Archive for the tag 'jeff klein'

Weinstein

A new report co-authored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and State Senator Jeff Klein indicates that nearly 30,000 homeowners in New York City are at risk of losing their properties to foreclosure, and the pair are now demanding their colleagues pick up the fight to extend a slew of homeowner protections slated to expire next year.

The homes suffering foreclosures – disproportionately located in minority communities, like those in the Flatlands section of Weinstein’s district – represent a continuing uptick in New York City’s foreclosure rates while the national rate continues its recovery from the 2007 housing crisis, according to the report.

The battles that ensue when homeowners fall behind on their mortgage payments, sometimes because of extenuating circumstances like loss of a job or unexpected medical bills, can see a resident’s assets ripped away by unmovable, monolithic banks.

But legislation first passed in 2009 gave some protection. The bill requires banks sit down with clients and try to hammer out a settlement before any foreclosure actions are taken. It also requires lenders provide notice of foreclosure, and other foreclosure mitigation efforts. The protections aren’t just a salve for that particular homeowner, but for entire communities that see property values plummet amid high foreclosure rates.

“For far too long homeowners have fallen victim to lenders who exploit loopholes and evade our state’s foreclosure filing laws, leaving homeowners stranded with fees and interest racking up and little hope of modifying their loans,” said Weinstein in a press release. “The mandatory settlement conference and 90-day notice provisions for all home loans along with the requirement for banks to negotiate in good faith are critical protections for borrowers at risk of losing their homes.”

That bill, though, is slated to expire in February 2015.

Weinstein is working with Klein, part of the Senate’s leadership coalition, to extend the protections. The bill must pass before the end of the legislative session this month. It passed the Assembly last week, and is now before the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

“Extending these expiring provisions is essential to allow homeowners regain their footing and to give them a fair chance at negotiating mortgage loan modifications so they may stay in their homes,” Weinstein said.

Source: Senator Golden's offices

State Senator Marty Golden (Source: Senator Golden’s offices)

New York Times columnist Michael Powell took State Senator Marty Golden and Sheepshead Bay’s State Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz to task for sponsoring legislation that would have directed millions of dollars to the tobacco industry, and came, Powell writes, at the behest of a campaign contributor.

The legislation in question is a bill to reform the security tax stamp placed on cigarettes that proponents said would help combat cigarette bootlegging and raise $6 million for enforcement.

But in reality, Powell writes, it would have authorized an increase in payments for cigarette wholesalers who place the stamps, raising the take from two cents per pack to five cents per pack.

When Golden was questioned during a hearing on the bill by State Senator Liz Krueger about the increase, he chalked it up to rising costs.

Mr. Golden began to mutter of higher costs for wholesalers: Con Ed, health benefits, gasoline, rent, trucks, whatever. “That’s all increased much more than the dollars that we are asking for here,” he said, a touch plaintively.

This was not true, at least percentagewise. A 1996 dollar, adjusted for inflation, is worth $1.49 today. The bill backed by Mr. Golden and Mr. [Jeff] Klein, who intently watched this debate from his desk, would more than double the revenue of the wholesale firms.

Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares power with the Republican party in the State Senate after forming an unusual alliance that shut Democrats out of leadership, co-authored the bill with Golden.

It was introduced in the State Assembly by Cymbrowitz.

According to the Times report, the bill was put forward at the behest of Leonard Schwartz, a Manhattan Beach resident and chairman of Global Wholesale Tobacco. Schwartz has been a generous contributor to the campaign coffers of Klein, Golden and, less so, Cymbrowitz.

Of course, none of this is illegal, and the bill eventually died. But Powell opines that it’s deeply symptomatic of the pay-to-play culture that pervades Albany, wherein politicians can legally except funds from corporate interests, and then push legislation that steers large sums of money into their pockets.

Neither Golden nor Cymbrowitz commented on the bill to the New York Times. But a Klein ally, Senator Diane Savino, who represents Coney Island, went on the attack when asked about it by Politicker yesterday:

“I think people should take a step back and stop pretending to be outraged because it’s absolute nonsense,” Ms. Savino told Politicker at a Hurricane Sandy press conference in Coney Island. “You can take any issue and you can find a way to twist it to make it seem like something nefarious. In every one of these articles you see is a caveat there: ‘There’s nothing illegal about this.’ Well if that’s the case, why are you writing it?”

It’s worth noting that Savino, too, has benefited from Schwartz’s largesse. He donated $500 to her campaign in 2012, according to state campaign filings.

Powell, though, responded by pointing out that it’s his duty as a reporter to point out transactions of questionable ethics, even if it’s not against the law – especially when the subjects are those who make the law.

“If all we wrote about was the illegality in Albany without looking at all the shades of moral and ethical murk that encompass it, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs as journalists,” Powell told Politicker. “If a politician does hack work, the politician can’t really complain.”

For the Republican senator, the news comes on the heels of another alleged pay-to-play scheme, in which Golden introduced legislation that would grant large tax breaks to five luxury developments in Manhattan, saving them tens of millions of dollars. The tax breaks were intended to spur residential construction and affordable housing, but the luxury properties were included under an exception proposed by Golden in the Senate, and Keith Wright in the Assembly.

