Friday, December 15, 2017

Mobile Phone Industry Executive Convicted At Trial In Multimillion-Dollar Consumer Fraud Scheme

CEO of Mobile Aggregation Company Participated in Scheme to Bill Consumers for Fraudulent Text-Messaging Charges

  Joon H. Kim, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that DARCY WEDD, the CEO of a U.S. mobile aggregation company called Mobile Messenger, was convicted after a two-week jury trial on eight counts for his participation in a scheme to charge mobile phone customers millions of dollars in monthly fees for unsolicited, recurring text messages without the customers’ knowledge or consent – a practice known as “auto-subscribing.” 
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As a Manhattan jury has unanimously found today, Darcy Wedd engaged in a scheme known as ‘auto-subscribing,’ forcing mobile phone users to pay charges for unsolicited and unwanted text messaging services, including horoscopes and celebrity gossip.  The conduct of Wedd and his co-conspirators ultimately netted over a hundred million dollars in illegal profits.  Thanks to the diligence of the IRS and FBI, the message is clear: perpetrators of consumer fraud schemes beware, federal investigators and prosecutors will protect everyday consumers and look to hold you accountable for your criminal fraud.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment and evidence presented at trial, from in or about 2011, through in or about 2013, WEDD and other co-conspirators engaged in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud consumers by placing unauthorized charges for premium text messaging services on consumers’ cellular phone bills, without the consumers’ knowledge or consent, through a practice known as “auto-subscribing.”

WEDD was the Chief Operating Officer, and eventually the Chief Executive Officer, of Mobile Messenger.  In the relevant time period, mobile aggregators like Mobile Messenger compiled, or “aggregated,” charges for premium text messaging services – such as monthly horoscopes, celebrity gossip, and trivia facts – on consumers’ mobile phone bills.

In or about 2010, Lin Miao, one of WEDD’s co-conspirators, who was the CEO of another company in the cellphone industry that provided premium text messaging content (the “Content Provider”), decided to begin auto-subscribing mobile phone users to the Content Provider’s premium text messaging services in order to boost the Content Provider’s sagging revenues.  Miao and others built a computer program that could spoof the required consumer authorizations for premium text messaging services – i.e., a program that could generate the text message correspondence that one would ordinarily see if a consumer was genuinely signing up to receive the services (the “Auto-Subscription Platform”), which was operational by in or about the middle of 2011. 
In or about October 2011, Miao met with WEDD and told him, in sum and substance, that MIAO wanted to auto-subscribe consumers through Mobile Messenger’s billing platform and needed phone numbers to do so.  WEDD agreed to assist Miao.  WEDD further told Miao, in sum and substance, that co-conspirator Michael Pajaczkowski, who was the Vice President of Compliance and Consumer Protection at Mobile Messenger, would provide phone numbers and assistance to Miao and that all payments needed to go through Pajaczkowski.  WEDD later received his portion of the payments from Miao via Pajaczkowski.

Also in or about early 2012, WEDD, Pajaczkowski, and two other co-conspirators, Erdolo Eromo and Fraser Thompson, had discussions about how to increase revenues at Mobile Messenger, which were flagging because premium text messaging services had become less profitable.  Among other things, WEDD, Pajaczkowski, Eromo, and Thompson agreed to allow co-conspirator Eugeni Tsvetnenko, who operated a content provider in Australia (“the Australian Content Provider”), to begin auto-subscribing consumers through Mobile Messenger.  By at least in or about April 2012, Tsvetnenko had started auto-subscribing consumers.  Over the course of the next several months through in or about mid-2013, Tsvetnenko and the Australian Content Provider auto-subscribed hundreds of thousands of phone numbers through Mobile Messenger and generated millions of dollars of revenue, which Tsvetnenko shared with WEDD, Pajaczkowski, Eromo, and Thompson.

The auto-subscription scheme affected hundreds of thousands of consumers and generated over $100 million dollars in proceeds, which the defendants apportioned among themselves and used to fund lavish lifestyles of expensive vacations, luxury cars, and gambling.
WEDD, 40, was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud, and two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.  WEDD was also convicted of two counts of aggravated identity theft, each of which carries a minimum term of two years in prison.  WEDD was remanded into custody following the verdict and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 2, 2018, before Judge Katherine B. Forrest.  

