Friday, February 28, 2014


  Council Members Stephen Levin and Ydanis Rodriguez are introducing a resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass legislation that would lower New York City's speed limits to 20 miles per hour unless otherwise noted and to give the City Council the authority to impose different speed limits in the city. New York State law currently sets 30 miles per hour as the speed limit in New York City unless otherwise noted.

The chances of survival after being struck by a vehicle increase dramatically when a vehicle travels at a slower speed. A study conducted by the United Kingdom Transportation Department found that a pedestrian has a 45 percent chance of dying if struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 miles per hour, but when the vehicle is traveling at 20 miles per hour there is only a 5 percent chance of death.

Senator Martin Dilan and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell have introduced legislation in the State Legislature that would allow New York City to lower the city's speed limit to 20 miles per hour unless otherwise posted.

Council Member Stephen Levin said, "The data is conclusive: slower speeds decrease the probability that someone will be seriously injured or killed in a crash. We have seen time and time again the pain inflicted on families as the result of crashes and we as New Yorkers refuse to stand by and let another person be killed in traffic. By reducing speed limits in New York City we will save lives and achieve the goals of Vision Zero. I want to thank Senator Dilan and Assemblyman O'Donnell for introducing this legislation at the state level and urge their colleagues for their support."

"Speed kills, plain and simple," said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. "Whether here or in Albany, we as legislators have a responsibility to protect the lives of our constituents. Easily avoidable traffic deaths devastate our city and we must be given the tools to prevent them. When lives are at stake, death is the price of inaction."

According to NYPD data, in 2013 alone 268 people - including 168 pedestrians - were killed in traffic crashes in New York City. Additionally, unsafe speed was cited as a contributing factor in over 3,000 collisions that resulted in injuries or fatalities.

  Editors Note:
  What is needed is more enforcement of the laws that are currently in effect. 
More police officers on patrol, and not answers like more cameras to catch offenders because there is no real penalty for the offending driver. It is not the offender who has to pay for the fine from a camera it is the owner of the vehicle.

Rangel Affordable Care Act Event - March 7, 2014 @ 8:30 AM

  Even though this event is taking place in Manhattan Congressman Rangel still does represent areas of several Bronx Assembly Districts.

Are you uninsured?
Learn About the Affordable Care Act

Keynote Speaker
Congressman Charles B. Rangel

Friday, March 7th
515 Audubon Avneue
(Near West 190th Street)
8:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Sign-up opportunities for affordable and comprehensive health insurance.

Authorized Navigators will be available to provide you with free help on obtaining insurance. The Federal government’s current open enrollment period ends March 31, 2014.

To RSVP or for additional information, please call the Washington Heights-Inwood Chamber of Commerce at (212) 928-6595.

Hosted by: The Washington Heights-Inwood Chamber of Commerce, Community Board 12, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, and Isabella Geriatric Center.

Light refreshments will be served

Thursday, February 27, 2014


 Inline image 1

State Senator Adriano Espaillat and supporters have announced that he will be running for the 13th Congressional once again currently held by Congressman Charles Rangel.
In 2012 Senator Espaillat came in a close second to Rangel in a field of five candidates. 
So far there are three announced candidates. Congressman Charles Rangel has announced his intention to run for another term, Pastor Michael Walrond of Harlem has announced his intention to run for the 13th Congressional seat, and now State Senator Adriano Espaillat has made it official that he will also be seeking the 13th Congressional seat.

  I spoke with Senator Espaillat recently and asked him what would make him think that he could win this time around after coming in second two years ago. Senator Espaillat told me that he has changed several things including finding out where things may have gone wrong on the campaign two years ago. He said that he will have a better get out the vote operation among several other adjustments to his campaign for this year. 

It is unclear if any other candidates will enter the 13th Congressional race.

New York Green Card Holders to Receive Free Citizenship Assistance

  This came in from from State Senator Gustavo Rivera.

New York Green Card Holders to Receive Free Citizenship Assistance  
Innovative Partnership Holds Workshop in the Bronx

Green card holders will attend a free citizenship application assistance workshop in the Bronx this Saturday. 

The event, hosted jointly by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, La Fuente, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Church World Services, Servicios de Educacion Basica, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, and Assembly Member Victor Pichardo, will provide free citizenship application assistance and naturalization exam study materials, as well as one-on-one legal consultations to Bronx's eligible legal permanent residents and those seeking to inform themselves of the naturalization process.

The opportunity to talk with local immigration rights experts about the recent changes to the N-400 citizenship application form, the socioeconomic benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen, and the important work local organizations are doing to promote integration among New York's 920,000 lawful permanent residents eligible for citizenship today.

