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James Vacca NYC Councilman 13th District

Fighting For A Better Community
James Vacca

James Vacca

Democratic

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 Club

Educational background: Masters in Urban Studies from Queens College, BA in Political Science from SUNY, Graduate of Christopher Columbus HS

Organizational affiliations: 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

Email: jimmy@vaccaforcouncil.com
Web site: www.VaccaforCouncil.com

Message From James Vacca
    Thursday, December 27, 2007

IS THIS PROGRESS?
We have had so much technological "progress" - Did you ever think 10 years ago we would be where we are today?

As we enter the New Year, let us reflect. As much as we must move ahead, progress sometimes comes in various degrees. For example, when was the last time you called a city, state or federal agency and actually got a live voice? Frustrating? Sometimes it takes days to reach people as people play telephone tag leaving messages on cell phones, blackberries, emails or who knows where.

With email and cell phones, we have become a society always engaged. People take their cell phones to foreign lands while on vacations and text message from underground subways and health club locker rooms. Phones go off in church. Talk about always being "on"!

I grew up with 8 television stations. Now I have about 150 stations. And there is nothing to watch! Does that sound possible? The quality of television and cable TV programming leaves so much to be desired. So much of it is riddled with sex and violence and language that it is not appropriate for children and tasteless for adults as well.

Technology is here to stay and is important to use. Yet, we must not allow it to govern our daily lives or take away time we should be spending with friends and family.

Before she recently got a tape for her home telephone, my mother resisted doing so for some time. I would often say to her "Mom, if you do not have a tape, what do I do when I call" Her answer: "Call back". Of course I would, but I never thought of it in that way.

Food for thought...

MULCH YOUR TREE
The Department of Sanitation will collect and compost clean trees left at the curb from Thursday, January 3 through January 16, 2008. Or you can drop off trees on Saturday January 5th and Sunday January 6th from 10am to 2pm at Hawkins Street Park (City Island) Mazzei Playground (Williamsbridge Road and Mace Avenue) or Pelham Bay Park Parking Lot (Stadium Avenue and Middletown Road).


    Thursday, December 20, 2007

When we review projections for future population growth in our city one thing is clear New York City is in for a SeniorQuake (as opposed to an Earthquake of course)! What I mean is the number of people in their 50's coupled with the fact that many people are living far longer and well into their 90's, means that over the next 10-15 years New York City will see an unprecedented rise in the number of senior residents.

As Chairman of the Senior Citizen Center Subcommittee of the Council I am involved in shaping the Senior Center of tomorrow. Today, only 22 per cent of our seniors in New York City go to senior centers. Yet they offer a fantastic opportunity for nutritious meals, activities, information on available programs and social interaction.

Some seniors retire but never really stop working. The Center of tomorrow should be looking at employment and training opportunities for seniors. How to make use of technology will be important. Healthy living strategies that deal with grief and new relationship issues as well as mental and physical wellness issues must be included in senior programs.

At a given point and time, all of us should be able to say that the senior center is a place for me. There should be a program or activity that attracts each of us and Centers should be inviting and attractive for men and women.

I will also be taking part in a series of roundtables throughout the city where we will be discussing ways to make our city more senior friendly and how our city can best meet the needs of our "mature adults" I will, of course, have a lot to say. Any thoughts please drop me a note or send me an email. james.vacca@council.nyc.ny.us


    Thursday, December 13, 2007

NOTIFY NYC
Over the years I have been on the front lines of many a hurricane and storm that has hit our waterfront communities. Northeast storms have been especially threatening in low lying waterfront communities and frequently I was involved in setting up shelters and helping homeowners get assistance from storm and water related damages. Now, Mayor Bloomberg has announced a new plan for 5 of the 59 Community Board Districts in New York City where storms, weather and related conditions pose particular problems. I am especially proud that the Community District I represented for 26 years, District 10 (Pelham Bay, Throgs Neck, City Island, Zerega), was included in this plan and I hope to see District 11 in Pelham Parkway and Morris Park included as this program becomes increasingly successful.

By simply filling out an on-line registration form you will be, in effect, part of a reverse 911 system. To register on-line, please visit www.nyc.gov. If you do not have access to a computer but would still like to register, please contact my office at (718) 931 1721 and ask for Jennifer Rivera.

Get on the NOTIFY NYC list today!

WATER RATE VICTORY
Those of you who have read my column over the years know how long I have demanded action against thousands of water scofflaws in New York City who, by refusing to pay their bills, were forcing rates to go upward for you and me. Finally, the City Council and the Mayor have agreed to place liens against these water scofflaws and by doing so we have prevented yet another water rate hike scheduled for January 1st, 2008. Many thanks must go to Mayor Bloomberg on this one. Weeks ago at the City Council when he asked for this authority I was one of the few Council Members to support his request. Our neighborhood had buses ready to go to the Water Board hearing to oppose the hike and we may well have to do so again in 2008. With water rates already too high, we must remain alert!


    Thursday, December 6, 2007

WATER RATE OUTRAGE
As I write this column, we are again facing the prospect of a water rate hike. For the first time, if this occurs, water rates would be increased twice in one year! As your representative in the City Council I am fighting to make sure that we finally begin collecting from the water scofflaws who have avoided paying their bills all these years. Why should those of us who pay our bills have our rates increased because the city has not found a way to collect from water bill deadbeats?

We can fight this increase. The Water Board will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, December 13th at 9:00am at Lehman College, Carmen Hall Room B34. Please try to attend. If you need transportation, the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association will have a bus leaving from St. Benedicts Church on Bruckner Blvd at 8:15am. To reserve a seat call Tony Canata at 718-863-6755. The Northeast Bronx Association will also provide a bus from Waring Avenue and Eastchester Road at the same time. To reserve a seat call 718-231-8569. Please call today to reserve a seat.

MEDICARE QUESTIONS?
In conjunction with the Medicare Rights Center I will be holding an information day for seniors describing new costs and rules for Medicare Part D and the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage Plans on Tuesday, December 11th at 10am at Aging in America, Pelham Parkway South at Eastchester Road. Please call Meghan Lynch of my office if you need further information at 718-931-1721.

LIBRARY PROGRAMS
I will be sponsoring the following free programs at local libraries in conjunction with the NY Public Library system.

On Friday, December 7th at 3:30pm at the Van Nest Library, 2147 Barnes Avenue there will be "Why Read" with Bubble sculptures, plate spinning, magic, music and more in a fun-filled story presented by Laine Barton. Recommended for children age 5 to 12. For more information please call 718-829-5864.

On Wednesday December 19th at 3:30pm at the Morris Park Library, 985 Morris Park Avenue, the puppet show, "Katcha and the Devil and Other Stories from Czechoslovakia", will be presented by Vit Horejs. This is recommended for children age 5 to 12. For more information please call 718-931-0636.


    Friday, November 30, 2007

WATER BILL PAYMENT BREAK
This Saturday, December 1, from 11am to 3pm at the Hutchinson Metro Center, 1200 Waters Place, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and I will assist homeowners and sewer customer's eligible for DEP's one-time Payment Incentive Program (PIP). They will answer all water related questions residents may have concerning their water bills. Representatives of the NYC Department of Finance and the Department for the Aging will also be present to discuss available energy rebates through the HEAP program and answer resident's inquiries.

The PIP program is an effort to have over 8,000 owners of residential property settle past due water and sewer charges. DEP will agree to eliminate late payment charges for those homeowners back due who come on December 1 with a check or money order to pay up previous balances. Some customers may also qualify for bill reductions based on information and account review that day.

ZEREGA'S "PEARLY GATES"
Help is finally on the way for Pearly Gates Park at Tratman and St. Peters Avenue in the Zerega Community. As part of a $1.9 million dollar allocation I obtained along with Borough President Adolfo Carrior and Councilmember Annabel Palma, reconstruction work will begin on this playground next summer that will totally transform the playground, courts and comfort station. New gating will make the park more secure and the park will be made more neighborhood and children friendly. When taking office, the reconstruction of this long neglected park was one of my priorities and the Parks Department has now prepared a design that gives us the basic to go forth.

IS 192 ADULTED
Yes, our Adult Education Program at IS 192 in conjunction with Lehman College began in September and we are now planning for next term. Three courses, (yoga, tai-chi and GED prep) had sufficient enrollment for this term and we are hoping to expand further in the winter term. Presenting adults with leisure and recreational programs in the community during the evening hours was something I have worked toward for sometime. We have begun the effort and will soon announce next terms offerings. We thank Lehman College for their help!

COMMUNITY THEATRE
The NY Kids Theatrical Alliance will be putting on a production of George Bernard Shaw's PYGMALION on Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1st at 7pm at St. Catherine's Academy. Please call 646-406-3322 for tickets.


    Friday, November 23, 2007

FREE COMPUTER CLASSES
The Beacon School at IS 192, 650 Hollywood Avenue announced that registration is now open for free adult computer classes. Beginning on Monday, December 10th, classes will be held from 6pm to 8pm on Monday and Wednesday and on Saturday from 10am to 12 pm. The course teaches basic computer skills and Microsoft Word program such as Word, Excel, Power Point and Publisher. It is a beginner's course and a great opportunity for many adults to learn the basics. For further information or to register please call Janice Reyes, Center Director, at 718-239-4080.

NYS POLICE JOBS
The NYS Police has announced that they are recruiting for the position of NYS Trooper. Starting salary is $50,374 while at the Academy and rise to $77,218 after 5 years. The job offers a full benefits package, as well as promotional opportunities to the position of Investigator, Sergeant and Lieutenant. Applicants must be 20-29 years of age on the filing date and have a high school diploma, or equivalency, at the time of application. As well, applicants need 60 college credits to be appointed 30 of which may be waived due to military service or prior police officer training. For further information visit their web site at www.NYTROOPER.com or call 1-866-697-7392.

DEP OUTREACH
The Department of Environmental Protection is once again coming to our community to answer questions that homeowners may have regarding their water bills. This outreach will take place on Saturday, December 1st from 11am to 3pm at the Hutchinson Metro Center, located at 1200 Waters Place, Bronx, NY 10461.


