Archive for the tag 'steven cymbrowitz'

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten/Flickr

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

A bill introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) to commission a comprehensive study on the social impact of problem gambling has gained a valuable sponsor in the Senate and was cited during expert testimony at a New York State Gaming Commission Forum today in Albany.

The legislation (A.7836), which authorizes and directs the commissioner of mental health to commission a statewide evaluation regarding the extent of legal and illegal gambling by New York state residents, has attracted the sponsorship of Senator Marty Golden and on April 1 was reported to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

James Maney, Executive Director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, gave the bill a positive mention this morning during the forum on “Addressing Problem Gambling in the Era of Expanded Gaming.”

According to Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who is Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the purpose of this bill is to mitigate the social costs related to problem gambling.

A survey conducted by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) found that five percent of adults, or 668,000 individuals, exhibited problem gambling behaviors within the past year. Another survey of seventh through 12th grade students revealed that 10 percent, or 140,000 students, showed signs of problem gambling in the past 12 months and another 10 percent of those students were in need of treatment for problem gambling. Of those students in the survey who were identified as in need of chemical dependency treatment, 45 percent were at risk or in need of treatment for problem gambling.

Research has found that proximity to casinos increases the rate of problem gambling among the local population, said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission showed that casinos within a 50-mile radius of an individual’s home can double the prevalence of problem gambling.

The Buffalo Research Institute on Addiction, in its own study, claimed that having a casino within 10 miles of a home has a significant effect on problem gambling. Currently, New York State has five casinos operated by Native Americans and nine independently operated racinos; combined they operate approximately 29,000 electronic gambling machines, which is more than any state in the Northeast or Midwest. New York continues to expand its existing gaming market and if non-tribal casino gaming is legalized, permitting up to seven new casinos to be established, the risk of more individuals developing a gambling problem could increase significantly.

“While it is important that New York State continue to conduct surveys that determine the prevalence of problem gambling and illustrate the need for prevention and treatment services, additional research that measures the social impact of problem gambling is sorely needed,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Directing such research would allow the state to pinpoint which social costs associated with problem gambling are most predominant among New York’s identified problem gamblers and have also been detected in communities impacted by the presence of a casino, he noted.

“By having this information, New York State and its public officials will be able to develop a comprehensive plan comprising precise policies and regulations that aim to mitigate the social costs related to problem gambling,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. The information would also enable the problem gambling service providers and the casino industry to implement strategies and interventions that target the specific problem gambling needs of each local community and its citizens, he said.

Cymbrowitz welcomes Holocaust survivor Zipora Yakuboff to the podium. (Source: Cymbrowitz's office)

Cymbrowitz welcomes Holocaust survivor Zipora Yakuboff to the podium. (Source: Cymbrowitz’s office)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz spent this past Sunday with kids from across the community who wrote essays and poetry, did performances and created art to recognize the lessons of the Holocaust.

The ceremony, held at Kingsborough Community College’s Marine Academic Center, is the culmination of the pol’s annual contest, attracting hundreds of students from public and private elementary, middle and high schools across the district. Approximately 350 entries were received this year.

(See photos and coverage from previous years here, here and here.)

“It is imperative that we never forget the lessons of those who survived the Holocaust, as well as the tragic lessons of those who did not survive,” Cymbrowitz said, according to a press release. “In an era in which some historians are trying to rewrite history and deny that the Holocaust ever happened, we need to hear these stories and preserve them. We need to pass these stories on to future generations to remind people of what can happen when hatred is allowed to grow.”

The ceremony exhibited all of the creative displays made by students. There was also musical performances by the Edward R. Murrow High School Madrigal Chorus, Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Winds. Holocaust survivor Zipora Yakuboff shared her story of loss, courage and eventual escape from a Nazi death camp.

The Amity School took home first-place for high school students, and top honors were also given to Prospect Park Yeshiva, Midwood High School and Bay Academy.

See photos of some of the displays.

