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Archive for the tag 'politics'

vargas

Councilman Vincent Gentile honored Bath Beach boxing coach Willie Vargas last week, presenting him with a Presidential Volunteer Service Award and a Gold Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Barack Obama.

Since 1979, Vargas has been teaching at-risk youth how to box – keeping them off the streets and teaching them discipline. Five of his trainees have become world champions.

Gentile issued the following statement:

“I was happy to recognize Willie Vargas today. Mr. Vargas is a world class boxing trainer who has been teaching young, at-risk children how to box since 1979.

In their training, these young men learn not only how to be a champion in the ring but in the game of life. In fact, five of these young boxers trained by Mr. Vargas have grown – not only into fine young men – but into world champion boxers! All of the young men trained by Mr. Vargas lead by example and help keep at-risk youth off the streets and working towards something positive.

For all of his efforts, Mr. Vargas was awarded a Presidential Volunteer Service Award along with the Gold Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Barack Obama. Mr. Vargas is a resident of Bath Beach and we should all be proud to call him one of our own!”

grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm and Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia filed their latest fundraising totals earlier this week, with the incumbent just barely edging out his opponent in available cash.

Grimm’s April filing shows that he raised $345,000 over the last filing period, giving him just under $1.2 million to spend.

Recchia, meanwhile, posted $206,000 in cash raised, bringing his total to approximately $1.07 million.

Grimm’s filing, however, also showed that he’s carrying more than $450,000 in debt, largely due to legal expenses connected to the investigation into his 2010 fundraising. While the congressman hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing, several close associates have been questioned or arrested, and prosecutors appear to be gunning for the incumbent.

Photo by William Alatriste

Photo by William Alatriste

Elected officials, community and labor leaders celebrated the 12th anniversary of the Bay Parkway Community Job Center on Friday, honoring it for its history of helping immigrant laborers attain the American dream through education, jobs, safety training and grassroots organizing.

We’ve written about the job center before, and the role it plays in providing services for day laborers and undocumented workers out of its red and yellow shack near Ceasar’s Bay. Operated by the Workers’ Justice Project, it has evolved over the year with support from elected officials, including Councilman Vincent Gentile, former Councilman Dominic Recchia and others. It took a beating from Superstorm Sandy, and the shack was replaced by a trailer – and organizers got back to work.

“While this job site has had its ups and downs over the 12 years, amazing things have happened here thanks to the Workers Justice Project – an organization whose goal is to give low wage immigrant workers a voice and protection in the labor workforce,” said Gentile in his remarks at the anniversary celebration. “I personally have met so many wonderful and interesting people here, many with great backgrounds and training in various fields in their mother country but now here to work and pursue a piece of the American Dream.”

The center, open since March 2002, keeps their more than 7,000 clients informed of their rights, and also connects them with small businesses and those in need of skilled workers. The center also secures them a better living wage of $22.50 per hour – the highest among similar organizations in the region.

In addition to Gentile, Borough President Eric Adams, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny and councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Mark Treyger were in attendance.

Diana Durand

Diana Durand

Diana Durand, a former beau of Congressman Michael Grimm who was arrested in January for illegally funneling money to the Republican pol’s campaign, will not implicate the congressman in the scheme, squashing a plea deal.

The Daily News reports:

“This is not about Dianna Durand. This is about Michael Grimm,” [Durand's attorney Stuart] Kaplan told the Daily News Tuesday. “They think that she is in a position to provide information about him.”

Kaplan said the case is headed to trial. Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York are expected to seek an indictment of Durand in the next few weeks.

Durand, 47, was cuffed in January and charged with violating federal campaign laws to steer money to Grimm. Prosecutors say she found and used straw donors to accept donations that exceeded the $4,800 legal maximum to support his 2010 campaign. She faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

According to Durand’s lawyer, her prosecution is part of an effort to bring down the congressman, but his client has nothing to offer. He said that Durand’s actions were driven by ignorance of the law, and the pol wasn’t aware of her actions.

Members of a City Council committee are pushing a resolution introduced last week that calls for the city’s 59 community boards to adopt sweeping reforms, including term limits.

The council’s Committee on Governmental Operations met on March 3, drawing up the list of recommendations to improve the recruitment and function of the boards.

