James Vacca NYC Councilman 13th District
Fighting For A Better Community
| Party enrolled in: Democratic
Occupation: District Manager,
Community Board #10
Occupational background: 30
years of activity and leadership in civic and community organizations
in the Northeast Bronx, Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies at Monroe
College and CUNY Queens College, Former President of Chippewa Democratic
Educational background: Masters
in Urban Studies from Queens College, BA in Political Science from
SUNY, Graduate of Christopher Columbus HS
President of Northeast Bronx Senior Citizen Center, Member of St.
Benedicts Council Knights of Columbus, Member of Throggs Neck Homeowners
Association, Member of AFT Local 2334
Prior public experience: First
time running for political office
Web site: www.VaccaforCouncil.com
| Saturday, December 30, 2006
A HEALTY NEW YEAR
How often do we use that expression? Of course, as we enter 2007 good health is the most important thing we can wish each other. But, besides wishing each other good health, do we practice good health habits that will lead us to live a longer and better life?
We first have to ask ourselves when we last visited a doctor or a dentist and received a check-up. I still hear about people who have not seen a doctor in years or who go to a dentist only when they feel pain.
Do we exercise? Walking is great but it is only considered exercise if it is quick enough and long enough in duration to get your blood flowing, therefore, becoming aerobic in nature. We tend to use our cars even if the store we go to is five or six blocks away and then complain we cannot find parking.
What do we eat and drink? How many of us went "overboard" this past holy season and have made dieting one of our New Year's Resolutions? Someone came to see me recently with this new super sized soda bottle. I asked them how many grams of sugar were in the bottle. The person read the label and told me were 28 grams. I then looked at the label myself and saw the number 28
next to the number of grams but noted at the top of the label that the bottle had 2 and a half servings! That one bottle of soda had 70 grams of sugar. This points to the necessity that all of us learn how to read labels!
Or how about light mayonnaise or light salad dressing? Both products usually get more than half their calories from fat. The average serving (not can) or soup has over 1,000 milligrams of salt. Do we watch for wording such as when we see 80% chop meat? There are more than 16 grams of fat in the average hamburger sized serving. With all the seasoning today, have we tried to
substitute turkey and lean chicken and, when we order out because we have to "eat on the run", do we ask for steamed, broiled or boiled versions or stick to the usual fried and least healthy fare?
Mayor Bloomberg has proposed that restaurants eliminate trans fats from their cooking and he is right. The City Council is also considering similar legislation I will support. But when it comes to good health, let us think not only of what is but what could be. So much is really up to us. Happy New Year. Best of health to all!
| Sunday, December 24, 2006
Yes, identity theft is an increasing problem and it can happen to anyone of us. Please beware and take the necessary precautions below:
* Keep your account numbers and bank information in a safe place.
* Do not throw away bank statements, shred them.
* Do not disclose your social security number to anyone who does not need to have it.
* Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you know who you are talking to.
* Do not use unsecured websites for shopping.
* Check your credit report at least once a year for foreign transactions.
And if you have a debit/credit card:
* Keep the debit card in your wallet and away from other cards with magnetic strip.
* Sign on the signature strip on the back of your card.
* Never use familiar dates for your pin, such as your birthday or that of your parents or children.
* Never write the pin number on the back of the card or in your wallet.
* Do not write down your pin number, memorize it.
* Do not give your pin and/or credit card to anyone else.
If you do not have a paper shredder, get one today. Report any concerns about identity theft to the local precint immediately. During the holiday season be especially sure to be aware of scams. Seniors be especially cautions.
With this problem, be especially cautious and alert your friends. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
May this holiday be a special one to all. I find it hard to believe that we will soon be writing down 2007. Time goes by so quickly. May the year
ahead find you in good health, this is most important. Keep in your prayers our service people abroad and those who may not be in good spirits. Keep in your minds and hearts those who have passed on but continue to watch over us and guide us as we try to do good work each day!
Remember that this blessed season, is not all about shopping and eating. It's really a time for people of faith to reflect and reaffirm their
beliefs and values.
| Tuesday, December 19, 2006
By now, most of us have 200 or more stations on our TV set. Yet, I continue to hear the expression "So many channels, so little to watch."
Parents have something to watch alright! They had better watch the shows their children are seeing and the commercials that appear during even the
most "family orientated" show. Years ago, we used to have the family hour on TV, usually between 8-9pm where parents could feel confident that shows would be suitable for the entire household. Those days are gone! In fact, the commercials during dinner time and through the early evening depict violent upcoming movies or TV shows, Viagra and a host of other products seeking to sell violence and sex.
The day time shows are a mixture of nuts and knuckleheads. All day, viewers are deluged with shows where guests seek DNA test and or have physical brawls on the air. An institution that can serve as a learning point for so many has too often started at the lowest common denominator and never worked its way up.
I was reminded of what TV used to be by the channel "TV Land". Last weekend, this station had a marathon of the 1970's hit "That Girl" with Marlo Thomas. As my wife and I watched one of the episodes and my 12 year old laughed, I recalled a different day and time. Television was comedy in good taste, situations were not very personal and shows let you know values were important because the characters lived them. The conversation and plot allowed your children to watch the show and enjoy it and permitted the parent to keep the remote control out of their hand without fear that the story line would stray.
And then I thought how important it is that we not consider these values in the past tense. Indeed, it is long overdue the American family again asserts itself as a force for traditions such as respect, values and decency. All of us must do our part and the mass media will respond when they see how values our society longs for are not reflected in their dysfunctional offerings and commercial wasteland.
ADULT AND CONTINUING EDUCATION
In conjunction with Lehman College / City University, I am pleased to announce that we will be opening an Adult and Continuing Education extension program on Saturday at Lehman High School starting Saturday, January 6th, 2007. All courses will be taught by Lehman College professors. For more information, please call 718-960-8512 or go to www.lehman.edu/ce. Brochures are also available at my Council office at 3040 East Tremont Avenue.
| Friday, December 08, 2006
When I first became a City
Councilman, I immediately contacted City University of New York
about the idea of having an outreach effort here in our community.
Since then I have worked extensively with Lehman College and
Lehman HS on an effort to provide both credit and non-credit
courses in our community.
I am proud to announce
that this major initiative will begin Saturday, January 6, 2007.
Classes at Lehman High School offered by Lehman College instructors
will include Business Writing Essentials, English Grammar, Short
Story Writing, Tai Chi Chaun, Accent Reduction, How to Start
a Business, Financing a Business, Purchasing/Negotiations, Marketing
Advertising. CPR for Health Providers and Introduction to Microsoft
These courses will be
offered at Lehman HS on Saturdays starting January 6. I hope
this program will be the beginning of an Adult Education Program
that will grow in time. Many of these courses provide skills
and knowledge that can help families throughout our community.
I am very excited about
this program and urge all those interested in learning more
about the courses or in registering to call 718-960-8512.
ST. NICHOLAS CELEBRATION - BRONX
ARTS ENSEMBLE SINGERS AND DOUBLE REED BAND
On Saturday, December 9th
and Sunday, December 10th at the Bartow Pell Mansion, the Bronx
Arts Ensemble will celebrate the holiday season with a St. Nicholas
Day Celebration. There will be two performances with the Bronx
Arts Ensemble Singers and Double Reed Band, at 1pm and 3pm.
To get further information and/or to reserve tickets call 718-601-7399
| Monday, December 04, 2006
NEW YORK JUNIOR TENNIS LEAGUE'S
EARLY MORNING WINTER WEEKEND INDOOR TENNIS PROGRAM
I am pleased to announce
that the NYC Council has funded the New York junior Tennis League's
Early Morning Winter Weekend Indoor Tennis Program. This is
an instructional program for children ages 6-18. This program
is geared towards beginners and intermediate players. They can
participate in drills, games, match and tournaments. Loaner
racquets and balls will be provided free of charge. This is
a great opportunity for those children interested in tennis
or who just want to participate in a sport. To register, go
to the location nearest you on those days the program operates.
Bronx International Youth
754 Thieriot Avenue, Bronx, NY 10473
Saturdays and Sundays: 6:00am - 8:00am
New York Tennis Club
3081 Harding Avenue, Bronx, NY 10465
Sundays: 6:00am - 8:00am
| Monday, November 27, 2006
FREE FLU SHOTS AT ST. CLARE'S
Once again, I am hosting
free flu shots with Jacobi Medical Center for community residents.
These free flu shots will be available on Friday, December 1st
from 10am to 1pm at St. Clare's Church, which is located at
1918 Paulding Avenue in the Morris Park area. Please call Jennifer
Rivera in my office at 718-931-1721 to schedule a time for your
flu shot. Stay healthy, get your flu shots now.
HOMEOWNER'S NIGHT COMING SOON
TO PS 83
I am hosting an "Owner's
Night" with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
on Tuesday, November 28 from 6:30 - 8:00pm at PS 83, which is
located at 950 Rhinelander Avenue. This seminar will provide
valuable information for residential property owners about the
availability of low-interest loans, free educational classes,
and free owner counseling. Homeowners can also learn about HPD's
programs, which include financial guidance, building management
and maintenance, owner-tenant relations, expense reduction strategies,
help with building code violations, and assistance with mortgage
This is a great opportunity
for homeowners to get questions answered about their properties.
I encourage you to attend and learn more about the valuable
services available through the NYC HPD. Seating is limited,
so please call 212-863-7054 to reserve your seat today.
| Monday, November 20, 2006
HOMEOWNER'S NIGHT COMING SOON
I am hosting an "Owners'
night" with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Department
on Tuesday, November 28 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at PS 83, which
is located at 950 Rhinelander Avenue. This seminar will provide
valuable information for residential property owners about the
availability of low-interest loans, free educational classes,
and free owner counseling. Homeowners can also learn about HPD's
programs, which include financial guidance, building management
and maintenance, owner-tenant relations, expense reduction strategies,
help with building code violations, and assistance with mortgage
This is a great opportunity
for homeowners to get questions answered about their properties.
I encourage you to attend and learn more about the valuable
services available through the NYC HPD. Seating is limited,
so please call 212-863-7054 to reserve your seat today.
NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT
October was National Disability
Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which was created to recognize
the contributions of workers with disability throughout the
country. As Chair of the Senior Center Subcommittee at the NYC
Council, I have often worked with disabled elderly on issues
that they face everyday, but often times people do not realize
how many are actually affected by disabilities, and how many
of the disabled are not seniors. Did you know that:
* 51.2 million - Number
of people who have some level of disability, representing 18%
of the population.
* 32.5 million - Number
of people with severe disability, representing 12% of the population.
* 4 million - Number of
children ages 6 to 14 who have a disability, representing 11%
of the group.
* 72% - Percentage of
people 80 and older with disabilities, the highest of any age
* 20% - Percentage of
females with a disability, higher than the 17% of males. On
the other hand, among children under 15, boys were more likely
than girls to have a disability (11% to 6%).
| Monday, November 13, 2006
What is the HEAP program?
It is the federally funded program that assists eligible households
of all ages in meeting their home energy needs. As you know,
last year our home heating fuel costs went up and this year
many people are concerned that bills will once again reach all
Eligibility for this
program is based on income; for a family of one $1,764 a month;
a family of two $2,307 a month; a family of three $2,850 a month;
and a family of four $3,393 a month. For each additional person
the cost allowable income goes up. $425.
Homeowners and renters
are eligible for this program. You can pay directly for heat
or pay rent that includes your heating costs.
For an application you
may call 311 or 1-877-472-8411.
More than half a million
elderly, working, unemployed, immigrant and disabled New Yorkers
qualify for food stamps, but are not enrolled. Eligibility for
this program is based on income; for a family of one $1,037
a month a family of two $1,390 a month; a family of four $2,097
and a family of eight $3,509.
For an application you
may call 311 or 1-877-472-8411.
| Monday, November 06, 2006
It was my honor to join
parishioners of Santa Maria Church in the Zerega community as
they celebrated their 80th anniversary last weekend. I am always
proud to talk about how my grandfather, James Vacca, was an
usher in this parish through his mid-80s. All places of worship
give people a special sense of community as they are brought
together to reflect on the past and pray for good health and
peace in the coming years.
In mid-October, Father
Fernando and I joined together, as part of Hispanic Culture
month, in honoring parishioners at Santa Maria who are active
in reaching out to others and helping the church, school and
communitry. I was pleased to present City Council citations
after Sunday's Spanish mass and join with parishioners in refreshments.
I must also note that
congratulations are due Dr. Vincent Rell, the legendary pediatrician
who has been serving the Pelham Bay community and the Bronx
since 1961. Dr. Rella still is busy helping youngsters and parents
in the same Roberts Ave. Office he started years ago. It was
my privilege to select him as my honoree at this year Italian
American celebration at City Hall.
On October 30, as Chair
of the Senior Citizen Center Subcommittee of the New York City
Council, I joined in honoring senior citizens and center directors
for their hard work each day that allow our senior centers to
thrive. A special thanks went to those who helped keep our cooling
centers open during this summer heat wave and to those who kept
centers in Astoria open during the Queens blackout.
Also at City Hall, we
had a special ceremony honoring volunteer emergency workers.
I singled out for special recognition the Throgs Neck Volunteer
Ambulance Corps and the Edgewater Park Volunteer Fire Dept.
Their service, over the course of many years, has saved lives
and they continue giving of themselves on our behalf each day.
The two simplest words
in our language are probably the least used. THANK YOU! I want
to use my column this week in appreciation for so many of our
unsung volunteers who have given so much of themselves.
As we approach this important
date, let us keep uppermost in our minds those who have served
our country so well, those who made the ultimate sacrifice and
our men and women serving for our nation today. Always teach
your children and grandchildren about patriotism, the American
flag and our brave defenders of freedom.
| Tuesday, October 31, 2006
HOMEOWNERS DISABLED EXEMPTION
I am proud to have co-sponsored
successful legislation in the New York City Council increasing
income levels for senior citizen, disabled homeowners, co-op
and condo owners.
Currently, seniors and
persons with disabilities qualify for 50% property tax exemption
if they earn a yearly income of no more than $24,000. For property
owners with incomes of more than $24,000, but less than $32,000,
the program provides a declining exemption schedule ranging
from 45% to 5% of tax liability.
The new legislation increases
the income at which seniors and persons with disabilities can
qualify for the benefit. For a 50% tax exemption, the maximum
income is raised to $26,000 in 2006, $27,000 in 2007, $28,000
in 2008 and $29,000 in 2009. During this time the income ranges
for the declining exemptions will also go up until it reaches
$37,400 in 2009.
Senior and disabled renters
are also reminder of benefits under the Senior Citizen Rent
Increase Exemption and the Disabled Rent Income Exemption programs.
Thousands of residents
who qualify for these programs do not take advantage of them.
To get further information call the NYC Department of Finance
212-504-4080 or visit www.nyc.gov. Reach out to my office if
you need further assistance.
In conjunction with the
Visiting Nurse Service of New York, please be advised that I
will sponsor a Team Approach to Diabetes Seminar. On November
1, 2006 at the Hutchinson Metro Diabetes Institute located at
1200 Water Place, Bronx, New York 10461 there will be an education
seminar and question and answer session with Diabetes specialists.
The program will start at 11:00 am and lunch will be served
at 12 noon. In order to reserve a seat and for more information
call Allan R. Torres at 718-904-9000.
| Tuesday, October 24, 2006
DIRECT DEPOSIT IT HELPS PREVENT
ID THEFT AND FRAUD
October is Crime Prevention
Month, and I want to call attention to a simple, effective way
all Americans and senior citizens in particular can help protect
themselves from identity theft and fraud. Switch to direct deposit.
Did you know that if
you get Social Security or other federal benefits, you're 30
times more likely to have a problem with a paper check than
with direct deposit? Direct deposit virtually eliminates the
risk of stolen checks and forgeries and helps protect people
from identity theft.
It's a common misconception
that identity theft and fraud occur solely on the internet.
In fact, this type of crime happens all too often offline, when
wallets are lost or stolen, when trusted associates steal private
information, or when thieves pick through mailboxes for checks.
Unfortunately, some of
our must vulnerable citizens are key targets for financial crime.
Senior citizens, many of whom depend on Social Security checks
to get by, are regularly victimized. Last year alone, about
65,000 Treasury issued checks such as Social Security valued
at $60 million were forged.
For all these reasons,
I encourage everyone who gets Social Security through the mail
to sign up for direct deposit. Together, we can reduce that
number and make our community safer for everyone.
Signing up is fast, easy
and free through, "Go Direct" a campaign sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks. Just call
800-333-1795 or sign up online in English or Spanish at www.GoDirect.org
or www.DirectoASuCuenta.org. You can also stop in to your financial
institution or Social Security Administration office.
I urge you to consider
taking this important step sign up for direct deposit and help
safeguard yourself against financial crime.
Along with the American-Italian
Cancer Foundation and the Women's Outreach Network, I will sponsor
free mammograms on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 starting at 8am-2pm
at the Morris Park Library, 985 Morris Park Ave. For appointment
please call 1-800-564-6868.
| Monday, October 16, 2006
HIGH SCHOOL INFO
The NYC Department of Education
is planning two informational sessions for 7th grade students
and their parents regarding the high school admission process.
The first will be held at PS/MS 194 at 1304 Zerega Avenue on
October 24th and the second will be held at Lehman HS, 3000
East Tremont Avenue on November 2nd, both sessions begin at
6:30pm and conclude at 8pm. Before you choose a high school,
make a wise choice by getting the information you need.
SENIOR HEALTH ISSUES
The NYC Department of Health
has established a Health Insurance Information Counseling Assistance
Program. It is a source of free, current and impartial information
about health care coverage. Topics addressed include Medicare,
prescription drug coverage, EPIC, Medicaid, managed care, veterans'
benefits and appeals if necessery. You may receive free, personal
and confidential assistance by calling 1-800-701-0501.
With the cost of nursing
home and in-home care skyrocketing, planning for Long-Term care
is essential for those over age 50. This agency has also established
a new Long-Term care Insurance Resource Center to provide free,
impartial information and assistance on available Long-Term
care and insurance needs. This Center may be reached at 212-676-0629.
I recently attended a community
meeting where a resident indicated that she saw graffiti vandalism
taking place, called 311 and no one came. I must remind residents
to call 911 when they see any crime in progress. The Mayor has
established a graffiti removal program and 311 makes the city
aware of the need to address graffiti removal. But, if you see
graffiti vandalism taking place (and in the age of cell phones
I know, by remaining vigilant, all of us can play a role in
reporting) call 911 immediately!
RED CROSS BABY-SITTING COURSE
How often do we let our
11-15 year olds baby-sit? In fact, neighbors often ask if youngsters
this age can help out. The Red Cross is holding a course for
children this age that will give advice on what to do in case
of emergency, illnesses, when to communicate with parents and
how to manage young children. How to care for infants and use
first aid will also be addressed. A video on addressing bruises
and recognizing safety and hygiene issues is also included.
A certificate will be presented to the youngster upon completion
of the 7.5 hour course. The course will take place on Saturday,
October 21st from 9am to 4:30pm at 2082 White Plains Road in
Pelham Parkway. The cost is $50. Please call 1-877-REDCROSS
if your child may be interested. With both parents often working
or going to school, this course could save a life!
| Monday, October 09, 2006
I will be offering flu
shots throughout the coming season. On Tuesday, October 24,
2006, in conjunction with the Visiting Nurse Service of NY,
flu shots will be provided at Trinity Methodist Church, City
Island Ave. And Bay Street from 1 to 4pm. There is no age limit
this year. A prior appointment is required. Please call my office
at 718-931-1721 and speak to Jennifer Rivera.
Along with the American-Italian
Cancer Foundation and the Women's Outreach Network, I will sponsor
free mammograms on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 starting at 8am
at the Morris Park Library, 985 Morris Park Ave. An appointment
is necessary. Please call 1-800-564-6868.
YOUR SMOKE ALARM/CO DETECTOR
By law, every home is required
to have a smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
Make sure your smoke detector
truly serves your safety needs. Install smoke alarms that have
the Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) Mark which indicates
that it has met national safety and efficiency requirements.
