Archive for the tag 'politics'

If you are a Sandy victim still struggling with the alphabet soup of city, state and federal agencies, insurance company problems related to the storm, and are still in need of help and support but don’t know what programs are still running, State Senator Marty Golden is holding another Superstorm Sandy town hall meeting, featuring representatives from many of the related agencies.

The meeting is tonight at 7:00 p.m. at P.S. 277, 2529 Gerritsen Avenue.

See the flier below for details.

Source: NYC Parks Department

Source: NYC Parks Department

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Chaim Deutsch:

New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), in an ongoing effort to improve parks in the 48th District, will host a Town Hall Meeting at PS 195 Thursday, April 3rd at 7 PM, inviting community members to share their thoughts and propose upgrades for Manhattan Beach Park, a major recreational park and popular destination.

This is the second in a series of Town Hall Meetings Council Member Deutsch will host in an effort to involve residents in plans to improve our local parks.

“I am working hard to improve our community’s parks,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch. “I invite all area residents to attend this important Town Hall Meeting, share their vision of the park, and take a hand in shaping its future.”

Manhattan Beach Park, located off Oriental Boulevard between Ocean Avenue and Mackenzie Street, is home to baseball fields, beaches, playgrounds, sprinklers, and a dog run, in addition to basketball, tennis, handball and volleyball courts.

Council Member Deutsch’s Town Hall Meeting will give park goers an opportunity to weigh in on the future of Manhattan Beach Park. Those in attendance are encouraged to share their knowledge of the park, best usage, and point out facilities that may require repair or maintenance. In addition, community members will be given an opportunity to propose capital projects, which Councilman Deutsch will discuss with Parks Department officials for funding consideration.

“Take advantage of this opportunity to make Manhattan Beach Park a better place,” said Councilman Deutsch.

The Town Hall Meeting will be held in the auditorium at PS 195 [131 Irwin St. between Shore and Oriental boulevards] Thursday, April 3, at 7 PM.

Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that Build it Back payments were finally in the mail, and that some construction projects are now underway. The city’s new director of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson, elaborated on the numbers at a hearing on Monday, saying only $100,000 in reimbursement checks have been mailed, and only six construction projects have begun.

That’s out of 20,000 applications.

The numbers came out during a hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, headed by Councilman Mark Treyger. The seven-hour long hearing was spent blasting the program, for which even its new leadership agreed needs a jumpstart.

Metro reports:

The city’s new Director of Housing Recovery Amy Peterson admitted to the Build it Back’s blunders and “overly complicated” process but promised to turn it around.

“Early missteps, unrealistic assumptions and overly complicated processes have hindered rebuilding,” she testified to the Council.

Peterson, who started her tenure on Monday as well, vowed to make up for the setbacks.

“We’re going to make sure the money gets out to people,” she said.

Peterson added that another $800,000 worth of checks will be mailed this week.

Treyger and others used the opportunity of the first public hearing on Build it Back to detail the program’s shortcomings.

“Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources, and other problems have thwarted the building of even a single home,” he said, according to Brooklyn Daily.

The new chief attributed the problems to a lack of resources, and burdensome bureaucracy, according to the Daily report.

“This process includes multiple different steps in which customers interface with variety of different contractors and specialists,” she said. “From a process standpoint, the continued passing of responsibility from one contractor to another has had the effect of diminishing accountability.”

… Other problems were the result of federal requirements, Peterson said. The program was designed to not repeat the sins of past disaster relief programs, which were rife with contractor fraud and shoddy construction.

“The intent was for clients of the program to feel assured that construction would be done correctly, to the resilient building standards, and that they would bear no risk that funds would be reclaimed or extorted,” she said.

The Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, at their meeting last night, said that after a long silence neighbors have started receiving calls from the program. Officials are setting up appointments to discuss the options for which the victims qualify, and compensation packages are being drawn up.

But the group also said that too many questions about the process remain unanswered.

“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about it,” said civic president Kathy Flynn. “We’re getting a lot of questions … we don’t have the answers. And every time they send out another e-mail,” it seems the terms have changed.

Flynn said that although the signs of movement are positive, she’s not optimistic.

“I’m not counting on them to give me anything. If I count on it, it’ll be another five years. Or forever,” she said.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Four months after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that he is renewing the push to help victims of Superstorm Sandy, including reallocating $100 million in funds specifically targeted to residential rebuilding.

The mayor also repeated his vow to cut through the red tape that has long plagued recovery efforts, and has made three appointments he says will be key in moving the efforts along.

