Archive for the tag 'politics'

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.

The following is a press release from the offices of State Senator Marty Golden:

State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), in partnership with the Southwest Brooklyn Parks Task Force, today has announced the complete lineup of summer concerts set to take stage in our local parks this Summer. The concert series kicks off on Tuesday, July 8th when Head Over Heels and special guests play Shore Road Park at 79th Street.

The series of fourteen concerts will feature an array of musical acts, Alive N Kickin’, Carl Thomas, Frankie Marra and His Band, and a special “Irish Night on Shore Road” featuring the Canny Brothers.

Senator Marty Golden stated, “After a long, cold winter, I am sure the residents of Southwest Brooklyn are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2014 summer concerts which I will again be hosting in our local parks. We have a great lineup of entertainment, so mark your calendar, bring a chair, or a blanket, and make your way to our scheduled fourteen shows in our beautiful parks. I guarantee you will enjoy the entertainment that will feature classic rock, the greatest hits of all time, disco, blues and dance.”

2014 SUMMER CONCERT SCHEDULE

  • July 8 Head Over Heels & Special Guests ……..….…..…………79th St & Shore Road
  • July 9 Out Of The Blue (Classic Rock & Dance) ……….…Marine Park (Fillmore Ave.)
  • July 15 Radio Daze (70’s & 80’s Party Music)…….…………………….79th St & Shore Road
  • July 16 Yesterday & Today (Beatle Tribute Band)….……..Marine Park (Fillmore Ave.)
  • July 22 Generation Gap (60’s through 90’s)……………Dyker Park (86th St. & 14th Ave.)
  • July 23 Carl Thomas (Sinatra, Darin, Dean)……………………Avenue U & Van Sicklen St
  • July 29 Blues Circus (Improvisational Blues Rock)….………………79th St & Shore Road
  • July 30 Alive N Kickin’ (Hit song “Tighter & Tighter”)….Marine Park (Fillmore Ave.)
  • Aug. 6 Brooklyn Keys (Oldies through 90’s)…………..….. Marine Park (Fillmore Ave.)
  • Aug. 12 Disco Unlimited (Best of the 70’s Disco)……..………………79th St & Shore Road
  • Aug. 13 Radio Daze (70’s & 80’s Party Music)…………..….. Marine Park (Fillmore Ave.)
  • Aug. 19 Frankie Marra & His Band (Classic Rock)…………………79th St & Shore Road
  • Aug. 20 On A Good Run (Classic Rock)…………………………Marine Park (Fillmore Ave.)
  • Aug. 26 The Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Parade presents “Irish Night on Shore Road,” Featuring The Canny Brothers…..….…..79th St & Shore Road

All concerts are free and open to the public and all shows begin at 7pm. All events are subject to change. In case of poor weather or for more information please call 718 238-6044, or check Martin J. Golden on Facebook or follow @senmartygolden on Twitter.

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.

With kidnapped yeshiva teenage boys Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah missing in captivity for 11 days, the Be Proud Foundation and Community Board 15 are teaming up to host a rally, June 26, 7:00 p.m. at Holocaust Memorial Park, to let the voices of southern Brooklynites be heard.

The boys, one of whom has strong Brooklyn roots, were kidnapped by the terrorist group Hamas while hitchhiking home from their religious school in the West Bank.

Event organizers invite the community to come out and hang yellow ribbons in solidarity with the boys, their families and the State of Israel, currently searching for them.

The head of the New York City Office of Recovery and Resiliency is getting behind the Bloomberg-era plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s wooden slats with concrete, saying that concrete fared better in Superstorm Sandy.

Recovery chief Daniel Zarrilli testified before the City Council last Thursday, telling them that the choice of concrete was a “sound” decision since it performs better in storms.

He added that the de Blasio administration will continue to replace the wooden boards with concrete going forward.

Bloomberg made the decision to replace the boardwalk with concrete after instituting a citywide ban on tropical hardwood in public projects, the material the boardwalk, as well as other fixtures like benches, have historically been made of. It has been fought for several years by locals who want to see the iconic wood stay, and they even filed suit against the city in 2012. Several compromises were sought, including using alternate wood materials, plastic and a combination of all three – although the city made clear its preference for concrete.