WHAT:    Local organizations hold free citizenship workshop for green card   holders

WHO:      Local Bronx green card holders
                 NALEO Educational Fund
                 La Fuente
                 Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
                Church World Services
                Servicios de Educacion Basica
                State Senator Gustavo Rivera
                Assembly Member Victor Pichardo

WHEN:   11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Saturday, March 1st

WHERE:   P.S. 33 Timothy Dwight School
                   2424 Jerome Avenue
                   Bronx, NY 10468

Wave Hill Events March 14–March 21

Look for the first returning birds and overwintering residents, along with early migrants passing through on their way north. Cut out their birdie shapes and hang and balance them to make a colorful, moving mobile. Free, and admission to the grounds is free until noon.

Quiet like a mountain, moving like a river, Tai Chi is a sequence of gentle movements based on images found in nature. In this beginner-level class, Irving Yee, a member of the William CC Chen Tai Chi School, introduces students to the internal martial arts and promotes an awareness of its benefits. March sessions are held indoors. Session fee: $25/$15 Wave Hill Member. Register online and, day of, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center. (Reservations may not be made by telephone.) Online registration closes at 8AM on the day of the session. Cancellations must be made by 3PM the Friday before; after that, refunds will not be made.  Drops-ins will be accommodated as the limited space permits. Participants must present a Member’s ID card or a printed program registration form at the front gate.

Gain insight into Winter Workspace artist Brandon Neubauer’s creative process and explore the late winter landscape as a source of inspiration. Participants in this workshop will use printed photographs provided by the artist to juxtapose images they take of prominent trees and vistas with those taken of the same locations last summer and fall at Wave Hill. Each participant must bring their own camera or camera phone with the Instagram app and are encouraged to work in groups or pairs; all other materials are provided. Workshops are open to all visitors ages 12 and over when accompanied by an adult. Registration required, online at, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center or by calling 718.549.3200 x251. Free with admission to the grounds.

Don’t have a garden or greenhouse? Create your own tabletop landscape with Assistant Director of Public Programs Laurel Rimmer. Tiny ferns, creeping fig and other tropical plants thrive in the humid conditions of an enclosed glass jar as if in their own miniature greenhouse. Create your own fanciful scene with a selection of diminutive plants, perfect for home or office. Ages eight and older welcome with an adult. $45/$35 Wave Hill Member per project. Registration required, online at, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center or by calling 718.549.3200 x251.

Can you tell a catbird from a cowbird? New birders are invited to join expert birder, naturalist and educator Gabriel Willow to discover the many groups of birds that call New York City their home. Through images and a short lecture, Gabriel shares proven techniques to simplify bird identification using visual and audible clues. Ages 10 and older welcome with an adult. Free with admission to the grounds. (NYC Audubon members enjoy two-for-one admission.)  Registration recommended, online at, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center or by calling 718.549.3200 x251

Look for the first returning birds and overwintering residents, along with early migrants passing through on their way north. Cut out their birdie shapes and hang and balance them to make a colorful, moving mobile. Free with admission to the grounds.

Reduce stress, increase your energy and bring strength and flexibility to mind, body and spirit with a yoga practice. Classes are led by Yoga for Bliss director Neem Dewji and other certified instructors. Ms. Dewji is certified in Hatha and Therapeutic Yoga from The Yoga for Health Foundation, England, and The Integral Yoga Institute, NYC. All levels welcome. Sessions are held indoors until May. Session fee: $25/$15 Wave Hill Member. Register online and, day of, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center. (Reservations may not be made by telephone.) Online registration closes at 8AM on the day of the session. Cancellations must be made by 3PM the Friday before; after that, refunds will not be made.  Drops-ins will be accommodated as the limited space permits. Participants must present a Member’s ID card or a printed program registration form at the front gate.

This fall, take a moment to release stress and reconnect with your inner self while practicing meditation. Each session includes instruction in simple techniques followed by 20 to 30 minutes of meditation. Classes are led by Yoga for Bliss director Neem Dewji and other certified instructors. All levels welcome. Winter sessions are held indoors. Session fee: $25/$15 Wave Hill Member. Registration opens online and onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center. (Reservations may not be made by telephone.) Online registration closes at 8AM on the day of the session. Cancellations must be made by 3PM the Friday before; after that, refunds will not be made. Drops-ins will be accommodated as the limited space permits. Participants must present a Member’s ID card or a printed program registration form at the front gate.

Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the grounds.

Closed to the public.

This ongoing series is hosted by Wave Hill’s Friends of Horticulture Committee and is devoted to landscape design and the meaning of our interactions with plants and the natural world. The final lecture this season is provided by William Cullina, award-winning author and Executive Director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Most folks are familiar with the concept of the mixed border—perennials, annuals, shrubs and evergreens blended together in a seamless composition year-round. It sounds good in theory, but transplanting this concept into a real garden is more difficult than it seems. In this talk, Bill Cullina profiles his favorite 50 “natural mixers,” focusing on native woody plants and how to manage them to bring, form, texture, color and wildlife to the perennial garden. $25/$20 Wave Hill Member, Student. Reservations recommended, online, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center or by calling 718.549.3200 x216.

