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Archive for the tag 'government'

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, facing a 20-count indictment on tax evasion, fraud and illegal hiring practices, may now head to trial in October, a month before elections.

SILive reports:

Speaking at a status conference in Brooklyn federal court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gatta said that motion procedures and hearings in the case could be held by the end of September, with a trial to begin the following month.

… Gatta said that the discovery in the case is “not particularly voluminous” and that the case itself “is fairly straightforward.”

Grimm’s new attorney, Daniel Rashbaum, said that that “schedule may be OK. I don’t know yet.”

He sought a three- or four-week delay so that he could look at the evidence. By then, Rashbaum said, he’d have a better idea “what the discovery looks like in my mind.”

But U.S. District Court Judge Pamela K. Chen said she would give Rashbaum, who notified the court last week that he was taking over the defense, two weeks to “dive into the material.”

Prior to the conference yesterday, observers believed Grimm would not go to trial until after the November 4 elections, when he faces off against Democrat Domenic Recchia. If the prosecution’s request for an October court date is granted, it would be a significant blow to the pol, who will have to fight simultaneously for his seat and his freedom.

Flyer for Gravesend & Bensonhurst Public Engagement Meeting #1

In an expansion of the state New York Rising initiative to improve resiliency in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, a new committee has been created to strengthen Bensonhurst and Gravesend, with the first meeting scheduled for this Sunday.

New York Rising aims to recruit locals for identifying key community assets and gather their thoughts on the best way to protect them from future disasters.

The workshop this weekend focuses on evaluating the damage from Sandy, gathering feedback and proposals, and creating a vision for the community moving forward. Backed with $3 million from the state and federal governments earmarked specifically for our neighborhood, contracted consultants then use the feedback to draw up several proposals. The ideas are presented to the community for feedback.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m., at Bensonhurst Park on Bay Parkway.

To learn more about New York Rising, go here. For a comprehensive rundown of the effects of Sandy on the community and key assets the committee is already looking into, check out this presentation.

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Grimm

Legal and financial troubles appear to be fueling recruitment troubles at the offices of beleaguered Congressman Michael Grimm if a desperate-sounding e-mail to colleagues is any indication.

Politico reports:

Grimm’s deputy chief of staff sent an email Wednesday afternoon asking downtowners to help her find a health and education legislative assistant.

“As you can imagine it hasn’t been easy to find a qualified candidate who wants to live on the edge and take a chance working for Rep. Grimm,” wrote [Grimm's Deputy Chief of Staff] Blaire Bartlett. “Ideally this person would have legislative experience. Hill experience would be great and NYC experience would be amazing, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?”

I don’t know about legislative assistants, but if he needs some social media help I know a group of 16-year-old girls who’d love to pitch in.

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Grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm raised just $23,430 for his reelection campaign last month, less than a tenth of the $261,693 pulled in by his opponent, Democrat Domenic Recchia.

The Observer reports:

The campaign’s Schedule A form lists just 18 individual donors — some of them residing at the same address — though some made more than one transaction. Three of the donors are associated with the Savo Brothers construction firm, with each giving $1,300 in July. The firm has drawn the ire of many on Staten Island after it purchased a former Jesuit retreat space, Mount Manresa, where it plans to tear down old-growth trees and building hundreds of townhouses. The Savos have also donated to other local officials in the past.

… Mr. Grimm’s [approximately $13,000 in] expenditures for the month were limited to payroll costs for just a handful of campaign staffers, administrative expenses like cell phone bills and one $250 expense for an ad with a local Rolling Thunder motorcycle group.

With little cash to spend on mailings or television ads, the skilled retail politician has been hitting local events like parades and festivals in his district, where the he’s often overwhelmed by people who want to take pictures with him or shake his hand.

The congressman’s campaign warchest began showing signs of distress in the spring, after Grimm was slapped with a 20-count indictment for mail fraud, tax evasion and perjury. He’s receiving no support from national Republicans, and it appears all but a handful of local boosters have backed away.

Grimm also faces double-duty for fundraising. In addition to his campaign, he’s won approval to create a legal defense fund to fight the charges against him.

The filings show he slightly more than $1 million on hand, although the campaign carries $438,565 in debt stemming from his legal defense as part of a separate investigation into alleged improprieties in his campaign fundraising.

