Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Iowa Man Charged With Making Threats To Manhattan-Based Jewish Organization

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the 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 James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of a complaint charging GARRETT KELSEY with sending threats to a Manhattan-based Jewish organization (the “Victim Organization”) by email and phone.  KELSEY was arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this morning and is expected to be presented before a Magistrate Judge in the Northern District of Iowa. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, Garrett Kelsey repeatedly conveyed obscenity-laden and hate-filled threats to a Jewish organization by phone and email.  The alleged conduct is not protected speech.  As charged, the conduct – making interstate threats – is a federal crime punishable by years in prison.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “The FBI will always follow threats that cross the line of free speech and threaten the safety of individuals and groups, especially when those threats are based on a religion or race.  The fact that Mr. Kelsey allegedly continued his threatening behavior even after being informed that his previous actions were not protected speech makes his actions more abhorrent.”
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “The investigative efforts of New York City law enforcement are relentless and far-reaching.  Whenever individuals – wherever they are based – pose a threat, the NYPD and our partners will work tirelessly to keep people safe.  I thank our colleagues at the FBI and the Southern District for their partnership.”
As alleged in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:
In late May 2019, KELSEY made violent threats by phone and email to the Victim Organization.  On May 23, KELSEY called the Victim Organization and spoke briefly with one of its employees.  A short time later, KELSEY called that employee’s number back and left a voicemail for the Victim Organization stating, “My people have fucking slaughtered your fucking people before and we will do it again. And right now, you are giving us incentive to do that . . . . Filthy fucking Jews.” 
Later that same day, KELSEY sent the Victim Organization an email demanding that the Victim Organization remove a video about Nordic Neo-Nazis that the Victim Organization had uploaded to the Internet.  KELSEY wrote: “Everywhere Jews go in the world they cause trouble. You have 3 days to remove this video and offer an apology to the Asatru community or we will be taking action against your organization full of degenerates.”  “Asatru” appears to have been a reference to a religious movement recently linked to anti-Semitic and other racist groups.
The next day, KELSEY participated in a voluntary interview with law enforcement, during which he admitted to sending the threatening email and voicemail to the Victim Organization. 
Approximately one week after his voluntary law enforcement interview, KELSEY changed the cover photograph associated with his Facebook account.  The new cover photograph depicted Jewish residents of a ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, lined up facing a wall with their hands up.  Those residents were detained after an uprising during World War II and ultimately were transferred to Nazi concentration camps.
KELSEY, 31, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is charged with one count of interstate transmission of threats to injure a person, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case 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. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department.  Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa.  Mr. Berman noted that the case is ongoing.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Lake is in charge of the prosecution.
The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.       
[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Files Lawsuit Against Spinal Implant Company, Its CEO, And Another Executive For Illegally Paying Millions Of Dollars In Kickbacks To Surgeons In Exchange For Using Its Products

Suit Alleges Approximately Half of Company’s Spinal Product Sales Were for Procedures Performed by Surgeons Who Received Payments from Company

