Subscribe for FREE with:

Archive for the tag 'politics'

Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Mark Treyger:

Council Member Mark Treyger is renewing his call for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, New York City Department of Transportation and other city and state government agencies to take immediate steps to better protect its customers from identify theft, especially when using a credit or debit card to purchase a MetroCard or pay for parking at a Muni-Meter. His requests come in light of reports that skimming devices used to steal banking information were discovered installed on vending machines at the 59th Street Columbus Circle subway station and at the Baldwin, Long Island LIRR station in the past two weeks. Councilman Treyger first expressed concern about the potential for residents to become victims of identity theft while using credit cards at ticketing machines last year before taking office after five individuals were arrested for planting cameras in machines at several Long Island train stations to record customers’ personal identification and credit card numbers.

“As I said months ago, the MTA and other agencies including the DOT must take steps to ensure that the public is not left vulnerable to identify theft. It is clear that criminals are using more creative and advanced ways to gain valuable personal banking information from unsuspecting residents and that this problem is becoming more and more prevalent in our city. The time has come for every government agency to review the steps they have in place to protect customers and not leave them vulnerable to this type of crime,” said Council Member Treyger.

This week, the MTA reported that a card-skimming device and hidden camera was found connected to a MetroCard vending machine at the southbound 1 train platform at 59th Street Columbus Circle. It was discovered Wednesday night by an alert subway rider who alerted a token booth clerk. Last week, credit card reading devices and hidden cameras were discovered attached to ticket machines at the LIRR’s Baldwin station during an inspection, and similar devices were used last year at stations along the Port Washington line. In addition to concern over this activity occurring at train and subway stations, Council Member Treyger believes that Muni-Meter machines remain especially vulnerable to identity theft, especially since they are often located in areas that are not monitored by cameras or routinely inspected.

In response, Councilman Treyger is calling for a full review of the procedures currently in place for the MTA, DOT and other agencies to prevent and respond to instances of identity theft. These steps include reviewing procedures for routinely inspecting machines for tampering, posting warnings on the machines alerting customers to take precautions against fraud, better informing customers when there has been a security breach impacting their credit card and increasing security around all machines to deter criminal activity and to assist in investigations should an incident occur.

“Identity theft is an incredibly serious crime that can take years for a victim to resolve. Right now, the reality is that customers are open to being victimized while using government-owned machines. I plan on working with the various city and state agencies and my colleagues on all levels of government to immediately put safeguards in place to help prevent any other New Yorkers from being targeted,” added Councilman Treyger.

One of the campaign's posters. Click to enlarge.

One of the campaign’s posters. Click to enlarge.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind claims that the Department of Transportation has blocked his attempt to put up advertisements calling for the deportation of a Queens man believed to be a Nazi war criminal on bus shelters near the man’s home.

Hikind announced a campaign in early March to roll out MTA posters and ads urging the community to call for the deportation of Jakiw Palij, 91. He also launched a petition calling for the same.

The ads ask residents “Would you be a Nazi’s neighbor?” According to the pol, Palij, of Jamaica, Queens, was a guard in a Nazi labor camp, a charge the accused denies. Hikind, though, said the U.S. Justice Department has ordered Palij and others deported – but can’t do so because no country will accept him.

Hikind wants him sent to Germany.

“Germany created the Holocaust,” said Hikind in a press release last month. “They financed it. They paid for the uniforms and the gas chambers. Let Germany take responsibility for these Nazis.”

The ads never made it to bus shelters as planned, though. The pol signed a contract with the company that manages shelter advertising for the DOT in February, but the ads were never posted. The DOT could not explain the delay, according to the Daily News.

Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that Build it Back payments were finally in the mail, and that some construction projects are now underway. The city’s new director of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson, elaborated on the numbers at a hearing on Monday, saying only $100,000 in reimbursement checks have been mailed, and only six construction projects have begun.

That’s out of 20,000 applications.

The numbers came out during a hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, headed by Councilman Mark Treyger. The seven-hour long hearing was spent blasting the program, for which even its new leadership agreed needs a jumpstart.

Metro reports:

The city’s new Director of Housing Recovery Amy Peterson admitted to the Build it Back’s blunders and “overly complicated” process but promised to turn it around.

