Saturday, January 6, 2018

As New Yorkers Face Sub-Zero Conditions, Comptroller Stringer Announces New Audit of NYCHA Heating Systems

Preliminary Stringer analysis finds NYCHA has boilers with a defect rate at five times the citywide average
Comptroller Stringer to launch 9th NYCHA audit
Stringer letter to NYCHA demands answers for tenants
  As New Yorkers continue to endure sub-zero conditions, and after widespread reports from tenants of heating outages at NYCHA developments, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today announced his office will launch a new audit of NYCHA heating systems.
“Across the city, tenants are suffering without heat and hot water. That’s not an inconvenience – it’s a crisis. NYCHA tenants are being left in the cold, in their own homes, by their own government. It’s unacceptable,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “We cannot be a city in which those with luxury towers are living in comfort, while those across the street in NYCHA complexes are deprived of heat and hot water. Unfortunately, heating breakdowns happen year after year – and the bureaucracy continues to play whack-a-mole with short-term fixes instead of permanent solutions. We need to address this maintenance mess now, because our seniors, children, and families are struggling. That’s why we’re going to be looking under the hood at NYCHA. This is about safety – and equity.”
The Comptroller’s Office’s initial review of the Buildings Department’s annual compliance filings for high and low pressure boilers reveals that, since July of last year, inspection data has shown that NYCHA has a reported rate of defective boilers that is five times the citywide average – 39.5 percent of NYCHA inspections reported defects compared to 7.9 percent citywide.
The new audit announced today will be Comptroller Stringer’s ninth probe of NYCHA – more than any other Comptroller in at least the last 27 years. It comes after Comptroller Stringer yesterday sent a letter to NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye seeking data because tenants are facing inadequate or nonexistent heat and hot water, even as temperatures plummet to record lows. It also comes after a 2015 audit on NYCHA maintenance that showed problems with maintenance of boilers and heating systems.
In the last several days, complaints and reports about non-functioning heat and hot water have come from tenants at over 30 NYCHA developments across the city, including:
  • Taft Houses
  • Fred Samuels Houses
  • Jacob Riis Houses
  • Laguardia Houses
  • Harborview Terrace Houses
  • Jefferson Houses
  • Lower East Side Rehab
  • Wise Towers
  • WSUR (Site C)
  • Redfern Houses
  • Woodside Houses
  • Farragut Houses
  • Reid Hosues
  • Tilden Houses
  • Pink Houses
  • Rutland Towers
  • Independence Houses
  • Bushwick II Houses
  • Red Hook West Houses
  • Howard Houses
  • John Adams Houses
  • Millbrook Houses
  • Clason Point Gardens
  • Melrose Houses
  • Sedgwick Houses
  • Patterson Houses
  • Soundview Houses
  • Sonia Sotomayor Houses
  • Randall Avenue – Balcom Avenue
  • South Bronx Area (Site 402)
  • West Tremont Ave – Sedgwick
Staten Island
  • West Brighton II
To read Comptroller Stringer’s July 2015 audit, click here.
To read Comptroller Stringer’s letter to NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye, click here
Why is it that of the NYCHA housing developments listed above one third are in the Bronx? 

Scott Tucker Sentenced To More Than 16 Years In Prison For Running $3.5 Billion Unlawful Internet Payday Lending Enterprise

  Joan Loughnane, the Acting Deputy United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that SCOTT TUCKER was sentenced to 200 months in prison for operating a nationwide internet payday lending enterprise that systematically evaded state laws for more than 15 years in order to charge illegal interest rates as high as 1,000 percent on loans.  TUCKER’s co-defendant, TIMOTHY MUIR, an attorney, was also sentenced, to 84 months in prison, for his participation in the scheme.  In addition to their willful violation of state usury laws across the country, TUCKER and MUIR lied to millions of customers regarding the true cost of their loans to defraud them out of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars.  Further, as part of their multi-year effort to evade law enforcement, the defendants formed sham relationships with Native American tribes and laundered the billions of dollars they took from their customers through nominally tribal bank accounts to hide Tucker’s ownership and control of the business.

After a five-week jury trial, TUCKER and MUIR were found guilty on October 13, 2017, on all 14 counts against them, including racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, and Truth-In-Lending Act (“TILA”) offenses.  U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel presided over the trial and imposed today’s sentences.