One smoke alarm in your home is not enough. Install a smoke
alarm on every level of your home, including the basement. And
frequently change your batteries. The Fire Department estimates
that while 97 out 100 homes have a smoke detector, more than
33% of these homes are unprotected because the smoke alarms
do not work.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless,
odorless, tasteless, toxic gas and is totally undetectable by
human senses. People are at an increased risk of CO poisoning
during the winter months. Well insulated, airtight homes and
malfunctioning heating equipment can produce very high CO levels.
Exposure to high concentrations of CO can cause throbbing headaches,
breathing difficulties, confusion and loss of consciousness
or death. If your alarm goes off, open a window, leave your
home and call 911.
Also, please note that
kerosene and propane space heaters are illegal in NYC.
| Monday, October 02, 2006
I am sponsoring, along
with the American Italian Foundation and the
Women's Outreach Network, free mammograms on
Tuesday, October 31 starting at 8am at the Morris Park
Library, 985 Morris Park Avenue. Early
breast cancer detection can save your life. An appointment is
necessary and can be arranged by calling 1-800-564-6868.
FDNY TEST - NOW HIRING
The test for the New
York City Fire Department is coming up! The deadline
to file is October 13, and the test date is January 20, 2007.
If interested go to nyc.gov/dcas
for the application and further information. If you do not have
access to a computer, you may contact my office and we will
help you so you can file on time.
BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT INITIATIVE
As a result of an initiative
I sponsored in the City Council, $2.5 million
dollars in additional money has been allocated to the NYC
For years this agency has been treated as a step child by our
city which has led to mistake upon mistake being made as applications
for new construction have been approved in error and over development
on residential streets has been fueled. While I will continue
to monitor new applications and object to those not meeting
the requirements of the zoning resolution, I also wanted to
give this agency additional resources so more and better qualified
inspectors and plan examiners can be hired and overtime be provided
so that work taking place on weekends or during evening hours
without permits can be addressed. We will continue our work
and I will keep you updated.
| Monday, September 25, 2006
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS MEETING
In conjunction with the
Red Cross and the Throgs Neck Homeowners
Association, I will sponsor an important meeting for
all area residents on what to do and what you need to know in
case of an emergency.
This meeting will held
on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 7:30pm at Villa
Barone Manor, 737 Throgs Neck Expressway.
This is a free presentation
designed to prepare individuals and families for emergencies.
Everyone who attends will receive a FREE interactive CD that
can be used to create a customized evacuation plan as well as
other tools that will help any family get prepared. You will
also be eligible to enter a raffle to win a FREE Red
Cross Go Bag!
Everyone who attends will
receive an emergency preparedness presentation on how New Yorkers
can create a plan, build a supply kit and keep loved ones safe
and informed during times of disaster.
For all too long, many
people have stated, "Oh, this will never happen here". It always
seemed to happen somewhere else. Now is the time to learn how
you can best protect yourselves and your family in case of an
emergency, storm, hurricane, terrorist attack or even an earthquake.
Representatives of the
NYC Office of Emergency Preparedness will also
be present. This meeting is open to all community residents
who want information and are concerned about making sure they
are fully prepared. I hope to see you at this important meeting.
billions of dollars in unclaimed funds from insurance companies
and various funds never claimed by people owed money. By going
to the NYS
State Comptroller web site, you can find out if
you or members of your family are entitled to such funds.
| Monday, September 18, 2006
I love to write about good
news! The heartbeat of the Bronx and my very
own life has been intertwined for years. I became active in
the borough at the age of 16, elected student government President
HS. I always love announcing good news: The new
school initiative or the street repaving or the traffic light
our community successfully had installed. This week I am the
bearer of news that may not be what you or I would want to hear.
States Census Bureau recently released statistics
on poverty and income in our nation and revealed some startling
facts. The overall poverty rate in the Bronx for 2005
was 29.2% making it the third poorest county in the United States.
That's right only two counties that sit on the Mexico/Texas
border are poorer. When we speak of the poverty level, keep
in mind, we are talking about a family of four making less than
$3.000 a year.
Only 15% of our residents
possess a college degree. Too few of our residents finish higher
education and many, once getting a degree, leave the borough.
Our unemployment rate exceeds that of any other county in the
We must look at the family
and admit that the many changes the family unit has undergone
have, for the most part, been negative. Over 50% of the children
in the Bronx live with one parent. Often, one parent
families are in financial and social crisis and struggle to
fulfill day to day responsibilities and meet pressing school
and economic obligations. Grandparents are often called upon
to become surrogate parents.
And we must look at education.
I believe education begins in the home. Where there are families
that need strengthening, we must look at city policy that can
strengthen them. Where we have children not in school, we must
do more than get them back to school. We must take that opportunity
to bring in other needed services. And we must insist that parents
act as parents and be held accountable.
support for basic family values, parental responsibility and
education must be the cornerstone of a true rebirth of our borough.
| Monday, September 11, 2006
HOW FAST DO WE DRIVE?
Wherever I go, people approach
me and talk about the need for additional STOP signs, speed
bumps and traffic lights due to speeding in our community. For
years we have had a problem that often defies a solution. People
driving so fast they ignore any traffic control devices that
exist. In fact, sometimes it becomes a force of habit. Many
people do not realize how fast they are actually going!
I remember several years
ago, responding to complaints of speeding on Pennyfield
Avenue in Throgs Neck, the NYC
Department of Transportation provided an innovative
tool: an electronic machine that told each and every motorist
how fast they were going by using a message board for the motorist
to see. Time after time, motorists told me they did not realize
how fast they were going and slowed down when they saw the message
board. Often, the same people who complained about others speeding
did not realize they were speeding themselves.
Even when traffic lights
and STOP signs are installed, many drivers ignore them. We often
must request police enforcement to force motorists to obey signage.
Sometimes, even the mention of installing 30 miles per hour
signs, for example, prompts cynicism. In essence, many people
doubt that these signs mean anything at all as they have little
if any impact upon the speeder.
Unfortunately, we must
acknowledge that most speeding on local streets can be blamed
on local traffic, all too often our friends and neighbors living
in the community.
Analyze your driving habits
and make it a habit to look at your speedometer more frequently.
Make a concerted effort to slow down on local streets. Could
you be part of the problem rather than part of the solution?
With schools re-opening, it is a great opportunity for all of
us to take stock and realize how important it is to keep our
streets and intersections "traffic friendly" so we can protect
pedestrians, other motorists and our families.
BLOOD PRESSURE TESTING
The Throggs Neck
Ambulance Corps will provide free blood pressure screening
at my office located at 3040 East Tremont Avenue
on Friday, September 22nd from 12pm to 3pm. Please stop by.
Refreshments will be served!
| Monday, September 04, 2006
SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER BUSY MONTHS
As we all know September
marks the beginning of school and Labor Day
on September 4. Remember what Labor Day is all about
those who risked being fired or injured in order to organize
the first Labor Day Parades. Labor unions,
over the years, have meant protections for working men and women
and their families and have created good living conditions for
so many people.
In addition, the entire
month of September is Library Card sign-up month. If
you do not have a library card, go get one and utilize all that
our many branch libraries have to offer for all ages. September
9 and 10 is Grandparents Weekend. As head of the Senior
Citizen Center Subcommittee of the New
York City Council, I visited many senior centers
last week in Brooklyn and Queens
to review their operation and assess services provided. These
site visits, when coupled with my frequent attendance at our
own local senior centers over the years, have created a real
awareness about all grandparents do. I remember my own grandparents
and all the love and family support they provide. If you have
your grandparents with you, this is a great time to do something
special. If they have passed on, this is an appropriate time
to remember them and keep them fresh in your prayers and thoughts.
September 18, Constitution
Day which is part of National Constitution
Week. Our constitution is a living document that set
the foundation for freedom here and around the world. Yet, too
often we tend to take our basic rights and liberties for granted.
Talk to your children about the constitution. You may go to
to register for resources. You must do so before September 8.
The months of September
and October have many celebrations marking the diversity of
our country as well. Starting September 15 we celebrate Hispanic
Heritage Month. On October 2, we mark the most solemn
days of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur,
a day spent at synagogue in fasting, reflection and prayer.
October 6 is German American Day, October 9
is Columbus Day and the entire month of October
is also Italian Culture Month. On October 9
we mark the anniversary of Benjamin Banneker's
death, a versatile African American mathematician and astronomer
who wrote his own almanac.
| Monday, August 28, 2006
Many of you, by now, may
have heard the case of the senior citizen in the Allerton
community who received a recycling fine after an agent went
through his recycling can and found a 6 ounce plastic yogurt
container. It seems only plastic wrap and a host of other plastic
items are allowed in recycling cans. I visited the homeowner
in this case, his sidewalk, front and rear yards were maintained
in immaculate condition. In light of this minor infraction,
would it not appear to you that a warning (its called communication)
rather than a summons was in order?
Enforcement agents can
use discretion or their best judgment. But, is our city all
too often in the business of looking at recycling, parking and
a whole host of policy matters as a way to raise revenue rather
than a way to enhance a particular program or service? Case
after case points to poor judgment in the issuance of tickets.
I fully understand that
we have major sanitation issues cases where the offender should
not have to be spoken to before summonses are issued. The canine
waste law immediately comes to mind. Dog owners are full aware
of their responsibility to pick up after their dogs. Yet, we
have those who refuse to do so, who walk their dogs with papers
under their arms that they never intend to use, who have a dog
but want to avoid the responsibility that comes with ownership.
Can you believe that the entire canine unit in NYC
has fewer than 10 officers? This makes for a law with no bite.
Instead we are left to look at pooper scooper signs directed
at those who know the law but refuse to comply and dogs who,
of course, cannot read.
Or we have litter baskets
full of household garbage. Look at almost any litter basket.
You will find household or commercial garbage in bags not the
ice cream stick or piece of paper. Too many people are using
our litter baskets to dispose of their own garbage and pick
ups often cannot keep track as they so frequently become full.
A 6 ounce yogurt container
cannot be recycled. But, in perspective, I know our Sanitation
Department can think of bigger fish to fry.
