Friday, October 16, 2020

Third Avenue Business Improvement District - South Bronx Vibes // Programs, Free Resources, and More


Fall is in the air. Third Avenue Business Improvement District is rolling into Autumn with a full program schedule, enhanced security and sanitation services, public art programs, small business development and so much more! We understand that COVID-19 has had a deep impact on our community and pledge ourselves to not only providing bread and butter resources, but also the resources that make our neighborhood what it is - diverse, vibrant, and full of life. 

Part of this commitment is represented by new staff hires to provide enhanced services to the area. We would like to welcome the following new Third Avenue Business Improvement District team members:
  • Glenn Hawker, Equitable Economic Development Coordinator, Port Morris - Mott Haven
  • Tony Kee, Public Health Peer Outreach, HUB - Third Avenue
  • Kashawn Wright, Clean Street Team member, Port Morris - Mott Haven
  • Mariam Sanogo, Clean Street Team member, HUB - Third Avenue
  • Omar Sherief, Clean Street Team member, HUB - Third Avenue
  • Daniel Hightower, Clean Street Team member, HUB - Third Avenue
  • Rolando Segura, Clean Street Team member, HUB - Third Avenue
  • Hector Espada, Security Team
  • Erick Guity, Security Team
  • Steven Degreee, Security Team
  • David Lugo, Security Team
Please join me in welcoming these new members to the team.  When critical services have been cut from our neighborhoods by New York City - Third Avenue BID has stepped in and stepped up to provide additional resources to ensure that the South Bronx is not left behind.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Cluster Action Initiative,
a tool to reduce community transmission of #COVID19. The district
is currently in category yellow and we are monitoring the health
indicators and working closely with City and State partners to
prepare should any changes in transmission rates occur.



With the census wrapping up their 2020 count, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortz for Congress campaign announces bringing in $59.6 million dollars to NY 14 through their census outreach efforts.  

Team AOC began organizing efforts for the Census in mid- July, and ramped up the engagement in light of the Census deadline being abbreviated from its original deadline of October 31, 2020.  The campaign committed a total of $1 million to Census outreach in NY-14, which included a large digital ad buy targeted in Spanish, English and Bangla to undercounted communities in NY-14. The campaign’s field team also organized grassroots efforts like phone banks, lit drops and tabling events to remind people to complete the Census. The team has also focused on reaching out to non-English speaking communities, and has built a robust team of bilingual workers and volunteers to make sure everyone is counted. 

Over 3,900 people committed to fill out the Census, since the launch of Team AOC’s Census efforts. With an average household size of 2.42 people and $6,000 for every person who is counted, that amounts to over $59.6 million dollars in federal funding for our community. 

NY-14 has been historically undercounted. In 2010, just 64% of households responded to the Census. Currently in NY-14, the self-response rate is 62%.


While we congratulate the Team Ocasio campaign on trying to get people to fill out the census, we have highlighted that over 3,900 people committed to fill out the census. We must say that unless that number along with the exact household size can be proven, this is not a true fact, nor a correct amount of dollars that will come to NY14.

We must also add that federal funding streams have increased, or federal funding streams have decreased in past years. We would like to know just how the Team Ocasio  campaign came up with the amount $59.6 million dollars coming to NY14, when the exact number of people who actually filled out the census, and exact household size per person is not listed.

There were according to the 2010 U.S. Census report 712,053 people in NY14. According to the 2019 American Community Survey (By the U,S, Census Department estimate) 696,664 people in NY14, a drop of over 15,000 people since the 2010 U.S. census. After the Team Ocasio Census outreach that would still leave over 11,000 people less in NY14 amounting to almost triple the guestimate of the Team Ocasio claim, or a net loss of over $160 million dollars to NY14 in federal dollars.

Council Votes to Make Outdoor Dining Permanent, and Other Items Including Land Use Matters


The New York City Council voted on legislation to make outdoor dining permanent. During the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor dining has offered restaurants a vital way to stay afloat but more is needed as the colder months approach. The Council today will vote to extend the program in its current form through Sept. 2021, and to allow propane heaters to be used by restaurants. Currently, only piped natural gas heaters (not propane) are allowed for use. This legislation will also require the city to create a permanent outdoor dining program for the future that uses city roadspace.

The virus has also financially hurt the taxi industry, which was struggling prior to the pandemic because of a decline in revenues and medallion values. The Council will be voting on a package of legislation aimed at providing increased oversight to this industry and combatting predatory lending practices, including through the creation of an Office of Financial Stability within the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which would be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the financial stability of the taxi industry.

A second bill would require annual financial disclosures from any person with an interest in a taxicab license. This bill would help to combat the issues resulting from a lack of information collected on the financial situations of TLC’s licensed owners, brokers and agents. This is especially problematic when the need to assess the financial situation of medallion owners and evaluate potential conflicts of interest regarding taxi-related businesses arises.