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil healthcare fraud lawsuit against LIFE SPINE INC. (“LIFE SPINE”), MICHAEL BUTLER, the founder, president, and chief executive officer of LIFE SPINE, and RICHARD GREIBER, the vice president of business development of LIFE SPINE.  The Government’s complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act for paying kickbacks in the form of millions of dollars of consulting fees, royalties, and intellectual property acquisition fees to surgeons to induce them to use LIFE SPINE’s spinal implants, devices, and equipment.  The lawsuit alleges that the surgeons who received these payments accounted for approximately half of LIFE SPINE’s total domestic sales of spinal products from 2012 through 2018.  As set forth in the complaint, these payments violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and, as a result of this unlawful conduct, LIFE SPINE, BUTLER, and GREIBER caused hospitals and surgeons to submit false claims for payment to Medicare and Medicaid. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, Life Spine and its senior management flagrantly ignored the law by paying surgeons millions of dollars in fees and royalties to get them to use Life Spine products during spinal surgeries.  Kickbacks to doctors can alter or compromise their judgment about the medical care and services to provide to patients, and can increase healthcare costs.  This office will continue to hold companies and the people who run them accountable when they make improper payments to doctors.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  "Cases like this are why patients sometimes distrust the care they receive because they don’t know if it’s what the doctor actually thinks, or if there is a company pushing a new drug or new device.  People seeking medical treatment are dependent on the advice they get, they don’t have the expertise to question the doctors.  The FBI does all it can to stop those companies who overlook the patient who is just hoping to get better, and only sees the dollar signs.”
HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said:  “Paying kickbacks to physicians as a means to boost company profits, as alleged in this case, compromises medical judgement and drives up healthcare costs.  Our agency, working closely with our law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate such illegal activities.”
The following allegations are based on the Complaint that was filed in Manhattan federal court and unsealed today: 
LIFE SPINE is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Huntley, Illinois.  LIFE SPINE designs, develops, manufactures, and markets medical devices and equipment primarily used in spinal surgeries performed by orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, including implants and instruments (“Life Spine Products”).  BUTLER is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of LIFE SPINE and is its majority shareholder.   BUTLER was closely involved in overseeing the operations of LIFE SPINE.  From 2012 to 2015, GREIBER was involved in selecting and approving surgeons who served as paid “consultants” for LIFE SPINE.
LIFE SPINE paid surgeons to induce them to use Life Spine Products during their surgeries.  LIFE SPINE aggressively recruited surgeons who had the potential to use a high volume of Life Spine Products to enter into agreements to serve as paid consultants and/or to transfer their patents/patent applications to LIFE SPINE in exchange for payments and promised support to bring the surgeons’ new products to market.  LIFE SPINE tied these agreements and the associated payments – as well as the company’s continued commitment to devote resources to the surgeons’ product development projects – to the surgeons’ usage of Life Spine Products.  LIFE SPINE and BUTLER expected surgeons to commit to using Life Spine Products at a certain level in exchange for the consulting fees, royalties, and intellectual property acquisition fees paid to them. 
LIFE SPINE, with the knowledge, involvement, and participation of BUTLER and GREIBER, entered into agreements with dozens of surgeons.  These agreements included medical education agreements under which the surgeons were paid to provide training and/or educational services; product development agreements under which the surgeons were paid to purportedly provide input on new products and then would receive royalties on future sales of the product; and intellectual property agreements under which the surgeons were paid large up-front acquisition fees for their patents/patent applications and then would receive royalties on sales of any products developed based on the patents.  Life Spine paid surgeons millions of dollars in consulting fees, royalties, and intellectual property acquisitions pursuant to these agreements.
BUTLER informed LIFE SPINE staff that he expected surgeons who were paid for their consulting services to commit to using Life Spine Products.  LIFE SPINE’s senior management, including BUTLER, closely tracked surgeons’ usage of Life Spine Products to ensure that the payments to surgeons were generating sufficient sales revenues for the company and that the surgeons were fulfilling their “commitment” to use Life Spine Products.  LIFE SPINE went so far as to generate a report that compared surgeon consulting, royalty, and intellectual property payments to surgeon product usage levels, and then calculated an “ROI” (return on investment) for each surgeon based on those figures.  If a surgeon’s usage was too low, LIFE SPINE managers, including BUTLER, pressured the surgeon to use more Life Spine Products during his or her surgeries.
The kickback scheme was successful.  Surgeons who received payments from LIFE SPINE accounted for approximately half of LIFE SPINE’s total domestic sales of spinal products between 2012 and 2018.  Most of these surgeons substantially increased their usage of Life Spine Products after entering into agreements with LIFE SPINE.  These surgeons used Life Spine Products during procedures performed on Medicare and Medicaid patients, which resulted in the submission of kickback-tainted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid.
The Government intervened in a private whistleblower lawsuit before Judge Jed S. Rakoff that had previously been filed under seal pursuant to the False Claims Act.
Mr. Berman thanked the FBI and HHS-OIG for their assistance with the cas

Attorney General James Defends Ban Against Large-Capacity Magazines

Coalition of 18 AGs Argue that Second Amendment Allows States to Adopt Gun Safety Laws

  Attorney General Letitia James, working with a group of 17 additional Attorneys General from across the nation, today defended California’s ban on large-capacity magazines (LCM) holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In an amicus brief filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Attorneys General argue that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm restrictions that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence and lethality of gun violence.