7 Corbin Place (Source: Google Maps)

7 Corbin Place (Source: Google Maps)

Plans for a seven-story mixed-use building at 7 Corbin Place have neighbors ticked off, and opponents are plotting a grassroots challenge to get the city to nix the proposal.

The eight-unit building will include medical offices and “community facilities” on the lower floors, and is compliant with zoning. But neighbors say it will increase traffic, exacerbate parking issues and cause structural problems for an adjacent building at 9 Corbin Place, with which it’ll share a chimney.

“Our main concern is that … they’re planning a medical office and community center for senior citizens, and that’s what everyone’s nervous about because traffic there is already a nightmare,” said Corbin Place resident Galina Zhitomirsky.

Zhitomirsky noted that seven streets already feed into Corbin Place. The building itself is wedged adjacent to two other intersections, and Corbin Place is the terminus for several blocks including Brighton 13th Street, Brighton 14th Street and others. During the summer, she said, parking is already a nightmare as it’s the second street with year-round parking for Manhattan Beach patrons, since visitors can’t use that neighborhood’s streets. Furthermore, Zhitomirsky noted the presence of P.S. 225 around the corner, which further adds to congestion and parking issues. “Corbin Place is very congested as it is and to have medical offices and labs and a senior citizen center; it’d be a nightmare.”

The site is the intersection of three streets. (Source: Google Maps)

The site is the intersection of three streets. (Source: Google Maps)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz publicly joined the fight yesterday, issuing a press release criticizing the developers for taking advantage of zoning laws and being inconsiderate of neighbors.

“Just because something is ‘as of right’ doesn’t mean it’s in the best interests of the community,” Cymbrowitz said in the press release.

The building will be located at the intersection of Corbin Place, Cass Place and Brighton 12th Street on the Sheepshead Bay – Brighton Beach – Manhattan Beach border. According to the local pol, a nearby outpatient drug treatment center on Brighton 12th Street already brings a glut of ambulettes to the block.

“Traffic and parking here are a nightmare. Throw in the additional ambulettes dropping off and picking up patients, people using the community facilities and residents with more than one car and what you end up with is a situation that is a quality-of-life nightmare,” said Cymbrowitz. He added that nearly 50 neighbors have contacted his office about the building.

The assemblyman has requested a Department of Transportation traffic study, and will soon turn to the Department of City Planning to reduce the zoning for that particular tax lot.

The building itself is classified as a six-story building – keeping it within zoning guidelines. It’s six stories plus a ground floor that will not be used as livable space, a height bonus allowed for by regulations for developments in flood vulnerable areas. The ground level will be used for parking and storage.

Neighbors are organizing a meeting tonight in the community room of 134 West End Avenue at 7:30 p.m. to further map out their opposition. They’ve confirmed the attendance of several local elected officials, and are mulling whether to take their fight before the community board later this month.

“Everyone we’ve talked to has been very against this,” said Zhitomirsky. “We’re listening to Cymbrowitz’s office and everyone else to see what they recommend we do.”

The property’s owner, however, has not been invited.

“We’re not even sure who they are,” said Zhitomirsky.

City records indicate that the 4,095-square-foot lot, with the two-story home, was purchased in December for $1,225,000. The buyer purchased the house under a generically named limited liability corporation, but the address is shared by Maximillion Realty at 101 Avenue U. The Department of Buildings approved the construction plans on January 16, 2014.

Alex Novikov, an agent at Maximillion Realty, confirmed to Sheepshead Bites that he is one of the owners. He added that he has no intention of bending to neighbors’ concerns.

“They already came many times to the Department of Buildings. They got many answers already. They’re a little bit out of their minds, that’s all,” Novikov said. “This is a question to the commissioner of the Buildings Department. It has nothing to do with the newspaper … We’re going to move forward according to the plans approved by the Buildings Department.”

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.

Steven Cymbrowitz (l.) and Ben Akselrod (r.)

Conservative Democrat Ben Akselrod appears to be launching his second attempt to unseat incumbent Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, recently filing papers with the state to form a campaign committee.

Akselrod mounted his first challenge to Cymbrowitz in 2012, rising from relative obscurity to a credible candidate with the assistance of his close friend Ari Kagan. Akselrod came close to defeating Cymbrowitz in the Democratic primary, coming less than 300 votes shy of victory. He continued on to the general election on the Independence line, making it a three-way race with Republican Russ Gallo. Cymbrowitz won the general with a wide margin.

Akselrod and his supporters led a hard-knuckled campaign, in which the incumbent was criticized for not opposing a mosque just outside of his district, voting for a bill that encouraged tolerance education in schools including tolerance of homosexuals, and, just days before the primary election, marrying a woman who is not Jewish.

The race brought citywide media attention after Akselrod’s campaign released a flier with a typo claiming that the assemblyman “allowed crime to go up over 50% in the negrohood,” a claim that was factually incorrect regardless of the typo.

Cymbrowitz stayed mum for most of the campaign, leading one outlet to say he was running a “gentleman’s campaign,” but eventually spoke out against “vicious” tactics two weeks after the primary.

Although it’s widely expected, it’s still not fully clear whether Akselrod will run this year. Because of illness, he did not attend last night’s meeting of the Bay Democrats, the club where he serves as president and where he is likely to announce.

District Leader Ari Kagan, a close friend and adviser to Akselrod, told Sheepshead Bites that the papers were simply the first steps to forming an “exploratory committee” to determine whether Akselrod will run.

“He told me it’s an exploratory committee. When he decides 100 percent, he’ll have a big kickoff. Like in May, when the weather is nice,” said Kagan.

Akselrod, however, sounded very much like a candidate in an interview yesterday with Politicker, which first reported on the campaign filings.

“I certainly hope to win. Look, the status quo can’t continue forever. I think I have more energy, more desire to do the job,” Akselrod told Politicker. “There are still many problems with Hurricane Sandy recovery … It’s a year and a half later and we’re still talking about things that should have been done 15 days after the storm hit.”

Akselrod did not return a request to comment in time for publication. We’ll update this post if we here back from him.

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Design of the new elevated comfort stations. The ramps and stairs are designed to detach in the case of an extreme weather event. (Source: NYC Parks)

The New York City Parks Department will present revised plans this Thursday for the controversial bathroom and comfort station slated for the Brighton Beach boardwalk in response to outcry from Oceana condominium residents and local leaders.

The public hearing on the new draft environmental impact statement will take place at the Shorefront Y (3300 Coney Island Avenue), from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

It’s the second public hearing on the site’s bathrooms, which are identical to 35 others along the Riegelmann Boardwalk and elsewhere in the city – all replacements to facilities damaged in Superstorm Sandy. At the November meeting, residents of Oceana and other nearby buildings lambasted the proposal for the 20-foot-tall structures, with complaints ranging from blocked views and claims that it would attract the homeless, to concerns about the stability of the structure.

The Parks Department previewed seven different alternatives for the placement of the New Brighton location – the formal name of the site in front of Oceana near Coney Island Avenue – at City Hall in February. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz gave favorable, though tepid, reviews of the new plans.

“Some alternatives are clearly better than others, but what came across is that this is a new administration that has expressed a real willingness to listen to what the community has to say,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “It is a very hopeful sign that the [draft environmental impact statement] includes the options that were raised by residents at the Parks Department’s public scoping meeting last November. I believe this is an important step in an ongoing dialogue and it shows that the city is trying to be responsive to the community’s needs.”

Seacoast Towers (Source: Google Maps)

Seacoast Towers (Source: Google Maps)

An energy service company bowed before the wrath of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz after a billing snafu caused approximately 45 residents of Brighton Beach’s Seacoast Towers, where Cymbrowitz lives, to be enrolled without their consent.

Great Eastern Energy, which has offices on Sheepshead Bay Road, distributed fliers about the availability of the service at the building in mid-February, according to the local pol. But when some residents of Seacoast Towers (1311 Brightwater Avenue and 35 Seacoast Terrace) contacted the company solely to learn more, they received postcards informing them they had been enrolled despite never having signed a contract.

“The language of the flier was not ambiguous and did not in any way suggest that the flier was a binding contract for service,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “People were hoodwinked, plain and simple.”

Cymbrowitz says he contacted the company on behalf of residents, but the president, Allan Brenner, refused to back off. Even though Brenner admitted the flier was unclear, he said they would continue to provide service to those residents, according to Cymbrowitz.

The company’s founder, Fima Podvisoky, agreed to cancel the contracts at the pol’s behest.

Action did not come swiftly enough for Cymbrowitz. He filed a formal complaint with the New York Public Service Commission, saying that the company’s practices were “deceptive and predatory.”

A third company official then weighed in last week, telling the assemblyman that all affected residents would be contacted and offered a fixed rate. If the company didn’t hear back from the residents, they would be returned to their regular service.

That official, CEO Matt Lanfear, made the offer by Facebook, including giving an apology for the “clerical error.”

“I’m genuinely sorry that you’ve had this experience with our service. It is not, and could not be less indicative of our business practices and guiding principles,” Lanfear wrote. He noted that he has contacted the Public Service Commission to inform them about the “operational oversight,” and that they’re working with the commission to rectify it.  “Some of the residents who received the flyer were enrolled prior to receiving a contract. This was a clerical error and was not meant to be deceptive in any way,” Lanfear wrote in the lengthy post.

The CEO also noted that the company had attempted to respond to Cymbrowitz directly, but to no avail.

To clarify, we’ve also made direct contact with you, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, on several occasions by phone and email. After inviting you to our offices but receiving no response, I’ve decided to come to you—in fact, I’ve contacted your office to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience. I’m hopeful we’ll get to speak face-to-face upon your return from Albany.

That post on Cymbrowitz’s Facebook page has no response from the local pol, who has been spending most of each week this month in Albany for the legislative session.

The assemblyman definitely saw the response, though; a press release was issued the next day highlighting the apology and expressing his desire to move on.

“In the end, the object is to save people money. If this company can do that, we’re happy to work with them,” he said in the release. “My goal was never to embarrass Great Eastern Energy but to protect constituents, many of them elderly and non-English speaking, who found themselves in a situation they didn’t ask for and couldn’t resolve. We’ve accomplished that goal and now we can move on.”

Source: FSSP via Twitter

Source: FSSP via Twitter

A new group has launched with the goal of expanding the services of shomrim, or Jewish civilian patrol, into a broad swath of Gravesend.

Community Safety & Security (CSS) is an affiliate of the Sephardic Community Federation, and is working on a recruitment drive to bring volunteers to the well-established Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol, which could begin patroling the area.

The borders of the area under consideration are Avenue I to the north, Avenue Y to the south, Coney Island Avenue to the east and McDonald Avenue to the west.

“CSS is a new organization that will work to keep our communities safe by establishing initiatives to help reduce crime and increase public safety. We hope to work with the public, law enforcement and community watch groups to achieve these goals,” said Avi Spitzer, executive director of the Sephardic Community Federation.

Spitzer said they already have a core group of volunteers, and hope to build up operations and activities over time. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz has offered to help the group identify potential sources of funds for their project. CSS is headed by Jack Cayre, the scion of developer and real estate magnate Joseph Cayre.

CSS is not formally affiliated with Flatbush Shomrim.

Flatbush Shomrim Executive Coordinator Bob Moskowitz said that they have not started patrolling the new area, nor have they made a decision on whether or not they will.

“It’s under consideration right now. It’s not a done deal. There’s a lot of logistics involved,” Moskowitz said. “I’d like to help them out, but we have to look at it and see if we can do it. But we can’t help every community that asks us to. Right now it’s still up in the air. If it’s something that’s doable, we’d love to.”

Spitzer said the goal of CSS’s effort right now is to bolster shomrim’s manpower with volunteers from the proposed coverage area, which would provide the resources needed for patrols.

Flatbush Shomrim was founded in 1991 by now-Councilman Chaim Deutsch. Shomrim volunteers patrol the neighborhoods in marked and unmarked vehicles, calling 911 when they see an emergency, monitoring the activities of people they believe to be suspicious, and calling for other volunteers if they feel the need. They can often be the first to respond to a scene of a low-level incident, where they can make a citizen’s arrest if necessary.

Community shomrim patrols have also been the source of controversy. Critics say they can sometimes be overzealous in their duties, inflame ethnic tensions and, at times, an obstacle to police investigations within the Jewish community. Some patrols receive taxpayer funds and resources through the offices of elected officials.

If you’d like to volunteer for shomrim patrols, contact CSS at (347) 781-4679 or by email at CSS@SephardicFederation.org

Photo by Erica Sherman

Photo by Erica Sherman

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

Russian-speaking Verizon customers would do well to have a translator handy if they want to complain about FIOS or question a bill. Following a number of complaints from constituents, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) has learned that Verizon has discontinued its customer support phone line for Russian-speaking customers, leaving people unable to resolve issues such as service outages, billing, and general account inquiries.

“The explanation offered by Verizon was that the volume of customers did not warrant a dedicated department,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. “Give me a break. There are over 200,000 Russian-speaking people in New York City. That’s absurd.”

He said that a phone line with an answering machine was offered to provide callbacks for Russian-speaking customers instead, but was also shut down. Attempts at restoring service for non-English speakers have been unsatisfactory, he said. Spanish is the only language option currently offered.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz recently wrote to the NYS Public Service Commission about the issue and noted that Russian-speaking customers currently have two options to reach a customer representative at Verizon. The first is through his district office during regular business hours. “The second option requires non-English speakers to navigate an English-only phone menu to reach an English-speaking representative, and then have the English language skills to provide enough information to arrange a call back,” he said. “This is an insurmountable task for most non-English speakers and neither of these options provides immediate assistance.”

Making the problem worse is Verizon’s management of the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program, which provides low-cost phone service for recipients of public assistance. Lifeline requires annual recertification over the phone and Verizon offers no language preference. As a result, many Russian-speaking people fail to recertify in time. “They’re dropped from the program and are responsible for increased bills until they re-enroll,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“Verizon has to stop treating our Russian speaking residents like second-class citizens. It’s outrageous and must be corrected,” he said.

1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

1882 East 12th Street (Source: Google Maps)

After a long and bitter battle with Homecrest neighbors, the Department of Buildings has ordered the owner of a home being built on East 12th Street to submit new plans or tear the house down, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today.

The home at 1882 East 12th Street has been the site of sour relations for eight years, with local advocates and neighbors saying that the building is not only built outrageously beyond zoning restrictions, but in a dangerous manner.

The property owner, Joseph Durzieh, classified the construction as an alteration when filing plans to do the DOB. But the building appears to be a entirely new structure built around a one-story bungalow – but without the necessary foundation to keep it stable. Critics say it should have been classified as a new construction – and forced to seek permission to construct a building that towers over its neighbors.

The property owner has previously received stop work orders and restraining orders, and a Kings County Supreme Court judge called the city agency’s decision to allow construction to proceed “arbitrary and capricious.”

“For eight years the people of East 12th Street battled the Board of Standards and Appeals, battled the Department of Buildings and battled a bureaucracy that seemed stacked against them even though common sense was on their side,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “Anyone who saw this five-story monster of a house at 1882 East 12th Street knew it didn’t belong there. Neighbors lost sleep because they imagined the structure falling down around them. At last, justice has prevailed.”

Cymbrowitz met with Brooklyn Buildings Commissioner Ira Gluckman in January, during which Gluckman expressed “deep concerns that the architect’s plans did not accurately deal with structural issues in the building,” and the agency issued a stop work order.

Now the department has requested an emergency declaration to raze the building, giving the owner 60 days to submit new plans or tear down the home. If Durzieh fails to comply, the city will send a wrecking ball – and a bill to Durzieh for the work.

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