The final bill would require the TLC to evaluate the character, honesty and integrity of taxicab brokers, agents and licensees when they submit a new license application or when they submit an application to renew an existing license. TLC would be authorized to refuse to grant or renew a license based on findings during this process, such as the commission of fraudulent, deceitful or unlawful acts in connection with a business licensed by TLC.

The Council will also be voting on two additional bills that help seniors and housing affordability. The first reauthorizes the $50,000 maximum eligible income level for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption and the Disability Rent Increase Exemption programs, a move designed to conform the state bill. The second would amend the expiration date of the New York City Rent Stabilization Law of 1969, a move allowed by the state. Typically, a housing survey and vacancy survey is required to assess the need for rent stabilization, which is conducted by the US Census Bureau and the Housing and Preservation Development. This requirement has been waived this year because the census is busy with the 10-year national count.

Finally, the Council will be voting to appoint Stanley Richards to the NYC Board of Correction and José M. Araujo to the New York City Board of Elections. In addition, they will vote on several land use items. Also, on Thursday the Council’s Democratic Conference voted to appoint Rodney L. Pepe Souvenir to the New York City Board of Elections.


Int. No. 2127-A, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would extend the expiration of the City’s current outdoor dining program until September 30, 2021. That program would then be replaced by a permanent program to allow for the use of roadway seating as outdoor dining areas. The bill would permanently also allow the use of portable propane heaters in outdoor dining areas, subject to guidelines issued by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY).


Creates an Office of Financial Stability within the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission

Int. No. 1610-Asponsored by Council Member Ritchie J. Torres, would require the creation of an Office of Financial Stability within the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The office would monitor and evaluate a range of factors related to the financial stability of the taxi industry, including income and expenses for medallion owners, medallion loan terms and market manipulation. The office would also be required to post online and submit to the Council, Mayor and Department of Investigation an annual report on the office’s activities, an assessment of the financial stability of the taxi industry and any recommendations regarding industry stability.

This bill would go into effect 120 days after becoming law.

Requires annual financial disclosures from anyone with an interest in a taxicab license

Int. No. 1584-A, sponsored by Council Member Adrienne E. Adams, would require any person with an interest in a taxi license to make annual financial disclosures to the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Required disclosures would include information about income from and expenses related to each taxi license, any loans secured by a taxi license and any other interests the person filing the disclosure has in any taxi, livery, or for-hire vehicle business.

This bill would go into effect 120 days after becoming law.

Requires the taxi and limousine commission to evaluate the character and integrity of taxicab brokers, agents, and taxicab licensees

Int. No. 1608-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would require the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to evaluate the character, honesty and integrity of taxicab brokers, agents and licensees when they submit a new license application or when they submit an application to renew an existing license. The commission would be authorized to refuse to issue or renew a license upon a finding that an applicant lacks good character, honesty and integrity. The commission would consider, among other factors, misstatements or misrepresentations in connection with an application and commissions of fraudulent, deceitful or unlawful acts while engaged in the business licensed by the commission.

This bill would go into effect 180 days after becoming law.


Continues the New York City Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 through 2022

Int. No. 2093, sponsored by Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr., would amend the expiration date of the New York City Rent Stabilization Law. In order to maintain the City’s Rent Stabilization Law, a housing and vacancy survey (HVS) must be conducted in partnership with the United States Census Bureau. Due to the limited capacity of the Census Bureau to conduct the HVS concurrently with the decennial census, the State of New York passed legislation delaying the requirement of the survey by one year. To reflect the State’s extension of the deadline, this bill would shift the current expiration date of the City’s Rent Stabilization Law from April 1, 2021 to April 1, 2022. 

This bill would go into effect immediately.


Reauthorizes the $50,000 maximum eligible income level for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs

Int. No. 2030sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin, would increase the maximum income threshold for eligibility in both the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption and the Disability Rent Increase Exemption programs, otherwise known as the NYC Rent Freeze Program. In 2014, New York State increased the income threshold to $50,000 through June 2020. The State authorized the income threshold increase after its expiration this year and as a result, the City of New York must do the same and reauthorize the extension.

The bill is retroactive and would extend the current qualifying maximum level of income through June 30, 2022.


1510 Broadway

An application in Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel’s district by HPD is seeking designation and approval of an Urban Development Action Area Project, to facilitate the construction of a new eight-story building with approximately 107 units of affordable housing with approximately 9,000 sq ft of ground floor commercial space.

Weeksville NCP at Prospect Place

An application in Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel’s district by HPD seeks designation of Urban Development Action Area Project approval for a new development of seven buildings with approximately 44 affordable rental units.

