Thursday, March 31, 2016

CAR FREE NYC to hold Major Rally to Build Support for Earth Day Goal of Fewer Cars on City Streets

Elected Officials and Organizations from Across the City Will Celebrate the Bold Initiative

City Council to Hear Resolution Naming Earth Day 2016 a Car Free Day in NYC

New York, NY-On Monday, April 4th, elected officials and organizations from across the city will rally on the steps of City Hall, calling on New York drivers to leave their car at home for one day this year: Earth Day, April 22nd. Support has steadily been building around this initiative, launched last month at New York University by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and a coalition of transportation, environmental and community based organizations drawing from a wide field of disciplines.

The concept, initiated in Europe several decades ago, is to have New Yorkers refrain from driving, as a way to highlight what our city could look like if it relied less upon cars. Paris is the most recent global city to take this step and saw tremendous benefits in lower emissions levels, as pedestrians flooded the open streets in celebration. Here in New York, a strong coalition of citywide organizations is ready to take the step here, with the support of the City.

On Earth Day, April 22nd, Broadway from the Flatiron Building to Union Square North; the streets around Washington Square Park; and Wadsworth Avenue in Upper Manhattan from 173rd to 177th will be closed to vehicle traffic, allowing New Yorkers to take full advantage of the open streets. This initiative is about promoting our many forms of transportation, other than personal vehicles, and encouraging New Yorkers to consider the impact of their decisions when it comes to travel.

The City Council Transportation Committee will hear a resolution designating Earth Day 2016, Car Free Day in NYC, immediately after the rally in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

What: Major Rally for a Car Free Earth Day in NYC & Hearing on Car Free Earth Day Resoluion

When: Monday, April 4th, 2016, 9:15 AM

Where: City Hall Steps, New York, NY

Bronx Chamber of Commerce - Next "Next Level Bronx" Class begin April 27, 2016

Application Period Now Open!      
About the Program:
NYCEDC is launching the Next Level Bronx program to give small business owners the tools, training, and networks to turn growth plans into action. We provide customized training for business owners who have been in business for at least three years, have an annual revenue of at least $250,000, and have at least one employee besides the owner. This is a seven-month program that helps participants emerge with successful, growth-oriented business strategies.
This program is brought to you by NYCEDC with curriculum provided by Interise and is supported by Citi Community Development. The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Assemblyman Blake, have partnered to help launch this major initiative. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Lucy Christensen at 212-312-4242.
Program Details:
This program will run over the course of seven months and will be held at the Bronx Borough Hall twice a month. By participating in this program you and your business could receive:
¨ Access to our Private Sector Network (PSN), network of volunteer professionals, and mentors.
¨ A customized Strategic Growth Plan outlining the action steps required to achieve business goals.
¨ Customized training to learn about business and development strategies, strategic planning, financial management, human resources, accessing capital, and government contracts.
This program is being offered free of charge. Apply today to reserve your spot for Next Level Bronx!
Key Dates:
¨ April 1 - Application Deadline
¨ April 27 - First Session
¨ November 2016 - Program Completion

Phil Cardone
 Grants & Events Director
 Bronx Chamber of Commerce
"The Network For Business Success"
1200 Waters Place, Suite 106
Bronx, NY 10461

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Free Concert Saturday, April 2nd_GMBC Men's Fellowship & Guests


  HUD Regional Administrator Holly Leicht to Moderate Panel of City Officials, Housing Developers, and Community Organizations

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr invites the public to an upcoming workshop designed to help Bronx residents successfully apply for affordable housing. The event will feature a panel discussion moderated by HUD Regional Administrator Holly Leicht, who oversees federal housing programs throughout New York and New Jersey.

Titled “Successfully Applying for Affordable Housing,” the event will take place on Wednesday April 13, 2016, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx NY.

“Affordable housing and its role in the future of our borough and our city has been the topic of discussion across the city for years. We have seen considerable new development in our borough, and my office is working to make sure that this new development works for everyone. I invite all Bronxites interested in applying for a new apartment to come to this workshop, hear from our speakers and learn more about this process,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Finding affordable housing in New York City is a challenge under any circumstances, but it’s incumbent upon government at all levels to ensure that those most in need are aware of the resources that are available and understand how they can access those resources,” said Holly Leicht, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. “HUD welcomes this opportunity to join Borough President Diaz, Jr. and many housing organizations to get the word out about how to navigate the process of identifying and applying for subsidized housing.”