The New York Times reports:

Bill Goldstein, most recently the executive vice president of the MTA Capital Construction Company, will be a senior adviser to the mayor, overseeing all recovery programs.

Amy Peterson, the president of Nontraditional Employment for Women, which offers training for women in industries like construction, will direct the city’s Housing Recovery Office. Daniel A. Zarrilli, the acting director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, will lead the newly formed Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

The $100 million in aid will fill a critical gap. Previous aid money was first distributed to assist poorer hurricane victims deemed “priority one” by the city. Victims labeled “priority two” and “priority three” had been told they would have to wait. Many of these lower-priority homeowners are city employees — police officers, teachers, firefighters — with limited incomes or savings.

This money, the mayor’s office said, will ensure that all homeowners with destroyed homes can build new ones, regardless of the homeowner’s priority level.

The funds are expected to cover the cost of approximately 500 homes.

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Housing Recovery office, which oversees the Build it Back program, will have a staffing boost of 35 percent, bringing the total number to more than 100 employees.

The announcement follows headlines critical of the Build it Back program, which has so far failed at distributing any of the $648 million in aid.  As of February, none of the nearly 20,000 single family homes (defined as homes with between one and four residential units) registered for the program have started construction, and only 154 of those registrants have had their awards selected.

However, the city has ramped up the process in recent week. The city’s own Sandy Tracker website, last updated in mid-March, shows that the number of registrants with their awards selected has more than tripled. Although not reflected on the tracker website, de Blasio claims the agency has recently sent out the first batch of reimbursement checks, and that some construction projects are already underway.

Vision ZeroThe Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic-related fatalities has been met with mixed reviews in car-dependent neighborhoods like those in Southern Brooklyn. Many applaud the city’s intention, but share concerns that it will unfairly penalize drivers.

Now there’s an opportunity to let legislators know how you feel about various elements of the plan, and where they can do better.

There will be a town hall meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall (209 Joralemon Street) on Tuesday, April 1, at 7 p.m., where Brooklyn residents are invited to discuss the action plan outlining how to eliminate traffic-related fatalities.

Among the initiative’s proposals is an increase in police enforcement for moving violations, implement speed and red-light cameras and reduce the citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour. The plan also calls for closer scrutiny of accidents that result in critical injuries or death, and to re-engineer street designs to make them safer for pedestrians. You can see a more complete list of the Vision Zero proposals here.

Local pols have pushed for the opportunity to give voice to residents, hoping to collaborate on the implementation of proposals rather than have them handed down from up high.

“Nobody knows the streets in your community better than you do,” said Councilmember Chaim Deutsch in a press release. “This town hall meeting will give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns and speak out on potentially dangerous traffic locations.”

According to his release:

Community members who attend the meeting will be provided the opportunity to point out specific problem locations throughout the borough where they perceive hazards or additional safety concerns to exist. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other city council members representing Brooklyn neighborhoods will also be in attendance.

 

Source: Nathan James/Flickr

Legislation aimed at reducing auto insurance fraud in New York State passed the Senate on Monday, bringing the bill which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel the policies of fraudsters one step closer to law.

The Senate bill was sponsored by State Senator Marty Golden, who describes it in this press release:

Today the New York State Senate passed S1959A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), which allows insurance companies to retroactively cancel policies taken out by people who commit auto fraud. These criminals often take out policies and pay for them with bad checks or stolen credit cards just before they stage accidents. Under current law, insurance companies cannot cancel the policy and policyholders wind up paying for it through higher premiums. This bill would take that burden off honest consumers and therefore lower the insurance rates.

“Auto insurance fraud is costing New Yorkers millions of dollars, and it’s time that fair and honest members of our community stop paying for the crimes of others,” stated Senator Golden. “This legislation will give insurance companies the right to revoke insurance policies for those who try to game the system.”

This measure would bring New York in line with the other large no-fault states and remove any incentives for staged accidents. In fact, only seven other states (AZ, CO, KS, ME, MD, NC and SD) do not allow for retroactive cancellation. Innocent victims of uninsured drivers would be covered under their own policy or the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation.

The bill, which you can read here, now moves onto the Democratic-led Assembly, where it has support from a number of Democrats, including local Assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Dov Hikind.

Previous versions of this bill – and two others passed by the Senate to combat auto fraud – died in the Assembly.