The developers had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to leadership in both parties, including Golden.

When asked, Golden could not explain who added the giveaway to the legislation, or what justified it. The Moreland Commission, charged with investigating corruption in Albany, subpoenaed the developers in August.

Source: Peds.org

Motorists trying to gun it through through the streets of Sheepshead Bay are the second most likely to be caught in all of Brooklyn, according to a report by the New York Daily News.

One hundred ninety-eight speeding tickets were issued by the 61st Precinct, putting Sheepshead Bay in second place overall in Brooklyn, according to statistics released by the NYPD.

Overall, combined with tickets handed out by highway cops, about 15,000 speeding tickets were issued in Brooklyn this past year, far fewer than the 43,920 tickets issued for talking on cell phones while driving or the 37,010 tickets issued for illegally-tinted car windows.

The tracking of speeding tickets has become a hot-button issue in recent months as multiple hit-and-run tragedies have dominated headlines across the city. As we’ve previously reported, State Senator Marty Golden has been at the forefront of trying to stiffen penalties for reckless drivers, and more local politicians are following his lead.

“This data shows that Brooklyn needs more resources and clearer enforcement goals to deal effectively with dangerous drivers,” said state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Crown Heights), a former police captain and frontrunner to become Brooklyn’s next borough president. “Until these speedsters know that they’ll be caught and harshly prosecuted for their reckless behavior, they will continue to put lives at risk on our streets day-in and day-out.”

To fight dangerous speeders, officials and lawmakers have begun pushing for a program that would install speed enforcement cameras.

According to the Daily News, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Republican Temporary President and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Senator Jeff Klein all sent nearly identical letters to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for installation of the cameras.

“Motorists know that there will never be a sufficient number of police officers to catch everyone who violates the traffic laws,” Kelly wrote in a letter to Cuomo, “but the presence of speed cameras can create a strong deterrent effect, serving to reduce speeding and the collision and physical injury that it causes.”

Opponents of speed cameras point to the holes they create in law enforcement such as being able to tell if a driver is drunk, if a driver is unlicensed or if a motorist is carrying weapons while fleeing a crime scene.

Speed enforcement cameras are used in more than 120 cities across the country, but in some instances they’ve prompted lawsuits and efforts by state legislatures to ban them.

The City of Baltimore recently moved to replace its entire network of speed enforcement cameras after an investigation found numerous errors in their speed readings.

A 2011 study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety credited speed enforcement cameras with reducing fatal crashes by 24% in 14 large cities where they were used.

Here is a full breakdown of the tickets issued last year, courtesy of the Daily News via the NYPD:

Top five speeding ticket precincts

94th Precinct (Greenpoint) – 555

61st Precinct (Sheepshead Bay) – 198

62nd Precinct (Bensonhurst) – 182

79th Precinct (Bed-Stuy) – 180

60th Precinct (Coney Island) – 173

Bottom five speeding ticket precincts

83rd Precinct (Bushwick) – 8

67th Precinct (East Flatbush) – 45

88th Precinct (Clinton Hill/Fort Greene) — 46

84th Precinct (Brooklyn Heights) — 48

68th Precinct (Bay Ridge) – 63

Top Brooklyn tickets

Cell phone – 43,920

Safety belt – 37,010

Disobey sign – 29,889

Tinted windows -28,815

Uninsured – 18,954

Brake lights – 9,981

Speeding – 2,873*

(Excluding the 13,535 tickets issued by Highway officers covering the borough and parts of Queens)

Photo by Erica Sherman

With the cost of renting out storefront property perpetually on the rise across the city, it comes as no surprise that many local politicians are having trouble meeting the budget limitations set for their respective headquarter bases. State senators based in New York City are allotted $40,000 a year for rental expenditures, but many have gone over that line, according to a report in the New York Post.

One of the state senators marked for going over their rental budget allotment is our own Marty Golden who rang up a yearly rent bill of $48,000 for his Bay Ridge headquarters. Still, its hard to blame Marty when a typical small storefront property on Sheepshead Bay Road goes for more than $4,000 a month.

Golden isn’t the only local politician having trouble meeting the limit:

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) paid $49,723 for his district office at 38-50 Bell Blvd. He insisted the Senate Republicans negotiated his lease — claiming he didn’t even know he was over the limit.

Even imprisoned ex-Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) and indicted former Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Queens) got in on the fun, despite having represented lower-rent neighborhoods, spending $45,000 and $47,452, respectively.

[Jeff] Klein cut his annual rent by $15,000 by leaving his East Tremont Avenue district office for the Hutchins Center, where he pays “market rate,” said spokesman Eric Soufer.

“Believe me, nobody comes to work for us because of the accommodations,” Soufer said. “I’ve had college dorm rooms that are bigger than our office.”

The problem politicians like Golden face is that they could rent cheaper space on higher levels in office buildings, but they would lose on-the-street contact and easy access to their constituents.

We put the question to our readers as to what is more important; paying extra to keep your local politicians closer to the ground and more accessible, or saving costs by pushing their headquarters into harder to access office spaces?