“Early missteps, unrealistic assumptions and overly complicated processes have hindered rebuilding,” she testified to the Council.

Peterson, who started her tenure on Monday as well, vowed to make up for the setbacks.

“We’re going to make sure the money gets out to people,” she said.

Peterson added that another $800,000 worth of checks will be mailed this week.

Treyger and others used the opportunity of the first public hearing on Build it Back to detail the program’s shortcomings.

“Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources, and other problems have thwarted the building of even a single home,” he said, according to Brooklyn Daily.

The new chief attributed the problems to a lack of resources, and burdensome bureaucracy, according to the Daily report.

“This process includes multiple different steps in which customers interface with variety of different contractors and specialists,” she said. “From a process standpoint, the continued passing of responsibility from one contractor to another has had the effect of diminishing accountability.”

… Other problems were the result of federal requirements, Peterson said. The program was designed to not repeat the sins of past disaster relief programs, which were rife with contractor fraud and shoddy construction.

“The intent was for clients of the program to feel assured that construction would be done correctly, to the resilient building standards, and that they would bear no risk that funds would be reclaimed or extorted,” she said.

The Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, at their meeting last night, said that after a long silence neighbors have started receiving calls from the program. Officials are setting up appointments to discuss the options for which the victims qualify, and compensation packages are being drawn up.

But the group also said that too many questions about the process remain unanswered.

“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about it,” said civic president Kathy Flynn. “We’re getting a lot of questions … we don’t have the answers. And every time they send out another e-mail,” it seems the terms have changed.

Flynn said that although the signs of movement are positive, she’s not optimistic.

“I’m not counting on them to give me anything. If I count on it, it’ll be another five years. Or forever,” she said.

Vision ZeroThe Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic-related fatalities has been met with mixed reviews in car-dependent neighborhoods like those in Southern Brooklyn. Many applaud the city’s intention, but share concerns that it will unfairly penalize drivers.

Now there’s an opportunity to let legislators know how you feel about various elements of the plan, and where they can do better.

There will be a town hall meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon Street) on Tuesday, April 1, at 7 p.m., where Brooklyn residents are invited to discuss the action plan outlining how to eliminate traffic-related fatalities.

Among the initiative’s proposals is an increase in police enforcement for moving violations, implement speed and red-light cameras and reduce the citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour. The plan also calls for closer scrutiny of accidents that result in critical injuries or death, and to re-engineer street designs to make them safer for pedestrians. You can see a more complete list of the Vision Zero proposals here.

Local pols have pushed for the opportunity to give voice to residents, hoping to collaborate on the implementation of proposals rather than have them handed down from up high.

“Nobody knows the streets in your community better than you do,” said Councilmember Chaim Deutsch in a press release. “This town hall meeting will give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns and speak out on potentially dangerous traffic locations.”

According to his release:

Community members who attend the meeting will be provided the opportunity to point out specific problem locations throughout the borough where they perceive hazards or additional safety concerns to exist. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other city council members representing Brooklyn neighborhoods will also be in attendance.

 

Hikind, left, and Greenfield, right.

Hikind, left, and Greenfield, right.

We reported on Wednesday that an elderly London man was pushed down and had his face bashed against the sidewalk by a thug early Tuesday morning in Borough Park. The attack was decried as a potential anti-Semitic “knockout” assault by Councilman David Greenfield. On Thursday, we followed with a report from CBS that police said the man recanted his story and was, in fact, not attacked.

And now the story keeps going. Greenfield issued a statement last night calling the CBS report erroneous, and confirming that the man still believes he was attacked. Here’s the statement:

The following is the victim’s statement regarding the incident and the subsequent investigation and media coverage, as provided to Councilman Greenfield directly from the victim:

“I was returning from a wedding at about 2 a.m. on Monday night and am convinced that I was attacked from the back and pushed to the floor, face down. However after extensive interrogations by the police, I recognise that there is a possibility that due to the shock of the incident and my injuries I was confused and disorientated and it may be that I tripped in the dark and hurt my face when falling down.

I am distraught by the statement which was publicised by CBS today suggesting that I was lying. This is a libellous statement which damages both my own and my family’s reputation, and I have already informed CBS that I intend to sue them for defamation unless I am convinced that my name and reputation are restored, which CBS assured me would be the case.