“Large-capacity magazines threaten our communities and have no place in our stores, on our streets, or in our homes,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These rapid-fire bullet delivery systems not only endanger the safety and well-being of New Yorkers, but all Americans, which is why we remain committed to upholding California’s longstanding, constitutional laws. We must never stop fighting to safeguard our communities from senseless, preventable gun violence.”
Attorney General James and the 17 other Attorneys General filed this amicus brief in Duncan v. Becerra, a lawsuit challenging California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines. The lawsuit was filed by a group of gun owners and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA), after the passage of California’s Proposition 63 in 2016.
Since 2000, the State of California has prohibited the manufacture, importation, and sale of large-capacity magazines. In 2016, both the California legislature and the California electorate — through Proposition 63 — went further and banned the possession of LCMs that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, in order to improve enforcement efforts and to further stem the proliferation of large-capacity magazines in the state. Nine other states — including New York — and the District of Columbia have also enacted laws banning large-capacity magazines. The constitutionality of those laws have been unanimously upheld by federal courts of appeals.
In April 2019, a lower court struck down California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines in total. California has appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit and the ruling is currently stayed.
In this amicus brief, the states collectively argue that a ban on large-capacity magazines is a reasonable restriction that California has the right to adopt because:
  • The Second Amendment does not prevent states from enacting common-sense gun safety measures: The brief explains that states are entitled to adopt reasonable restrictions on firearms to address the unique conditions within their borders and protect public safety. Restricting access to large-capacity magazines is a reasonable restriction because it would reduce firearm injuries and deaths while leaving many other options open for individuals who wish to exercise their core Second Amendment right to self-defense.
  • States have a responsibility to prevent gun violence and protect public safety: The brief notes that states have primary responsibility for ensuring public safety. This includes a duty to reduce the likelihood that their citizens will fall victim to preventable firearm violence, and to minimize fatalities and injuries when that violence does occur. The brief notes that deciding how best to protect the safety of state residents is a question better suited to legislatures than to courts.
  • Regulating large-capacity magazines protects the public: The brief cites evidence that large-capacity magazines are especially attractive to mass shooters and criminals, posing increased risks to innocent civilians and law enforcement. At the same time, there is no proof that large-capacity magazines are necessary — or even commonly used — for self-defense.
In addition to filing today’s amicus brief, Attorney General James and the Office of the New York State Attorney General has consistently taken action to protect communities from gun violence. Attorney General James has continued the office’s gun buyback events taking 2,505 firearms to-date off the hands of New Yorkers. The office also cracked down on illegal trafficking of firearms across state lines so the safety of New Yorkers is not jeopardized by lenient gun laws in neighboring states. Additionally, the office developed Model Gun Show Procedures, a series of safety procedures for gun show operators in New York State, and announced new policies to help social media sites curb illegal sales of firearms on their platforms.
Joining Attorney General James in filing the amicus brief were the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Attorney General James Objects To Mortgage Servicer's Unlawful Attempt To Strip Away Rights Of Homeowners

  Attorney General Letitia James has taken action against Ditech Holding Corporation (Ditech) by filing a brief in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, opposing the mortgage servicer’s attempted end-run around statutory protections for homeowners.

“Bankruptcy Court should never be used as a tool to unjustly oust New Yorkers from their homes,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Ditech’s action is an illegal attempt to strip hundreds of homeowners of their legitimate claims and eviscerate New York’s carefully-created foreclosure process. Housing is a right, and we will continue to use every legal tool at our disposal to stand up for homeowners and to protect their rights.”
Ditech currently has more than 880 active foreclosure actions pending across New York State. Homeowners organized the Consumer Creditors Committee to ensure that the courts do not permit the company to sweep their rights under the rug. Homeowners are demanding that their claims and defenses — which include significant money damages — not be extinguished in Bankruptcy Court.
Attorney General James — in support of the Consumer Creditors’ Committee — is filing the objection to ensure that vulnerable homeowners, who were victims of predatory lending and mortgage servicing abuses, including seniors with reverse mortgages, can assert their rights under the protections of New York’s robust judicial foreclosure process. 
In addition to filing this motion, the Office of the New York State Attorney General currently has an open investigation into Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS), a reverse mortgage servicer that is owned by Ditech.
This past March, Attorney General James took a similar action when a building owner in Manhattan attempted to flout rent regulation laws and displace tenants.


Recommends Ban on All Forms of Fentanyl Analogs and Increased Funding To Police Labs and Medical Examiners

  Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor and New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill announced today the release of a Grand Jury report documenting the impact of fentanyl analogs on the opioid epidemic in New York City. The report is the first of its kind issued by a Special Narcotics Grand Jury.