With artist Wennie Huang as your guide, paint highly articulated and layered artwork inspired by the rich colors and textures of spring. Combine soft pastels, colored pencils and watercolor to create complex surfaces reflecting the diverse dimensions and nuanced hues of the landscape. Six sessions: $270/$210 Wave Hill Member. Registration required, online at, onsite at the Perkins Visitor Center or by calling 718.549.3200 x251. Series continues March 27, April 3, 10, 17 and 24.

A 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River  and Palisades, Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscape, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.

HOURS  Open all year, Tuesday through Sunday and many major holidays: 9AM—4:30PM. Closes 5:30PM, March 15October 31.  
ADMISSION  $8 adults, $4 students and seniors 65+, $2 children 6—18. Free Saturday mornings until noon. Free all day on Tuesdays in March. Free to Wave Hill Members and children under 6.

PROGRAM FEES  Programs are free with admission to the grounds unless otherwise noted.

Visitors to Wave Hill can take advantage of Metro-North’s one-day getaway offer. Purchase a discount round-trip rail far and discount admission to the gardens. More at

DIRECTIONS – Getting here is easy! Located only 3o minutes from midtown Manhattan, Wave Hill’s free shuttle van transports you to and from our front gate and Metro-North’s Riverdale station, as well as the 242nd Street stop on the #1 subway line. Limited onsite parking is available for $8 per vehicle. Free offsite parking is available nearby with continuous, complimentary shuttle service to and from the offsite lot and our front gate. Complete directions and shuttle bus schedule at

Information at 718.549.3200. On the web at

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


  Lack of Controls Led the City to Ignore Red Flags of Possible Collusion Among Bidders

  The New York City Department of Education (DOE) failed to employ proper safeguards and controls in awarding multi-million dollar milk distribution contracts for City schools, making the City vulnerable to possible collusion, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced today.  The findings of the audit have been referred to the United States Department of Justice for further investigation.    
“DOE ignored red flags that its milk contracts may have been tainted,” Stringer said. “We see possible collusion when rival bidders become business partners within two months of being awarded contracts.  Instead of doing its due diligence, DOE needlessly put taxpayers at risk. Moving forward, DOE must put tighter controls in place to ensure that bids are made independently and that bidders have the financial ability to deliver the services they promise.”
Keeping close tabs on the city’s school food supply chain is vital to protecting both the City’s physical and fiscal health.  New York City serves more meals and spends more money on those meals than any other U.S. government entity outside of the Department of Defense—some 850,000 meals each day. Saving just one penny on the cost of each meal through better controls adds up to big-time savings for taxpayers—more than $1.5 million per year.
The audit examined three contracts worth $134 million for the supply and delivery of milk to City schools from November 2008 to August 2013. The three winning vendors were Beyer Farms, Inc., Elmhurst Dairy, Inc. and Bartlett Dairy, Inc. The largest contract, totaling $111 million, went to Beyer, for milk delivery in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
The audit found that DOE lacked adequate procedures to detect warning signs of possible collusion. The three winning bidders began as competitors, each vying for the same contracts, but became business partners within two months of the contracts being awarded.  Beyer and Elmhurst, which had won the lion’s share of the distribution bids in August and September 2008, subcontracted the majority of that work in October 2008 to their former competitor, Bartlett.
As a result of that subcontracting, Bartlett’s percentage of milk delivery rose from 6% to almost 70%, all before the first carton of milk was delivered. Furthermore, Beyer and Elmhurst failed to provide any information that they planned to use subcontractors in their original bids, even though the Request for Bids required them to do so.
“All of these warning signs should have raised concerns at DOE, and we have referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice for further investigation,” Stringer said.
The audit also found that DOE failed to adequately assess the financial health of bidders. Beyer’s financial statements clearly indicated a high risk of default—its debt had soared in 2007 and its ratio of current assets to current liabilities was far below industry competitors.  DOE not only failed to properly analyze the bidder’s financial statements, it disregarded the warnings of one of its own analysts, who stated that everything appeared to be “on the margin.” Beyer subsequently went bankrupt in 2012, leaving DOE scrambling for a replacement.  DOE is now in the process of procuring new milk distribution contracts.
The audit urged DOE to:
1.       Develop and implement adequate written procedures to detect the warning signs of possible collusion;
2.       Put written procedures in place to identify and flag troubling bidders before it is too late;
3.       And develop and implement procedures to ensure that a comprehensive analysis of the financial capacity of low bidders is conducted prior to any contract award. 

“I am pleased that DOE has now agreed with our recommendations to institute tougher scrutiny of future bidders. We simply cannot allow these kinds of weak procurement practices to continue,” Stringer said. 