As for the police, the Detective assured me that his report doesn’t suggest anything other than that I was absolutely truthful and helpful in their investigation.”

Councilman Greenfield also issued the following statement: “While it’s not clear exactly what occurred on Tuesday morning, two things are clear: this individual suffered serious injuries in the incident, and the NYPD fully believes that he has been truthful with them. The victim in no way lied or attempted to mislead the NYPD. I have confirmed that information directly with the supervising officer investigating this case. I have every confidence that the NYPD will continue to diligently investigate this case and trust that they will reach the appropriate conclusion.”

CBS has not exactly changed the substance of its report, though they updated its online version with the remarks above.

Meanwhile, the whole thing has gotten very political, bringing to light the tensions between Greenfield and local Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who have a long-running (if often private) feud.

It appears Hikind released a statement following the claims that the victim recanted, wagging his finger at an unnamed politician – presumably Greenfield – for calling it a knockout attack.

“It’s important not to make statements until matters are clarified. Sending out false alarms and panicking people is counter-productive. We do our homework first, as we did in this case. The police made it very clear to us on Tuesday, immediately after we were called, that this matter was not indeed a Knockout Attack, so why call it that?,” the statement said. The statement was headlined, “FALSE REPORTING: A DANGEROUS HABIT, SAYS HIKIND”.

Greenfield, after reading the statement from the victim on his radio show, then took Hikind to task – also without naming him.

The Observer reports:

“‘False reporting’? There was no false reporting. This person gave an honest report with the information that they had. A ‘dangerous habit’? The implication that this individual is somehow a habitual liar. That’s ridiculous! That’s absolutely ridiculous!” Mr. Greenfield exclaimed. “This stuff happens behind the scenes. I usually never discuss it. But I’m really, really outraged today. Here I am. I work hard. I’ve worked from early morning to late at night and other people have nothing better to do and nothing positive to add to the conversation. All they do is take potshots at you.”

“If someone comes into my community, and its a tourist, and they feel like they’ve been attacked, well I’ll tell you what other elected official: I’m going to fight for them! And shame on you for criticizing me. And shame on you for creating machlokes [conflict]. And shame on you for sinas chinem [baseless hatred]. And shame on you for criticizing a victim,” continued Mr. Greenfield.

Hikind’s response?

“His 15-minute rant left everyone who heard it flabbergasted. Was it paranoia? Theatrics? I hadn’t attacked anyone,” he told the Observer.

Source: Nathan James/Flickr

Legislation aimed at reducing auto insurance fraud in New York State passed the Senate on Monday, bringing the bill which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel the policies of fraudsters one step closer to law.

The Senate bill was sponsored by State Senator Marty Golden, who describes it in this press release:

Today the New York State Senate passed S1959A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel policies taken out by people who commit auto fraud. These criminals often take out policies and pay for them with bad checks or stolen credit cards just before they stage accidents. Under current law, insurance companies cannot cancel the policy and policyholders wind up paying for it through higher premiums. This bill would take that burden off honest consumers and therefore lower the insurance rates.

“Auto insurance fraud is costing New Yorkers millions of dollars, and it’s time that fair and honest members of our community stop paying for the crimes of others,” stated Senator Golden. “This legislation will give insurance companies the right to revoke insurance policies for those who try to game the system.”

This measure would bring New York in line with the other large no-fault states and remove any incentives for staged accidents. In fact, only seven other states (AZ, CO, KS, ME, MD, NC and SD) do not allow for retroactive cancellation. Innocent victims of uninsured drivers would be covered under their own policy or the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation.

The bill, which you can read here, now moves onto the Democratic-led Assembly, where it has support from a number of Democrats, including local Assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Dov Hikind.

Previous versions of this bill – and two others passed by the Senate to combat auto fraud – died in the Assembly.

Auto fraud continues to be an ongoing issue in Southern Brooklyn. The longest-running and largest auto insurance scam ring in history ended in April 2012, when authorities busted 36 individuals – many of them Southern Brooklyn residents – using anti-Mafia RICO laws. The individuals were accused of exploiting New York’s “no-fault” insurance law, which allows drives and passengers to obtain up to $50,000 for accidents injuries regardless of fault.