Acting Deputy U.S. Attorney Joan Loughnane said:  “For more than 15 years, Scott Tucker and Timothy Muir made billions of dollars exploiting struggling, everyday Americans through payday loans carrying interest rates as high as 1,000 percent.  And to hide their criminal scheme, they tried to claim their business was owned and operated by Native American tribes.  But now Tucker and Muir’s predatory business is closed and they have been sentenced to significant time in prison for their deceptive practices.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, and evidence presented at trial:

The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Crimes

            From at least 1997 until 2013, TUCKER engaged in the business of making small, short-term, high-interest, unsecured loans, commonly referred to as “payday loans,” through the Internet.  TUCKER’s lending enterprise, which had up to 1,500 employees based in Overland Park, Kansas, did business as Ameriloan, f/k/a Cash Advance; OneClickCash, f/k/a Preferred Cash Loans; United Cash Loans; US FastCash; 500 FastCash; Advantage Cash Services; and Star Cash Processing (the “Tucker Payday Lenders”).  TUCKER, working with MUIR, the general counsel for TUCKER’s payday lending businesses since 2006, routinely charged interest rates of 600 percent or 700 percent, and sometimes higher than 1,000 percent.  These loans were issued to more than 4.5 million working people in all 50 states, including more than 250,000 people in New York, many of whom were struggling to pay basic living expenses.  Many of these loans were issued in states, including New York, with laws that expressly forbid lending at the exorbitant interest rates TUCKER charged.  Evidence at trial established that TUCKER and MUIR were fully aware of the illegal nature of the loans charged and, in fact, prepared scripts to be used by call center employees to deal with complaints by customers that their loans were illegal. 

Fraudulent Loan Disclosures

TILA is a federal statute intended to ensure that credit terms are disclosed to consumers in a clear and meaningful way, both to protect customers against inaccurate and unfair credit practices, and to enable them to compare credit terms readily and knowledgeably.  Among other things, TILA and its implementing regulations require lenders, including payday lenders like the Tucker Payday Lenders, to disclose accurately, clearly, and conspicuously, before any credit is extended, the finance charge, the annual percentage rate, and the total of payments that reflect the legal obligation between the parties to the loan.

The Tucker Payday Lenders purported to inform prospective borrowers, in clear and simple terms, as required by TILA, of the cost of the loan (the “TILA Box”).  For example, for a loan of $500, the TILA Box provided that the “finance charge – meaning the ‘dollar amount the credit will cost you’” – would be $150, and that the “total of payments” would be $650.  Thus, in substance, the TILA Box stated that a $500 loan to the customer would cost $650 to repay.  While the amounts set forth in the Tucker Payday Lenders’ TILA Box varied according to the terms of particular customers’ loans, they reflected, in substance, that the borrower would pay $30 in interest for every $100 borrowed.

In fact, through at least 2012, TUCKER and MUIR structured the repayment schedule of the loans such that, on the borrower’s payday, the Tucker Payday Lenders automatically withdrew the entire interest payment due on the loan, but left the principal balance untouched so that, on the borrower’s next payday, the Tucker Payday Lenders could again automatically withdraw an amount equaling the entire interest payment due (and already paid) on the loan.  With TUCKER and MUIR’s approval, the Tucker Payday Lenders proceeded automatically to withdraw such “finance charges” payday after payday (typically every two weeks), applying none of the money toward repayment of principal, until at least the fifth payday, when they began to withdraw an additional $50 per payday to apply to the principal balance of the loan.  Even then, the Tucker Payday Lenders continued to assess and automatically withdraw the entire interest payment calculated on the remaining principal balance until the entire principal amount was repaid.  Accordingly, as TUCKER and MUIR well knew, the Tucker Payday Lenders’ TILA box materially understated the amount the loan would cost, including the total of payments that would be taken from the borrower’s bank account.  Specifically, for a customer who borrowed $500, contrary to the TILA Box disclosure stating that the total payment by the borrower would be $650, in fact, and as TUCKER and MUIR well knew, the finance charge was $1,425, for a total payment of $1,925 by the borrower. 