State Senator Tony Avella Joins NY State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference

  State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) announced today that he will become the fifth member of the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).  Senator Avella, who represents Northeast Queens, will join IDC Leader and Senate Co-President Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), Sen. David Valesky (D-Oneida), and Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester) in the Independent Democratic Conference, which first formed in January of 2011.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Independent Democratic Conference. Under Senator Klein’s leadership, the IDC has developed a clear, progressive agenda for New York’s working families," said Senator Avella. "They have shown an ability to get big things done, without the dysfunction of years past. From passing new gun control laws, to raising the minimum wage, Senator Klein and the IDC have shown us that great things are possible when you focus on results instead of politics. I look forward to being part of a team that has consistently delivered big results for New Yorkers.”

IDC Leader and Senate Co-President Jeffrey D. Klein said, “Senator Avella's passion for public service makes him a great fit for the Independent Democratic Conference. He will be a major asset in our fight to make New York more affordable for working families. The breadth of his experience, in both the City Council and the Senate, makes him the type of seasoned legislator who knows how to get things done. I am very pleased to welcome him to the team."

Senator Avella has represented the 11th State Senate District since 2011. Avella previously served the area as a city councilman between 2002 and 2009. With a strong commitment to the people of his district, the city, and the state, IDC members are confident Avella will play a key role in helping them make New York more affordable for families and small businesses.

Deputy IDC Leader Senator David Valesky said, “It’s clear that Senator Avella shares our deep commitment to the issues that are most important to middle class families and small businesses. I have enjoyed working with Senator Avella for the past three years, and look forward to working with him as a member of our conference.”

Senator Diane Savino said, “I have known Senator Avella for years and have always respected the energy and passion that he brings to public service. I look forward to working with him on issues that are not only important to New York City, but to working families across our state.”

Senator David Carlucci said, “Senator Avella has built a career fighting for those who are most in need, so I am thrilled to welcome him to the IDC. He has the experience, passion, and know-how to make a major impact on state policy.”

Editor Note: 
      This announcement now leaves the State Senate Democratic Conference at 24 members. Democratic Senators John Sampson and Malcolm Smith are currently under indictment and are not affiliated with any conference, there are 2 vacant seats of former senator Chuck Fuchillo and Eric Adams (one Republican and one Democrat), Democratic Senator Simca Felder sits with the 29 member Republican Conference, and there are now 5 members of the Independent Democratic Conference for a total of 63 State Senators.



By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
32nd Senatorial District, Bronx County, New York 


   As you know, the latest hot potato in our political world here in Albany is the leap of faith just taken by Democratic Senator Tony Avella from Queens, New York to abandon the every-day weakening Democratic Conference and jump to the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) led by Senator Jeffrey Klein from the Bronx.

You should know that with this jump, I am pretty sure that Senator Avella will be getting some benefits and privileges, e.g., office, staff, and a committee chairmanship, most likely the Aging Committee, which is currently vacant.

Senator Avella’s jump opens a “Pandora’s Box,” and now the door has been opened wide for more of us to follow his lead, although a while back I remember a statement made by Senator Diane Savino, a member of the IDC, that said “Everyone is welcome, except Rubén Díaz,” and because of that, I am afraid that in the end, I will be the last one left behind, unless Senator Savino changes her mind.

The cost of the IDC’s increase in power and influence of its leader Senator Jeffrey Klein has been the arrogance, apathy and pride of some members in our Democratic Conference.

For a long time I have been calling for their return and asking my colleagues to talk to Jeff Klein and the member of the IDC and to “make them an offer that they cannot refuse,” and bring them back so that we Democrats could be in the Majority again. The response from my Democratic colleagues, lamentably, has been that “we would rather always be in the minority.” To them I now say be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

As you know the IDC used to be composed of five members: Senator Jeff Klein, Senator Diane Savino, Senator David Valesky, Senator David Carlucci and the only minority in the group, Senator Malcolm Smith. We all know that Senator Smith got booted out, leaving the IDC with only white members. Now ladies and gentleman, my advice, my two cents worth, to Jeff Klein and the IDC is to work on one minority because you need a little diversity in your conference.

And to my colleagues in the Democratic Conference, I say that now we can really kiss the majority good-bye and as some of you have wished, we’re going to be in the minority for a long time. I told you so.

