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Archive for the tag 'Vincent Gentile'

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!”

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.

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.

The suspects (via Gothamist)

The suspects (via Gothamist)

Prosecutors charged six men for operating three phone delivery services that allegedly provided clients with narcotics, steroids and marijuana to locations in Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Sunset Park.

The charges came after an undercover investigation and wiretaps conducted by the NYPD and the Brooklyn district attorney that recorded the suspects taking orders and sending deliverymen to meet customers in bars and street corners.

Vincent Alfonso, Vincent Felix, Adam Veit, Francesco Lozado, Victor Moreno and Robert Kollbeck were all arrested last week as part of the investigation.

“As this investigation demonstrates, careful coordination with the NYPD allowed us to break up this delivery-by-car drug dealing network. We will continue to work day and night with the NYPD to fight drug dealing that occurs anywhere in Brooklyn. The cost in lives is too high not to make this a priority,” said District Attorney Kenneth Thompson in a statement.

Alfonso, Felix and Veit were under investigation since July 2012, and, according to the district attorney, operated a sophisticated drug delivery service with a “one stop shopping” model, through which they sold cocaine, marijuana and MDMA. A search of their property turned up all three drugs, as well as scales and packaging materials.

Lozada and Moreno operated a separate cocaine and crack cocaine distribution service, according to Thomspon. A search of Lozado’s properties turned up cocaine, a loaded 9mm pistol, a loaded .45 caliber pistol and approximately $20,000 cash.

Kollbeck allegedly dealt in ketamine – or Special K – and anabolic steroids at least as far back as September 2013. A search of his property turned up a large quantity of anabolic steroids.

According to the district attorney, the investigations kicked off after neighbors and community leaders complained about the presence of drug dealers, and several overdose deaths occurred in the neighborhood.

Local pols praised investigators for the bust.

“I commend the NYPD and Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson for their swift and decisive action in taking these dealers off the street. Thanks to tips from active and concerned residents from Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, along with a strong joint law enforcement effort, today we are sending a clear message that drugs and drug activity of any kind in our neighborhoods and on our residential streets will not be tolerated,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile.

“I commend the work of the New York City Police Department, and hope that the Brooklyn District Attorney charges these individuals to the fullest extent of the law, so that they are not back out on our streets in no time, destroying our quality of life,” said State Senator Marty Golden. “The war on drugs is not over and we must remain vigilant in reporting drug activity, and I encourage residents to continue to work with me to eradicate this problem.”

Prosecutors have started civil proceedings to seize the suspects’ property, including vehicles and bank accounts.

Source: Ibagli via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Ibagli via Wikimedia Commons

The campaign to pressure the Metropolitan Transit Authority to expand the multi-trip discount toll discount plan on the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to Brooklynites has kicked up a notch, with Senator Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis launching a petition and website to that end.

The petition is hosted at TheTollsAreTooDamnHigh.com, It reads:

In 2012, in response to public outcry, the Port Authority created a bridge discount program, providing Brooklyn residents traveling over the Goethals Bridge, Outerbridge Crossing, and the Bayonne Bridge three times or more a month with a 58% discount.

Senator Golden has proposed that the MTA provide the same plan for Brooklynites who frequently use the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Assemblywoman Malliotakis has joined him to create this petition to help residents facing skyrocketing tolls when crossings the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Under the plan, residents traveling over the Verrazano Bridge would receive a 58% discount from the $15 cash price to be applied to EZ-Pass holders who travel over the bridge 3 or more times a month. This means that an EZ-Pass holder would see their toll price reduced from roughly $10.50 to $6.30.

Residents can sign the petition by visiting the website, or one of the elected officials’ district offices.

In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a deal giving Staten Island EZ-Pass holders a toll break on the Verrazano Bridge. The plan grants Island commuters the discount laid out in the Golden-Malliotakis petition, but denies it to residents of other boroughs.

