Friday, November 20, 2020

Norwood Turkey Giveaway Farewell For Councilman Andrew Cohen

Image may contain: 2 people, text that says 'Turkey Giveaway Monday, November 23rd Lexa Bar and Grill 357 East 204th St Bronx, NY 10467 3PM- Until supplies Last! NYS Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez NYC COUNCIL MEMBER ANDREW COHEN DISTRICT 11, BRONX NYSSenator NYS Senator Jamaal T. Bailey Bharati Lexa Bar Grill TheBharatiFoundation Bharati Foundation'

Governor Cuomo Announces New Record-High Number of COVID-19 Tests Reported to New York State


205,466 COVID-19 Tests Reported to New York State Yesterday

Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 4.55 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 2.15 Percent

Statewide Positivity Rate is 2.66 Percent

32 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 205,466 COVID-19 test results were reported to New York State yesterday—a new record high.

"We did 205,000 tests yesterday, a new record. Remember when we first started, we could only do 500 tests a day -- that's how far we have come. Context here is very important because I want New Yorkers to have confidence in the rules that we're setting. And it's not that our rules are that much more onerous than other states' rules, it's that we triggered them earlier. Our triggers are much lower than other states, and hence our performance is much better than other states," Governor Cuomo said. "You decide your own destiny. If you follow the rules, you're fine. And if you're not fine, the rules change on you. The micro-cluster approach doesn't put restrictions on places that are following the rules. It's that targeted. If you and your neighbor are acting responsibly, you have a collective, vested interest in your local community. I am concerned about Thanksgiving, and I believe it could have a large impact if people are reckless. It is the socialization that's a problem, and socialization is human behavior. So we are on guard, but it depends on what we do."

The Governor noted that the positive testing rate in all focus areas under the state's Micro-Cluster strategy is 4.55 percent, and outside the focus zone areas is 2.15 percent. Within the focus areas, 43,790 test results were reported yesterday, yielding 1,994 positives. In the remainder of the state, not counting these focus areas, 161,676 test results were reported, yielding 3,474 positives.

Today's data is summarized briefly below:

  • Patient Hospitalization - 2,348 (+72)
  • Patients Newly Admitted - 361
  • Hospital Counties - 50
  • Number ICU - 445 (+8)
  • Number ICU with Intubation - 205 (+5)
  • Total Discharges - 82,766 (+259)
  • Deaths - 32
  • Total Deaths - 26,292

Doctor And Office Manager Charged For Illegally Distributing Oxycodone From Midtown Manhattan Practice


 Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), 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 Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging HOWARD ADELGLASS, a licensed physician, and MARCELLO SANSONE, an employee at ADELGLASS’s clinic, with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone illegally.  The defendants were arrested yesterday afternoon, and will be presented before United States Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox in Manhattan federal court today.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Howard Adelglass betrayed his profession by writing thousands of medically unnecessary opioid prescriptions for more than a million oxycodone pills in less than three years.  Marcello Sansone allegedly got promoted from trusted gatekeeper patient to office manager, helping Adelglass run his grotesquely lucrative pill mill.  Now both are in custody and facing federal felony charges.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “The alleged behavior of Adlelglass, a licensed physician, who held a position of trust in our society, causes lasting harm to our communities.  To intentionally peddle these substances into our communities, especially to those who have struggled to overcome the addiction of powerful painkillers, is an offense against all of society.  The type of conspiracy alleged here has led to devastating consequences for addicted patients and their families, and has placed an immense burden on communities who will be left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives.  This particular alleged operation has been shut down, but our message to others engaging in the same type of illegal activity should be clear – put the prescription pad away.  Your medical degree won’t provide you immunity from federal charges or the consequences that will follow.”       

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said:  “The defendants allegedly operated a greed-fueled scheme that callously put lives at risk and worsened the opioid epidemic that plagues our country.  Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to hold accountable medical professionals who act like drug dealers at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”  

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]

HOWARD ADELGLASS is a licensed physician who, with MARCELLO SANSONE, operated a pain-management clinic located in Midtown Manhattan (the “Clinic”).  The Clinic serviced purported patients seeking oxycodone and other pain-relief medications commonly diverted for illicit purposes.  In exchange for cash payments, ADELGLASS wrote thousands of prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone to individuals who ADELGLASS knew did not need the pills for any legitimate medical purpose.  Many of the purported patients were addicted to opioids and, in some cases, sold oxycodone pills on the street to drug users.  Most patients were referred to the Clinic by existing, trusted “gatekeeper” patients, of which SANSONE was one.  The Clinic primarily operated on a cash-only basis, and generally operated only for a few hours per day, opening sometime between approximately 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  After serving as a gatekeeper patient, SANSONE’s role at the Clinic expanded beginning in or about October 2018, when he joined ADELGLASS in managing the Clinic’s operations.  SANSONE helped to control access to ADELGLASS and the lucrative prescriptions he wrote for medically unnecessary oxycodone.

