Archive for the tag 'government'

Borough President Eric Adams and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito / File photo

Following New York City’s sixth drowning death on public property this season, Borough President Eric Adams is calling for a trio of reforms to prevent future drownings.

Adams made the proposals during a press conference yesterday on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, just yards away from where 10-year-old Takara McDuffy was pulled from the water on Tuesday and pronounced dead.

Alongside Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Adams pushed for water safety reforms to be made at both the city and state levels.

The centerpiece of his proposal is an initiative to require water safety and swimming education in all schools. Adams’ office said they’re working with Coney Island’s State Senator Diane Savino to push the measure in Albany. The proposal would require teaching about the dangers posed by water and provide swimming lessons beginning in the second grade.

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook via Daily News)

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook)

“Although it’s a beautiful place to be, it could be a very dangerous place if we’re not taught how to be safe in the environment,” said Adams. “Because there’s no clear format of teaching water safety, our children and families are recklessly going to the water’s edge believing that this beautiful ocean is a toy.”

McDuffy’s life might have been saved with such knowledge, Adams suggested. The 10-year-old had been playing on the jetty at Stillwell Avenue after lifeguards went off-duty; she and her sister fell into the water. Neither knew how to swim, and good Samaritans spotted them struggling and dove in, but only McDuffy’s 9-year-old sister could be saved.

Adams and Treyger are also calling for increased enforcement on the becahes after it closes. Treyger said he wants to see the Parks Department boost the number of Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers, and task them with ordering beachgoers out of the water once lifeguards go off-duty.

“We need more PEP officers, not just simply volunteers,” said Treyger. “Particularly when the beach is closed and swimming is over, patrol the beaches to make sure there are no children of families left in the water.”

The Parks Department already has 15 PEP officers stationed on Brighton Beach and Coney Island beach, according to PIX11.

The borough president’s office said they’re also pushing to require CPR training for every city worker, which could provide a veritable army of trained lifesavers across the five borough. A drowning or choking victim can be spared death or brain damage by cutting CPR response time by as little as two minutes, and increasing the number of people trained to provide assistance could drastically reduce response time.

Adams’ staff is looking at legislative options to make the training mandatory.

Sampson (File photo)

State Senator John Sampson, facing three primary challengers and multiple federal corruption charges, has the backing of Brooklyn’s top Democrat even as his reelection chances look bleak.

The influential chair of the Kings County Democratic Committee, Frank Seddio, says that the organization is not formally backing the embattled pol. Seddio, however, is also a district leader in Sampson’s area and the head of the powerful Thomas Jefferson Club. In those capacities, he’s tossed his hat in with Sampson.

“I’m the local district leader in this area. John Sampson represents almost my entire political district, 59 percent of my district, and he’s been our senator for the last 18 years,” Seddio told City & State. “So our club is supporting him. The county (Democratic committee) doesn’t take positions on these types of things.”

Seddio has put his attorney to getting Sampson challenger Dell Smitherman, considered a leading contender for the seat, kicked off the ballot. The attorney, Bernard “Mitch” Alter, has formally requested that the Board of Election toss out hundreds of petitions – signatures needed to get on the ballot – which would leave Smitherman out of the race.

Sources told City & State that Seddio views the race as a test of his leadership within the county party, not just within the Jefferson clubhouse that Sampson is a member of.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the inner workings of Brooklyn politics described the situation differently, linking Seddio’s support for Sampson directly to the official Brooklyn party organization.

“Frank Seddio, the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, is taking two races very seriously and as a test of his leadership,” said the Brooklyn political insider. “The first is the recently vacated seat of Eric Adams, and the second is the Sampson seat. He is doing everything he can … to ensure that John Sampson is protected and reelected.”

While the county organization might not be formally backing Sampson, there’s little to differentiate between Seddio’s wishes and that of county. Having Seddio’s support, for example, could give Sampson access to campaign donors eager to curry favor with the county boss, not to mention that it’s already given him access to election lawyers as the petition process shows.

Similarly, Seddio’s influence as county boss extends to all of his other roles, insiders say.

One insider with a Democratic club told Sheepshead Bites that Seddio was unhappy with the group after they released their first batch of endorsements, which included Smitherman. Seddio requested that he be consulted on future endorsements – a request that was granted as the club needs Seddio’s approval as a recognized chapter of the Democratic party. In that role, he was able to vouch for his candidates as district leader and head of the Thomas Jefferson Club, but his words were given extra consideration because he’s county chair, the insider said. (The insider notes that they now consult with him on all endorsements, although they do not always endorse the candidates Seddio supports.)

