Archive for the 'News & Features' Category

Source: NYCIBO

Source: NYCIBO

While the news that New York City will expand speed camera enforcement across the five boroughs was met with conspiratorial sneering from local drivers, revenue data suggests that the overall amount of funds collected for traffic fines has declined every year for the past four years despite the expansion of camera-enforcement programs.

That’s not to say there’s not money being made: the city pulled in more than $55 million in fiscal year 2014 (which ended on June 30), and 75 percent of that was from camera-based enforcement. The city budget for 2015 already presumes a jump to $62 million in revenue, with an even larger percentage coming from camera enforcement.

The New York City Independent Budget Office released a new infographic yesterday that charts the amount of revenue collected from traffic fines from 1999 to the present, and also shows the share of those collections that came via police-issued violations, red-light cameras, bus-lane cameras and the newest enforcement tool: speed cameras.

Some of the takeaways?

  • The proportion of revenue generated by cameras has grown from just 38 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2014.
  • The amount of revenue in 2014 is nearly double that collected in 1999. (Adjusted for inflation, the jump is less stark; the increase is just under $13 million.)
  • Since 2004, actual revenue from police-issued traffic violations has been on a steady decline, marginally offsetting some of the increases from camera enforcement.
  • Red-light camera revenues are the lowest they’ve been since 2007, the year before a massive expansion of the program, suggesting that camera enforcement won’t drive revenues forever.

There are two big spikes in the graph, one in 2008 and another in 2011.

The first coincided with an increase in the number of red light cameras installed around the city. After the increase, there’s a drop again. That’s probably because once drivers figure out where the cameras are, they make sure to abide by the law.

The 2011 spike came as a result of a ruling that unpaid red light summonses can count towards the threshold needed for the city to tow your car for unpaid tickets. Delinquent motorists who saw their cars impounded had to pay back those fines that year to reclaim their vehicles.

The two newest forms of camera revenue are also seeing pretty rapid growth as drivers have yet to adjust to them. Bus-lane cameras were introduced in 2011 as part of the Select Bus Service program. As that program has steadily expanded across the five boroughs, so has the number of cameras, and thus the number of violations.

Speed cameras were introduced in early 2014, with just 20 in school zones around the city. That led to $2.1 million in fines collected. But the program has been approved for massive expansion, with 120 new cameras on the way.

The city is projecting it will put $7.6 million in city coffers, but if the historical spikes from the expansion of red light cameras are any indication, it’ll probably rake in more than that before falling off over a few years.

So is it about money? It’s anybody’s guess. There’s definitely a historical increase in revenues collected but it’s not as staggering as one would think, given the massive expansion of these programs. And the data here suggests the gains appear short-lived as drivers learn to follow the rules of the road.

Here’s the above chart in an interactive format. Hover over each of the bars to see how much actual revenue was received for each method:

Screenshot of the interactive Vision Zero map.

Screenshot of the interactive Vision Zero map.

When we told you last month about the interactive Vision Zero map the Department of Transportation launched, there were just a few user-created bubbles identifying local traffic safety issues in our area. There’s a bunch more now, which we’ll take full credit for, but our neighborhood still pales in comparison to the contributions of northern Brooklyn neighborhoods and Bay Ridge.

C’mon, guys. Are we really going to let Bay Ridge and Fort Greene hog all that DOT attention? No way!

Fortunately, there’s still some time to share our complaints. Neighbors have until July 31 to add intersection-specific concerns.

Overall, the map has received more than 7,500 tips from around the five boroughs. The information will be used for traffic planning to ease congestion and make streets safer for everybody – drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, alike. From a DOT statement:

Input is vital, especially from those familiar with local traffic conditions and people’s behavior. The comments will be used to shape robust borough-specific traffic safety plans that will guide future work as part of Mayor de Blasio’s goal to eliminate traffic fatalities.

To add a complaint to the map, click this link, zoom in to the area, and click on an intersection as identified by white bubbles.  The map will then split to a street view, and in the bottom left there’s a button that says “Share an issue.” Click that, and fill out the form that pops up.

That’s it! The tool lets you share concerns about a host of issues, from speeding and red-light running, to bad biker behavior, and intersections where it just takes too darn long to cross the street.