Between in or about November 2017 and in or about September 2020, ADELGLASS prescribed more than 1.3 million oxycodone pills.  ADELGLASS generally dispensed these pills after conducting limited or no examination of the purported patient.  The purported patients who obtained oxycodone through ADELGLASS and SANSONE at the Clinic were often drug-addicted individuals who failed drug tests administered by the Clinic.  ADELGLASS nevertheless continued to prescribe large quantities of oxycodone to these patients, many of whom traveled long distances to obtain the illicit oxycodone from the Clinic. 

HOWARD ADELGLASS, 65, of New York, New York, and MARCELLO SANSONE, 35, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, are charged each with one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone illegally, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 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 defendants will be determined by the judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, NYPD, and HHS-OIG.  She also thanked for its assistance the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) Tactical Diversion Squad - New York City, which comprises agents and officers from the DEA, the NYPD, the New York State Police, New York State Department of Financial Services, New York National Guard, New York City Department of Investigation, and New York State Department of Health Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.



Over two miles of bus lanes and protected bike lanes to transform E.L. Grant Highway in Highbridge; “Double-header” project along wide, high-crash corridor

 Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) has completed a major transformation of the E.L. Grant Highway in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Administration officials and advocates cut the ribbon today on signature transit and bicycle safety improvements to the corridor, including a combined 2.4 lane miles of dedicated bus lanes and protected bike lanes (PBL), each running in both directions. The bus lanes will serve 56,000 riders every day, on three different bus routes.
NYC DOT has completed over 16 PBL miles so far in 2020, with more than nine more miles scheduled to be completed this year. The de Blasio administration has created more than 120 miles of on-street protected lanes; its recent pace represents about one of every five protected lane miles nationwide. NYC DOT also added four miles of bus lanes in the Bronx this year and 10.4 miles citywide, primarily as part of the Mayor’s Better Buses Restart.
“E.L Grant cuts through the heart of Highbridge, and the Bronx deserves safer and more reliable alternative transit options,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These transformative design changes will encourage bus and bike ridership, speed up Bronxites’ commutes, and save lives.”
“Today's announcement is another example of the truly transformative work this Administration is doing to ensure our streets are designed with all New Yorkers in mind," said Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin. "Bus riders, cyclists, pedestrians, now all have safer and more reliable infrastructure along one of the busiest corridors in the Bronx." 
“It is not often that one project can have such a dramatic impact on so many different road users, but with new red bus lanes and green bike lanes, E.L. Grant vividly shows the very best of what DOT can do,” said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “With these changes, bus riders get to their destinations faster, cyclists get protected lanes and pedestrians are able to cross a wide street much more safely.”
E.L. Grant Highway had seen 44 injuries on average per year from 2013-2017, including eight severe injuries. Bus and bike lanes have consistently proven to make streets safer for transit riders, cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.
NYC DOT has added ­­­­50.9 miles of bike lanes in the Bronx since 2016, including 5.7 miles so far this year. That includes projects such as Willis Avenue, Bronxdale Avenue, and Mosholu Avenue.
The E.L. Grant bus lane (.6 miles each way; 1.2 miles total), only the second center-running bus lane in the city, enhances a high-ridership corridor that had been plagued by double parking. The new lanes come with five new bus boarding islands offering benches and leaning bars for riders, while also calming traffic, shortening crossing distances, and improving pedestrian safety.
The E.L Grant PBL (.6 miles each way; 1.2 miles total) replaces a standard buffered bike lane with the full PBL treatment, including shortened crossing distances at five intersections including Jerome Avenue, 170th Street, Shakespeare Avenue, Nelson Avenue, and Plimpton Avenue. The project delivers a new signalized crossing at University Avenue and left turn restrictions at Plimpton Avenue, 169th Street and Nelson Avenue. Metered parking was also added to commercial areas and current meter regulations expanded.
Edward L. Grant Highway was named to honor former New York Giants baseball player and United States Army Captain Eddie Grant, who enlisted to fight in World War I in 1917 after his retirement from baseball. Grant was killed by an artillery shell during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October 1918 after his superior officers were killed and he led his remaining troops on a search for the Lost Battalion. Grant was the first Major League Baseball player killed in that war and one of only eight to die overall.
For more information about the de Blasio Administration’s Vision Zero initiative, please see For more on the City’s Better Buses Action Plan please see and for more on the New York City Green Wave plan for cycling, please see