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

To date, six additional defendants, Andrew Bachman, Miao, Pajackowski, Jonathan Murad, Francis Assifuah, and Eromo have pled guilty in connection with their participation in the fraud, and one additional defendant, Thompson, was convicted by a jury on September 5, 2017, following a three-week trial.

Assifuah was sentenced to 33 months in prison.  Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2018.  Sentencing dates have not been set for Bachman, Miao, Pajackowski, Murad, or Eromo.
Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the IRS-CI and the FBI, and expressed his sincere gratitude to the Federal Trade Commission for their support and assistance with the investigation. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against President Of Park Avenue Art Gallery In Manhattan For Defrauding Art Dealers And Collectors Of Valuable Artwork And Millions Of Dollars

Gallery President Defrauded Art Dealers into Sending Him Money and Artwork Worth Millions of Dollars

  Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Division (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of a complaint charging EZRA CHOWAIKI with fraud and transportation of stolen property for using his art gallery located on Park Avenue in Manhattan to defraud art dealers and collectors of millions of dollars.  EZRA CHOWAIKI surrendered this morning to FBI agents and will be presented before Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker this afternoon.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “While Ezra Chowaiki appeared to buy and sell high-end artwork in his upscale Manhattan gallery, as alleged, he sold clients nothing more than an illusion. Chowaiki allegedly tricked his clients into investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in artwork that he never actually bought and secretly sold artwork that they had entrusted to him.  As a result of Chowaiki’s alleged fraud, valuable works of art have been stolen from their rightful owners and unlawfully distributed all over the world.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Investors believed the subject in this case had their best interests at heart, taking their money in an investment, but never followed through on his promises.  When they dared to demand their money back, he allegedly refused.  We believe there may be others out there who could be a victim of this scheme, and we ask that they contact us at
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:           
Until November 2017, EZRA CHOWAIKI was the president and the minority owner of a private art gallery located on Park Avenue in New York, New York (the “Gallery”).  CHOWAIKI founded the Gallery in or about 2004, and since that time, CHOWAIKI has used the Gallery to facilitate the purchase, sale, and consignment of works of fine art, as well as for the hosting of various art exhibitions featuring works of art and sculptures by well-known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, and others.  CHOWAIKI lost control of the Gallery in or about November 2017 when the Gallery filed for bankruptcy and was taken over by a trustee to oversee its liquidation.
Between at least in or about 2015 and 2017, through the Gallery, CHOWAIKI engaged in a scheme to deceive other dealers and collectors of fine artwork into sending him money or valuable artwork under the false pretenses that CHOWAIKI would engage in legitimate transactions such as the purchase, sale, or consignment of those artworks.  In truth, however, CHOWAIKI did not, and often could not, conduct the transactions as promised, and instead kept funds and artwork for himself and the Gallery, or sold them to others both in and outside the United States, without authorization.
For example, a number of victims reported being asked by CHOWAIKI to invest money to purchase artwork through the Gallery that would then be sold by the Gallery, thereby generating profit for the investors.  After a number of these investors sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to CHOWAIKI, CHOWAIKI did not use the funds to purchase the artwork, nor did he return the money to the investors.  Similarly, other victims reported consigning artwork to CHOWAIKI for sale by the Gallery.  After these victims attempted to cancel the consignments, CHOWAIKI refused to return the artwork and, in some cases, purported to sell the artwork to other galleries and auctioneers located in the United States and abroad with the authorization of the work’s rightful owner.
At the time the Gallery filed for bankruptcy and CHOWAIKI was removed as president, the Gallery purported to have only approximately $276,681 in assets, whereas the Gallery owed at least approximately $11.8 million in claims to dozens of art dealers and others, including those who had sent money to the Gallery to buy artwork or who had consigned artwork to the Gallery that was never returned. 
 CHOWAIKI, 49, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of interstate transportation of stolen goods, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 10 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Kim praised the work of the FBI and the New York City Police Department’s Major Case Squad.  Any person who believes he/she is a victim of this crime is encouraged to send an email to
[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Former Comptroller Of Mortgage Lender Charged With Bank Fraud And Wire Fraud

  Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (the “DFS”),announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging JOHN REIMER with bank fraud and mortgage fraud in connection with his participation in a scheme to defraud banks of money intended for individuals seeking loans to purchase or refinance their homes.  REIMER was arrested today in Boca Raton, Florida, and was presented in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida earlier today before United States Magistrate Judge James M. Hopkins.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As alleged, John Reimer, vice president of a mortgage bank, defrauded several other financial institutions of more than $12 million.  Reimer allegedly falsified documents, kept funding for mortgages that never closed, and even acquired funding multiple times for the same loans as part of the scheme.  Fraud schemes that target money intended for home loans can taint the market for honest homebuyers seeking to secure mortgages.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that schemes like the one charged here are stopped.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “As alleged, Reimer capitalized on his knowledge of the mortgage-lending industry to exploit its vulnerabilities, causing serious damage to a number of warehouse banks fronting him an advance for the loans his bank was in the business of providing.  Mortgage fraud not only affects individual victims and institutions, it risks the overall stability of the housing market, accumulating losses across the board.  The FBI continues to support partnerships within the mortgage industry and law enforcement as we work together to combat this serious crime.”

Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said:  “This defendant allegedly used his position and access as a banker to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent loans.  As regulator of New York’s Financial Services industry, the Department of Financial Services is proud to have assisted the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in bringing this defendant to justice.”

According to the allegations made in the Indictment:[1]

REIMER, who was the vice-president and comptroller of a mortgage lending institution (the “Mortgage Bank”), participated in a scheme to defraud several financial institutions (the “Warehouse Banks”) by causing the Warehouse Banks to provide funds to the Mortgage Bank, ostensibly to fund mortgage loans for residential properties, based on false and fraudulent documentation and representations made and provided by Reimer to the Warehouse Banks.

The Mortgage Bank was in the business of providing mortgage loans for residential properties (“Loans”).  Pursuant to agreements, the Warehouse Banks advanced sums of money to the Mortgage Bank so that the Mortgage Bank could fund Loans (the “Warehouse Advances”).  Once a Loan closed, the Mortgage Bank typically sold the loan to an investor and used the proceeds of the sale to re-pay the Warehouse Bank for the Warehouse Advance.

In order to obtain a Warehouse Advance for a particular loan, the Mortgage Bank was required, among other things, to provide the Warehouse Bank with certain documents and information about the Loan.  In addition, the notes and mortgages executed by the residential mortgagors were provided to the Warehouse Banks as collateral for the Warehouse Advances.  REIMER was responsible for providing the Warehouse Banks with the information and documents necessary to obtain the Warehouse Advances.

However, according to the Indictment, with respect to certain Loans, REIMER “double-pledged” residential properties by obtaining multiple Warehouse Advances from more than one Warehouse Bank to fund the same Loan, thus misleading each Warehouse Bank into believing that the Warehouse Advance it made to the Mortgage Bank was fully collateralized.

Moreover, according to the Indictment, with respect to certain Loans, REIMER falsely represented to the Warehouse Banks that the Loans were going to close imminently, when, in fact, such Loans were not imminently closing at the time the Warehouse Advances were made.  In some cases, the Loans never closed, but the Mortgage Bank nevertheless retained the Warehouse Advances made for those particular Loans.  In other cases, the Loans did close, but the Mortgage Bank used those Warehouse Advances to repay other Warehouse Advances.

According to the Indictment, in furtherance of the scheme, REIMER provided the Warehouse Banks with fraudulent documents, including mortgage notes on which REIMER falsified the signatures of the purported residential mortgagors.

According to the Indictment, from November 2008 through January 2009, REIMER used fraudulent misrepresentations to cause the Warehouse Banks to wire the Mortgage Company at least over $12 million.

REIMER, 60, of Boca Raton, Florida, is charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge. 

Mr. Kim thanked the FBI and DFS for their outstanding work on the investigation.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as allegations.