Fentanyl analogs are powerful and harmful synthetic opioids that are increasingly linked to overdose deaths in New York City. Yet despite their lethal nature, fentanyl analogs are largely unregulated in New York State. According to an analysis of data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP), fentanyl analogs have contributed to approximately 900 fatal overdoses across the five boroughs since 2017.
The report details public health risks associated with fentanyl analogs, as well as challenges posed to law enforcement agencies and the scientific community due to the high potency and legal status of these substances. Grand Jurors reviewed more than 250 exhibits admitted into evidence and heard testimony from 72 different witnesses, including medical and forensic experts, civilian eyewitnesses and members of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Division and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, among others.
Two recommendations are directed towards the New York State Legislature:
  • Adopt a “fentanyl analog statute” that effectively bans all forms of fentanyl analogs by classifying them as Schedule I drugs under New York’s Public Health Law, and
  • Allocate additional funding for laboratories conducting analyses for controlled substances, including police labs and the offices of medical examiners.
Fentanyl analogs are closely related to illicit fentanyl, an opioid drug 50 times stronger than heroin. Both illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs are created in laboratories outside of the U.S. But unlike fentanyl, the majority of fentanyl analogs remain legal to possess and sell under New York State law. Slight variations to the chemical compositions produce a wide variety of potencies and enable distributors to skirt regulations.
Important tools like search warrants, wiretaps and arrests are unavailable to local law enforcement agencies if the substance being distributed is not regulated in New York State, even when deaths have resulted. As discussed in the report, the Grand Jury heard that investigations into overdose deaths linked to local drug distributors in New York City were slowed due to the uncontrolled status of the substances involved.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “The Grand Jury report outlines a simple solution to a complex problem. A fentanyl analog statute will allow us to track ever changing formulations of a deadly drug and seize it before it can take the lives of more New Yorkers. I thank our dedicated staff, and those from the NYPD Lab and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for collecting critical information to present to a thoughtful and dedicated Grand Jury.”
“Fentanyl and its analogs have caused hundreds of fatal overdoses throughout our city,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “Today’s Special Narcotics Grand Jury report – the first of its kind – describes just how lethal fentanyl is and how fentanyl ‘analogs,’ as they are known, exploit a legal loophole: Illegal drug labs stay one step ahead of law enforcement by creating slight variants to their recipe. The ‘new’ product is just as addictive and deadly, but the recipe is technically legal until its exact composition is prohibited by new legislation. That’s why the NYPD is standing with the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office to call on the State Legislature for additional funding for forensic laboratories, so we can detect, analyze and track these deadly substances. We’re also calling for legislation that would ban all forms of fentanyl analogs, eliminating the existing loophole. Countless lives are depending on us to work together to end the opioid crisis, and today’s report and the recommendations it contains are critical to our ability to win this battle.”
Fentanyl analogs are unpredictable and sold interchangeably with heroin. This uncertainty creates a dangerous public health threat. Drug buyers who are unaware of the contents of the substance they are ingesting are at greater risk of accidental overdose.
OCME has tracked the harmful effects of these drugs, which are currently involved in approximately 40% of all overdoses resulting from a non-prescription opioid in New York City, usually in combination with fentanyl and/or heroin. Because fentanyl analogs are so potent, they tend to appear in low concentration during post mortem analysis, which may cause them to be underreported.
The constant fluctuation of fentanyl analogs presents challenges for forensic toxicology in New York City and across the state. Unique and unregulated fentanyl analogs have emerged in deaths in 2018, while other types disappeared. For example, furanyl fentanyl was the third most common analog contributing to overdose in New York City in 2017, but is now seen infrequently. Valeryl fentanyl, on the other hand, suddenly appeared in July of 2018 and has become one of the analogs most frequently involved in fatal overdoses in 2019.
Police seizures of fentanyl analogs in New York City have steadily increased since 2016, according to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Laboratory, with new and distinct fentanyl analogs continually being identified. While each borough saw a significant increase in the number of NYPD fentanyl analog invoices between 2016 and 2017, the largest increases were in Brooklyn South and the Bronx. In 2018, the Bronx saw a significant increase over 2017 and had the most NYPD fentanyl analog invoices in the city.
In 2018, there were 14 distinct types of fentanyl analogs seized by the NYPD, with six that had not been seen before. In the first quarter of 2019, 12 distinct types of fentanyl analogs were identified, including one never seen before in New York. Efforts to better analyze analogs in recovered evidence are hampered by the lack of specialized equipment and necessary standards for comparative analysis at police labs.
Due to the considerable fluctuation between analog types, legislation is needed by New York State lawmakers to control fentanyl analogs and allow law enforcement to take actions to prevent them from causing more deaths. We must also provide additional resources to the scientific community including the NYPD Lab and the OCME to ensure they have the tools necessary to test and analyze these substances safely and effectively and to provide important information which will allow us to better understand the impact of these emerging substances.
Bridget G. Brennan thanked Assistant District Attorneys Susan Lanzatella, Nigel Farinha and Callie Lloyd, SNP’s Investigative Analysts Unit, the NYPD Laboratory, OCME, DEA New York Division, the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark.