Auto fraud continues to be an ongoing issue in Southern Brooklyn. The longest-running and largest auto insurance scam ring in history ended in April 2012, when authorities busted 36 individuals – many of them Southern Brooklyn residents – using anti-Mafia RICO laws. The individuals were accused of exploiting New York’s “no-fault” insurance law, which allows drives and passengers to obtain up to $50,000 for accidents injuries regardless of fault.

Prior to that, another ring was busted in Brooklyn, leading to the arrest of 16 people for allegedly ripping off companies for $400,000 between 2009 and 2011.

Councilman Mark Treyger is pushing new legislation that would require snow plows to have flashing lights and a make beeping noises, following the plow-related deaths of two Brooklynites this winter.

The two victims were killed by plows within two weeks of each other. On February 3, an elderly man was struck and killed by a plow in Brighton Beach in front of the Oceana complex. On February 13, a pregnant 36-year-old woman was killed by a plow clearing out the parking lot of a Borough Park market.

Treyger’s bill, first reported on by the Daily News, will require plows to have lights and “a loud, distinctive noise” to let pedestrians know when a plow is approaching.

“You’re dealing with low visibility,” he told the paper. “If we can buy a few seconds for these pedestrians to give them time to react, this could save a life.”

The new regulations, however, would not have prevented the two deaths cited. Both were killed by private CAT-style vehicles repurposed for snow removal. Treyger’s bill only affects Department of Sanitation snow plows, and other plows contracted by the city.

The new rules might have helped the man who was knocked off his feet by a tsunami of snow created by a speeding Sanitation truck in February. The man, walking on Coney Island Avenue, was knocked down and injured by a wave of snow that also broke the windows of a nearby storefront, and he is now mulling a lawsuit against the city. He said he never saw the truck coming.

UPDATE (March 28, 2014): Councilman Treyger’s office got in touch to note an error int he Daily News version. In actuality, there are two bills on the table, extending this new regulation to privately-operated plows as well. See the statement below:

Councilman Mark Treyger (D – Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Seagate, Gravesend) announces new legislation to require all vehicles engaged in the removal of snow on roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and pedestrian walkways to be outfitted with flashing lights and audible warning systems. This legislation, which follows the recent deaths of three pedestrians who were stuck and killed by snowplows in Brooklyn, would apply to plows operated by the City of New York and privately owned plows.

“Snowplows are vehicles we deploy during times of emergency” asserts Treyger. “We should be treating them like emergency vehicles. Furthermore, during a snowstorm, you’re dealing with low visibility and it is easy for pedestrians to be blindsided. This is precisely what happened to Min Lin, a pregnant mother, who was killed in Sunset Park this past winter. Anything we can do to buy a few seconds forpedestrians and give them time to react could save lives. The state of Ohio has already passed a similar bill and it’s high time New York City caught up on this important issue.”

NYCHA Making Public Housing Residents Without Heat, Hot Water, or Electricity Pay Rent in Full

Coney Island public houses have broken down on the winter’s coldest days (Source: forum.skyscraperpage.com)

After struggling through mid-winter breakdowns of heating equipment, residents of the 110 New York City Housing Authority buildings damaged in Superstorm Sandy are set to get some relief within the next six months as FEMA has agreed to cover the cost of new permanent boilers.

Issues with the boilers came to light after the February hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, where local pols took NYCHA and FEMA officials to task for leaving residents in the cold. Temporary boilers, which the city has paid approximately $3 million per month to rent, proved to be shoddy replacements that failed to withstand New York winters, and many broke down in the coldest days of winter.

NYCHA told the committee that repairs were not slated until 2016, by which time they’ll have cost taxpayers at least $120 million to rent.

“For more than 16 months, bureaucratic infighting and red tape have denied NYCHA residents the most basic of necessities — reliable heat and hot water,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, as he stood beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference announcing the deal.

Federal and city authorities announced on Sunday that all of the affected housing buildings, which serve 8,862 apartments, will get new boilers with the process kicking off within six months.

Under the deal, FEMA is sending the cash-strapped agency more than $100 million to cover the estimated costs to replace 60 boilers. The federal agency has agreed to also cover the $56 million the public housing authority has so far spent renting the temporary equipment. It is not yet clear if that is a separate allotment, or is being taken from the $100 million price tag.

The news was warmly received by Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the Recovery and Resiliency Comittee and represents many of the affected buildings in Coney Island.