Area pols immediately criticized the deal, calling it unfair that Brooklynites were left out. Golden, Councilmember Vincent Gentile, State Senator Diane Savino and Borough President Eric Adams all spoke out against it. Gentile later introduced a resolution to the City Council calling for the MTA to give Brooklyn residents a matching deal.

Golden and Malliotakis launched their petition Friday.

“The rising cost of the Verrazano Bridge toll has become prohibitive not only for Staten Island residents, but for Brooklyn residents as well,” said Golden in a press release. “Even though people who live in my district are going the opposite way of those who live in Staten Island, the cost is the same, and therefore, the discount should be the same.”

On the news of the petition’s launch, Gentile and Adams released a joint statement praising the effort and calling for unity in the fight for toll equity:

We thank State Senator Golden and Assembly Member Malliotakis for joining our community’s fight to address disparity in the new tolling plan for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. We cannot stand for the unfair penalizing of Brooklynites that work, go to school or have family members on Staten Island, Brooklynites that use this bridge every day. In this spirit, we are jointly introducing a City Council resolution calling on the Metropolitan Transit Authority to consider the impact of the current pricing scheme on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on both the residents of Brooklyn and Staten Island. Both boroughs, as well as the elected officials who represent them, need to stand in unity on this issue. That is why we will be proud to be among the first to sign the new petition calling for toll relief for Brooklynites, and that is why we look forward to furthering our efforts to achieve a truly ‘fair fare’ on this thoroughfare.

The following is a press release from the offices of the Community Education Council of District 21:

Last Thursday’s announcement regarding the continuance of charter co-locations at I.S. 96, Seth Low, and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro, is a major setback for our community.  There was such hope that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina would finally listen to the voices of parents and community members.  Many of us now feel only disappointment and frustration. In the fall of 2013, the Community Education Council District 21 passed two resolutions opposing both co-locations, we have rallied, gone to both PEP meetings and still our voices were not heard.  2014 had such potential for parents and yet again, we have been pushed to the side.  We have been given a promise that they will do things better in the future.  What about the children and their families that are already attending I.S. 96 Seth Low, and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro, don’t they count too?  I understand that they based their decisions on families that applied for seats for September 2014 and the deadline was coming.  Our children’s educations should not be about deadlines.  We provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in this district and have seats in our traditional public schools for the children who have applied.  More time should have been taken to visit and speak to schools, families, and community members regarding the co-locations. There is no need to rush putting two more elementary schools in our district. We have and always will supply a high quality education for every child in our district’s traditional public schools.   Mayor de Blasio’s plan is to provide full day, high quality Pre-K programs to 53,000 students in 2014. With two elementary Charter school co-locations opening in 2014 in our district, what middle school space can the Chancellor guarantee will be available for these students in the future?

It’s time to come together once again as a community! Let our voices be heard loud and clear “We say NO to the co-locations decisions on I.S. 96 and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro”. The Community Education Council District 21 calls on Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio to reverse the decision to implement co-location plan for I.S.96, Seth Low and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro.

The Community Education council of District 20 & 21 invites all community members to join them at I.S. 96 Seth Low to Rally on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM.

Seth Low JHS will be the site of a rally against the proposed co-locations on Friday. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Thursday that he will allow 36 public and charter schools to move into existing schools while giving the boot to other charter school co-location plans, prompting outrage from politicians and education advocates in Southern Brooklyn.

“I am very disappointed because the decision to co-locate Coney Island Prep with I.S. 281 does not square with the facts as we presented,” Councilman Vincent Gentile said in a press release that was cosigned by fellow councilmen David Greenfield and Mark Treyger. “I’ve said repeatedly that Cavallaro is already busting at the seams and there is no need for an elementary school in this area.”

Among the schools that de Blasio to see co-locations are Coney Island Prep (the charter school) with Cavallaro Intermediate School I.S. 281, and Success Academy Charter School with Seth Low Intermediate School I.S. 96.