Councilman Mark Gjonaj - Community Information COVID-19 Testing and More


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Turkey and Produce Giveaway at Community Board Ten


It was billed as a Holiday Turkey Giveaway by State Senator Biaggi at the Community Board Ten office on East Tremont Avenue. People began to arrive and line up one hour before the scheduled time. They were greeted by boxes and boxes of fresh vegetables and fruits being put into shopping bags by members of the Hunts Point Produce Market, and members of Community Board 10. These bags of produce were then handed out to the people waiting on line. 

Senator Biaggi arrived soon afterwards to give out face masks and information to the people waiting on line. While the turkeys arrived late, they were put into bags by the board members and others to be given out. When the turkeys ran out Senator Biaggi gave out some coupons for free turkeys to local Community Board Ten supermarkets. 

Above - A large truck arrived from the Hunts Point Market loaded with premium quality fruit and vegetables to hand out. The boxes are lined up at the curb after being unloaded. 

Below - The fruits and vegetables lined up before being put into bags and handed out to those on line.

Above - The fruits and vegetables are being put in bags by Members of Community Board Ten and others, as the CB 10 District Manager watches.

Below - Senator Biaggi hands out Face Mask and other information as you can see the bags of fruits and vegetables in the wagons. 

Member Of International Burglary Crew Pleads Guilty To Racketeering


Burglary Crew Conducted Over a Dozen Heists and Attempted Heists in the United States and Europe Between 2006 and 2017, Stole Over $10 Million in Jewelry

 Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the guilty plea of DAMIR PEJCINOVIC, a/k/a “Damian,” a/k/a “CoCo,” to participating in a criminal organization that committed a series of burglaries and engaged in the interstate transportation of stolen goods between 2006 and 2017.  PEJCINOVIC pled guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.  Gzimi Bojkovic, a/k/a “Jimmy,” pled guilty on October 7, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang.  Adrian Fiseku pled guilty on March 13, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang.  Elvis Cirikovic, a/k/a “Gorilla,” pled guilty on August 26, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As they have now admitted, the defendants were part of a sophisticated criminal enterprise that carried out burglaries on both sides of the Atlantic, to the tune of over $10 million.  We continue our daily work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate criminal organizations that commit crimes in New York City and elsewhere.  We especially want to thank the FBI and the NYPD for their outstanding work on this case.”

As alleged in the Indictment and statements made in open court:

Between 2006 and April 2017, DAMIR PEJCINOVIC, a/k/a “Damian,” a/k/a “CoCo,” Gzimi Bojkovic, a/k/a “Jimmy,” Adrian Fiseku, and Elvis Cirikovic, a/k/a “Gorilla,” participated in a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in, among other things, the commission of burglaries and interstate transportation and sale of stolen goods.  The criminal organization operated principally in New York City, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, and Europe.  Members and associates of the organization committed, conspired to commit, and attempted to commit numerous burglaries of jewelry stores and banks, as well as the interstate transportation and sale of stolen property from the burglaries.  PEJCINOVIC, Bojkovic, Fiseku, Cirikovic, and other members and associates of the criminal organization committed the following burglaries and attempted burglaries:

On March 29, 2008, PEJCINOVIC, Bojkovic, and Cirikovic participated in a burglary of a jewelry store in Manhattan, which resulted in the theft of jewelry valued at over $2.5 million.

On October 11, 2008, PEJCINOVIC and Cirikovic participated in an attempted burglary of a jewelry store in Germany, attempting to steal gold valued at more than €10 million.

On July 26, 2009, PEJCINOVIC and Bojkovic participated in a burglary of a jewelry store in Manhattan, which resulted in the theft of jewelry valued at over $850,000.

On August 25, 2010, PEJCINOVIC participated in an attempted burglary of a jewelry store in Manhattan.

On August 28, 2010, PEJCINOVIC and Bojkovic participated in a burglary of a jewelry store in Beverly Hills, which resulted in the theft of jewelry valued at over $70,000.

On September 5, 2010, PEJCINOVIC participated in a burglary of a jewelry store in Kansas City, which resulted in the theft, interstate transportation, and sale of jewelry valued at over $1 million.