A.G. Schneiderman Leads Coalition Of 11 AGs In Challenging Trump EPA's Illegal Delay Of Clean Water Protections

AGs: Proposed Two-Year Suspension of “Clean Water Rule” Would Violate Federal Law and Rollback Decades of Clean Water Protections
Rollback Would Put At Risk 5,700 Miles Of Streams That Feed Into NY’s Drinking Water Sources – Which Help Provide Drinking Water To 56% Of New Yorkers
Further, Administrator Pruitt Has Illegally Refused to Recuse Himself – Despite Previously Bringing Litigation Against Clean Water Rule and Appearing in Anti-Clean Water Rule Promo Videos While Leading EPA
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 11 Attorneys General, challenged the legality of a Trump Administration proposed two-year suspension of the “Clean Water Rule,” a federal regulation that defines “waters of the United States” under federal law. In comments addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), the coalition charges that the proposed suspension of the Clean Water Rule – which is designed to ensure the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands receive proper protection under the federal Clean Water Act – would violate federal law in multiple respects.
Click here to read the comments. Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in the comments are the Attorneys General of California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
“Clean water is a basic right – fundamental to New Yorkers’ health, environment, and economy,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The Trump administration’s proposed suspension of the Clean Water Rule is clearly illegal, and would jeopardize the clean, healthy water on which New Yorkers rely. Attorneys General will fight back against this reckless ‘dirty water’ proposal, and the Trump administration’s continued assault on our nation’s core public health and environmental protections.” 
A lake, river, stream, wetland, or any other kind of surface water is afforded protection under the Clean Water Act only if it is a “water of the United States.” Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, and ambiguity in regulations dating back to 1980, led to substantial uncertainty as to whether some waters – particularly, small, seasonal, or rain-dependent streams, wetlands, and tributaries – are considered waters of the United States. As a result, roughly 20,000,000 wetland acres and 2,000,000 miles of streams in the Continental United States were lost, or were placed in jeopardy of losing, their protections under the Clean Water Act. These at-risk streams help provide drinking water to 117 million Americans – including 56 percent of New Yorkers.
The uncertain protection of waters put at risk 60 percent of our nation’s streams – and at least 55 percent of New York’s stream miles – and millions of acres of wetlands nationwide of federal protection.  This left these waters – and the downstream waters with which they connect – vulnerable to increased flooding, pollution, damage to hunting and fishing habitat, and fouling of the drinking water supplies. 
The 2015 Clean Water Rule, which the Trump Administration wants to suspend, clarified what types of waters are covered by the Clean Water Act, thereby securing their protection. The Rule was based on over 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies that demonstrated how many waters are connected by networks of tributaries, intermittent streams, and wetlands. Because of this “interconnectivity,” physical, chemical, and biological pollution from wetlands and relatively small or infrequently-flowing upland streams often impact larger downstream waters, such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans. All of the lower 48 states have waters that are downstream of other states; New York, for example, is downstream of 13 states. As such, New York and other states are recipients of water pollution generated not only within their borders, but also from upstream sources outside their borders over which they lack jurisdiction.
On November 22, 2017, the EPA and ACOE proposed to suspend applicability of the Clean Water Rule for two years and reinstate the old and inadequate regulations – dating back to at least 1980 – that had been in place prior to the Clean Water Rule. It was these nearly 40-year-old rules, whose dated science and lack of clarity as to which waters are “waters of the United States,” that had led to years of confusing and inconsistent interpretations by agencies and federal courts. If the suspension rule is finalized, the outdated 1980 regulations would replace the Clean Water Rule. 
In their comments, the coalition of Attorneys General state that EPA and ACOE are in “wholesale breach of foundational administrative law principles” and that the suspension rule is “in blatant violation” of federal law requirements, and is otherwise arbitrary, capricious, and exceeds the agencies’ legal authority. The coalition charges that, among other things, the agencies have:
  • Failed to provide a meaningful opportunity for public comment on the substance of the suspension rule – allowing only a 21-day comment period during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season, and specifically rejecting any comments on the content, basis, or impact of the reinstated four-decade-old regulations – demonstrating that the agencies “lack the required flexible and open-minded attitude” necessary for a proper rulemaking;   
  • Failed to consider important aspects of defining “waters of the United States,” including the “well-known ambiguities and inconsistencies that result from applying the 1980 regulations, and the further complications arising from Supreme Court and federal case law interpreting ‘water of the United States’,” and
  • Disregarded the voluminous scientific basis and factual findings supporting the Clean Water Rule, including that the 1980 regulations do not specifically address the interconnectivity of waters and thereby leave many floodplains, wetlands, and tributaries without certain protection under the Clean Water Act. 
Further, the coalition notes that while EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had pledged to recuse himself from the litigation he brought as Oklahoma Attorney General to repeal the Clean Water Rule, he has refused to recuse himself from this rulemaking involving the very same issues. Since becoming EPA Administrator, Pruitt has appeared in promotional videos for private organizations that have brought suit challenging the Clean Water Rule, and in those ads has clearly misstated the rule’s provisions. The coalition charges that Administrator Mr. Pruitt’s involvement in this rulemaking is “illegal” and “renders a final rule invalid due to his refusal to follow ethics review procedures [under federal law] in light of his lack of impartiality, and because the clear and convincing evidence demonstrates his closed mind on the matter in violation of due process.”
On September 27th, Attorney General Schneiderman, joined by the Attorneys General of California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, challenged the legality of a Trump Administration’s previous proposal to outright repeal the Clean Water Rule. The coalition charged that the proposal was “arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with law.” They also charged that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s involvement in the effort, after suing to negate the Clean Water Rule as Oklahoma Attorney General, was “illegal” and would render any repeal invalid. Click here to read these comments