In addition to remarks from Borough President Diaz and Regional Director Leicht, attendees will hear from speakers representing New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York City Housing Development Corporation, Phipps Houses, Bronx Pro Real Estate Management and the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation. The event will also feature resource tables with one-on-one attention and materials related to housing matters and other services. Light refreshments will also be provided.

Simone Developers Riverdale Property - What's Next?

Above - The proposed 11 story Medical Center for the Oxford/Riverdale (West 248th Street) property owned by Simone Developers.
Below - What the site looks like almost two years after the medical center proposal was abandoned. A vacant eyesore of a lot where a building was demolished.

  This was the last proposal by Simone Developers, a 14 story 48 unit building which was rejected by the city. 

  Last night Community Board #8 held a Land Use meeting to find out the fate of the Oxford/Riverdale Avenue site from Simone Developers. The representative from Simone developers had no new information about the site, only that the sidewalk has been cleaned and will be on a regular schedule. When asked if the property was up for sale the answer was 'I don't know that information'. When I said that two developers (one the Stagg Group) were looking at the site to purchase the property from Simone, the same answer was given - 'I don't know anything about that'. 

  It seems that now with Mayor Bill de Blasio's MIH and ZQA zoning changes that the property value  has increased, because a developer can build higher than 14 stories as much as 16 or even 18 stories if certain elements of the MIH and ZQA are incorporated into the building, such as affordable housing or a senior building that could have little or no parking requirements. There was at least one real estate agent in the audience who has shown the Simone property to prospective buyers.  

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Last Minute Power Grab

By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
District 32 Bronx County, New York

You should know that in the eleventh hour, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has slipped language into the Budget that would allow him to take over the homeless shelters in the City of New York.
As you all know, Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared war on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and he is doing everything possible to embarrass the Mayor without regard or respect for the hard work and sacrifices of New York City’s Community-Based Organizations that run shelters.
In the middle of this fight are the poor, the needy and the suffering New York City residents.
Instead of joining forces with the Mayor of the City of New York and the Community-Based Organizations, the Governor wants to remove Community-Based Organizations and replace them with anyone he chooses to be in charge.  
Governor Andrew Cuomo should strive to solve housing problems by forcing the landlords who own the actual property where the homeless shelters exist to remedy the violations in those buildings.  The building violations are caused by the landlords’ neglect –not the Community-Based Organizations!  
Instead of Governor Andrew Cuomo working to punish the landlords who own and neglect the buildings where the shelters are located, surprise, surprise: he is planning to punish the Community-based Organizations for building code violations that are completely out of their hands.
It is absolutely ridiculous for the Governor and for the State of New York to take over shelter programs in the City of New York and, yet still force the Mayor and the City of New York to fund shelters with the City’s resources they are not even in control of.
My dear reader, it’s A-OK for the Governor to take over State programs and put in charge whomever he pleases, but NOT for him to come to the City of New York and tell the Mayor and the City Council and Community-based Organizations that he’s taking over the shelter system – expecting to use the City’s resources.
It’s only in Cuba where you see these kinds of political maneuvers!
I have to implore my colleagues in the State Legislature – especially Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins to NOT allow for this outrageous manipulation of resources to pass in New York State’s Budget and force the City of New York to pay for programs controlled by the State of New York.
If our leaders allow for this kind of power shift to take place, and use the excuse that it will help the homeless, they are fooling no one. This language that has been slipped into the Budget at the last minute will hurt the Community-Based Organizations that serve the homeless and the City of New York, and we must not allow that to happen.
I am Senator Rubén Díaz and this is what you should know.

Editor's Note:

It is seldom that I agree with Senator Diaz Sr. on issues like this, but I agree 100 Percent on this item with Senator Diaz Sr. It looks like Governor Cuomo is trying to get an on time budget, and try to put in special measures as Senator Diaz is mentioning.

Assemblymember Michael A. Blake - Celebrated Sheroes in Economic Development, Education & Equality For All

This past Saturday, I hosted a Women's History Month event where members of the community came out to celebrate the remarkable contributions women are making in helping us to realize our vision of Economic Development, Education and Equality for All. During the event, we honored several distinguished members of our community with citations that recognize their important contributions to empowering other women. President Barack Obama, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray sent congratulatory letters to our honorees.