On February 19, 2011, PEJCINOVIC, Cirikovic, and Fiseku participated in a jewelry store in Los Angeles, which resulted in the theft, interstate transportation, and sale of jewelry valued at over $3 million.

In the summer of 2011, PEJCINOVIC participated in an attempted burglary of a jewelry store in Brooklyn.

On September 16, 2011, PEJCINOVIC and Cirikovic participated in a burglary of a jewelry store in Los Angeles, which resulted in the theft of jewelry valued at over $150,000.

In the fall of 2012, PEJCINOVIC and Bojkovic participated in an attempted burglary of a bank in Philadelphia.

On June 30, 2012, PEJCINOVIC and Cirikovic participated in an attempted burglary of a bank in Scarsdale.

On July 22, 2012, PEJCINOVIC participated in an attempted burglary of a jewelry store in Manhattan.

In the fall of 2013, PEJCINOVIC, Bojkovic, and Cirikovic participated in the burglary of a jewelry store in New Jersey.

On December 31, 2016, PEJCINOVIC, Bojkovic, and Fiseku participated in the burglary of a jewelry store in Manhattan, which resulted in the theft, interstate transportation, and sale of jewelry valued at over $3 million.

On March 20, 2017, PEJCINOVIC, Bojkovic, and Fiseku participated in the burglary of a jewelry store in Los Angeles, which resulted in the theft of jewelry valued at over $2 million.                

PEJCINOVIC, Bojkovic, Fiseku, and Cirikovic each pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

PEJCINOVIC is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2021. 

Bojkovic was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero on November 17, 2020, to 36 months in prison. 

Fiseku is scheduled to be sentenced on January 22, 2021. 

Cirikovic was sentenced by Judge Marrero on January 13, 2020, to 27 months in prison.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and the NYPD.  Ms. Strauss also thanked the Los Angeles Police Department, Beverly Hills Police Department, Kansas City Police Department, Portland Police Department, German Federal Police, Interpol, Europol, the Office of International Affairs, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Violent & Organized Crime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew K. Chan, Margaret Graham, and Jamie Bagliebter are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.



Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams introduced a resolution in the City Council today that would recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20, and Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, as holidays within the City of New York. Both Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Day of Visibility are marked around the country, and specifically in New York, with vigils, protests, forums, and other actions and events, but the days are not currently formally recognized by the city. 

"The transgender community, particularly trans women of more color, are in a state of crisis, in our city and across the country. This constant struggle against systemic violence and oppression demands acknowledgment and action." said Public Advocate Williams in introducing the resolution. "The city government has a responsibility to stand with a community so often marginalized, to elevate people so often pushed down, to hear and speak to the pain and loss faced by transgender individuals in our city and work to upend the system that tacitly permits it. Recognizing these days is not a solution, but it is a step and a call to action for every other day, that our work must be to advocate and create opportunities for TGNC New Yorkers."

Transgender Day of Remembrance originated in 1999 when transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a well-known Black trans woman in Boston's trans and Black LGBTQ+ communities, who was brutally murdered the previous year.  Today, the day is commemorated to honor the memory of trans and gender nonconforming people who have lost their lives in acts of anti-trans violence.

A decade later, in response to the lack of positive recognition of trans people, trans activist Rachel Crandall started the International Transgender Day of Visibility to bring trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people together, celebrate their contributions to society, and raise awareness about discrimination faced by TGNC individuals.

Resolution 1487, and further recognition of these days of observance, would encourage people to prioritize inclusivity and equity with regard to TGNC New Yorkers and call attention to issues of systemic biases and individual transphobia. It would emphasize the need for specific and meaningful action by government to address the needs of the TGNC community.

New York State is home to more than 50,000 trans people, based on information from a June 2016 Williams Institute report. Trans people face systemic obstacles in employment, healthcare, housing, and many other areas of life, as well as disproportionate, entrenched, and targeted violence. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 34 trans or gender nonconforming people, the majority of whom were Black and Latinx, have been murdered in 2020, which is the highest number of deaths ever recorded.

Governor Cuomo Announces Updated COVID-19 Micro-cluster Focus Zones - NOVEMBER 19, 2020


Rockland County Yellow Zone Expanded; New Yellow Zones in Orange and Westchester Counties

Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 4.11 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 2.38 Percent     

Statewide Positivity Rate is 2.72 Percent

31 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced updated COVID-19 micro-cluster focus zones in New York State. Rockland County's Yellow Precautionary Zone will be expanded, and parts of Orange and Westchester counties will become Yellow Precautionary Zones due to increased cases, positivity, and hospital admissions from these areas. 