But the announcement that the new administration will stick with the plan because it performed well in Sandy is sure to be challenged by critics. In the wake of the storm, locals said that the concrete allowed sand to pile up on the boardwalk, and also served as a less effective buffer protecting the community from the flooding. They also say the concrete accelerates erosion and is less effective at drainage during storms.

The two councilmembers whose districts overlap the boardwalk, Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger, both support using wood.

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The sediment-filled waste coming out of a covered sewer overflow pipe. (Source: Pete Castro)

The city’s long-awaited solution to street flooding along the Coney Island peninsula has some locals wondering if the remedy isn’t worse than the disease.

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps) Click to enlarge.

The Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of a massive clearing operation in western Coney Island, pumping years of sand, debris and residue out of long-jammed sewer lines, which neighbors say caused the streets to flood in even the slightest rain. But now the city is fielding a new set of complaints from residents who say the toxin-filled water is flowing into Coney Island Creek through a combined sewer overflow pipe at West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, adjacent to Kaiser Park beach.

“Yes, you’ve got to clean out the drain. But my logic, my god-given common sense, is that you don’t foul it up, you don’t create another foul condition when you solve that problem,” said Pete Castro, a resident of West 35th Street.

Castro has been on the beach almost daily for the past week and a half, filming and taking photos of the Department of Environmental Protection’s private contractor, National Water Main Cleaning Co., as they pump water into the sewer and it flows out of a nearby outfall pipe, onto the beach. The 30-year resident said the water is thick and black with sludge, oil and other contaminants, mucking up a habitat in the midst of a revival.

“I’ve been seeing wildlife come back to the beach, egrets, the occasional swan, ducks go over there. And they’re dumping that oil there and apparently DEP is okay with it,” he said.

The DEP confirmed that they’re clearing out the sewer lines, and that some debris was simply destined to enter the environment.

“We are working to clear out the sand-impacted storm sewers. This is in response to flooding complaints in the area. We have been cleaning out the sewers for weeks and we understand there have been complaints about pumping stuff into the sewer, but in reality this is what we have to do to clean the sewers,” a spokesperson told this outlet.

Despite years of flooding complaints on the Coney Island peninsula, the latest round of work began after a site visit by Superstorm Sandy recovery honchos Bill Goldstein and Amy Peterson. Led by Councilman Mark Treyger, the team visited P.S. 188, where the students and faculty shared the following video showing the extent of flooding outside of the school in even modest rain.

“This is not Sandy, it’s just an average rainstorm,” Treyger told this outlet about the video. “It is a eye-opening video that shows severe flooding that is so bad that a car floated from the street and crashed into the front of the school, that’s how bad the flooding is. We showed the video to Amy Peterson and Bill Goldstein and they were very alarmed by it.”

“It is a damning video that just absolutely validates and confirms portions of Southern Brooklyn had been neglected by the [Bloomberg] administration.”
- Treyger

The Sandy team put pressure on the Department of Environmental Protection to address the flooding immediately. After inspection, the DEP determined that the sewers were clogged near the outfall pipes that go into Coney Island Creek, and dispatched contractors to clear it out.

Treyger admitted that solving one problem for residents caused concern for others. Castro and neighbors made complaints to his office, and he forwarded the video and photos to the DEP for a response.

As a result, Treyger said, the DEP conducted a review, meeting with the contractor and also bringing in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has jurisdiction over area waterways.

“My sense was that they’re going to review and basically provide greater oversight of the work being done,” said Treyger. “For many years the infrastructure has been an issue here and as we move forward to fix it, we’re not looking to create more environmental disasters. This type of work has to be done in accordance with all environmental regulations and we’re going to make sure that that happens.”

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The vactor truck at work on West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue. (Source: Pete Castro)

But Castro fears the agencies are being less than thorough in their review. Shortly after Treyger met with the DEP, officials from both the DEP and the DEC spoke directly to Castro about his concerns, assuring him they would investigate the spillage and make sure it was in compliance. But instead of investigation, Castro said he received a call from the DEC rep several hours later saying that they had reviewed the operation and concluded it was safe.

“According to his dubious investigation, some guy [from the DEC] just miraculously put his finger in the air and said it’s okay to put that foul oil onto the beach,” said Castro, adding that there was about six hours between the phone calls – four of which was during hours when the trucks were not pumping. “You can get chemical results like that, with a snap of the finger?”