Old Stanley 641 Chauncey and Old Stanley II

An application in Council District 37 and Council Member Reynoso’s districts by HPD seeks designation and approval of Urban Development Action Area Project dispositions of City-owned property to facilitate the construction of three residential buildings with affordable homeownership units developed by a non-profit community-based developer.

Open Door Bed Stuy Central and North I

An application in Council Member Robert Cornegy’s district by HPD seeks approval of Urban Development Action Area Project waiver of the area designation requirement and Sections 197-c and 197-d of the New York City Charter, and approval of a real property tax exemption pursuant to Section 577 of Article XI of the Private Housing Finance Law to facilitate the construction of two two-family and nine-three family affordable homes.

Manida Street Historic District 

An application in Council Member Rafael Salamanca’s district by the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeks approval for the designation of a new Manida Street Historic District in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx.

Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Synagogue 

An application in Council Member Margaret Chin’s district, by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to rescind the designation. The building had been destroyed in a fire and has since been demolished.

Alexander Hamilton House (Hamilton Grange)

An application in Council Members Mark Levine and Bill Perkins districts, by the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeks approval of an amendment to update the designation location to reflect the current location at 414 W 141 Street. 

Kingsland Homestead

An application in Council Member Peter Koo’s district, by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to update the designation location to reflect the current location at 143-35 37th Avenue. 

5914 Bay Parkway

An application in Council Member Kalman Yeger’s district seeks a zoning map amendment and zoning text amendment to map Mandatory Inclusionary Housing on a portion of the east side of Bay Parkway between 59th and 60th Streets to facilitate a nine-story mixed-use building with 36 units of housing, 11 of which are affordable.

50 Old Fulton

An application in Council Member Stephen Levin’s district to rezone from M2-1 to M1-5 to facilitate the development of a five-story commercial building with approximately 33,000 sqf of retail and office space. 

3 St. Mark’s Place

An application in Council Member Carlina Rivera’s district, for a special permit pursuant to Zoning Resolution Section 74-79, to transfer unused development rights from an Individual Landmark site to facilitate the construction of a ten-story commercial building.  The land use committee recommended the disapproval of this item.                                                                                                                                 

Industry City

The Industry City Street applications were withdrawn by the applicant.

Schools with High Black and Hispanic Populations Had Low Student Engagement during Pandemic, City Data Shows


Council subpoenaed the Education Department to obtain the data

 New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger announced key findings based on remote learning attendance data from the city Education Department (DOE), which was received in response to a subpoena issued by the New York City Council last month. That data on more than 1,500 schools shows racial disparities in student engagement – loosely defined as attendance that was tracked by student emails or participation in remote check-ins – during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Highlights from the remote learning attendance data include:

  • Schools where at least half the student population was Black and Hispanic were nearly eight times more likely to report low student engagement or poor attendance compared to schools with lower Black and Hispanic populations. 
  • Schools where 25% or more of the students were Black were nearly four times more likely to report low student engagement than schools with fewer Black students
  • Schools where 25% of more of the population was white showed high student engagement.
  • These racial disparities data mirror attendance data from 2019, highlighting that these inequities continued during our pandemic.

“By forcing the Education Department to release attendance data on the pandemic, the City Council was able to confirm what many feared – that there were racial disparities in student engagement during remote learning. But we are still not seeing the full scope of the inequities that exist in remote learning because we don’t have specifics on what type of instruction these students received. The school system’s policy is to say a student attended even if all they did was send a text or email. The de Blasio Administration needs to provide us with more clarity and understanding of remote learning during COVID-19 so we can properly address the disparities and provide the support New York City’s students need. I thank Education Committee Chair Treyger for his leadership on this issue and for always being our students’ biggest advocate,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

“The City administration cannot dismiss the significance of this concerning attendance data. It further paints a picture of a city perpetuating the divide between well-resourced and under-resourced communities. At the May hearing on remote learning, I asked how many kids never logged onto a device. I asked for school by school attendance data because as a former teacher, I understand how attendance is a major indicator of student progress and school climate. We need this information to know how to target and fight for additional support for kids who need it the most,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education.  

The data was originally requested in May by Education Chair Treyger at an oversight hearing titled, “Remote Learning: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the City’s Schools.” The daily remote learning attendance data provided by the Education Department is from April 6 – June 26 for the Spring 2020 semester, July 6 to August 14 for the Summer 2020 semester, and September 16 and 17 for the Fall semester. 

New York City schools shut down on March 16, 2020. Schools transitioned to remote learning a week later but after six months there are still unresolved issues that are preventing students from receiving a high-quality remote education, such as access to the internet and mandated special education services.

Remote learning attendance data is critical, but it doesn’t tell us if the student is really interacting with the teacher. On Friday, during an oversight hearing on school reopening by Council Committees on Education and Health, the Council will review two bills designed to obtain better metrics.