"If you look around the country, around the world, COVID is surging. In New York, we are not immune to what's happening around us - and with the cold weather and holiday travel, from here to January is going to be very dangerous. We're going to add some additional micro-cluster zones. While some areas have improved over the past weeks, other parts have seen a higher positivity rate," Governor Cuomo said. "These next few weeks will be challenging with the holidays, especially since we all want to see our loved ones after the year we have had, but we cannot let our guard down. Love is sometimes doing what's hard - this year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away, as hard as that is to say and hear. We can get through this if we all continue to wear our masks, stay socially distant, avoid gatherings, wash our hands and above all, stay New York Tough."

Modifications to Current Focus Zones

Rockland County - Click Here for Map 

The current Rockland zone will be expanded to include additional areas that have seen an increase in positivity and cases, including Pearl River, West Haverstraw, Stony Point and Suffern.

New Focus Zones

Orange County - Links to Maps Below

Newburgh, New WindsorMiddletown, and Highland Falls have seen an increase in positivity rates and number of daily cases, meeting the metrics for yellow precautionary zones.

Westchester County - Links to Maps Below

New RochelleOssiningTarrytownYonkers and Peekskill have all seen an increase in positivity rates and number of daily cases, meeting the metrics for precautionary yellow zones in each area. 

The Governor noted that the positive testing rate in all focus areas under the state's Micro-Cluster strategy is 4.11 percent, and outside the focus zone areas is 2.38 percent. Within the focus areas, 37,685 test results were reported yesterday, yielding 1,550 positives. In the remainder of the state, not counting these focus areas, 157,554 test results were reported, yielding 3,760 positives.

Today's data is summarized briefly below: 

  • Patient Hospitalization - 2,276 (+74)
  • Patients Newly Admitted - 342
  • Hospital Counties - 50
  • Number ICU - 437 (+14)
  • Number ICU with Intubation - 200 (+8)
  • Total Discharges - 82,507 (+246)
  • Deaths - 31
  • Total Deaths - 26,257

Third Avenue Business Improvement District - EAT ME. DRINK ME. // An evening with Coqui the Chef


Third Avenue Business Improvement District understands that this holiday season will be like no other we have encountered in our lifetime.  It will be difficult to not gather in traditional ways, but for the sake of our borough and City's public health we must do everything possible to stop the spread of coronavirus.  Even in these dark times, we can look to events and programs that make sharing the holidays a little easier and more festive.

folleto en español
Register // Registrarse
So we invite you to join us as we continue to promote #ShopSmall #ShopLocal and the holidays, by joining us for virtual events, holiday programs, and a different way to experience the South Bronx this season.  We like you are eager to get back to a time when we can gather in person and party - but for now, let's be safe and smart.

Mask Up.

Michael Brady
Chief Executive Officer

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced some changes to the COVID Cluster Initiative zones due to changes in the most recent testing data.
Two new yellow zones have been added in the Bronx. Third Avenue Business Improvement District and the Bruckner Blvd Commercial Corridor fall within these zones.
What does this mean?

  • Indoor and outdoor dining at still permitted, but with a 4 person maximum per table
  • Houses of workshop are limited to 50% of capacity
  • Non-essential gatherings limited to 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors
  • Schools remain open but with 20% weekly testing of in-person students and faculty. Per Mayor De Blasio's 11/18/2020 Executive Order, all NYC school buildings are temporarily closed.
Of course, all other existing City & State regulations and restrictions also remain in place.

Should your business have any questions please contact the BID offices at 718-665-3983.

Mayo de Blasio on the State of the City and COVID-19 Stats


Mayor Bill de Blasio: We're going to talk about several things today, but we should start by noting the most serious news of the day – that now, unfortunately, we now know that over a quarter million Americans have lost their lives during the COVID crisis, and it's important to pause and reflect on that. A quarter-million of our fellow Americans gone just in the course of months, and this crisis has been so staggering for all of us, and now a second wave bearing down on us in the city and the need to fight back, the need to have tough restrictions so clear now. We'll talk about that, and we're also going to talk about the things we have to keep doing to learn from this crisis and to recover, and to recover and have a better and fairer society, when we do. There's so much to talk about in terms of the disparities that have come up in this crisis and the things we have to do differently, so we're going to talk about that in a moment as well. 