Co-sponsors for this event included: Congressmember Jose Serrano, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and Councilmember Vanessa Gibson. In addition to the co-sponsors, we provided information tables to Planned Parenthood of New York, Harlem Girls Cheer, V.I.P. Community Services and Professional Empowerment in Action

We are delighted to have honored 22 women, who are all making a positive impact in our community. From the four women leaders at Neighborhood SHOPP's Casa Boricua Senior Center to our School Superintendents, from African entrepreneurs to community advocates, we are absolutely #BuildingABetterBronx

2016 Women’s History Month Honorees:

Ramatu Ahmed,
Founder of African Life Center
Karen Ames,
Superintendent District 8
Elisa Alvarez,
Superintendent District 7
Stephanie Arthur,
Founder of African Leaders Project
Ivy Brown,
Instructional Technology Coordinator of New York Metropolitan 
Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence ATTAIN Lab
Fatima C.Cambane-Quissico,
First Lady of Epworth United Methodist Church
Miriam Clavasquin,
Program Director of Casa Boricua Senior Center
Cynthia Cortijo-Rodriguez,
CEC: Community Education Council 12
Antoinette Crawford,
First Lady of Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church
Diana Delgado,
Director of Senior Center Programs for 
Neighborhood Self-Help by Older Persons Project (SHOPP)
Rafaela Espinal Pacheco,
Superintendent District 12
Ivine Galarza,
District Manager for Bronx Community Board 6
Meredith Gotlin,
Principal of The Melrose School, PS/MS 29
Dr. Evelyn Laureano,
Executive Director of Neighborhood Self-Help by Older Persons Project (SHOPP)
Annie Minguez,
Director of Government & Community Relations with Good Shepherd
Claudia Nesbitt,
New York Metropolitan Martin Luther King Jr.
Center for Nonviolence ATTAIN Lab
Carmen Rivera,
V.I.P. Community Services
Leticia Rodriguez-Rosario,
Superintendent District 9
Darlene Serrano,
Activity Coordinator at Neighborhood Self Help by Older Persons Project (SHOPP) 
Casa Boricua Innovative Senior Center
Elizabeth Thompson,
Leadership Council Representative of Kingsbridge Neighborhood Improvement Association

Assemblymember Michael Blake after surprising his mother Hilary Lawrence with a New York State Assembly citation

From left to right: Assemblymember Michael Blake, Ivine Galarza (District Manager of Community Board 6), Congressmember Jose Serrano and Councilmember Vanessa Gibson

Women's History Month Attendees

Assemblymember Michael Blake, Congressmember Jose Serrano and Councilmember Vanessa Gibson stand with 2016 Women's History Month Honorees

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pakistani Man Sentenced In Federal Court To More Than 3 Years In Prison For Scheme To Steal More Than $800,000 In Tax Refunds From The IRS

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division (“IRS-CI”), announced today that NISAR SAHI was sentenced today by United States District Judge Denise L. Cote to 37 months in prison for stealing government funds.  
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “For four years, Nisar Sahi stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax refunds that rightfully belonged to honest, hardworking American taxpayers.  Now, thanks to the excellent investigation by the IRS, Sahi will face time in federal prison for stealing from the U.S. government.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen said:  “IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to the investigation of fraudulent tax refund schemes.  The investigation and prosecution of Nisar Sahi is just another example of the government’s diligence and persistence in identifying individuals who use other people’s personal information to file fraudulent tax returns for their own financial benefit and bringing them to justice.”
According to the Information to which SAHI pled guilty, and other court documents filed in this case:
From 2011 to 2015, SAHI devised and executed a scheme to obtain false and fraudulent tax returns totaling $803,995 from the IRS.  SAHI carried out this scheme by preparing and submitting to the IRS federal income tax returns — using the names and social security numbers of others — and directing that the refunds be sent to bank accounts and addresses that he controlled. 
In addition to the prison sentence, SAHI, 50, of Pakistan, was ordered to forfeit $319,712 in ill-gotten gains, and to pay restitution to the IRS in the same amount. 
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of IRS-CI.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division for its assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Rebekah Donaleski is in charge of the prosecution.

New York City Public Advocate - Protecting Public Housing Residents

Every New Yorker deserves a home with basic decencies, like heat during the winter months, but for too long many NYCHA tenants have been left in the cold. 

Yesterday, my office settled a lawsuit that will protect public housing residents throughout our City. 

For years, NYCHA adhered to an illegal and immoral policy in which they would only turn the heat on in some buildings if the temperature outside was below 20 degrees - a blatant violation of New York City law. 

That is why my office filed a lawsuit against NYCHA in December on behalf of public housing residents who had to endure freezing winter months because they didn't have heat in their apartments. 

And yesterday, we reached a settlement in this lawsuit that will ensure all tenants have heat and that NYCHA is held accountable for any breach of heating policies in the future. 