Seddio’s support is about all Sampson can count on, though. The 18-year-incumbent and one-time head of the State Senate Democratic Conference has seen support dry up, raising only $34,000 for this year’s campaign. Smitherman reports having $47,000 on hand, and Sean Henry reported nearly $56,000. Both Smitherman and Henry have also scored crucial union endorsements.

Sampson was indicted last year for corruption. Among the list of charges is that he stole nearly half a million dollars from the sale of foreclosed homes.

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook via Daily News)

Takara McDuffy (Source: Facebook via Daily News)

A good Samaritan yanked a 10-year-old girl and her 9-year-old sister from the water at Coney Island beach after seeing them fall off a nearby rock jetty, but the older girl did not survive.

Takara McDuffy was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital shortly after the 7 p.m. beach rescue near Stillwell Avenue. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death, but it is presumed to be a drowning.

The girls, from Staten Island, were playing at the beach with a group of family friends. Witnesses told reporters that they were playing on the jetty unsupervised and fell into the water. Bystanders jumped to action, and pulled both girls to shore.

The New York Post reports:

“People came rushing from all over to help out. It was horrible, it was chaotic,” said witness Ena ­McCaskill.

After a frantic, 10-minute search, a man found the girl floating about 100 yards from the jetty.

“He had a sound of desperation in his voice,” McCaskill recalled. “He was yelling for somebody to help him save the girl.”

Another good Samaritan administered CPR on the beach.

“A regular guy grabbed her and started doing CPR,” said witness Joseph ­Josephs, 24. “He was pounding her chest for a good minute. A lot of water was coming from her mouth.”

McDuffy’s parents lashed out at those who were supposed to be watching over their daughters, the Daily News reports.

The gathered friends and family demanded to know why little Takara – who could not swim – was apparently unsupervised by the group of adults she had gone to the beach with.

“It took a man to jump into the water and pull her out. Some man saw Takara’s body floating and he jumped in,” the family member said.

“Why wasn’t nobody paying attention? You was there all day and let her go in the water. Why wouldn’t you ask if she could swim?”

The incident happened less than an hour after lifeguards packed up for the evening. Swimming is prohibited at city beaches after 6:00 p.m., and there were no lifeguards on duty.

According to Borough President Eric Adams, it’s the sixth drowning death of the summer. Along with Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Adams will hold a press conference near the beach today to reiterate his call for citywide reforms to make public beaches safer, and will also be distributing the following fliers sharing water safety tips.

Water Safety Tips

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, facing a 20-count indictment on tax evasion, fraud and illegal hiring practices, may now head to trial in October, a month before elections.

SILive reports:

Speaking at a status conference in Brooklyn federal court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gatta said that motion procedures and hearings in the case could be held by the end of September, with a trial to begin the following month.

… Gatta said that the discovery in the case is “not particularly voluminous” and that the case itself “is fairly straightforward.”

Grimm’s new attorney, Daniel Rashbaum, said that that “schedule may be OK. I don’t know yet.”

He sought a three- or four-week delay so that he could look at the evidence. By then, Rashbaum said, he’d have a better idea “what the discovery looks like in my mind.”

But U.S. District Court Judge Pamela K. Chen said she would give Rashbaum, who notified the court last week that he was taking over the defense, two weeks to “dive into the material.”

Prior to the conference yesterday, observers believed Grimm would not go to trial until after the November 4 elections, when he faces off against Democrat Domenic Recchia. If the prosecution’s request for an October court date is granted, it would be a significant blow to the pol, who will have to fight simultaneously for his seat and his freedom.

From the office of City Councilman Chaim Deutsch:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Source: Cymbrowitz's office

Source: Cymbrowitz’s office

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Trash problems and summer heat are a bad mix, and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) says the city needs to do something about the problem now before Sheepshead Bay’s vermin population starts to soar.

In an effort to address quality of life issues throughout his district, the lawmaker took New York City Department of Sanitation Borough Superintendent Joe Lupo on a tour of Sheepshead Bay yesterday afternoon.

He invited Lupo to his district because many residents have reached out to him about trash throughout the neighborhood. In addition to overall filth in Sheepshead Bay, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz told the superintendent about the overflowing trash bins on Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue, the state of the Sheepshead Bay Road underpasses by the train station and along Shore Parkway, as well as trash along the Emmons Avenue median and Ocean Avenue.

Noting that the beauty of Sheepshead Bay attracts tens of thousands of residents and visitors each year, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz has partnered in recent years with the Department of Sanitation in an effort to encourage area merchants along Sheepshead Bay Road to sign up for Adopt-a-Basket, Sanitation’s volunteer program, which would help prevent public garbage cans from overflowing all over our streets.