The Sham Tribal Ownership of the Business

In response to complaints that the Tucker Payday Lenders were extending abusive loans in violation of their usury laws, several states began to investigate the Tucker Payday Lenders.  To thwart these state actions, TUCKER devised a scheme to claim that his lending businesses were protected by sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine that, among other things, generally prevents states from enforcing their laws against Native American tribes.  Beginning in 2003, TUCKER entered into agreements with several Native American tribes (the “Tribes”), including the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma.  The purpose of these agreements was to cause the Tribes to claim they owned and operated parts of TUCKER’s payday lending enterprise, so that when states sought to enforce laws prohibiting TUCKER’s loans, TUCKER’s lending businesses would claim to be protected by sovereign immunity.  In return, the Tribes received payments from TUCKER, typically one percent of the revenues from the portion of TUCKER’s payday lending business that the Tribes purported to own.  

In order to create the illusion that the Tribes owned and controlled TUCKER’s payday lending business, TUCKER and MUIR engaged in a series of lies and deceptions.  Among other things:

 * MUIR and other counsel for TUCKER prepared false factual declarations from tribal representatives that were submitted to state courts, falsely claiming, among other things, that tribal corporations substantively owned, controlled, and managed the portions of TUCKER’s business targeted by state enforcement actions.

 * TUCKER opened bank accounts to operate and receive the profits of the payday lending enterprise, which were nominally held by tribally owned corporations, but which were, in fact, owned and controlled by TUCKER.  TUCKER received over $380 million from these accounts on lavish personal expenses, some of which was spent on a fleet of Ferraris and Porsches, the expenses of a professional auto racing team, a private jet, a luxury home in Aspen, Colorado, and his personal taxes.

 * In order to deceive borrowers into believing that they were dealing with Native American tribes, employees of TUCKER making payday loans over the phone told borrowers, using scripts directed and approved by TUCKER and MUIR, that they were operating in Oklahoma and Nebraska, where the Tribes were located, when in fact they were operating at TUCKER’s corporate headquarters in Kansas.

These deceptions succeeded for a time, and several state courts dismissed enforcement actions against TUCKER’s payday lending businesses based on claims that they were protected by sovereign immunity.  In reality, the Tribes neither owned nor operated any part of TUCKER’s payday lending business.  The Tribes made no payment to TUCKER to acquire the portions of the business they purported to own.  TUCKER continued to operate his lending business from a corporate headquarters in Kansas, and TUCKER continued to reap the profits of the payday lending businesses, which generated over $3.5 billion in revenue from just 2008 to June 2013 – in substantial part by charging struggling borrowers high interest rates expressly forbidden by state laws.

In addition to their prison terms, TUCKER, 55, of Leawood, Kansas, and MUIR, 46, of Overland Park, Kansas, were each sentenced to three years of supervised release.  Judge Castel ordered the defendants to forfeit the proceeds of their crimes.  TUCKER was remanded into custody. 

In pronouncing sentence, Judge Castel described the crimes as “a scheme to extract money from people in desperate circumstances” that “created heartbreak and sorrow . . . not just a financial loss.”

Mrs. Loughnane praised the outstanding investigative work of the St. Louis Field Office of the IRS-CI.  Mrs. Loughnane also thanked the Criminal Investigators at the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Trade Commission for their assistance with the case.

New Jersey Real Estate Broker Pleads Guilty To Role In Foreign Bribery Scheme Involving $800 Million International Real Estate Deal

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John P. Cronan, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that JOO HYUN BAHN, a/k/a “Dennis Bahn” (“BAHN”) pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and one count of violating the FCPA.  BAHN pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, and is scheduled to sentence BAHN on June 29, 2018.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said:  “As he has now admitted, Joo Hyun Bahn schemed to bribe a foreign official to close an $800 million real estate deal for a skyscraper in Vietnam -- a deal that would have earned him a multimillion-dollar commission and much needed capital for his client, Keangnam Enterprises.  As Bahn’s conviction demonstrates, federal law enforcement stands ready to root out commercial bribery wherever it is found.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan said:  “Bribery and corruption undermine fair competition and the rule of law.  The fact that Joo Hyun Bahn’s intended scheme was thwarted by the greed and deception of one of his codefendants does not change the fact that he sought to steer an $800 million real estate deal by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.  The Department is committed to prosecuting those like Bahn who seek to corruptly tilt the playing field to their advantage.”