The hearing will review Intro 2104-2020 (Treyger) which would require the Education Department to report on a series of metrics any time the department is engaged in remote learning such as participation in synchronous and/or asynchronous remote learning instruction, IEP evaluations completed as well as mandated services provided to students with disabilities, among other metrics. The first report would be due on August 1, 2021, for the 2020-2021 academic year, and the 2019-2020 academic year report would be due on February 1, 2021. 

The second bill, Intro 2058-2020 (Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Treyger), would require the Education Department to provide weekly mandated reports on student attendance data when remote learning is utilized fully or combined with in-person learning. The data would be required to be disaggregated by the school, school district, grade, race, individualized education plan status, multilingual language learner status and English language learner status.

You can access the DOE’s full data set on remote learning attendance here.

[1] For the purposes of this table, a school encountered a significant barrier to student interaction if its median daily student interaction rate for the period was low enough to put it in the bottom 20% of all schools. For Spring 2020, this means an interaction rate below about 79%, and for Spring 2019, it means a rate below about 89%.

[1] DOE’s attendance data for Spring 2019 can be found on the NYC Open Data Portal at

[1] Student populations were estimated using Fall 2020 enrollment data provided in DOE’s subpoena response materials.

[1] COVID-19 data for each zip code is maintained by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and can be found online at A “high” COVID-19 death rate means a death rate that would put the zip code in the top 20% of all zip codes.

Governor Cuomo Announces State to Provide 200,000 Rapid Test Kits to New York City Schools in "Yellow Zones" - OCTOBER 15, 2020


Statewide Positivity Rate is 1.09 Percent

Positive Testing Rate in Hot Spot Areas is 4.84 Percent; New York State Positivity Without Red Zone Focus Areas Included is 0.99 Percent

13 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the state will provide 200,000 rapid test kits to New York City schools in "Yellow Zones." On October 9, Governor Cuomo announced that COVID-19 rapid result testing will be made available to every county in New York State. Those tests will also be made available on an as needed basis to help schools in "Yellow Zones" test students and staff as part of new requirements to monitor COVID-19 spread as part of the Governor's Cluster Action Initiative.

"I've asked local governments to do testing in the schools surrounding the Red Zones, in what we call Yellow Zones. Some of the local governments have said they don't have enough tests to do it. I've said if you need something, tell me and I'll provide it," Governor Cuomo said. "We're going to give New York City 200,000 test kits so they can do the tests in the schools in the Yellow Zones."

In "Red Zone" focus areas included as part of the Governor's Cluster Action Initiative, the positivity rate for test results reported yesterday is 4.84 percent - down from 6.29 percent the day before. The "Red Zone" focus areas are home to 2.8 percent of state's population, yet had 11.5 percent of all positive cases reported yesterday to New York State. 

Within the "Red Zone" focus areas, 3,473 test results were reported yesterday, yielding 168 positives or a 4.84 percent positivity rate. In the remainder of the state, not counting these "Red Zone" focus areas, 129,739 test results were reported, yielding 1,292 positives or a 0.99 percent positivity rate. The state's overall positivity rate is 1.09 percent with focus areas included. The "Red Zone" focus areas are home to 2.8 percent of the state population yet had 11.5 percent of all positive test results reported to the state yesterday, and 11.9 percent of all positive case results reported to the state this current week.

Today's data is summarized briefly below:

  • Patient Hospitalization - 897 (-41)
  • Patients Newly Admitted - 108
  • Hospital Counties - 40
  • Number ICU - 197 (-4)
  • Number ICU with Intubation - 95 (-5)
  • Total Discharges - 78,006 (+136)
  • Deaths - 13
  • Total Deaths - 25,618

United States Settles Fair Housing Act Lawsuits Against Affordable Housing Developer For Failure To Construct Apartments With Features Accessible To Persons With Disabilities


Settlement Requires Developer to Increase Accessibility in 71 Buildings Encompassing More Than 6,000 Rental Apartments

 Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled two related federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) lawsuits against ATLANTIC DEVELOPMENT GROUP, LLC (“ATLANTIC”).  Under the settlement, ATLANTIC has agreed to make retrofits at 71 rental buildings in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester County, which together contain more than 6,000 affordable units as well as several hundred market-rate apartments.  ATLANTIC also agreed to provide $600,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a $30,000 civil penalty.  Additionally, ATLANTIC agreed to establish procedures to ensure that its future residential development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the FHA.  The settlement was approved today by U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “The Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities from being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to housing.  This right applies equally to residents in affordable housing as to those living in luxury high-rises.  Today’s settlement is part of this Office’s long-standing effort to fulfill the FHA’s promise of accessibility for people with disabilities and a reminder to real estate developers that we will continue to enforce the FHA’s accessibility requirements vigorously.”