Remember, as in all things city government-related, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And we like grease. So squeak away.

Pineiro

Pineiro, third from right, poses with Chell, Valdez, Councilmember Deutsch and members of the 61st Precinct Community Council (Source: NYPD1DCPINEIRO/Twitter)

The 61st Precinct Community Council received a rare visit from First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro, the second highest-ranking official of the NYPD, to acknowledge the transfer of Captain John Chell and welcome incoming commanding officer Deputy Inspector Carlos Valdez to the post.

The meeting served as a ceremonial passing of the baton, with community members heaping praise on Chell who served as head of the command for 22 months and is now being transferred to the 79th Precinct, covering Bed-Stuy. But Pineiro also faced some heat from residents who questioned the long-standing NYPD policy of regularly reshuffling commanding officers around the city, as well as other concerns.

Pineiro’s trip to the command was unpublicized, and his arrival, with security in tow, raised eyebrows among those unsure of the purpose of the dignitary’s visit. But the second-in-command appeared to be present to speak to the service of his commanding officers.

“I want to express on behalf of the department our deep appreciation for the great job he did here, effectively addressing crime conditions and quality-of-life conditions while he was here,” Pineiro said. “He was instrumental in shephedring the community … though Superstorm Sandy, and he also hosted the 60th Precinct members” who were flooded from their stationhouse.

The deputy commissioner switched his attention to Deputy Inspector Carlos Valdez, who has taken the reins of the command. Valdez arrives from PSA 1, which patrols public housing developments within the 60th, 61st, 63rd and 69th Precincts.

“He did a great job [at PSA 1],” he said. “He was instrumental during those very dark days that we had where we lost police officer Dennis Guerra as a result of that fire that took place in that housing development. He conducted himself with a tremendous amount of professionalism and dignity and spent a great deal of time with the family. I want to commend him, he’s an extremely competent, confident guy.”

Pineiro, a Cuban immigrant who is the highest-ranking Hispanic-American on the force, also spoke of the department’s changing demographics and its reflection on the opportunities available in New York City. It is unclear if Valdez is the first Hispanic-American to lead the 61st Precinct.

“The evolution, the transformation of this agency is representative of what this city can offer. I was given an opportunity to come here, become a citizen, join the agency that I had no relation to … and I was able to go up through the ranks” and pursue education with help from the NYPD, he said.

Many neighbors at the meeting heaped praise on Chell for his time in the precinct. But Pineiro, who took questions after his remarks, was challenged on the department’s staffing policy. Commanding officers generally serve two-to-four years in one precinct before being switched to another area, and some in the audience believed it prevented them from learning and understanding the unique neighborhoods in which they work.

“Try to explain to me why, when things are working perfectly, somebody has to mess up the whole thing. No disrespect to the inspector who is about to take over, but Captain Chell was doing such a good job … and all of a sudden he’s moving on,” said Gerritsen Beach resident Bob Banham. “No disrespect, but it’s going to take [Valdez] over a year to turn around and point out what’s going on in the community.”

Pineiro urged residents to “have faith,” saying he believed in Valdez’ abilities.

He added that the shifting of personnel allows them to learn new techniques and develop broader expertise, which they bring to new commands as they move.

Chell seconded the confidence in Valdez during his outgoing statements.

“I sit here and get the props and thank yous, and I appreciate it, but the [officers of the 61st Precinct] are the ones who did it, and I get credit for it. And I thank you on their behalf,” he said. “Inspector Valdez is going to do well for two reasons. And it’s the only two things you really need in this job. You work hard, and your heart is in the right place.”

Valdez promised to work closely with the community to continue Chell’s work.

“I look very forward to being here. I’m very excited, and I’m very community oriented. I will try to address your issues and your problems that you present to me and my staff as much as possible,” he said.

Source: MichaelTapp/Flickr

B LINE

From 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday, Brighton Beach-bound B trains skip 182-183 Sts.

Q LINE

There are no subway service adjustments scheduled for this week.

F LINE

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, Coney Island-bound F trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, F service operates in two sections:

  1. Between 179 St and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts A/G station – the last stop.
  2. Between Bedford-Nostrand Avs and Stillwell Av.
    • To continue your trip, transfer at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts.

