Saturday, October 31, 2009

Momentum Continues to Shift to Thompson Trails by Just Three Points, 44% to 41%

Polling completed last week by Garin Heart Yang Research Group, run by pollster Geoff Garin, showed there has been a significant shift and the race has moved closer toward Bill Thompson.

In a survey of 614 New Yorkers who are likely to vote in Tuesday's election for mayor, the vote overall is Bloomberg 46%, Thompson 38%, with 17% undecided. Among those who say they are certain to vote (305 in total in the sample), Thompson trails by just three points (Bloomberg 44%, Thompson 41%) with 15% undecided. The race has tightened in all five boroughs.

"We always said this would be a sprint and we are closing strong. This race will be decided on E lection Day. We are prepared to turn our voters out with a robust GOTV operation and elect Bill Thompson Mayor," stated New Yorkers for Thompson Campaign Manager, Eduardo Castell.


Among the overall sample, the vote is:

Whites: 59% to 28% for Bloomberg
African Americans: 53% to 25% for Thompson
Hispanics: 43% to 40% for Thompson, a big shift from last week, and the first time we have had Thompson leading with Hispanics.

The undecided voters are disproportionately minorities, which favors Thompson. Among undecided voters, 61% STRONGLY agree that Bloomberg was wrong to overturn term limits, and 64% agree that Bloomberg has had his chance as mayor and that eight years is enough.

In a question that is an important indicator of trends and campaign dynamics, a plurality of voters say what they are hearing lately makes them less favorable to Bloomberg (by 31% to 22%), including pluralities of whites, soft Bloomberg voters, and undecided voters. Bill Thompson had a negative dynamic on this measure last week, but now he has a slight positive plurality saying they have become more favorable to him, by 28% to 22%.

Frank Gulluscio Receives Endorsements of New York State Senator Chuck Schumer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo

Gulluscio picked up the endorsements of New York State Senator Chuck Schumer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Both Schumer and Cuomo endorsements were announced in recorded calls to the district.

“Democrat Frank Gulluscio and I have dedicated our lives to serving middle class New Yorkers, and ensuring that families and seniors can live comfortably in the greatest city in the world” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “In these tough economic times, we need a strong leader like Frank Gulluscio in City Hall to protect funding for our local schools, parks and senior centers. On November 3rd, Queens voters have a chance to elect someone who will be an independent voice for in City Hall - Democrat Frank Gulluscio for City Council.”

“Frank has been a civic activist in the neighborhood for over 30 years and he has a proven track record of making government work. He has already fought for funding for our local schools, protected our local firehouses from cuts and kept our streets clean and safe. In these tough times we need an experienced leader like Frank Gulluscio fighting for us at City Hall,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.


Gulluscio is proud to also have the support of Congressmembers Anthony Weiner, Joseph Crowley and Gregory Meeks, State Senators Joseph Addabbo, Shirley Huntley, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer, Michelle Titus, Rory Lanceman and Michael Miller, Uniformed Fire Officers Union, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Detective’s Endowment Association, SEIU 32BJ, SEIU 1199, RWDSU Local 338, UFCW Local 1500, Mason Tenders, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Local 3 IBEW, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 891, Plumbers Local 1, SSEU Local 371, Working Families Party and Tenants PAC.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bloomberg Sleeping at the Top of the 9th Inning - Bloomberg Watch

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As this photo of Mayor Bloomberg at Game 1 of the World Series shows, buying oneself a third term can get pretty exhausting.

NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Endorses Bill Thompson for Mayor...

In another sign of the changing momentum, Bill Thompson gained another major endorsement today when Attorney General Andrew Cuomo endorsed him for Mayor in the Bronx.

The Attorney General cited Thompson’s lifelong commitment to addressing issues facing middle-class New Yorkers, including jobs, schools, the rising costs of housing, transportation, water rates, sales and property taxes. Cuomo praised Bill for his plans to make our city more affordable. Cuomo also complimented Bill’s vision for tackling the biggest challenges we are facing and cited his leadership as the reason why Bill is ready to lead New York during these difficult economic times.

Attorney General Cuomo said "Bill Thompson's years of dedicated public service, his vision for a better future for our City, and his commitment to improving the lives of working families are among the reasons why Bill is ready to lead New York during these difficult economic times"

“It is an honor to have the support of NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo,” said Bill Thompson. “Andrew is a great friend and has been an outstanding public servant. Andrew has helped move New York State forward and has ensured that no one is above the law and all New Yorkers are treated equal,” stated Thompson.

For the past eight years, our Republican mayor has prioritized the wealthy, developers and Wall Street – while ignoring the needs of working families across the city. Today, the result is a 16-year high unemployment rate, rising taxes and fees, and working families leaving the city because it’s become unaffordable. Bill Thompson will be a mayor who puts City Hall back on the side of working men and women.

On November 3rd, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to bring change to our City. Mike Bloomberg’s Republican policies have catered to the wealthy and special interests, while communities across New York City continue to struggle. When Bill Thompson takes office, he will be a Mayor for all New Yorkers.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Election Day Vote for Bill Thompson & Frank Gulluscio - It's Time for Bloomberg & Ulrich to Go...

I sent this letter to the following Queens publications: Forum South, Queens Chronicle, Queens Gazette, Queens Times, Courier Sun, Queens Ledger.com, and the Rockaway Wave...The only one with the courage to print it was The Forum South...I'm not saying the other editors were led by the vast amount of money they received from the Bloomberg advertising machine but it is a plausible reason for their lack of exposing their readership to an alternative view of King Bloomberg...By the way, they all happened to endorse the Mayor...You Decide...

Dear Editor:

I am writing to advise my neighbors about the upcoming election for mayor and the 32nd city council seat.

I feel it it is imperative to our very existence as a community to elect Bill Thompson for Mayor and Frank Gulluscio for City Council and in turn to throw out Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his sycophant City Councilman Eric Ulrich.

Having paid close paying attention to Mike Bloomberg's claims that have inundated my mail box and my television screen.

To listen to his claims you would be led to believe that Mike Bloomberg is the best thing to come down the pike since sliced bread.

    The truth of the matter is quite different in my estimation, here are some details that Mayor Mike leaves out of his message to voters and why I feel New York City is worse off because of his misplaced priorities and bad decisions.

  • Unemployment in the City is the highest it’s been since 1993 (16 years) - 10.3% ;

  • Water rates have risen 98%;

  • MTA fares have increased, and services reduced or cut - his appointees on the MTA board have voted for fare increase after fare increase – 50% since he took office;

  • Despite lacking desperately-needed affordable housing, the Mayor has advocated for more luxury condos, many of which now sit unfinished or empty in the current economy – a blight on our communities;

  • Homelessness in the City has risen over 9% since 2005 – A record number – over 12,000 people;

  • We have 15,000 children sleeping in our City’s shelters every night;

  • His appointees on the rent guidelines board have voted for increase after increase – 37% since he took office;

  • Under mayoral control of our schools, parents have been locked out of having a voice in their children's education, our children are being taught to take tests and arts, music, physical education, class trips, civics are being cast aside to make time for more test prep;

  • Our neighborhood parks are in a state of disrepair, while Central Park is being rented out to the highest corporate bidder for private functions;

  • Working families are leaving the city because they can no longer afford to live here; and

  • While working families struggle to make ends meet, the Mayor gave out $69 million in raises to the City’s top managerial employees.