    Friday, November 16, 2007

HEAP
Applications are available for the Home Energy Assistance Program for 2007-08. This is a federally funded grant applied to utility bills to help defray expenses for income eligible residents. And, as we know, heating expenses this year are expected to be quite high. Income guidelines for HEAP are $1,876 a month for a family of one, $2,454 for a family of two, $3,031 for a family of three and $3,609 for a family of four. There are certain income deductions and exclusions that can affect an applicant's income eligibility. For example, deductions may be made for seniors who pay for certified home health care services provided by someone other than a family member should documentation be provided. If you think you may qualify for HEAP, you can obtain an application by calling Meghan Lynch at 718-931-1721.

CARBON MONOXIDE
Do you have a carbon monoxide detector? If you don't it is urgent that you get one today. It can save your life and it is the law. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and toxic gas. It is called the "silent killer" because it is totally undetectable by human senses. Fuel burning appliance vehicles or tools that are inadequately vented or maintained can be a potential source of gas. Please note that the risk for danger rises during the winter months.

If you and other members of your family have constant headaches, breathing difficulties and general confusion over a period of time can be an indication of long term exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide. CO detectors must, by law, be installed within 15 feet of the primary entrance to all rooms used for sleeping purposes. Please check your batteries on a regular basis and have your heating systems and chimneys inspected during the coming season.


    Saturday, November 10, 2007

SENIOR DISABILITY RELIEF
If you are a senior or physically handicapped, two programs may be available to you at little or no cost should you wish to modify your home. Services for the Underserved perform home modifications such as grab bars, improved lighting, wider doors, and chair lifts at no cost to you. Families must be making under $30,293 a year. For information please call 718-403-9846 ext 248. United Cerebral Palsy also runs a similar program through its Doorway to Independence Program for both renters and owners. Those interested may call 1-212-979-9700 ext 720.

FLU SHOT REMINDER
Winter is fast approaching and now is the time to get your flu shot. I am sponsoring free flu shots at St. Clare's School in Morris Park at 1911 Hone Avenue in conjunction with Jacobi Medical Center on Tuesday, November 13 from 10am to 2pm and on Monday November 26 from 10am to 11:30 am at the Trinity Methodist Church at City Island Avenue and Bay Street, in conjunction with the Visiting Nurse Service of NY. Appointment are required and can be made by calling Jennifer Rivera in my office at 718-931-1721.

COMMUNITY THEATRE
One thing I love is Community Theatre. I have been able to provide funding to 4 such theatre groups in our community and attended recent shows presented by Spotlight Theatre and the City Island Theatre Group that were both fantastic! On November 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17 the Center Stage Community Playhouse will be performing the show "Doubt". It will be held at St. Peters Church, 2474 Westchester Avenue at Westchester Square. For more information about the play go to www.centerstageplayhouse.org or call 718-823-6434. I am sure all who attend will enjoy!

PS71
With PS71 in Pelham Bay now expanded to include students from grade 6, 7 and 8 I was pleased to officially dedicate the new intermediate school library at this school. I was able to allocate $125,000 in New York City Council Capital money so that this school can have its first middle school library! New furniture, books and computers are now in place and this well stocked library will meet the needs of upper grade students at this school.


    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

FLU SHOTS
In conjunction with Jacobi Medical Center, there will be free flu shots at St. Clare's School in the school gymnasium located at 1911 Hone Avenue on Tuesday, November 13 from 10.00am to 2pm. Also, in conjunction with The Visiting Nurse Service of NY, I will be providing free flu shots at the Trinity Methodist Church on Monday, November 26 from 10.00am to 11.30am. Appointments are necessary for both locations. Please call Jennifer Rivera in my office at 718-931-1721.

SENIOR HEALTH LIVING
I was pleased to announce last week the kick-off of the Healthy Aging Initiative I sponsored last year, which resulted in more than $1.3 million dollars being allocated to senior centers throughout the city to promote and initiate programs to improve senior health. Speaker Christine Quinn joined me at the Bronx event held at Throgs Neck JASA Senior Center and it was fantastic! We had Latin dance, a senior exercise program and a use-your-brain class which featured crossword puzzles and word jumbles. Other centers receiving funding are free to initiate fall prevention, coping with grief, or nutrition programs based on the needs of their membership.

As seniors live longer, we must recognize the need to improve their quality of life. Baby boomers coming of age must also be encouraged to attend their local senior centers and, hopefully, by expanding this program in the future even more seniors will have an opportunity to enhance their health and well being through locally based programs at their senior center. As Chair of the Senior Center Subcommittee of the City Council I will work toward this end try to build on our success.

2424 BOSTON ROAD
I was pleased to join seniors in the Pelham Parkway and Allerton community as we opened the new RAIN Boston Road Senior Center. After long delays due to inaction by the Housing Authority, I intervened so we could get the temporary certificate of occupancy from the Buildings Department and finally open the doors of this newly renovated multi-purpose senior center. Hats off to the seniors for their patience and to Rosemary Durso the Center Director.


    Sunday, October 28, 2007

WATER RATE FIGHT
This week, I joined with other Council members in fighting against yet another proposed water rate increase. In this fight, the Mayor is asking for permission to place tax liens against those who do not pay their water bills just like the city does against those who do not pay their real estate taxes. While there were those who hesitated in giving the Mayor their support, I was quite clear. Years ago I said it was unfair for water scofflaws to avoid their bills while you and I pay ever increasing ones to make up the difference. We have been literally soaked while those who know how to avoid the system have done so without consequence. It's like four people going to dinner and only three staying behind to pay the bill.

Any additional rate increase is uncalled for and last years increase should be rolled back as well. Did you know that these increases often find their way into the city general fund which ended with an over 5 million dollar surplus last year.

And most important we must encourage people to save water with a billing system that encourages conservation. That is not the case now when you could actually die from dehydration and your water bill would go up.

Lastly, I specifically mentioned that senior citizens on fixed income should be eligible for a rate freeze just as they are now through the homeowner's real estate exemption and STAR programs.

LIGHTHOUSE INTERNATIONAL
I will be visiting the North East Bronx Senior Citizen Center at 2968 Bruckner Boulevard, on Thursday, November 1st at 10:30, along with Lighthouse International, regarding the new Low Vision Rehabilitation Demonstration Project. This project adds a new dimension to traditional low vision services by providing payment for additional rehabilitation services that will enable people with vision loss to preserve their quality of life. If you have any questions please feel free to contact my office at 718-931-1721 and ask for Jennifer Rivera.


    Saturday, October 20, 2007

FREE MAMMOGRAM
I will be sponsoring a Mammography Van at the Allerton Homeowners Association, 1415 Allerton Avenue at Morgan Avenue on Monday, October 29, 2007 starting at 8am. This is a free service and an important one for women in our community. Appointments are required by calling 1-800-564-6868.

HISPANIC CULTURE MONTH
I was pleased to honor two special women active at St. Lucy's Church in Pelham Parkway as we celebrate Hispanic Culture Month. I honored Ms. Maria Cruz, who has been a long time volunteer in the ESL programs serving the Hispanic and Albanian community at St. Lucy's and Carmen Gonzalez, who offers hours of volunteer service to the St. Lucy's soup kitchen. Both of these women have offered quiet and dedicated service to so many in our community. I thank Father Norris for his help in making this celebration of Hispanic Culture so successful.

ITALIAN CULTURE MONTH
I was proud to honor Stella Bruno, our long time cook at the Northeast Bronx Senior Citizen Center at St. Benedicts Church, as part of Italian Culture Week celebrated at City Hall. Our senior citizen centers provide a fantastic service to our seniors. Yet the staff at these centers often goes unrecognized for their efforts. I chose to single out grandparents, parents and those who work on their behalf. Stella, thanks for all you do!

BETH ABRAHAM FAMILY DAY
Community residents are invited to Beth Abraham Nursing Home, 612 Allerton Avenue for Family Fun Day on Saturday, October 27, 2007 from 11am to 5pm. Carnival games, entertainment, face painting, pumpkin carving and pony rides are among the many free activities for young and old alike. For more information call 718-519-5951.


    Sunday, October 14, 2007

WESTCHESTER SQUARE LIBRARY EVENT
In conjunction with the NY Public Library, I am sponsoring a free Special Program for children at the Westchester Square Library, 2521 Glebe Ave, on Wednesday, October 17 at 4pm. It is called "Songs from the old School" a fun-filled children's concert with original songs for children age 5-12. Please bring your children to a wonderful day at the library!

FREE MAMMOGRAMS
In conjunction with the American-Italian Cancer Foundation, I am offering free mammogram screenings for women over 40 who have not had a mammogram in the past year. The van will be at the Allerton Ave, Homeowners and Tenant Associated 1415 Allerton Avenue, at Morgan Ave. On Monday, October 29 starting at 8am. If you have insurance coverage, please bring proof, co-payments will not be accepted. An appointment is necessary so please call 1-800-564-6868.

PS105
I was pleased to have made available City Council capital funding to PS 105 IN Pelham Parkway for a new computer lab. Last week I joined Mr. Eustace the Principal, staff and children to dedicate the room which features 34 new computers and an entire support system. I believe technology is important and will continue to advance similar projects throughout the district.


    Saturday, October 06, 2007

MORRIS PARK COLUMBUS PARADE
Sunday, October 7th will be the Bronx Columbus Day Parade on Morris Park Ave. Each year, it appears that more bands and schools participate and it's great to see so many people along Morris Park Ave. Please join us this year for what I am sure will be an even greater event, a day long block party on Bronxdale Avenue has been included as part of the festivities as well. Please join us for this wonderful celebration of Italian heritage!

The pre-parade dinner held at Maestro's was very well attended last Friday night. I was pleased to have provided a $10,000 grant from the New York City Council this year to help defray some of the expenses for the many activities that revolve around the parade. I extend congratulations to the Parade Committee of the Morris Park Community Association Chairman Tony Signorile and to the well deserving honorees.