PELHAM PARKWAY OFFICE HOURS
I will be taking my office
to the Pelham Parkway area on Thursday, August
31 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm at the Van Nest Library,
2147 Barnes Avenue, between Lydig Avenue
and Pelham Parkway South. Please join me and
members of my staff. Bringing my office to the community in
this fashion gives us both an opportunity to talk about neighborhood
issues and address local concerns.
SKATING AT LORETO
I will be sponsoring a
skating mobile unit for youngsters 6 years and up on Friday,
August 25, 2006 from 11:00am to 5pm at Loreto Park,
Tomlinson and Morris Park Avenue.
| Monday, August 21, 2006
HIGHER EDUCATION FOR ADULTS
Last week, I spoke of the
need for parents to get their children re-oriented as the start
of school nears. This week, I want to continue on the education
theme and let you know that, today, college is a necessity not
a luxury. All of us should be thinking of attaining the next
degree or certificate that will allow us to obtain that unique
knowledge or field of specialization that will get us that job
or increase our earning potential in the years ahead.
When I became District
Manager of Community Board #10 in 1979, I had not yet
finished my bachelors' degree. At that time, fewer people had
a 4 year degree and it was not viewed as it is today. In fact,
in 1999 I returned to school and in 2001 received my masters
Degree in Urban Studies. I can vividly remember telling
no one but my wife that I had returned to school. Being out
of school so many years, I was concerned about not succeeding
and asked that not even my mother be told. That fear is common
today with many adults who say I could never do it or I do not
have the time to go back.
In fact, as you may know,
since obtainig my Masters Degree I have taught as an
adjunct professor at the college level. I now teach (what else?)
Political Science and Speech Communication
at Monroe College on Saturdays and Urban
Studies at Queens College (CUNY)
on Friday night. And most of my students are adults! Monroe
College, for example, offers both associate and four
year degrees weekdays, evening andweekends but also has an extensive
distance learning program for adult students who cannot commit
to a classroom schedule.
Only recently we learned
that New York ranked fourth among the nations 15 largest
cities in the share of adults with at least a bachelors degree
32.2%. But in Manhattan, which attracts many
residents with higher incomes due to the higher price of housing,
the proportion neared 58%. Certainly, these numbers tell a story.
Many varied degree programs
exist and can be tailored toward the individual student. And
a good professor will make sure that basic skills like writing,
speaking, technology and critical thinking are not only taught
through basic courses but integrated across the curriculum as
these skills will determine your potential once you complete
If you haven't thought
about higher education, think about it today. Then, get going!
| Monday, August 14, 2006
WHERE ARE READING AND MATH SCORES?
Believe it or not, school
will soon be starting. Parents, make sure your child does not
wait until the last minute to start and complete any over the
summer reading assignments or projects, the first day of school
will be here before you know it!
One of the first questions
we must ask as our children return to school is: Where are our
reading and math scores from last year? Yes, if you remember
we always received math and reading scores on our child's report
card in June. This year, for the first time, this was not the
case. The New York State Education Department
told schools of approximate scores so that those performing
significantly below grade level could attend summer school.
But, exact scores in their totality were not presented leaving
many parents in the dark. Reading scores are set to be released
to the schools in August and math scores in October (possibly!).
In my view, the New
York State Education Department fell down on the job. Although
in previous years, scores in grade 4 and 8 were indicators used
to evaluate schools, this year scores in grade 3 to 8 will be
used for such purposes. This is a requirement of the 2001 federal
"No Child Left Behind Act". However, this was well known to
the State Education Department Retired Teachers
and other personnel shoul have been used to expeditiously mark
the test, and they were not.
Monitoring student performance
is not only up to our schools, it is up to our parents. Make
it your business to be involved and make sure you know how your
child is doing throughout the school year. Begin now to slowly
acclimate your child to getting back in routine so they will
be ready for a successful school year.
MOVIES UNDER THE STARS
In conjunction with the
Neighborhood Initiatives Department Corporation,
I will be sponsoring "Movies Under the Stars"
on Friday, August 18 at 8:15pm at Bronx Park East
and Waring Ave. In Pelham Parkway.
The movie will be "King Kong". I invite everyone to bring a
beach chair and enjoy!
| Monday, August 07, 2006
HOW OLD ARE YOU?
So many people hate that
question! Why? Unfortunately, the news media tends to label
people as "young" or "old". Have you noticed the TV commercials
when they show people at beaches or advertising hair products
they use young people, when they advertise medication or vitamins
they use older people. I often speak of seniors or youth but
today I am going to speak of the "between group" the Baby
Today age is becoming
increasingly irrelevant. In fact, when we turn 50 it is an opportunity
to finally take risks and explore options we always thought
about but never had the time or determination to see through.
In my own case, when I reached 50, I decided to pursue a new
career and ran for the City Council where I
now serve. In fact, there has been a tremendous increase in
volunteerism and even entrepreneurship among people age 50 and
older. By the year 2015, about one-fifth of the workforce is
expected to be 55 or older. What should people 50 and above
be thinking of?
Health is very important.
Go to the doctor and dentist for regular check-ups. Do not hesitate
to get a second opinion. Think of mental health as well as physical
health and reach out for services and help as needed. Get a
colonoscopy. Use the internet to learn of specific issues dealing
with male and female health issues. Watch your diet and exercise.
In fact, while you're at it exercise your mind! Go back to school,
take distance learning or an adult education course and use
that education for leisure, job advancement or to get you ready
for the next career. Get involved in church, community or PTA
activities. Be open to change. We are important, why do you
think you see all these plastic surgery shows? They are appealing
to those of us reaching 50. We are the audience they are looking
to reach because they know we are concerned with "age" issues.
Get to work immediately.
Reduce stress by exercise (which release natural endorphins)
make sure you get enough sleep, eliminate bad habits like smoking
and drinking. Watch less TV (you're really not missing much).
Take it from this 51 year
old baby boomer. Our generation must now plan for the next 50
| Monday, July 31, 2006
CONGRESSMAN THOMAS MANTON
It was with sadness that
I noted the passing of former Congressman
Thomas Manton. Congressman Manton
represented our community as well as parts of Queens
in the United States Congress from 1992-2000.
I can well remember the
Congressman calling me in 1992, when his formerly all Queens
district was redrawn to include the Pelham Parkway,
Morris Park, Throgs Neck and
Pelham Bay communities. Immediately upon learning
he would now represent our community, he asked if I would meet
with him to discuss pending issues in the community and areas
where he could help. Since that time, I developed a respect
and admiration for the Congressman and was proud to call him
a friend. He was especially active on immigration issues, matters
affecting the Irish American community and law enforcement
legislation protecting police officers and victims of crime.
served his district and nation as an exemplary public official
and I know I speak for all of us as we mourn his passing.
MOBILE RECREATION UNITS
I am pleased to sponsor,
along with the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation,
free mobile recreation units that provide a day of fun for youngsters
age 7 and above. A Skate-mobile unit will be at Florence
Colucci Playgruond (Wilkinson and
Mayflower Ave.) on Thursday, August 3 from
11am to 5pm and at Bufalo Park (Waterbury
and La Salle) on Wednesday, August 9 from 11am
to 5pm as well. Additional units in late August will be announced
for Loreto Park as well.
GOOD NEWS FOR SENIORS
As part of the recently
concluded budget negotiations, I am pleased to report that a
$4.5 million budget increase for meals in senior centers was
included, the first increase in meal allocations since 1999.
As Chair of the Senior Center Subcommittee,
this was a priority of mine that will directly benefit senior
centers in our community.
| Monday, July 24, 2006
CELL PHONE USE IN SCHOOLS
We should not allow cell
phones to be used in schools. Few people argue over this basic
policy. Where the argument starts is when we discuss current
of Education policy that outlaws students from
bringing cell phones to and from school.
I am one of over 37 co-sponsors
of legislation in the New
York City Council that would allow students to
take such phones to school but also require that the devices
be turned off during school hours. Today, with students using
buses and trains to get to and from school and utilizing many
after school programs, it is imperative that parents be allowed
to reach them and stay in touch as needed before and after school.
This means that we must
allow children to bring cell phones to school but have them
turned off during school hours. Years ago, many of us could
never have conceived of students needing cell phones. In fact,
when I went to school it was unheard of. Our economy today,
however, often necessitates either parents working or attending
college classes to improve upon opportunities that may lie ahead.
Children are often not picked up from school, but stay with
friends, go to the library or face delays in public transportation.
If we want parental involvement and accountability, we must
demand parental responsibility. Having a way to communicate
with your child to and from school is an important part of keeping
safe and parents involved.
MORRIS PARK LIBRARY
Yes, finally, the Morris
Park Library is opening! The grand opening will take
place on Friday, July 21 at 2pm at the library.
When I first took office,
I made getting this library opening a priority. Only recently,
I brought the Library system and the Building
Department together to overcome the last major
obstacle resulting in the issuance of a temporary certificate
of occupancy allowing the library to finally open.
| Monday, July 17, 2006
CONGRESSMAN SERRANO ON TARGET
Two weeks ago, Congressman
Jose Serrano was successful in securing federal money
to assist the Arthur Avenue Retail Market in
our "Little Italy" food market in Belmont.
Great News! Right?
Well, not everyone has
a good feeling about the Bronx or the various
ethnic communities that have lived here for years and thrive
to this day. A Congressman from Arizona, Jeff
Flake (no comment!) argued against giving the Market
assistance and declared "This is a lot of federal prosciutto...
for a private Italian grocery market" (Please note - this market
is public and visited by hundreds of people from the tri-state
area every day).
He further stated "I
would argue that this is one cannoli the taxpayer doesn't want
to take a bite out of."
Doesn't the ridicule and
disdain for Italian Americans stare you right in the
face? Congressman Flake belittles an entire
community, ethnic group and borough with his remarks. And believe
me, when it comes to federal programs and grants, I am sure
Arizona and other Western and Southern states are way ahead
of the Bronx, despite the fact that our need,
pressing problems and density of population certainly require
more federal aid.
Hats off must go to Congressman
JOSE SERRANO, who represents the Arthur Avenue
community in Congress. He rose to his feet after the
flaky remarks and challenged the "gentleman from Arizona,"
especially his use of the ethnic terms quoted above. He took
strong exception the use of the "cannoli" and "prosciutto" terms
and called it for what it was. His allocation for the Arthur
Avenue merchants was approved.
is the longest serving public official in the Bronx.