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment to which BAHN pled guilty, and statements made during the plea and other court proceedings:

Between February 2014 and May 2015, BAHN engaged in a scheme to pay bribes to a foreign official in a country in the Middle East in order to facilitate the sale of Landmark 72 in Hanoi, Vietnam, to the Middle Eastern country’s sovereign wealth fund.  In particular, BAHN, his father Ban Ki Sang, and others agreed to pay $500,000 upfront to the foreign official, whom BAHN believed made decisions about the acquisition of assets for the Middle Eastern country’s sovereign wealth fund, in order to corruptly influence him to cause the sovereign wealth fund to purchase Landmark 72. In furtherance of the scheme, BAHN and Ban transferred $500,000 to an intermediary in New York, Malcolm Harris, which BAHN believed Harris would pass on to the foreign official.  In related proceedings, Harris admitted that he double-crossed his codefendants, and simply stole the $500,000 bribe.

BAHN, 39, of Tenafly, New Jersey, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.   

On June 21, 2017, Harris pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conducting monetary transactions in illicit funds.  On October 5, 2017, Judge Ramos sentenced Harris to 42 months in prison. 

The case against Ban, 70, of Seoul, South Korea, is still pending.  Ban is presumed innocent unless convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Mr. Berman and Mr. Cronan praised the outstanding investigative work of the International Corruption Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York Field Office.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for its ongoing assistance in this investigation. 

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Allure Group To Revitalize Harlem Nursing Home, Fill Healthcare Gaps In Brooklyn And Lower East Side

Settlement Requires Allure to Make Major Improvements to Greater Harlem Nursing Home, Open New Healthcare Facilities in Brooklyn and Lower East Side, Pay Additional $1.25 Million for Lower East Side Non-Profits 
Also Puts in Place Measures to Ensure Processes that Led to Closure of Rivington House and CABS Will Not Happen Again
Allure Will Also Pay $750,000 in Penalties and Costs to the State; Rivington House Board Members Barred from New Charities Boards for Five Years 
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a comprehensive settlement with the Allure Group to revitalize the Greater Harlem Nursing Home and replace healthcare gaps in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. The agreement results from the Attorney General’s investigations into the closings of two nursing homes, Rivington House - The Nicholas A. Rango Health Care Facility on the Lower East Side, and the CABS Nursing Home in Brooklyn. As part of the settlement, the Attorney General required new measures to fully reform the processes that led to the closure of Rivington House and CABS Nursing Home. Allure will also pay $750,000 in penalties and costs to the State, in addition to $1.25 million to Lower East Side healthcare non-profits.
“The processes that led to the closure of Rivington House and CABS never should have happened – this settlement ensures they won’t happen again, while addressing critical healthcare gaps in the impacted communities,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We’re requiring Allure to open new healthcare facilities in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, and make major improvements to its Harlem facility, while also providing $1.25 million to non-profits serving vulnerable New Yorkers.”
The settlement resolves an investigation by the Attorney General’s office into the closure of two facilities that had been sold by non-profit nursing home operators to the Allure Group and its principals, who own and manage a group of nursing homes in New York City. In each case, the facilities were closed shortly thereafter with minimal notice to the affected communities. While such closures were taking place, the Allure Group was managing the Greater Harlem Nursing Home as a Receiver; the non-profit owner of the Greater Harlem Nursing Home is now petitioning the Court to sell its facility to Allure-related companies.
The settlement ensures that the Greater Harlem Nursing Home, a 200-bed critical facility on West 130th Street in Manhattan, will receive substantial improvements through investments by its Receiver, the Allure Group, and imposes a restriction on the future sale or closure of the facility as a skilled nursing facility for at least nine years. 
The Allure Group will also create a Lower East Side healthcare facility at a new location to fill healthcare gaps caused by the closure of Rivington House. Allure is required to fully fund a new skilled nursing facility or other healthcare facility primarily providing long-term care to the elderly or disabled; there will be a restriction on the future sale or closure of that facility for at least eight years from commencement of services. Pursuant to the agreement, Allure will also pay $1.25 million to Lower East Side non-profit organizations that provide healthcare services to vulnerable members of the community.
This settlement also requires Allure to open a new Central Brooklyn healthcare facility to offset lost healthcare services resulting from the closing of the CABS Nursing Home. The Central Brooklyn facility will also be subject to a restriction on the future sale or closure for at least eight years from commencement of services.
In a related settlement, three directors of the Rivington House charitable board – which the Attorney General found to have not met its duties under State law – will be barred from new charities boards for at least five years and Allure will pay $400,000 in penalties under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. Allure will also pay $350,000 to cover investigative costs.
The Attorney General required additional mechanisms to ensure that the processes that led to the closure of Rivington House and CABS will not happen again. A new independent compliance consultant will report to the New York State Department of Health, and Allure will be required to inform the Department of Health about circumstances that might lead to the closure of any Allure Group facility.
The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Investigation for their assistance in the investigation.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $170,000 Settlement With Papa John's Pizza Franchisee For Failing To Pay Workers