The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1991 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.  The settlement with ATLANTIC is the 17th settlement reached by this Office with developers and architects to remedy inaccessible housing in this District.  It was reached after the Court denied in its entirety ATLANTIC’s motion to dismiss.

According to the allegations in the complaints in the two FHA cases, a recurring pattern of inaccessible conditions exists at ATLANTIC’s rental buildings, including excessively high thresholds at building entrances and entrances to common use areas, ramps that lack handrails on both sides, common use bathrooms that lack grab bars and pipe insulation, excessively high thresholds at entrances to individual apartments and within the apartments, and bathrooms in individual apartments that lack sufficient clear floor space for people who use wheelchairs.   ATLANTIC admitted in the court-ordered settlement stipulation that features in the common use areas of their buildings, as well as in their buildings’ apartment interiors, did not meet the specifications set forth in the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, Design Guidelines for Accessible/Adaptable Dwellings.

Under the settlement, ATLANTIC agreed to make retrofits to the public and common use areas as well as the individual units at its 71 rental buildings to improve accessibility at those buildings.  The settlement also requires ATLANTIC to establish procedures to ensure FHA compliance at its future development projects, including to retain an FHA compliance consultant to assess the design documents and conduct site visits to identify non-compliant conditions.  In addition, ATLANTIC agreed to institute policies and training to ensure that its employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.

Finally, the settlement requires ATLANTIC to provide $600,000 to compensate aggrieved persons.  Aggrieved persons may be entitled to monetary compensation from the fund created through today’s settlement.  Aggrieved individuals may include those who:

  • Were discouraged from living at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings because of the lack of accessible features;
  • Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings;
  • Paid to have an apartment at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
  • Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings as a result of inaccessible design and construction.

Any individual who may be entitled to compensation can file a claim by using the Civil Rights Complaint Form available on the United States Attorney’s Office’s website, or by sending a written claim to:

  • U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York      
  • 86 Chambers Street, 3rd Floor                      
  • New York, New York 10007      
  • Attention: Chief, Civil Rights Unit

Finally, ATLANTIC agreed to pay a civil penalty of $30,000.

Narcotics Dealer Responsible For Overdose Death Pleads Guilty To Offenses Related To The Distribution Of Fentanyl Analogues And Synthetic Opioids On The Darknet And To Making False Statements

Chukwuemeka Okparaeke Netted Millions by Distributing Fentanyl Analogues and Synthetic Opioids Through a Darknet Marketplace and the United States Mail, Completing Over 7,000 Sales 

 Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Phillip R. Bartlett, the Inspector in Charge of the New York Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and Peter C. Fitzhugh, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced that CHUKWUEMEKA OKPARAEKE, a/k/a “Emeka,” pled guilty to distributing U-47700, a controlled substance analogue of AH-7921; importing 100 grams and more of acryl fentanyl, a controlled substance analogue of fentanyl, from Hong Kong; and making false statements to prosecutors and investigators regarding the proceeds of his offenses.  OKPARAEKE pled guilty today in White Plains federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román.

Through his guilty plea, OKPARAEKE admitted that in November 2016, he sold U-47700 to an individual (the “Victim”), who died from an overdose after using the drug.  OKPARAEKE further admitted that his narcotics offenses involved 9.044 kilograms of acryl fentanyl, 6.957 kilograms of U-47700, 1.159 kilograms of furanyl fentanyl, an analogue of fentanyl, and 12 grams of 4-ANPP.  As part of his guilty plea, OKPARAEKE agreed to forfeit 680.60963624 bitcoins – approximately $7,298,000 – in proceeds generated by his illicit narcotics sales.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As he admitted today, Chukwuemeka Okparaeke peddled highly addictive, and in one case lethal, opioids over the darknet.  He also lied to agents and prosecutors about the whereabouts of more than $7 million in bitcoin proceeds from his illegal sales.  Now Okparaeke will forfeit those illicit proceeds, and he awaits sentencing for his crimes.”

Postal Inspector in Charge Phillip R. Bartlett said:  “This case represents the tragic impact of fentanyl and other illicit narcotics in this country.  Mr. Okparaeke used the anonymity of the darknet to peddle his narcotics believing he would be shielded from arrest and prosecution.  Postal Inspectors want to remind criminals there is no place you can hide when you use the U.S. Mail to facilitate your illegal activity.  We will spare no resource to find you, arrest you, and bring you to justice for your illegal deeds.”