Prior to that, another ring was busted in Brooklyn, leading to the arrest of 16 people for allegedly ripping off companies for $400,000 between 2009 and 2011.

Councilman Mark Treyger is pushing new legislation that would require snow plows to have flashing lights and a make beeping noises, following the plow-related deaths of two Brooklynites this winter.

The two victims were killed by plows within two weeks of each other. On February 3, an elderly man was struck and killed by a plow in Brighton Beach in front of the Oceana complex. On February 13, a pregnant 36-year-old woman was killed by a plow clearing out the parking lot of a Borough Park market.

Treyger’s bill, first reported on by the Daily News, will require plows to have lights and “a loud, distinctive noise” to let pedestrians know when a plow is approaching.

“You’re dealing with low visibility,” he told the paper. “If we can buy a few seconds for these pedestrians to give them time to react, this could save a life.”

The new regulations, however, would not have prevented the two deaths cited. Both were killed by private CAT-style vehicles repurposed for snow removal. Treyger’s bill only affects Department of Sanitation snow plows, and other plows contracted by the city.

The new rules might have helped the man who was knocked off his feet by a tsunami of snow created by a speeding Sanitation truck in February. The man, walking on Coney Island Avenue, was knocked down and injured by a wave of snow that also broke the windows of a nearby storefront, and he is now mulling a lawsuit against the city. He said he never saw the truck coming.

UPDATE (March 28, 2014): Councilman Treyger’s office got in touch to note an error int he Daily News version. In actuality, there are two bills on the table, extending this new regulation to privately-operated plows as well. See the statement below:

Councilman Mark Treyger (D – Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Seagate, Gravesend) announces new legislation to require all vehicles engaged in the removal of snow on roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and pedestrian walkways to be outfitted with flashing lights and audible warning systems. This legislation, which follows the recent deaths of three pedestrians who were stuck and killed by snowplows in Brooklyn, would apply to plows operated by the City of New York and privately owned plows.

“Snowplows are vehicles we deploy during times of emergency” asserts Treyger. “We should be treating them like emergency vehicles. Furthermore, during a snowstorm, you’re dealing with low visibility and it is easy for pedestrians to be blindsided. This is precisely what happened to Min Lin, a pregnant mother, who was killed in Sunset Park this past winter. Anything we can do to buy a few seconds forpedestrians and give them time to react could save lives. The state of Ohio has already passed a similar bill and it’s high time New York City caught up on this important issue.”

NYCHA Making Public Housing Residents Without Heat, Hot Water, or Electricity Pay Rent in Full

Coney Island public houses have broken down on the winter’s coldest days (Source: forum.skyscraperpage.com)

After struggling through mid-winter breakdowns of heating equipment, residents of the 110 New York City Housing Authority buildings damaged in Superstorm Sandy are set to get some relief within the next six months as FEMA has agreed to cover the cost of new permanent boilers.

Issues with the boilers came to light after the February hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, where local pols took NYCHA and FEMA officials to task for leaving residents in the cold. Temporary boilers, which the city has paid approximately $3 million per month to rent, proved to be shoddy replacements that failed to withstand New York winters, and many broke down in the coldest days of winter.

NYCHA told the committee that repairs were not slated until 2016, by which time they’ll have cost taxpayers at least $120 million to rent.

“For more than 16 months, bureaucratic infighting and red tape have denied NYCHA residents the most basic of necessities — reliable heat and hot water,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, as he stood beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference announcing the deal.

Federal and city authorities announced on Sunday that all of the affected housing buildings, which serve 8,862 apartments, will get new boilers with the process kicking off within six months.

Under the deal, FEMA is sending the cash-strapped agency more than $100 million to cover the estimated costs to replace 60 boilers. The federal agency has agreed to also cover the $56 million the public housing authority has so far spent renting the temporary equipment. It is not yet clear if that is a separate allotment, or is being taken from the $100 million price tag.

The news was warmly received by Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the Recovery and Resiliency Comittee and represents many of the affected buildings in Coney Island.