The DEP spokesperson said she did not know of any specific involvement of the DEC in this matter, but said, “I’m sure we’ve been in touch with DEC at some point.” Asked over the course of multiple phone calls if there was knowledge of the contaminants flowing from the pipe, she said, “I have to double check, but don’t forget it’s the sewer system and it has to get out of the sewers. It can be anything.”

She did not have an answer about contamination when we followed up, instead pointing out that the city uses vactor trucks – essentially giant vacuum cleaners that suck out debris, suggesting that there should be no spillage into the waterway. When we noted that there was spillage, as evidenced by video, she reiterated, “We’re doing work out there.” She did not respond to further questions.

Treyger said he requested the DEP hold a meeting in the community in the upcoming weeks to discuss their operations and respond to potential concerns. He said it will be announced soon.

Until then, Castro said he’ll continue to document the filth and hopes to find someone’s help analyzing water samples. In addition to the wildlife and habitat, he’s also concerned about the numerous indigent locals who turn to Coney Island creek to fish for their meals.

“I can’t see it getting much worse. I’m just waiting for the dead fish to pile up,” he said.

IMG_0075

Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

New York State Department of Conservation “wildlife specialists” opened fire on a pair of mute swans in upstate New York last Tuesday, orphaning their four baby swans and defying a two-year moratorium on lethal population management techniques that had just passed the Senate and Assembly.

The incident took place in Black River Bay, when residents spotted an unmarked boat approaching a group of swans. Moments later, gunshots rang through the air and two of the swans were dead. Residents, thinking the gunmen poachers, chased them down to discover that they worked for the environmental agency.

“DEC was carrying out a long-standing protocol to manage this invasive species that threatens other species in this sensitive habitat,” the DEC said in a prepared statement to the local television station.

The news riled up two New York City legislators who led the fight to protect the swans.

“This is an outrage,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in a press release. “We’re doing everything we can do [to] safeguard the swan population in my own Sheepshead Bay community and elsewhere, but clearly DEC did not get the memo.”

“I am absolutely outraged at these horrific turn of events, which occurred almost simultaneously as the State Senate passed a two-year moratorium on your agency’s careless and controversial plan to eradicate all wild mute swans in the state by 2025,” State Senator Tony Avella of Queens. “What is even more troubling is that the shootings happened in broad daylight, in front of passerbys enjoying their day near the Bay.”

Cymbrowitz and Avella introduced the legislation creating the moratorium in the Assembly and Senate, respectively. Although it passed both houses, Cuomo has not yet signed it into law.

The moratorium came after the DEC revealed a draft plan in January to eliminate entirely the mute swan population across New York State. The plan was sharply criticized by animal advocates and those who see the swans – which have populated some areas in the state including Sheepshead Bay for more than a century – as a welcome part of the community. The agency announced in March that it would hold off using any lethal population management techniques until a new plan was made that was more sensitive to the community’s wishes.

The agency appears to have reversed course yet again, spurring criticism from the pols.

“Even without the moratorium being signed into law, the implication was that DEC would stand by its good-faith promise and keep the swans off death row until further notice,” said Cymbrowitz. “Instead, we’re getting a clear indication that DEC can’t be trusted and still plans to engage in the sanctioned killing of mute swans.”

Both pols have sent letters expressing their outrage to Joseph Martens, the commissioner of the DEC.

Source: formulanone/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio won a victory in Albany early this morning when both houses of the state legislature gave the green light to lowering the New York City speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.

After concerns earlier this week that Senate Republicans could prevent the bill from coming to a vote, it passed overwhelmingly in both houses and has been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

The measure is a key item of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to make streets safer and eliminate traffic deaths citywide. Several of the initiative’s proposals require approval from state lawmakers, including speed limits and the installation of speed cameras.

The idea was first floated by the mayor earlier this year, but received a tepid response from lawmakers. It became increasingly politicized, with Senate Republicans threatening to block it from coming to a vote as retribution for de Blasio’s calls for returning that legislative body to Democratic control. Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican representing Staten Island, suggested as recently as yesterday afternoon that he would oppose the measure if it did not fold in his proposal to require stop signs be installed around all city schools.

Ultimately, de Blasio and traffic safety advocates won out in a down-to-the-wire vote during the season’s final legislative session in the capital. The bill was passed 106-13 by the Assembly in a late night session, while the Senate took it up early in the morning, passing it 58-2.