Sandeep Singh, Owner of Three Brooklyn Papa John’s Restaurants, Will Pay Full Restitution To Over 100 Employees
To Date, Attorney General Schneiderman Has Obtained More Than $4.5 Million In Settlements And Court Judgments For Hundreds Of Workers At More Than 35 Papa John’s Franchise Stores
In Total, the Attorney General Has Won Back Nearly $30 Million in Stolen Wages for Over 21,000 Workers Across New York
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement with Sandeep Singh, Star Fine Foods, Inc., Star Fine Foods II, Inc., and Star Fine Foods IV, Inc., the owners of three Papa John’s Pizza franchise stores in Brooklyn, NY. The three locations violated minimum wage and overtime requirements, and took unlawful deductions from workers’ wages by failing to reimburse all work-related expenses. In total, Singh will pay $171,895.12 in restitution and damages to over 100 underpaid workers.
“This settlement underscores a shameful track record of New York Papa John’s franchisees cheating vulnerable workers to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “With this agreement, my office has won back more than $4.5 million for hundreds of underpaid Papa John’s employees. We will continue to defend the rights of all workers and fight pervasive wage theft in the fast food industry.”
Two of the stores involved in today’s settlement are located at 1016 Coney Island Avenue and 5804 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. The store owned by Star Fine Foods IV, Inc., located at 1612 Neptune Avenue, is no longer in operation.
Today’s agreement follows an investigation into the franchisee, beginning in 2013. Singh admitted to the violations of law outlined in the settlement agreement. The admitted violations included the following:
  • Workers were not paid the overtime wages required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state law;
  • Workers were not paid an additional hour at minimum wage when employees’ daily shifts were longer than 10 hours, violating New York State’s “spread of hours” regulations; and 
  • Workers were not reimbursed for the cost of uniforms that they were required to purchase and wear. 
In addition to paying $171,895.12 in restitution and damages, the remaining two stores operated by Singh must also institute complaint procedures, provide written handbooks to employees, train supervisors on the labor law, post a statement of employees’ rights, and designate an officer to submit quarterly reports to the Attorney General's Office regarding ongoing compliance.
In total, Attorney General Schneiderman has won back nearly $30 million in stolen wages for over 21,000 workers across New York. This includes more than $4.5 million in settlements and court judgments for hundreds of workers at more than 35 Papa John’s franchise stores.
Over the past two years, the Attorney General's Office has investigated and found violations by eight separate Papa John’s franchisees, who, together, operated a total of over 30 restaurants, including:
  • Moregrace LLC, Thegrace, Inc. and its owner, Sultan Ali Lakhani paid $500,000 in restitution and liquidated damages. Lakhani owned and operated three stores at 701 W. 179th Street in Washington Heights, 4927 Broadway in Inwood, and 161 West 231st Street in the Bronx.
  • Syed Mehboob and his stores paid $400,000 in restitution and liquidated damages. Mehboob owned and operated six individually incorporated franchise restaurants in Queens: 3320 Woodside Papa, Inc. (operating at 49-19 30th, Woodside, New York 11377), 99 Food, Inc. (operating at 9906 Northern Blvd., Corona, New York 11369), Sunnyside Papa, Inc. (operating at 40-12 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside, New York 11104), Zeeshee, Inc. (previously operated at 23-33 Astoria Blvd., Astoria, New York 11102; closed in March 2015), 193 Papa, Inc. (previously operated at 193-18 Northern Blvd. Flushing, New York 11358; sold in November 2014), and Parson Papa, Inc. (previously operated at 147-14 45th, Flushing, New York 11355; closed in November 2014). The settlement included restitution for violations from August of 2008 to August of 2014.
  • AMHC Food Inc. and its owner Mohammed Hasnat, operators of a Papa John’s restaurant at 2241 Westchester Avenue in the Bronx, New York, paid $40,000 in restitution and liquidated damages. The settlement included restitution for violations from January of 2014 to July of 2015.
  • Ksara Corp. and owner Ghulam Fani, operators of a Papa John’s restaurant at 189 Avenue U in Brooklyn, New York. The settlement with Ksara also included Zeman Associates, LLC, a prior owner of this franchise. These operators paid $16,000 in restitution and liquidated damages. The settlement included restitution for violations from February of 2013 until July 2015.
  • Judy & Jesenia, Inc. and owner Jesenia Diaz, who until November 2014 operated a Papa John’s restaurant located at 3528 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, New York paid over $13,000, in restitution and liquidated damages for underpayments beginning in June of 2013 through November of 2014.
  • In February and March of 2015, Attorney General Schneiderman obtained judgments against two other Papa John’s franchisees, Emstar Pizza (6 locations) and New Majority Holdings (5 locations), for violating wage laws. Those judgments totaled almost $3 million.
  • In addition, in July of 2015, the Attorney General arrested Abdul Jamil Khokhar, the owner of nine Papa John's Pizza franchises in the ‪Bronx, and his company, BMY Foods, Inc. for failing to pay workers minimum wage and overtime. Khokhar and BMY Foods pled guilty to these charges and were sentenced on September 21, 2016. Mr. Khokhar and BMY Foods, Inc. were ordered to pay $230,000 in restitution to workers, and Mr. Khokhar was sentenced to serve 60 days in jail. The U.S. Department of Labor also filed a consent judgment against the enterprise in federal court, and recovered an additional $230,000 as liquidated damages from Khokhar and BMY Foods, and civil money penalties of $50,000.