“This announcement is a great step towards returning a sense of normalcy to the lives of people impacted by the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Treyger. “Residents in these buildings have gone far too long without dependable and safe living conditions. No one should have to live through the winter not knowing if they will have heat and hot water from one day to the next. Continuing to invest in our critical infrastructure, like replacing damaged boilers in NYCHA developments, is the only way for our city to fully recover. I applaud Senator Schumer and Mayor de Blasio for their efforts in securing this funding and am committed to continuing the fight on behalf of all Sandy impacted communities.”

There may be more funding on the way.  Schumer is pushing for $175 million in federal funding to raise boilers, backup generators and change the way several NYCHA complexes receive their heat and electricity. Schumer said yesterday that he expects NYCHA to receive some type of mitigation funding to raise boilers out of the flood zone.

A smart chip-equipped credit card. (Source: DennisSylvesterHurd/Flickr)

State Senator Marty Golden, citing a rise in credit card fraud in his district and beyond, is touting legislation he co-sponsored last month that would require credit card companies to install smart chip technology in every card issued to a New York State resident.

Golden held a press conference in Bay Ridge on Friday to advocate for the legislation, saying that merchants in his district have reported a spate of credit and debit card fraud, as well as “hackers” who have stolen data from local businesses. He was joined by Third Avenue Merchants Association President Robert Howe as well as Dimitri Akhrin, president of the Bank Associates Merchant Services.

“This legislation would require smart chip technology to be incorporated in our debit and credit cards to help protect against identity theft. Over the past few weeks, my district has been targeted by hackers who have been able to break through the security walls of some local stores. The false charges reported to my office have been made in Brooklyn, Long Island, Connecticut and event [sic] Puerto Rico,” said Senator Golden in a press release.

The senator cited Bureau of Justice Statistics reports estimating that 16.6 million people have suffered from identity theft in 2012 to 2013, 15.3 million of whom had an incident involving a debit or credit card.

According to tech site NerdWallet, manufacturers and advocates say smart chips are a safer alternative to magnetic stripe cards. Smart chips store encrypted account information and cannot be read by swiping. Instead they’re scanned into a terminal that reads the chip and can require a pin number to decrypt the chip’s information. They are not susceptible to common data scamming techniques as are magnetic strips, such as swiping, which allows fraudsters doubling as waiters or cashiers to discreetly pass your card through a handheld device that stores the card’s data.

Smart chips do have their own vulnerabilities, but the website notes that implementation in Europe has seen dramatic decreases in fraud.

The bill, which can be read here, was introduced on February 14 by upstate Senator Joseph Griffo with Golden as a co-sponsor. The Assembly version was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.

American companies have been slow to adopt the technology because of the cost of replacing existing systems, including in-store point-of-sale systems and ATMs. The legislation does not address who will foot the bill, suggesting the business-owners will have to invest in new hardware if the law passes.

Source: Lilikakis campaign.

A second Republican has announced his campaign for the New York State Assembly seat currently occupied by Alec Brook-Krasny.

Bay Ridge resident Stamatis “Steve” Lilikakis issued a press release yesterday afternoon, touting his experience as a small business owner and involvement in local community organizations.

He also took a few shots at the Democratic incumbent, attempting to link him to Albany dysfunction.

“Over the past two years, the communities of the 46th Assembly district have been hit by tremendous challenges,” said Lilikakis in the release. “From Superstorm Sandy, to stubbornly high unemployment, and cuts to vital local services, our neighborhoods need leadership that can produce solutions.”

Lilikakis continued, “Instead of leadership, the current Assemblyman has been silent as the NYS Assembly has been mired in scandal after scandal and incapable of addressing our concerns. We need someone in Albany who fights for us, not for their job, and that’s exactly what I’ll do as your Assemblyman.”

Lilikakis owns an outerwear business located in Manhattan. He’s a graduate of Fort Hamilton High School.

According to the candidate’s website, he favors tax cuts to spur job creation, the establishment of a state-wide “rainy day fund” for disasters like Superstorm Sandy, and charter schools.

He has hired Ryan Girdusky as a consultant, who previously worked on the Republican campaigns of Bob Turner for Congress and David Storobin for State Senate.

It’s the second contender for the district’s GOP ballot line announced in the past week. Marcus Aurelius Nussbaum, the Republican district leader, announced his campaign on Wednesday.

Next »