LEHMAN HS "GREEN" PCLAB
As part of a $220,000 capital budget allocation I provided to Lehman HS, I recently joined staff, students and parents of the school in making the opening of one of the first energy-saving computer centers in the city. Each computer operates on five watts of electricity compared to the normal computer's 300 watts. This system will also allow for fuller use of technology throughout the school.

We certainly have come a long way. When I went to college I can remember how locky I was to have a typewriter that had the backspase key that was able to erase a typing mistake. I also remember using a lot of White-out (can you remember those days?) A computer then was a luxury and now it has become a necessity.

HOME IMPROVEMENT LOANS
homes. Interest rates range between 2.5-5% based on income and the payback period is up to 10 years. There are not home equity loans but seek to encourage the maintenance and upgrading of residential properties. To obtain information or an application, please call my office and speak to Manny Rivera at 718-931-1721


    Sunday, September 30, 2007

JOB SEARCH ASSISTANCE
Managed Work Services of New York (MWSNY) is a great organization that provides services to those individuals looking for a job. They also provide services to employers who need assistance recruiting and hiring employees. MWSNY provides training for many different job fields and is a great way to start your career search or recruit the right employee for your company. For more information and to learn more call 718-466-8200 or 800-510-2946.

JEWISH MUSICAL FESTIVAL
On Sunday, September 30th The Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway is sponsoring the 30th Annual Jewish Musical Festival in Pelham Parkway. Come and enjoy food, health exhibits and Jewish history displays. This event is free and will give families an opportunity to enjoy Israeli and Sephardic music as well as the other planned festivities. The festival will be located at the Comras Mall, Bronx Park East and Lydig Avenue, from 12.00pm - 5pm. For more information please call 718-792-4744.

ADULT EDUCATION
A few weeks ago I advertised Adult Education Courses being held at the Beacon I.S. 192 Center. If you are interested in the variety of courses that will be offered Monday-Thursday night, through Lehman College, please do not hesitate to sign up. These courses will include High School Equivalency Preparation (GED), Public Speaking Workshops, Notary Public Exam Prep, Creative Drawing, Yoga, T'ai Chi and Guitar lessons. With significant participation, I hope to introduce even additional courses in the months ahead.

Classes will begin on October 15 and run through December. For more information concerning program classes and fees residents are urged to call 718-960-8412 or go to www.lehman.edu/ce. Registration forms are also available in my office 3040 East Tremont Ave.


    Thursday, September 20, 2007

SATURDAY OFFICE HOURS
For those who work during the week and are perhaps not able to stop by my office to see me or my staff, I will have office hours on Saturday, September 29th from 1pm to 3pm. My office is located at 3040 East Tremont Avenue, Bronx New York 10461, Rm. 104. Please stop by and say hello.

METRO CARD VAN
The New York City Transit Authority and I will sponsor a Metro Card Mobile Sales Van to visit Santa Maria Church in Zerega Community on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 from 1pm to 3pm. The van will be located in front of 2352 St. Raymond Avenue, Bronx, NY 10462. Metro card reduced fare for seniors and those with disabilities will also be available.

ALLERTON TRANSPORTATION SUPPORT
It was my pleasure to recently visit with the senior citizens of the Allerton Avenue Homeowners and Tenant Association and provide them with a grand to help defray the costs of insurance incurred on their van. As chairman of the Senior Citizen Center Committee of the City Council I know how important transportation is for the elderly. As we all realize, the cost of insurance has risen drammatically often making it difficult for nonprofits to survive and provide needed services.

SIDEWALK SALE
The Throgs Neck Merchant Association will hold its first annual sidewalk sale on September 22 from 10am to 5pm. Please come to East Tremont Avenue between Waterbury & Miles Avenue and support your local merchants.


    Saturday, September 15, 2007

ADULT EDUCATION
I am pleased to report that Lehman Collage and I will co-sponsor Adult and Continuing Education classes this fall at IS 192, 650 Hollywood Ave at Randall Ave.

Many adults in the Northeast Bronx want to go back to school to improve their personal development or advance their careers, but find traveling across the borough may be too large of an impediment. By offering Adult and Continuing Education evening courses at IS 192, we are making education and career advancement more accessible to residents in my district and other parts of the borough.

A variety of courses will be offered Monday - Thursday night that will include High School Equivalency Preparation (GED), Public Speaking workshops, Notary Public Exam Prep, Creative Drawing, Yoga, T'ai Chi and Guitar lessons. With significant participation, I hope to introduce even additional courses in the months ahead.

Classes will begin on October 15 and run through December. For more information concerning program classes and fees residents are urged to call 718-960-8412 or go to www.lehman.edu/ce. Registration forms are also available in my office 3040 East Tremont Ave.

SENIOR STROLL 2007
September is Senior Citizen Month and activities will be continuing through October. On Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 10am at Orchard Beach there will be senior walk organized by the Department for the Aging. Bring a good pair of sneakers and enjoy! To register call 212-442-8962 or 311.


    Friday, September 07, 2007

LIGHTNING SPEED!
No, I am not talking about Superman. I am speaking about how some people drive on the streets of our community.

Wherever I go, be it a civic association meeting, the supermarket or the block party I am approached by residents asking for speed bumps, speed limit signs, four way STOP signs and many other traffic control traffic control devices. It has become all too common. It sends a message the speeding of cars is not limited to this street or that street but rather is a community wide problem. As a motorist and pedestrian, I can personally attest to what I see and the caution I use when getting out of the car. Also, the old saying that you could be the best driver in the world but it is the next driver you must watch for is true now more than ever.

Even crossing the street with the light following the walk, don't walk signs are not always safe. You often have anxious drivers coming from you at all directions. Pedestrians must look to the left, right and then left again before stepping off the curb.

For a better community, we must all analyze our driving habits and see if we are often in a hurry to go nowhere.

GRANDPARENTS WALK
Don't forget this Saturday, September 8. It is the Third Annual Grandparents Walk. The Department for the Aging and I are co-sponsoring this event which will be held at the Pelham Bay Park Running Track (Stadium Ave. and Middletown Road entrance) Registration starts at 9am and the walk starts at 10am. Also, free blood pressure, diabetes and asthma screenings will be available. For the children, there will be face painting, storytelling, kite flying and giveaways. To pre-register call 718-902-6626.

MOVIE IN THE PARK
I am sponsoring a Movie in Park at Loretto Park, Tomlinson Ave and Morris Park Ave on Friday, September 7 at 7:15 pm. The movie is the comedy "Click" starring Adam Sandler. Bring your family, a beach chair and enjoy!


    Saturday, September 01, 2007

LITTER AND DOG FINES
Yes, the New York City Council voted to increase fines for those who use litter baskets for their personal household waste or commercial garbage. And, yes, the Dept of Sanitation has announced they will increase fines on those who do not pick up dog waste as required by law. I support both measures but let's not kid ourselves.

Litter baskets are for litter. But how often have you seen baskets full of bags large and small? That means rather than the candy wrapper, tissue or ice cream stick, someone has chosen to dump their garbage in a basket designed for litter. Increasing the fines for those who do such a thing is great. However, we now need the commitment of the Sanitation Dept to open these bags of garbage and find evidence that would pinpoint the dumper. The city catching the offender in the act is going to indeed be difficult. Only by aggressively acting to address this problem can we prevent basket overflow due to misuse.

Increasing the dog fines is another story. We do not have a dog problem. We have a people problem. The "dog" law has no bark and no bite. Fines should be increased, but this law now requires that a sanitation agent catch the dog in the act of pooping and the owner then leaving the scene without picking up. This is difficult, especially when we have those who look like they have every intention of removing their dogs waste by carrying a newspeper under their arms even though they never use it. Or when the entire Canine Unit in the Bronx has three agents.

Or how about people who make every excuse in the world when caught. Some say they are just not picking up TODAY. Or how about those who say they do not walk their dogs in the street: they use service roads of highways or parks instead so they thought it was OK?

For years, one of the most common complaints I have received is about people who just do not get it. If you have a dog, you have a responsibility. Many people have asked for more pooper scooper signs (PS the city no longer makes them). These signs were fine. The truth of the matter, dogs cannot read. These signs were meant to remind people who know full well about the law on the books and have no intention of cleaning up.

Bottom line: A cleaner community means all of us doing our part. There is no substitute for people who care. Renters and owners in our community all have a stake in the quality of life we enjoy. I told a lot of people at City Hall about both these issues. They are not new to me! I expect to see more summonses issued in the year ahead or increasing the fines will amount to even more you know what...


    Monday, August 27, 2007

MOVIE IN THE PARK
Please note that I am sponsoring a Movie in the Park at Bronx Park East and Waring Ave on Friday, August 31 at 7:30pm. The movie is "Pirates of the Caribbean" starring Johnny Depp. Please come and bring a beach chair.

SENIOR WALK-A-THON
The Dept of Aging and I are sponsoring a grandparent's walk-a-thon and health fair on Saturday, September 8, 2007 at 10am sharp at the Pelham Bay Park Track area. Registration for the health fair will be at 9:00am.

Take a walk! Seriously, I would love to see as many seniors as possible because walking is so healthy for all of us. There will also be free testing for diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. In fact, the entire family is welcome! There will be face painting, storytelling and kite flying for the little ones as well.

Exercise is invaluable for seniors and even us baby boomers. Exercising with friends and neighbors is a great way to get into a healthy habit.

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE
Homeowners are reminded that if you are in danger of foreclosure or have concerns or questions, help and assistance is a phone call away. Last year, I provided funding through the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corp (NIDC) for a Mortgage Foreclosure Counseling Program. Know your rights, get information on lending institutions and obtain legal assistance to avert this growing problem. Having information at your fingertips is important and this service gives you that opportunity. Please call NIDC at 718-231-9800.


    Thursday, August 16, 2007

PARENT LEADERSHIP
When we think of leaders, we think of presidents, kings and queens or mayors. But the true leaders of today are parents. We may not realize it but we are called upon to lead everyday and our impact hits closest to home where it counts!