Comptroller Stringer: As Census Moves Online, New York City’s Digital Divide Threatens to Help Trump Undercount Communities of Color

Comptroller’s report finds numerous NYC neighborhoods where more than one-third of households lack internet access, rising up to 50% in others
Internet disparities most apparent in underserved communities – particularly, the Lower East Side, Hunts Point, Kensington, and Jamaica
With billions in federal aid at stake, New York City’s digital divide threatens undercount of vulnerable populations in first-ever digital Census
Comptroller urges comprehensive outreach to support Census count and demands Census Bureau provide paper forms to NYC communities at risk of undercount
 New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today released an alarming new report, “Census and the City: Overcoming NYC’s Digital Divide in the 2020 Census,” which spotlights how lack of internet access in low-income areas in New York City risks amplifying the Administration’s goal to corrupt an accurate count. In addition to the President’s explicit objective of scaring immigrants into the shadows through the citizenship question, which has now been blocked in Federal court, the Administration’s underfunding of the Census Bureau and lack of investment in outreach and Census testing only serve to heighten the potential harm caused by lack of internet access on the Census count. The Comptroller’s report warns that without concrete steps to fill the digital gap, New Yorkers stand at risk of being undercounted, which will only exacerbate the impact of the President’s efforts to undermine the Census. At stake for New York City is close to $6 billion in annual federal aid tied to the Census that flows into the City’s Budget, impacting everything from school lunches, to winter heating assistance for low income New Yorkers and early childhood education funding.
“When it comes to the Census, the Trump Administration has pursued an all-out assault on non-white communities in a paper-thin effort to intimidate immigrants into invisibility. They’ve failed but we can’t allow the digital divide to contribute to the President’s heinous efforts to undercount communities of color and compromise the Census,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “A complete and accurate count is essential for New Yorkers to receive the resources they need – for many residents, programs that are lifelines are in jeopardy. Data is power, which is why duplicitous forces are intently focused on using the count to hold back marginalized communities. We have to do everything in our power to ensure they fail. The Census comes once every ten years – and we get one chance to get it right. Let’s ensure digital access doesn’t end up being an obstacle to a full Census count.”
The most critical determinant of successfully completing a digital 2020 Census survey is access to high-speed broadband internet at home. Households who do not receive a paper form and do not have easy access to broadband internet will be forced to fill out the 2020 Census using a mobile device, a public internet-connected computer, or dial-up internet – and are less likely to fill out the form at all. Broadband internet includes cable, fiber optic, or DSL service and usually involves a modem which provides a wired connection or wireless signal.
Comptroller Stringer’s report shows that even in 2019, internet access is not equally shared across New York City communities. If the upcoming Census effort and transition to a digital Census fail to dedicate appropriate resources to reaching those without an internet connection, vast pockets of New Yorkers could go uncounted.
The Digital Divide Threatens an Accurate Census Count
  • The Comptroller’s analysis found that internet disparities are pervasive throughout New York City. Across the five boroughs, 29 percent of households – 917,239 in total – lack broadband internet access.
  • In many communities, more than one-third of households do not have internet access, among them Chinatown & Lower East Side (50 percent without broadband internet access), Hunts Point, Longwood & Melrose (48 percent), Borough Park, Kensington & Ocean Parkway (46 percent), Morris Heights, Fordham South & Mount Hope (44 percent), Belmont, Crotona Park East & East Tremont (43 percent), and Jamaica, Hollis & St. Albans (43 percent).
  • 17 city neighborhoods (out of 55) have a higher than average share of households without broadband internet access and recorded a lower than average response rate to the 2010 Census.
  • Among households lacking broadband internet access, roughly 352,000 households pay for a cellular data plan for a smartphone or other mobile device. While these households will be able to complete the 2020 Census on their mobile device, past research on mobile Census surveys suggests that they will likely experience more difficulties in successfully completing the survey. In part due to longer loading times and more scrolling, mobile device respondents to previous Census surveys have experienced longer completion times and higher rates of starting but not completing the survey.
Marginalized Communities Most Impacted
  • The Comptroller’s report also found that Internet disparities track closely to socioeconomic factors like poverty and are most apparent in traditionally marginalized communities. 44 percent of New Yorkers in poverty lack broadband internet access, as opposed to 22 percent above the poverty line.
  • 36 percent of New Yorkers outside of the labor force lack a broadband internet connection, versus 20 percent for employed New Yorkers.
  • About 30 percent of Hispanic and Black New Yorkers, respectively, lack broadband internet access, compared to 20 percent of White New Yorkers and 22 percent of Asian residents.
  • Seniors are much more likely to be without a broadband internet connection compared to the general population. Forty two percent of New Yorkers 65 and above lacked broadband internet access, compared to 23 percent of 18 to 24 year olds.
  • New Yorkers with lower educational attainment are much more likely to lack broadband internet access. Forty one percent of New Yorkers without a high school degree lack a broadband internet connection, compared to only 15 percent of New Yorkers with college degrees.
To address these glaring disparities in internet access and prevent the potentially harmful impact on Census response rates, Comptroller Stringer urged a comprehensive effort at every level of government and demanded that the Census Bureau use this information to prioritize distribution of paper forms to communities at risk of undercount. Comptroller Stringer’s recommendations include:

  1. Send paper forms to communities with low rates of broadband internet connectivity.The Census Bureau has committed to providing paper forms to approximately 20 percent of the nation’s population, although federal officials have yet to specify where those forms will be distributed. New York City communities with low rates of broadband internet access should be prioritized for the distribution of paper forms.
  2. Ensure that community based organizations, libraries, and other groups are adequately resourced for the unique challenges of a digital Census. Any organization tasked with supporting the digital Census must be given resources to adequately provide for the infrastructure and process, as well as the digital safety and security of respondents.
  3. Expand digital resources at public libraries. New York’s library systems play an absolutely vital role in connecting New Yorkers to the internet and are uniquely suited to help New Yorkers successfully complete the Census. The City should meet its residents where they are and give libraries the resources they need to help residents complete their Census forms.
  4. Expand public awareness campaigns. The transition to a digital Census elevates the importance of educating New Yorkers about the Census. Residents should be aware of all options available for completing the questionnaire and should know how to protect their personal data and how to avoid potential scams.
  5. Leverage city assets. In addition to leveraging public libraries, the City should utilize other trusted organizations to educate New Yorkers and facilitate survey completion, including senior centers and public schools.
  6. Install Census kiosks. New York City should install interactive kiosks for the public to fill out the survey in trusted locations across the city, such as places of worship, health clinics, and schools.
  7. Enlist Census workers with appropriate translation abilities and cultural competencies, regardless of citizenship status. To help conduct the Census, the Census Bureau will recruit hundreds of thousands of workers to act as enumerators or translators. In order to appropriately recruit a diverse range of translators, Census Bureau hiring must be granted an exemption from federal regulations that require Census employees to have U.S. citizenship.
  8. Prepare for problems. New York City and its community partners must be prepared for challenges and provide guidance to community outreach groups on how to respond to different situations, including problems with basic system functionality, spotty internet connections, cyberattacks, and phishing schemes.
To read Comptroller Stringer’s report, click here.

Harmony Day 2019 at Van Cortlandt Park

  Harmony Day is when police officers, young people enrolled in the Explorers Program (run by the NYPD), and children from all over the Bronx get together to have fun in Van Cortlandt Park. This year over 4,000 children participated with police officers from the Community Affairs units of all twelve Bronx Police precincts and young people enrolled in the precincts respective Explorers Program. There was fun, games, and lots of food for all. Harmony Day is a yearly event at Van Cortlandt Park for children, those enrolled in the Explorers program, and of course police officers coming from all areas of the Bronx to have fun together.

Above - A face painter was on hand to to make up the children.
Below - Officers from the local 50th Precinct get to take a break from all the fun.

Community Affairs officers from all twelve Bronx police precincts got together to sit for one group photo.

Southeast BronxCC - 3rd Annual Community Take back for Isaiah Osbourne--Saturday, July 27th

The Southeast Bronx Community Council would appreciate your coverage of our Third Annual Community Takeback! 

This event draws 100s of attendees for food, games, music and activities! The focus is to support victims of gun violence and the communities that support them. There will be face painting, balloon artist, boxing lessons, break dancing, basketball lessons and art
 contact Michael Beltzer at 917-485-8949 for more information. 


“The heroes who rushed to action during our city’s darkest hour put their lives on the line to protect their fellow Americans. It’s anextraordinary service and one deserving of our nation’s never-ending gratitude. With the passage of the permanent authorization of the Victim Compensation Fund, no first responder or survivor will have to worry about receiving the support they deserve. On behalf of the people of New York, I am extremely grateful to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Representatives Nadler and Maloney, and the entire New York delegation, as well as the responders, survivors, and activists for their resolve and for leading the charge to pass this bill.”