This is Senator Rev Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

Editors Note:

We now know what is taking Senator Diaz so long to join the IDC. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ben Franklin Democratic Club 13th Congressional Endorsement

  Last week the powerful Ben Franklin Democratic Club endorsed its favorite son Congressman Eliot Engel for re-election in the 16th Congressional District. However due to redistricting two years ago Congressman Engel is no longer the sole representative in Congress for the 81st Assembly District or the Ben Franklin Club. The 13th Congressional district now makes up close to 35 percent of the 81st Assembly District (36 election districts). Last night there was a meeting to hear from the three current candidates, and decide which if any of the three the club shall endorse. The petitioning process of gathering signatures for candidates for federal office begins on March 4th for the June congressional elections.
   The first candidate heard by the club was Harlem Pastor Michael Walrod. Candidate Walrond spoke about why he should be the choice in the 13th Congressional District. He gave a brief bio of himself, and  mentioned that he is affiliated with the National Action Network headed by Reverend Al Sharpton. Walrond stated that only 6 percent of the eligible voters came out to vote two years ago in the last 13th district primary, and that he wants to bring out more people to vote. 
  To questions Walrond answered that he believes in woman's rights going into a story on how his son was born two years before he and his wife were married. He said that he left it up to his future wife to decide if she wanted to have the child or not. He added that he is on Mayor de Blasio's UPK group seeking Universal Pre-Kindergarden learning. On a question of gay rights Walrond said that he is a Baptist minister, but believes in them along with marriage equality. When asked his position on Israel Warlrond answered that the U.S. must maintain the current levels, but he said that he does want to see peace in Palestine.
  Next came State Senator Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat spoke of the diversity and needs of the people in the district. he said that he would have a Bronx district office also, and that the Bronx should not be left behind. Espaillat spoke of the gridlock in Washing ton that states are having to take up. He wants to work with his friend Congressman Engel when it comes to the subject of Israel, adding that the biggest threat to not only Israel but also the u>S. is the country of Iran. Espaillat finished by saying that he wants a higher minimum wage that will help to stimulate local economies, more job creation, and more housing. 
  Last was the incumbent Charles Rangel. Rangel spoke about his over 40 years in congress. He said that he wants to know why anyone else is better than him to represent the people of the 13th district. Rangel spoke of his friendships with President Obama and the Prime Minister of Israel. He said that he has spoken with Bronx Democratic County Leader Carl Heastie to find a place for a district office in the Bronx, but because of the sequester last year there was no money to find such an office. Rangel concluded by saying "Until the last breath in him he will defend the United States".
  After all three candidates had left Ben Franklin Club President Ellen Feld asked if the club should endorse in the 13th Congressional District. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz rose and said that the club should not commit tonight to a candidate. He continued by saying that the club endorsed Senator Espaillat two years ago. He said that he thinks that both Congressman Rangel and Senator Espaillat have done a good job in office, and that this meeting was called in order to meet the new federal guidelines that were put in place two years ago for the new election and petitioning process for federal elections. Dinowitz also said that it is not known if anyone else may decide to run in this district or if one of the candidates may drop out. 
  81st A.D.  District Leader Bruce Feld said that he gave a speech in favor of a candidate two years ago in May after petitions were finished then the club then endorsed a candidate. Feld suggested that this endorsement be decided again in May since there are more questions of the candidates as there were two years ago. 
  Sergio Villavarde a club member then made a motion to table the vote on the 13th congressional district. An amendment that the vote be postponed was unanimously passed by a voice vote.
 13th Congressional District candidate Michael Walrond speaks to the Ben Franklin Democratic Club for their endorsement.
13th Congressional District candidate Adriano Espaillat speaks to the Ben Franklin Democratic Club for their endorsement.
 13th incumbent Congressman and candidate Charles Rangel speaks to the Ben Franklin Democratic Club for their endorsement.

Cohen, Engel, Klein and Dinowitz Urge Metro-North to Implement NTSB Recommendations

  Council Member Andrew Cohen, Congressman Eliot Engel, State Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Dinowitz have called on Metro-North to adopt the recommendations put forward by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the aftermath of the Metro-North train derailment in Spuyten Duyvil this past December.

Last week, NTSB’s Chairwoman Deborah Hersman released a five-page preliminary report which reviewed the accident where four people died and dozens of others were injured.  The recommendations include installing permanent speed restriction signage to alert operating crews of areas where any significant decrease in speed exists and installing inward and outward facing cameras and audio recorders to ensure that crews are operating in accordance with appropriate regulations and procedures.  According to the NTSB’s report the recorded images and sounds should be reviewed routinely to identify unsafe behaviors and allow for corrective practices to be implemented before accidents occur.

Council Member Andrew Cohen said, “I support the recommendations put forth by Chairwoman Hersman as this is a good first step in improving safety with our mass transit.  I urge Metro-North to implement these recommendations immediately to help protect all commuters.”

Congressman Eliot Engel said, “The Metro-North train derailment was a tragedy that must never be repeated. The recommendations from National Transportation Safety Board are simple, straight-forward and should be implemented without delay.  The NTSB report also notes that inward-facing image recorders may be able to detect and address worker fatigue.   Metro-North should further explore this potential.”

Senator Jeff Klein said, "In the wake of the devastating Metro-North train derailment in Spuyten Duyvil late last year, it is clear new safeguards need to be adopted to prevent such a horrific event like this from happening again. The recommendations suggested by the National Transportation Safety Board are essential steps in keeping operators, riders and members of our local communities safer. I commend the NTSB for submitting their recommendations and look forward to working together to implement additional safety measures they identify during their investigation."