From 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m., Wednesday to Friday, 179 St-bound F trains run local from 21 St-Queensbridge to Roosevelt Av.

Oh, what’s that? You’re dieting on a Sunday? Too bad, buddy. Taken at Donut Shoppe (a.k.a. Sheikh’s) (Source: roboppy/Flickr)

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): What’s this? A Sunday post on Sheepshead Bites? Yep, we’re doing that now. You’ve got a big week ahead of you because you’re an important person. So we’re going to make your life a little easier and refresh your addled-brain with a roundup of some of the big stories you may have missed this past week.

Of course, you can keep up with what’s going on in the neighborhood all week long. Just follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for our daily newsletter. If you have any news tips, story ideas, questions or anything else, e-mail us at editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Here are the big stories on Sheepshead Bites from July 7 – 12:

Have a great Sunday, and if you’re looking for something new to eat, try Anatolian Gyro’s octopus salad.

swastika

A fringe religious group that believes extraterrestrial scientists created life on Earth is today flying a large swastika banner over Brighton Beach and Coney Island, outraging residents in one of the world’s largest communities of Holocaust survivors.

The plane was spotted by beachgoers flying between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street around noon. With a symbol of a Star of David interlaced with the swastika, and a message that reads “卐 + ☮ = ❤ Proswastika.org,” the banner is commissioned annually by the International Raelian Movement in an attempt to “rehabilitate” the symbol to it’s pre-Nazi-era meaning of peace. It flew over the beach in previous years, sparking headlines - and outbursts from upset residents.

This year is no different.

“A plane was flying with this sign over the beach today, not once but twice it went past  the beach. Beaches filled with families and children. This is an inhumane action and must be stopped,” wrote tipster Jane Roitman, who sent in the photo above.

Another tipster called in to say that the group is being beyond insensitive, given the area’s dense population of Holocaust survivors and the current inflamed tensions between Israel and Palestine.

“I was dumbfounded by it. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and everyone [in Brighton Beach] knows someone whose family was affected by the Holocaust,” said Loren Azimov. “The timing could not be worse with everything going on in Israel and Palestine; it’s as bad as it has ever been.”

Azimov said there are other ways to try to rehabilitate the symbol without being so offensive, and that he’d like to see either the banner grounded.

“The First Amendment is not an acceptable reason [to let it fly.] What if it was rehabilitation of slavery? People would be up in arms,” Azimov said, adding that he’d like to see pressure on the company the organization chartered to refuse them access to the skies in the future.

It wouldn’t be the first company to decline the Raelian’s business. The group sought an expanded international campaign for what they’re calling Swastika Rehabilitation Week this year. When they approached a major Canadian billboard company, they were turned away.

“The company representative said many people would see our ad as offensive and inflammatory, so they wouldn’t post it,” said Thomas Kaenzig in a press release. Kaenzig is a planetary guide, the title for a top-ranking clergymember. “So this poses a real catch 22. How can the world be reeducated about the truth of this symbol if we can’t get the word out to show people?”

Azimov has been calling elected officials and government agencies, but to no avail. One prominent leader in Brighton Beach’s Russian-Jewish community told him that he should “consider writing a letter to the leadership of this org and kindly express compelling reasons not to fly this in our area.”

The Raelians may not be so receptive to Azimov’s rationale. Aside from brushing off similar complaints in previous years, the group appears to have a tenuous grasp on reality.

Raelism dates back to the 1970s and is the world’s largest UFO religion, believing that space scientists created life and have been popping in for visits throughout human history (with increased frequency in recent years, as evidenced through all the UFO sightings in the past century). Buddha, Jesus and other religious figures are all believed by the group to be messengers of the extraterrestrials. The group is attempting to build an interplanetary embassy to welcome extraterrestrials, and have been denied land in Israel because of their prominent use of the swastika.

The group also operates Clonaid, a company developing human cloning. The company claimed to have cloned the first human in 2002. There was no evidence that the claim was anything more than a publicity stunt, and the group has since been derided as cult led by a sex-crazed leader.

UPDATE (3:28 p.m.): Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island and part of Brighton Beach, and is also the grandson of Holocaust survivors, called Sheepshead Bites to express his outrage.