Community Weekly Update July 9, 2019 - July 15, 2019

Dear Friends, 
We’re excited to share with you the busy week we had in District 32 full of community events, Know Your Rights workshops, and Family Days.
There were also some devastating power outages at NYCHA Jackson Houses and alarming fires at 1466 Watson Ave. but we were on the ground to ensure that tenants' needs were being met, and in some cases needed to be evacuated. Our residents’ safety and well-being are our highest priority.
Furthermore, our weekend was packed with great community events, including the NYPD 41st Precinct Unity in the Bronx, 8th Annual Bronx Pride, 22nd Annual Children’s Day at Thessalonia Baptist Church, NYCHA Forest Houses Family Day, and the Hispanic Federation’s Annual Family Health Expo Vive Tu Vida.
We partnered with Bronx Legal Services, NYC Immigrants Affairs, and Bronx Immigration Partnership Emergency Preparedness Clinic to provide informational Know Your Rights workshops for our neighbors. With ICE raids happening across our state and country, we must remain vigilant.  
Strengthening our international ties is very important for our communities and the district. I was honored to welcome our special guests from Bangladesh, Consulate General Sadia Faizunnesa and Minister of Planning Muhammad Abdul Mannan, in Parkchester and the President of Taiwan in New York, Tsai Ing-wen, with my colleagues at the Taipei Economic Culture Dinner. 
Lastly, this past week, we heard of the tragic passing of Hector Figueroa, a legendary leader who fought tirelessly for workers’ rights and community justice. We will forever honor his legacy and continue his commitment to labor rights.

Luis SepĂșlveda
New York Senator, District 32    



  Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams continued his calls for action and accountability from Con Edison as outages are ongoing today, with thousands of people without power in Brooklyn and Queens. This comes days after about 50,000 people were without electricity during this past weekend's heat wave and over 70,000 lost power in the blackout on Saturday, July 13, with smaller outages through the intervening week. 

Con Edison says it deliberately cut service in multiple neighborhoods on Sunday in order to prevent larger outages, but did so without warning. Power has not been fully restored in these areas as of Tuesday afternoon. The Public Advocate has questioned proposed rate increases that ConEdison announced earlier this year, particularly in light of the previous rate increase three years ago and Con Edison's failure to use the revenue to adequately update infrastructure. He made clear at a Monday 'Public Power' town hall that a new increase should not move forward unless satisfactory answers and assurances are provided that funding will improve the system to additional outages.

Public Advocate Williams sent a new request for information to Con Edison today in a letter to its President and CEO. A copy of the letter is below and can be downloaded here.


Dear Mr. McAvoy:
As I stated in my July 19, 2019 letter, my staff at the Office of the Public Advocate have been closely monitoring the blackouts that have impacted hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers over the past week. In addition to the concerns I expressed in the previous letter, I have some additional inquiries related to the most recent blackouts, especially the intentional power cut that took out power to 30,000 ratepayers in southeast Brooklyn.
A press release issued by your organization at 11 PM on Sunday, July 21, 2019 stated that the southeastern blackout was caused intentionally as part of a pre-emptive move to protect vital equipment. However, a press release dated two and a half hours earlier announcing the outage makes no reference to the intentional nature of the blackout. This raises a number of questions:
● When there is a need to make an emergency power cut, how is the decision made? How long ahead of such cuts are these decisions finalized? Who has to approve of these decisions?  
● Knowing in advance that the grid would hit high demands due to the heat, what was done in advance to prevent and/or prepare for this power outage? Why was the public not made aware of this disruption of service until hours later? Is it standard practice to not warn communities ahead of such cuts? Is there a communications structure in place to inform customers?
●When these decisions are made, what considerations or aid are offered to those impacted? Is there any pre-emptive outreach to senior housing or other communities with low mobilization to mitigate the increased risk these communities face in a blackout during a heatwave? Does your organization offer any outreach or aid to assist those whom are dependent on electric medical equipment such as breathing machines?
● I understand Con Edison dispatched a team of 4000 electric operations personnel this past weekend in anticipation of issues related to the heatwave. Is Con Edison utilizing employees or outside contractors to provide these support services?
● If your company is utilizing outside contractors, what process determines the experience and training of staff at these firms? What quality control does your organization perform to enforce such standards?
● The peak demand last night was more than 10,000 MW short of the peak demand Con Edison has claimed the system is designed to withstand. Why was the affected equipment from the blackouts considered vitally at risk at a significantly lower level of demand? Is the actual peak demand your system can handle lower than the 13,300 Megawatts you have publicly claimed?
I know that your company is still working on investigating all of the blackouts from the past week. While I look forward to hearing the results of that investigation, I am concerned that preparations for any heatwaves may not be as adequate as necessary, and that many of our cities most vulnerable residents will pay the price. I know your organization is aware of how vital the resiliency and continuous operation of the grid is to the daily lives of all New Yorkers.
I look forward to your expeditious response. For further discussion, please contact First Deputy Public Advocate for Policy Nick E. Smith, at nsmith@advocate.nyc.gov, if you have any questions. Thank you.
Jumaane D. Williams
Public Advocate for the City of New York