This settlement marks a step forward for public housing residents. 

Together, we will build a stronger New York City where all residents have access to safe and decent housing and where communities can thrive.
Letitia James
New York City Public Advocate

Bronx Town Hall on March 31st at the Bronx House

New York City Comptroller 
Scott Stringer
In partnership with  
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.,  
State Senator Jeff Klein, 
 Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj  
and Councilmember James Vacca,
cordially invites you to
Bronx Town Hall
Bronx House
990 Pelham Parkway South
Thursday, March 31, 2016
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Doors Open at 6:30 pm
To RSVP and for more information, please call (212) 669-3916, or If you need language translation services, please call (212) 669-4315.

Monday, March 28, 2016


 It was a cold rainy morning, but the Veteran's on the Bronx Veteran Advisory Board, Bronx Community Board members, and invited guests came to the Samuel Young American Legion Post located at 1530 Hutchinson River Parkway to hear from BP Diaz and see the new 'Bronx Veteran Resource Guide'. 

   Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Bronx Veteran Advisory Council hosted a special meeting to educate & update community boards and elected officials on veterans’ resources in The Bronx and across the city.

In addition, Borough President Diaz released the “Bronx Veteran & Military Resource Guide,” the first of its kind, published by his office.

“Our veterans have given so much for the safety and security of this nation, and my office is proud to support them,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “It is my hope that this guide will serve as a key resource for both veterans and service providers across the borough, and I encourage our servicemen and servicewomen to take advantage of the ‘Bronx Veteran & Military Resource Guide.’”

  Also on hand were Ms. Loree Sutton Commissioner NYC Mayor's Office of Veteran Affairs, Jamal Othman Deputy Director NYS Division of Veteran Affairs, and Shawn Kingston of the Bronx VA medical Center located on Kingsbridge Road. Special thanks also goes out to Mr. Joe Mondello the Chair of the Bronx Veteran Advisory Council and to Ms. Tracy McDermott of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s office. 

The complete 55 page Bronx Veteran Resource Guide can be viewed at

A JPEG of the guide’s cover can be downloaded at

Above - Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. tells of the many battles a veteran may have after leaving the armed forces, and how he hopes that the new Bronx Veteran Resource Guide can help make it easier for veterans to navigate the system. 
Below - Just a few of the Veterans, Community Board members, and representatives of elected officials who were on hand. 

Veteran Leroy Archibald who joined the armed forces in 1949 speaks of being a veteran and still is asking the city, state, and federal governments don't do more for his fellow veterans who are in need.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj - Rain Barrel Giveaway on Saturday, April 2

On behalf of Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj & Senator Jeff Klein
with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Rain Barrel Giveaway!
Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Reserve Your Free Rain Barrel!
P.S. 97
1375 Mace Ave
Bronx, NY 10469 
10:00 am - 1:00 pm
(While supplies last)

All interested must contact the 
80th Assembly District Office at 718-409-0109 
or the 34th Senate District Office at 718-822-2321


By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
District 32 Bronx County, New York

You should know that Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda and I have been leading the fight against the draconian and unsubstantiated hike in maintenance fees at the Parkchester South apartment complex here in Bronx County.
It is important for you to know that on March 23, 2016, we, along with the support from condo owners and renters, filed a lawsuit in Bronx County.
As the owner of a Condominium in Parkchester South, I am the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit, where we are seeking to block Parkchester South Management’s 15.9 percent maintenance hike until the Parkchester South Management explains in detail the need and process for recovering costs for repairs to the aging buildings.
We were all encouraged on Friday, March 25, 2016 to learn that an Order was issued in New York State Supreme Court barring, for now, Parkchester South Management from pursuing any eviction proceedings against residents for withholding payment.
On March 25, Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Ruben Franco ordered Parkchester South Management to "take no steps to evict unit owners for failure to pay the 15.19 percent from February 1, 2016 until or after April 4, 2016," pending a court hearing on that date.
On April 4, we will ask the Court to assist us in regard to this maintenance fee hike of almost 16 percent, which is unprecedented, and to ask the Court to help us to find out what crucial financial information, records, and “unknown computations relating to unverified costs” for repairs have been kept secret from Parkchester South’s residents.
The lawsuit charges that Parkchester South Management has failed:
    to provide an accounting and backup documentation of the bidding process used
    to select the contractor(s) who performed the repairs
    to demonstrate to individual unit owners that management utilized the most cost-effective course for the repairs
    to honor its fiduciary duty to give individual owners a way to readily review the condominium' s books
    to provide an independently audited review of the relevant financial records
    to provide a full explanation of and justification for the computations employed and their underlying methodology in determining the increases imposed on owners, or
    to utilize an objective and independent accounting firm to ensure that the individual owners can review a proper audit for the last three years, including revenues and expenditures relevant to the increases in question.
You should already know that during the past couple of months, Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda and I have held Town Hall Meetings where hundreds of Parkchester residents joined us to express their outrage about Parkchester South Management’s maintenance hike.
We have implored Parkchester South Management to demonstrate transparency, and show us their past and future budgets so we could try to understand why this sharp spike in fees would be imposed on the residents.  They refused.  
On February 10, we were joined by dozens and dozens of residents at a public protest outside Parkchester South’s Management Office. We promised legal action, and Management ignored us.
Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda and I continue to refuse invitations to meet behind closed doors with Parkchester South Management, and continue to insist that any meetings are to be done in the presence of the residents whose lives will be affected by their staggering and unaffordable maintenance increase.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, on April 4th, Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, myself and the residents of Parkchester South will have our day in Court.  My hope and prayer is that the Court will help us to find a way to prevent the pending economic disaster that Parkchester South Management has in store for the owners and renters of their 8,286 units who never saw this coming.
I am Senator Rubén Díaz and this is what you should know.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