And let's not forget, that in 2002 Republican Michael Bloomberg (please notice that neither the Mayor nor the Councilman has their Republican party affiliation on any of their campaign literature – another attempt to deceive the voters) vetoed an attempt by the City Council to overturn term-limits, saying that signing the measure would “undermine the will of voters.”

In 2005, the Mayor said that it would be “disgraceful,” to overturn the law, which was voted on by the voters by referendum not once, but twice.

The Mayor showed as early as Spring 2008 that he was about to flip flop – and began to develop a course of action to run for a third time. Changing the law was now in own best interests - since it became clear that his presidential aspirations were going nowhere and after courting both candidate in hopes of a vice presidential selection - he then moved forward and decided to overrule the will of the voters.

In October 2008, Republican Mike Bloomberg told the world he was officially going to seek a third term. The mayor used the economy as an excuse to go against the will of the people he serves, claiming he was the only person who could guide us through the economic crisis.

I would ask the obvious question, if he is such a financial wizard why didn't he see the upcoming downturn in the economy coming?

The Mayor's financial heavy-handedness reared it's ugly head in the term-limits battle with heavy pressure put on the non-profits who receive his largesse to testify to amend the term limits law – I was there and saw it for myself.

As we're taxed to death the Mayor would not abide by the fair spending cap set by the Campaign Finance Law - his outrageous spending has meant more of our tax money is doled out by CFB to help level the playing field. - a near impossible task given Bloomberg's wealth and his outrageous spending.

This brings me to the City Council race, upon review of the Campaign Finance Board records it is clear that Bloomberg's obscene wealth has pervaded this contest, as well.

Of the $58,295 raised by the Ulrich campaign, $28,600 or 48% came from 24 people from outside the district with job titles such as Investment Banker, Real Estate developers, Hedge fund operators and other corporate moguls. It is clear that these expenditures are meant to influence the candidate – if placed in office who will Councilman Ulrich be beholden to - us the voters of the district or the mayor and his moneyed interests.

Therefore based on the above, I urge my neighbors to vote for the hard-working Democratic candidates who care about the people of New York City - Bill Thompson and Frank Gulluscio.


Thank you.

David M. Quintana

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Mayor's Press Pass - The Unexamined World of Mike Bloomberg by Tom Robbins - Village Voice

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One reason for the remarkably charmed life of Mike Bloomberg's administration as he sails toward re-election has been the waning of the city's news business. This is an odd blessing for a man who made his fortune as a media mogul. But just ask Rudy Giuliani, or David Dinkins, or Ed Koch, and they'll painfully explain.

When this city enjoyed four fat daily newspapers, editors clamored for strong, tough copy to fill them. Whenever scandal hit—make that even a mini-scandal—each one scrambled after the story. Local TV news, which gets its morning bearings from the dailies, gleefully joined the hunt as well. This happy combination produced many full-strength media pile-ons and visible shivers in City Hall.

There was a keen reminder of this changed world when a man named Raymond Harding put himself back in the news this month by pleading guilty to fraud at the state's pension fund. Back in 1997, Harding, the boss of something called the Liberal Party, was the city's top lobbyist, his law firm raking in millions from clients seeking favors from Giuliani's City Hall. These were easy for Harding to arrange since he had personally invented Giuliani as a political player.

It took a while for the dailies to catch on to this scheme, but when they did, the effect was viral: They became a four-man tag team, taking turns serving up tales of greed and insider trading. Giuliani was then at the top of his game and delighted in telling off reporters. But he knew disaster when he saw it. Claiming ignorance that his mentor was making a fortune off his administration, he publicly chided his aides and ordered his pal to lay low.

These days, the papers are onion-skin thin, and exposés are catch as catch can. Newsday, which once gave rival editors panic attacks every morning, doesn't even have a city edition anymore. When Dinkins was in office, the Long Island tabloid investigated even the type of fertilizer he used on the Gracie Mansion lawn. Nowadays, to fill their meager space, editors prefer colorful yarns to investigations. Until this month, one newspaper carried an entire column about empty rooms. We have the Web, with all of its many hardworking blogs, but most of these spend their energies keeping political scorecards with all the obsession of fantasy baseball addicts: Who's on first, and what coaches are in the dugout? The business of government and its many failings goes largely unexamined.

Poor Ed Koch: He was trashed as a miserable miser in multiple front-page stories because he had some 2,000 homeless families sleeping in shelters. Mike Bloomberg has five times as many, and no one even knows about it.

It's not that there's no investigative spadework being done. What's missing is critical mass. Last week, the Daily News's Juan González delivered some excellent fodder for a full-scale media assault in City Hall's Blue Room. He reported that the mayor's billion-dollar plan to relocate the city's emergency 911 call system has become a fiasco. Not only has Bloomberg's team blown its budget and deadlines, but it has also ignored the findings of its own consultant, which found the project was mired in mismanagement. Rather than dump its lead contractor, as the consultant recommended, Bloomberg's top aides insisted that the plan go ahead as is—defects be damned.

This type of project is supposed to be smack in the mayor's sweet spot since it involves computers and communications, the business that made him the city's richest man. It should also be one of those instances where he runs rings around old-school politicians because of his keen business acumen. Instead, here he is, tripped up by the same cost overruns and bureaucrats that plague ordinary humans. Another mayor in another time might have suffered many tough questions the day after such information surfaced. Instead, only the News chased its own story.

The same thing happened this summer, when the Voice reported a scandal at the city's NYC-TV operation, where the top executive was fired and his deputy arrested ("Inside the Mayor's Studio: NYC-TV's Secrets of New York," August 4). Unlike the perennially tainted buildings department that has plagued every mayor, the problems at NYC-TV came from Bloomberg's own supporters. He had repeatedly hailed the station as an example of his innovative approach to government. But instead of minding the store, his aides had traipsed around the world, making their own private movie. This tale also failed to trip the press alarm that scrambles the media into action.

The big story late last week was the stunning court ruling on the illegal Stuyvesant Town rent hikes. But you'd never know from the coverage that Bloomberg had praised the original deal cut by landlord Tishman-Speyer (headed by one of his strongest allies). Or that his top aides had scotched a plan to keep Stuy Town affordable. Or that a hefty chunk of the financing for the deal came from Merrill Lynch, the late investment firm that was a top Bloomberg LP client and which the mayor was barred from dealing with under a Conflicts of Interest Board ruling. That story—told here in detail by Wayne Barrett just last month—also died an orphan.

