not yet been recorded by the Campaign Finance Board. 

  On to the general election, and in every council district except the 13 the Democratic candidate will cruise to a victory. Since the number two and three finishers from the Democratic primary have minor party lines it is not known yet what their presence on the November ballot will do to the Democratic candidate. This is also the one Bronx council district which has the largest concentration of Republican/Conservative voters also. It should make for an interesting November election, at least in the 13th council district.

Independent Democratic Conference - Sex offenders endanger city’s homeless children, new report reveals

Independent Democratic Conference finds highest number of Level 2 & 3 sex offenders living in city family shelters in years, calls for immediate action

Senator Jeff Klein, Senator Marisol Alcantara, and Senator Jose Peralta Today released, “Unsafe Shelters,” an investigative report detailing the rise in Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living among the city’s nearly 23,000 homeless children in family shelters.

Currently 21 high level sex offenders share the same facilities as vulnerable homeless children, a practice the city’s Department of Homeless Services publicly vowed to end. But the practice not only continues, the investigation found, it is on the rise.

“We must protect our most vulnerable children from high level sex offenders who easily could be housed elsewhere. These sexual predators know how to take advantage of children and they should not be allowed to reside in family homeless shelters, where people are looking to regain stability. This is a disaster waiting to happen and the city needs to immediately move these predators away from these children. I am also calling on the Assembly to finally pass legislation that will ban Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from sheltering with families,” said Senator Klein.

“Families entering the New York City shelter system are already entering a difficult situation for their families and a difficult period in their lives. Having to worry about sex offenders preying on their children is an unacceptable burden on our city's homeless families, and an unacceptable danger to our children, who are our future. We cannot allow this state of affairs to continue, and I applaud Senator Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference for bringing attention to this issue,” said Senator Alcantara.

The safety of our families and children is sacred, and this is why we must ensure we prioritize their well-being. We cannot afford any loophole, any misinterpretation when it comes to protecting some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. I urge the state Legislature to pass a measure that will prohibit the placement of Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders in family homeless shelters. I want to thank Senator Klein for his continuous efforts to tackle these avoidable and dangerous situations,” said Senator Peralta.

The number of sexual predators living in family shelters spiked since 2007 when Senator Klein first began looking into the issue.

There are 21 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living in family shelters this year. The highest concentration of offenders live in Bronx shelters.

In 2015, Senator Klein learned that the Crystal Family residence in The Bronx housed two sexual predators who were eventually removed after he notified the city. Senator Klein worked with the city on this issue, and DHS publicly stated that no sexual predators would be housed with homeless families in February 2015.

Months later, DHS developed its own internal policy to screen sexual offenders and use discretion before placing them in family shelters. Factors that DHS would consider according to this procedure are the severity of the crime committed, the age and gender of the victim as well as their relationship to the offender, how long ago the crime was committed, whether that individual faced any existing residency restrictions, their age, and whether the offender happens to be the single custodial parent.  

Families in shelters feel unsafe when they learn a sexual predator lives in the same residence. Senator Klein introduced legislation, S. 1784, which would prohibit Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from residing in family homeless shelters to protect the city’s most vulnerable children from potential abuse.

It has passed the Senate numerous times, but the Assembly will not take it up.