The initiative to co-locate public schools with charter schools was created during the Bloomberg administration and according to the press release cosigned by the councilmen, many were hopeful that the co-locations would be reversed.

“Many of us who are part of the public school system were hopeful that with a new administration, we’d see a real, meaningful change that responded to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, as both I.S. 96 and I.S. 281 are still slated for charter co-locations in September 2014,” members of  Community Education Council District 20 said in a statement.

Besides the harsh words, the education council announced that they will be holding a rally this Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Seth Low I.S. 96 (99 Avenue P) in an attempt to pressure the de Blasio administration to reverse their decision. If the co-location goes through, critics argue,  schools that already have a large student body will be forced to take on more students from the charter schools, resulting in overpopulation.

“I am extremely disappointed in the decision to allow the co-location of a charter school at I.S. 96 (the Seth Low School) that our district does not need or want,” Greenfield writes in the press release. “This co-location will come at the expense of the school’s dedicated staff and hard-working students. . . This proposal does not take into account the students’ needs or the impact this will clearly have on this important school.”

Joining the ranks of critics is Assemblyman William Colton – his area covers parts of Gravesend and Bath Beach – who calls for Cavallaro Intermediate School I.S. 281 and Seth Low I.S. 96 to not co-locate with charter schools. In a press release, he said he is “extremely disappointed that Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Farina did not reverse the decisions” to co-locate the two schools in Southern Brooklyn.

For his part, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz  is commending Mayor de Blasio and Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina for withdrawing the co-location plan for John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X), one of the nine locations the de Blasio administration offered a reprieve. Critics of charter schools want every school’s co-location to be withdrawn.

“I intend to work with my colleagues to fight this decision tooth and nail,” Greenfield said in the press release.

Correction: The original version of this article mistakenly identified the charter school to be co-located with I.S 96 Seth Low. The correct name of the charter school is Success Academy Charter School, and the post has been amended. We regret any confusion this may have caused.

gentile

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Vincent Gentile:

At a press conference this past Saturday, Council Member Vincent J. Gentile and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced that they are introducing a City Council resolution to address disparity in the proposed new tolling plan for the Verrazano Bridge, which was publicized last week by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The resolution, which Gentile will co-sponsor with Borough President Adams in the New York City Council, calls on Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature to ensure community equity in the setting or adjusting of bridge and tunnel tolls.

Council Member Gentile, who represented parts of Staten Island as a New York State Senator from 1997-2002, commended Governor Cuomo for the sweeping discount plan, which will provide a significant discount from current toll rates for Staten Islanders, while expressing his feeling that it doesn’t go quite far enough.

“I’m all for lowering tolls for hardworking Staten Islanders but the fact is this deal is one sided and does not include Brooklyn,” said Council Member Gentile. “We cannot pit borough against borough. This is one bridge with two sides. To recognize the toll burdens for residents on one side of the bridge, we must recognize the toll burdens for the residents on the other side of the bridge. To do anything less would give a new definition of highway robbery for Brooklynites. That is why, through a City Council resolution, I am calling on the State to ensure community equity in the setting and adjusting of bridge and tunnel tolls. There are many, many Brooklynites who commute to Staten Island on a daily basis and that needs to be addressed.”

“We must have a fair decrease of the fare on the Verrazano Bridge,” said Borough President Adams. “This is an important pocketbook issue. Many people don’t know that Borough Presidents can introduce legislation; I’m happy this is the first piece of legislation that I will be co-introducing with Council Member Gentile. It sends the right message that we must use government to alleviate the burdens that impact everyday Brooklynites. What we’re asking the Governor and our legislators to do is we want to have a fair fare on the Verrazano Bridge; that’s what this resolution is about. We are not going to create a two-tiered system where we’re allowing one side of a waterway to be treated differently than another side.”