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said:  “This investigation identified Okparaeke as a darknet marketplace vendor responsible for the sale of highly addictive and deadly narcotics which resulted in a fatal overdose.  The anonymity most seek by using the darknet did not shield Okparaeke, who is now facing the consequences of his actions.  One overdose, one life taken, is one too many.  To those who try to hide on the darknet while profiting off ruined lives, you will be found, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”

According to the allegations in the Superseding Information, Complaint, other court filings, and statements made during public court proceedings:

From at least July 2016 through March 2017, OKPARAEKE imported kilogram-quantities of fentanyl analogues, including acryl fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids, including U-47700, from Hong Kong and China into the United States.  To transact with customers and coordinate his narcotics sales, OKPARAEKE used a darknet website known as AlphaBay Market (“AlphaBay”), accessible only through a special software program that allows users to mask their identities and anonymize their internet traffic.  Under the AlphaBay vendor name “Fentmaster,” OKPARAEKE engaged in more than 7,000 sales of synthetic opioids, which he shipped to customers throughout the United States using the U.S. Postal Service.  OKPARAEKE paid a commission on each of his narcotics sales to the administrators of AlphaBay.  In total, OKPARAEKE’s narcotics trafficking generated more than $7 million in illicit proceeds.

In November 2016, OKPARAEKE sold three grams of U-47700 to the Victim, an 18-year-old living in Vancouver, Washington, in an AlphaBay transaction.  The Victim used the drugs purchased from OKPARAEKE and died in a U-47700 overdose on November 10, 2016.  Prior to his death, the Victim researched Fentmaster online.  On November 6, 2016, the Victim sent a friend a text message saying that he had purchased drugs from Fentmaster.  The Victim subsequently left a review on OKPARAEKE’s AlphaBay vendor page confirming that he had received the drugs.

OKPARAEKE – who attended medical school before he began selling synthetic opioids on AlphaBay – used extensive measures to conceal his identity, including software to encrypt his internet traffic and communications sent from his cellphone.  Using alter egos, he boasted online about his exploits as a darknet drug trafficker, offered advice to other drug dealers, and published a short story describing his criminal activities and his strategies for evading law enforcement.  In January 2017, Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), in conjunction with HSI and USPIS, intercepted several packages containing kilogram quantities of fentanyl analogues that OKPARAEKE had imported from Hong Kong.  Subsequently, in March 2017, law enforcement searched a drug premises OKPARAEKE maintained in Kearny, New Jersey.  During the search, law enforcement seized more than 10 kilograms of U-47700, acryl fentanyl, and furanyl fentanyl, as well as a quantity of 4-ANPP and approximately 82 mailing envelopes containing smaller amounts of those substances that OKPARAEKE had packaged for distribution to his customers.

On September 15, 2020, OKPARAEKE met with representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and USPIS.  During that meeting, OKPARAEKE falsely represented that approximately 680 bitcoins – more than $7 million – generated by his narcotics sales on AlphaBay were not in his possession and control.  In addition, OKPARAEKE falsely claimed that a third party had stolen the bitcoin from him through hacking and other unauthorized access to OKPARAEKE’s electronic accounts.  OKPARAEKE subsequently surrendered the 680 bitcoins to USPIS and agreed to forfeit those proceeds as part of his plea agreement.

OKPARAEKE, 31, of Middletown, New York, pled guilty to one count of distributing U-47700, a controlled substance analogue of AH-7921, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of importing 100 grams and more of acryl fentanyl, a controlled substance analogue of fentanyl, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; and one count of making false statements in a matter within the executive branch of the Government of the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

OKPARAEKE is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Román on December 17, 2020, at 10:30 a.m.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding efforts of USPIS, HSI, CBP, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, the Middletown Police Department, and the Vancouver, Washington, Police Department for their investigative work and ongoing support and assistance with the case. 

Comptroller Stringer Proposes Free Tuition at all CUNY Community Colleges and Overhaul of New York City’s Workforce Development Strategy


Comptroller outlines comprehensive plan that will leverage CUNY to upskill New York City’s workforce and compete in the global economy

Stringer’s workforce development plan includes tuition-free community college, a universal paid internship program for CUNY students, more Career and Technical Education and Early College High Schools, an expansion of Certified Apprenticeship, Subsidized Wage, and Bridge Programs and more

Stringer: “The pandemic has upended our economy and displaced thousands of workers. If we don’t act right now to revolutionize how we support New Yorkers and get everyone on the ladder of opportunity, we risk leaving thousands of New Yorkers behind and deepening the inequality gap.”

 New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer unveiled a comprehensive overhaul of workforce development in New York City, including making CUNY community colleges free for all to build a more competitive and inclusive post-pandemic economy and to better align training with the jobs of tomorrow. With COVID-19 displacing hundreds of thousands of workers and rapidly accelerating long-standing trends in e-commerce, telework, digitization, and automation, Comptroller Stringer’s plan calls for the City and State to dramatically expand the scale, quality, accessibility, and affordability of education and job training programs. Comptroller Stringer outlined a series of proposals to upskill millions of New Yorkers, dramatically diversify high-wage industries, and generate career opportunities during the current economic crisis and beyond to spur New York City’s recovery.