Assemblymember Michael Blake - Statement on Monitor Barry Schwartz's Damning Report of NYCHA

Today’s report released by NYCHA monitor Barry Schwartz further confirmed that NYCHA is an absolute mess that requires dramatic and transformational change to help Bronxites and New Yorkers finally have quality public housing. The report is a damning indictment of an organization that in the Monitor’s own words, has a “history of cover-ups and false statements”   and without “a sufficient focus on integrity” .
A humanitarian crisis continues within NYCHA.  I have long stated that people need to be fired and held criminally liable for their neglect.  There must also be a serious consideration about a federal emergency declaration to effectuate a dramatic overhaul of NYCHA.  Bronxites and New Yorkers are the priority, and, we must put people first. 
Monitor Schwartz makes it clear that NYCHA is making little progress ensuring every day and life saving improvements are made at scale.  Whether it be the lack of transparency around lead paint inspections to overall mismanagement, he called "NYCHA an organization fraught with serious problems in structure, culture, and direction and perhaps even worse"
Mr. Schwartz calls NYCHA staffer's work “often incomplete, imprecise, and/or inaccessible”  and  “creating an inaccurate perception of NYCHA’s performance".  Sadly, his comments cannot be surprising given NYCHA’s blatantly lying about the status of elevator and power outages, which happen all of the time within our district whether it be Morris, Jackson or Morrisania Air Rights or regularly closing out ticket orders before providing maintenance repairs, if they even occur at all. 
However, the utter disregard, carelessness, and negligent habits formed by the agency that is tasked with helping some of our most vulnerable citizens is probably most evident in regards to the epidemic of lead paint throughout NYCHA housing.
NYCHA lied to Bronxites, New Yorkers and federal housing authorities about compliance towards federal regulations, while by its own “smoke-and-mirrored” data. This inhumane reality is compounded by not only failing, since 2010, to do the mandated biennial testing for apartments but also going five years without doing visual inspections in ALL of its apartments as mandated by law. 
However, even if NYCHA conducted these tests, no one at the agency could “identify who is in charge of and accountable for properly addressing lead paint matters.”  Simply put, there is no clear decision maker.
The Monitor’s report explicitly stated what those who have to deal with it on a daily basis already knew.  That too many people within NYCHA are failing us with corrupt, and ineffectual lack of service, which is a flagrant disgrace towards the residents that they are purported to serve. We need better, we deserve better, and to truly #BelieveintheBronx, we need to be able to live, breathe, learn, and grow in public housing that will not harm us, and work with agency staffers who actually cares. 

Assembly Member Michael A. Blake

Bronx Jewish Center Host Community Dinner. Friday August 2nd , 2019

 Please join us for our next community Shabbat dinner at the Bronx Jewish Center,1969 Haight Avenue,Bx NY 10461 to be held on Friday, August 2nd starting at 7:00 PM. The special theme for that evening will be Shabbat in Egypt.... Yes,That"s right Eqypt.    All of your favorite Egyptian   style  dishes will take center stage!  We look forward to seeing you! Enjoy a delicious 4 course dinner with your fellow neighbors.Turn your Friday night Shabbat into an evening of spiritual awakening, inspiration,Jewish songs and culinary delight.

  Please RSVP@718-812-1701 to let us know you are coming .Shabbat dinners are held the first Friday of every month.
“No, it isn't all about the food,” said Rabbi Pewzner of the Bronx Jewish Center. “What is important is that the ENTIRE community joins together and welcomes the start of the Shabbat . It will be a beautiful time for everyone. Please join us.We look foward to welcoming you.
Where: 1969 Haight Avenue Bx NY 10461
Cost: Free of charge and all are welcome to join!
Contact: office@bronxjewishcenter.org 
Telephone:  #718-812-1701

Monday, July 22, 2019

Congressman Adriano Espaillat Opens New Manhattan Office

  720 West 181st Street (just off Broadway) in the heart of Washing ton Heights is the address of Congressman Adriano Espaillat's new Manhattan Congressional office. His Bronx office remains on the Grand Concourse as Congressman Espaillat covers parts of both the boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan.

Above - It was a steamy almost 100 degrees as Congressman Adriano Espaillat waits to enter his new Manhattan office located at 720 West 181st Street.
Below - Congressman Espaillat is interviewed outside his new Manhattan office.