Gentile and Adams were joined by elected officials, Community Board 10 leadership and local affected residents, all of whom joined in the unified message of equity in lowering tolls for Brooklyn and Staten Island commuters alike.

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues in Brooklyn on the issue of toll relief,” said State Senator Diane Savino. “We saw what happen in Staten Island when both sides of the aisle work together for a common goal. Together we were able to achieve the first-ever toll reduction for Staten Island residents; it was difficult, but we did it. Those Brooklyn residents that use the Verrazano often should be able to get some relief also.”

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Vincent Gentile. Earlier this morning, State Senator Marty Golden issued a similar demand

Today Governor Andrew Cuomo announces a long-awaited deal which will give Staten Island E-ZPass holders a big toll break on the Verrazano Bridge – a deal that has left Councilman Vincent J. Gentile once again demanding, “What about Brooklyn?!”

Councilman Gentile, who represented parts of Staten Island as a New York State Senator from 1997-2002, commended Governor Cuomo for the sweeping discount plan which will provide a significant discount from current toll rates for Staten Islanders but feels it doesn’t go quite far enough.

“I’m all for lowering tolls for hardworking New Yorkers but the fact is this deal is one sided and does not include Brooklyn – perhaps someone forgot that the bridge has two sides!,” Councilman Gentile said. “This is a tale of two boroughs!”

“My council district surrounds the Brooklyn end of the Verrazano Bridge and every day residents travel across that bridge to and from the College of Staten Island or Wagner College, or to see their parents or loved ones in nursing homes or to work or shop at the mall,” Gentile continued. “These residents in the zip-codes surrounding the Verrazano have to pay considerably more than their Staten Island neighbors every time they use this bridge. At $15 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.”

Gentile is once again calling on the Governor to extend the same discount plan for residents on the “other” side of the bridge in southwest Brooklyn.

“For local people who need to cross the Verrazano Bridge on a daily or frequent basis, the same discount on the bridge should apply as the discount given to Staten Islanders. If the Port Authority can work this out for the bridges they operate, so can the MTA!”

Councilman Gentile has offered several times to convene a meeting of state legislators and MTA officials to work out an equitable discount plan for Brooklynites.

greendotThe following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Vincent Gentile:

Scams of all kinds have historically involved a victim wiring cash to a stranger, but now that many consumers have gotten wise to that trick, scammers have found a new way for them to trick people into handing over their hard-earned cash: they’re called “Green Dot” MoneyPak cards.

The cards themselves aren’t the problem; “Green Dot” MoneyPak cards serve a very valuable purpose for some people who don’t have bank accounts.

“Green Dot” cards are reloadable debit cards, available everywhere, and you can use them to pay your phone, cable, or credit card bill. Scammers like them because they’re more convenient than a money wire and just as untraceable.

Here’s how the “Green Dot” scam works:

A scammer posing as a debt collector calls and says they need payment immediately “or else!” The con artist then instructs the person to go to a Walgreens or Rite Aid and load a Green Dot MoneyPak card with the cash they supposedly owe. They are then told to scratch off the back and call with the secret PIN number on the card. Since Green Dot MoneyPak cards are not linked to bank accounts, anyone you share your card number with, has instant access to your cash and can siphon the card dry in a matter of seconds.

“Unfortunately, some of these swindlers have been successful at getting some of our local businesses to fork over thousands of dollars,” Councilman Vincent J. Gentile said. “The scammer pretends to be calling from ConEd – and the next thing you know, the business owner has paid the con artist thousands of dollars because they were worried they’d shut their lights off if they didn’t pay immediately. It’s really despicable – especially for unsuspecting small businesses that are just trying to make ends meet.”

Councilman Gentile has been working closely with Deputy Inspector Richard DiBlasio, the Commanding Officer of the 68 Precinct, in order to get the word out to as many people as possible about the scam.

“When it comes to scams, knowledge is power. Just by being aware, you can be your own first line of defense against these fraudsters.”

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