But let me talk first about our schools. I want to say at the outset, all the families, to all the parents, to all the kids, that it’s a tough day. It was a tough decision yesterday. It was not something anyone could possibly be happy about, and I do want to say how much I feel and understand the frustration of parents that they want – so many of them want their kids to be in school, and that's what I fought for in opening our schools back in September against all odds. We will bring our schools back. This is the most important point. We will bring our schools back, but we're going to have to reset the equation. What's happened just in the matter of days, and you see it in the indicators we go over each day, is something is changing, it's changing rapidly in the city. We certainly see what's happening around the country. We've got to reset the equation. We have been safe – New York City has been extraordinary. The way we came back from being the epicenter of the crisis to being one of the safest places in the country, we got to keep it that way. We got to fight back the second wave. Our schools have been safe, extraordinarily safe. We got to keep it that way. We can't just stand pat with a strategy that worked before when conditions are changing, we need to reset the equation. We need to come up with even more stringent rules to make schools work and testing is going to be absolutely crucial. 


A lot of people's frustration emanated from the fact that they thought there was another kind of disparity. They looked at schools closing, and a lot of people say, what about restaurants?  Well, the Governor made clear yesterday that it's just a matter of time before indoor dining will close and other types of things, gyms, other things – anyone who heard those words, orange zone yesterday, the orange zone rules are clear and New York City will, before long, be in that orange zone status. I talked to the Governor at length about this yesterday, and that means those restrictions are coming. So, for everyone who honestly might feel somehow a little better, if they knew that indoor dining was going to be closed or gyms were going to be closed. I'm sorry to tell you that for the sake of those business owners and everyone who loves those gyms and loves indoor dining, it's just a matter of time. It's very likely to be in the next week or two, and I think you're going to see that across the board, that there's going to have to be a lot of tough choices to move us forward. 


But with schools, I am absolutely convinced we can work with all the stakeholders, work with the state, get to new tough standards and reopen, and we're going to let you know, in the next few days, what that looks like, what that schedule is, what it's going to require of all of us, because it will require all of us to participate, and parents, I'm going to tell you right now, we're going to need you to play an active role in helping us reopen schools, and that starts with getting those test consent forms in. A lot of parents have answered that call. I'm going to emphasize again, if you're someone who says, I really want schools open, the next thing you have to do is file that test consent form immediately. You can do that online. Get that in, so we know your child's ready to be tested because testing is going to be a crucial part of where we go from here to get schools open again. 


In the meantime, we will provide support to families in a variety of ways. Obviously Learning Bridges, our childcare program will be open. That's on a priority basis, starting with essential workers and families in greatest need, but that will be available to help a lot of families. Devices for our kids. We've been continuing to provide free devices for all the kids who need the technology they need to learn. Any child who does not have a device or it's not working, or the service isn't working, you just have to call 3-1-1 and we will get you a device or a new service as quickly as possible. In many cases that just takes a day or two. 


For families that need food, and as this crisis unfortunately deepens again, and the federal support hasn't come, the stimulus hasn't come, a lot of families need those grab and go meals from our schools, they will be provided continually at our schools, even as schools are closed for a period of time, the food service folks – I want to thank the food service workers who are doing amazing work – they will continue to provide food for families who need them, and that will be free, of course, so that will continue, and as the Chancellor always says, all children are learning today and we'll continue to learn in this all remote phase, and we will continue to do this work to get our schools back as quickly as possible. 