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said, "The horrible accident that took place December 1st, 2013 was both tragic and avoidable. It is crucial that we ensure that such an accident never takes place again, either at Spuyten Duyvil or any place else. The recommendations of NTSB should be implemented immediately. People who take any form of mass transit should never be in fear of injury or loss of life".

Friday Afternoon Memorial Planned for 6-year old Traffic Accident Victim Amar Diarrassouba

  Friday Afternoon Memorial Planned for 6-year old Traffic Accident Victim Amar Diarrassouba

On February 28, 2014 at approximately 2:30pm, the students and staff of PS 155 will hold a brief remembrance in honor of 6-year old Amar Diarrassouba at the intersection of East 117th Street and First Avenue in Harlem.  Amar was killed there one year ago by a tractor trailer truck.

All are invited to attend to remember this bright, energetic young boy, as balloons are released in loving memory.

His parents, Sidiki and Meichata Diarrassouba dearly hope that the legislation introduced last year in the New York State Senate requiring guards on truck wheels, will be finally be approved.

For further information, please contact Christopher Lynn at (917) 385-0368.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sandy Survivors Urge de Blasio to Take Action on Rebuilding

Sandy Survivors Urge Mayor de Blasio to Take Immediate Action on Rebuilding and Recovery in Hardest-Hit Areas of the City

Growing Sense of Humanitarian Crisis, Despair, and Abandonment in Low-Income Areas Hit Hardest by Sandy. #RebuildaJustNY

***Sandy Survivors Revealed Big Problems with the Build it Back Program, and Offered de Blasio Recommendations for Reform that Don’t Require Any Albany Approval***

  Sandy survivors from the hardest-hit low-income communities gathered Monday to urge Mayor de Blasio and his administration to take immediate action on rebuilding, amid mounting evidence that city government has not done enough to help the most vulnerable residents still reeling from the Superstorm.

On the steps of City Hall, they released a major new report, How Sandy Rebuilding Can Reduce Inequality in New York City ( It highlights concrete ways in which Mayor de Blasio can use billions in federal recovery dollars to fix the broken Build it Back Program and strengthen low-income communities that were struggling the most prior to Sandy. It shows how city government can combine climate sustainability with the creation of family-sustaining jobs, deeply affordable housing, and improved public housing.

“We are standing at the edge of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle inequality and make our city fairer and stronger for all residents and communities….New York City can become a national model for transforming post-disaster rebuilding and recovery into shared prosperity and greater economic opportunity.  While other aspects of Mayor de Blasio’s agenda require Albany approval, this vision for Sandy rebuilding can be pursued quickly and aggressively at the level of city agencies,” the report says.

Today’s event and report release was organized by Faith in New York and the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding (AJR), the citywide coalition of Sandy survivors, which held a Sandy rebuilding tour with then-mayoral candidate de Blasio in September 2013.

During that rebuilding tour, de Blasio toured the Sandy-ravaged home of the Bennett family in Far Rockaway. Bennett Davon Bennett was one of the key speakers at City Hall today. He reminded Mayor de Blasio of promises that were made to his family months ago.

"In September 2013, my family felt a sense of hope when Bill de Blasio visited our badly damaged home in Far Rockaway, Queens. That day, Mr. de Blasio made a promise to my family and my community that he would “right some greater wrongs” and help lift us out of poverty through the Sandy rebuilding effort. In the process of repairing our house, my parents have depleted their savings, their retirement account, and my college fund. Now after waiting sixth months for help from the Build it Back program, the city is telling us we need to raze our home. I am here today because I am counting on Mayor de Blasio to keep his commitment to put my family and thousands of others on a clear path to prosperity and resiliency after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Bennett Davon Bennett, a member of Faith in New York, a Rockaway-based organization that has been a leader on Sandy rebuilding. 

Another Sandy survivor who spoke at City Hall today was Staten Island resident Felipa Campos, who used to live in Midland Beach but was displaced to St. George.

"I lost the place that I lived in Sandy and was moving from one place to another for nearly a year. I finally have place to live but it's not affordable.  Many people in my community went through the same as me and worse.  More than anything, what we need in our community so that we can recover the life we lost in Sandy, is new affordable housing.  We ask the mayor etc. to listen to us and give priority to creating affordable housing in the areas affected by Sandy," said Felipa Campos, a member of Make the Road New York, a top immigrant advocacy organization in New York.

Several City Council members who have been vocal and visible leaders on Sandy rebuilding also participated, and endorsed the recommendations in the report.