Bloomberg's biggest claim to mayoral fame as he grabs for the third term that he used to insist he would never seek is his success at the business of education. This is a debate worth having. But Bloomberg consistently wins by default because the other side never fully shows up. As the legislature was considering the renewal of Bloomberg's mayoral control law this year, Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan issued six lengthy reports on the law's impact on the schools. They were detailed and thoughtful critiques on student achievement, school organization, and contracting. Asked recently how much press he received about them, Brennan paused. "I'm not sure there was any," he said.

There have been scattered stories about instances of grade inflation and test-score manipulations (again, with the News in the lead). The startlingly poor results of national student tests this month prompted even the Post, whose news pages have steadily cheered Bloomberg's education policies, to suggest that fraud was afoot somewhere. But the big picture still escapes us, along with whatever role was played by the education bureaucrats at the Tweed Courthouse.

At the mayor's annual Gracie Mansion Christmas party for the press last year, those in attendance report that Bloomberg took the stage to offer his idea of a joke. "I see that my three best friends in the media—Mort, Rupert, and Arthur—aren't here," he quipped. Then he walked out, right past the grunts who cover him all year.

Actually, the joke's on us. Even as newspaper fortunes sank in recent years, Bloomberg diligently courted media barons like Zuckerman, Murdoch, and Sulzberger, who he understood could make his life difficult if they so chose. Minus their support, as Joyce Purnick's new Bloomberg biography proves, he would have never risked his end run around term limits. But he knew he had little to fear. As Purnick's book also tells us, even his weekend disappearing act to go to his mansion in Bermuda has gone unchallenged.

"He does his radio show Friday morning," a former aide told her. "At 11:05, the latest, he's in his car. At 11:30 he is at the airport. His plane is in the air at 11:40, he's in Bermuda at 2:10. He's on the golf course by 2:30. . . . Almost every weekend, spring and fall."

There's a photo op that's been even more closely guarded than military caskets arriving at Dover Air Force Base: Mayor Mike, golf bags over his shoulder, striding across the tarmac toward Air Bloomberg.

Art by Stan Shaw

trobbins@villagevoice.com


Charges in Rockaway City Council Showdown Gulluscio, Ulrich Over Improper Help from Bloomberg by Nicholas Horshon - NY Daily News

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A heated City Council race in southern Queens has gotten more intriguing amid charges that the Republican illegally used Mayor Bloomberg's staffers and supplies and that the Democrat owes almost $1,500 in state business taxes.

Bickering between campaigns has ramped up a no-love-lost contest pitting incumbent Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach) against Democratic challenger Frank Gulluscio.

It's one of just a few races in the borough where political observers believe a Republican has a fair shot at defeating a Democrat.

Gulluscio filed a city Campaign Finance Board complaint a few weeks ago, alleging Bloomberg's camp improperly helped coordinate Ulrich's leafletting and offered the councilman complimentary use of its staffers.

The complaint argues that Ulrich should consider free use of the workers - and a campaign office the mayor shares with the councilman - as a donation that "may well exceed" the contribution limit for Council candidates.

The filing also includes a sworn statement from a short-term Bloomberg volunteer who claims a Queens campaign coordinator for the mayor identified herself as also being Ulrich's campaign coordinator, and told the volunteer to hand out literature for both candidates.

Bloomberg campaign spokesman Michael Levoff did not return calls for comment. Ulrich called the accusations "absurd."

"My campaign has a tremendous amount of grass-roots support," Ulrich said, adding he sent a response defending his campaign to the city. "The last thing we would need or want is to violate any campaign finance laws."

Campaign Finance Board spokesman Joe Ferris said the board will review Ulrich's reply. He said he didn't know when the board might render a decision.

Meanwhile, the Daily News has learned that Gulluscio, who often touts his success as former CEO of a beauty supply distributor that was officially dissolved in 2003, still owes taxes to the state.

Susan Burns, a spokeswoman for the state Tax Department, said Gulluscio's Brooklyn-based firm, Unlimited Beauty Resources Inc., never paid $1,083.06 in sales tax collected between March 1, 1999, and Feb. 29, 2000.

The company also owes $397.75 in corporate taxes from 1998, raising its unpaid total to $1,480.81, Burns said.

Gulluscio chalked up the discrepancy to a paperwork glitch and vowed to pay back any cash he might owe. "I'm certainly not a deadbeat," he said.

Bill Thompson Clear Winner in Final Mayoral Debate

Last night Bill Thompson showed why he is the right choice for Mayor. Thompson laid out his vision for the future of New York City while Mike Bloomberg offered little more than negative attacks and stuttering answers. Mike was uncomfortable onstage and seemed unsure of his own policies. Once again Bloomberg would not look Thompson in the eye as he launched baseless and inaccurate attacks.

ON MIDDLE CLASS/OUT OF TOUCH Criticism

  • · Bill continued to stand on the side of the middle class and showed an understanding of the struggles middle class New Yorkers are facing under a Bloomberg administration. Mike stumbled and couldn’t even answer the simple question—what is middle class?

  • · Bill reminded New Yorkers that Bloomberg said that he did not think that pharmaceutical executives earning tens of millions of dollars made that much money.

  • · Bill stressed that under Bloomberg, one million middle-class New Yorkers have been squeezed out of the city and Mike couldn’t refute it. Thompson went further and said “I will tell you what middle class is—middle class is the 1 million people that were driven out of New York City by Mike Bloomberg.”

http://billthompson.3cdn.net/60c40a31f6fcca03a5_e5m6vqyak.pdf

BUDGET PLAN

  • · Throughout the debate Mike Bloomberg seemed uncomfortable and offered no real plan to deal with his $5 billion dollar deficit despite being in City Hall for eight years.

  • · Bill gave New Yorkers real examples of how he would cut this deficit including the civilianization of desk jobs at the NYPD, revoking of MSG tax breaks, halting no-bid contracts at the Department of Education and cutting $9 billion in outsourcing of city services.

  • · Bloomberg wrongly suggested that Bill had proposed 5 billion in new spending. Thursday at Crain’s he said it was 7 billion and in his television commercial the number is 4 billion. In actuality Bill’s proposals cost just over 1 billion dollars which will be offset by his budget plan.

http://billthompson.3cdn.net/a3d40b959616994ba8_9am6bn654.pdf

ON TAXES AND TAX BREAKS

  • · Mike Bloomberg said that he wouldn’t raise taxes but his record contradicts this statement. As Mayor, Mike Bloomberg instituted the City’s first permanent sales tax in 35 years, water rates have gone up 98%, property taxes have increased 87% and over 10 million parking violations were issued this year alone. Raising taxes and fees on the middle class has been Bloomberg’s solution to every fiscal problem he has created over the last 8 years.