Wave Hill Events Jan 17--Jan 26

Wed, January 17    The Farm to Garden Movement: Influencing American Gardens from the Ground Up—Deborah Needleman, in conversation with Jenny Elliott and Sarah Ryhanen
A new wave of flower designers and growers are working in tandem—bringing new varieties into cultivation and affecting our ideas of what’s beautiful. Join writer and editor Deborah Needleman in discussion with Sarah Ryhanen, owner of Saipua, the influential floral studio and retail shop in Brooklyn, and World’s End, her farm and education center in upstate NY; and Jenny Elliott, owner of Tiny Hearts, a young and burgeoning flower farm in Copake, NY. Both will show slides of their work as they talk about the latest trends in flowers, floristry and growing. Wave Hill’s annual horticultural lecture series is held at the New York School of Interior Design. Three-lecture series: $60/$50 Wave Hill Member or student. Individual tickets: $25/$20 Wave Hill Member or student. Seating is limited, and advanced reservations are recommended, online at wavehill.orgbeginning November 15. The second lecture of the series takes place on February 21, when inspirational and passionate teacher and award-winning author Sarah Riven will speak about the cutting garden. 

Sat, January 20    Family Art Project: Living Sculpture
Patch a green world together with Wave Hill Winter Workspace visiting artist Pedro Ramirez, and make a collaborative, indoor “living sculpture.” Working on a premade structure created by Ramirez, use clay slip to add pieces of sod made from burlap and sprouted plants like clover and millet, in a process that represents green husbandry for the planet. Then sprout your own small burlap and clay piece to grow at home. Free, and admission to the grounds is free until noon. 

Sat, January 20    Art Workshop: Art Meets Science—Portraits of Giant Insects
Meet artist and entomologist Lawrence Forcella, founder of God of Insects, and find out what it’s like to study, collect, breed and “wrangle” insects from around the world. Zoom in for a closer look at Forcella’s rare, museum-quality displays, observe live specimens and create your own sketches and drawings of some of the giant, rare insects from his extensive collection. All skill levels welcome. Ages 12 and older welcome with an adult. $55/$45 Wave Hill Member. Registration required, online at or onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center.

Sun, January 21    Family Art Project: Living Sculpture
Patch a green world together with Wave Hill Winter Workspace visiting artist Pedro Ramirez, and make a collaborative, indoor “living sculpture.” Working on a premade structure created by Ramirez, use clay slip to add pieces of sod made from burlap and sprouted plants like clover and millet, in a process that represents green husbandry for the planet. Then sprout your own small burlap and clay piece to grow at home. Free with admission to the grounds. 