“We are still a long way from achieving a just, equitable, and sustainable recovery after Sandy.  In low-income communities like Coney Island, the basic needs of residents are not being met. City government should re-open registration for Build-it-Back immediately, and enact the recommendations for reform offered today by Sandy survivors and the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding. We need to ensure that Sandy rebuilding efforts reduce inequality instead of perpetuating it," said Councilmember Mark Treyger, who is Chair of the new Resiliency and Recovery Committee, which is focused on Sandy oversight.
I am proud to stand with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding to draw attention to the crisis that remains in Sandy-affected communities like Red Hook.  We need swift action from the de Blasio administration to ensure that federal recovery dollars promote resiliency and capture the synergies between rebuilding and economic empowerment for low-income and immigrant communities,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Immigration Committee who proposed with Councilmember Treyger the creation of the new Council Committee on Resiliency and Recovery.

“I am proud to stand with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding and Councilmembers Treyger and Menchaca in support of recommendations that can ensure an equitable and effective recovery for communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy.  Sandy exacerbated the economic situation for low-income communities. This report provides a pragmatic vision for ensuring that the Build it Back program reaches our city’s hardest-hit residents, and that NYCHA buildings become more resilient and better-funded in the future,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres, a Deputy Leader in the City Council and Chair of the Public Housing Committee, who will hold a City Council hearing later this week on NYCHA and Sandy in a Coney Island NYCHA building.

Tree Safety and Community News

 This comes from the Office of Council Member Mark Levin, Chair City Council Parks Committee

On Tuesday, Council Member Mark Levine will  host his first committee meeting as Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee. The committee members will examine NYC trees’ safety and maintenance during this crucial time following record snowfalls coupled with a large expansion in the number of trees as MillionTreesNYC approaches its goal of one million trees planted. The Department of Parks and Recreation, New Yorkers for Parks, Trees New York, and members of the public will offer testimony on maintaining and inspecting trees and explore solutions for ensuring tree safety throughout the five Boroughs.
All committee meetings are open to the public. If you can’t attend in person, you can live stream it via:
Our office has hit the ground running in delivering results to our neighbors. Some of the highlights from the month include: 
  • Aligned with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan,  we have been among the most vocal in the City Council on safety issues throughout our district. We will not stop pushing until our community is pedestrian-friendly and bikeable and until traffic regulations are routinely enforced. "We cannot live in a city where pedestrian safety is second to the rights of drivers breaking traffic regulations," said Council Member Mark Levine. "We need greater traffic law enforcement and a redesign of the way traffic is managed. Lowering the speed limit and installing more cameras to monitor illegal driving behavior will give the NYPD the tools to prevent these pedestrian accidents." Full Article.
  • Sabine Franklin, our scheduler and community liaison worked with the Applicant division unit at Police Plaza and the Traffic Safety Unit at the 24th Precinct to bring a crossing guard to the corner of 97th and Broadway with support from the Borough President’s office. 
  • With the kickoff of Dominican Heritage Month, Council Member Levine began celebrating la cultura Quisqueyana on Sunday February 23rd, recognizing several leaders in the uptown Latino community for their commitment to progress in Manhattan Valley, Morningside and Hamilton Heights. Our community liaison Fidel Malena worked closely with Dominican Sunday to make this year’s event memorable. 
It's budget season in the City Council, which means that we've been meeting with the various organizations and looking over applications as they come in to our legislative office. If you haven't applied yet, please submit your application by the deadlines listed below.

Reach out to us if there’s anything going on in the district that you think we should know. Tweet @MarkLevineNYC, call us at 212-928-6814 OR email us at

Bronx River Alliance March 4th Winter Assembly

The Bronx River Alliance invites you to our annual…

Winter Assembly
March 4th 2014
Bronx Museum of the Arts
6:30pm – 8:00pm
FREE fun night. Come out to network, reflect & discuss your ideas and projects along the Bronx River.
Light dinner and refreshments will be served. Beer courtesy of Bronx Beer Hall.

Presentations by Volunteers:
*Fish passage* *Plastic bag ban* *Friends of Soundview* *Green Infrastructure*

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10456

By public transportation, take the 4 train to 167th St & Grand Concourse. Walk south; it is between 165th street and 166th street.
*Street parking is available in the area for those driving.

Let us know if you’re able to join us! Please contact Joseph Sanchez via email at or by phone at 718-430-4636.

Winter Assembly 2014 New.bmp

Thousands of Schools in New York Without Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Potential Tragedy Looms for Millions of k-12 Students

  Assemblyman Marcos Crespo Calls on Governor to Amend School Technology Bonding Proposal and Fund Monoxide Detector Installations in over 6,500 Schools Statewide

  Today, Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo called on Governor Cuomo to take affirmative action and provide school districts across New York State with the funding needed to retrofit schools with carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.  "Last December, Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation I authored which called on the State Education Department to study how to fund the retrofitting of our schools with carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. That study is due by the end of July of this year. However, it is my strong belief that we can not wait for a report and then wait longer to take action on this real and deadly threat to our children and school staff," stated Crespo.