Make no mistake, children look for leadership. They detect weakness and respect authority that is fair and consistent. Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are influential with children from birth right through their teenage years. Did you ever hear the expression "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree?" We cannot forget that children have big ears, they will be influenced by our language, attitude and demeanor. They will be given strength to resist negative peer pressure because of values we impart as they get older or they will be too weak and follow peer pressure rather than lead themselves.

Parents are tempted, however, to do what is popular or push off responsibility on someone else (sounds like politics, right?) Leading by example is very important. How we treat those we live and work with every day will send a much more profound message than the expensive gift we may buy or giving in to a child's every whim.

Yes, it's all about leadership. Good principals lead good schools, effective learning is led by good teachers, even an exercise class requires someone to set the tone and have high expectations. As we approach the opening of school, we will want our schools to do as much as possible to help our kids. Yet educators are depending on families to do their share, too. So much really starts at home.

REMINDERS
This Friday, August 17th at 8:30pm, Movie in the Park "The Pursuit of Happiness" with Will Smith at Bronx Park East and Waring Avenue. Bring a chair and enjoy!

My staff and I will be bringing our office to residents of Pelham Parkway this Tuesday, August 21 from 6pm to 8pm at Pelham Parkway Jewish Center, 900 Pelham Parkway South at Muliner Avenue. If we can assist, come by!


    Friday, August 10, 2007

PELHAM PKWY OFFICE HOURS
My staff and I will be bringing our office one step closer to the residents of Pelham Parkway on Tuesday August 21st from 6pm to 8pm at the Pelham Parkway Jewish Center, 900 Pelham Parkway South at Muliner Ave. Issues in the community where my staff can help, information about benefit programs for tenants, seniors, home improvement loans administered through the city, HEAP, rent increase exemption program information and other concerns will be addressed. I look forward to saying hello!

MOVIE IN THE PARK
In conjunction with NIDC, I am sponsoring a MOVIE IN THE PARK at Bronx Park East and Warning Ave North of Pelham Park on Friday August 17 at 8:30pm. "The Pursuit of Happiness" starring Will Smith will be featured. Bring your family, a beach chair and enjoy!

INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS
In the past, I have spoken of the need to improve our intermediate schools. In fact, I testified before the City Council Special Task Force about this crisis many of our middle schools face and the need to reform and improve upon them. This year, with funding we provided through the New York City Council, a parent-school communication system enabling parents, teachers, students and school administrators to communicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the Internet or telephone with regards to homework assignments and other important announcements will be implemented at all intermediate schools in my district. As the school year begins principals will be contacted and given further information on this important HIP (Helping Involve Parents) initiative I supported at the City Council.


    Saturday, August 04, 2007

ALZHEIMER,S SUPPORT
Please note that the Alzheimer,s Association of NY provides a 24 Helpline providing information, referrals and support to family members, professional caregivers, persons with dementia and people needing services from trained volunteers and staff. Translation is available in 140 languages. Short term counseling and support for families with the disease and assistance in care planning is provided. The Helpline is 1-800-272-3900.

In addition, home meal delivery, support groups and educational programming is also available. The association also provides medicare counseling, emergency services and special assistance funding. In addition, they participate in a nationwide identification, support and registration program that provides help should a person with this diagnosis becomes lost or missing. Please make note of the Helpline number 1-800-272-3900, the website which is www.alznyc.org or call Ms. Nicky Imbert for more information.

BRONX ZOO EVENTS
This weekend (August 4 and August 5) the Bronx Zoo will celebrate National Kids Week with events that include dance performances, storytelling, a family science fair, a wildlife costume party, crafts and a whole host of animal fun activities. For more information call 718-220-5131 or go to the Zoo web site at www.bronxzoo.com

SENIOR HOMEOWNER TAX
If you are a senior citizen homeowner, co-op or condo owner over age 65 you may qualify for a 5% to 50% tax break on your city real estate tax. Seniors can make up to $34,399 which is based on your adjusted gross income minus medical expenses and part of your social security. Hundred's of thousands of homeowners in our city who qualify do not receive such benefits because they have not applied. For further information go to www.nyc.gov/finance or for seniors not internet savvy please call Mike in my district office at 717-931-1721 for help and further information.


    Monday, July 30, 2007

FREE ADULT EDUCATION COURSES
The Bronx Adult Learning Center, located at 3450 East Tremont Avenue at Bruckner Boulevard, offers a variety of free adult education courses. Below is a list of courses that are offered at the center. For more information please call 718-863-4057.

Introduction to Computers - This course aims to familiarize students with the operating system and other components of a computer. Students will also be taught the most popular computer software programs which will help give them basic computer knowledge.

Auto Mechanics - This introductory course will instruct students on the operation of an engine, chassis repair, identification and mechanical components of the brake system, repair brake system and car suspension. The course is instructed by an ASE certified instructor.

Certified Nursing Assistant - This course will prepare students for a nursing assistance certification. Students will receive 130 hours of instruction and 30 hours of supervised clinical experience in a long term care facility. All participants must complete 20 hours of volunteer work experience in order to complete their certificate.

Civics Education - This program offers students instruction in the language skills and civics knowledge necessary to attain citizenship.

Carpentry - This program is designed to instruct students in carpentry skills through project based instruction. The students receive instruction on the use of hand tools that are utilized in the carpentry profession, construct individual and group projects, acquire mathematics skills required in the profession, dry wall, rigging, house design and construction. Upon completion of each module, students will receive National certification.

DID YOU KNOW?
There is direct bus service from the Pelham Bay Park train station to Westchester County. The Bee-Line Bus stops at the Pelham Bay Park station and provides bus service to New Rochelle and Eastchester. For more information on fares and bus schedules, please call 914-813-7777 on weekdays between the hours of 7am - 7pm or visit: beelinebus.westchestergov.com.


    Saturday, July 21, 2007

T.N.HOUSES YOUTH FAIR
Congressman Joseph Crowley and I are sponsoring a day of family fun at Throgs Neck Houses, Schley and Balcom Ave. This Sunday, July 22 from 12pm to 3pm. Free arts and crafts, the Museum of Natural History Movable Exhibit and health screenings are among those activities included. Please stop by with your family.

CORRECTION OFFICER TEST
The New York City Department of Correction has provided applications for the Department of Correction test being given on November 3, 2007 and three times in 2008. Please stop by my district office if you are interested.

SENIOR SERVICE DAY
My staff and I will be holding a Senior Citizen Service Day on Thursday, July 26 from 10am to 12pm at the City Island Library, 320 City Island Ave. Information on all available social services including HEAP and Lifeline as well as the Senior Citizen and Disabled Tax Exemptions will be available. The Visiting Nurse Service will also provide blood pressure screening, health care proxy forms and medicare information. No appointment is necessary. Please feel free to visit us.

DID YOU KNOW...
If you turn in an old working air-conditioner and purchase a new Energy Star unit you can be eligible for rebates from between $35-$100. Call 1-877-NY-SMART for a list of participating retailers and locations where you can turn in your old air-conditioner and get the rebate application information.


    Saturday, June 30, 2007

PS 97 SCHOOL YARD
Over two years, parents and administrators at PS 97 in the Allerton community showed me a school yard that was broken up and posed little opportunity for children to play and exercise. As we continue to fight childhood obesity and recognize that recreational activity is an essential component for the physical and social development of our children, we cannot underestimate how important the constructive use of our school yards can be.

I was pleased to have funded and, last week, cut the official ribbon for a new playground at PS 97. It consists of safety surfaces that include a running track, math games, educational graphics, a new baseball diamond, soccer field and a new jungle gym. Thanks to the principal and parents for their assistance in the planning and design process.

SENIORS AND COMPUTERS
Seniors are you computer literate? If not, why? I realize we have a way to go, but just think how great it would be if seniors became comfortable with e-mailing and going on the Internet. In our technological world, this knowledge opens up a whole new world and allows seniors to keep in touch with friends and family and even email me to let me know how they feel on community issues! This year, Monroe College partnered with the Northeast Bronx Senior Center and provided training for seniors at their New Rochelle Campus. The City Council funded a computer training session for seniors at Middletown Plaza and I was honored to attend their "graduation" ceremony. In fact, at their request, I was able to provide a computer for Morris Park AARP seniors so they can better maintain their records that's what I like to hear!!

In the new city budget, I was able to provide additional support opportunities for seniors who want to learn computers. Years ago, did we ever envision such a computer age? But it is here and seniors can benefit.

AUTISTIC CHILDREN
Speaking of computers a wonderful school at Westchester Avenue and Water Place, PS 721 serving autistic young adults, had a great graduation ceremony I was honored to attend. This year, we were able to obtain a new updated computer room for the students here, training them for work and careers. Hats off to all our graduates of 2007.


    Monday, June 25, 2007

TAX RELIEF!
For months I have been reporting to you my efforts, and those of many of my colleagues, to bring real estate tax relief to property owners in our city. Each year, homeowners receive a $400 rebate which is less than the yearly increase in assessments. I fougth hard this year to give owners of small homes, co-ops and condos a net savings and I am pleased to report that the final budget approved by the City Council and the Mayor have such saving.

In the coming year, in addition to the $400 rebate, there will also be a 7% reduction in the actual property tax rate. This should amount to approximately $225. Also, at the Council's request, the State will be capping any shift from commercial to residential properties at 0%, which should result in a net savings of an additional $70. Finally, the $400 rebate will actually be money in our pockets and rightfully as our city has an over $4 billion surplus.

Other items, however, still remain on the table. The State never approved the Council's request for a $300 renter's rebate. I believe strongly that, with rising rents due to ever increasing assessments and water bills, tenants have had many of the increases passed along and we must try to assist them as well.

Water rates are a special bothersome point with me. The 10% increase of this year and next years' planned 10% increase are outrageous. With the emphasis on the environment under the Mayors 2030 plan, we have to stress water conservation which can only be achieved by changing the way we bill water usage. Right now 158% of your water bill is based on the sewer charge. We should go to a more usage based bill so that homeowners who conserve will be rewarded with lower bills.

WATER BILL QUESTIONS
On Tuesday, june 26th from 5:00-8:00 pm I will be hosting a DEP Customer Service Event. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be coming to our neighborhood to answer questions you may have regarding your water bill. The event will be held at the Hutchinson Metro Center, 1200 Waters Place (South Lobby Entrance) between Eastchester Road and Westchester Avenue, near Pathmark. For more informaton, please call 718-595-3496.


    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

STRENGTHENING FAMILIES WORKSHOP
In conjunction with Full Circle Health, I will be sponsoring a Strengthening Families Workshop at the Hutchinson Metro Cafe', 1200 Waters Place on Saturday, June 16th from 9:30 - 12:30 pm. This workshop will teach you ways to address problems in parent/child relationships, build positive interpersonal communication, foster a good home environment and reduce family breakdown. To RSVP, call 718-518-7600. Our families are important to all of us. Feel free to take advantage of this opportunity.

WATER BILL QUESTIONS
On Tuesday, June 26th from 5:00 - 8:00 pm. I will be hosting a DEP Customer Service Event. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be coming to our neighborhood to answer questions you may have regarding your water bill. This DEP Customer Service Event is designed to give the community an opportunity to speak with someone in person about issues they may be having with their water bill. The event will be held at the Hutchinson Metro Center, 1200 Water Place (South Lobby Entrance) between Eastchester Road and Westchester Avenue, near Pathmark. For more information please call 718-595-3496.

ART IN OUR SCHOOLS
I am pleased to have provided arts programs through the Bronx Arts Ensemble at 2 additional schools in our area. At St. Francis de Chantal in Throgs Neck a wonderful art program was provided for grades 6 and 7 and in St. Francis Xavier in Morris Park 8th graders learned ballroom dancing (isn't that gread!). All of our children need exposure to cultural programs and I am pleased these programs were so well received.

DENTALVAN
I am pleased to announce that on June 18th and 25th the NYU College of Dentistry's Smiling Faces, Going Places Mobile Dental Van Program will be visiting P.S. 72. The mobile van will be on school grounds between the hours of 3:30 pm - 8pm. This is a completely free program, with or without dental insurance. If you would like to have your school-aged child visit the Dental Van, please call Ms. Liana Lindsey, Parent Coordinator of P.S. 72 at: 718-822-5311 ext. 108 to set up an appointment.


    Friday, June 08, 2007

TAX RELIEF
As the Mayor and the NYC Council continue to work toward the adoption of the city budget before the June 30 deadline, one of my major priorities will continue to be meaningful tax reduction for the owners of one and two family homes as well as, for the first time, a tenant's rebate.

Although the proposed tenant rebate of $300 for the coming year also requires state approval, the Mayor has agreed to continue the $400 homeowner rebate and add a 5% reduction in the property tax rate as well. This cut would mean another $150-$200 tax decrease for the average homeowner. Along with Speaker Quinn and many of my colleagues from Staten Island and Brooklyn, I am pushing for a further cut, especially in light of the anticipated city surplus which could hit $5 billion this year. Certainly, when you consider increasing assessments it becomes incumbent upon us to return money to the taxpayers and give us a net decrease rather than a reduction that would still fall short of the yearly assessment increases we have seen.

OUR HEALTH
Rather than depend on others to take care of us in future years, would't it be easier to take care of ourselves today? It's a simple question and the answer seems obvious. Yet, we are afflicted with major health issues in our city. Obesity impacts our borough more than any other. We know we must watch what we eat but all too many times we watch it as it goes down. I was recently shocked to learn that over 51% of senior citizens in our city smoke. Asthma rates remain high, aggravated by car fumes as traffic grows not only on highways but directy adjacent to residential communities such as the New England Thruway, Bruckner Expressway and Cross Bronx Expresssway, as well as on commercial and local strrets throughout our neighborhoods.

Only recently, Speaker Quinn and City Council members resolved to take part in a major campaign to combat the decline in the number of women who receive breast cancer screenings. Regular mammograms are recommended for women over age 40, yet exam rates in our city are down. This check-up is an important preventive measure. The Health and Hospitals Corp., through the city hospital system, offers such exams and information is available through 311. Women with insurance should contact their family doctor or specialist and get this exam done regurarly. For those who are uninsured, the American Cancer Society on Eastchester Road near Pelham Parkway is offering free exams. Those without insurance may call 718-547-5064, ext. 214 and ask for Ms. O'Hanlon for an appointment.

Colon cancer is the number 2 cancer killer in the US and claims 1,500 NYC residents a year. Last year, I supported an initiative in the City Council that resulted in funding to provide exams for the uninsured. When caught early the 5 year survival rate is 90%. Right now, 66% of colon cancer diagnoses in NYC occur in the later stages, when there are fewer treatment options. A colonoscopy is the only test that prevents colon cancer. See your doctor and make that appointment today! As someone who has already had one, there is really nothing to it drinking the salty pre-exam mixture is more of an imposition that the exam. If you do not have insurance, call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 and arrange for an exam today.


    Friday, June 01, 2007

NEW CITY WIDE GRAFFITI REGULATION
Recently enacted law requires property owners to remove graffiti from their building or allow the city to remove it from them. Upon receiving a complaint through 311 the Department of Sanitation will issue a notice and will give property owners sixty days to remove the graffiti. The property owner can either remove the graffiti or grant the city permission to remove the graffiti by filling out a consent form. Failure to do either within sixty days will result in fines up to $300 for the property owner.

When reporting graffiti to 311, residents should make sure to get a complaint number that will allow them to easily track their complaint. This law does not apply during the winter months because the city,s graffiti removal machine can not operate during the colder months.

FORECLOSURE PREVENTION SEMINAR:
I will be hosting a Foreclosure prevention workshop, along with Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation on Tuesday, June 12th at 7pm in the Lehman High School Library at 3000 East Tremont Avenue. The workshop will provide those in attendance with tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of predatory lending schemes, discuss reverse mortgages, as well as provide other valuable home buying information. For more information please call Andrew Laisoa at 718-231-9800 ext. 17.

MOVIE IN THE PARK:
I have once again partnered up with NIDC this summer for "Movies in the Park." The schedule for June is: Bronx Park East at Waring Avenue:

* Friday, June 1st at 8:10pm, "The Pursuit of Happiness"

* Friday, June 15th at 8:25pm, "Happy Feet"

Bring a beach chair and enjoy!


    Sunday, May 27, 2007

SCHOOL SUCCESS
With funding from the NYC Council, I was happy to sponsor student productions in conjunction with the theatre company "Inside Broadway" at both PS 71 and PS 108. Getting on stage is a great experience and I know we have many future stars! Also, at Santa Maria School and PS 89 a peer tutoring program involving 7th graders helping students in early childhood grades is another initiative the Council funded which we brought to our community.

LIBRARY EVENTS
I am pleased to sponsor the following events for children age 5-12 at our local branch libraries in the month of June:

* The Allerton branch will present "Mighty Action Racket Theater Workshop" on Tuesday, June 4 at 4pm. Pre-registration is required by calling the branch at 718-881-4240.

* City Island Library will have "Stories and Tales from Around the World" for ages 5-12 on Wednesday, June 6 at 3:30 pm.

* Throgs Neck Library will have solve a mistery day with "Sherlock Holmes on the Case" on Friday, June 8 at 3:30pm.

* Van Nest Library will present "Stories of Heroes" on Friday, June 8 at 3:30pm.

MOVIES IN THE PARK
I have once again partnered up with NIDC this summer for "Movies in the Park." The schedule for June is: Bronx Park East at Waring Avenue: Friday, June 1st at 8:10 pm. Friday, June 15 at 8:25 pm.

Bring a beach chair and enjoy!


    Friday, May 18, 2007

PARENT EVALUATIONS
Recently, parents of public school children in our city received school evaluation reports from the Department of Education asking that they assess their child's school. I urge all parents who received them to mail them back by the June 1 deadline set by the Chancellor.

Indeed, it will be interesting to note how many of these three page questionnaires will actually be returned. Yes, parents were given two weeks to fill them out and a self-addressed stamped envelope was even enclosed. But, I must confess that when I first heard the Chancellor announce this effort, I could not help but ask myself; Now that parents will assess the schools, who will assess the parents?

We cannot doubt that there is a lack of parent participation in our school system. It goes beyond the PTA meeting, it goes to the home. Schools are called upon to do so much that really has to start in the home or be supplemented by parents. I was pleased to note that the Chancellor's questionnaire asked many pointed questions along these lines which actually require parents to look in the mirror and question whether they are carrying their weight in assuring their child's educational and social success.

Role modelings is very important. Only as recently as last week, shopping in the neighborhood, I heard two adults who each maintained they had the right of way with their shopping carts, curse each other in the boldest of terms in public in front of their children and other youngsters. It was not the first time I witnessed such over the top behavior. While I strongly believe in after school programs and have increased their availability in the community, they are no substitute for parents who provide socialization and homework help for their children in the home. The Chancellors questionnaire also asks how often parents seek teacher conferences concerning their chil's work or drop the school a note when they see their child struggling an appropriate question indeed.

We must insist that our schools and the Department of Education have high expectations for our children. Parents must also encourage their children to excel academically and insist that they treat others the way they would want to be treated the old golden rule. When it comes to language, bullying, study skills and values of decency, yes, so much starts in the home. When I see youngsters 13-17 out on the streets until 10pm or later on school nights, I must ask: Where are the parents?

New York City must turn around its schools. It is fair to hold the Chancellor, principals and teachers accountable. However, we as parents, must be held accountable as well. We are an integral part of our child's development socially and academically. We must step up to the plate and assess if we are doing enough to provide our children the well rounded basis for success they need as they mature and become capable of making their own decisions as they approach high school, college and beyond.