  • · While Bloomberg tried to justify the millions in tax breaks that the city has provided the New York Yankees, calling it a “little bit of money for infrastructure.”Thompson attacked and characterized the millions the city has given to the Yankees under Bloomberg’s watch as one of the “Mayor’s giveaway to another one of his developer friends” Thompson noted that once again New Yorkers are “being shortchanged under Mike Bloomberg”.

ON EDUCATION

  • Thompson successfully knocked back Mike’s ridiculous attacks on his record as President of the Board of Education, telling Bloomberg to stop lying to New Yorkers and called Bloomberg’s lies a “constant distortion of my record.” Thompson challenged Bloomberg “to stop deceiving the public.”

  • · While Bloomberg danced around his own education record, Thompson referred to Bloomberg’s record on education as “the Enron of education”, noting that under Bloomberg “scores are inflated” and that he is feeding New Yorkers “fiction.” Bill pointed out that while Mike had full control of the schools the scores on all national tests have either gone down or stayed flat, according to the federal data. Bill even got Mike to admit that scores were up when Bill was President of the BOE.

  • · Bloomberg attempted to point out that 3 or 4 public schools were on the US New and World Report’s Best Schools list. This is a very poor showing considering the city has over 1600 public schools.

http://billthompson.3cdn.net/1ca2bb5d48279908d4_azm6bhu7b.pdf



PAY TO ENDORSE

  • · The debate moderator gave Bloomberg a chance to explain away a pay for endorsement deal reported earlier in the day by the New York Times. Bill knocked Mike for his hypocrisy while Bloomberg failed to give a credible explanation as to why his accountant made a $26,000 contribution to Newark Mayor Cory Booker just weeks after Booker crossed state lines to endorse Mike. The Mayor’s accountant , Martin J. Gellar, who according to the New York Times has a long habit of contributing money to candidates or committees that the Mayor supported had only once contributed to a candidate in New Jersey.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/nyregion/28booker.html)

CRIME/POLICE COMMISSIONER

  • Thompson said that crime started falling well before Mike Bloomberg became Mayor and would continue to fall when Bill is Mayor and Mike is long gone. Bill recognized the role that all police officers have played in reducing crime in the city, noting that these gains are not a credit to any one individual. He also reminded Bloomberg that Commissioner Kelly was actually Mike’s second choice after Bernard Kerik turned him down (NEW YORK TIMES NOVEMBER 10, 2001). Kerik is currently in jail.

MTA/Transportation

  • · On transportation the difference could not be starker. Mike refused to offer any new ideas while Bill pointed out that Bloomberg’s four appointees to the MTA have voted for fare hikes and service cuts. Thompson also pointed out that Bloomberg’s appointees are out of touch— not advocates or knowledgeable of transit issues.

http://billthompson.3cdn.net/8e789dfa8576da96ed_72m6b529u.pdf

Housing

  • Thompson said he would replace the members of the Rent Guidelines Board with “pro-tenant” members. “People continue to be pushed out across the city of New York,” he said. He committed that he would press Albany for expanding Mitchell-Lama tenant protections. And he said that more could be done with the Housing Authority to make apartments affordable.

  • Bloomberg stumbled and offered that “We have to have a balance between rents that people can afford,” and allowing landlords to “turn a profit” so they’ll stay invested in the city, the mayor said.

  • · Thompson retorted that the residents of Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town managed to keep their housing development affordable — but only by going to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which this week ruled that Tishman Speyer, the landlord, had improperly removed apartments from rent regulation. Bill pointed out that Bloomberg had an opportunity to advocate for these residents but instead left it to New Yorkers to take up the fight on their own.

  • · Bill pointed out that 1/3 of all New Yorkers are paying 50% or more of their monthly salary on rent and asked— How can Bloomberg claim that is a successful affordable housing policy?

http://billthompson.3cdn.net/e61bd4aca7f49987b5_af3m6wt7r.pdf

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Fantasy World of Michael Bloomberg - NYC Public School Parents

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Bloomberg’s campaign speech today at NYU, in full here, reveal how he must be living in a complete fantasy world – insulated from reality, even more than most politicians:

By 2013, we will have created – far and away – the best public school system of any big city in the country. Not only will more middle class families be staying in the City and sending their kids to school here, I believe we will start to see an entirely new phenomenon: Families from around the nation and the region will be moving into the City for the schools. That was unthinkable just a few years ago! Families will come because more and more neighborhoods will be offering top-quality schools that are as good as – or better than – some of the suburban schools. They'll come because our schools will be performing at higher levels than schools in Boston… or San Francisco… or Phoenix… or any other big city in the country. And they'll come because they want more quality school choices – and they'll have more choices here than just about anywhere else in the country.

I won't even mention the delusional aspect to his concept of how good our schools will be; indeed, there is no evidence of improved results if you look at the most reliable measures, the national assessments known as the NAEPs.

No, what is astonishing is how this speech ignores the obvious reality: that these families, if they could indeed afford to move to NYC, would soon find that there is no room for their children to attend school.

Already, nearly half of NYC kids attend overcrowded schools, class sizes increased last year by the largest amount in ten years, thousands of students are sitting in rotting trailers; and last spring, hundreds of kids were put on waiting lists for Kindergarten.

Special education students are being given services in hallways and in closets, many schools have lost their art and music rooms, and 86% of principals say they are unable to provide a quality education because of excessive class sizes. Today, school nurses complained to the Daily News that there's no room to isolate children who have come down with the swine flu because of the extreme overcrowding at their schools.

Bloomberg has cut school construction way back, and the new five year capital plan has only 25,000 seats, which will provide less than one third of the space necessary to eliminate existing overcrowding – not to mention a rapidly increasing school population expected in the near future, caused by overdevelopment and a rising birth rate.

Where will all these additional kids flocking to the city in the future attend classes? Bloomberg doesn’t say. He recently told Downtown Express that parents should stay out of siting new schools, since any such schools would not be finished until their children were in graduate school.

And NYC public schools will never be as good as schools in the suburbs or even in Boston or San Francisco until and unless class sizes are reduced.

In either case, it’s a lousy deal for our kids.

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The Mayor Who Wouldn’t Leave - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com

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Amid all the expected celebratory scenes inside the Yankee clubhouse on Sunday night, there was one incongruous constant: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
The Constant Mayor

Following the Yankees’ clinching win over the Los Angeles Angels, the Fox cameras were trained on the podium, as various presentations were made and interviews conducted. And just to the right, Mayor Bloomberg held his position on the podium, so long that it almost seemed awkward.

Asked whether the Fox Sports coverage found the mayor’s constant on-camera presence in the clubhouse awkward, Lou D’Ermilio, the spokesman for Fox Sports, said, “We had nothing to do with him being there. The moment was about the New York Yankees and the team winning a pennant. We interviewed team executives, the manager, the MVP, and the players. That’s what we do after a game.”