He has always been in the forefront of speaking out when any
ethnic group is held up to ridicule. We are thankful that, once
again, he answered the call and sent the gentleman from Arizona
back to his seat!
COLUCCI PARK PAL PROGRAM
I am pleased to have provided
funding in the recently approved city budget to continue the
PAL summer youth program at Colucci
Park, Wilkinson and Mayflower
Avenue. Registration is on-going at the playground.
The program will continue through August 25.
| Monday, July 10, 2006
MEDICARE DRUG QUESTIONS
in Pelham Bay, 2941 Westchester Avenue
at Buhre Avenue, will have counselors available
on Mondays in July to answer questions regarding Medicare
drug questions. Information for senior citizens and the disabled
will be answered.
This will be a great
opportunity for seniors to learn more about the "extra help"
provision where by individuals earning less than $1,300 a month
and couples less than $1,700 could qualify for help with deductibles,
premiums and coinsurance. Qualified applicants under Medicare
could save an average of $2,800 a year.
The help center will
be available on Monday, July 10, 17, 24 and 31 from 11am to
AMERICAN FLAG AMENDMENT
By one vote, the United
States Senate has refused to pass a constitutional
amendment that would make a crime to burn the American Flag.
Shame on them!
During the past week,
we have had instance here in the Bronx and
in Brooklyn where vandals have burned the flag.
The American Flag represents what our veterans have
fought to protect and given their lives in battle for the freedom
and liberty we enjoy every day. For years, this constitutional
amendment has languished in the halls of Washington
with vote after vote delayed or resulting in failure. This latest
vote means that our national symbol will have protection from
those who have contempt or our way of life and for the democracy
we live in.
This issue cannot be allowed
to die. Next year, we must insist that this issue be taken up
again and that the Senate allow the State Legislatures
the right to finally give our flag the reverence it deserves.
| Monday, July 03, 2006
OBESITY AND YOUR HEALTH
Last week, Bronx
City Councilman Joel Rivera, Chair of the City
Council Health Committee, raised an interesting suggestion
as our city comes to grip with how to attack the obesity epidemic,
especially among our young people. He suggested that we use
zoning laws to regulate fast food establishments that often
tend to locate near public schools and provide even greater
templation to eat that donut, buy that hot dog or get the quick
meal or snack-on-the-run that is often filled with fat, sugar
suggestion was designed to contribute to the serious city-wide
discussion now under way on how we can best attack the obesity
problem in our city. If we do not, we are running the risk of
further aggravating short term and long term health problems
such as diabetes, asthma and blood pressure. When you add a
lack of exercise to the equation, we are presented with issues
dealing with the life longevity and quality of life as well.
Citizen education in
the fight against obesity is crucial. Read the label of anything
you buy before you buy it. For example, if you buy beef chop
meat for hamburgers that says 80% fat free, it will still be
20% fat. Each hamburger will have 22 grams of fat, a large helping
of fat indeed. Turkey chop meat is a much healthier alternative.
With soda, the larger bottles we now buy costing $1.25, for
example, say they contain 26-28 grams of sugar. What most people
do not do is read the top of the label. The 26-28 grams is PER
SERVING. Each bottle has two and a half servings. The bottle
of soda you just drank contained 75-85 grams of sugar!!
By substituting and getting
rid of trans-fats, high sodium, and sugar or starch filled meals,
we can assure a healthier future. We must also look at the portions
of food we eat and make sure fiber is a staple of our daily
The old question is: "Do
you watch what you are eating?" The usual answer: "Yes, as it
goes down." That may sound funny, but it is no longer acceptable.
We must create a city-wide consciousness and start to address
this major health issue.
| Monday, June 26, 2006
SCHOOLS * LIBRARIES * SENIORS
TOP MY LIST
As budget discussions between
the Mayor and the City Council continue with
a June 30th conclusion deadline, I will be advocating strongly
for many priorities some of which I have outlined in previous
columns in this publication. Included are:
. 6 day a week library
service at all branches. Most of our branches are only open
5 days a week and our library system has too often fallen victim
to budget cuts. People of all ages will better utilize local
branch libraries open 6 days a week. I must report good news
as well to residents of MORRIS PARK. I have
successfully brought the library system and the Building
Department together so that a temporary certificate
of occupancy can be issued for the long awaited Morris
Park Library. This is the last obstacle to the library
opening and we are aiming for a July date.
. We need more after
school programs. I am sponsoring a specific initiative to expand
and replicate successful after school models so that recreation
and learning can take place at additional sites throughout our
. I am strongly in favor
of full day prekindergarten. As a member of the City
Council Education Committee I am also insisting that
we address the needs of gifted and talented youngsters by expanding
education options and programs which the city has not done to
. I am fighting to restore
funding for the Pelham Parkway Houses NORC
which provides case assistance and social services to over 800
seniors living in this community.
These programs and the
many others I have spoken about in past weeks including senior
center rent and meal allocations are important to our community
and the city.
TN AMBULANCE CORPS PROGRAM
The Throgs Neck
Ambulance Corps offers CPR/First Aid courses approved
by the American Safety and Health Institute,
under guidelines of the Red Cross. In fact,
The Corps and the New York Yankees have teamed
up to offer children from 12-19 these courses at no cost. All
classes are held at 3955 East Tremont Avenue.
For further information call: 718-430-9501 or go to their website
| Monday, June 19, 2006
MAYOR NOTES FIREWORKS POLICY
Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg has warned New Yorkers about the
consequences of transporting, buying, selling or using illegal
fireworks. In New York City, all consumer fireworks
are illegal and individuals caught buying, selling or using
fireworks will be arrested. This year, those caught transporting
fireworks into the City will have their vehicles seized by the
New York City Police Department (NYPD).
This year, 769 cases of illegal fireworks have been confiscated
with the City's Joint Fireworks Taskforce.
More than 60 people have been arrested for possessing or trafficking
illegal fireworks, and 31 vehicles have been seized. Last year,
more than 2,300 cases of illegal fireworks were confiscated
and 65 people were arrested. In July 2005, the Mayor signed
a law creating civil penalties for individuals using fireworks
illegally. And, throughout the next month, the City will analyze
last year's 311 fireworks complaint data to more effectively
deploy resources around the five boroughs.
The Mayor stated, "Fireworks
are a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day, but it's
critical that we leave it to the professionals. Fireworks are
not only illegal, they are dangerous and in the hands of an
untrained individual, fireworks can have deadly consequences.
Each year, the Joint Fireworks Taskforce works to reduce
the number of illegal fireworks on our streets so much so that
this year we haven't recorded a single fireworks-related injury
in the City. As we mark the start of the summer season, I urge
all New Yorkers to report all illegal fireworks activity
As we approach July 4,
please think of your neighbors and friends before you use fireworks.
Think of the possible impact they have and the danger they pose.
| Monday, June 12, 2006
THE FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER
In this city of real estate
booms and over development, too many New Yorkers go
to bed hungry. Did you know?
. In 2004, an estimated
1.2 million New Yorkers including more than 400,000
children lived in hunger or in households where having food
was in question.
. More than 1 million
New Yorkers rely on food pantries and soup kitchens
every year and demand has grown so great that some are forced
to ration food or even turn hungry people away.
. In New York
City public schools, nearly one in four children is
obese. Nearly half are overweight, with the greatest concentration
among children who do not eat fresh nutritious food including
fruits and vegetables. Common problems associated with obesity
include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea,
muscle problems and psychological problems.
. In NYC, approximately
600,000 New Yorkers qualify for food stamps but don't
get them. More and better outreach is needed for those who are
entitled to assistance but may not know how to navigate the
I know it is hard for
many of us to conceive of anyone actually going hungry. I can
attest to the need for food pantries in our community and, almost
immediately upon taking office, provided assistance to the food
pantry run in the Allerton/Pelham Parkway
area as they were running out of food supplies due to demands!
This week, I participated
in a city-wide initiative to encourage students to participate
in the breakfast and lunch programs at our local schools. The
breakfast programs, in fact, are free and open to all without
income guidelines. This summer, many school sites will also
be serving breakfast and lunch. It is important that children
have three meals a day and using these programs provides our
kids with healthier food selections and the energy and vitamins
they need for the long day ahead.
As you can see, our city
and non-profits have important work to do!
| Monday, June 05, 2006
OLDER PEOPLE GROWING IN NUMBERS
As chair of the City
Council Sub-committee on Senior Centers
and before that through my activities at senior centers and
in the community, I have become very aware of the problems faced
by our older citizens. Why? Let me give you some interestings
From 1980 to the present,
the elderly population in the United States has increased from
24 million to 32 million people. Between 1900-2000, the number
of Americans over the age of 65 grew eightfold, while the population
as a whole tripled. The faster growing age group in our country
today is those above the age of 85.
In our city, I wish to
note the following issues impacting upon the elderly that I
have made priorities. Senior citizens must be supported. We
must look at opening additional centers with varied programs.
Existing centers where the city is now renting space have not
had an increase in rent since 1999! The city must recognize
this is 2006 and support these centers. We now pay our senior
centers, per meal, less than the cost of a slice of pizza and
a can of soda. Meal costs have increased and must be funded.
There must also be a yearly built in increase tied to the cost
of living. Counseling and mental health needs of the elderly
must be addressed through service enhancements and outreach.
Yes, New Yorkers
and Americans are living to an older age. Health care,
diet, exercise, housing, socialization and support will go along
way to assuring a better quality of life for the elderly. Government
has an important role to play in serving those who have given
so much over the years to their families, community and country.
We must act now to address existing needs and plan for the future
| Monday, May 29, 2006
PRE-KINDERGARTEN IS VITAL
Last week, City
Council Speaker Christine Quinn visited our district
to highlight the importance of pre-kindergarten programs. I
was pleased to join her at Bronx House where we saw
the host of programs offered at this wonderful facility for
our little ones and senior citizens as well.
The Speaker visit addresses
an issue long on the top of my "to do" list. Specifically, she
is proposing an initiative that would fund, over a four year
period, full-day pre-kindergarten.
Right now, we have a
host of half-day programs housed in schools, churches and non-profits
throughout our community. Often, parents pay for additional
program time as the Department of Education
program offers only two and half hours. More than child care,
the Speaker and I both see pre-K as an important introduction
to early childhood education. We realize today that kindergarten
is now an academic program-children are learning to read and
often get homework compared to years ago when kindergarten was
half day and basically used for play and socialization. With
Kindergarten evolving we must now look at pre-K differently.
Pre-K can provide the
needed socialization and sharing experiences children need and
also provide an important entry way to early learning. With
class size capped at 18 and each class required to have a paraprofessional,
pre-K can provide early intervention services for children needing
extra help and help identify children with special needs at
a very young age. It can also serve to tap the imagination of
our very young as they learn from each and enjoy as they grow.
As NYC moves
to adopt a budget in the next 4 weeks, the Speaker and I are
hoping early childhood will be on the agenda. We cannot ignore
the fact that pre-K works the earlier children have positive
learning experiences the greater the likelihood they will succeed
in later years. Study after study links academic success to
early and positive learning experiences. And, by the way, it
would be a great time to harness parent energy as well and worktoward
maintaining parental involvement in grades K-12.
| Monday, May 22, 2006
Did you know that over
16,000 tree stumps await removal from the city? This is because
the Parks Department has never been given money to remove these
stumps and has no plants to do so.
At the City Council,
I have proposed a tree stump and subsequent tree planting initiative
to fill the gap in this program. Hundreds of such stumps exist
here in our community. With a $3 billion dollar surplus we certainly
can afford the $7 million needed to address this backlog.
SELECTIVE SERVICE REGISTRATION
Even though we do not currently
have a draft, all US males, citizen and non-citizen, are required
to register with the Selective Service. The law requires that
all males register within 30 days of their 18th birthday 30
days before or no later that 30 days after their birthday. Registration
may take place either on line or by picking up a form at your
local post office.
Along with Visiting Nurse
Service, Senator Klein, Assemlyman Benedetto and I are sponsoring
informative diabetes workshops throughout the community. Please
note the following dates and times: Thursday, May 25 from 11:30
am to 12:30 pm at C-Town, 2244 White Plains Road at Pelham Parkway
North, Friday May 26 10:00 am at Stop and Shop at 753 Co-op
City Blvd., on Thursday, June 1 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm at
Super Food Town at Crosby Ave. and Bruckner Blvd. Please stop
RECYCLING, VOTER REGISTRATION
Please feel free to come
by my district office for recycling decals or voter registration
forms if you recently moved.
| Monday, May 15, 2006
BUILDINGS DEPT. HEARING SUCCESSFUL
Over 200 people came to
the April public hearing of the City Council Task Force
NYC Department of Buildings reform. I want to especially
Christine Quinn and the Committee Chair, Councilman
James Oddo, for coming to my district and hearing
the community residents who spoke out on the critical need to
improve this city agency.
I truly feel that Mayor
Bloomberg is also supportive of reform and realizes
how important this agency is to all of us. At the hearing tales
of residents who bought new homes 7 years ago, and still do
not have Department
of Buildings (DOB) certificates
of occupancies. We heard of the famous incident in the Zerega
community where a STOP work order was issued
after walls of a new
house under construction surrounded an existing tree.
We heard of weekend work taking place without permits and of
there not being a clear definition of who enforces a STOP
work order - DOB or the Police
It must be stated that
DOB also must receive the personnel and training
it needs so that its staff can fully understand the down zonings
that have taken place in our community and communities throughout
the city. Very technical, new regulations have been put in place
and it is the DOB that is the enforcement arm
of the City
of New York. On a block by block, we depend on
them to address construction issues where work exceeds permits
issued or housing being built does not conform to the new zoning
The drive for DOB
reform started here in the Bronx
in our community as witnessed by the first of five City Council
hearings. We have placed this issue on the radar screen and
must continue our efforts in a positive constructive vein. As
I said at the hearing, we want to strengthen the Department
of Buildings and professionalize it. As I pledged prior
to election, I will continue to play the role of an advocate
and watchdog and am also taking action on the legislative front
so that our communities can be protected on a block by block
| Monday, May 08, 2006
WATER BOARD SEEKS TO SOAK US
York City Water Board plans to increase rates by
9.4% effective this May and give homeowners yet another hosing!
The NYC Water
Board, an off-spring of the NYC
Department of Environmental Protection, is holding
"hearing" this month on the proposed increases in each of the
Water rates have gone
up every year, sometimes twice a year. This latest increase
is one of the largest in years. It comes at a time when economically
strapped New Yorkers are besieged by doubling of Con Edison
bills and increasing gas prices. Now these same New Yorkers
will be hit once again.
In fact, the city is passing
their own $9 million cost of increasing heat, light and power
onto these very same consumers as well. For the Water
Board to do this at this time, with the city anticipating
a $3 billion surplus is not only outrageous, but insulting.
The Water Board
admitted that part of the reason for the high increase this
year was the failure of the agency to efficiently collect past
due accounts. The collection plan announce last year assumed
that $50 million per year would be collected over the next several
years, yet last year only $15 million was collected.
Homeowners in good standing
who pay their water bills on time are being penalized because
the city has failed to force delinquent dead beats to pay up
what they owe. Administratively, this should have been addressed
as collections began to come in slower than anticipated. To
now force this on the back of conscientious bill payers is unacceptable.
The city anticipates that
a single family homeowner in the City will experience a $54
increase per year. This increase, when coupled with other consecutive
increases, has disproved what residents were told when water
meters were originally installed. Specifically, homeowners were
told that when meters were installed those who saved water would
see big savings on their bills. With rates continuing to escalate
each year, we could die of dehydration and still be stuck with
ever increasing water bills.
I have asked the Water
Board to reject the proposed increased and to exempt senior
citizen homeowners from all increases.
The Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition
| Monday, May 01, 2006
Since taking office in
Council this January, I made reform of the NYC
Buildings Department one of my highest priorities.
For several years, I have monitored the application approval
process at this agency and found errors that were fatal and
had many jobs stopped or reduced in scope. Recently, NYC
Council Speaker Christine Quinn formed the Task
Force on Operations and improvement of the Department
of Buildings to craft solutions to these problems in
our neighborhood and city.
We will now have an invaluable
opportunity to speak out at the Task Force's first public forum
on Tuesday, May 2nd, at 7:30 pm at PS
14, located at 3041 Bruckner Blvd at the corner
of Crosby Ave, Hosted by City Council Speaker Christine
James Oddo of Staten Island, and myself.
As neighbors, community
residents or perhaps as applicants yourselves over the years,
I am sure you can relate your own experiences and speak to over
development and related issues on your own block and in the
community as a whole. Your thoughts on how we can have this
agency better address citizen complaints, strengthen its enforcement
aspect, enforce stop work orders and address work on weekends
are but a few areas that residents have mentioned to me time
and time again.
In the months ahead, this
Task force will be holding forums in each of the five boroughs.
As our efforts to stop over development have been noted city-wide,
the first forum is being held here in our community. I hope
you will join me, as the Council will be considering legislation
in the days ahead addressing such issues as self-certification
(whereby architects file plans for new construction exempting
them from the normal review process), enforcement of stop work
orders, and a host of other matters affecting how the Building
This forum becomes all
the more important as the Buildings Department
must now enforce over 50 down zoning proposals that have passed
the City Council and became law, including
those impacting our own community. Making sure the Department
of Buildings has adequate resources and fully comprehends
all technical provisions of the zoning resolution is of the
highest importance because we must depend on this agency to
understand and enforce the building codes of the city of New
Please feel free to contact
my office at (718) 931-1721 with any questions.
This meeting is crucial.
I hope to see you there!
| Monday, April 24, 2006
ENERGY REBATE FOR HOMEOWNERS
I am pleased to report
that the New
York City Council has allocated 4 million for the
new HEAT Rebate program. Due to the unbelievable
increases in gas and oil costs, a one-time allotment is being
provided to lower income households over 60 years of age. This
program is in addition to HEAP.
If you were on HEAP you do not need to apply
again. If you did not meet the more restrictive guidelines of
HEAP, you may now apply for HEAT.
A $100 allocation will
be available to every homeowner or renter who meets eligibility
and up to $200 for homeowners or renters who have a current
service disconnect. Applications will be accepted through May
31, 2006. Applicants must have head of household above 60 years
old, be a homeowner or renter, show proof of heating expense,
with name of heat supplier and clients' record number and attach
such documentation as well as affirmation of income to the application.
A family of one can make up to $30,000 a year and a family of
2 can make $36,000 a year. Income limits go up by $6,000 for
each additional family member.
The organization chosen
to administer the program in the Bronx, the Metropolitan
Council on Jewish Poverty, has applications available
by calling (718) 652-5500 ext.213 starting Monday, April 17,
| Monday, April 17, 2006
OUR SENIOR CENTERS
of the Senior Citizen Center Subcommittee of the New York City
Council, I recently convened a hearing concerning
the state of senior centers in our city and heard testimony
from the Deputy Commissioner for the NYC
Department of the Aging and senior advocates.
As we begin serious budget
negotiations between the administration and the Council, the
testimony the Committee received indicated how financial support
for our senior centers has not kept pace with changing demographics.
Seniors are living longer and "baby boomer" golden agers will
soon join older seniors and use our centers for a variety of
reasons. Yet, food costs and rent have not increased since 1999!
As we all know, during that time costs have risen as evidenced
by the rental market and our own gas and electric bills.
often serve as the focal point for a community. While many seniors
do not attend a center everyday, it is indeed a place where
socialization takes place and seniors receive important information
of health and benefit information that allows them to have a
better quality of life. The Committee discussed ways we can
reach out to even more seniors and let them know that using
the local Senior Center represents such an
In our community, we are
fortunate to have active senior centers and clubs. In fact,
local churches and AARP's
add yet another dimension to the range of activities available
to older adults. Yet, when I think of technology, adult education
and so many other aspects of continued growth I know we certainly
have our work cut out for us in the days ahead.
| Monday, April 10, 2006
SENIOR EMPLOYMENT SERVICES:
for the Aging's Senior Employment Services (SES),
assists residents 55 years of age and older who are seeking
work opportunity. SES offers classroom training,
job search techniques and part and full-time job placements.
Seniors are taught basic computer skills, data entry and helped
with resume preparation. Others are trained for jobs in retail,
sales and customer services. A 300-hour course is offered. For
more information call 212-442-1353 or 1355.
If you are 62 years or older and live in a rent controlled or
rent stabilized housing and earn less than $25,000 a year, you
may qualify for SCRIE
(Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption), (more
info...). Applications are available at my office.
Owner of homes, condos and cooperative apartments are eligible
for the Disabled
Homeowners' Exemption (DHE) if they have a physical
or mental impairment and make less than $32,400. Medical and
prescription expenses not reimbursed can be deducted from the
applicant's income to determine eligibility. If you are on SSI
or Social Security Disability or are visually impaired
you may qualify.
Renters who are disabled may qualify for the Disability
Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). If a tenant receives
elegible state and federal disability - related financial assistance
(SSI, SSID or disability related Medicaid) and live in a rent
stabilized, rent controlled or Mitchell-Lama
development and has an individual income of $17,580 or $25,212
for a 2 person family you may qualify.
DHE or SCRIE applications
please call my office at: 718-931-1721.
3040 East Tremont Ave, Bronx, NY 10461
| Monday, April 03, 2006
Please note the following:
Don't discard car batteries, tires or motor oil with your refuse.
You may dispose of them at a DSNY
Household Special Wast Drop-Off site (for site
nearest to you, call 311).
Retailers are required by law to accept two car batteries per
month for free. Take motor oil to service stations that change
oil or large retailers that sell motor oil. State law requires
that they accept up to five gallons of oil per day per person
for free. Return old tires when you buy new ones. New York City
residents may bring up to four passenger car tires to any Department
of Sanitation district garage, Monday through Saturday, except
holidays, between 8am and 4pm.
HOW TO DISPOSE OF BULK?
Bulk material is any item
too big to fit in your garbage receptacle. Some examples of
bulk items are furniture, such as sofas, tables, chairs, desks,
large appliances such as refrigerators and stoves; house siding
and other non-commercial construction materials. You may place
up to six large items at the curb after 5pm the day before your
regularly scheduled collection day. Before discarding a refrigerator,
freezer, water cooler, dehumidifier or any CFC-bearing appliance,
you must call 311 to make an appointment to have the CFC gas
removed from it. You must also remember to remove hinges or
any locking device from the appliance.
Two stickers are required
for each can and may be obtained at my council office, located
at 3040 East Tremont Avenue, Room 104.
Tire Disposal Program nyc.gov/html/dsny/html/collection/tires.shtml
| Monday, March 27, 2006
DIABETES CONFERENCE AND HEALTH
On Saturday, April 22 from
9am - 12pm the Visiting Nurse Service and I will be sponsoring
a Diabetes Conference and Health Fair at the Northeast
Bronx Senior Citizen Center, 2968 Bruckner Boulevard,
Bronx, NY 10465. Phone: 718-892-6090
will be present and information will be available on nutrition
and recognizing signs and symptoms of diabetes. A panel of health
care professionals will be answering your questions as well.
More than 20 community health care organizations will be present.
For more information
please contact Jeffrey Levine at 718-536-3235. Please save the
April 22nd date.
HUNTINGTON TREE LIBRARY
Did you ever visit the
Tree Library, located at 9 Westchester Square at
Westchester Avenue? This library includes a special collection
of books and photographs on local Bronx history. The collection
contains current newspapers, magazines and reference books.
The library was officially
founded in 1892 and represents a fantastic opportunity to learn
more about our borough and its history. For an appointment you
may call 718-825-7770.
Community residents are
invited to attend the grand opening of my new City Council office
at 3040 East Tremont Avenue on Friday, March 31, 2006 from 1-5pm.
Refreshments will be served. Hope to see you next week.
| Monday, March 20, 2006
BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT ISSUES
Last week, I participated
in budget oversight hearings at the City Council and joined
in questioning Buildings
Commissioner Patricia Lancaster. Many of the issues
I raised involved problems we continue to have with overdevelopment.
I insisted that we have
concerted efforts to enforce STOP work orders. Right now, most
complaints concerning builders violating STOP work orders go
through the 311 system. It takes days for inspectors to respond,
especially on weekends when too few inspectors are on call.
There must be better coordination with the Police
info....) and the Buildings
Department so that both agencies can work together
to enforce STOP work orders and make them a priority.
Weekend work is another
story. All too often contractors do work on weekends without
permits yet the Buildings Department maintains a skeleton crew
to enforce weekend work violations. This has to change.
It is important that those
reviewing Buildings Department applications have contact with
the inspectors in the field. This was not the case only recently,
when the Buildings Department approved the construction of a
new home on St.
Raymond's Ave. Whose walls surrounding an existing
tree! The job is now halted, but it stresses the need for the
right hand to know what the left hand is doing.
Buildings Department reform
is top on my list as I begin my job at the NYC Council. For
too long, this agency has been known for ineptitude and worse.
As we down zone communities to prevent over development and
reduce density, it is urgent that staff of this agency have
needed resources and proper training. We must also continue
our permit monitoring effort to assure that all applications
comply with the law.
| Monday, March 13, 2006
SCHOOL FUNDING FIGHT
In the City Council, I
am continuing my efforts to force the State to comply with a
court order requiring additional capital and expense budget
support for our public schools, known as the Campaign for Fiscal
No suburban county would
ever tolerate the trailers in school yards or high schools with
4,600 students we endure in the city of New York. It is outrageous
that years of neglect have now caused a crisis as children learn
in over crowded classrooms and funding does not exist for reduced
class size and enrichment programs our children deserve.
During the next four
years, I will be visiting schools in the community on a regular
basis. Only recently I visited Columbus HS,
P.S 105, P.S. 108 and I.S.
144. I look forward to more school visits in the days
ahead and assisting where possible.
Many seniors and their
families cope with Alzheimer's and the various phases of this
terrible disease. Caregivers and seniors are reminded that the
Alzheimer's Association offers a broad range of programs for
people with the disease and their families. These services include
support groups, telephone helplines, educational seminars, advocacy
programs and a variety of print and on-line resources on the
disease. Up to date research information is also provided. For
further information call 1-800-272-3900 or
Coping with the disease
is difficult and heart wrenching for everyone involved. Reach
out for help and make sure you know about every available option
HS, 925 Astor Avenue Bx, NY 10469 columbushs.org
P.S. 105 725 Brady Avenue Bx, NY 10462 schools.nycenet.edu/ps105
P.S. 108 1166 Neill Avenue, Bx, NY 10461
I.S. 144 2545 Gunther Avenue Bx, NY 10469
Information for schools nationwide greatschools.net
| Monday, March 06, 2006
ADULT & CONTINUING EDUCATION
It's never too late to
receive your GED. Once you obtain your GED, you open up so many
doors, which could potentially increase your income. Through
the Department of Education (DOE) and their
Office of Adult Continuing Education many services
have been made available to our community. The Bronx
Adult Learning Center, located 3450 East Tremont Avenue,
Room 323, Bronx, NY 10465 off Bruckner Blvd., is the main office
for these services.
The Bronx Learning
Center offers free courses in basic education, English
as a Second Language, GED and Spanish GED, and career and technical
courses. Classes are available morning, noon and in the evenings.
If you are unable to attend classes there is a GED Distance
Learning Program, where instructional classes are done
The career technical
programs offer two introductory courses, one in auto mechanics
and the other in computers. By the end of the course students
receive certifications that are nationally recognized. The other
career technical programs that are offered are carpentry and
a Certified Nursing Assistant program.
For those seeking their
citizenship the Learning Center offers a Civic Education course.
Here students practice their English skills and learn basic
history and government.
If you are interested
in creating new opportunities in your life and looking to increase
your income, I urge you to call 718-863-4057
to learn more about the Bronx Learning Center.
and Testing lacnyc.org
Office of Adult and Continuing Education oace.ithsnyc.org
New York City Department of Education projectliberty.state.ny.us,
GED Distance Learning Program directdegree.com,
Liberty University liberty.edu
| Monday, February 27, 2006
ARE "YOUTH PROBLEMS" ADULT PROBLEMS?
Good question! My column
this week seeks to have all of us stop and take a moment from
our sometimes too busy life to ask ourselves why we constantly
hear about "youth problems." Could it be that communities complain
about its youth because adults at home have, for too long, been
unable or unwilling to lead by example?
We as adults can become
part of the solution rather than part of the problem by realizing
that children do what they see adults doing. They say what they
hear adults say. They react as they see adults react. Children
will seek the attention of an adult by poor behavior when he
or she sees there are few things of a positive nature they can
do to earn encouragement from their parents. Selfesteem, an
important indicator of how a child views himself, is a key component
of youth development.
We constantly hear about
the important role schools perform. As a member of the Education
Commitee of the City Council, I fully realize that
schools must do more. In fact I have proposed a "Character Education"
program where by students will be engaged in a K-12 curriculum
that instills values such as respect, citizenship, accountability
and responsibility. I have come forth with this suggestion in
the full realization that our schools MUST
take such measures because we can no longer assume that such
values are always taught in the home. If we do not do so, we
will find that behavior and acting out situations in so many
of our classrooms will continue and, in fact, grow.
I remember, several years
ago, the Board of Education voted that all
parents had to PICK UP their child's report card. This was a
daring effort to bolster parental involvement and accountability.
Thousands of parents, weeks later, had failed to pick up their
child's report card, many after having received letters and
phone calls reminding them to no avail. That experiment ended
the very next term.
All parents can do one
thing - role model. And we can do all possible when it comes
to encouraging positive peers for your children. Every year
presents a new challenge as children grow. Our attitude and
values reflect on our community as well; living together in
close proximity here in the Bronx means that we all influence
each other and affect the overall quality of life in our neighborwood.
| Monday, February 20, 2006
Last year over 43,000 people
over age 62 took out reverse mortgage to help them make ends
meet. Demand for such mortgages is increasing.
Rather than selling your
home or taking out a home equity loan to get access to your
equity, a reverse mortgage allows a homeowner to take out a
loan for a portion of the equity. A senior can continue to live
in his home and if you decide to move or when you pass away,
the proceeds from the sale of the property pay off the loan.
Reverse mortgages allow
you to enjoy a secure retirement. Medical and fuel expenses,
especially, have made it very difficult for many elderly homeowners
to meet rising costs.
Please note, however,
that insurance origination and closing costs must be a part
of the reverse mortgage process. AARP (aarp.org)
offers reverse mortgage counselors at 1-800-205-8085. More
Aging in America, a member
of the Food for Survival hunger prevention network, operates
a Food Pantry open to the public two days a week (currently
1:00-2:00 pm on Thursdays-Fridays). The pantry provides non-perishable
food packages to any individual who is in need. There is no
restriction on age or financial status. In 2004, over 4,000
clients received food packages from our pantry.
Food packages are available
to individuals on a walk-in basis once per month during operating
hours. Food Pantry clients are required to register for the
service. The Aging in America Food Pantry also delivers food
packages to home bound individuals as identified and referred
by our Case Management Program. Contact 718-409-7966 for more
information. Aging in America Community Services, Inc. 1500
Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, NY 10461.
| Monday, February 13, 2006
Legal Service for
NYC is a non-profit law firm dedicated to assisting
senior citizens and low-income residents of the Bronx. Their
staff of lawyers, legal assistants and support staff have years
of experience helping Bronx residents with all sorts of legal
Among items they assist
with are housing, evictions, foreclosures, advising clients
on their rights to public benefits (Emergency Assistance, Medicare,
Disability, etc.) family law issues, consumer law including
credit and fraudulent deceptive consumer practices, unemployment
benefits and elder law.
Bronx Legal Services
of NY can be reached at: 718-928-3700.
369 East 148 Street, Bronx, NY 10455
The America Red
Cross is Offering a variety of courses in response
to consumer demand. Not only do they offer the traditional CPR
and First Aid courses, but they now offer courses in sports
prevention. First Aid for dogs and cats, water safety instruction
training, lifeguard training instruction and disaster training.
Interested residents may
call 212-895-2222 or visit the web site at:
How to dispose of bulk?
Bulk material is any item too big to fit in your garbage receptacle.
Some examples of bulk items are furniture, such as sofas, tables,
chairs, large appliances such as refrigerators and stoves; house
siding and other non-commercial construction materials. You
may place up to six large items at the curb after 5pm the day
before your regularly scheduled collection day. Before discarding
a refrigerator, freezer, water cooler, dehumidifier or any CFC-bearing
appliance, you must call 311 to make an appointment to have
the CFC gas removed from it. You must also remember to remove
hinges or any locking device from the appliance.
Waste Prevention tips: nyc.gov/nycwasteless
Home Composting: nyccompost.org
America Recycles Day: americarecyclesday.org
| Monday, February 06, 2006
If you have received the
State tax credit forms IT 210 or IT 214 and need assistance
filling them out please call my office at 718-931-1721 and speak
to Michael Rivadeneyra to schedule an appointment. If you have
not received either form and are not sure if you qualify, the
following are the requirements:
IT 210 - This is a NYC
school tax credit form. One must have lived in NYC for all of
2005. If you do qualify for NYC school tax credit and are not
a dependent on anyone else's taxes and are not filing a tax
return on form IT 150, IT 201 or IT 203.
IT 214 - This is a real
property tax credit for homeowners and renters. One must have
lived in NY for all of 2005. If you or your spouse paid real
property taxes and your household income is $18,000 or less.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto
will be providing tax preparation assistance to those senior
citizens of the area that are over the age of 65 in his district
office. Please call his office ahead of time to set up an appointment
with one of his staff members 718-892-2235. Staff will be available
to do tax preparation on Wednesdays between the hours of 10am
CPR & FIRST AID COURSES
The Throggs Neck Volunteer
Ambulance Corps, Inc. Will be hosting CPR and First Aid during
the month of February and March. CPR classes will be held on
Saturdays and the Basic First Aid classes will be held Sundays.
The cost for the classes is as follows:
CPR - $50 for a 1 year
certification; $75 for a 2 year certification. Basic First Aid
- $50 for a 1 year certification; $75 for a 2 year certification.
Combination of both Courses: $75 for a 1 year certification;
$100 for a 2 year certification.
For registration and more
information, please call 718-430-9501.
| Monday, January 30, 2006
BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT OVERSIGHT
I am pleased to report
that I have joined a select group of City Council members seeking
to galvanize the NYC Council as we seek meaningful change at
the NYC Buildings Department.
In my inauguration, I
stated quite clearly that this agency needs more than reform
- it must be turned upside down. The staffing levels at the
Borough Offices, the constant vacancies in important positions,
as well as staff that are employed without proper credentials,
appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Time and time again,
we have found mistakes on approved applications. We have successfully
fought for down zoning of our neighborhoods, only to find out
that decisions on new construction are based, in error, on the
former zoning, not the new down zoning in place. We need the
new zoning regulations to be properly enforced to effectively
stop any further over development in our community.
The whole issue of self-certification,
where an architect has the right to avoid Buildings Department
review of newly filed plans, is an administrative procedure
used by the agency that must be eliminated. Every plan must
be analyzed for compliance with the new zoning resolution. This
is why we have a New York City Buildings Department!
I feel strongly that this
agency has not realized the impact that over development has
had on communities throughout our city. Their business as usual
approach reflects years of administrative ineptitude. It is
now time for major change.
I will keep you in touch
with the progress our working group on the Council makes towards
| Monday, January 23, 2006
IS MONEY WAITING FOR YOU?
Did you know that you could
qualify for as much as $6,000 from Federal, State and City government
by filing your taxes?
The Earned Income
Tax Credit (EITC) is a payment to
working people who meet specific income limits. However, you
must file a tax return to claim it even if you don't owe any
taxes. More than 21 million working people claimed the credit
last year. You can too!
If you are a single person
whose annual gross income is at or below $11,750 or a couple
filing jointly with income not exceeding $13,750 you may qualify
for a tax refund. With children, the income limit rises to as
much as $37,263.
You can claim the EITC
up to three previous years if you either didn't file taxes or
didn't claim the EITC when you filed. So, if
you worked in 2002, 2003, 2004 but didn't either file taxes
or claim the EITC, you can file now and claim
If you think you qualify
speak to your tax preparer or go to irs.gov
to prepare your own taxes using the "Free File" programs. If
you need information on community based organizations assisting
in this effort you may call my office at 718-931-1721.
The largest Park in the
city of New York, Pelham Bay Park, is in the
13th Councilman's District as are a host of
local parks and playgrounds we must protect from vandalism and
crime. As your City Councilman, one thing I
am committed to is legislation requiring a minimum baseline
budget for the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP)
so that a set amount of officers are hired by this agency to
keep our Parks safe, provide orderly use of park land and enforce
park usage laws for the benefit of those who love our parks.
In the past, this program has not been sufficiently funded.
It is a key component to parks maintenance and can actually
fund itself through tickets and summonses they issue to people
abusing our park land.
| Monday, January 16, 2006
PRIORITIES FOR 2006
As a new member of the
NYC Council, last week I watched the inaugural
address of Mayor Bloomberg and also attended
my first City Council meeting. Mayor
Bloomberg and the new City Council Speaker,
Christine Quinn both spoke of the necessity
of getting guns off the streets. Although crime in our city
is down for 2005 as it has been in previous years, guns and
other weapons remain a major problem on the streets of our city.
We need to seriously analyze programs now in place to rid the
city of guns and laws on the books that deal with those who
illegally possess guns or use them in the commission of a crime.
Education was another
common theme. We must look at reading and match scores and identify
why they are seriously languishing during the intermediate grades,
especially grade 8. We must determine why scores are so low
in these grades and what we must do to improve pupil performance.
Poor performance in the intermediate grades can only portend
problems in high school and lead to unacceptable drop out rates
While I support the Mayors
effort to eliminate social promotion, we must make sure that
students receive the type of assistance that will result in
permanent improvements rather than band aid approaches that
only got them into the next grade without the needed skills
or strategies to excel in future years.
A final item I plan to
examine deals with the rising costs of fuel. With gasoline once
again increasing in price and home heating fuel also increasing,
we are in for an expensive winter. Governor Pataki
announced in his State of the State message that he was proposing
to increase funding for the HEAP (Home
Energy Assistance Program). While that suggestion is
a worthy one, we must also look to increase the income guidelines
for this program so that more families, particularly the elderly,
can receive needed assistance as they strive to make ends meet.
These are only some of
the issues that I hope to address in my first year serving as
| Monday, January 09, 2006
PUBLIC SAFETY, ALWAYS A CONCERN
The fatal shooting of Police
Officer Daniel Enchautegui on Arnow Place
and Westchester Avenue has brought us back
to a dangerous reality. Even though crime rates have dipped
throughout out city over the course of the past eight years
we must remain always vigilant when it comes to safe guarding
ourselves against types of crime.
In this particular murder,
residents on a quiet residential street in a safe low crime
area were shocked to learn that an off duty police officer protecting
his neighbors was shot and killed in cold blood.
From a policy perspective,
I must note that the state of New York no longer has a death
penalty law on the books. Over a year ago, a state court threw
out the New York State death penalty statute. The legislature
has failed to act to this day and our state has yet to enact
a new death penalty statute.
In the case of those who
kill police officers as well as in other cases where heinous
murders are committed against innocent citizens, society has
the right to enact laws that give to judges and juries the ultimate
penalty. It is important that our state lawmakers make this
a priority when they reconvene and restore the death penalty.
The entire issue of how
police manpower is allocated and why precincts such as the 45th
and 49th have historically not received their fair share is
of concern to me as well. We realize that police officers cannot
be at all places at all times. Yet, it is important that we
restore foot patrol programs on major commercial strips so that
citizens will get to know a beat officer and the officer will
get to know situations that must be watched and addressed.
A reminder, I will be joining
Bronx Municipal Hospital (Jacobi) in sponsoring
flu shots on Tuesday, January 10, from 4pm to 6pm at the Throgs
Neck Ambulance Corp., 3955 East Tremont Ave.
Appointments are required. These shots are free and available
for all ages. Please call 718-892-1161 as soon as possible.