“It isabsolutely disgusting and an egregious act of hate and intolerance. Whatever this hate group is, it’s an unacceptable act. I’ve asked the police department to investigate how this happened and how it came to be,” he said.

Treyger said he’s received numerous calls from constituents offended by the banner. He has also reached out to the mayor’s office and the City Council speaker’s office, which he said were receptive to the concerns. He said authorities are trying to determine if the plane and advertising campaign are in violation of any laws, and are also attempting to identify the company chartered to fly the banner.

The local pol said the group’s attempt to restore the symbol as one of peace and unity has little chance of success, and the group should stop its “outrageous” approach.

“Try asking someone who witnessed their loved ones murdered under that symbol if they’ll view that symbol as anything but murder and pain,” he said. “There’s no place for this here in this country.”

Source: Jon Chevier™/Flickr

Q LINE

There are no subway service advisories scheduled at this time.

F LINE

From 9:45 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Jamaica-bound F trains are rerouted via the E after 47-50 Sts to Roosevelt Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday, F trains run local in Queens.

The teaching center's Sheepshead Bay office (Source: Google Maps)

The teaching center’s Sheepshead Bay office (Source: Google Maps)

A former employee of a New York Methodist Hospital teaching facility in Sheepshead Bay has filed a lawsuit against the facility, claiming staff knowingly exposed the public to potential health risks, and terminated her employment when she tried to make it known.

According to the complaint filed earlier this week with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, plaintiff Shagufta Syed alleges that while working as the program director last year at Methodist’s Center for Allied Health Education, School of Radiation Therapy, located at 1401 Kings Highway, she learned that students who had not received a required health clearance — which would entail providing proof of receiving flu and hepatitis shots and being screened for contagious diseases — were “coming into contact with patients who had significantly compromised immune systems as a result of their cancer radiation treatment,” contrary to the Rules and Regulations of the State of New York.

Those students, she claims, worked with patients receiving radiation therapy at Methodist, SUNY Downstate Medial Center, the Brooklyn Hospital Center, LEROS, and the Lutheran Medical Center.

Upon telling one of her supervisors, Syed claims in the lawsuit that she received this response:

“Don’t worry about it. Nothing’s ever done right here.”

The complaint says Syed then reached out to the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology about the situation, and once her Methodist supervisors learned of this, she claims she was fired for doing so.

The complaint further alleges that upon submitting a claim for settlement, Methodist’s lawyers sent a letter claiming they had “documented facts” that could “prove costly” should Syed decide to pursue the litigation, but that those facts were not presented when requested pre-litigation.

Syed is claiming a loss of income from what she says is a wrongful termination, along with emotional distress, and is suing for the sum of $75,000.

“We cannot comment on the lawsuit brought by the individual whose employment was terminated,” Methodist said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. “However, we can assure you that, as required by regulatory agencies and accrediting bodies, our radiation therapy students receive the same health clearances as our employees before they are allowed to enter into clinical rotations.”

– Mary Bakija

grimm2

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

The New York Post reports:

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

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

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

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

The Midwood building where Hussein beat his wife to death. (Source: Google Maps)

The Midwood building where Hussein beat his wife to death. (Source: Google Maps)

Noor Hussein, 75, was sentenced yesterday to 18 years to life for beating his 66-year-old wife to death in their Midwood home in 2011 after she cooked him the wrong meal.

Hussein was convicted of second degree murder last month, when a jury found him guilty of viciously beating his wife Nazar as she lay in bed, most likely asleep. The assault caused massive head trauma that led to a fatal brain hemorrhage, according to expert testimony during the trial. The medical examiner determined she had been struck more than 20 times.

When he was arrested, Hussein told police that he “disciplined” his wife earlier in the night because she cooked a meal that wasn’t to his satisfaction, but that she went to bed unharmed. Neighbors, however, testified that they had witnessed Hussein abuse his wife for years.

“This defendant viciously attacked his wife as she lay in bed, unable to defend herself. The judge has spoken and now the defendant has been held accountable for this brutal and cowardly act,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in a press release.

Are you a victim of domestic violence, or believe you have friends, family or neighbors who may be? The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence has a number of resources to assist victims. Get help now.

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