Sun, January 21    Winter Workspace Drop-In Sunday
Artists in the Winter Workspace program share their studio practice with visitors on this Drop-In Sunday. Artists in Session 1 of this program are Tomie AraiCamille HoffmanPedro RamirezJessica Rohrer,Jean Shin and Austin Thomas. For more about who is in residence on Sundays, visit Free with admission to the grounds.

Sun, January 21    Garden Highlights Walk
Join a Wave Hill Garden Guide for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the grounds.

Mon, January 22  
Closed to the public.

A 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River  and Palisades, Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscape, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.

HOURS  Open all year, Tuesday through Sunday and many major holidays: 9AM–4:30PM, November 1–March 14. Closes 5:30PM, starting March 15.

ADMISSION  $8 adults, $4 students and seniors 65+, $2 children 6–18. Free Saturday and Tuesday mornings until noon. Free to Wave Hill Members and children under 6.

PROGRAM FEES  Programs are free with admission to the grounds unless otherwise noted.

Visitors to Wave Hill can take advantage of Metro-North’s one-day getaway offer. Purchase a discount round-trip rail far and discount admission to the gardens. More at

DIRECTIONS – Getting here is easy! Located only 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan, Wave Hill’s free shuttle van transports you to and from our front gate and Metro-North’s Riverdale station, as well as the W. 242nd Street stop on the #1 subway line. Limited onsite parking is available for $8 per vehicle. Free offsite parking is available nearby with continuous, complimentary shuttle service to and from the offsite lot and our front gate. Complete directions and shuttle bus schedule at

Information at 718.549.3200. On the web at

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. - You're Invited to attend A Community Interfaith Service.

Assemblymember Michael Blake - 2018 State of the District

Dear Friend,
You and your loved ones are invited to our State of the District on January 15, 2018, at 4 pm at 777 Concourse Village East.
Please join us as we share the progress from 2017 and our plan for 2018 to continue helping our fellow Bronxites achieve our 3 E's vision of Economic Development, Education, and Equity.
Please RSVP, by clicking on this link:
I am honored to work for you and excited to see you so that TOGETHER, we continue #BuildingABetterBronx.
Yours in Service, 
Michael A. Blake

Friday, January 5, 2018

NYPD Release: Fewest Annual Murders and Shooting Incidents Ever Recorded in the Modern Era

  With the close of 2017, New York City marks three new crime reduction benchmarks: the first time the total number of index crimes has fallen below 100,000; the first time the number of shooting incidents has fallen below 800; and the first time the total number of murders has fallen below 300.  This reduction in murders has resulted in the lowest per-capita murder rate in nearly 70 years. Additionally, several other index crime categories have achieved historic reductions, including: robbery, burglary, and grand larceny auto. 

For 2017, there were 96,517 crimes reported, compared with 102,052 in 2016. This is a reduction of 5,535 crimes, or -5.4%. There were 290 murders reported, compared with 335 in 2016. This is a reduction of 45 crimes, or -13.4%.  There were 1,446 rapes reported, compared with 1,442 in 2016. This is an increase of 4 crimes, or +0.3%.   There were 13,950 robberies reported, compared with 15,528 in 2016. This is a reduction of 1,578 crimes, or -10.2%. There were 20, 013 felonious assaults reported, compared with 20,917 in 2016. This is a reduction of 904 crimes, or -4.3%. There were 12,048 burglaries reported, compared with 13,035 in 2016. This is a reduction of 987 crimes, or -7.6%. There were 43,082 grand larcenies reported, compared with 44,484 in 2016. This is a reduction of 1,402 crimes, -3.2%. There were 5,688 grand larceny autos reported, compared with 6,311 in 2016. This is a reduction of 623 crimes, or -9.9%. There were 789 shooting incidents reported, compared with 997 in 2016. This is a reduction of 208 shootings, or -20.9%.

“Crime in New York City has reached a new low,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “The murder rate hasn’t been lower since the Korean War. As we celebrate this New York miracle, we continue deepening relationships with the public, emphasizing the shared responsibility we have to our safety. I am confident we can do more. And we will. It is an honor to lead this organization and be a part of the change we are seeing across the nation’s safest city.” 