Recchia has just shy of $1.3 million cash on hand with no debt, giving him a significant spending advantage.

michael grimm blurred sweet 16

Source: Twitter via Business Insider

Embattled Congressman Michael Grimm reportedly flirted with swooning teenage girls at a Sweet 16 and promised to take one to her high school prom.

Business Insider reports:

Based on a series of since-deleted tweets, Grimm, who was once labeled one of the “sexiest bachelors in Congress” and one of the “most beautiful people” in Washington, made quite the impression among the teenage crowd.

“F***ing Michael Grimm is going,” one teen wrote on Twitter in a series of posts. “I’m gonna dance with him all night and make him fall in love with me.”

Grimm reportedly promised her that wouldn’t be their last encounter.

“He told me he’s taking me to prom I was like you fricking better,” the teen wrote.

Another teen quoted a conversation between some of the giggly gals:

“‘Michael Grimm is coming.’ ‘Oh sh** now I have to wear nice underwear,’” she wrote.

The congressman’s spokesperson told the outlet that the girl’s family are personal friends and he was invited to attend. The identity of all the girls have been redacted to protect their privacy as minors.

It is unknown if he threatened to throw any of the teenage males at the party off of a balcony or break them like boys.

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A Staten Island supporter and fundraiser for embattled Congressman Michael Grimm put out a letter saying the pol’s Democratic opponent, Domenic Recchia, wants to build “low-income housing in our neighborhoods,” spurring accusations of racially charged “fear mongering.”

The New York Post reports:

Staten Island Republican Party vice chair Bill D’Ambrosio wrote a July 9 fundraising letter on Grimm’s behalf claiming that Democrat Dominic Recchia would be a champion of low-income housing in the congressional district that covers mostly-white Staten Island and more racially mixed south Brooklyn.

Recchia’s base is in Brooklyn; Grimm’s is on Staten Island.

“His [Recchia’s] strategy for becoming Staten Island’s congressman relies on using votes from Brooklyn housing projects . . . Staten Islanders should have no doubt that this Brooklyn political hack will sell them out to pay back these votes, and surely build low-income housing in our neighborhoods with his cronies at City Hall,” D’Ambrosio said.

Keep reading to see the full letter, the response from Democrats, and how the Grimm campaign is doubling down on the allegation.

Source: smokershighlife/Flickr

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Tuesday that his office will no longer prosecute first-time offenders arrested for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, suggesting it’s been a waste of resources that unfairly targets young men of color.

The DA laid out the new policy in a press release, saying that he will decline to prosecute marijuana cases where the defendent has no prior arrests or a minimal criminal record, and has given authorities a verifiable name and address. However, his office also provided a list of exceptions that may be prosecuted. The exceptions include cases where a defendant is nabbed smoking in public, is a sex offender, has an open warrant or the marijuana is found as a result of search warrant.

Here’s Thompson’s full statement:

“My office and the New York City Police Department have a shared mission to protect the public and we will continue to advance that goal. But as District Attorney, I have the additional duty to do justice, and not merely convict, and to reform and improve our criminal justice system in Brooklyn,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders. Pursuant to this policy, we will use our prosecutorial discretion to decline to prosecute, and dismiss upfront, certain low-level marijuana possession cases based on criteria concerning the particular individual and the circumstances of the case. For example, cases will be dismissed prior to arraignment for those with little or no criminal record, but we will continue to prosecute marijuana cases which most clearly raise public health and safety concerns.

“This policy does not express approval for the use of marijuana and should not be interpreted as such. The policy will not apply to those who smoke marijuana in public, or in the presence of children. It will not apply to 16 and 17-year-old offenders, who instead will be redirected on to a healthier path through a diversion program. It will not apply to those with a serious criminal history, to those who are known to act in a dangerous manner while under the influence, or to those who have a history of selling drugs to children,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“If the conduct in which the offender has engaged is the mere possession of a small amount of marijuana in public, it would not, under most circumstances, warrant saddling that offender with a new criminal conviction and all of its attendant collateral consequences related to employment, education and housing,” the District Attorney said.

“Furthermore, in 2013, this office processed well over 8,500 cases where the top charge was a class ‘B’ misdemeanor marijuana possession. More than two-thirds of those cases ended up being dismissed by judges, most often because the defendant was offered an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal at his or her criminal court arraignment. The processing of these cases exacts a cost on the criminal justice system and takes a toll on the individual. Given that these cases are ultimately — and predictably — dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit,” the District Attorney added.