The legislator also provided multi-modal funding for various beautification projects along the bay side of Emmons Avenue between Ocean Avenue and East 14th Street, which included newly-planted trees, new sidewalks, curb cuts, newly-painted railings, granite pavers, benches and covered trash receptacles. New decorative benches and trash cans recently capped off the much-anticipated project on the west end of Emmons Avenue.

In surveying the community, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz and Superintendent Lupo both agreed that immediate action needs to be taken. “While providing an aesthetically pleasing setting will encourage more people to enjoy the stretch of our waterfront, we need to be vigilant in ensuring that our community remains clean,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.

He said he looks forward to continuing to partner with the Department of Sanitation to address the problem.

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.

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.

Source: smokershighlife/Flickr

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Tuesday that his office will no longer prosecute first-time offenders arrested for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, suggesting it’s been a waste of resources that unfairly targets young men of color.

The DA laid out the new policy in a press release, saying that he will decline to prosecute marijuana cases where the defendent has no prior arrests or a minimal criminal record, and has given authorities a verifiable name and address. However, his office also provided a list of exceptions that may be prosecuted. The exceptions include cases where a defendant is nabbed smoking in public, is a sex offender, has an open warrant or the marijuana is found as a result of search warrant.

Here’s Thompson’s full statement:

“My office and the New York City Police Department have a shared mission to protect the public and we will continue to advance that goal. But as District Attorney, I have the additional duty to do justice, and not merely convict, and to reform and improve our criminal justice system in Brooklyn,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders. Pursuant to this policy, we will use our prosecutorial discretion to decline to prosecute, and dismiss upfront, certain low-level marijuana possession cases based on criteria concerning the particular individual and the circumstances of the case. For example, cases will be dismissed prior to arraignment for those with little or no criminal record, but we will continue to prosecute marijuana cases which most clearly raise public health and safety concerns.

“This policy does not express approval for the use of marijuana and should not be interpreted as such. The policy will not apply to those who smoke marijuana in public, or in the presence of children. It will not apply to 16 and 17-year-old offenders, who instead will be redirected on to a healthier path through a diversion program. It will not apply to those with a serious criminal history, to those who are known to act in a dangerous manner while under the influence, or to those who have a history of selling drugs to children,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“If the conduct in which the offender has engaged is the mere possession of a small amount of marijuana in public, it would not, under most circumstances, warrant saddling that offender with a new criminal conviction and all of its attendant collateral consequences related to employment, education and housing,” the District Attorney said.

“Furthermore, in 2013, this office processed well over 8,500 cases where the top charge was a class ‘B’ misdemeanor marijuana possession. More than two-thirds of those cases ended up being dismissed by judges, most often because the defendant was offered an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal at his or her criminal court arraignment. The processing of these cases exacts a cost on the criminal justice system and takes a toll on the individual. Given that these cases are ultimately — and predictably — dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit,” the District Attorney added.

The news of Thompson’s decision will not mean a policy shift for the New York Police Department. Regardless of prosecution, possessing marijuana remains illegal, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the announcement “will not result in any changes” at the department, suggesting cops will still make the bust.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers proposed the Fairness and Equity Act yesterday, which seeks to implement the spirit of Thompson’s decision statewide. The act aims to address racial disparities in the arrests by slashing the penalty for possession from a misdemeanor to a violation that carries a fine. It would also allow those previously convicted of possession to clear their record.

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, already in hot water over criminal charges that he evaded taxes and illegally employed undocumented immigrants, may have violated the internal ethics rules of the House of Representatives when he threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony in January.

The New York Times reports:

A one-page report by the office, a quasi-independent investigative body that serves almost like a grand jury, was released on Wednesday by the House Ethics Committee, the panel of lawmakers with the exclusive power to punish colleagues for ethical infractions.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, in a preliminary review, unanimously concluded in March that there was “substantial reason to believe that Representative Grimm threatened a reporter with bodily harm and engaged in a threatening or menacing act that created a fear of immediate injury,” which would violate local law in the District of Columbia as well as House ethics rules.

Grimm made headlines the night of the State of the Union when he was caught on camera threatening NY1 reporter Michael Scotto. He told the reporter he would “break him like a boy” and throw him off the balcony of the Capitol rotunda.

Scotto was interviewing him about a federal investigation into the congressman’s campaign fundraising that later led to criminal indictments of several Grimm associates. Grimm himself has so far escaped charges on that matter, but was slapped with a 20-count indictment alleging financial and employment improprieties in connection to a restaurant he operated before entering Congress.

The House panel will not investigate further at this time, setting it aside at the request of federal prosecutors.

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