    Friday, May 11, 2007

OLDER AMERICANS MONTH
This is National Older Americans Month. Senior citizens today are one of, if not the most powerful group in our country. Seniors are active, involved, knowledgeable, experienced and they vote. Seniors are living to be older. This month alone I attended a 90th, 94th and 100th birthday of ladies and gentlement who are an inspiration. In fact, seniors living in NYC live longer than seniors across the country as a whole.

Did you know there are 1.3 million seniors over age 60 now living in NYC, an increase of 2.6% over 2000? Female seniors outnumber male seniors by a ratio of 1.5 to 1 and 35% of our seniors live alone (a majority of them being women). The average income of singles living alone is $14,050. What does this all mean?

With living longer, the question becomes: What is the quality of life seniors will enjoy? As Chairman of the Senior Citizen Center Subcommittee of the New York City Council, I am sponsoring a healthy aging initiative seeking funding for exercise, nutrition and health screening programs that contribute to the mental and physical well being of our seniors. I have also stressed the need to assist seniors learn computers and have Internet access. Whether it is the rent freeze or homeowner tax freeze or the ever increasing water bills, we must always consider the plight of seniors on fixed income and protect them from an even further burden living in high tax NYC.

Our Council District has one of the highest proportions of seniors in the city. That's why this year i've brought concerts to our senior centers, initiated computer training opportunities, successfully fought to increase the meal allotments for our centers, resolved rent disputes that threatened the continuance of existing programs and provided funding for transportation to senior centers in our community. We will do more. When I joined AARP upon turning 50 I realized that while I will never retire, I have an opportunity at the City Council to make senior services a priority in the years ahead.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY
As we celebrate Mother's Day Sunday and Father's Day in June, let's take a moment to remember the importance of family in our lives. Today the family unit takes on many shapes and forms, but it remains the basis for the support and encouragement people of all ages need from those closest to them. If you know a family in crisis, reach out and help as all too often there are services out there that are but a phone call away.


    Monday, May 07, 2007

WATER BILLS
As I testified last week at the Water Board "public hearing" concerning their plan to increase water rates by 11.5%, I could not believe what I heard. The Executive Director of the Board actually stated that because water usage was down by 2.5% water rates would have to go up!

How good is your memory? Do you remember when water meters were installed, homeowners were told if we saved water our rates would go down? The city even gave us all these fixtures for our showers and sinks and told us to check for leaks. Now, as we use less water because we are conscious of our civic responsibility and try to bring our bills down, we learn that the more water we save the more our bill will go up! Indeed, your sewer charge is 158% of your water charge. I was not far off when I said at the hearing that we could die of dehydration and our bills would still go up.

This increase will mean an additional $78 per year for one family homeowners and $128 a year for 2 family homeowners. To boot, the city has also told us they will probably raise rates again next year. Of course, tenants will be affected too as many homeowners, especially those least able to pay, such as seniors or disabled owners, may pass along the increase causing a domino affect on rents. Outrageous when you consider we are being soaked because of project cost overruns and thousands of water scofflaws who refuse to pay their bills. Another case of broken promises and a lack of transparency when we ask not only why another hike, but where is all this money going. I will continue to fight against future rate hikes until we force deadbeats to pay their bills, we can provide rate exemption for seniors, the disabled and veterans and until we give people real incentives to save water through water bill reduction.

LIBRARY SUPPORT
Our libraries are very important to our community. Recently, I was pleased to have announced city funding I secured to replace the air conditioning and heating system at Westchester Square Library (not replaced since it was built in 1955), a new water ejector system for the Allerton branch to prevent flooding in the downstairs community room and completion of work on the new roof at the City Island Library. I have also sponsored a host of children's shows at our local branches in conjunction with the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs.


    Friday, April 27, 2007

FREE MAMMOGRAPHY SCREENING
In conjunction with the New York City Council, the American-Italian Cancer Foundation (AICF) will be offering free mammography screening over the next few months. The screenings are open to women of all ages and are provided free of charge.

Below is a list of the dates, times and locations that the AICF mobile mammography unit will be in our area. To make an appointment for these dates, please call 1-800-564-6868.

* Thursday, May 10 - St. Francis de Chantal at 190 Hollyhood Avenue, 8am - 2pm. * Monday, June 11 - Morris Park Community Association on Bronxdale Avenue, 8am - 2pm. * Friday, June 29 - Pelham Pkwy Houses at 2425 Williamsbridge Road, 8am - 2pm. * Thursday, July 7 - Eastchester Center at 2330 Eastchester Road, 8am - 2pm.

There will also be a screening on Wednesday, July 11 at Fort Schuyler from 12pm - 4pm. The number to call to make an appointment for that date is 1-800-453-8378.

For any further information you can call my Constituent Liaison, Meghan Lynch, at 718-931-1721 or visit the AICF website at www.AICFonline.org.

PARENTS OF A.N.G.E.L.S
The Parents of A.N.G.E.L.S offers a monthly support group for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Their meetings provide the opportunity to share insights, resources and other information, that can help make life better for their children with ASDs. So that caregivers can remain current on the latest issues and developments within the ASDs community, the organization.s meetings have featured presentations on autism research projects, government benefits, educational modalities, as well as practical information from doctors and attorneys.

The Parents of A.N.G.E.L.S also offers a resource center containing books, pamphlets, computer programs, and other materials about autism. For more information, you can call the Parents of A.N.G.E.L.S at 718-931-0515 or email them at info@bxangels.org.


    Monday, April 23, 2007

COMMERCIAL TRUCKS
I have proposed legislation in the City Council to increase the fines on commercial vehicles parking on residential streets.

For years many residents have noted that commercial vans and trucks, as well as tractor trailers park on their streets and service roads over night and often all day. One of the problems in combating this practice is the fines for such offenses are to low, many vehicle owners would rather pay the fine because it still amounts to less than the storage thay would have to pay to park their vehicles legally. By increasing fines, we will send an even stronger message that residential streets are not a free ride for commercial vehicles.

WATER BILL
As I predicted several months ago, the NYC Water Board had another rate increase up their sleeves. Indeed, they intend to soak homeowners with an 11.5% increase in rates. I am sure many of you will remember that when the water meters were installed, the city promised that those of us who conserved water would see our rated go down. The truth is we could all die of dehydration and still have our bills go up, the bill is based more on the sewer rate rather than usage. And in the case of water rates, no allowance is made for seniors, veterans or those on fixed income. I must also warn, as I have at City Hall hearings, that plans for yearly increases are likely as well. A hearing on the city's plans is set for Wednesday, April 25th at 9:30 am at Lehman College Schuster Hall room B34. I will be there and hope you will too.

MORRIS PARK PATROL
I was pleased to have obtained a grant for the Morris Park Community Association Civilian patrol. Neighborhood patrols are more important to communities and serve as the eyes and ears to the police department. Volunteers are always needed to keep these patrols active and visible. The Association is looking for area residents who could give some time, those available to help may call 718-823-0596.


    Friday, April 13, 2007

SENIOR CITIZEN CONCERTS
In conjunction with the Bronx Arts Ensemble I have provided funding for the first April Concert Series at six senior centers in my district. The series will consist of music from the "Quintet" that will include both popular and classical music selections.

The first concert was held Wednesday at Aging in America. Other concerts will be held on Tuesday, April 17, 12pm at Bronx House, 990 Pelham Parkway South, Wednesday, April 18 at 1pm at Northeast Bronx Senior Center, 2968 Bruckner Blv., Monday, April 23 at 1pm at Rain Middletown Plaza Senior Center, 3033 Middletown Road, Thursday, April 26, 12pm JASA Randall-Balcom Senior Center, 2705 Schley Avenue and Friday, April 27 at Sue Ginsberg Senior Center, 975 Waring Avenue. Senior should feel free to enjoy any of the events above at their local senior center.

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE
As many of you may have read, foreclosures are becoming an increasing concern in our city and throughout the nation. With the dramatic increase in the housing market since 2001, many homeowners find that they are in above their heads as a result of the structure of their mortgage.

Accordingly, I have been able to bring a mortgage foreclosure emergency prevention program to our community. We have heard so much about sub-prime lenders and the devastating impact that this has had on homeowners. This program offers homeowners free counseling, education and intervention so that homeowners can prevent becoming victims of predatory lending.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corp. at 718-231-9800, ext. 17.


    Friday, April 06, 2007

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY
Much of my effort in the past two weeks has been directed toward improving school bus safety. The NY Daily News highlighted many violent incidents occurring on our school buses and the fact that our city has, for too long, not given supervision of the buses the priority it requires.

I immediately called upon the Chancellor to increase the number of investigators who act on complaints of abuse or inappropriate behavior on the buses. Right now, there are only 7 such investigators, each with a caseload of 500. Yes, 500! The Chancellor has agreed to hire more investigators and dismissed personnel overseeing this division who did not meet expectations.

I have introduced legislation in the City Council to require matrons on all buses and the installation of security cameras as well. A hearing on my two bills will be held before the Education Committee on April 11. My bills are designed to prevent future incidents by being proactive, having an extra pair of adult eyes and a record of any incident will go a long way toward quickly resolving complaints and keeping innocent children out of harms way.

These serious problems affecting children on our school buses, when coupled with the re-routing fiasco in February where my office intervened in so many cases where children were left without bus service, points to the need to look at the service being provided and those providing the service.

COMMUNITY THEATER
I have provided support funding for the Center Stage Community Playhouse so that they can continue their tradition of providing community entertainment. On April 14, 15, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 they will be performing "Into The Woods", a Stephen Sondheim musical/fantasy. Shows are held at St. Peter's Church at 2474 Westchester Avenue off Westchester Square. For information go to www.centerstageplayhouse.org or call 718-823-6434.