The local boards, each made up of 50 unpaid, volunteer members, have long drawn criticism for their appointment processes, which many say are politically motivated. Boardmembers are appointed by the borough president at the recommendation of local councilmembers, leading some to criticize their independence.

According to the Daily Eagle, the recommendations include:

  • Term limits of five consecutive two-year terms for board members.
  • Online application and technology infrastructure.
  • Conflict of interest disclosure by all applicants.
  • Requiring reappointment applications with evaluation of attendance, service and participation.
  • Ban on political appointments; specifically staffers of elected officials and executive board members of a political party.
  • Filling vacancies within 30 days.
  • Improved outreach and recruitment focusing on diversity, geography and experts.
  • Youth representation by 16- and 17-year olds as public members of youth committees and as full board members.

While the existence of the community boards are mandated by the City Charter, each board maintains its own bylaws dictating how they function. Some boards, such as Community Board 13, representing Coney Island and Brighton Beach, have term limits for its officers, while others, like Community Board 15, representing Sheepshead Bay, do not.

In Sheepshead Bay, community board recruitment and membership became an issue during the recent City Council race. At a September debate, the Democratic candidates discussed the local board’s diversity as well as term limits and the ways to depoliticize the appointment process.

Chaim Deutsch, who went on to win the election, said he hoped to strengthen and diversify the board, but didn’t offer details. He did note that he was opposed to term limits for board members.

“If you have board members that are there and following the processes and going to meetings and following up, and where you have various issues like zoning issues and they actually go down and look at the homes they’re having a hearing on – that person should stay,” Deutsch said at the time.

iceskating

Councilman Mark Treyger asked us to spread the word about this free family ice-skating event at Abe Stark Skating Rink this Thursday.

The event kicks off at 10:00 a.m. and lasts until 1:00 p.m., giving kids a little something to do over the spring break. The rink is located at 1902 West 19th Street in Coney Island.

Source: Luke Redmond/Flickr

Several local representatives to the City Council said yesterday that they support a proposal to throw a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea reemerged over the weekend, when U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood with veterans to urge the Department of Defense to work with the city in planning the event, which would welcome home returning troops from the post-9/11 battlefronts. The proposal was first floated in 2012, but was opposed by the Pentagon.

“With the war in Afghanistan winding down, now is the time to keep with long-standing American tradition and kick off a campaign for the first New York City welcome home parade for troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Schumer in a press release.

The Iraq war came to an official end on December 31, 2011. The combat mission in Afghanistan is expected to be complete by the end of this year. The Department of Defense will not condone a parade until combat operations are complete, but Schumer said the planning should begin now.

The Canyon of Heroes has long been the venue for the most iconic processions for returning veterans. Several parades were held during World War II, culminating with a massive procession for the troops in 1946, after the war ended. A parade was held honoring veterans of the Vietnam War in 1985, and in 1991 the city welcomed home Gulf War veterans.

Several Southern Brooklyn City Council representatives said they support bringing back the tradition, including Councilman Vincent Gentile who said he has previously called for honoring the veterans in such a way.

“If a sports team gets a parade, so should our veterans!” said Gentile. “Not only is it the right thing to do and it’s the least we can do for these brave men and women to honor the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our freedom abroad.”

Councilmembers Alan Maisel and Chaim Deutsch agreed.

“For all their dedication and sacrifice, it’s only fitting that we hold a ticker-tape parade in honor of the hard-fighting men and women of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Deutsch. “Therefore, I’ll support the campaign to revive this time-honored tradition and give our veterans a grand, New York City welcome.”

Councilman Mark Treyger said he’s on-board with the idea, but urged his colleagues not to forget about providing the support these returning veterans will need beyond a celebration in the streets.

“I am in full support of the idea to honor our veterans with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes out of recognition of their incredible service to our nation. I applaud Senator Schumer for taking up this worthy campaign and I look forward to assisting his efforts,” said Treyger. “However, our obligation and responsibility to our returning servicemen and women extends far beyond a single event. We must also ensure as a city and nation that each returning solider receives assistance with employment, health care, counseling and anything else needed to help transition back into civilian life.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday that he will “do whatever it takes” to give returning veterans a parade in the Canyon of Heros.

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.

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