  “It appears Congressional Republicans and President Trump are in full agreement: what the country needs right now is tax cuts for the wealthy and the world’s biggest corporations. Never mind rampant wealth inequality or stagnant wages. All that matters to the GOP is increasing corporate profits and setting the stage for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“Now is the time to get even louder. In the coming days, Republicans will continue their unprecedented rush to stick middle class taxpayers with the bill. Make your voices heard and remind your congressional leaders who they work for.”

Serrano, Engel, Espaillat, and Crowley Urge Mayor de Blasio to Open LGBT Community Center in the Bronx

Bronx is only Borough in NYC without an LGBT Community Center
Bronx Members also Urge Mayor to Address Other LGBT Needs As It Sets Priorities for Second Term

  Bronx U. S. Representatives Serrano, Engel, Crowley, and Espaillat today sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to make a priority addressing the LGBT community needs a priority in his upcoming terms as Mayor. Among the recommendations, the members emphasized the need to open an LGBT community center in the Bronx – the only borough that doesn’t have one to this date. The members also urged Mayor de Blasio to address the issues of homelessness and other housing needs that affect the LGBT community and those who are gender non-conforming (TGNC), particularly teenagers; as well as the rise in violence and other human rights violations against LGBT people. 

“The Bronx remains without an LGBTQ Community Center, and continues to be the sole borough in New York City without one. As you may know, community centers play a vital role in enriching the lives of residents and the neighborhoods they call home. Whether providing easy access to quality, safe programs and services or directing families to the appropriate channels to receive the much-needed assistance they are seeking, community centers are a crucial safety net for many. We strongly believe that no one should be forced to travel outside of their neighborhood in order to obtain essential care readily accessible in neighboring communities. For these reasons, we ask that you work to improve LGBTQ services in the Bronx by helping open an LGBTQ community center,” the members wrote. 