“Last year was the safest year in modern New York City history. To see crime levels as low as we have today, you’d have to go back to 1951, when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn and a slice was 15 cents. I want to thank Police Commissioner O’Neill and the entire NYPD for continuing to raise the bar and remaining steadfast in their commitment to keeping our city safe,” said Mayor de Blasio. “I want New Yorkers to know, this is just the beginning. As our neighborhood policing vision deepens and residents work with police officers in common cause, the flow of information will stop crimes before they happen and we will continue to build trust between communities and law enforcement. This department never rests on its laurels and America’s safest big city will get even safer.”

There were 2,441 crimes reported in the Transit Bureau in 2017, compared with 2,429 in 2016. This is an increase of 12 crimes, or +0.5%. There were 4,844 crimes reported in the Housing Bureau in 2017, compared with 5,238 crimes in 2016. This is a decrease of 394 crimes, or -7.5%

Historical NYC Uniform Crime Report Murder Count

Year  Count Rate Per 100K       NYC Total Population
1939    291        3.9                               7,454,995
1940    275        3.6                               7,454,995
1941    268        3.5                               7,454,995
1942    265        3.5                               7,454,995
1943    201        2.6                               7,454,995
1944    228        3.0                               7,454,995
1945    292        3.9                               7,454,995
1946    346        4.3                               7,891,957
1947    333        4.2                               7,891,957
1948    315        3.9                               7,891,957
1949    301        3.8                               7,891,957
1950    294        3.7                               7,891,957
1951    243        3.0                               7,891,957
1952    309        3.9                               7,891,957
1953    350        4.4                               7,891,957
1954    342        4.3                               7,891,957
1955    306        3.8                               7,891,957
1956    315        4.0                               7,781,984
1957    314        4.0                               7,781,984
1958    354        4.5                               7,781,984
1959    390        4.6                               7,781,984
1960    390        4.6                               7,781,984
1961    483        6.2                               7,781,984
1962    507        6.5                               7,781,984
1963    548        7.0                               7,781,984
1964    636        8.1                               7,781,984
1965    634        8.1                               7,781,984
1966    654        8.2                               7,894,862
1967    746        9.4                               7,894,862
1968    986        12.4                             7,894,862
1969    1,043    13.2                             7,894,862
1970    1,117    14.1                             7,894,862
1971    1,466    18.5                             7,894,862
1972    1,691    21.4                             7,894,862
1973    1,680    21.2                             7,894,862
1974    1,554    19.6                             7,894,862
1975    1,645    20.8                             7,894,862
1976    1,622    22.9                             7,071,639
1977    1,557    22.0                             7,071,639
1978    1,504    21.2                             7,071,639
1979    1,733    24.5                             7,071,639
1980    1,814    25.6                             7,071,639
1981    1,826    25.8                             7,071,639
1982    1,668    23.5                             7,071,639
1983    1,622    22.9                             7,071,639
1984    1,450    20.5                             7,071,639
1985    1,384    19.5                             7,071,639
1986    1,582    21.5                             7,332,564
1987    1,672    22.8                             7,332,564
1988    1,896    25.8                             7,332,564
1989    1,905    25.9                             7,332,564
1990    2,245    30.6                             7,332,564
1991    2,154    29.3                             7,332,564
1992    1,995    27.2                             7,332,564
1993    1,946    26.5                             7,332,564
1994    1,561    21.2                             7,332,564
1995    1,177    16.0                             7,332,564
1996    983       12.2                             8,008,278
1997    770       9.6                               8,008,278
1998    633       7.9                               8,008,278
1999    671       8.3                               8,008,278
2000    673       8.4                               8,008,278
2001    649       8.1                               8,008,278
2002    587       7.3                               8,008,278
2003    597       7.4                               8,008,278
2004    570       7.1                               8,008,278
2005    539       6.7                               8,008,278
2006    596       7.2                               8,175,133
2007    496       6.0                               8,175,133
2008    523       6.3                               8,175,133
2009    471       5.7                               8,175,133
2010    536       6.5                               8,175,133
2011    515       6.2                               8,175,133
2012    419       5.1                               8,175,133
2013    335       4.0                               8,175,133
2014    333       4.0                               8,175,133
2015    352       4.3                               8,175,133
2016    335       3.9                               8,537,673
2017    290       3.3                               8,537,673

Note: All crime statistics are preliminary and subject to further analysis, revisions, or change.