“This announcement is a great step towards returning a sense of normalcy to the lives of people impacted by the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Treyger. “Residents in these buildings have gone far too long without dependable and safe living conditions. No one should have to live through the winter not knowing if they will have heat and hot water from one day to the next. Continuing to invest in our critical infrastructure, like replacing damaged boilers in NYCHA developments, is the only way for our city to fully recover. I applaud Senator Schumer and Mayor de Blasio for their efforts in securing this funding and am committed to continuing the fight on behalf of all Sandy impacted communities.”

There may be more funding on the way.  Schumer is pushing for $175 million in federal funding to raise boilers, backup generators and change the way several NYCHA complexes receive their heat and electricity. Schumer said yesterday that he expects NYCHA to receive some type of mitigation funding to raise boilers out of the flood zone.

The Asser Levy Park bandshell in better days. (Source: senarchitects.com)

The Asser Levy Park bandshell in better days. (Source: senarchitects.com)

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Chaim Deutsch:

New York City Council Member Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), a strong advocate for improving all parks within the 48th district, will host a town hall meeting at Trump Village on Monday, March 24th, inviting community members to discuss their thoughts regarding necessary upgrades to Asser Levy (Seaside) Park, a popular location for rest, relaxation and recreation, which has fallen into disrepair.

(PREVIOUSLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: Deutsch calls for demolition of Asser Levy Seaside Park bandshell.)

“Asser Levy Park has the potential to become a more enjoyable park,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch. “It’s time we give the park some overdue attention, and begin working towards regenerating the lost splendor of this valuable resource.”

Asser Levy Park, located off Ocean Parkway between Sea Breeze and Surf Avenues, is home to a playground, hand ball courts, greenery, fitness path and a band shell; all requiring maintenance.

At the town hall meeting, Council Member Deutsch will be asking his constituents to share their vision on how to improve Asser Levy Park. In particular, the Councilman would like to gauge the public’s interests as he determines whether the city’s efforts should be directed towards repairing the rundown facilities currently located at the park, or replacing them with new projects favored by the community. Council Member Deutsch will also explore possibilities for supplementing the park with additional greenery in an effort to enhance the park’s natural beauty.

“Asser Levy Park should become everything that the community wants it to be,” said Council Member Deutsch. “It’s for this reason, that I hope you’ll join me in discussing this important issue and contribute your ideas on how to improve Asser Levy Park.”

The town hall meeting will be held in the Community Room at Trump Village Section 4 [2928 W. Fifth Street between Neptune and Surf Avenues] Monday, March 24, 7 PM.

A smart chip-equipped credit card. (Source: DennisSylvesterHurd/Flickr)

State Senator Marty Golden, citing a rise in credit card fraud in his district and beyond, is touting legislation he co-sponsored last month that would require credit card companies to install smart chip technology in every card issued to a New York State resident.

Golden held a press conference in Bay Ridge on Friday to advocate for the legislation, saying that merchants in his district have reported a spate of credit and debit card fraud, as well as “hackers” who have stolen data from local businesses. He was joined by Third Avenue Merchants Association President Robert Howe as well as Dimitri Akhrin, president of the Bank Associates Merchant Services.

“This legislation would require smart chip technology to be incorporated in our debit and credit cards to help protect against identity theft. Over the past few weeks, my district has been targeted by hackers who have been able to break through the security walls of some local stores. The false charges reported to my office have been made in Brooklyn, Long Island, Connecticut and event [sic] Puerto Rico,” said Senator Golden in a press release.

The senator cited Bureau of Justice Statistics reports estimating that 16.6 million people have suffered from identity theft in 2012 to 2013, 15.3 million of whom had an incident involving a debit or credit card.

According to tech site NerdWallet, manufacturers and advocates say smart chips are a safer alternative to magnetic stripe cards. Smart chips store encrypted account information and cannot be read by swiping. Instead they’re scanned into a terminal that reads the chip and can require a pin number to decrypt the chip’s information. They are not susceptible to common data scamming techniques as are magnetic strips, such as swiping, which allows fraudsters doubling as waiters or cashiers to discreetly pass your card through a handheld device that stores the card’s data.

Smart chips do have their own vulnerabilities, but the website notes that implementation in Europe has seen dramatic decreases in fraud.

The bill, which can be read here, was introduced on February 14 by upstate Senator Joseph Griffo with Golden as a co-sponsor. The Assembly version was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.

American companies have been slow to adopt the technology because of the cost of replacing existing systems, including in-store point-of-sale systems and ATMs. The legislation does not address who will foot the bill, suggesting the business-owners will have to invest in new hardware if the law passes.

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