Asked if the network had any previous experience with a city’s mayor turning up in the coverage of a clubhouse celebration, Mr. D’Ermilio said, “I don’t recall the last time there was one in there.”

No one knows for sure why the mayor wouldn’t leave, although we and others could certainly hazard a guess. In fact, here are our 10 guesses, in the tradition of a Late Show Top 10. Somehow we think you can do better. So please, send us your possible reasons…

Top 10 Reasons Why Mayor Bloomberg Wouldn’t Leave the Podium

10. Rudy would have stepped up to replace him.
9. As Letterman might say, the podium was kinda high off the ground for a guy that short.
8. Someone has to represent the Red Sox, er, I mean the Mets, er, I mean City Hall.
7. If the cracked stadium ramps gave way, this was the safest place to be.
6. Free Champagne? Somewhere there’s gotta be free hot dogs.
5. He had to stay for all nine innings; no way he leaves now.
4. A showing of solidarity with the biggest payroll in baseball.
3. Just bursting for the opportunity to show a national audience how well he speaks Spanish.
2. It’s great to be with a wiener.
1. It’s not often the mayor gets TV face time that he doesn’t have to pay for.

Bill Thompson Talks to Volunteers in South Richmond Hill Prior to Afternoon Canvass


On Saturday, October 24th Bill Thompson talked to volunteers prior to them going out to knock on doors in Richmond Hill, Queens on behalf of Bill Thompson and Frank Gulluscio...

BEWARE: This Halloween there may be a Sex Offender Answering the Door...



As Children Hit the Streets for Trick or Treating, Concerned Lawmakers Unveil TOP TEN list of zip codes with Highest Number of Level 2 & 3 Sex Offenders Living in Queens County

Announce New Law that will Allow Parents to receive Instant E-mail Alerts when a Sex Offender moves into their Zip Code

Days before Halloween, Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15th District, Queens), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-25th District, Queens), Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-37th District) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-30th District, Queens) released new data showing where the most amount of sex offenders are living in Queens County. They also announced details of a new law that will create a statewide e-mail notification system of registered sex offenders.

I am thrilled Governor Paterson saw the need for this type of system and signed the legislation. New Yorkers deserve to have the convenience and peace of mind that these email alerts will bring so that we can continue to protect our children from the kind of unsavory individuals who are, in many cases, our neighbors,” said Senator Klein.

Currently, there are 11,428 level 2-3 sex offenders on New York State's Sex Offender Registry, which classifies offenders according to their risk of re-offending: low-risk (Level 1), moderate risk (Level 2) and high-risk (Level 3). Members of the public can access this database at local police stations or via a toll-free telephone number. Level 2 and Level 3 offenders are also listed on an internet subdirectory at the DCJS website.

Senator Klein and Assemblyman Lancman sponsored the bill, signed into law by Governor Paterson last month that will create a statewide e-mail notification system of sex offenders.

"Parents can now learn in real-time when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood, and armed with this information, they can take steps necessary to protect their children," said Assemblyman Lancman. "Ultimately, this is why we develop new technology such as emergency alert systems -- to keep our families safe."

More often than not, sex offenders become repeat offenders,” said Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley (D-Queens). “With the recent egregious crimes against youth from California to Florida to here in New York, we need to take further steps to prevent sex offenders from striking again. That is why I support this law to inform neighbors of nearby registered sex offenders so they take the necessary precautions to keep their families safe.”

As of 2009, there are 1,132 known sex offenders residing in Queens County. The top ten zip codes are as follows: 11691 (63 registered sex offenders), 11434 (61 registered sex offenders), 11412 (55 registered sex offenders), 11385 (54 registered sex offenders), 11368 (42 registered sex offenders), 11413 (40 registered sex offenders), 11435 (39 registered sex offenders), 11433 (36 registered sex offenders), 11372 (35 registered sex offenders), 11420 (33 registered sex offenders).

Thanks to the statewide emergency communication system, NY Alert, which is managed by the Department of Homeland Security, it will now be easy for New Yorkers to register for instant e-mail notifications that will allow them to keep tabs on a specific geographic area, such as where they live or where their children attend school.

I support this law because as a parent of three young children their safety and well being is of the utmost importance to me. I want my children to grow up in a safe neighborhood, where they can walk home from school and go out and play with their friends knowing that they will be safe. This law allows me to know when a registered sex offender moves into my neighborhood and alerts my children as to what dangers may be nearby and what they should do should someone that they don’t know approaches them. Currently, as a parent of children in the public school I am notified by my children’s school. However, my neighbors who may not have children in the public school system also deserve to be notified so that they can protect themselves,” said Jo Ann Berger with the Beacon Parents Forum.

"Community notification via email offers parents vital information which they can use to protect their children from becoming victims of these predators, many of whom are repeat offenders. Using the statewide emergency communication system, NY Alert, it will be easy for New Yorkers to register for instant e-mail notifications. They won't have to spend time scanning NY State's Sex Offender Registry, available to the public at local police stations, or calling a toll-free number, or viewing an Internet subdirectory at the Department of Criminal Justice Services Web site. Over 11,420 level 2 & 3 sex offenders (moderate- & high-risk for re-offending) are now on the registry. Email updates will allow parents and school officials to keep tabs on their own neighborhoods or where children attend school," said Senator Addabbo.

I applaud Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Rory Lancman on their leadership on this issue. Parents and community members need to be able to stay informed as to who is living in the area surrounding schools, this legislation will go a long way in making sure that parents and community members are kept informed,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.

According to DCJS, as of 2009, New York City is home to more than fifty-five hundred registered sex offenders. The largest population is found in Kings County, at about 1,786. The Bronx is the second highest with approximately 1,426, followed by Queens at 1,132 and New York County with approximately 1,100. Staten Island is home to more than 243 registered sex offenders.

"Hypocrite" Television Ad

Listen to how Mike Bloomberg really feels about Bill Thompson...

Bloombergtown from Elizabeth Benjamin...

Bloombergtown from Elizabeth Benjamin on Vimeo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wild Side of Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven...

Last week, as I was waiting outside for the Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting to begin at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps (78-15 Jamaica Ave), out of the corner of my eye I noticed the rear-end of a large animal with a long hairless tail scramble down the grating in front of the building.


My immediate reaction was that it was a huge sewer rat, so I went over to the grating and pointed my camera into the hole to see if I could get photo of the creature.


I kept my camera at the ready while I smoked another cigarette, and much to my surprise up through the grating came a timid, docile looking opossum. He stood there long enough to let me take a couple of photos and then down the hole he went again.

The Ugly Side of Michael Bloomberg - NYCIsNot4Sale

Here is one of the anti-Mayor Bloomberg TV ads that has been hitting the airwaves recently as part of CWA Local 1180’s $500,000 campaign to assist Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Thompson by giving heft to his claim the mayor is an out-of-touch billionaire.