December 14, 2017

Dear Mayor de Blasio:
Thank you for all that your administration has done to date with regard to helping the LGBTQ community in our city.  Great progress has been made in the past several years at both the national and local levels, and we appreciate your role in helping our constituents.  As you begin to set priorities for your second term in office, we hope you will consider these issues important to our LGBTQ constituents in the Bronx.
First, the Bronx remains without an LGBTQ Community Center, and continues to be the sole borough in New York City without one. As you may know, community centers play a vital role in enriching the lives of residents and the neighborhoods they call home. Whether providing easy access to quality, safe programs and services or directing families to the appropriate channels to receive the much-needed assistance they are seeking, community centers are a crucial safety net for many. We strongly believe that no one should be forced to travel outside of their neighborhood in order to obtain essential care readily accessible in neighboring communities. For these reasons, we ask that you work to improve LGBTQ services in the Bronx by helping open an LGBTQ community center.
We would also like to stress the overwhelming experience of homelessness that transgender and those who are gender non-conforming (TGNC) face within our City. As you may know, TGNC individuals are more than twice as likely to experience homelessness as those who are non-transgender. Unfortunately, a significant amount of the City’s TGNC homeless population are teenagers. Typically, these individuals become homeless under traumatic family circumstances, including being thrown out of their homes, being abandoned, or because they feel forced to run away. According to the Human Rights Campaign in 2017, across the nation 27 TGNC individuals were brutally murdered and most victims TGNC people of color.  It is clear that we must act to address the devastating impact violence has on TGNC individuals and their families.  A recent study authored by Strength in Numbers and published by the LGBT Health and Human Services Needs showed that both people of color and TGNC individuals were much more likely to experience homelessness at some point in their lives relative to their white and non-TGNC counterparts. 
Right now, New York City only has one LGBTQ-specific shelter, Marsha’s House, and it only has 90 beds, which falls well below meeting the needs of the LGBTQ homeless community. It is for these reasons that we ask the City to take greater strides to ensure everyone has equal access to affordable and supportive housing regardless of their socioeconomic background, gender, or sexual orientation.
It is important to recognize the structural and systemic barriers that both LGBTQ and TGNC people face especially those of color who are disproportionately marginalized. Additionally, we must remain steadfast and committed to implementing programs that seek to address and remove these harmful obstacles. This can only be accomplished by working with those who directly understand the challenging times we currently find ourselves in.
With that, we ask that as the City begins implementing policies to address TGNC specific housing needs, that it strongly considers employing members of the LGBTQ community and collaborate with local LGBTQ community leaders and activists to establish LGBTQ specific housing projects.  Lastly, we ask that wherever possible priority be given to people of color and those who are historically marginalized – since many of these individuals are our constituents. 

We appreciate all the steps taken over the past four years, and we look forward to working with you to protect the lives and livelihoods of our LGBTQ constituents in the Bronx. 
Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your response.


Snow expected to cause slippery conditions during the evening commute

  The New York City Emergency Management Department today issued a travel advisory for Friday evening. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for New York City through 10 p.m. Friday. A total of 1 to 3 inches of snow is forecast, with locally higher amounts possible. Light snow is expected to develop Friday between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and is forecast to continue through the evening commute. Snow will taper off after 7 p.m., and is expected to end around midnight. A Winter Weather Advisory for snow means periods of snow will primarily cause travel difficulties. New Yorkers should prepare for snow covered roads, slippery conditions and possible limited visibilities, and are advised to exercise caution when driving, walking, or biking.

“We are expecting snow that can cause slippery road conditions during this evening’s rush,” saidNYC Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito. “Take it slowly during the evening commute home and allow for extra travel time.”

NYC Emergency Management also advised New Yorkers to prepare for cold temperatures, as the arctic air continues into the weekend. Temperatures remain below freezing Friday night, hovering around the upper 20s, with wind chill values between 15 and 20 degrees. Temperatures are forecast to return above freezing Saturday, with highs in the upper 30s, but strong winds will cause wind chill values to remain in the 20s. Winds Saturday are expected to be between 15 mph to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. Saturday night temperatures and wind chill values are expected to be in the 20s.  Temperatures increase above freezing Sunday, with highs near 40 degrees.
Cold weather can cause or worsen health problems. Certain individuals, including the unsheltered homeless, people with disabilities and those with access and functional needs are at an increased risk for injuries, illness or death. Others at an increased risk also include people who drink heavily or use drugs and become incapacitated outdoors, or those who live in homes without heat, and:
·         Are 65 years of age or older.
·         Are infants.
·         Have certain medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes.
·         Have serious mental health conditions or developmental disabilities.
·         Have disabilities or access and functional needs (e.g. limited mobility, trouble leaving home).
New Yorkers are also encouraged to check on neighbors, friends, and relatives. Please take the following precautions:

Safety Tips

For Motorists
·         Drive slowly. Vehicles take longer to stop on snow and ice than on dry pavement.
·         Four-wheel drive vehicles may make it easier to drive on snow-covered roads, but they do not stop quicker than other vehicles.
·         Use major streets or highways for travel whenever possible.
·         Know your vehicle’s braking system. Vehicles with anti-lock brakes require a different braking technique than vehicles without anti-lock brakes in snowy conditions.
·         If you are driving and begin to skid, ease your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Straighten the wheel when the car moves in the desired direction. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump the brakes on an ABS equipped vehicle.
·         Try to keep your vehicle’s gas tank as full as possible.
·         Keep the name and phone number of at least one local towing service in your car in case you break down or become stuck.

For Pedestrians

·         Exercise caution and avoid slippery surfaces; some ice may not be visible. Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs.
·         Seniors should take extra care outdoors to avoid slips and falls.
·         Have heightened awareness of cars, particularly when approaching or crossing intersections.
·         If you have to go outdoors, wear dry, warm clothing and cover exposed skin. Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered. Wear a hat, hood, scarf, and gloves.
·         Shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Shivering is a signal to return indoors.
·         Be careful when shoveling snow. Follow your doctor’s advice if you have heart disease or high blood pressure. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart.
·         Be safe at work. Workers who spend a lot of time outdoors are at risk for cold-related health impacts. If you are an employer, implement safe work practices, provide appropriate protective equipment, and train workers on how to stay safe during cold and winter weather.
·         Limit alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol may make you feel warmer but it causes your body to lose heat faster. Alcohol also impairs your judgment which limits your ability to take appropriate precautions or remove yourself from a dangerously cold environment in time. As a result, alcohol actually increases your chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

Prolonged exposure to cold can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, and can worsen existing medical conditions such as heart and lung diseases.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops to a dangerously low level. It can lead to death. Symptoms include:

·         Intense shivering
·         Dizziness
·         Trouble speaking
·         Lack of coordination
·         Sluggishness
·         Drowsiness
·         Confusion
·         Shallow breathing

Frostbite occurs when parts of the body freeze, such as finger, toes, ears, nose, and cheeks. It can cause permanent damage. Symptoms include:

·         Red or painful skin
·         Pale skin
·         Unusually firm or waxy skin
·         Numbness

Call 911 and follow instructions, or go to the emergency room if you see symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite.

Department of Sanitation

The NYC Department of Sanitation is pre-deploying 693 salt spreaders Friday. PLOWNYC will be activated and with 500 plows will be dispatched when more than two inches of snow accumulates, with additional plows available if necessary.

Department of Social Services

A Code Blue Weather Emergency notice is issued when the temperature is forecast to drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or less between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., including National Weather Service calculations for wind chill values.  No one who is homeless and seeking shelter in New York City during a Code Blue will be denied. Should you see an individual who appears to be homeless and in need out in the cold, please call 311 and an outreach team will be dispatched to offer assistance. During Code Blue Weather emergencies, experienced outreach teams work to connect homeless New Yorkers with the following resources:

·         Shelters: During a Code Blue, shelter is available system-wide to accommodate anyone who is reasonably believed to be homeless and is brought to a shelter by outreach teams. Accommodations are also available for walk-ins.
·         Drop-in centers: All drop-in centers are open 24-hours per day, including when Code Blue procedures are in effect, and will assist as many people as possible for the duration of the emergency. Drop-in staff and the dedicated outreach teams they work closely with each and every day can also make arrangements for homeless individuals at other citywide facilities.
·         Safe havens and stabilization beds: Chronically homeless individuals may be transported directly to these low-threshold housing programs.
·         Street homeless outreach: Teams will contact vulnerable individuals on their Code Blue Priority Lists a minimum of once every four (4) hours beginning at 8 p.m. during Code Blue Alerts and once every two (2) hours beginning at 8 p.m. for Enhanced Code Blue Alerts to encourage them to accept services, including transportation to a shelter placement. DSS coordinates borough-level Code Blue efforts directly with partner City agencies, including but not limited to NYPD, DSNY, and the Parks Department.
For more information, visit New Yorkers are encouraged to sign up for Notify NYC, the City’s free emergency communications program. To sign up for Notify NYC, download the free mobile application, visit, call 311, or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.