“CUNY is essential to any workforce development strategy in New York City—which means it is vital to our City’s economic recovery. The pandemic exposed inequities in our economy and worsened the longstanding gaps in our social safety net. While some sectors of our workforce have the tools, resources and career flexibility to work remotely, many New York City jobs and careers have been derailed and debilitated by the economic shutdown. As we work to recover and rebuild, we must address these gaps and ensure that New York City’s workforce is strong and ready to take on the opportunities and challenges of the post-COVID, 21st century global economy,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “My plan overhauls and modernizes our approach to job training, job placement, and education to reflect the evolution of work and aims to break down systemic barriers that have historically excluded women, people of color, immigrants and young people from higher-wage industries. As we emerge from this economic crisis, we need to work with CUNY and other engines of economic mobility to build a pipeline of opportunity for the next generation and live up to a promise that anyone can make it in New York City.”

Comptroller Stringer’s plan focused on the need to expand employment opportunities in healthcare, logistics, engineering, finance, design, early education, analytics, cyber-security, software development, and other occupations and professional services that have largely withstood the economic shock of the pandemic endured by the service-oriented, lower-wage sectors. The plan centers on the City University of New York, the largest urban university system in the nation and uniquely positioned to educate and upskill first-generation, working, part-time, low-income, and adult learners and serve as an engine of economic mobility in the five boroughs. In the months and years ahead, CUNY must be ready, resourced, and empowered to better prepare displaced workers, part-time learners, disconnected youth, first-generation students and mid-career learners to compete in a post-pandemic economy. It must also forge stronger partnerships with the DOE, community-based organizations, and private employers and offer, for the first time in decades, free tuition for all residents at its community colleges. Finally, it must be well-staffed with committed, full-time teachers and refrain from leaning on part-time adjuncts.

In sharp contrast to past New York City recessions, where employment in the professional services industries plummeted while low-wage, shift-work jobs held steady, it is communities of color and low-wage workers that have bore the brunt of this pandemic and its myriad impacts. Since the end of 2019, the private sector has shed 479,000 jobs and the restaurant, retail, accommodations, building, and personal services industries have lost a disturbing 253,000 jobs — many of which may be permanently eliminated amidst store closures and the rise of e-commerce, automation, and telework. Helping displaced workers in these industries — of whom 74 percent are Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC); 73 percent live in the non-Manhattan boroughs; 54 percent are foreign-born, and 16 percent are under the age of 25 — and all New Yorkers gain access to education, training, and jobs has never been more vital.

With BIPOC and non-Manhattan New Yorkers disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage service sector, the unemployment rate for Asian (18.2 percent), Hispanic (16.7 percent), and 16-24 year olds (24.3 percent) in New York City is far higher than the city-wide rate (15.7 percent) and that of white New Yorkers (14.2 percent). The rate for Bronx (21.1 percent), Brooklyn (16.5 percent), Queens (16.4 percent), and Staten Island (13.8 percent) residents, meanwhile, significantly outpaces unemployment among Manhattanites (12.9 percent).

To address these devastating inequities and support communities across the five boroughs, Comptroller Stringer outlined the following steps for a comprehensive workforce program for New York City:

The State should make CUNY community colleges tuition-free and the City should guarantee universal access to CUNY ASAP for all community college students

  • The New York State tuition-free Excelsior Program serves less than 2 percent of CUNY students. It should be expanded to meet the needs of part-time, working, low-income, and adult learners.
  • CUNY ASAP, which provides financial assistance for books and transportation as well as structured academic supports like tutoring and personalized academic advisory, should be expanded to all full-time community college students.
  • CUNY should hire 50 “college navigators” to help advise adult learners who have been away from higher education for several years. These navigators will provide specialized supports, helping adult learners overcome the logistical, financial, and academic barriers to earn their desired credential or degree.
  • CUNY must invest in experienced, full-time faculty. For years, CUNY has increasingly relied on part-time staffers to fill a broad range of positions — from classroom professors and librarians, to lab technicians and administrative support staff. Indeed, part-time adjuncts now comprise more than 50% of CUNY’s teaching staff. The combination of low salary and the time spent traveling from one campus to another means that part-time faculty are frequently less able than full-time faculty to invest the time necessary to fully develop the academic and workplace potential of students.

Build Out a Universal, Paid Internship Program for CUNY Students

  • Only 21 percent of CUNY students participated in an internship in 2019 and only 12 percent were in a paid internship.
  • The City and CUNY should work with private sector employers to build out a universal, guaranteed paid internship program for all students entering their final year of study. This program will double down on CUNY’s extraordinary record as an engine for economic mobility.
  • CUNY must build out its campus Career Engagement and Development Centers and upgrade its online tools to help students find paid work that aligns with their studies.

Expand Career and Technical Education, Early-College, and College Now in our Public Schools

  • The City must continue to invest in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and ensure that these schools and programs meet rigorous standards for industry-aligned curriculum, teacher certification, work-based learning, and job-placement. A focus on IT, STEM, and other high-paying fields is essential.
  • The State must work to streamline its byzantine CTE approval process, which can take well over five years to complete.
  • CUNY and the DOE should expand the number of early-college high schools, a proven model for boosting high school graduation and college attendance. Over the next four years, they should be expanded to 34 schools, with at least one early college high school in each of New York City’s 32 community school districts.
  • DOE and CUNY should work together to expand College Now, which allows 22,000 students to take college credit courses while still enrolled in high school. They should aim to target 75,000 high school students by 2025, so that 75% of incoming freshmen will already have some college credit upon entering.

Create a CUNY Tech Corps to help small businesses adopt digital tools and develop an online presence

  • Small Business Services should partner with CUNY to launch an NYC Tech Corps, helping Main Street businesses develop a web presence, expand online sales, and implement digital payroll, sales, and inventory tools.
  • The Tech Corp would work directly with business owners to design websites, to help purchase business software, and to set up these tools. It would be staffed by recent CUNY graduates as well as interns majoring in tech, design, and business-related fields.

Align Private Industry and Workforce Training

  • In the months ahead, the City should work closely with business leaders to develop new job training programs and scale up existing ones; establish apprenticeship, paid-internship, and work-based learning programs; help CUNY and workforce development organizations keep their curriculums up-to-date; and develop new certificate programs in conjunction with CUNY’s Workforce Innovation Lab.
  • Private employers should play a more active role in retraining, upskilling, and diversifying their own workforce and refrain from leaning on contingent labor.
  • New York City employers should coordinate and aggregate their philanthropic support for the workforce development and educational field.
  • Corporate HR departments should review their job descriptions and degree requirements in order to better align with workforce nonprofit and community college credentials and to diversify their staffing.
  • Finance, legal, accounting, and tech firms that have relocated back-office operations to low-cost states and countries should bring these middle class jobs back to New York City.

Focus on Youth Unemployment and Out-of-School, Out-of-Work New Yorkers

  • The DOE and CUNY must work diligently to bring Out-of-School, Out-of-Work youth back into the education system and prevent high drop-out rates amidst remote learning.
  • The DOE must unlock the potential of Transfer Schools to support older immigrant youth. As part of this effort, the City should expand its Internationals Network, transfer schools that integrate language development along with project-based and work-based learning.
  • The City should work closely with private employers to expand youth apprenticeships and subsidized, transitional employment opportunities.
  • The City should invest in institutional partnerships between CUNY and CBOs. The CUNY Network for College Success, for instance, aims to significantly increase college persistence and graduation rates by helping CBOs develop and improve their college readiness workshops, career guidance, financial aid counseling, and assistance with transfers and re-enrollment. It should be expanded throughout the five boroughs.

Build Out Subsidized Wage Programs for Targeted Populations and Expand Certified Apprenticeships

  • The City should expand its successful transitional employment programs, offering subsidized, living-wage employment to New Yorkers in homeless shelters, out-of-school-out-of-work youth, those exiting Rikers, and other populations in need.
  • The City should expand and restructure its modest Apprenticeship NYC program, building a public-private partnership to introduce more Registered Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship programs in healthcare, analytics, finance, logistics, and design. These programs should be focused on diversifying those fields and increasing economic mobility for those without a college degree.

New York State Should Overhaul its Shared Work Program to Help Businesses Rehire and Retain Staff

  • The State’s Shared Work program is an effective tool for countering recessions, helping businesses retain staff, and rehiring workers. Unfortunately, it is severely underutilized.
  • To increase enrollment in its Shared Work program and help employers rehire workers, the New York State Department of Labor should improve outreach, marketing, and staffing, streamline enrollment and certification, leverage recent federal government subsidies, and adjust the hours that employers are allowed to cut and furlough.
  • Employers should be encouraged to switch their workers from unemployment insurance to Work Share so that they can begin to transition back to work.
  • New York State should use the Shared Work Program as an opportunity to connect furloughed employees to education, training, and upskilling programs.

Expand Bridge Programs that Pair Job Training with Language Education and Basic Skills Training

  • To better support the two million New Yorkers who lack literacy skills, English language proficiency, or a high school diploma, the City needs to better align job training with language education and basic skills training.
  • CUNY, with its robust network of community colleges, continuing education and certification programs, and English language and remedial education courses, has begun to build out a wide range of these “Bridge Programs” for those pursuing careers in a variety of industries and occupations. They should be dramatically expanded with support from the City.