So that's the picture with our schools. Let's go back to the question of how we're going to respond to this crisis more broadly and how we're going to come back from it, because remember we do have – every day we've got better and better news on vaccines. We have a new administration in Washington. That's going to totally overhaul the approach to COVID and make it, I think, much better and clearer. We're ready to distribute the vaccine right now in the city, right? As we speak, we're ready. So, we have to turn our focus constantly also to that recovery that come back, but how to make it a fair comeback. We can't repeat the status quo that was in New York City. That's not going to help us. We got to do something different, and COVID uncovered extraordinary disparities, but they weren't just healthcare disparities. Let's be very, very clear about it. The racial and economic disparities go a lot farther than just health care. They go to the fundamental reality of how wealth is distributed in the city in this nation, and if you talk about structural racism, just follow the money. It's quite clear, no matter how hard people of color have worked, they do not get their fair share of the wealth they create, and that's something we have to do more to change in this city, in this country, and that's what our city task force – we've had great leaders in all of our city agencies that have focused on this issue. Leaders of color in every city agency who will have used their experience, their creativity to come up with new solutions, our Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson, and First Lady Chirlane McCray have led the way with the task force coming up with a variety of new approaches, and one of the ideas that is most powerful is what we term as equitable ownership, meaning making sure that there actually is a kind of redistribution of wealth that will change people's lives more profoundly, and that means that people of color get to own in this society, that they get a much greater share of the pie and what is rightfully theirs. That hasn't been the case, and that's why initiatives like special approaches to supporting minority and women owned businesses were created years ago, but they haven't done enough and we need to go a lot farther, and the way to make the MWBE concepts come alive is to up the ante all the time. We've been doing that for years, but we need to do it again, and when it comes to the ownership stake that we need women and minority owned firms to have one of the areas to look at is in affordable housing, because there's going to be a lot of investment going forward in affordable housing. One thing the city will never stop doing is investing in affordable housing. There's a lot of work to be done. There's a lot of construction to be done, and firms led by people of color need many more opportunities to have a piece of that pie. So, our Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been leading the way with a new approach, and I want to thank everyone there for their creativity, their energy, and here to talk about what equitable ownership will look like in affordable housing is our Commissioner for HPD Louise Carroll. 


Commissioner Louise Carroll, Department of Housing Preservation and Development: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio, and thank you also to Deputy Mayor Thompson and the First Lady for your leadership on the Task Force for Racial Inclusion and Equity. Lots of businesses have grown in the city from startups to wealthy companies. Many of them grew by doing a lot of work with New York City government yet rarely have we seen minority and women owned firms, MWBEs get this kind of opportunity for success. This is wrong, and this administration is working very hard to change that. Minorities and women-owned businesses, they form 85 percent of the population. If they don't prosper, the city doesn't prosper. Most MWBE firms are part of Black and Brown communities that have been hardest hit by COVID. These firms hire and train workers in their neighborhoods. Many workers have lost jobs due to this pandemic and these workers need help right now. So, dollars spent with MWBEs, when will enable people to get back on their feet. This is part of how New York City will recover from this pandemic. More than that, money spent with MWBEs will help repair the damage caused by decades of exclusion of people of color from business opportunities and jobs, and even more, more than that, when MWBEs and community not-for-profits own property, it is harder to dislocate them from their community or gentrify them out of their community. That is why starting now, HPD, when we award sites for affordable housing development, we will only consider teams that have an MWBE or not-for-profit partner, and that partner, must own at least 25 percent of the project. In the past and MWBEs and not-for-profits have been included in development teams, but when it comes to the money, it just wasn't there. We are putting an end to that. From now on and MWBE or a not-for-profit must both have a meaningful ownership stake in a project as well as a financial stake in a project. 


New York City is a great place. It has helped so many people from every corner of the country and indeed every corner of the world, people like me, get a foothold in their business or launch their careers. The people in this city have gone on to help others. They've gone on to invent things and build things and are admired everywhere, but it all starts with opportunity. When we open the doors of opportunity to all people, we unleash a flood of talent, and what that does is benefit all of us. We know that many people in the city see real estate development as something that happens to them as opposed to something that's happening for them. We're determined to change that in our housing policies. Our new policy is effective immediately. It will be in a request for proposals that HPD is issuing tomorrow for the development of vacant land in the Bedford-Stuyvesant part of Brooklyn. But this is just the beginning, there's more to come, and I thank you again, Mr. Mayor, for your leadership on this important issue. 


Mayor: Thank you so much, Commissioner, and Commissioner, you said a lot of important things there, but I want to harken back to the point you made about the city's greatness and who contributes to our greatness and who gets recognized and who doesn't get recognized. If I remember correctly, your family's originally from St. Lucia? 


Commissioner Carroll: Yes, sir. 


Mayor: And you know, you came to this city and brought your skills and talents, and now you're creating affordable housing for all New Yorkers. This is the New York story – that everyone has had opportunity, but not everyone has had equal opportunity, and that's what we need to fix, and actually making sure that the money is distributed fairly and putting tough rules in place to do it. It makes a world of difference. So you heard from the Commissioner – her story is an example of exactly what we want to foster and support, and you heard about the new approach, but now I want you to hear from someone who can tell you what it means for the businesses that will have the opportunity to grow and to reach out to their communities and bring more and more people into that opportunity, and it really is important to understand on a human level, what it means every time a minority and women owned business gets a contract. What literally happens to create empowerment in that community. So here to speak about it, and her story is one of great success. She is the CEO and founder of RF Wilkins Consultants, Francilia Wilkins Rahim, we welcome you. 