100 PERCENT March 26, 2016

By Robert Press

Budget Time in Albany

     With less than a week until the April 1st deadline for a state budget, there seems to be a feeling that this year the budget may be late rather than on time. The State Assembly and State Senate are busy passing their one house bills, and some of the local elected officials are sending out press releases that their bills have been passed, but it is only by the one house they are a member of. To become law a bill must pass both the State Assembly and the State Senate, and then be signed into law by the governor. A lot of things can happen after these one house bills leave their one house. The other house can amend or modify the other houses bill, the bill can be changed entirely or just by one word, and the governor can sign, veto, or also ask to have said bill amended or changed to his likings. There is also what is known as 'Horse Trading' that can go on, which is I will vote for your bill if you vote for my bill, or any of the many ways that bills can be adopted or changed to get them passed into law. That is why you so often hear from elected officials that they really didn't want to vote for something, but there was more good than harm in the bill. Another explanation is that 'sometimes you have to compromise' to get things done or bills passed. Whatever happens I am sure we will hear all of those answers and probably a few new ones as the state budget finally gets passed. 
       Passing the state budget and on time is very important to New York City as the fiscal year for the city begins on July 1st. The city is dependent on state funding as well as federal funding for a good part of its budget or the city has to cutback on either services or staff. We shall see how Ambassador Bill de Blasio does in Albany this year compared to past years. It is not looking good for the city as there are big cuts in state funding proposed to CUNY, and Medicaid, as well as the continued lack of proper funding to New York City schools. Will Democrat Bill de Blasio anger State Senate Republicans again this year as he has done in the previous election year, or will the pressure of a shrinking majority (if any) put the pressure on State Senate Republicans. One thing that is up is Mayoral Control of the public schools, and I for one hope that it is not renewed. 10 years of Mayoral Control has not made the city public schools any better, and there is no accountability at all.
      Moving to the race to replace Charlie Rangel in Congress, Manhattan Democratic County Leader Assemblyman Keith Wright (and leading candidate) continues to rack up the endorsements. He has several unions already and the Bronx Democratic County organization endorsing him. However is there dissent among the Bronx Democratic County organization as State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, and now City Councilman Ritchie Torres have endorsed State Senator Adriano Espaillat for the congressional seat. Then there is Assemblyman Jose Rivera who has endorsed his friend Adam Clayton Powell in the same race. Candidate Powell has not been without controversy after a story appeared in the City and State on line report that one of his Bronx political operatives was offering five dollars an hour for canvassing which set off a fury of Facebook comments about the PO and candidate Powell. Candidate Powell completely denied paying the PO anything even for his endorsement, which appears on this blog in a previous post. 
       Finally, Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking victory laps after getting his MIH and ZQA text amendments passed. It may have been watered down a bit (and just a bit at that as you can still taste the real flavor), but next is to see if de Blasio can get some kind of replacement for the disbanded 421A program so developers can afford to build affordable housing. Then there are the possible court challenges to MIH and ZQA that may be looming ahead.  
      If you have any political information that you want to share or have checked out, any comments about this column or would like to have an event listed or covered in this column or on this blog, you can e-mail us at or call 718-644-4199 Mr. Robert Press.