The union handed out “Bloomberg Bucks” at a rally that features a photo of the mayor wearing a (drawn-on) crown and read: “This note is legal tender for buying votes, third terms and the City of New York.”

Visit their web-site: NYCIsNotfor$ale....



Why This Election Matters and What We Want

  • Mayor Bloomberg circumvented the will of the people, who voted twice to keep the term limits for Mayor at eight years
  • In fact, in the past Bloomberg had said that overturning the will of the people was “disgraceful”
  • The Mayor is out of touch with regular New Yorkers. He takes helicopters to play golf and attend concerts, owns homes on multiple continents and has grown four times wealthier in the past eight years, even while unemployment in the City is at a sixteen year high
  • New York City’s middle class cannot afford four more years of Bloomberg policies – New Yorker’s demand, in fact deserve, leadership whose interests are aligned with hard working New Yorker’s and not the Wall Street elite that were responsible for this mess in the first place - simply put, Mayor Bloomberg is out of touch with the middle class
  • Mayor Bloomberg is benefactor of the systematic deregulation of the financial services sector that led to an economic crisis not experienced since the Great Depression – Mayor Bloomberg’s interests are tied to the Wall Street elite NOT to NYC’s hard working middle class
  • Mayor Bloomberg undermined our faith in government by shifting the tax burden from the rich to the middle class and poor, while at the same time eliminating financial regulations designed to protect the average consumer
  • Mayor Bloomberg supports economic policies that favor the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor – Mayor Bloomberg must not be allowed to continue these same policies that will only further economic gap between the top 1% of Americans and the rest of us
  • Mayor Bloomberg “talks” about making improvements during his 3rd term but for whom are these improvements targeting? Not New York City’s middle class! As we speak, Mayor Bloomberg is demanding even more from our members – cuts to wages, cuts to benefits and cuts to our pensions
  • CWA Local 1180 members are hard working contributors as New York City government employees that have become collateral damage to Wall Street’s excesses and government’s failures
  • New York City jobs are what keep families and neighborhoods in all five boroughs stable but under Mayor Bloomberg, it will be the middle class, not the rich, that bear the brunt of the economic downturn – case in point, his demand that city workers agree to $350 million in healthcare benefit concessions.

Cocktail Party...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Council Member Crowley Hosts Street Renaming Ceremony In Honor of Richmond Hill Preservationist...


Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, along with Senator Joseph Addabbo, Council Member Tony Avella, Assembly Member Mike Miller, Members of the Richmond Hill Historic Society and children of P.S. 66, yesterday participated in the street co-naming ceremony of 109th Street, between 86th Street and Jamaica Avenue, in Richmond Hill as the “Nancy Cataldi Way.” Nancy Cataldi, who died at age 55 last November of a brain aneurysm and hemorrhage, was an outspoken preservationist who launched unrelenting campaign to save Richmond Hill’s Victorian homes and maintain the character of her community.

“Nancy’s dedication to preserving the history of Richmond Hill is important for the well-being and future of our community,” said Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley (D-Queens). “I look to Nancy for her leadership in curbing over-development and preserving the character of our neighborhoods. The community of people who have gathered for today’s street co-naming reflect the difference Nancy made for our neighborhood, for the borough and the City of New York. It is an honor to co-name this street after a remarkable local leader and to announce that today, October 24, 2009, will forever be the ‘Nancy Cataldi Day.’”

Nancy Cataldi was a founding member of the Richmond Hill Historic Society where she acted as President for over a decade. According to Joseph DeMay, Vice President of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, "Nancy Cataldi was not just the brains of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, she was its heart and soul.” Cataldi is famous for formulating the proposed landmark historic district of Richmond Hill and for creating the Richmond Hill Museum. In addition, Cataldi ran events celebrating the history of Maple Grove Cemetary in Kew Gardens, and curated the Italian-American Museum in Little Italy. Right before her untimely death, Cataldi was instrumental in saving the RKO Movie Theatre on Hillside Avenue and The Republican Club on Lefferts Boulevard.

"At Nancy's wake, Councilwoman Crowley and I had discussed how nice it would be to name a street after Nancy,” said Patrick J. Kearns, founding member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society. “This weekend to see it happen was a great day for a woman that not only was important to Richmond Hill, but Richmond Hill was important to her. It was truly one of the best possible ways we could honor her, now her name is indelibly engraved in the map of Richmond Hill."

Published in 2002, Cataldi teamed up with Richmond Hill Historian Carl Ballenas to write a history book titled, Images of America: Richmond Hill. Working with Arcadia Publishing they gathered many vintage postcards and newspaper articles. The book walks the reader through the evolution of Richmond Hill after the Civil War and contains over 200 photographs.

“Nancy Cataldi was a great historian and a great friend of the neighborhood of Richmond Hill,” said Carl Bellenas, Author, Richmond Hill Historian and Teacher at Immaculate Conception School. “It is so appropriate that its called Nancy Cataldi Way because she really did lead the way for historic preservation through education and through love of the community.”

At the ceremony, the Cataldi family accepted a New York City Council Proclamation, presented by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley in recognition of the leadership and legacy of their beloved Nancy. The presentation of the proclamation was book ended with performances by the Sacred Music Choral of Richmond Hill who sang ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘Amazing Grace,’ and poems written about Nancy Cataldi were recited by students from P.S. 66. Remarks were also given by Council Member Tony Avella, Assembly Member Mike Miller, representatives from Senator Joseph Addabbo’s office and Assembly Member Nettie Mayersohn, District Manager of Community Board 9 Mary Ann Carey, Reverend Francis Colamaria of Holy Child Jesus Church, Linda Mayo-Perez of Maple Grove Cemetery, Carl Ballenas of the Immaculate Conception and Vice President of the Richmond Hill Historic Society Joseph DeMay Jr.

Nancy Lucia Cataldi settled in Richmond Hill is 1963 and was a photographer by trade, starting as the photographer for the New York Rangers Hockey team and having many of her photographs appearing in prestigious magazines. In 1994, with boyfriend Stefano Palo, she purchased a 1905 Victorian House in Richmond Hill at 86-22 109th Street. She marveled at its romantic and historic allure and developed a deep interest in the neighborhood. The house was tenderly restored and refurbished. Through research she learned that the house was designed by noted Richmond Hill architect Henry E. Haugaard. In 1996 with the help of Dr. Stanley Cogan, Queens Borough Historian, her house received one of the first Queensmark awards for historical, architectural and cultural merit. In 1997 she and other residents formed the Richmond Hill Historical Society. By 1999 she had become the President of the organization.