Francilia Wilkins Rahim, R.F. Wilkins Consultants: Thank you. Thank you, Mayor. Thank you for having me. I also want to thank the First Lady and Deputy Mayor Thompson for all of the amazing leadership on the Task Force of Racial Equity and Inclusion. And, last but not least, I want to thank you, Commissioner Carroll. Thank you. You know, it was only June when myself, the New York Real Estate Chamber and the Black Business Collaborative came to you on behalf of black business owners across New York City. We came to you and many other agency officials. We were concerned. We were concerned, because COVID was impacting 40 percent of Black business businesses across the United States. We were concerned, because when we looked at New York City, we saw that Black businesses were not having equitable access to New York City contracts. When the collaborative came to you, we wanted to see a shift. We wanted New York City contracts to reflect the Black population across the city. We wanted Black developers to have ownership across affordable housing development. We wanted oversight over agency-wide procurement. And, Commissioner, you heard us. So, thank you.  


You know, the truth is, challenges for Black businesses did not start with COVID. For far too long, we have been able – not able to have an equitable access across contracts. Every day, I speak to developers and business owners who say, why should I even try to participate and bid when I will be overlooked? Why should I try to access a development team when I may just be leveraged as a M/WBE check? You know, when I look at these things, I understand the concerns. These developers would share that Black businesses hire Black subcontractors, Black developers hire Black subcontractors, who in turn hire Black workforce, who, in turn, come from Black communities – a lot of the communities where affordable housing is being developed. 

So, it only makes sense that affordable housing developers look and represent and feel and understand the communities that development is happening in. 


You know, to conclude this, I just kind of go back to my story. In 2011, I founded R.F. Wilkins Consultants. At that time, I had no money. I had no relationships. I had very limited access. Today, we hire a diverse community of people. Mayor, you just talked about the New York story, and the New York story has been my story. Not only do we have hire a diverse community of people, but we have implemented some of the most difficult logistic project management and compliance projects across the State of New York. Every day is difficult, but I truly stand on the back of the Black business owners who came before me. Today is not only about contracts, it's about nourishing the Black ecosystem. It's about nourishing Black businesses and activating the next generation of leaders who will hopefully see more Black businesses, more Black business participation. There's still so much more to do, but we have business owners who are ready for a piece of the economic pie. We have a forward-thinking Mayor. We have agency commissioners, like you, Commissioner Carroll, who will ensure that Black businesses are not lost in the implementation of M/WBE programs. Every step towards equitable participation for Black businesses, every step towards acknowledging the disparity – and the disparity Every step towards supporting Black business growth is a step in the right direction. So, Mr. Mayor, thank you, thank you, thank you for your commitment. And we look forward to partnering with you in the future and continuing to support the growth of Black businesses. 


Mayor: Thank you. Thank you so much, Francilia. And what a powerful presentation. I can see why you succeeded. And I really appreciate your energy and I appreciate your hopeful message, even in a tough time. But Francilia’s story, another great New York story. It’s a reminder that great story can't just be for some people and then the ladder gets kicked away and others don't get to participate. It has to be for everyone. It has to be for all the generations coming up. And when we actually act with that spirit of fairness and equity, amazing things can happen. And one of the things I felt as I was listening to you was, you were already seeing the future, that we, again, we are going through so much, but we've got to get one foot into the future. And if we do the smart approaches to share the wealth in a better way, a lot more people are going to prosper and it's going to bring this city back a lot stronger. So, thank you for helping us light the way, Francilia.  


Okay. Everybody, let's conclude with our indicators and go over these now. First, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold 200 patients – today's report, 115 patients with a 34.45 percent confirmed positivity level. Again, we're watching this really carefully. This is the indicator that has been different than the others. Very concerned, to say the least. Haven't seen as much growth there as expected, that’s a good thing, but we are watching very, very carefully. So far, again, our hospitals are doing quite well handling the challenge. Number two though, is a different matter, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold 550 cases – this number just keeps growing and this worries me a lot, 1,255 cases. Now, we want to keep testing everyone. And again, I'm going to constantly remind people get out there and get tested. And that will account for some of the growth of those numbers. But, clearly, the trend goes beyond simply the fact that more and more people are getting tested, got keep a close eye there. And now, the percentage of people tested citywide positive for COVID-19, threshold five percent – today's report, 2.36 percent. Today’s seven-day rolling average 3.01 percent.