    Sunday, April 01, 2007

CAREER PREPARATION PROGRAM
I am pleased to report that funding has been provided through the New York City Council for job training programs in a variety of areas. One of the programs funded is called HANDLE IT! an exciting career preparation program for out of school, unemployed youths ages 17-21. They are now accepting applications for the Spring 2007 cycle which runs from April 23-June 3. Applications are due April 6. High school graduates as well as those without GED's or diplomas are welcome. This program provides hands-on training in Art Handling and Gallery Assistantship leading to a certificate with skills development in the areas of money management, computer literacy, customer service, business communication and general readiness for the world of work. Follow up services are also provided. Please call 718-432-8099 for further information.

SUMMER YOUTH JOBS
Applications for youth seeking summer jobs funded through the NYC Department of Youth & Community Department will be available this year on-line. Applications will be available from April 1 through May 18 and accessed at www.nyc.gov/dycd. This program is available to all city teenagers between the ages of 14-21 years. If your youngster needs assistant accessing this application my office is available to assist on Tuesdays between 4pm-5pm and Wednesdays from 12pm to 5pm. Please call Manny Rivera at 718-931-1721 for an appointment.


    Friday, March 23, 2007

NYC Sanitation Application
The Department of Sanitation is now accepting applications to become one of "New York's Strongest". The filing period which began on February 7th will end on March 27th and requires only a $30 filing fee. The application is available at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services website (www.nyc.gov/dcas). The written exam is scheduled for June 9, 2007.

The annual starting salary for a Sanitation worker is $26,000. After 6 months of employment, the salary will rise to $30,811 and will increase again after 5 1/2 years have been completed on the job. The Department of Sanitation has excellent medical benefits and wonderful vacation time. You must be 21 years of age or older and have a four-year school diploma or its equivalent. There are also driver license requirements so, if you are interested in a position, call 311 for more information.

New York Public Library Events
On Saturday, March 24th at 2:30pm, the Pelham Bay Branch of the New York Public Library will be hosting an event presented by the Gramercy Ensemble called the Music for Wind Quintet and Sextet. The Music for Wind Quintet and Sextet will be performing a variety of songs such as "Roaring Fork" by Eric Ewazen and "Sechs Bagaetellen" by Gyorgy Ligeti.

On Saturday, March 31st at 2:30pm, there will be a musical performance by The Sherrad Farmer Duo. They will be performing a variety of flute and vocal folk sorg arrangements.

For more information call the Pelham Bay Branch Public Library at 718-792-6744. The library is located at 3060 Middletown Rd., Bronx, N.Y. 10461. The library is fully wheelchair accessible, so anyone can go to enjoy the show.


    Friday, March 16, 2007

IS ORCHARD BEACH DISAPPEARING?
As a member of the Waterfront Committee of the New York City Council, I recently led the questioning of NYC Parks Department representatives concerning the Bronx Riviera, Orchard Beach. The line of my questioning addressed what could become the gradual disappearance of this Beach.

Yes, believe it or not, Orchard Beach is shrinking because it drastically needs sand replenishment. In 1997, the federal government determined that storms and wind conditions had begun to lead to a reduction of the beach area. Beach goers can attest to the reduction of the beach area. Beach goers can attest to the reduction when assessing the erosion of both Section 1 and Section 13 over the course of the past many years. In addition, during low tide swimmers almost immediately notice drastic dips and, before they know it, are beyond their waist as they test the waters. Don't forget we are often talking of inexperienced swimmers, children and seniors.

Over the years, the Parks Department has lacked the needed resources to replace sand that has actually been sapped from the Beach. They have used in-house forces to rearrange the sand that exists which has only provided a band aid. The federal government has determined that $10 million dollars is needed to restore the Beach and that the Congress should allocate $5 million with a city match of $5 million. What has happened? Nothing. The federal government, after spending so much money on the study and making the determination that action was required, never allocated the money and the city has refused to put up the entire $10 million. Orchard Beach continues to shrink!

Bronx Congressman Joseph Crowley, Jose Serrano and Eliot Engel have always been supportive of this allocation and now, with the House under Democratic leadership, perhaps we can be more hopeful. However, if the federal government is unable to act again I will be asking that the city pay the entire $10 million dollar amount as we prepare a city budget for a June 30th deadline.

People of all ages and different backgrounds use Orchard Beach throughout the year for a variety of activities. For those who cannot afford upstate trips or beach clubs, this natural area is affordable (even with the increasing cost of parking and concessions). Only last year, I saved the senior citizen half fare parking fee at the Beach when it was endangered. We must secure this Bronx treasure for future generations and make it safe for years to come and I am working toward that end.


    Saturday, March 10, 2007

HANDICAPPED ACCESS
Seniors and disabled residents should be aware of a program sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy of New York City that provides for home modification to remove architectural barriers or make a home environment more accessible for those who are physically disabled. The individual must be a person that is at risk for out-of-home placement without such changes or a person who is currently living in an out of home placement but could return home with the support of this program. There are income levels as well. The maximum annual income for a family of four is $56,700. For an application, residents should call 212-979-9700, ext. 708 and ask about the "Access A Home" program.

BUILDING DEPARTMENT JOBS
Last year, I successfully sponsored a $2.5 million budget increase for the NYC Building Department that would allow for increased personnel to further professionalization at this important agency and make it more responsive. I am pleased to report that a job fair will be held on Thursday, March 15, 2007 from 12pm to 6pm at 280 Broadway in Manhattan, 6th floor. Available positions include inspectors for boiling, plumbing, elevator and zoning inspectors as well as architects, engineers or construction professionals with knowledge of the NYC zoning resolution. If you are unable to make the job fair, but are still interested, please email your resume to recruit@buildings.nyc.gov.

SENIOR JOBS
Senior looking to return to the workforce should be aware that Aging in America, 1500 Pelham Parkway South, has received funds from the New York City Department for Aging to hire residents over age 55 for part-time jobs at community based non-profit agencies. For those meeting income guidelines, a 20 hour work week at $7.15 per hour is available intended to lead to permanent employment. For further information, please call Ms. Flores weekdays after 1pm at 718-409-7938 and ask about the Title V program.

EASTER EGG HUNT
The Bartow Pell Mansion in Pelham Bay Park will hold an Easter Egg Hunt including crafts and refreshments on Saturday, March 24 from 11am to 1pm. Pre-registration is required by calling 718-885-1461.


    Saturday, March 03, 2007

SENIOR ASSISTANCE
On Monday, March 12 from 1pm to 4pm, representatives of the NYC Department of Finance will join members of my staff in assisting senior citizens needing help in applying for the STAR basic and enhanced tax exemption, the Senior Citizen Homeowners Exemption, Veterans Exemption, the Disabled Homeowners Exemption, Clergy Exemption and Co-Op/Condo Abatement. Those seeking help need to bring in their most recent tax return or, if they did not file, information on what their gross income is.

An appointment is required. Please call Jennifer Rivera of my office at 718-931-1721.

FUNDING SECURED
Through the NYC Council, I have been able to allocate money for many programs in our community that have allowed us to meet a variety of needs.

Only recently, we started a dance program at PS 105 in Pelham Parkway and a Saturday dance program at PS 14 in Pelham Bay. I funded the AURORA Italian Language program for children and a Spanish ESL (English Second Language) program for adults, both at St. Lucy's in Pelham Parkway on Saturdays. I also provided an arts grant to the City Island Theatre Group that for years has promoted local talent and brought the arts to our borough.

I obtained a computer laptop for the Morris Park AARP to help them keep their membership records as well as security for the Morris Park Library. I also funded an after school program at PS 304 and MS 101 in Throgs Neck as part of a $3.8 million dollar initiative I sponsored at the City Council to provide after school programs in underserved communities throughout the city such as ours. In addition, a 400 volume book collection was donated to the 2 schools as well.


    Friday, February 23, 2007

JOB TRAINING
With funding I have provided through the NYC Council, the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corp. in conjunction with the Consortium for Worker Education will be starting a new comprehensive jobs program that includes GED prep, job readiness, job training and job placement on March 1, 2007. In addition, there will be training opportunities for automotive mechanic, nurse's aide, commercial driver's license, computer trainig, baking and culinary arts. This is an excellent chance for adults looking for new or updated job skills. All services are free. For more information please call Hazel Miura at 718-231-9800 ext31.

TAX ASSESSMENTS
Many homeowners who have received their tax assessments recently have voiced displeasure with the high rate of increase this year and over the past several years as well. As I have stated, when you look at these increases, the $400 rebate and the proposed additional $200 cut in the rate of taxation will not nearly meet the increased cost forced upon homeowners by the assessment hikes. This year, as well, with a $3.9 billion budget surplus, I have asked that we look at a renters rebate as rents have also increased dramatically over the past several years.

Homeowners have the right to appeal their assessments. You must do so before March 1, 2007. Applications for the appeal are available on www.nyc.gov at the Department of Finance link. Residents who need an application can also call my office at 718-931-1721 and speak to Meghan Lynch should you require assistence.

BLOOD SHORTAGE
To meet the demands caused by the continuing blood shortage, the NY Blood Center will conduct a blood drive at the 49th Precinct, 2121 Eastchester Road at Pelham Parkway South, on Monday, March 5, 2007 from 10am to 3:30pm.


    Sunday, February 18, 2007

OVER DEVELOPMENT BILLS PASS
I am pleased to report that two bills that I introduced taking action against architects and engineers who routinely file building applications in error through the process of "self-certification" passed the New York City Council last week.

One of my laws prohibits architects and engineers who have been cited by the NYS Board of Regents for professional misconduct from using the self-certification process and instead forces all applications they file to be thoroughly reviewed by the Buildings Department. This legislation arose from a case in our community where such an architect filed to construct a two family house where the zoning allowed for a one-family. It was not until I objected that the Buildings Department revoked the permits and noticed that the permit had been issued in error.

The second law would prohibit architects and engineers who have falsely self-certified their applications twice in a twelve month period from utilizing that program and force applications through a full review process.

My successful bills represent the first time our city has put any type of controls on the self-certification process. In the 1990's, this program was instituted to encourage development in NYC by allowing those who file applications to cut through the red tape at the Buildings Department and sign a statement that what they filed was accurate avoiding application review. Sounds like the fox in charge of the hen house.