*****


Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley’s New York City Proclamation written as follows:


Elizabeth S. Crowley, Council Member of the 30th District, is proud to posthumously honor Nancy Lucia Cataldi for her indelible contribution to the preservation of the beautiful and historic community of Richmond Hill; and

WHEREAS: The artist’s role in the formation of culture is the gift of self, requiring the full involvement of the person’s love, creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world, laboring for the universal good while inspired by dreams; and

WHEREAS: Nancy Lucia Cataldi, born February 7th, 1953 in Elmont, New York, moved to Naples, Italy as a young child where she gained an enduring appreciation of the richness of Italian culture and heritage, fostering in her a love of all things beautiful, including cats and masquerade balls. Returning to the United States in 1966, she settled in Richmond Hill where her mother opened Lucia’s Italian restaurant and at her side, Nancy perfected the art of la Cucina Napolitana. Ever passionate about her roots, she returned to her beloved Italy frequently and in time curated the premier exhibit of the Italian-American Museum in Little Italy; and

WHEREAS: Ms. Cataldi, a 1971 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, completed her education at Fashion Institute of Technology, pursued a career in photography and became a celebrated stylist for magazines and studios. Joining a love of sports to a love of glamour, she became the House Photographer for the New York Rangers, Press Photographer for the New York Yankees Old-Timers Games, and Press Photographer for the Belmont Stakes at the New York Times; sought after as a freelance photographer she gave expression to her abiding interest in history by covering many of the historic events in addition to movie sets in New York City; and

WHEREAS:Ms. Cataldi, in 1994 became the proud owner of a 1905 Victorian home in Richmond Hill at 86-22 109th Street and fascinated by its romantic and historic allure, embarked on a quest to uncover its origin, discovered that the house was the work of noted Richmond Hill architect Henry E. Haugaard and became engrossed in local preservation. In 1996 with the help of Dr. Stanley Cogan, Queens Borough Historian, her house was honored with one of the first Queensmark Awards for historical, architectural and cultural merit; and

WHEREAS:
Ms. Cataldi, inspired by the fruits of her historical studies and her devotion to the neighborhood, assisted with the incorporation of the Richmond Hill Historical Society in 1998; became President of the Society two years later and in 2002, co-authored with historian Carl Ballenas, a definitive popular history of Richmond Hill and in 2006, the history of Kew Garden’s Maple Grove Cemetery; and

W
HEREAS: Ms. Cataldi, recognized with a Grassroots Preservation Award by New York City’s Historic Districts Council for her tireless efforts, sought always to build community and safeguard Richmond Hill’s history and beauty; understood the impact of the past on the present and remained deeply engaged in her mission to preserve and protect architectural treasures until her young and sudden departure; and

WHEREAS: Ms. Cataldi, instrumental in saving the RKO Movie Theatre on Hillside Avenue, The Republican Club on Lefferts Boulevard, and creator of the Richmond Hill Museum; assisted in formulating a landmarked historic district; enriched everyone in Richmond Hill and the city beyond by her presence and left an irreplaceable legacy that continues today to inspire and instruct. For all of these reasons, we are proud to pay tribute to her by renaming 109th Street between 86th Avenue and Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill as “Nancy Cataldi Way”; now, therefore

BE IT KNOWN:That Elizabeth S. Crowley, Council Member of the 30th District, most gratefully honors

Nancy Lucia Cataldi

for her outstanding service and contributions to Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, the Borough of Queens and all of New York City.


Signed this 24th day of October in the year Two Thousand Nine.


_____________________________
Elizabeth S. Crowley
Council Member, 30th District
Queens

Sikh Parade in South Richmond Hill - Oct 24th

Click here to view these pictures larger

Thompson/Gulluscio Rally in South Richmond Hill - Oct 24th

Click here to view these pictures larger

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Public Option Annie - with lyrics (guerrilla musical at AHIP conference)

I love this, you've got to give credit to Billionaires for Wealthcare for their innovative and creative protest...


AHIP is the powerful insurance lobby that spends 5 million dollars a week trying to kill health care reform. Billionaires for Wealthcare is a grassroots network looking to stop them - with song.

• AHIP and other insurance and HMO interests spend nearly $5 million per week undermining real health care reform, including a public option.

• AHIP has resorted to out-right lying and scare tactics to block health care reform. They sent letters that lie to seniors about what health care reform means for Medicare, and they issued a report on the costs of health care reform legislation that is so misleading even the reports embarrassed authors distanced themselves from the way AHIP used their work.

• Every year, 45,000 people die because they cant get access to the health care they need. Yet AHIP continues to stand in the way of health care reform that would provide coverage to millions of Americans because the industry is more concerned with protecting profits than saving lives.

Lyrics to "Public Option Annie"

(to the tune of "Tomorrow" from Annie)

SINGER #1

No, thank you!

FOR KILLING THE PUBLIC OPTION

AND BLOCKING ANY HOPES OF ITS ADOPTION

THANK YOU, SIR!

SINGER #2
Sure,

BUT WHAT ABOUT COMPETITION?

IT'S AN OLD AMERICAN TRADITION

OR SO I'VE HEARD?

SINGER #1
Meh.

SINGER #3

WHEN OLYMPIA SNOWE

SAID NO,

IT CROAKED

Right?

SINGER #2

NO, THE OPTION'S NOT DEAD

SINGER #3

OR RED!

SINGER #1

EXPLAIN!

Who let these hippies in here?

SINGERS #2 AND #3, and CHORUS MEMBERS

IF WE GET A PUB-

LIC OPTION

WE CAN SNIFF OUT WASTE

JUST LIKE A DACHSUND

COSTS COME DOWN!

SINGER #1

Hey, those "costs" are my profits!

SINGERS #2 AND #3, and CHORUS MEMBERS

THE OPTION

THE OPTION

THE PUBLIC WANTS OPTIONS

WITHOUT IT,

IT'S A GIVEAWAY

SINGER #1

Exactly. To us. Am I in the right room?

THE OPTION

THE OPTION

THE PUBLIC WANTS AN OPTION

SINGERS #2 AND #3, and CHORUS MEMBERS

OR REFORM IS A CORP'RATE GIVE-A-WAY!

SINGER #1

Well, I've heard enough - my helicopter is parked in a handicap space.

http://www.billionairesforwealthcare....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Residents Upset With Late-Night Trysts In Forest Park by Ruschell Boone - NY1

video
A group of Richmond Hill residents is fighting back against what they say is becoming the common use of Forest Park for late-night trysts. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

Jorge Martinez says that while taking his six-year-old daughter for a walk through Forest Park it is normal to come across condom wrappers amongst the flowers and trees. He says over the years, this kind of trash has become part of the landscape.

“It's absolutely outrageous,” Martinez said.

For years, Martinez, like many other residents here, has been angry about the illegal sexual activities. But when his daughter began asking questions, he decided to fight back. He started a letter writing campaign, sending 200 of them to residents and local leaders calling for a bigger crackdown on the offenders.

“On any given night, you can see 10, 12, 15 people randomly going around the park and doing, you know, this type of activity,” said Martinez. “You can identify them. You can definitely tell.”