The news of Thompson’s decision will not mean a policy shift for the New York Police Department. Regardless of prosecution, possessing marijuana remains illegal, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the announcement “will not result in any changes” at the department, suggesting cops will still make the bust.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers proposed the Fairness and Equity Act yesterday, which seeks to implement the spirit of Thompson’s decision statewide. The act aims to address racial disparities in the arrests by slashing the penalty for possession from a misdemeanor to a violation that carries a fine. It would also allow those previously convicted of possession to clear their record.

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman William Colton and Councilman Mark Treyger:

Council Member Mark Treyger and Assembly Member William Colton are pleased to announce that the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) has included a number of local streets in this year’s resurfacing plan at their request on behalf of the community. The DOT currently plans to resurface Bay Parkway from 81st Street to 86th Street and the majority of 86th Street from 14th Avenue to Stillwell Avenue this summer, with nighttime milling work set to begin July 28 and nighttime repaving starting August 11. Council Member Treyger and Assembly Member Colton are still working with the DOT to have Stillwell Avenue from 86th Street to Harway Avenue added to the DOT’s repaving plan.

In addition, the following streets have been included in the DOT’s September repaving schedule: Kings Highway from 78th Street to McDonald Avenue; Bay 29th Street from 86th Street to Cropsey Avenue; 19th Avenue from 61st Street to 86th Street; 80th Street from Bay Parkway to Stillwell Avenue; and Cropsey Avenue from Bay Parkway to 26th Avenue. While this is the current plan for September, the DOT cautions that minor changes could occur at the last minute in terms of exact locations or timing.

“Having smooth, pothole-free streets are a basic but vital part of every neighborhood’s infrastructure, and the incredibly harsh winter has obviously left many local roads in very bad shape. In response, we have worked closely with the DOT over the past few months to identify the worst stretches and make sure that important neighborhood thoroughfares like Bay Parkway, 86th Street, Kings Highway and others were included in this year’s resurfacing schedule. Maintaining and improving the quality of life for residents across Bensonhurst and Gravesend is a top priority for both of our offices, so we will continue to work with city agencies to deliver the services and resources that our community deserves,” said Council Member Treyger and Assembly Member Colton.

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The sediment-filled waste coming out of a covered sewer overflow pipe. (Source: Pete Castro)

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Event flier. Click to enlarge.

We broke the story last week about neighbors’ concerns over potentially toxic runoff from a Department of Environmental Protection operation to clean out the sewers in Coney Island. Now Councilman Mark Treyger is keeping good to his word, organizing a public meeting with the agency to bring its representatives into the community to hear residents out and answer questions.

Treyger announced yesterday that the meeting will take place Tuesday, July 8, at 4:00 p.m. at the Coney Island YMCA (2980 West 29th Street). The topic isn’t just the spillage occurring on West 33rd Street, where black gunk is flowing from a sewer outfall pipe into Coney Island Creek. It’s also about the project behind it – a long-awaited effort by the agency to clear out blocked sewer lines peninsula-wide, which they say will reduce the amount of street flooding during storms.

The local pol will be at the meeting, joined by Deputy Commisioner for Water and Sewer Operations Jim Roberts, and they’ll be giving an overview of the project and answering questions from the public.

The meeting is open to everybody. For more information, contact Treyger’s office at (718) 307-7151.

Gentile's new office was previously Ellen Fish Market. New signage is on the way. (Source: Google Maps)

Gentile’s new office was previously Ellen Fish Market. New signage is on the way. (Source: Google Maps)

Councilman Vincent Gentile has announced new digs for his district office, now open at 8018 5th Avenue, bringing it several blocks closer to Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights.

The office operated for years out of 8703 3rd Avenue, but the new space opened up this Monday as the old one shuttered its doors for good.

According to Gentile spokesperson Justin Brannan, the new location is still a work in progress, with signage and more on the way. Brannan notes it’ll be fully up to speed within a few days, and then a grand opening party will follow.

While the finishing touches might take some time, the office is fully operational when it comes to assisting constituents. Phone numbers and hours are staying the same, so you can call (718) 748-5200, e-mail vgentile@council.nyc.gov or stop by the new storefront for help.

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