An earlier version of the bill called for the speed limit to be reduced to 20 miles per hour, but was quickly squashed by legislative leaders.

gentile

Gentile (Source: Gentile’s office)

Councilman Vincent Gentile of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst confirmed to the New York Observer that he is considering a challenge to State Senator Marty Golden, and told the paper that he sees the Republican’s support drying up.

If he runs and wins it will be a sort of homecoming for the pol, who represented the district in the State Senate between 1996 and 2002, before being unseated by Golden. After losing office that year, Gentile ran in and won the special election for the City Council seat vacated by Golden – meaning the two effectively swapped seats.

Gentile told the paper that the recent show of support for restoring Democratic control of the State Senate is galvanizing his interest. The Observer reports:

“It would take a lot to pull me away but certainly I understand the bigger issues in our state and the goal of getting a Democratic State Senate so based on that I am getting the input I should be getting and we’ll see in a week or two,” Mr. Gentile said at City Hall yesterday. “I am enjoying my job but I’m saying there are bigger issues here.”

The Observer’s story came on the heels of another report that a coalition was emerging to flip Republican seats in the Senate, and was eyeing Golden in particular. The coalition was birthed during the Working Families Party convention, during which Cuomo pledged to support Democrats running for the legislative body and to break the power-sharing alliance between the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Caucus in exchange for their nomination.

NY State of Politics was the first to report that the coalition was floating Gentile as a challenger, but it had not been confirmed until the Observer report. A source told the outlet that approximately $1 million has already been earmarked to unseat Golden.

Gentile is optimistic that the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst portions of the Senate district are increasingly Democratic, boosting his chances – although he also slipped in a slap at the incumbent Senator for gerrymandering the district to rope in as many Republican enclaves as possible.

“I think my area has become more Democratic and eventually there will be smaller and smaller pockets that Marty Golden can rely upon so if it’s not this cycle, there will be a cycle very soon where he will not have the same deep support that he used to have in the same district that he drew, that he drew the lines for,” Gentile told the Observer.

While that may be true in Bay Ridge, Golden remains popular in Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach – conservative-leaning areas where Gentile is relatively unknown.

What this means for another Democratic challenger to Golden, Jamie Kemmerer, is not yet known. Kemmerer told this outlet last month that he decided to run only once Gentile personally urged him to do so. Kemmerer could drop out and throw his support behind Gentile if he chooses to run – or he could squabble with his former backer in a primary.

treyger-office

Council Member Mark Treyger (center) and his office staff including (left to right) Deputy Chief of Staff Igor Vaysberg, Community Liaison Angel Fung; Community Liaison Jeannine Cherichetti and Constituent Services Supervisor Dilyora Rahimova.

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Mark Treyger:

As part of his efforts to serve and represent residents of the 47th Council District, Council Member Mark Treyger has announced the opening of a second district office to better connect all constituents of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and Sea Gate with local government and services.

The new office, located at 2015 Stillwell Avenue, is in addition to the office at the Warbasse Houses on Neptune Avenue serving the southern portion of the district including Coney Island that Council Member Treyger opened immediately upon taking office in January. The new Stillwell Avenue office is intended to provide much greater convenience to any residents who need help with issues related to city government and agencies. Council Member Treyger made constituent services and addressing neighborhood issues a top priority during his campaign and since taking office, and this new location is a major step towards fulfilling that pledge.

“My top priority is to assist every resident of my district with issues regarding city government and to deliver the services our community deserves. This new office will help ensure that my staff is convenient and accessible for all residents of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and Sea Gate, not matter which area of the district they live in. My great staff is ready to assist the public, so I urge everyone to call or stop in for help with local issues,” said Council Member Treyger.

The new office has been open for several weeks assisting district residents with government issues. It is open from noon to 8 p.m. on Mondays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Residents can reach Council Member Treyger’s Stillwell Avenue staff, which includes multilingual speakers, by phone at (718) 307-7151 or by stopping by the office, which is accessible via the B1 and B4 buses and the D train.

Council Member Treyger will host a community open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at the Stillwell Avenue office on Sunday, June 22nd from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All residents are invited to stop by and meet the Council Member and his staff and visit the new office space.

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