In the past several years, this program has fueled over-development. As you know, I have objected to much of the new construction that did not adhere to zoning and down-zonings. In fact, for the first time last year the Buildings Department was forced to order the demolition of a new home in our community that did not fulfill the zoning law of our city.

We must do more and I will continue my work to reform the Building Department in the days ahead and build on our success.


    Thursday, February 08, 2007

Please note the following job training programs:
The New York City Council has funded a 15 week intensive technology training program offering computer technician training or office equipment repair technician training. Both courses offer free tuition, paid internships and job placement and lead to A+ Certification. Over 500 hours of hands on training is provided. If you are interested in this technology training, call Per Scholas at 718-772-0599 or 0626. Applicants must be 18-55 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED or be willing to obtain a GED and have a valid driver's license or be willing to obtain one.

Project HIRE is a non-profit training program held at Bronx Community College. It offers hands on instruction in the building trades. Students learn plumbing, carpentry and electrical wiring and boiler operations in addition to painting, tiling and sheetrock installation. Classes are held Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm for 20 weeks. New cycles begin in February and September. This training is free and offers job placement assistance. Applicants must be between 18-60 years old and be low-income. Call 718-289-5589 for further information.

For seniors, the NYC Department for the Aging offers computer, office technology, customer service, food and industry training. It also has a senior community employment program for low income seniors over the age of 55 and who are in part-time employment positions and job preparation workshops as well. All these services can be accessed through 311.

TAX TIME
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a payment to working people who meet specific income limits. However, you must file a tax retun 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 2003, 2004 and 2005 but didn't either file taxes or claim the EITC, you can file now and claim this credit.

If you think you qualify, speak to your tax preparer or go to www.irs.gov to prepare your own taxes using the "Free File" program. If you need information on community based organizations assisting in this effort you may call my office at 718-931-1721. 3040 East Tremont Ave, Bronx, New York 10461.


    Saturday, February 03, 2007

HOMEOWNER, TENANT REBATES URGENT
In the next budget year starting July 1, 2007, the city of New York anticipates a $3.9 billion (yes, billion) dollar surplus. This is indeed good news for our city and there is no doubt that the Mayor and others are correct when they propose to carry over significant parts of the surplus to future years so that if the economy falters our city will be protected from deficits as we witnessed in the 70's and after September 11, 2001.

HOWEVER, the size of the surplus is so huge that I will be urging that we return money to the people who have bore the brunt of the taxation, the taxpayer. The Mayor has once again proposed a $400.00 rebate for homeowners, co-op and condo owners and this year a 5% reduction in the property tax which amounts to $200.00. To homeowners who only last week received their assessment bills, this is hardly enough. Although the rate of the real estate tax has not increased since 2002 when the city raised taxes 18.5%, assessments have gone through the roof. The old adage if government doesn't tax you one way, they will tax you another. This year's assessments alone went up between 17-19%.

The rebate and tax cut proposed by the Mayor is simply not enough. I raised this issue at the City Council only last week with the Director of the Office and Management and will continue to fight as the Council and the Mayor negotiate a final budget between now and June 30. To raise taxes, in any shape or form, with such a large deficit is unacceptable. Doing so through the back door (assessment increases or mark my words another water and sewer increase) are hidden tax killers that we now have the resources to recognize and address.

The housing boom has led to higher prices, higher assessments, higher taxes and higher rents. I also am proposing that renters be helped if we are talking about affordable housing, we can help existing renters today. A one bedroom apartment now goes for $1,000 or more. Senior citizen tenants and tenants on the Home Energy Assistance Program, especially should be part of a rebate program for the first time as well.


    Thursday, January 25, 2007

HOME IMPROVEMENT LOANS
I am pleased to report available funding for the low-interest home improvement loan program administered by the New York City Department of Housing, Prevention and Development. These loans are available to address roofing, masonry, plumbing, boiler/furnace replacements and electrical wiring issues among others. Painting, replacing kitchen cabinets and installing storm windows are also included among eligible items under the loan.

One to 4 family homes are eligible and must be owner occupied. Applicants must meet income guidelines. Income for a family of 4 cannot exceed $50,250 for a loan at 2.5% interest or $91,060 for the 5% loan. Incomes for both interest rates vary according to family size. Homeowners can borrow up to $20,000 payable over a 10 year period. Work must be done by a licensed contractor. If you wish to do the work yourself, you must still submit contractor estimates. The city will reimburse you for costs, materials and supplies but not labor. Only Astoria Federal Saving and Carver Bank are participating in this program.

Quality housing is very important to our community. The condition of each and every house reflects on the block and a sense of pride people feel about where they live. This program represents an excellent opportunity for many homeowners to make those improvements they have long delayed. This is NOT a home equity loan. In fact, the city reserves the right to inspect the home to make sure the promised improvements are made.

Applications are now available at my office, 3040 East Tremont Avenue. A check list of needed information is available in the packet. Please contact Manny Rivera of my office at 718-931-1721 for further information.

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the largest municipal developer of affordable housing in the nation. HPD strives to improve the availability, affordability, and quality of housing in New York City. HPD’s website contains affordable apartment listings, information about Mitchell-Lama Housing, and other information for tenants, apartment seekers, homebuyers, and homeowners.

100 Gold Street
New York, NY 10038
Phone: (212) 863-6300
Internet: www.nyc.gov/html/hpd


    Friday, January 19, 2007

TAX TIME
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 sure if you qualify, the following are the requirements:

IT 210 - This is a NYC school tax credit form for those not filing a traditional tax return. One must have lived in NYC for all of 2006, and not be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's federal return. If you qualify for NYC school tax credit 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 2006 and not be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's return. If you or your spouse paid real property taxes and your household income is $18,000 or less. As for renters the average rent paid can not exceed $450,not counting charges for heat, gas and electricity.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto will be providing tax preparation assistance to those senior citizens of the area and 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.

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 imits. 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 2003, 2004, 2005 but didn't either file taxes or claim the EITC, you can file now and claim this credit. If you think you qualify speak to your tax preparer or go to www.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.


    Friday, January 12, 2007

PARENTS DID YOU KNOW?
Parents of public school children should know that most schools have now received a "Quality Review Report" and those schools that have not yet been evaluated, will be by the end of the school year. This is a new evaluative feature used by the Department of Education that determines how well a school is doing. It is a 10-12 page document that talks about areas where a school does particularly well and where a school requires improvement. Each report issues findings about how well the school meets goals and objectives, utilizes data to monitor student progress, monitors teaching practices, provides for meaningful instruction and how the school uses its budget resources to maximize student learning potential. Over 28 specific areas are reviewed and graded and the school receives an overall grade as well as subsection grades. For parents trying to find out factors that could explain their child's academic performance or how their child's school could do better and issues that make a particular school succeed or fail, this report is indeed an eye opener. The DOE web site also gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast your child's schools with others in very specific areas of analysis.

You can access these reports by going to the Department of Education web site through nyc.gov, then going to the link for your school, then to the left hand side where you will see a link to "statistics" and then scrolling down to the middle of the next page where you will see a link to Quality Review Reports.

Parents, this is a new tool that will allow you to take advantage of a report that will allow you to advocate for your child's school and further assess your child's progress. Take time out today!

DISABLED TAX BREAK
The Disabled Homeowners Exemption (DHE) allows persons with disabilities to qualify for partial property tax exemptions, depending upon their income. Owners of homes, condos or co-ops are included in this program. It is available to those earning less than $26,000 and a declining exemption schedule is provided for those making up to $33,400. To find out if you qualify, please call 212-504-4080, visit nyc.gov or call my office at 718-931-1721. 3040 East Tremont Ave, Bronx, New York 10461


    Sunday, January 07, 2007

HELPING THOSE IN NEED
As we conclude the Holy Days on January 6, 2007, I hope all of us spent time reaching out to those less fortunate among us who often find it difficult to make ends meet. There are a host of programs out there to assist. Indeed, every little bit helps. Yet, studies done by the New York City Council have found that many programs are not utilized by those who qualify. Please note the following programs and the guidelines. If you need help applying of further information... well that's what I'm here for! My staff and I are available to help you and hope you will call or stop by.

FOOD STAMPS
According to your income and expenses, you may qualify for FOOD STAMPS. In order to obtain an application or for further information, call 1-800-343-8859 or my office at 718-931-1721. FOOD STAMPS are a great way to supplement your income, so please take advantage of programs such as these if you are in need.

WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (W.I.C.)
WIC is a special supplemental food program that provides nutritious foods, milk, juice, formula and other items to low income pregnant or breast feeding women, infants and children up to age 5. In order to find out if you qualify for this program or to find the W.I.C. Center location nearest you, please call 1-800-522-5006.

HEAP
The Home Energy Assistance Program provides help to those who need assistance paying their energy bill. With rising heating costs, every little bit helps. Both owners and renters may qualify for this assistance program. In order to obtain an application call 311, or call my office at 718-931-1721 and we will mail you an application.

SENIOR CITIZEN RENT INCREASE EXEMPTION
If you are a senior citizen 62 years of age or older and you live in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment, you may qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption. This program will exempt you from any rent increases. Your total annual income must not exceed $26,000. For more information or for an application call 311 or you can call my office at 718-931-1721.

STAR-HOMEOWNER TAX INCREASE EXEMPTION
STAR is New York State's School Tax Relief Program that includes a school property tax rebate program and a partial tax exemption from school taxes. If you are a homeowner and own and live in one, two, or three-family home, condominium, cooperative apartment you are eligible for STAR on your primary residence. If you are 65 years of age or older, you mayqualify for STAR Enhanced. For more information call 1-877-6-STAR-NY. Of course, you may also call my office at 718-931-1721, if you have any questions.

OTHER SERVICES FOR SENIORS AND CHILDREN!
Parents, please note that school breakfast is free to all children. Seniors, note that free transportation and home meal delivery services are available to those eligible. As I learned years ago, knowledge is power. With this information, I hope I empowered you. If you need help, reach out today!