According to Crespo, "Two weeks ago 30 children in Springfield, Minnesota had to be taken to a hospital emergency room because of a carbon monoxide leak in their school. This weekend the same poison gas killed a restaurant manager and injured 27 others.  On June 18, 2013, the same day the Legislature passed my legislation (A.7433-A), an elementary school in Yonkers was evacuated due to a carbon monoxide leak. This past October, a Long Island elementary school needed to be evacuated as well due to the release of this poison."

The leak was discovered by accident when the local fire department responded to a natural gas leak in the school.  "A potential horrible tragedy was prevented. However, almost 3.3 million k-12 students in New York attend school buildings without a monoxide detector.  This should shock every parent into pushing school officials and the State Education Department in immediate action," stated Crespo.

"Just a few weeks before Governor Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 7433-A into law, another school in New York had to be evacuated due to a carbon monoxide leak. It is clear to me that our children are in imminent danger and a tragedy is on the horizon. That is why I introduced three separate bills in 2013 on this issue.  

One bill required immediate funding for school districts for the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors (A3572). The other required school districts to include the cost of such installation when they bond for athletic field and building improvements (A7247).  "Each year dozens of school districts borrow money for such improvements. Adding the relatively small cost for retrofitting their schools with carbon monoxide detectors is a practical and common sense approach at a time when school officials are concerned with 'unfunded mandates,'" stated Crespo.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas which can cause nausea, headaches and dizziness. If it is allowed to build up in enclosed spaces, it can be deadly. Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors represent an inexpensive and effective way to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, especially in children, who unlike adults, have higher respiratory rates until they reach adulthood.

Crespo stated, "We have over 4,200 public schools and another 2,500 private school buildings in New York State that were built prior to a 2007 law that required all new schools to have carbon monoxide detectors installed. We have been fortunate that a tragedy has not occurred sooner." He added, "This winter's severe cold weather has required our schools heating systems to be on overdrive and the potential for a carbon monoxide leak has increased. It is clear we can no longer wait for the report on funding options required by my legislation."

"I urge the Governor to take advantage of the current budget negotiations to address this critically important and life-impacting problem for our children and families," Crespo asserted.

These schools buildings house over 3 million school-age children daily during every academic school year. All these schools operate on fossil fuels which produce carbon monoxide (CO) as a byproduct of combustion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year, some 500 Americans die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and over 20,000 have to be treated for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  "Immediate action is needed to protect our children from such exposure while in school," declared Crespo. "Everyone recognizes that carbon monoxide kills if not responded to immediately. The most serious characteristic of carbon monoxide (CO) is that, unlike smoke or natural gas, it is virtually undetectable, even when someone is awake and alert."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

20th Annual Bronx Parks Speak Out - A 20/20 Vision

  There were hundreds of people who came from all over the Bronx to be a part of the 20th Annual Bronx Parks Speak out. You were first treated to a roomful of tables by local Bronx organizations who wanted you to know just who they were and about their group. Lunch was then served to you, and you were able to sit down with many of the exhibitors for more details on them and their cause.
   After lunch Mr. Dart Westphal (of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality) welcomed you, and gave a brief history of how the Bronx Parks Speak Out came about. He mentioned the different hosts of the event over the years including himself who hosted the first Bronx Parks Speak Out. He then introduced the first panel for a discussion about Pelham Bay Park.
   Ms. Karen Argenti also a host of previous events took over for Mr. Westphal as she introduced Mr. Angel Hernandez of the Bronx Historical Society. Mr. Hernandez spoke about the "Greening of the Bronx" about how many of the parks came about to be. After this presentation Ms. Joyce Hogie another past host of this event introduced the second panel discussion on "Waterfront Access". 
  After the second of three panel discussion was over the audience broke out into three workshops. 
When the workshops were over the third panel discussion which included Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz spoke about the Northwest Bronx.
  I must say that in the second panel discussion there seemed to be a theme of "Anti Fresh Direct" who has been given government subsidiaries to relocate in the Community Board 1 area along the waterfront. 

Left - As mentioned above this was the Boycott fresh Direct table.
Right - The BCEQ table with I.C. Levenberg (left) & Evan Camp.

Left - Community Board 11 member Bob Bieder is at the table for the Friends of Pelham Bay Park maned by Al Perez & Dan Clay.
Right - Community Board 8 member Laura Spalter is by the "Save The Putnam Trail" table maned by Matt Turov & Debbi Dolan.

Left - Natalie, Griseldai, Raimnunde, and Chris of the Friends of Van Cortklandt Park.
Right - A photo of the crowd. Click on any photo to make it larger.

Left - A map of the parks in the Bronx.
Right - Mr. Dart Westphal welcoming everyone to the 20th Annual Bronx Parks Speak Out.