One of those letters was sent to the district manager of the local community board.

“He has a right to complain because it's been a problem. And it's been a problem for the 20 years that I have been here,” said Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey. “And we have people who come to the park from all over. He told us from as far as New Jersey.”

Some say the police need more manpower to patrol the 538-acre park because its size and terrain makes it hard to spot offenders.

“Four hundred and eleven acres of the park is wooded area. It's very difficult to patrol in a wooded area,” said Carey.

The New York City Police Department says the local precinct has been addressing the problems saying quote, “They have made 100 arrests and handed out 286 summonses for quality-of-life violations and park violations [this year alone.]”

But the community board says most of the patrols happen during the day and they would like to see more enforcement at night.

“The park closes at dusk and the police do their one trip through the park and don't go there unless somebody calls with some sort of an issue,” said Carey.

As for the litter, the Parks Department says it cleans Forest Park on a regular basis and workers address any litter issues as quickly as possible. But, Martinez says a lot more needs to be done.

Chairman Towns’ Statement on Committee Investigation into Mortgage Crisis...

Chairman Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) today made the following statement on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into the role of mortgage lenders in the financial services crisis and the economic recession.

The actions of mortgage lenders contributing to the foreclosure and financial crisis are of serious concern to many Americans and to the Members of this Committee,” said Chairman Towns. “That is why I have opened an investigation into whether mortgage companies employed deceptive and predatory lending practices, or improper tactics to thwart regulation, and the impact of those activities on the current crisis.”

Numerous reports over the past year indicate widespread predatory lending practices by some of the nation’s largest banks, including sub-prime mortgage lending, deceptive marketing, predatory and deceptive mortgage products, predatory primary and secondary mortgages, predatory and deceptive re-financings, and predatory foreclosures. Moreover, it appears that certain classes of borrowers were targeted for these predatory and deceptive mortgage products and practices, based on age, race, and income. Examples of possible predatory mortgage products include sub-prime mortgages, certain adjustable rate mortgages, and so-called “option-pay” or “option-ARM” mortgages.

In addition, there are indications that members of the financial services industry conspired to deceive regulators and the public to obtain regulatory favors, lax enforcement, and regulatory protection for schemes intended to deceive and defraud home purchasers, homeowners, regulators, and investors.

As part of the investigation, the Committee is demanding information from the nation's largest mortgage lenders, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America (including Countrywide), JP Morgan Chase (including Chase Manhattan Bank), Citigroup, Residential Capital (GMAC), and U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, as well as issuing a subpoena for records on Countrywide Financial's VIP program.

It is my goal to work through this matter in a bipartisan fashion and conduct a complete review of the role of mortgage companies in the current financial crisis. As part of this, we need to clarify unanswered questions about Countrywide Financial's VIP program, so I am issuing a subpoena to gather information about how that program worked and whether it provided special benefits to government officials. I am prepared to issue additional subpoenas if other companies fail to respond to our document requests,” Towns said.

Towns added, “In line with the commitment to an ethical and accountable Congress, the subpoena to Countrywide covers records that could show special treatment for Members of Congress. For reasons of jurisdiction, the subpoena directs that any such documents be sent to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct."

Finally, I would like to address the widespread false reports that I locked Republicans out of their offices earlier this week. These reports are incorrect. Republicans have at no time been denied access to the hearing room or their offices. The Ranking Member and I discussed how we can cooperate to prevent violations of House rules governing the use of hearing rooms, we reached agreement, and I consider this matter resolved.”

Text of the Chairman’s letter to Wells Fargo, Bank of America (including Countrywide), JP Morgan Chase (including Chase Manhattan Bank), Citigroup, Residential Capital (GMAC), and U.S. Bank Home Mortgage is included below.

###

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dear ,

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating the role of mortgage lenders and brokers in the financial services crisis and the economic recession.

Numerous reports over the past year indicate widespread predatory lending practices by some of the nation’s largest banks, including sub-prime mortgage lending, deceptive marketing, predatory and deceptive mortgage products, predatory primary and secondary mortgages, predatory and deceptive re-financings, and predatory foreclosures. Moreover, it appears that certain classes of borrowers were targeted for these predatory and deceptive mortgage products and practices, based on age, race, and income. Examples of possible predatory mortgage products include sub-prime mortgages, certain adjustable rate mortgages, and so-called “option-pay” or “option-ARM” mortgages.

In addition, there are indications that members of the financial services industry conspired to deceive regulators and the public to obtain regulatory favors, lax enforcement, and regulatory protection for schemes intended to deceive and defraud home purchasers, homeowners, regulators, and investors.

The Committee is issuing a subpoena today to Countrywide Financial in this matter because they did not provide information in response to a letter request. The Committee is prepared to issue additional subpoenas in this investigation, but will first give companies an opportunity to voluntarily comply. To aid in our investigation of these very serious issues, please provide information and records in response to the following questions, for each of the years 2000-2008:

1. Did your company operate any programs that provided enhanced benefits to certain borrowers based on their status as elite customers, persons with business or regulatory relationships with the company, friends and family of company employees and executives, or other VIP status? If so, please describe the operation of these programs, their eligibility criteria, and the benefits provided. How many people were provided with enhanced benefits under such programs? How were they notified of any enhanced benefits? For purposes of this inquiry, “enhanced benefits” means loan terms more favorable to the borrower than the loan terms then available to an ordinary member of the public, and includes any discounts or reduced costs associated with special treatment.

2. Did your company operate any program to identify loan applicants with regulatory authority over your company or the mortgage industry generally? If so, please describe the nature of the program.

3. How many residential mortgages did your company originate for each of the years 2000-2008? Of this universe, how many were: 30-years fixed rate mortgages; other fixed rate mortgages; adjustable rate mortgages; option-pay or option-ARM mortgages; sub-prime mortgages.

4. Please list by month for each year from 2000-2008 the number of residential mortgage loans on which your company foreclosed and identify the type of mortgage involved.

5. Please provide copies of all marketing strategies developed by or for your company for residential mortgages, home equity loans, or similar products for the period of 2000-2008, including all documents pertaining to the selection of target audiences.

6. Did your company coordinate with other companies to develop joint positions or campaigns against mortgage regulation? If so, identify these companies and any joint ventures, cooperative agreements, or associations that were created or used to fight regulation of mortgages.

7. Did your company develop draft regulations or legislation regarding mortgage lending that were proposed to federal or state lawmakers or regulators? If so, please provide copies of all such proposals.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, with jurisdiction over “any matter” under Rules X and XI of the House Rules. Please deliver the requested records to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, room 2157 Rayburn House Office Building, no later than 12:00 noon on Friday, November 13, 2009. To facilitate delivery and review, we prefer that the records be delivered in electronic format. In responding to this request, please be advised that the terms “records” and “relating to” are defined in the attachment to this letter.


Sincerely,

Edolphus Towns

Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform