The Yonkers Insider Online

Delfim A. Heusler for New York State Assembly – 90th District – Petition.

Click on link to Petition: Independent Nominating Petition-2

If you can collect some signatures, print out petition and send in snail mail to:

Delfim A. Heusler
35 Chase Avenue – Apt 1-A
Yonkers, NY 10703

 

CUOMO SPENDS MORE THAN

QUARTER BILLION TAX DOLLARS ON TV ADS

—–

$237.5 million Figure Revealed only After Year of FOIL Requests;

State Comptroller Audit Announcement

——-

Astorino Calls for Cessation of Spending  in Election Season

New York–July 18…New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is spending $237.5 million — including almost $40 million in money intended for Hurricane Sandy victims — to run false television advertising, telling voters here and nationally that everything is coming up roses in New York under his administration, the campaign of New York gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino today said.

The shocking figure, which was obtained by Gannett news after a year of effort, is $87.5 million more than what was previously thought. New York ranks 50th among states in economic outlook, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council, and it has the highest taxes in America. It was ranked the worst state in America in which to retire, and its state government is ranked the most corrupt in America by the University of Illinois.

“This is a swindle of historic proportions,” Mr. Astorino said. “Andrew Cuomo has taken more than a quarter billion dollars of taxpayer money and put it into television advertising for his own political gain. People have been locked in jail for far less than that.”

Mr. Astorino said it should be illegal for taxpayer ads like Mr. Cuomo’s to run inside New York, especially in an election year, and he called on Mr. Cuomo to halt the television campaign immediately.

“Mr. Cuomo is literally taking money from homeless New York families on Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and elsewhere and put it on TV for his own political gain, three months before an election. He can’t be allowed to get away with that. This is what having the most corrupt state government in America looks like.”

Statement by Republican Candidate for Governor Rob Astorino

 

July 17, 2014

 

“Siskel & Ebert would have given one star to Governor Cuomo’s political theatre. It’s classic Cuomo to jump in and take credit for the MTA deal, when only a couple of days ago he was telling affected Long Island commuters and businesses that a strike wouldn’t be a big deal and it wasn’t his problem. Further, there are many unanswered questions about this deal and how much it will truly cost already overburdened taxpayers and commuters, who are already facing a scheduled fare hike for 2015. Whether it’s raiding funding from Sandy victims for his TV ads or turning a serious strike threat into a political sideshow, Long Islanders won’t be fooled by Andrew Cuomo’s self-serving games.”

 

Statement by Republican Candidate for Governor Rob Astorino

 

July 17, 2014

 

“Governor Cuomo and Sheldon Silver have jumped the shark with the so-called ‘Women’s Equality Party.’ Mr. Silver covered up sexual abuse of young interns and staffers for years, using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to pay off victims, and Andrew Cuomo protected him from criminal investigation after Silver got caught doing it.

 

“I was one of the first elected officials in New York State to call for Silver’s removal as Speaker after news of his treachery to women became public in 2012, and Andrew Cuomo did nothing. He chose to protect Silver instead of protecting women. Mr. Cuomo showed his true nature right there.

 

“Mr. Cuomo then did nothing to press Mr. Silver to pass 9 pro-women bills that were held hostage to a way-out-of-the-mainstream 10th bill that would expand late term abortions — right up until birth — and allow non-doctors to perform abortions in New York. The provisions in that bill is opposed by an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers. Mr. Cuomo didn’t listen to them; he let pro-women legislation die in order to appease radical members of the abortion lobby who contribute resources to his campaigns.

 

“Every time the words ‘Women’s Equality Party’ are spoken, New Yorkers should think ‘Andrew Cuomo and Sheldon Silver.’ Because that’s what this party line is really about.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo took $40 million intended for victims of Hurricane Sandy. He used this money to create feel good election year TV ads to boost his poll numbers.

After nearly two years, many Hurricane Sandy victims are still homeless. They’ve been paying mortgages on uninhabitable, destroyed homes. Apparently, Andrew Cuomo’s ads are more important than they are.

Want to help spread the message? Sign up here to volunteer or click here to donate.

-Rob Astorino

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 


The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

NOTE: When Hurricane Sandy hit New York almost two years ago, thousands of New Yorkers saw their homes and possessions destroyed. Taxpayers opened their hearts and wallets to help New York families get back on their feet.

Twenty one months later, families are still out of their homes.

But using $40 million or more earmarked for Sandy victims, Governor Andrew Cuomo is airing election-year, feel-good television ads. Cuomo got special dispensation to use the Sandy money for the TV ads from — wait for it — the Washington agency he used to head, The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  

These ads feature real Hurricane Sandy families still in need. They are homeless, while Andrew Cuomo uses money meant for them to boost his poll numbers. That story needs to be told.

 

We are pleased to help them tell it.

 

–Rob Astorino for Governor

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 


The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

CUOMO WEB  1137-QuickTime H.264

 

 

NOTE: When Hurricane Sandy hit New York almost two years ago, thousands of New Yorkers saw their homes and possessions destroyed. Taxpayers opened their hearts and wallets to help New York families get back on their feet.

Twenty months later, families are still out of their homes. There’s no money left for them.

But using money earmarked for Sandy victims, Governor Andrew Cuomo is airing election-year, feel-good television ads. Cuomo got special dispensation to use the money for the TV ads from — wait for it — the Washington agency he used to head, The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  

These ads feature real Hurricane Sandy families still in need. They are homeless, while Andrew Cuomo uses money meant for them to boost his poll numbers. That story needs to be told.

 

We are pleased to help them tell it.

 

–Rob Astorino for Governor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 


The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

Western NY Voters Deserve A Debate

 

 

Statement from Rob Astorino on today’s report of new subpoenas issued in 

the U.S. Attorney’s investigation of Governor Cuomo

  

“Andrew Cuomo rode into town saying he was going to tackle corruption.  But he’s only brought corruption to a new level. Between his nefarious Moreland and JCope deals, and his swindling of Hurricane Sandy dollars, this Administration may go down as the most corrupt ever.”

July 18, 2014, 12:48 p.m.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Statement from Rob Astorino on today’s report of new subpoenas issued in the U.S. Attorney’s investigation of Governor Cuomo

“Andrew Cuomo rode into town saying he was going to tackle corruption.  But he’s only brought corruption to a new level. Between his nefarious Moreland and JCope deals, and his swindling of Hurricane Sandy dollars, this Administration may go down as the most corrupt ever.”

###

July 18,2014, 11:12 a.m.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CUOMO SPENDS MORE THAN
QUARTER BILLION TAX DOLLARS ON TV ADS

—–
$237.5 million Figure Revealed only After Year of FOIL Requests;
State Comptroller Audit Announcement

——-
Astorino Calls for Cessation of Spending in Election Season

New York–July 18…New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is spending $237.5 million — including almost $40 million in money intended for Hurricane Sandy victims — to run false television advertising, telling voters here and nationally that everything is coming up roses in New York under his administration, the campaign of New York gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino today said.

The shocking figure, which was obtained by Gannett news after a year of effort, is $87.5 million more than what was previously thought. New York ranks 50th among states in economic outlook, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council, and it has the highest taxes in America. It was ranked the worst state in America in which to retire, and its state government is ranked the most corrupt in America by the University of Illinois.

“This is a swindle of historic proportions,” Mr. Astorino said. “Andrew Cuomo has taken more than a quarter billion dollars of taxpayer money and put it into television advertising for his own political gain. People have been locked in jail for far less than that.”

Mr. Astorino said it should be illegal for taxpayer ads like Mr. Cuomo’s to run inside New York, especially in an election year, and he called on Mr. Cuomo to halt the television campaign immediately.

“Mr. Cuomo is literally taking money from homeless New York families on Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and elsewhere and put it on TV for his own political gain, three months before an election. He can’t be allowed to get away with that. This is what having the most corrupt state government in America looks like.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 


The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

The Capital Region Deserves A Debate
The Capital Region Deserves Its Own Debate

Welcome to the Astorino for Governor campaign update! Here, we will be updating you regularly on what’s happening with Rob and Chris on the campaign trail across New York State. Enjoy!

Michael Lawler
Campaign Manager
Astorino for Governor

Rob speaks to a packed house in Suffolk County about repealing Common Core and bringing back local control to our classrooms.

Chris Moss and Erie County Sheriff Howard present Sgt. Tim Payne with an M1 Rifle honoring his Service in Afghanistan.

Rob throws out the first pitch at the Hudson Valley Renegades game in Dutchess County.

Rob in the News

The Wall Street Journal – Westchester USA

The New York Post – The right way to spend New York’s BNP Paribas windfall

LoHud – Astorino launches “Stop Common Core” ballot line

NY State of Politics – Astorino Campaign Attempts To Pay Cuomo’s Property Taxes

The Buffalo News – Astorino seeks at least 8 debates with Cuomo

Help Rob put New York back in the winning column!

Have you checked out our revamped volunteer page yet? You can print your very own campaign materials from home! If you have a spare hour on any given day, please print the leaflets on your home printer and distribute them to your friends and neighbors. Ours is a grassroots campaign to save this state, and we can’t win it without you. It’s the people of New York who are going to save New York.

It’s time to debate!

Andrew Cuomo doesn’t like debates but has a responsibility to do them. New York has fallen behind other states in so many categories. Our taxpayers deserve to hear what the two major candidates for governor plan to do about it. I have proposed debates in Western, NY; Central NY; the North Country; the Southern Tier; in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, New York City and one just for Long Island. Check out Rob’s challenge to the Governor here:

ASTORINO DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM GOVERNOR CUOMO

——

Cuomo Camp Busted Falsely Accusing Astorino of Leaking Tax Records

——

Astorino Asks if Cuomo Will Pay Back $32,000 in Back Taxes he Evaded?

 

 

New York–July 11…Governor Andrew Cuomo and his surrogates were publicly rebuked today in a Journal News column after falsely and repeatedly accusing Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino of unveiling Mr. Cuomo’s evasion of approximately $32,000 in property taxes over the past four years at his New Castle home.  Mr. Cuomo and his partner were caught in a Journal News investigative report earlier this year that revealed significant renovations inside the governor’s home that were done without legally required building permits or inspections.  Had Mr. Cuomo taken out the permits, it would have triggered significantly higher taxes for the property.  

Today’s column, written by veteran Journal News investigative reporter and columnist David McKay Wilson, makes it clear that it was reportorial legwork, and not anything from the Astorino Administration, that uncovered the permit and tax evasion. Mr. Cuomo, through a surrogate, went so far as to file FOIL requests into the Town of New Castle last week to determine if the Town Supervisor — a Democrat — was somehow in cahoots with the Astorino campaign.

“Andrew Cuomo owes Rob Astorino an apology; he owes David McKay Wilson an apology, and he owes the Town of New Castle an apology,” said Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud. “But more than that, he owes his neighbors in New Castle around $32,000 in back taxes that he avoided paying over the past four years by hiding renovations to his home. Mr. Cuomo — the state’s chief executive — still will not let the town tax assessor into his home to determine what the proper tax assessment should be. What type of example does that set?”

After repeated attempts to gain access to Mr. Cuomo’s home, the Town of New Castle made an estimated reassessment of the house, raising the annual property taxes $8,000. There is no local law requiring Mr. Cuomo to pay back the taxes he has avoided since at least 2010.

Renovations to the Cuomo home were discovered by Mr. Wilson through pictorial spreads in glossy magazines.

“It’s funny, Mr. Cuomo had no problem letting celebrity photographers and film crews into his home, but he won’t let the tax assessor in.  What does that tell you?,” Ms. Proud asked.

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

Astorino to Cuomo: Let's Have Eight Regional Debates
Astorino to Cuomo: Let’s Have Eight Regional Debates

 

 

Andrew Cuomo doesn’t like debates. But has a responsibility to do them.

New York has the highest taxes in America, the worst economic outlook, and its state government ranks as the most corrupt in the nation. Voters must hear from their candidates.

I didn’t hide from debates when I ran for re-election as Westchester County Executive. I engaged my opponent — a Harvard trained debater — in five one-hour debates in a single county. Advisors told me not to, but it would have been cowardly and wrong for me to refuse.

New York is a vast and diverse state with many needs and nuances. Issues that might arise in a Binghamton debate, might not apply to voters in Brighton Beach, and vice versa. So I propose — I challenge — Governor Cuomo to a series of at least eight regional debates around New York State between now and Election Day.

Let’s debate in Western, NY; Central NY; the North Country; the Southern Tier; in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, New York City and one just for Long Island.

So community organizations, schools and news outlets interested in sponsoring a debate should get in touch with both our campaigns.

New York has fallen behind other states in so many categories. Our taxpayers deserve to hear what the two major candidates for governor plan to do about it.

You’re not afraid to debate, are you governor?


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 


NOTE: After collecting $1.22 from the good people of New York to help pay Andrew Cuomo’s property taxes — the governor has been cheating on paying his fair share of property taxes since at least 2010 — our intrepid man heads to New Castle Town Hall. See what happens….

 

Oh, the governor still won’t let his town assessor into his home to see what unpermitted work was done. 

 

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

Paying Andrew's Property Taxes...
Paying Andrew’s Property Taxes…

 

ASTORINO: BNP PARIBAS MONEY SHOULD GO TO

LONG-TERM CAPITAL EXPENSES, NOT GENERAL FUND

Can Fix Bad Mario Cuomo Decision that Diverted

Thruway Toll Revenue to Canal Corporation

New York–July 2...Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York State, today challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo to dedicate the $2.2 billion windfall from the BNP Paribas bank settlement to long-term capital projects to shore up New York’s decaying rail and highway infrastructure. The money would otherwise go into New York’s general fund where it would be used for day-to-day operating expenses.

Mr. Astorino also proposed a long-term fix to the 1992 Mario Cuomo decision to divert Thruway Authority toll revenue to the Canal Corporation, thus stripping New York’s roads and bridges of their historic stream of infrastructure funding. The County Executive said that $500 million in BNP Paribas settlement funds could be used to cover Canal Corporation costs over the next seven years, an entity whose costs could then be returned to the state’s general fund. Thruway Authority money could then be re-dedicated to highway infrastructure, as it was originally intended to be.

“The BNP Paribas settlement presents New York with a real opportunity to shore up its aging Thruway and MTA  infrastructure and to fix a bad policy decision that has robbed New York’s roads of badly needed repairs,” County Executive Astorino said. “Fixing bridges and roadways may not be a sexy endeavor — it may not come with ribbon cuttings — but it is of critical necessity to the economic future of this state and to the safety of New York motorists.  This is an enormous amount of money, and we have an opportunity to spend it wisely, rather than to put it into the hands of a government that is already spending New York to death.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 


The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

Governor, Did You Divert Sandy Relief Money From Victims to TV Ads?
Governor, Did You Divert Sandy Relief Money from
Victims to TV Ads?

 

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York almost two years ago, thousands of New Yorkers saw their homes and possessions destroyed. Twenty months later, many families are still out of their homes.

 

But what about the billions Sandy aid that was supposed to help them?  Where did it go? Shouldn’t that have been enough money to get people back on their feet?

 

A lot of people have been asking Governor Cuomo that question, but his office won’t tell them.

 

So let me ask you directly, Mr. Cuomo:  Is it true that you diverted Hurricane Sandy and other relief money into TV commercials to help your re-election?  Did you actually take money that could have gone to hurricane victims and put it into television ads?

 

If that’s true, governor  — and I’m told it is — how much did you spend?  And how much of that money is left?

 

Families are still in need Mr. Cuomo. Are your free TV ads really more important than them?


Statement from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on

today’s tragic news of the deaths of the three kidnapped boys

June 30, 2014

 

“Sheila and I offer our condolences of the families of these three kidnapped boys, one of them an American,  who are the victims of a deliberate and heinous crime against children. As several relatives of these boys are New Yorkers, the pain of their death is particularly acute here in our home state.
“At the same time, we are outraged by the reaction of the Hamas leadership, part of the new Palestinian government, who welcomed this crime while not accepting responsibility. The perpetrators of this horrific act of terrorism must be brought to justice.” –Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino 

   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

Andrew needs our help.
Andrew Cuomo needs our help

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

  

 This HD Video May be Downloaded for Television Use

The Truth About Property Taxes
The Truth About Property Taxes

 

  

Script:

  

 Gov. Cuomo - your latest attack ad against me is on property taxes.

 

Are you serious?
Attacking me on property taxes when you havent even bothered to pay your own, or at least not the full amount.

  

This issue isnt going away governor - meet with your local assessor and pay your full share of taxes just like everyone else has to.

 

And regarding my record on property taxes, here are the facts:

 

In every year I have been in office we have either reduced or held flat the countys property tax levy.  According to the Comptrollers office, no county in the state has reduced their tax levy as much as Westchester has.

I was elected by a 15-point margin in 2009, in 2-1 democratic Westchester, when I said I would stop the tax madness and I was re-elected last fall by a 13-point margin.  Westchester taxpayers know they can trust me.

 

Can they trust you Andrew Cuomo?  

 

Besides not paying your own taxes, you refuse to do anything to rein in the unfunded mandates from Albany that crush local governments and school districts who have no say in the programs but must pay the bill you send them. 

 

In Westchester, 85 cents of every tax levy dollar we spend goes to pay for your mandated programs.  In some counties, its much higher.

Stop the nonsense TV ads governor.  Pay your property tax bill and deliver the mandate relief that New Yorkers really need to lower theirs.

 

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ASTORINO JOINS HOMEOWNERS BEING TOLD TO

OPEN THEIR DOORS TO TAX ASSESSORS, WHILE

GOVERNOR CUOMO REFUSES TO OPEN HIS

 

“The Governor Needs to Set the Example”

No Double Standards
No Double Standards, Governor

 

Westchester–June 26…Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, today joined with Westchester County homeowners who are refusing to open their doors for tax reevaluations until Governor Andrew Cuomo agrees to open his.

 

Governor Cuomo has been the subject of an multi-part investigative report by The Journal News over his failure to report significant internal renovations to his home that were discovered by his town assessor only after they appeared in national magazines. Those renovations were done without permits — or insurance, so it seems — as is required by local law. The governor, who shares the property tax bills with his live-in partner, has therefore been significantly underpaying his fair share of taxes for at least four years to the Town of New Castle, where he lives. The New Castle town assessor estimates that the Cuomo household has been paying 29% less in property taxes than it should be — adding extra tax burden to his neighbors — and has said that an accurate property tax assessment cannot be made because Governor Cuomo refuses to open his door for an inspection.

 

“Homeowners in towns and villages around this state are being asked to open their doors to assessors for property tax reevaluations, while the state’s chief executive is refusing to open his,” County Executive Astorino said. “These homeowners are rightly upset that there seems to be two sets of rules in this state; one for governor and one for everyone else. Governor Cuomo has a responsibility as the top elected official in this state to set an example, and the example he is setting is clear. Local officials statewide are going to have an awful time convincing homeowners to do something the governor won’t do himself.”

 

The Astorino campaign maintains that Governor Cuomo is refusing to open his doors because it will a.) prove that he has been cheating on taxes, and b.) reveal blatant mistruths that have been made by members of his administration about the nature of the work completed.

Statement from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on

Andrew Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge Tricks

June 26, 2014

 

“Governor Cuomo just doubled down on the financial shell games that we’ve seen dating back to the first Cuomo administration. His newly approved $511 million gimmick takes money from a fund specifically earmarked for environmental projects, like clean drinking water, to plug a massive budget hole in his plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Mr. Cuomo’s sleight of hand trick is directly reminiscent of the financial shenanigans that led to Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1994 re-election defeat.  

 

“That Cuomo Administration infamously raided the State Insurance Fund, sold state-owned prisons back to itself, and diverted highway toll money into the Canal Corporation, which, ironically, is part of the reason why infrastructure projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge are short money today.  

 

“Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal gimmick involving clean drinking water funding is an attempt to cover up shortfalls in the Thruway Authority that will result in punitively high toll prices for Hudson-River crossers. In Albany, this is called ‘Cuomo Accounting.’ In the private sector, it’s called ‘cooking the books.'”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

Cuomo's Albany Fails to Address Major Issues
Cuomo’s Albany Fails to Address Major Issues

 

Script:

 

And so another legislative session in Albany is ending, without a thing being done to turn this state around.

 

For struggling New Yorkers there was nothing. Zero. Zilch.

 

We have the highest property taxes in America because of Albany’s unfunded mandates, yet there was no mandate relief.

 

We have the worst economic outlook in America, yet nothing was done to grow the economy;

 

We have the second highest electric rates in America, but natural gas beneath our feet remains untapped.

 

We have an insanely high gas tax. Too bad for you, they say.

 

Cities like Syracuse and localities statewide are buckling under the pressure of passalong costs from Medicaid and pension benefits.  No relief there.

 

So what was Albany working on?

 

Lowering the speed limit in a traffic-choked city where you’re lucky to go 5-miles-an-hour; a debate over whether to kill a couple hundred Mute Swans — I’m not sure where that one ended up — and passing new regulations on “light pollution,” whatever that is.

 

Now, these may all be very good bills, but where are the priorities? Where is the real help you promised, Mr. Cuomo?

 

New York is systematically losing to every other state in this country and we’re talking about Mute Swans.

 

That’s Andrew Cuomo’s Albany.

 

We can do better than this, New Yorkers. When I get to Albany, it’s the urgent priorities, the real priorities, that will come first.

 

Nothing will happen in Albany, until we get tax relief, job growth, energy production, Common Core repeal, term limits, and ethics reform.

 

All else will have to wait.

And if the mute swans could talk, I’m sure they, especially would agree.

 

Have you seen the New York State GOP commercial that hit the airwaves this week? Governor Cuomo has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars on false political ads instead of spending his time trying to fix the mess in Albany. Did you know that under Governor Cuomo, New York State ranks dead last 50th in all the important categories? Worst economic outlook, highest property taxes, worst state to retire, the list goes on and on.

We need your help to spread the message. Contribute $25 today and let’s put New York back in the winning column together.

Sincerely,
Michael Lawler
Astorino For Governor
Campaign Manager

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Statement from the Astorino Campaign on Latest Cuomo Attack Ad

June 19, 2014

 

“Governor Cuomo, who was just caught red handed cheating on his own property taxes, is now running television ads across New York State about Westchester’s status as the county with the highest property taxes in America. We are thrilled that the governor is finally bringing this up, because those high taxes are directly driven by his failure as governor.

 

“County Executive Astorino has shrunk the size of Westchester’s government, frozen or lowered its tax levy every year he’s been in office, and lowered the size of its budget in real dollars. Westchester County spends less today than it did four-and-a-half years ago when Mr. Astorino was elected.

 

“So if Astorino shrunk government, reduced spending, and cut the tax levy, how can property taxes be going up? The answer is simple: Governor Cuomo’s Albany.

 

“Governor Cuomo’s state mandates raid the resources of counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts. The cost of Cuomo’s unfunded mandates are rising by the year and it is stretching to the point of breaking the ability of local governments to provide basic services.

 

“In Westchester County today, 85 cents of every tax dollar goes to pay for Mr. Cuomo’s mandates. In other places, like Rockland County, that percentage exceeds 100%. So when Governor Cuomo talks about high property taxes, he is talking about his own record, except, of course, in paying his own fair share of taxes in the Town of New Castle.” –Jessica Proud, Astorino for Governor spokeswoman

 

Press Note: Governor Cuomo is on record saying he splits the cost of property taxes with his partner, Sandra Lee. Any failure to pay their fair share is, itself, shared.

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Everyday New Yorkers Tell Governor Cuomo: Pay Your Taxes, Andrew!

New York–June 17th….New Yorkers have a message for Andrew Cuomo in a newly released campaign video telling the Governor to pay his taxes.

Recently published reports detail extensive renovations that were done to Governor Cuomo’s home without obtaining necessary building permits, as well as his refusal to allow the tax assessor inside to properly value the home. New Yorkers–who pay the highest property taxes in the country–are speaking out against Governor Cuomo’s failure to pay his fair share.

Pay Your Taxes Andrew
Pay Your Taxes Andrew

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Statement from Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on

Andrew Cuomo’s Financial Shell Game

June 17, 2014

 

“The dangerous and inappropriate financial shell games we saw in another Cuomo administration are back. Yesterday it was revealed that Andrew Cuomo is engaged in a $511 million gimmick taking money from a fund specifically earmarked for environmental projects, like clean drinking water, to plug a massive budget hole in his plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Mr. Cuomo’s sleight of hand trick is directly reminiscent of the financial shenanigans that led to Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1994 re-election defeat.

 

“That Cuomo Administration infamously raided the State Insurance Fund, sold state-owned prisons back to itself, and diverted highway toll money into the Canal Corporation, which, ironically, is part of the reason why infrastructure projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge are short money today.

 

“Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal gimmick involving clean drinking water funding is an attempt to cover up shortfalls in the Thruway Authority that will result in punitively high toll prices for Hudson-River crossers. In Albany, this is called ‘Cuomo Accounting.’ In the private sector, it’s called ‘cooking the books.'”

 

ASTORINO RELEASES FIRST CAMPAIGN AD:

 WINNING AGAIN

 

 

 New York–June 23rd…Westchester County Executive and Republican candidate for governor today released his first television advertisement of the campaign. The 30 second spot, entitled Winning Again, began airing today on broadcast and cable markets throughout the state.

 

 

Winning Again
Winning Again
 This HD Video May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

  

Script:

 

New Yorkers don’t like losing.

 

So why accept being dead last in America under Andrew Cuomo.

 

Highest Taxes…

 

The Worst Economic Outlook…

 

Most people leaving a state…

 

Cuomo has struck out for New York

 

 

We don’t have to live this way.

 

With bold reforms we can get New York winning again.

 

I did it as County Executive.

 

I’ll do it as Governor.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

 

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

Astorino to Cuomo: Take a Stand on Silver
Astorino to Cuomo: Take a Stand on Silver

 

Script:

 

Chalk one up for the good guys in New York.  

 

Yesterday, federal judge Analise Torres ruled that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver can be held liable for covering up sex crimes in the state legislature, and doing so using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars over a period of 19 years.

 

Sheldon Silver created a culture “in which [an Assembly member] believed he could sexually harass the women on his staff with impunity,” Justice Torres said.

 

She called Silver’s failure to protect women from Silver’s political buddies “actionable” and said that “plaintiffs have a plausible claim that Silver participated in and caused the deprivation of their rights. ”

 

“Silver could not have believed that his actions were reasonable under state or city law,” Judge Torres said.

 

Those of us who truly want ethics reforms in New York State couldn’t agree more.  We applaud Judge Torres for her firm ruling.

 

Yet Governor Cuomo continues to stand behind Sheldon Silver even after this ruling, even after the New York Times and other newspapers around the state called on Silver to step down as Speaker.

 

Governor Cuomo keeps giving the same, pat, copout answer that he doesn’t vote for who the Assembly Speaker should be.

 

That’s not good enough any more, Mr. Cuomo.  It’s not good enough in light of this ruling and it’s not good enough for the victims of sex crimes in Albany.

 

It’s time that you took a real stand for ethics in this state.  It’s time you took a stand on Shelly Silver.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Statement from New York Gubernatorial Candidate 

Rob Astorino on the Passing of Senator Roy M. Goodman

 June 4, 2014

 

“Senator Roy Goodman was a powerful and articulate voice in New York politics for decades. He will forever be remembered as the ‘Statesman of the State Senate’ for his gentle demeanor and willingness to work across party lines. New York politics would be greatly improved  today if more people in government  borrowed from Senator Goodman’s demeanor and temperament.”

STATEMENT FROM WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO

 
June 4, 2014
 

 

“Governor Cuomo is using $150 million in tax dollars to spread a mistruth about New York’s business climate in order to help himself get re-elected. It is one of the grossest examples of misused tax dollars in modern history.

“The truth is that New York ranks dead last 50th in America in economic outlook under this governor and 48th in business climate. We are the highest taxed state in America, and we were just rated the worst state in America in which to retire, largely because our nation-leading property taxes.

 

“Governor Cuomo has done none of the hard work necessary to actually make this state economically competitive again.  He may think he is pulling the wool over the eyes of New Yorkers with these ads, but the truth is that New Yorkers are voting with their feet in record numbers.  It’s why New York also leads the nation, under Mr. Cuomo, in people fleeing a state.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Statement from Governor Cuomo Spokesman

Hank Sheinkopf on Andrew Cuomo

April 12, 2002

Andrew Cuomo is “willing to say anything, do anything — including distorting the facts — to win election.” (link)

 
(How else can Mr. Cuomo’s latest flip-flop about his relationship with Senate Republicans be explained?)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

CUOMO BREAKS NO-TAX-HIKE PLEDGE AGAIN

Astorino Calls for Full Accounting of Siphoned Energy Tax Funds

New York–June 9…Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly broke his 2010 pledge not to raise taxes on New Yorkers, and now he’s doing it again, Westchester County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino today charged.  

“Governor Cuomo made a solemn vow to overtaxed New Yorkers four years ago not to raise taxes, and he quickly reneged on that pledge once he got into office,” County Executive Astorino said. “Now, Governor Cuomo has created a new, underhanded energy tax on every New Yorker and New York business under the auspices of an emergency that does not exist. I call on Governor Cuomo today to stop this new tax and to account for the millions of tax dollars that already have been taken from New Yorkers under false auspices.”

At issue, is the “temporary” “18-a Assessment” surcharge on utility customers that was created in 2009 ostensibly as an emergency measure to fund New York’s Public Service Commission which oversees utilities. It raised New York’s tax on utility customers from .33% to 2%.  That “temporary surcharge” was supposed to expire — or “sunset” — on March 31, 2014, but Governor Cuomo quietly renewed it in his new budget — even though the Public Service Commission is fully funded and doesn’t need the revenue.

Governor Cuomo famously said in 2010 when the issue of another “temporary surcharge” was raised: “It was supposed to sunset. If it doesn’t sunset, it’s a tax.”

“New Yorkers are the highest taxed people in America, and our state was just ranked as the worst place to retire in the country because of its high taxes,” Mr. Astorino continued. “We also have the second highest electric costs in the country, and an AARP poll released last weekend reported that 74% of New Yorkers age 50 and over are significantly struggling with utility costs.  Mr. Cuomo’s new tax hurts families and small businesses least able to afford it.  He must get rid of this new energy tax and explain where taxpayer dollars have been going now that the Public Service Commission is fully funded.”

The Public Service Commission meets this week in Albany.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

ASTORINO CAMPAIGN: “GOVERNOR CUOMO IS

ENGAGED IN PROPERTY TAX EVASION”

“Open Your Doors to Inspectors to Show Otherwise”

New York–June 12, 2014…The Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, has knowingly been engaged in property tax evasion for the past four years, and he is refusing to allow a town inspector into his home in an attempt to cover it up, the campaign of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino today charged.

“We want to be crystal clear on what we are saying about Governor Cuomo today,” said Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud. “We are directly suggesting that Andrew Cuomo hid renovations to his home in order to evade the higher property taxes he would have to pay if those renovations had been properly permitted, as is required of other citizens. We are further suggesting that the Governor is intentionally barring home access to his town assessor to conceal the amount of work that was done. We are also accusing Governor Cuomo and his government staff of not telling the truth in press reports about the extent of work done in the home.”

Governor Cuomo, who shares the house and splits the property taxes at Four Bittersweet Lane in New Castle with his partner Sandra Lee, according to news reports, has been the subject of a Gannett news investigation into their doing work on the home without building permits as is required. Ms. Lee detailed renovations to the home in national magazines, according to Gannett, but Governor Cuomo through spokespeople tried to play down the extent of those renovations after Gannett called the tax issue into question, claiming that work only involved “decorative” work — “window treatments.” Mr. Cuomo then barred the New Castle assessor from entering his home to determine the truth, as is Mr. Cuomo’s legal right.  That assessor is now estimating that Mr. Cuomo and his partner should be paying a full 29% more in property taxes than they do now, but it is impossible to determine the actual fair tax value without home access.

“The governor of New York has to pay his fair share of property taxes, just like everyone else in this state,” Ms. Proud continued. “And the only way we’re going to know what that fair share is is for Governor Cuomo to open his doors. What’s he hiding?”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

STATEMENT FROM ROB ASTORINO ON 

 

ANDREW CUOMO’S PROPERTY TAX EVASION ISSUE

 

June 13, 2014

‘Now that you know that the town tax assessor wants 

access to your home, will you let him in?’

“Andrew Cuomo dubiously claimed ignorance yesterday about his town tax assessor being refused entry into his home. The assessor wants to look at renovations widely described in national news magazines that were done without building permits and went unreported to the Town of New Castle.

“Mr. Cuomo’s own government staff has been involved in dealing with the Town of New Castle in this regard, so I find it difficult to understand how he could not know that the assessor was refused access.  But, irregardless, Mr. Cuomo now knows with absolute certainty that the assessor’s request to enter Mr. Cuomo’s premises has been rejected, so it begs the question, ‘now that you know that the town assessor wants access to your home to see if if you have been paying your fair share in property taxes, will you let him in?’

“New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in America.  They deserve to know if their governor has been cheating on his.”
The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

Governor Cuomo, Pay Your Fair Share!
Governor Cuomo, Pay Your Fair Share!

 

Script:

 

New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in America.  And we feel it.

Across this state, thousands of senior citizens have had to go back to work to pay those taxes.

Young people have been shut out of buying homes.

And small business have closed because of property taxes, putting more people out of work.

Property taxes are a key reason why so many New Yorkers are packing up and moving out of state — 400,000 of them under Governor Cuomo.

It is especially disturbing then to learn that Mr. Cuomo is not and has not been paying his fair share of property taxes the entire time he’s been governor.  

More than that, it looks like Mr. Cuomo has intentionally been evading his fair share of property taxes by not reporting major renovations to his home as required by law.  Those renovations have even appeared in national news magazines.

Now, Mr. Cuomo is barring his town tax assessor for entering his home. He won’t let the assessor in to see the work that was done.

Does that sound on the level to you?  It doesn’t to me.   

New Yorkers are sick of two sets of rules, one for Albany politicians and one for them.  

You and I are paying our fair share of taxes, and it’s breaking our backs.  

Why hasn’t Governor Cuomo been paying his?  

Open the door, Governor Cuomo.  Let the inspector in. I thought you were going to bring transparency to this state…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Astorino Unveils Plan to Clean Up Albany’s Corruption

Derides Cuomo’s Handling of Moreland Commission

Comprehensive Agenda Will Combat New York’s Status as

Most Corrupt in Nation

New York, NY–June 16, 2014….New Yorkers are paying a stealth corruption tax due to the state’s status as the most corrupt in the nation today charged Westchester County Executive and Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino in the unveiling of his comprehensive, 10-point ethics plan.

County Executive Astorino has made Albany’s corruption a key tenant of his campaign and has frequently criticized Mr. Cuomo for his alleged interference in the Moreland Commission, where he reportedly tampered with criminal investigations involving political allies, prompting an investigation by the U.S. Attorney. Mr. Astorino has also cited Mr. Cuomo’s protection of Speaker Silver, who has helped cover up sex crimes in the state Assembly, as well as the Mr. Cuomo’s recent scandal involving potential property tax evasion as further proof the governor has directly contributed to New York’s corruption problems.

“The corruption by government officials in New York has reached a staggering level

of embarrassment,” said Mr. Astorino. “The culture of corruption does not just affect the perpetrators, but average New Yorkers end up paying a stealth corruption tax as a result of these insider deals. Andrew Cuomo–who is a lifelong Albany insider–not only failed to keep his promise to clean up Albany, but his handling of the Moreland Commission makes him a direct contributor to New York’s status as the most corrupt state in the nation.”

He continued, “This is a bold plan, but the only way to crack down on this corruption epidemic is through proposals that ruffle the feathers of the political establishment. We will never move New York back into the winning column until we address this growing problem and Sheriff Moss and I will make this a top priority.  Our plan lays out a blueprint for cracking down on corruption once and for all.”

-more-

The Astorino/Moss Plan to Clean Up Albany

  • Term Limits – Limit statewide elected officials to two terms (8 years) and state legislators to four terms (8 years).

  • Limit Legislative Session – Convene regular session the first week in January and end on April 1, when the budget is due; Special session throughout the year can be called by a petition request from two-thirds vote of both legislative houses or by the Governor as defined in the State Constitution.

  • Independent State Commission on Public Ethics (I-SCOPE) to replace J-COPE.  Five members appointed by judiciary with independent budget to receive and investigate complaints of official misconduct, including sexual harassment and assault.

  • Strengthen FOIL – Require proactive online posting of records and information required for release under FOIL requests; Information would be posted on single statewide database managed by State Comptroller.

  • Defined Contribution Plan for Newly Elected – Require all newly elected officials to join SUNY’s Defined Contribution Plan instead of the existing pension system.

  • Pension Strip -Loss of taxpayer-funded pension for any elected official convicted of public corruption.

  • Prohibit Personal Use of Campaign Money – Establish clear guidelines to limit donations solely to election-related activities.

  • Ban Conflict of Interest Member Items – No “member items” to any non-profit or business affiliated with a state elected official or an immediate family member.

  • Replace Per-Diem System and require receipts for travel, lodge and food.

  • End Taxpayer-funded Vanity – Prohibit any building, facility or capital project that was paid for with taxpayer money to be named for any current elected official.

 

In 2012, the University of Illinois released their anti-corruption report that showed New York State was the #1 state in the nation for federal public corruption convictions.

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

Governor Cuomo, Don't Let These Kids Down
Governor Cuomo, Don’t Let The Kids Down

 

Script:

 

The legislative session in Albany is almost done but one piece of business can’t be ignored.

 

It’s a bill that will help thousands of low-income school kids get a great education, whether they attend Catholic and parochial schools or public schools.

 

This education tax credit will create new scholarships for lower income and working families, and generate millions in donations to public education.

 

It’s literally a life-changer for thousands of children and families. Education is the key to having a good life. The education tax credit makes it happen – especially in our cities and for families hungry to see their children grow up strong and smart.

 

Governor Cuomo, you assured Cardinal Dolan and the Catholic Bishops that you’d get this done this year – to help children everywhere. Show some leadership. Don’t let these children down.

  

 

The HD Video Below May be Downloaded for Television Use

 

 

8 Years More Than Enough Time (May 28, 2014)

(May 28, 2014)

 

Script:

 

Governor Cuomos Moreland Commission has lawyered up.

It almost doesnt shock us  — things have become that ugly in Albany.  But when the Commission that was supposed to clean up corruption is itself corrupted, somethings got to be done.

We need new faces and fresh ideas in state politics, and its become clear thats not going to happen without term limits.

Even the best elected officials become compromised over time in Albany — not all, but enough to drag us down.

When officials become compromised, special interests take control, and the people suffer. We end up with the highest taxes in America and the worst economic climate, both of which we have.

So today, I am announcing that one of the first pieces of legislation I will send to the Legislature as Governor will be a term limits bill that limits statewide elected officials to two four-year terms and the state legislature to four two-year terms.  Eight years is enough for anyone to serve in state government.

Its time to clean house in the state capital.

STATEMENT FROM WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO.

 
May 30, 2014
“Governor Cuomo should make good on the promise to create an education tax credit in New York this year.  It would help thousands of low-income students get a solid education, and it would encourage more and more New Yorkers to contribute toward that effort. What’s at stake is important; let’s not allow it to become a political football.  I call on Governor Cuomo to make this bill a priority and to pass it before June is out.”

STATEMENT FROM WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO.

 
June 1, 2014
“The real Andrew Cuomo just handed the keys to New York to a bunch of radicals hell-bent on increasing taxes and spending, which will force out more middle class families and jobs to other states.  I will put an end to this tax madness and bring New York back into the winning column again.”

Dear Neighbor,

At the midpoint of 2014, it is a good time to review the goals and accomplishments of the Westchester County Board of legislators. A mid-term report card, if you will.

The goal of the Board remains the delivery of essential services on a cost-effective regional basis. The means to achieve this goal is to work within a structure of bipartisan government utilizing reason, negotiation and compromise to forge consensus. So far, that model is delivering successful results.BOL Group Photo

All 17 county legislators are either in a leadership position or chair a critical committee, giving all legislators “skin in the game”. Democrats and Republicans are working well together, committees are meeting jointly and difficult issues are being resolved around the conference room, not in the courtroom. Working together in this bipartisan fashion, approximately 78 capital budget items have been approved with over $128 million in critical infrastructure projects moving forward, creating significant numbers of permanent and temporary jobs.

The Board has taken real steps to make the legislature more efficient while saving taxpayers money. On day one as Chair of the Board of Legislators, I refused the free county car and gasoline available saving over $3600 per year. We have eliminated over 50% of staff Blackberries, reduced service contracts for photography and news clipping services and saved significant money through reduced personnel costs. The final Legislative cost for 2014 will be less than originally budgeted.

We have taken on a number of challenging issues in the first six months of this term. First, we never forget our primary charge remains to deliver essential county services while finding ways to cut costs and keep the county budget under control. Critically, for the fourth year in a row, the county tax levy, approved by the BOL has not gone up. Second, we have tackled the review process of the suggested Playland public/private partnership as put forth by the County Executive. Our thorough and fair due diligence efforts showed the weakness of the proposal originally put forth by the non-profit group Sustainable Playland Inc. and their disconnect with the citizenry of the immediate community as well as the greater Westchester community. The Board will continue to focus on alternative plans for Playland and we look forward to working with the County Executive to re-imagine Playland and make it more financially viable.

The Board successfully resolved an airport leasing issue that threatened to harm both the airport’s financial viability as well as the municipal budgets of entities near the airport. We continue to pursue strong quality of life initiatives such as strengthening our agri-business community, establishing an energy point person to save us money while reducing our carbon footprint, and purchasing vehicles that are more environmentally and cost friendly. In conjunction with the business and labor community, the county has established a Local Development Corporation that has incented half a billion dollars of economic activity. And working with the County Executive, the Board reached agreement with, and helped welcome, the New York Knicks to the county center with the Westchester Knicks starting their D league operations this coming fall.

We have not shied away from difficult issues, either. Our county charter Revision Commission has recommended 16 items for consideration and change, items such as county ethics code changes, modifications to the budget process and reforming legislative confirmation procedures. These recommendations are being seriously debated with the goal of better and more open county government.

The biggest and most contentious effort undertaken this term, however, relates to the issue of resolving the ongoing dispute between the county and the federal government relating to the 2009 housing settlement. The settlement requires that the county build 750 units over seven years, promote a source of income law and submit an Analysis of Impediments (AI) acceptable to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the building of fair and affordable housing in Westchester county.

The county through the combined efforts of the Board and the Country Executive is actively working on building the units. After strenuously fighting the source of income law, the County Executive did ultimately promote a source of income law as required. That leaves the AI. After eight failed submissions by the county planning department, and upon notice from HUD that $5.2 million of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies for 2012 (and equal amounts for 2013 and 2014) are at risk of being reallocated away from Westchester, the Board of Legislators stepped in to help resolve the dispute.

Our more active role in the process has been welcomed by HUD and the housing Monitor tasked with overseeing the settlement agreement. As a result of our efforts, HUD has withheld the funding reallocation through the end of the summer and the Monitor has stepped forward and has initiated the analysis ultimately required for the county to file an acceptable AI. If we are successful, we hope not only to secure the $15 million dollars of CDBG monies, but also forestall penalties, fines, interception of other federal monies and even, potentially, reopening of the 2009 settlement that could result in a loss of over $500 million, potentially bankrupting the county itself. In a further positive way, if we are successful the 2009 settlement will finally be satisfied with no added requirements.

Much work remains. Rest assured all 17 county legislators are up to the task and look forward to serving all of our county residents. Our goal remains to have the best and most responsive county government possible; check us out at westchesterlegislators.com or call us at 995-2800 and let us know how we can help.

Sincerely,

Michael Kaplowitz

_____________________________________

may5_kaplowitz_statementonpayraises_compadvbd_pr_2008

may5_kaplowitz_statement_2008

The Summer of Downtown Yonkers

Movies on Main Street are Back!

 

YONKERS, N.Y. (July, 2014) There are so many wonderful events in Yonkers, but one in particular has always held a special place in the hearts of local families and visitors to Downtown Yonkers.  The Movies on Main Street free film series, which started in 2009, is one of the popular and unique events in the city.  Unfortunately, the movie series was cut in 2012 and 2013 because funding was not available.  For the summer of 2014, the Yonkers Downtown BID and Domino Sugar are very proud to announce that Movies on Main are back and better than ever.

 

Every Tuesday, from July 8th to August 12th, the Yonkers Downtown BID will close off the block of our downtown in front of 86 Main St.  Right in the middle of the street, a 30ft high inflatable screen will rise from the asphalt.  Showtime starts at 8pm, and the series will feature a block-buster family movie each week.  Chairs are provided by the BID, the show is completely free; there will even be free popcorn curtesy of UnitedHealthCare.  This is a wonderful opportunity for families from all over the area to converge in Downtown Yonkers for a wonderful evening.

 

Our first week was a tremendous success.  On July 8th, hundreds of families came to enjoy Despicable Me 2.  Children lined up for popcorn and parents enjoy a lovely evening of free entertainment.  The kids were so excited and felt that they were really being treated to something special.  Drive-in movies are a thing of the past, and this was the first time that many of the children were able to enjoy a movie under the stars.  It was a great night for everyone and the crowd was looking forward to next week’s showing of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.  In the following weeks, the Yonkers Downtown Bid and Domino Sugar will present other hits, including The Avengers on July 22.  On July 29th, we’ll be presenting a double feature which starts with The Last Dragon and is followed by a special presentation of Lost Rivers.  Lost Rivers, presented in collaboration with Groundwork Hudson Valley, is a documentary film that showcases Downtown Yonkers award winning daylighting project at Van Der Donck Park.

 

For the August 12th movie, the community is actually able to select their own movie by voting online at www.YonkersDowntown.com.

 

Movies on Main Street in part of a tremendous summer calendar of free events in Downtown Yonkers.  The Yonkers Downtown BID and Domino Sugar are also presenting Friday Night Jazz Blues & More on the waterfront every Friday at 6:30pm.  This series brings amazing, professional musicians to our waterfront for a free evening concert.

 

There is something fun to do every day in Downtown Yonkers.  There are farmers’ markets on Thursday and Fridays, at St. John’s Church and Van Der Donck Park respectively.  You can see amazing local talent at Casa de Café’s Open Mic Nights, every other Saturday night.  Visit the Science Barge on the weekends, or go kayaking for free on Thursdays with the Yonkers Rowing and Paddling Club.  This is just a taste of the hundreds of events that are occurring this summer in Downtown Yonkers.  Come early before the event to eat at one of our great local restaurants or to shop at one of our new boutique shops.  There is something for everyone in Downtown Yonkers.  Visit www.YonkersDowntown.com for more information.

 

NEXT WEEK: The Riverwalk Wednesday Music Series lights up our city’s newest park!

 

The Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID was created to promote and implement the economic revitalization of the District and the City of Yonkers. The BID is also designed to maintain the downtown streets, contribute to public safety, landscape the district, market special events and create promotional opportunities to highlight the area. Additionally, the BID will preserve and encourage the cultural, historic, tourist and civic interest of the District and the City of Yonkers.  For more information, visit www.YonkersDowntown.com.

  

Community Calendar
Downtown Yonkers 
Upcoming Schedule of Events
Yonkers Downtown 
Where there is something to do every day!  Great events all summer long, starting tomorrow night with a special July 4th, Friday Night Jazz at the Waterfront Amphitheater.  6:30pm.  
Rain location: Yonkers Waterfront Pier
July 2014
Music and Movies
July 04: Friday Night Jazz with Roxy Perry

July 05: Movies @ The Riverfront Library: Saving Mr. Banks
July 05: Open Mic Night w/ Special Book Signing Casa de Café
July 08: Movies on Main Street – Despicable Me 2
July 09: Riverwalk Wednesday’s Music featuring Brandi Younger
July 10: Poetry @ Casa De Cafe
July 11: Friday Night Jazz with Orange Julius and the Big Beat
July 11: Latin Jazz @ Casa de Cafe
July 12: Grease Sing-A-Long at the HRM
July 15: Movies on Main Street – Cloudy with a Chance of                                 Meatballs 2
July 16: Riverwalk Wednesday featuring Parker and Jack
July 17: Poetry @ Casa De Cafe
July 18: Friday Night Jazz with Shirazette Tinnin
July 19: Open Mic Night @ Casa de Café
July 19: Urban H2O Concert: Tumbling Bones and Tricky Britches
July 22: Movies on Main Street – The Avengers
July 23: Riverwalk Wednesday featuring The Americas Project
July 24: Poetry @ Casa De Cafe
July 25: Friday Night Jazz with Lakecia Benjamin
July 25: Movies under the Stars: Frozen, presented by PMH
July 26: Movies @ The Riverfront Library: The Lego Movie
July 29: Movies on Main Street – The Last Dragon
July 30: Riverwalk Wednesday featuring KJ Denhert
July 31: Poetry @ Casa De Cafe

Details at http://www.yonkersdowntown.com/calendar.shtml 

Nature and Culture
July 07: Week Long River Adventures @ Beczak

July 08: Philipse Manor Hall Guided Tour

July 09: Annual Indoor Beach Party for Kids

July 14: Week Long River Adventures @ Beczak

July 18: Junk Construction Children’s Workshop

July 19: National Comedy Theatre

July 26: Philipse Manor Hall Guided Tour

July 28: Yarn Bombing Installation in Downtown Yonkers

July 31: Yonkers Cares Animal Fair

  

Community Building Activities

July 01: Paws to Read!
July 04: Independence Day
July 08: Yonkers City Council Meeting
July 12: Fiber Friends Knitting
July 15: MeetUp for Men’s Business Association of NY Mixer
July 17: 4th Precinct Community Council Meeting
July 19: MeetUp for the Creative Arts Group of NY Mixer
July 22: Yonkers City Council Meeting
July 25: Work It Women Returns 

  

 
 
Downtown Sidewalk Sales and Live Music Series
Come downtown and check out the great discounts that our local businesses have to offer. The sale starts this Thursday and ends Sunday with live entertainment on Fridays from 12:00 to 1:30.
                  June 5-6-7-8             July 3-4-5-6
August 31-1-2-3            September 3-4-5-6
October 2-3-4-5
Online Community Calendar
There is so much going on in Downtown Yonkers that the BID and our partners decided to create an online calendar.  The calendar is designed to be used by residents, visitors, businesses, and community organizations.  If you have any special events that you would like to add to our calendar, please email the BID at info@yonkersdowntown.com.  Thank you and we hope to see you soon in Downtown Yonkers.
 
This Community Calendar was created and is managed by the Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID.  If you would like to learn more about the BID, please visithttp://www.YonkersDowntown.com
or call Daniel Lipka at 914-969-6660. Thank you.

www.yonkersdowntown.com/calendar.shtml

 

BID Logo

Friday Night Jazz, Blues & More Summer Line-up
Free Summer Music starts July 4th
Presented by the Yonkers Downtown BID and
Domino Sugar 
Friday Night Jazz: 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Yonkers Waterfront Amphitheater
Rain or Shine
(71 Water Grant Street, next to the Yonkers City Pier.  Map)

Fun Summer Calendar
This summer, there is something to do everyday in Downtown Yonkers.  The Yonkers Downtown BID has worked with over a dozen partners to develop a summer calendar that highlights all of the activities for you and your family to enjoy.  There is something for everyone, from award winning Jazz performances, outdoor movies, historic tours, puppet shows, science shows, and much more.  All of these events are family-friendly and completely free.

Movies on Main Street
Bring your family to enjoy a free summer movie on Tuesday evenings this summer.  The series kicks off on July 8th with Despicable Me 2.  The public will even have a chance to select your own movie by voting at  www.YonkersDowntown.com.
Showtime: 8pm
Location: 86 Main Street
Free popcornLearn More…
Friday Night Jazz, Riverwalk Wednesday, and Movies on Main Street are all free events thanks to the support from the Yonkers Downtown BID and Domino Sugar.  If you have any questions, please email us atinfo@yonkersdowntown.com or call 914-969-6660.  Thank you.

Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID

Presents Jazz & Blues at Dusk Summer

Concert Series at the Waterfront

 

This critically acclaimed, free summer concert series highlights a robust summer schedule of family events

 

YONKERS, N.Y. (June 2014) The Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID and Domino Sugar are proud to once again present the weekly Jazz & Blues at Dusk Summer Concert Series this year at the Yonkers Waterfront amphitheater.

 

Now in its eighth season, the concert series—free of charge to the public— provides high quality musical entertainment by some of the New York metropolitan area’s top jazz and blues artists. The Friday night concerts will take place starting July 4th from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

 

The Summer of Downtown Yonkers kicks off on July 4th.  Performing on opening night is Roxy Perry, once named Artist of the Year by the Westchester Arts Council.  Roxy Perry, the “New York Blue Queen”, is a legend, performing the blues for over 30 years.  Roxy launched her blues career in the late ‘80’s, when she quickly became known for her exciting live performances at clubs, concert halls and festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad and won her reputation as “the real deal” through her riveting live performances.

 

“The Friday Night Jazz series attracts thousands of people each summer from all over the region.  It is the perfect mix of a relaxed summer evening on a gorgeous waterfront and amazing live music.  This year, the BID is presenting a diverse variety of proven favorites and also showcasing the next generation of stars.” said Dan Lipka, Executive Director of the Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID.

 

The Jazz, Blue &and more series is just the beginning of an amazing summer schedule.  The BID is also producing the Riverwalk Wednesday free music series in Van Der Donck Park, and we are bringing back Movies on Main Street each Tuesday evening.  Partners in the Yonkers Downtown community are also hosting a variety of family events throughout the entire summer.  There is literally something to do every single day in Downtown Yonkers.  Visit www.YonkersDowntown.com to download your entire summer calendar.

 

The Yonkers Downtown Waterfront BID was created to promote and implement the economic revitalization of the District and the City of Yonkers. The BID is also designed to maintain the downtown streets, contribute to public safety, landscape the district, market special events and create promotional opportunities to highlight the area. Additionally, the BID will preserve and encourage the cultural, historic, tourist and civic interest of the District and the City of Yonkers.  For more information, visit www.YonkersDowntown.com.  Domino Sugar is a proud sponsor of this music series, and their support is critical to keeping this a free event.

 

YONKERS CHALLENGES GEA,
MAY SETTLE WITH BNP
YONKERS, NY – Following a vote by the Yonkers City Council, the City of Yonkers has commenced legal action against the State of New York by seeking to intervene in New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York, a lawsuit which seeks equitable school funding. Council President Liam J. McLaughlin and others say the State should properly fund schools, and could settle the suit with funds from the recent $3 billion BNP Paribas settlement.

“The City of Yonkers deserves its fair share from Albany,” McLaughlin said. “Albany’s one-shots and budget gimmicks deprive our children of their right to a sound education. Through Albany’s Gap Elimination Adjustment and blatantly unfair funding formulas, the lawsuit estimates that Albany has funded our schools billions less than is constitutionally required.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of students whom the State has failed by not meeting its obligation to give them a sound basic education, and was commenced by the same groups that launched the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuits.

Councilmembers feel that the Yonkers Public Schools have been intentionally underfunded over the years by Albany. The systemic problem goes back decades, as the lawsuit notes, even noting how former Governor George Pataki said Yonkers was being “screwed.” 

“For four years, the State has starved the school systems through the Gap Elimination Adjustment and that is just the tip of the iceberg,” Majority Leader John Larkin Larkin said. “Funding formulas devised by Albany special interest groups have created a system where Syracuse receives $290 million in state funding under the same formula that provides Yonkers with only $235 million. With all these windfall legal settlements and a $2 billion surplus, Albany should have been doing more. It needs to be doing more.”

Locally, the White Plains school district saw a school funding increase of nearly 25 percent this year, while Yonkers received only a 7.67 percent increase. Albany is also holding $90 million of Yonkers school funding in escrow through its Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) formula enacted in 2010, which the intervener papers seek to overturn. 

It is not the first time a case over school funding has been brought on behalf of Yonkers. Citizens for Yonkers vs. the State of New York was brought on behalf of Yonkers students and settled, in 2006. That action sought additional state funding for Yonkers schools, the fifth largest city in the State of New York. Yonkers was supposed to receive a recurring increase in state funding for its schools of $750 million over a 10 year period, although as much as 15% of that has been held back through the Gap Elimination Adjustment, the new lawsuit alleges. 

Since then, Yonkers, a high-needs district, has seen funding cuts at the State level that have led to a loss of 600 teachers, while enrollment increased by over 3,000. During the City of Yonkers budget hearings in May, the Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent conceded that City students are not receiving the funding necessary to provide a sound basic education. 

The New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights’ suit the in which the City is now participating, claims that the State has shortchanged schools by $4 billion. The relief sought in the lawsuit would compel the State of New York to provide all students in the State’s public schools with the proper amount of funding to correct these inequities. 

The City is being represented by the Office of the Corporation Counsel. 
 
Both lawsuits charged that Yonkers students had failed to receive a “sound basic education” because the state had failed to provide enough funding for New York’s fourth-largest school district, and there are stark similarities between the two. The 2014 case could see a similar outcome to the 2006 action, now that New York is due to receive over $3 billion as part of an overall $9 billion settlement paid by French Bank BNP Paribas, resulting from repeated violations of U.S. sanctions.

“After losing on the issue of school funding multiple times, Albany felt our case was strong enough in 2006 to settle, and we are not waiting any longer for Albany to fix this problem,” McLaughlin said. “If Albany won’t fix this problem, we will. Perhaps if the recent $3 billion BNP Paribas bank settlement with the State can be used to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment and properly fund our schools, a settlement could be reached, but until then, we are pushing forward.” 

-30-

Affirmation Exhibit A

Dear Friend,

In May I introduced and passed a resolution authorizing the City’s participation in litigation to finally get us our fair share of school funding from Albany. This week, the City of Yonkers has commenced that legal action against the State of New York by seeking to intervene in New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York, a lawsuit which seeks equitable school funding.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of students whom the State has failed by not meeting its obligation to give them a sound basic education, and was commenced by the same groups that launched the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuits.

NYSTER versus the State of New York

We feel that Albany has intentionally underfunded the Yonkers Public Schools over the years.

Locally, the White Plains school district saw a school funding increase of nearly 25 percent this year, while Yonkers received only a 7.67 percent increase. Albany is also holding $90 million of Yonkers school funding in escrow through its Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) formula enacted in 2010, which the lawsuit seeks to overturn.

It is not the first time a case over school funding has been brought on behalf of Yonkers. Citizens for Yonkers vs. the State of New York was brought by private citizens on behalf of Yonkers students and settled in 2006. That action sought additional state funding for Yonkers schools.

Since then, Yonkers, a high-needs district, has seen funding cuts from the State-level that have led to a loss of 600 teachers, while enrollment increased by over 3,000. During the City of Yonkers budget hearings in May, the Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent conceded that City students are not receiving the funding necessary to provide a sound basic education.

The New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights’ suit in which the City is now participating, claims that the State has shortchanged schools by $4 billion. The relief sought in the lawsuit would compel the State of New York to provide all students in the State’s public schools with the proper amount of funding to correct these inequities.

The City is being represented by the Office of the Corporation Counsel.

After losing on the issue of school funding multiple times, Albany felt that the 2006 case was strong enough to settle, and we are not waiting any longer for Albany to fix this problem. If Albany won’t fix this problem, we will. Perhaps if the recent $3 billion BNP Paribas bank settlement with the State can be used to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment and properly fund our schools, a settlement could be reached, but until then, we are pushing forward.

Yonkers Family Fun Day

 

The City will host its inaugural Family Fun Day this Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at War Memorial Field, 285 Nepperhan Avenue in Yonkers, in celebration of National Parks and Recreation Month. Free children’s activities, music and more will be available for Yonkers Residents at this city-sponsored event.

Featured activities for Family Fun Day will include:

  • Salsa Demo Party
  • Zumba Demo Party
  • Music provided by DJ Pete
  • Music by Yonkers Junior Idol Amara Barlow-Valero and Yonkers Idol Tiffany Kam
  • Yonkers Police Department K-9 Unit Demonstration
  • Yonkers Fire Department smoke house simulator
  • Five inflatables (basketball, teeball, skeeball, slide and bouncy house)
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Dunk Tank
  • Department of Public Works Water Tasting Test
  • Obstacle Course

Will Library Book Sale

The Giant Summer 25 Cents a Book Sale at Will Library will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Saturday, July 26.

Thousands of hard and soft cover books, perfect for Summer reading will be on sale at the Friends of the Yonkers Public Library ‘Giant Summer 25 Cents a Book Sale‘ at the Yonkers Public Library, Grinton Will Library, 1500 Central Park Avenue in Yonkers.

The books are only 25 cents a piece! Records, audio and video cassettes and CD’s will also be on sale at 25 Cents.

For further information and directions to the library call 914-337-1500. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing councilpresident@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6060

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin 

Like us on Facebook

Dear Friend,

Due to the predictions of inclement weather for this evening, the Movie Monday screening of Disney’s Frozen this coming Monday at Ridge Hill has been postponed until further notice. 

 

Hopefully they will be able to host the screening of this event on another Monday this summer. I’ll be sure to update you again when this great event has been rescheduled. You can also visit Ridge Hill’s website to keep up with their upcoming events.

 

Once again, tonight’s Movie Monday screening of Frozen has been postponed. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. My door is always open.

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin 

Comptroller’s report

On a more serious note, the State Comptroller has certified the 2014-15 City Budget. In his letter, the Comptroller weighed in and said that the practice of funding the City’s budget by “one-shots,” or non-recurring revenue sources, is unsustainable.
The state really needs to adjust the way it finances and helps fund the city of Yonkers with recurring revenue, so we agree in many respects with the Comptroller’s report.
Taxes in Yonkers are already too high. Due to the systemic under-funding by Albany, for years, elected leaders in Yonkers have had no choice. That is why the City Council is taking action against the State.
The council has voted to intervene in the New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights versus the State of New York lawsuit, filed against the state in February that asks the courts to finally compel Albany to end budget gimmicks and stop Albany from continuing to deprive our children of their right to a sound education.
Through Albany’s Gap Elimination Adjustment and blatantly unfair funding formulas, the lawsuit estimates that Albany has funded our schools $5.7 billion less than is Constitutionally required. It’s time for Albany to fix the problem, and perhaps the recent $3 billion BNP Paribas bank settlement with the State can be used to end Albany’s bad budgeting practices.
iFly approved
The Planning Board has voted to approve iFly at Ridge Hill, an indoor skydiving facility that will be one of only 14 in the United States. The innovative wind tunnel model of wall-to-wall airflow in a skydiving simulator was created by skydiving enthusiasts in 1998 hoping to bring the thrill of a free fall experience to more people.
iFLY Indoor Skydiving Experience
iFLY Indoor Skydiving Experience
This facility, which will be completed in 2015, will be a destination that will bring many more visitors to Yonkers, and we expect that will increase economic activity for a great number of local businesses.
The iFly at Ridge Hill project will be a marquee destination for everyone from families and tourists to the Army’s West Point parachute team. The council will continue to prioritize job-creating projects like this one that have the added benefit of making Yonkers the premier destination in Westchester to live, work and play.
Yonkers Brewery kickstarter

The Yonkers Brewery family has launched a kickstarter to help build their tasting room so they can bring the community together with local, hand crafted brews.

You can join their passion for beer, innovation, growth and the City of Yonkers by supporting their Kickstarter campaign. When completed, the Yonkers Brewing Co. will open to the public in the former Yonkers Trolley Barn, located at 92 Main Street in downtown Yonkers, New York. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is another great job-creating project that the Council has been proud to support, and their kickstarter is a way for you in the private sector to show your support.

You can click here for more information on the Yonkers Brewery kickstarter.

Remember to celebrate the summer with Westchester’s Ridge Hill at Movie Mondays for Frozen in Town Square on Monday and to bring your beach chairs or blankets for the free screening. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing councilpresident@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6060

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin 

Dear Friend,

Schools out and summer is here! Congratulations to all of you who have children, neighbors relatives and friends who are graduating this year.


The Green Policy Task Force

I served on the City Council seven years ago when we established what was known as the Green Policy Task Force (GPTF). Since that time it has really served as a forerunner in bringing environmental issues to the forefront in Yonkers and helping craft legislation and policy that have improved our quality-of-life and made Yonkers a leader in the region when it comes to conservation.
Recently, the GPTF members were in agreement that the City of Yonkers would be well-served by a transition from a Council-based environmental advisory board to an Administration-based one under the direction of the Mayor. Accordingly, they requested the City Council take the necessary legal steps to dissolve the GPTF so that it may be reorganized under the aegis of the city administration as a Mayoral advisory committee, which was done on Tuesday.
The GPTF will now be reorganized as a City-wide advisory board that will continue to recognize the environmental, economic, and health benefits of innovative new local policies that discourage pollution, reduce the use of water and electricity, and promote a more sustainable way of living.
I would like to thank everyone who over the years has helped the GPTF bring greater attention to the issues like clean and renewable energy, sustainability, and the dangers of pollution and littering. I look forward to working with the next group of civic leaders (including those GPTF alumni that are staying on with the new board) who will soon serve on the new Advisory Board to continue the Green Policy Task Force’s legacy of major improvements in the Yonkers environment as a whole and to the environmental quality-of-life of its residents.
Traffic Alert
 
Please be advised that Westchester County will be closing the Broad Street Bridge from Midland Avenue in Yonkers to Locust St. in Mt. Vernon to vehicular traffic beginning Tuesday, July 8 through Friday, August 29 for construction and maintenance. Signed detour information will be posted directing traffic to an alternative route including the Yonkers Avenue Bridge.
For more information, please contact the Westchester County DPW at 914-995-2512.
Fireworks on July 3

As part of the Cross County Shopping Center’s 60th Anniversary celebration, a series of SummerFest events have been planned. Activities include a concert series, children’s activities, a sidewalk chalk art festival, and a fireworks extravaganza on July 3rd. For more information on these fun events, please click here.

Go Team USA

Everyone was excited to watch Team USA face-off against Germany yesterday in the World Cup. Although they weren’t successful in that individual match, they did earn a slot in the Final 16. Make sure you tune in next Tuesday to see the USA face Belgium. Make sure to hashtag #IBelieveThatWeWillWin if you’re posting about the World Cup!

 

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing councilpresident@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6060

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin 

Dear Friend,

Many of you have said how much you enjoy reading this newsletter, so we’ve decided to begin issuing it on a weekly basis once again. If you have any input on how we can improve the newsletter format, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Council holds special meeting

This Tuesday we held a special meeting of the City Council to pass a home rule request that allows us to swap a vacant piece of land on the west side for a parcel across the street, that will one day be used to build a new school.

The request was sent to Albany and passed yesterday by the Assembly. The Parcel to be discontinued as parkland was identified by the Parks and Recreation Department as a dismantled former neighborhood park. The neighborhood is presently served by two active parks to the north and west.

An analysis performed by the Yonkers Board of Education reveals that the location is well suited for the construction of an elementary school. The three parcels to be dedicated as parkland are City owned parcels situated across the street from the present park.
We know that Yonkers Public Schools are overcrowded and have antiquated facilities and that the majority of our students live on the west side, where there are fewer school facilities. It does not make sense to bus children forty-five minutes across the City, so investing in our schools will not only better serve our children but also save money over the long term. This is only the first step in the process, and there will be many studies, public hearings and other necessary steps before the first shovels are put in the ground.
That said, before we do begin construction on any school facilities, we once again must look to Albany to ensure Yonkers gets proper funding for such improvements.After all, comporable cities like Buffalo and Rochester receive 94 cents on the dollar in reimbursement for their school construction capital costs, while Yonkers only receives a maximum of 57 cents on the dollar, and often times less. It’s up to Albany to do better.
Yonkers Greek and Ukrainian festivals
This past weekend I enjoyed attending the annual Prophet Elias Church Greek Festival and the annual Ukrainian Heritage Festival. I’d like to thank all of the organizations that were able to put together yet another wonderful event, as well as all of the volunteers, businesses and sponsors who make these festivals as great as they are.It was especially touching for me to be able to attend the Ukrainian festival during such a challenging time in their native land. During the event, I joined Andriy Tsymbaliuk, Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, and other leaders of the Yonkers Ukrainian-American community. We discussed the situation abroad and reminded them how the people of Yonkers stand in solidarity with them in condemning the Russian invasion of Crimea and their country.
Free kayaking lessons
The Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club (YPRC), an all volunteer not-for-profit organization, is once again offering free kayaking to the public at JFK Marina in Yonkers from now through September. Weather permitting, the program is run every Thursday from 4pm to 7pm and they provide equipment, life jackets and boats. You can visit their website for more information on the program, directions and how you can sign-up.

Happy 50th, Bernice and Harry!

County Legislator Bernice Spreckman put on her annual Senior’s Show this week and as always, it did not disappoint. This year, her event was even more special, as Bernice and her husband Harry are celebrating fifty years of marriage this week.

The members of the City Council were able to join them during the show and recognize the couple on this joyous occasion. The longevity of this marriage is not only a milestone and a personal triumph, but serves as an example to us all. Bernice and Harry do so much for the Yonkers community and deserve this recognition. Congratulations you two!

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing councilpresident@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6060.

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin

Dear Friend,

The City Council was able to adopt the City budget this year by a 6-1 bipartisan vote. It was not an easy task, and the situation we were facing following the $55 million accounting “error” by the Board of Education was unprecedented. Yet we managed to come together to pass a budget that will keep the City on firm financial footing.

We reduced the proposed increase in the income tax surcharge, we restored funding for our firefighters and municipal workers, increased the City’s funding for education and have enacted a bold new management structure for our schools that consolidates the school district’s non-academic functions with the City, which will save taxpayers millions.


Majority holds firm on taxes

Although there were difficult choices to make, the Council was able to work in a bipartisan fashion with the Mayor to deliver a fiscally responsible budget that cut the proposed tax increase. This year’s budget stays within the property tax cap. Yonkers residents with children under the age of 18 who qualify for a STAR exemption will now be eligible for a property tax rebate. We became eligible for this new rebate program by staying within the tax cap.
The Council majority was also able to reduce the proposed increase to the personal income tax surcharge. The original budget had proposed hiking the tax by nearly 30%, to 19.25%, which is the maximum allowable by law. 
The Council Majority stood firm to our commitment that we were uncomfortable raising taxes, even as Yonkers faces a serious fiscal crisis. We explored alternative revenue streams, although Albany once again shot us down. By holding the line on taxes, the Council majority was able to reduce the final personal income tax rate to 16.7%.

Budget provides school funding increase, new governance model

 

We all know that the Board of Education caused the financial mess that put us in this impossible situation. It was time that something was done. 

The budget contained an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) between the City and the Yonkers Board of Education which will allow the City to assume the non-academic functions of the school district. This will save the district an additional $9 million that can be used on education.

That $9 million investment in the classroom was supplemented by a $1 million funding increase to the Education maintenance of effort that the City Council added to the Mayor’s proposed budget. Investing in our children is the right thing to do.

For years the lack of transparency at the Board of Education created an environment where a $55 million error was allowed to occur. Those days are over. The City will now be able to work more closely with the school district to keep costs down and invest savings in the classroom.

The IMA includes finance, human resources, IT, legal and communications. It was passed by a 4-3 party line vote.

 

Leaf Blower Ban

 

As a reminder, the City leaf blower ban is now in effect and runs until September 30. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing councilpresident@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6060

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin 

Dear Friend,

Yonkers faces a serious fiscal crisis and adjusting the City Budget to close the budget deficit is an extraordinary challenge for us all.

Tough decisions ahead

The state has told the city that we can borrow our way out of this mess, which is not something the majority on the Council is currently comfortable with. As we now know, this borrowing authority, which was created by what is known as “the Deficit Act,” comes with strings attached. Specifically, it awards the State Comptroller and Education Commissioner the ability to issue mandatory changes to the City budget.

We as a Council are concerned about having people from Albany telling us how to run the city. If the comptroller thinks we don’t have enough fund balance, there are only two ways to fix it: cut spending, or raise taxes, and currently the Council Majority is uncomfortable raising taxes.

The Mayor’s proposed budget contains a property tax increase that is less than the State tax cap, thus making Yonkers residents eligible for the property tax rebate. It also seeks to increase the income tax surcharge.

There are alternative revenue streams to be explored as well as potential savings through shared services and consolidations that can be used instead of raising the income tax surcharge to 19.25%. The formula is very simple, we need lower taxes to spur economic development and create jobs.

Great job by the students and faculty of Paideia School 15 on their first annual Red Cross fundraiser. They’ve raised over $10,000 so far to benefit efforts to restore resources and supplies to schools and students impacted by natural disasters. It’s a perfect example of while it is so critical for the Council to fully fund our kids education.

Getting our fair share

We continue to seek other sources of revenue. The state’s one shot of $28 million in funding this year is just that, a one year source of revenue. We need long-term, sustainable funding.

We’re looking outside the box, and this week the Council Majority passed a bill by Council member Mike Breen to allow Yonkers to collect a hotel/motel occupancy tax in line with what White Plains and New Rochelle are allowed to get.

This $1 million revenue stream would help plug the budget gap without going into the pocketbooks of Yonkers taxpayers…if Albany allows it.

Providing the highest quality education for the children of Yonkers is of the utmost importance to me, and the City’s contribution increases in the budget proposal from $231 million to $233 million. In fact, by assuming $10 million in costs through the consolidation of the district’s non-academic functions with City agencies, we have freed up even more money to be spent educating our children.

As it is, the City is struggling to find a way to close the $44 million budget deficit that was created by the Board of Education’s poor accounting practices. Instead of providing funding to close the gap, the State has said we can borrow some of that money, and assuming for argument’s sake that the City has the financial wherewithal to pay the $6 million per year debt service it would cost to borrow the $44 million the State has authorized us, it still does not rectify the long-standing underfunding of education in Yonkers by Albany.

As you’ve heard ny now, 51.1% of our City’s budget goes to education, in contrast with Buffalo, where only 7.8% of the City budget goes to education. Let’s not forget that Syracuse, a City with a nearly identical population and pupil enrollment to Yonkers receives $290 million in state funding, while that same ‘formula’ provides us with only $235 million. Even on the local level, the White Plains school district saw a school funding increase of nearly 25 percent this year, while Yonkers received only a 7.67 percent increase.

Albany has cut our school funding by $90 million through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). That is why on Tuesday the City Council authorized the City’s intervention into litigation to recoup these monies so our children’s rights to a basic education are met. This lawsuit is known as New Yorkers for Students Educational Rights (NYSTER) vs. the State of New York, which is in addition to the other legal challenge we have initiated against the Deficit Act.

Release of these funds would more than close the budget deficit and provide us with additional monies to invest in the classroom.

New financial controls

Although we would never have been in this mess if the State had funded our schools properly in the first place, at the same time the Council majority is not going to sit idly by and allow a $55 million accounting error to occur. We are still waiting for the Inspector General to issue his report on exactly how this happened and who is responsible. In the meantime, we are working to pass sensible legislation so situations like this never happen again.

This week, the Council majority passed a local law by Council member John Larkin requiring the City Finance Commissioner to publish an annual four-year financial plan on April 15th and quarterly financial reports on January 1st, April 1st, July 1st and October 1st of each year, publicly, on the internet. These new financial controls will provide badly-needed sunshine on the City budget.

We have also taken steps by having the City Finance Department provide interim consulting to the Board of Education Finance Department, and as part of the City budget, we may permanently assume control of these functions.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or complaints, you can contact my office by emailing councilpresident@yonkersny.gov or by calling (914) 377-6060.

Gratefully,

Liam J. McLaughlin 

 

AG banner_NEW

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND FTC OBTAIN ORDER HALTING DEBT COLLECTORS’ DECEPTIVE, ABUSIVE PRACTICES

Order Also Freezes Collectors’ Assets And Appoints Receiver To Run Companies

Schneiderman: My Office Will Keep Fighting To Protect Consumers And End Financial Bullying

BUFFALO – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that at the request of his office and the Federal Trade Commission, Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara issued a preliminary injunction halting a debt collection operation charged with violating New York State and Federal law, including New York’s consumer protection and debt collection statutes. The debt collectors falsely accused consumers of committing check fraud, then threatened consumers with arrest, imprisonment, wage garnishments, and civil suits. The court order stops the illegal conduct, freezes the operation’s assets, and appoints a temporary receiver to take over the defendants’ businesses.

“All too often, innocent New Yorkers are relentlessly harassed by predatory, abusive debt collectors,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office, along with partners like the Federal Trade Commission, will keep fighting to protect hardworking consumers and put a stop to unfair financial bullying once and for all.”

As part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s continuing crackdown on rogue debt collectors that target consumers in financial distress, the lawsuit charged three individuals – Joseph C. Bella III and Luis Shaw, both of Buffalo, New York, and Diane Bella, who resides in Florida, and 9 interrelated companies. The defendants allegedly bought debts and collected them, most often debts that had originated from payday loans.  Going by various names including National Check Registry, according to the complaint, the operation began using another name – eCapital Services, LLC – to evade detection and continue its illegal behavior after Joseph Bella signed an agreement with New York State authorities in October 2013 that prohibited him and his debt collection companies from violating Federal and State debt collection laws.

Operating the scheme since at least February 2010, the defendants misrepresent that consumers had committed check fraud or some other unlawful act related to the purported debt. Defendants then threatened consumers with dire consequences – such as lawsuits, arrest and imprisonment, or seizure of assets – unless they paid the debt immediately. The defendants repeated these deceptive claims to consumers’ family members, friends, coworkers, and employers, and revealed the consumers’ debts to these third parties as well, the complaint stated.

Also, according to the complaint, the defendants:

  • told one consumer in Washington State that they would have the “Washington County Police” issue a warrant for her arrest, and another serving in the military that they would bring an action against him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;

  • said the only way to avoid arrest, imprisonment, lawsuits, wage garnishments, and seized assets would be to make an immediate payment over the phone;

  • continued to accuse consumers of check fraud and other crimes even after they produced evidence showing they didn’t owe the debts in question;

  • contacted friends, family members, and co-workers of consumers whom they claimed owed a debt, and in some cases, not only revealed the supposed debt but also said the consumers had committed check fraud and would be arrested or imprisoned if the debt was not paid;

  • added an illegal $8 “processing fee” when consumers made payments on supposed debts over the phone;

  • failed to provide consumers with debt collection notices and disclosures that are required under State and Federal law, making it difficult for consumers to determine whether they owed the debt and how they could dispute its validity; and

  • continued trying to collect a debt from a consumer who had discharged the debt in bankruptcy.

“These debt collectors continued to harass consumers and violate the law after the validity of the debt was called into question, and after the New York Attorney General’s office ordered them to stop,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “By working together with our state partners, we can leverage our resources to stop these illegal tactics.”

According to consumers interviewed by Attorney General Schneiderman and the FTC, the defendants routinely refused to provide information about the debts, as required by federal law, or to investigate the debts’ legitimacy – even after some consumers explained that they did not owe the debts, the debts had been paid in full, or the defendants did not have the authority to collect on the debts. The defendants allegedly collected millions of dollars from consumers using these unlawful tactics.

In addition to Joseph Bella, Diane Bella, and Luis Shaw, the complaint names as defendants National Check Registry, LLC; Check Systems, LLC; American Mutual Holdings, Inc.; Goldberg Maxwell, LLC; Morgan Jackson, LLC; Mullins & Kane, LLC; Buffalo Staffing, Inc., and eCapital, LLC.

Attorney General Schneiderman has been tough on abusive debt collectors, sending a clear message that harassing hardworking consumers will not be tolerated. Since January 1, 2011, his office has led the charge on investigations that have yielded $722,345.20 in penalties and $281,867.34 in restitution. As a result of his no-nonsense approach, at least 11 individuals and their companies have been permanently barred from the debt collection business, two companies have been shut down, three have been barred from attempting to collect on payday loans from New Yorkers, and 12 companies have agreed to refuse requests to repossess the vehicles of New Yorkers when the underlying loan is a payday loan.

The Attorney General thanks Colin Hector, Nikhil Singhvi, and Thomas Widor of the Federal Trade Commission for their assistance with this case.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey and Karen Davis, Senior Consumer Fraud Representative in the Buffalo Regional Office, which is led by Michael Russo, Assistant Attorney General In Charge. The Buffalo Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices, led by Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices.

UPDATED: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $2.2 MILLION RESTITUTION FUND FOR VICTIMS OF IMMIGRATION SCAM

A.G. Opens Claims Process To Compensate Victims Defrauded By International Immigrants Foundation And International Professional Association

Schneiderman: Victims Of Immigrations Services Scams Deserve Compensation

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that thousands of victims who were defrauded by two immigration services organizations, the International Immigrants Foundation, Inc. (IIF) and the International Professional Association, Inc. (IPA), could begin applying for compensation from a $2.2 million restitution fund. The fund was created by the Attorney General as part of a settlement of claims that the two organizations held out fraudulent promises of citizenship while engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The process for distributing compensation, which will be administered by the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), will allow former IIF and IPA clients to submit claims for restitution for fees they paid to the organizations for immigration services that were never lawfully rendered. IIF and IPA have also been prohibited from providing immigration-related legal services in the future.

“Thousands of immigrants who had their trust abused and their money stolen by these organizations deserve to receive compensation, and now they can,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By making more than two million dollars in restitution available for the victims of these unscrupulous organizations, we are taking an important step toward justice in this case. I urge all eligible individuals to participate in the claims process, without fear of reprisal. Today’s announcement should send the message that my office enforces one set of rules for everyone, and we will continue to fight immigration services fraud whenever and wherever it occurs.”

Victims of IIF’s and IPA’s misconduct suffered both financial and legal consequences. In one instance, an individual was eligible to obtain a Green Card, but lost his opportunity due to the organizations’ delay and negligence, despite paying more than $18,000 in fees and costs to them. Other clients were subject to deportation. Still others overpaid for services by thousands of dollars.

The claims process is the final phase of a settlement agreement that resolved a lawsuit by the Attorney General against IIF and IPA for misleading clients about their legal credentials and ability to obtain guaranteed immigration results, and for charging excessive fees inconsistent with the charitable purpose for which they were formed.

To be considered for restitution, former clients who paid for and received legal services from IIF and/or IPA must submit a claim form by October 23, 2014. Copies of the claim form, instructions for completion, and submission information are available at the claims administrator’s website, www.nylag.org/IPA. Questions relating to the completion and submission of a claim form should be directed to the claims administrator via email to restitution@nylag.org or the fund hotline at 212-514-4265. The amount of each individual restitution payment shall be determined after receipt and review of all eligible claims forms.

“As an organization who routinely sees the devastating impact that fraudulent immigration services providers inflict upon immigrants, we applaud Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for ensuring that those who were victimized by the International Immigrants Foundation and the International Professional Association will be able to seek restitution.  The creation of the restitution fund sends the message loud and clear that those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law will not be tolerated and will be compelled to indemnify those they defrauded,” said Angela Fernandez, Esq. Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

“Immigration fraud is a stain on the inclusive values that have made New York home to more immigrants than any other city in the nation – individuals and families who have contributed so much to our culture and our prosperity,” said Yisroel Schulman, of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), Administrator of the Restitution Fund. “NYLAG is proud to be able to continue to play a role in bringing at least a small measure of justice to those who have been harmed – and shining the light on the continuing travesty of immigration fraud.”

This matter is being handled by Steven Shiffman and Anjana Samant, Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Charities Bureau Chief James Sheehan and Senior Enforcement Counsel Chief David Nachman. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting the civil rights of all New Yorkers and combatting fraud faced by immigrant communities. To file a complaint, contact the Civil Rights Bureau at 212-416-8250 or civil.rights@ag.ny.gov.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SECURES LANDMARK AGREEMENT PERMANENTLY SHUTTERING TWO OF THE NATION’S LARGEST IMMIGRATION SERVICES ORGANIZATIONS FOR DEFRAUDING IMMIGRANTS 

Fraudulent Immigrant Services Organizations Will Be Dissolved, Provide Restitution For Victimized Immigrants 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement agreement shuttering two of the nation’s largest immigration services organizations, and their principal. The organizations and their principal defrauded immigrants with false promises of citizenship and residency, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, illegally charged exorbitant fees for services, and violated laws governing not-for-profit corporations. The agreement brings to a close a lawsuit that had been filed against the two New York City organizations , the International Immigrants Foundation, Inc. (“IIF”) and the International Professional Association, Inc. (“IPA”), both 501(c)(3) entities, and their President Edward Juarez. 

In addition to shutting down both organizations, the settlement requires that all remaining assets of the entities, approximately $2 to $3 million, be used to provide restitution to immigrants who were defrauded or overcharged by the organizations, with any amount remaining going to organizations providing immigration legal services. IPA will shut down immediately. IIF will shut down over the next two years, and is prohibited from providing immigration legal services during that period. In addition, the agreement prohibits the organizations’ former President, Edward Juarez, from engaging in immigration legal services or serving as a fiduciary for any not-for-profit corporation in New York or any entity that solicits charitable contributions. The agreement is subject to final approval by the court.

“In shutting down organizations that defrauded thousands and obtaining restitution for the victims, justice has been done for many immigrant communities of the State of New York,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Organizations like IIF and IPA prey upon vulnerable individuals who seek a better life in this country, siphoning their hard earned money and sometimes destroying chances to regularize their legal status. My office is committed to eradicating fraudulent immigration services scams that prey on the hopes and dreams of immigrants in our State.” 

The Attorney General’s Office will soon issue a statement providing information on the restitution process, and outline the process for submitting claims and supporting documentation for restitution.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleged that IIF and IPA misrepresented their ability and qualifications to provide immigration-related legal services, made false promises guaranteeing specific legal results, and illegally charged excessive fees for their services. In addition, the lawsuit alleged that the entities and Mr. Juarez violated various laws governing the operations of not-for-profit corporations by wasting the entities’ assets and engaging in self-dealing transactions. The Attorney General’s Office found that IIF lured immigrants to purchase “memberships” with the organization by promising members they would receive special privileges such as free or low cost legal fees. Individuals were required to pay a $100 registration fee plus $30 per month. Once members requested legal representation, however, they were directed to IPA, where they were generally required to pay at least several thousand dollars more to have immigration papers prepared and filed – often by non-attorneys who were unqualified to do such work. 

The illegal actions of IIF and IPA caused disastrous – and sometimes irreversible – problems for New York’s immigrant families. In addition to paying substantial fees, clients were put at risk of permanent damage to their and their families’ status as a result of receiving incorrect immigration-related legal advice. IIF and IPA solicited victims through newspaper advertisements, articles, conferences, and television and radio shows, amassing thousands of clients for this scheme.

In one instance, an individual was eligible to obtain a Green Card, but lost his opportunity due to the organizations’ delay and negligence, despite paying more than $18,000 in fees and costs to them. Other clients were subject to deportation. Others paid thousands of dollars more than necessary for services.

New York State law prohibits a non-lawyer from practicing law, appearing as or purporting to be an attorney-at-law, or providing legal advice of any kind. Non-lawyers can only provide clerical services, such as translating or mailing documents, unless they have been accredited and their organization has been recognized by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals. IIF and IPA engaged in all such prohibited conduct. Further, by charging excessive fees for the services purportedly provided, IIF and IPA acted inconsistently with the charitable purpose for which they were formed, in violation of the New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation Law. 

Angela Fernandez, Esq., Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said, “This settlement agreement sends the message loud and clear to fraudulent immigration services providers that the unauthorized practice of law will not be tolerated. The Attorney General’s ongoing effort to combat immigration fraud continues to protect immigrant communities throughout this State, and warns other would-be predators that the costs of such illegality will be high.”

To date, the Office of the Attorney General has conducted numerous investigations and filed several lawsuits against organizations that have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and defrauded immigrant communities, helping to shutter fraudulent businesses across the state.

The case against IIF, IPA, and Mr. Juarez is handled by Assistant Attorney General Anjana Samant and Chief Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Bureau, as well as Assistant Attorney General Steven Shiffman, Enforcement Section Chief David Nachman and Chief James Sheehan of the Charities Bureau. The Executive Deputy Attorney General of Social Justice is Alvin Bragg and the First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel. 

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating unlawful immigration service’s fraud carried out by organizations and individuals. If you have been a victim of immigration fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (212) 416-6149 or email civil.rights@ag.ny.gov.

If you are in need of an attorney or BIA-accredited representative in an immigration matter, please contact either the New York State Bar Association at 1-800-342-3661 (www.nysba.org) or the American Immigration Lawyers Association at 202-507-7600 (www.aila.org) for a referral. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for low-cost or free immigration legal services.

WEEK IN THE NEWS

July 14 to July 18, 2014

TOP HEADLINES

Schneiderman Proposes Bill To Blunt Effects Of Hobby Lobby Decision

Joined by State Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and a broad coalition of pro-choice advocates and legislators, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act, which would help shield New York women from the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. This proposed legislation would require employers to give 90 days’ notice before changing contraceptive coverage as well as inform prospective employees of the contraceptive care coverage they offer. The Attorney General’s message: “Women should be empowered with information to make their personal healthcare choices.”

Schneiderman Releases Historical Report Showing Rise And Impact Of Data Breaches

Attorney General Schneiderman released a report providing a historical analysis of eight years of security breach data. The report illustrated that there is a growing number, complexity and cost of data breaches impacting New Yorkers. It also revealed that the number of reported data security breaches in New York more than tripled between 2006 and 2013: In 2013, 900 security breaches exposed 7.3 million personal records, costing New Yorkers $1.37 billion. Attorney General Schneiderman’s report also suggests tips that both businesses and consumers can take to protect themselves from data loss, another fact of the Attorney General’s campaign to make New Yorkers smart consumers.

Schneiderman Announces Second Largest Settlement Ever Levied Against A Financial Institution In United States With Citigroup

Attorney General Schneiderman joined members of a state and federal working group to announce that a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup – $182 million will be allocated to New York State. As part of the settlement, Citigroup acknowledged it made serious misrepresentations to the public, including the investing public, arising out of the packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities. The settlement was negotiated through the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a joint state and federal working group formed in 2012 to share resources and continue investigating wrongdoing in the mortgage-backed securities market prior to the financial crisis – for which Attorney General Schneiderman is a co-chair.

Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Apple In E-book Pricing Fixing Case

Attorney General Schneiderman announced a settlement with Apple Inc. after the company allegedly participated in a price-fixing conspiracy in which the prices of E-books were artificially raised for customers in New York and throughout the country. The settlement has the potential to result in payments of $400 million to consumers, resolving claims for consumer damages and civil penalties brought by New York and 32 other states and territories. E-book purchasers nationwide have already received compensation from $166 million in settlement funds paid by the five publishers involved in the conspiracy. This settlement proves that “even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world must play by the same rules as everyone else.”

A.G. Schneiderman & Illinois A.G. Madigan Urge Federal Communications Commission To Strengthen Protections For Net Neutrality

In a letter and comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Attorney General Schneiderman and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged the Commission to strengthen rules to safeguard democracy on the Internet and preserve net neutrality. Attorneys General Schneiderman and Madigan argue that the FCC must ensure the continued “dynamism of the Internet” by protecting its low barriers to entry and equal treatment for all content providers. This can be upheld only through the principles of an Open Internet, or net neutrality, which further vigorous competition and innovation on the web.

Schneiderman Praises State Supreme Court’s Decision To Dismiss Challenges To State Review Of Hydrofracking

Attorney General Schneiderman commended New York State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough for dismissing two lawsuits that sought to force the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to terminate its ongoing review of the environmental impacts related to high-volume hydrofracking. Attorney General Schneiderman applauded the decision as “an important victory in our effort to ensure all New Yorkers have safe water to drink and a clean, healthy environment.”

Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Casella Waste Systems Inc., Protecting Competition For Waste Hauling Services In Upstate New York

Attorney General Schneiderman announced a settlement with a waste hauling firm Casella Waste Systems to end their practices of unlawfully restraining competition in the North Country and Southern Tier. The Attorney General’s Office found that Casella’s contracts with its customers required that Casella serve as the exclusive provider of all customers’ waste hauling services for as long as five years. Customers faced severe consequences for early cancellation of their contracts, due to provisions requiring that they pay Casella an amount equal to six times their monthly bill upon early termination.

Schneiderman Announces Agreement with National Staffing Company Labor Ready to Protect Workers’ Rights

The Attorney General reached an agreement with Labor Ready, a staffing company that provides temporary staffing services to a wide range of employers across New York and nationwide. The agreement requires Labor Ready to implement a program to educate its job placement employees about laws that require the payment of at least the “prevailing wage,” to ensure that workers are only sent to jobs that will pay a fair wage. In addition, Labor Ready will be required to pay $10,000 in restitution to two workers who were sent to a school construction site on Long Island by the company and were unfairly paid $8 an hour instead of the required prevailing wage rate. Schneiderman’s agreement with Labor Ready furthers his commitment to workers’ rights and guaranteeing fair pay for a full day’s work for all New Yorkers.

Schneiderman Announces Jail Sentence For Fraudulent Western New York Home Contractor

Attorney General Schneiderman secured a jail sentence of 90 days for a fraudulent Western New York home improvement contractor, who has repeatedly taken money from consumers and failed to provide the home improvement services for which he had been paid. The contractor was shown to have violated a 2012 court order – also secured by the Attorney General’s Office – barring the contractor: A recent investigation by the Attorney General showed that the man was again taking money for home improvements without providing the services, in addition to never having posted the bond.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OP-ED: FIGHTING BACK AGAINST “HOBBY LOBBY”

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today published an op-ed on The Huffington Post on his proposed Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act and his office’s efforts to advance women’s equality after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. The following are excerpts from the op-ed:

ON THE LANDSCAPE 166 YEARS AFTER SENECA FALLS: New York State has long been a leader in advancing women’s equality, stretching back to the Seneca Falls Convention 166 years ago this weekend. Sadly, as we mark this important anniversary, hard-won victories by the women’s rights movement are being threatened by a radical right wing that seeks to roll back the progress we’ve made. Last month, the Supreme Court issued an outrageous decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that empowered the owners of corporations to use their religious beliefs to deny female employees access to key reproductive health coverage.

ON THE REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS DISCLOSURE ACT: Because the legal landscape under the Hobby Lobby decision and the Women’s Health and Wellness Act may confuse both employers and employees, my proposed legislation would create one notice standard for all employers, regardless of the type of company they run or the type of insurance plan they offer. The Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act would require employers to give 90 days’ written notice to employees, as well as to the state, if they are changing their contraception coverage. It would also require employers to inform prospective employees of the scope of any contraceptive coverage they offer, so workers can make an informed choice before accepting an offer of employment.

ON THE HOBBY LOBBY DECISION: The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision was both factually and legally flawed. It accepted false assertions about the science of how contraception works, and it expanded the absurd legal principle that corporations are people by essentially finding that corporations can hold religious beliefs.  

ON THE ROLE OF THE STATES AFTER HOBBY LOBBY: While state law cannot undo all the damage of that misguided decision, we can go a long way to empower women in New York State with the information they need to make their own health care choices. And that is what the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act will do.

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read here.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN PROPOSES BILL TO BLUNT THE EFFECT OF SUPREME COURT’S HOBBY LOBBY DECISION IN NEW YORK

A.G. Joined By Senate Democratic Conference Leader Stewart-Cousins And A Broad Coalition Of Pro-Choice Advocates And Legislators

Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act Would Require Employers to Give 90 Days’ Notice Before Changing Contraceptive Coverage, Inform Prospective Employees Of Contraceptive Coverage Offered

Schneiderman: Women Should Be Empowered With Information To Make Their Personal Healthcare Choices

WHITE PLAINS – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins today announced that they would propose legislation in Albany that would help to shield New York women from the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. That decision limited the scope of the contraceptive mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), with the result that some women in New York State may lose insurance coverage for prescription contraception. The Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act would require employers both to give current employees 90 days’ notice before changing contraceptive coverage and to notify prospective employees of any contraceptive coverage they offer their employees. A broad coalition of advocates and legislators, including Assembly Member Shelley Mayer, attended the announcement to express their support for the legislation, as well as representatives from WCLA – Choice Matters, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women of New York City, the National Organization for Women of New York State, and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“No woman should have her personal healthcare decisions dictated by the religious beliefs of her boss,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “As a senator, I fought for a strong law to protect women from discrimination in healthcare coverage because we must have one set of rules for everyone. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s deeply misguided Hobby Lobby decision, we need to go further to empower the women of New York State with the information they need to make their own healthcare choices. That is what the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act would accomplish.”

Because Hobby Lobby allows a limited category of companies to drop contraceptive coverage from their employee insurance plans, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act would create one notice standard for all employers, regardless of the type of company. The Act would require employers to give 90 days’ written notice to employees, as well as the New York State Department of Labor, the Department of Financial Services, and the State Attorney General’s Office. It would also require employers to inform prospective employees of the scope of contraceptive coverage, including by posting on the company website limitations on contraception coverage. The Act also provides for a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation of the new notice provisions.

The Affordable Care Act requires most employer-provided insurance plans to cover preventive care and screenings for women without any cost sharing. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued regulations specifying that most employers must cover 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the nationwide retailer Hobby Lobby and its owners challenged the ACA’s mandate to provide health insurance coverage for certain contraception on the grounds that it violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). The RFRA prohibits the federal government from taking an action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless it constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. The Court found that RFRA’s protections applied to closely held corporations, and not just individuals espousing sincerely held religious beliefs. It further found the mandate and penalties for noncompliance were substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. The decision assumed that protecting women’s health was a compelling government interest, but found the ACA’s provisions were not the least restrictive means of fulfilling that interest.

Notably, the Hobby Lobby decision was not reached under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, but solely under RFRA. That means that the effect of the decision is limited to actions taken by federal agencies like HHS. Hobby Lobby does not interfere with state laws. New York’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act (WHWA) still provides strong protections for contraceptive coverage, but the law does not reach all women in New York. For these women, the Hobby Lobby decision threatens their ability to make their own healthcare choices.

“We are united in our call to allow women to make decisions about their own reproductive health, without corporate interference,” said Democratic Conference Leader and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “Due to the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, New York State must take decisive action to protect women’s rights and health. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership on addressing this issue, and look forward to working with him, and my colleagues in State government, to ensure all New Yorkers have access to the quality healthcare coverage they deserve.”

Assembly Member Shelley Mayer said, “In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, with which I strongly disagree, I believe New York State must make efforts to inform employees about their health care coverage – and what may no longer be covered by some insurance policies. I am committed to working with Attorney General Schneiderman and my colleagues to enact legislation in New York State that informs both current and prospective employees about the details of their insurance coverage, so they can make informed health care choices for themselves.”

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) said, “The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision marked a shocking step backwards for women’s health. For-profit employers should not be legally allowed to prevent a female employee from making her own health decisions. We need to correct this injustice for the millions of American women who will now be at risk of having to pay out of pocket for basic contraception that helps prevent unwanted pregnancy, disease, and various types of cancer. That’s why I co-sponsored the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014 to provide free contraception in compliance with the ruling, and I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s measure that would, given the ruling, provide women advance notice so they can plan ahead. I will continue to do all I can to ensure women’s health choices are where they belong — between a woman and her doctor.”

State Senator Liz Krueger said, “Hobby Lobby was and is a wrong decision by the Supreme Court, and I believe that it won’t last — sooner or later, it won’t be the law of the land. But in the meantime, if businesses are going to claim a special belief-based exemption to deny their employees access to basic care and services that other law-abiding employers must and do offer, then at a bare minimum every employer must be required to honestly explain to employees how their healthcare plan falls short of the national standard set by the Affordable Care Act. This is a commonsense bill and we must pass it.”

Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, “Women have a right to know if their employer intends to change coverage of a significant aspect of their health insurance – with enough notice to make important decisions about their reproductive  health care.  A prospective employee should be armed with the same information.  This is an issue affecting a woman’s pocket book and the ability to make important decisions about her own health.”  

Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee said, “I am deeply disappointed with the ill-advised majority decision of the Supreme Court regarding Hobby Lobby. The majority opinion has entered dangerous territory allowing corporations to force their religious beliefs on their employees. It was because of cases like Hobby Lobby that Senator Krueger and I introduced the Boss Bill. Employers should not have the right to make healthcare decisions for their employees. Denying millions of women access to affordable birth control is denying them fair and equal access to basic preventive health care. Giving employees a 90 day notification if and when their contraceptive coverage changes is the least we can do to protect the millions of New York women. I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman, Assemblymember Mayer and Senator Stewart-Cousins for introducing this legislation and I will do everything I can to ensure its passage.”

Assembly Member David Buchwald said, “All employees should have the right to know in advance what reproductive health care decisions are being made for them by their employer. Attorney General Schneiderman is demonstrating leadership on this crucial issue, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues in the State Legislature so that the consequences of the Hobby Lobby decision are less harmful here in New York.”

Catherine Lederer-Plaskett, President of WCLA – Choice Matters said, “The Supreme Court’s outrageous Hobby Lobby decision made it clear to me that New York women need to know whether or not their employer or potential employer will provide contraceptive coverage. I’m glad WCLA – Choice Matters was able to work with Attorney General Schneiderman to propose legislation that would incorporate transparency into our employment law. We are incredibly proud that this idea is now the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act.”

Andrea Miller, President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York said, “As evidenced by the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, this nation’s highest court believes that an employer’s beliefs supersede a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive health care decisions. NARAL Pro-Choice New York is tremendously appreciative of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s swift action in the wake of that shocking and disturbing decision to ensure transparency in employers’ health insurance practices. Thanks to the Attorney General’s proposed legislation, employers who impose their narrow beliefs on employees’ health care will not be able to hide in the shadows. This bill is a testament to the importance of taking proactive measures to improve the health, safety and equality of New York women at all levels of government.”

Zenaida Mendez, President of NOW New York State said, “The Supreme Court’s atrocious Hobby Lobby decision is an attack on women, and our right to make our own healthcare choices. NOW New York State is grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman to taking action to protect women from losing their contraceptive coverage without notice, and to ensure that women know when they apply for a job whether the prospective employer provides contraceptive cover.”  

“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision that gives employers the right to refuse birth control coverage to employees, this measure is an important step in holding companies accountable to their workforce by making it impossible to hide their stance and access to contraceptive care,” said Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women, New York City. “ It’s leaders like Eric Schneiderman who are leading the response to roll backs in women’s fundamental right to full access to reproductive healthcare.”

“Women have a right to know if they’re going to have access to basic health care when they take a job or not,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That’s why it’s important for New York to stand for women and pass this important legislation. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking steps to prevent employers like Hobby Lobby from denying women access to basic health care without warning.”

M. Tracey Brooks, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State said, “Women hit with unexpected, budget-busting costs for contraception could be forced to make decisions that are bad for their reproductive health. The Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act ensures workers and potential employees will not be surprised by sudden changes to their health care coverage. The New York Senate leadership failed to take the first step with the Boss Bill which would have prevented workplace discrimination based on women’s reproductive health care choices.  A healthy, productive New York State work force depends on accessible, affordable reproductive health care.”

Reina Schiffrin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic said, “The Hobby Lobby decision clearly prioritized the desires of bosses over the health care needs of women. Contraception is basic, essential health care, and the most effective forms of contraception can be prohibitively expensive without full insurance coverage. Birth control decisions should be made based on a woman’s needs not her paycheck. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act because it recognizes that contraception is essential health care and  women have the right to know if an employer isn’t providing the insurance coverage they want and need.”

Anne Davis, MD, MPH, Consulting Medical Director for Physicians for Reproductive Health said, “I support all forms of contraception being covered as preventive care and the decision about which method of contraception to use should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss. If companies are going to deny that essential health care for their employees, a notification period will allow a woman and her doctor to come up with an alternate plan for contraceptive care.”

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SETTLES WITH APPLE IN E-BOOK PRICE-FIXING CASE

Settlement With Apple Could Result In Payments To Consumers Of Up To $400 Million

Schneiderman: This Settlement Proves That Even The Biggest, Most Powerful Companies In The World Must Play By The Same Rules 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with Apple Inc. arising out of Apple’s participation in a price-fixing conspiracy that a federal court in New York found raised the prices of E-books sold to consumers in New York and throughout the country. The settlement agreement, which must be approved by the court, has the potential to result in payments to consumers of $400 million, and would resolve claims for consumer damages and civil penalties brought by New York and 32 other states and territories. 

“This settlement proves that even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world must play by the same rules as everyone else,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “In a major victory, our settlement has the potential to result in Apple paying hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers to compensate them for paying unlawfully inflated E-book prices. We will continue to work with our colleagues in other states to ensure that all companies compete fairly with the knowledge that no one is above the law.”

Under the settlement, the amount that Apple must pay E-book consumers is contingent on what happens in Apple’s appeal of the court’s July 2013 finding that Apple violated antitrust laws by orchestrating a conspiracy with five publishers to artificially raise E-book prices. Consumers nationwide (including those represented by private counsel in a related class action) will receive $400 million if the Court’s ruling that Apple violated antitrust laws is ultimately affirmed. If the Court’s ruling is not affirmed, the settlement provides for a smaller recovery of $50 million if liability must be retried, or no recovery if Apple is determined not to have violated antitrust laws. New York consumers are expected to receive approximately 7 percent, or as much as $28 million, from any amount that Apple is ultimately required to pay. In the event that the Court’s decision is upheld on appeal, Apple will also make payments to the 33 states of $20 million to resolve the states’ claims for costs, fees, and civil penalties. 

Any amount received by consumers pursuant to the settlement with Apple will be in addition to those amounts already recovered from several E-book publishers.  E-book purchasers nationwide have already received compensation from $166 million in settlement funds paid by the five publishers involved in the conspiracy – Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (now part of Penguin Random House); Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a Macmillan; Hachette Book Group Inc.; HarperCollins Publishers LLC, and Simon & Schuster Inc.  Many E-Book consumers received these funds through automatic credits sent by Amazon and other E-book retailers.

The E-book antitrust cases involved lawsuits brought by the state attorneys general, a related action by the U.S. Department of Justice, and a related class action brought by private counsel representing consumers in 18 additional states. New York, together with Texas and Connecticut, played a leading role in the state AG cases during the damages phase of the litigation.  Apple has also agreed to make a payment of attorneys’ fees to counsel in the class action in the event that there is a consumer recovery under the settlement.

For New York, this matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Bob Hubbard and Linda Gargiulo; Acting Antitrust Deputy Bureau Chief Geralyn Trujillo; Antitrust Bureau Chief Eric Stock, and Executive Deputy Attorney General Karla G. Sanchez.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & ILLINOIS A.G. MADIGAN URGE FCC TO STRENGTHEN PROTECTIONS FOR NET NEUTRALITY

Net Neutrality Is Essential To Preserving The Benefits Of Competition And Innovation On The Web For All Americans

Schneiderman: We Are Standing Up For The New Makers, Thinkers And Entrepreneurs Who Seek To Better The Online Marketplace

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to strengthen rules to safeguard democracy on the Internet and preserve net neutrality. In comments submitted to the Commission and a letter to Chairman Tom Wheeler, Attorney General Schneiderman and Attorney General Madigan argue that the FCC must ensure the continued “dynamism of the Internet” by protecting its low barriers to entry and equal treatment for all content providers, which can be upheld only through the principles of an Open Internet, or net neutrality.

“Preserving one set of rules for everyone includes protecting the right of every business or organization seeking to access customers through the web to do so on a level playing field. It also includes ensuring that everyone has free and open access to the Internet and the essential services it provides,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “With our letter and comments to the FCC, we are standing up for the new makers, thinkers and entrepreneurs who seek to better the online marketplace, who must be allowed to continue to innovate on the same terms as established businesses.”

“The Internet was built upon a simple but powerful concept that ensured equal access to everyone,” Attorney General Madigan said. “That standard must be maintained to ensure that the Internet continues to be a driver of innovation and economic opportunity for businesses and an open marketplace for consumers.” 

In their letter and comments, the attorneys general emphasized the role that net neutrality and non-discrimination principles play in furthering vigorous competition and innovation on the web. Currently, startups are able to provide new content to consumers at the same speed as established providers, a system that empowers consumers to access, on demand, any online application or service that they would like to use. However, the attorneys general noted that, without net neutrality, commercial interests would be permitted to outpace the best interests of the marketplace, with the broadband industry charging content providers for priority treatment, or access to an Internet “fast lane.”

“The Internet is the public square of the 21st Century, and the voices of the digital haves, who can afford to pay for preferential treatment, will drown out the digital have-nots,” the attorneys general wrote. “In effect, the Information Superhighway will become a toll road. Those who pay will rapidly reach their audiences, while newcomers, startups, and others with limited resources will be left behind.”

In the comments submitted to the FCC, the attorneys general encouraged the Commission to change its classification of broadband Internet access from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” This would enable the Commission to apply common carrier obligations to broadband providers. The attorneys general argued that such a move would protect net neutrality principles by obligating broadband providers to deliver traffic of all users “indifferently,” without depriving them of the ability to efficiently manage their network operations to accommodate “the different costs, functions, and burdens imposed by various users.”  

The full text of today’s letter is below.

July 15, 2014

Tom Wheeler
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street NW
Washington, D.C.  20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We have filed a Comment on Proceeding Number 14-28, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, to strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission to strengthen rules to safeguard democracy on the Internet and preserve “net neutrality.” An Open Internet has been the foundation for unprecedented innovation and growth over the past two decades and the FCC must ensure this foundation is maintained.

Principles of openness and freedom have propelled the Internet from a tiny government research project into the world’s most important platform for innovation, commerce, and social change. It is the launching pad for new ideas, new industries, and new movements. But the dynamism of the Internet depends on its low barriers to entry. Unlike television and other broadcast media, reaching an Internet audience requires little more than a computer and a broadband connection. This is thanks in no small part to the non-discrimination principle that can only be upheld through net neutrality. The Internet we know today was built upon the notion that all content is created equal—whether provided by an independent blogger or by YouTube—and this content must receive equal treatment from broadband providers. 

On today’s Internet, a startup business has the opportunity to reach its customers at the same speeds as Amazon. A new thinker can compete in the marketplace of ideas on the same terms as an established one. Consumers are ultimately in the driver’s seat, with individual users, not broadband providers, choosing the content they receive on demand.  Under the existing rules, Internet service providers have advanced alongside content providers, with the dial-up service of yesterday yielding to the broadband access of today.

Any move away from net neutrality and from the non-discrimination principle would represent a serious blow to fair competition and innovation on the web. It would hand the keys to this vital platform over to narrow commercial interests, allowing the broadband industry to charge content providers for preferential treatment or “prioritization.” Content providers who agree to pay will receive access to a more reliable Internet “fast lane.” Meanwhile, broadband providers will have no incentive to upgrade or even maintain non-premium service. As they seek to convert more content providers into paying customers, the “slow lane” will only get slower. 

In a world without net neutrality, new Internet ventures will not be able to compete with established companies who can shoulder the added costs to deliver content on demand—regardless of whether they offer a better product. Startups that depend on reliable access to their user base might never be funded, with investors deterred by the extra expense. The Internet is the public square of the 21st Century, and the voices of the digital haves, who can afford to pay for preferential treatment, will drown out the digital have-nots. 

In effect, the Information Superhighway will become a toll road. Those who pay will rapidly reach their audiences, while newcomers, startups, and others with limited resources will be left behind. 

Fortunately, this result is entirely avoidable. In your rulemaking, we urge you to strengthen provisions that protect net neutrality and to preserve the Internet as an open and vibrant platform for innovators, thinkers, and entrepreneurs.

Sincerely,

Eric T. Schneiderman

Lisa Madigan

 

STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON NY SUPREME COURT DECISION DISMISSING CHALLENGES TO STATE REVIEW OF HYDROFRACKING RISKS

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued the following statement on two decisions by New York State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough dismissing two lawsuits seeking to force the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to terminate its ongoing review of the environmental impacts related to high-volume hydrofracking:

“The court’s decision to allow the state review of hydrofracking risks to continue is an important victory in our effort to ensure all New Yorkers have safe water to drink and a clean, healthy environment. New Yorkers are rightly concerned about studies showing the environmental risks associated with hydrofracking. We should not allow hydrofracking to begin in New York until the Department of Health completes its analysis of its impact on public health. Given the risks of contamination to wells and the aquifer that supplies drinking water to many New Yorkers, we need to make sure we can safeguard our water before we move forward.”   

Last year, the trustee of the bankrupt gas development company Norse Energy and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York brought suit in New York State Supreme Court in Albany County against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York State Department of Health (DOH), and Governor Cuomo.  Both suits asked the Court to compel the DEC to terminate its environmental review of hydrofracking.  

Attorney General Schneiderman’s office represented the State defendants in the cases, asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuits.  In his ruling, Supreme Court Justice McDonough dismissed the two suits in their entirety.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Morgan Costello and Stephen Nagle of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel Srolovic and Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek.   

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL STAFFING COMPANY TO PROTECT WORKERS’ RIGHTS 

Labor Ready Agrees To Implement A Nationwide Public Work Training Program For Its Job Placement Staff To Ensure That Eligible Workers Receive Prevailing Wages 

Schneiderman: It Is Unacceptable That Labor Ready’s Job Placement Employees Are Unaware Of Basic Prevailing Wage Laws That Exist To Protect Workers  

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Labor Ready, which operates offices, across New York and other states, that provide temporary-staffing services to a wide range of employers. The agreement requires Labor Ready to implement a nationwide program to train its job placement employees about laws that require payment of at least the “prevailing wage” rates to workers on public work projects, including construction or maintenance of public buildings. In addition, the agreement requires Labor Ready to pay $10,000 in restitution to two workers, and to pay $10,000 in penalties.  

“Labor Ready is a large corporation that dispatches thousands of workers to a wide range of worksites across the country every year,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It’s unacceptable that Labor Ready’s job placement employees would be  unaware of basic prevailing wage laws that exist to protect workers on our most important public work projects, such as building schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.” 

In summer 2012, Labor Ready’s Hempstead branch office dispatched two workers to a school construction site in Bellmore, Long Island without identifying the job as a public work project. Instead of paying the required prevailing wage rates, Labor Ready paid the workers $8 per hour. Federal and state prevailing wage laws seek to ensure that contractors on government projects pay wages and benefits that are comparable to the local norms for a given trade, typically well above the minimum wage. 

In addition to the violations related to these two employees, the investigation by the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau revealed that not only were Labor Ready job placement employees at the Hempstead branch office inadequately trained about prevailing wage requirements, but also that Labor Ready overall lacked an effective system to ensure that its job placement staff could appropriately identify prevailing wage jobs. Labor Ready has previously been cited and/or investigated for violations of state and federal prevailing wage laws in, among other locations, Oregon, Missouri, and Illinois. 

Under the Attorney General’s agreement, Labor Ready will implement a nationwide training program that will educate its job placement employees about public work legal requirements on at least an annual basis, and will send regular reports to the Attorney General regarding employee trainings. Labor Ready will also require employers seeking workers in New York State to certify that they will comply with the law, and will not work with employers who Labor Ready knows are subject to an unsatisfied court or agency decision concerning unpaid wages. Also, for prevailing wage jobs, Labor Ready will not place employees at any companies which are on publicly available debarment lists.  In addition, Labor Ready must establish a system for remedying prevailing wage violations in a timely fashion, including through payment of back wages to affected workers, or face considerable fines.  

“This settlement is simply groundbreaking in its scope and will help to ensure that workers across the country are protected from wage theft,” said James W. Versocki of Archer, Byington, Glennon & Levine, LLP, a labor law firm in Melville, N.Y. that represents construction trade unions and referred the case to the Attorney General’s office. “We are thankful that the Attorney General and the Labor Bureau saw the merit of this referral and turned a local problem into a national solution; this type of innovative approach to law enforcement is a model that should be emulated.” 

In a joint statement, workers Lance and Lloyd Brown said, “Our family believes in hard work. But no matter how hard you work, it’s difficult to keep up with expenses and take proper care of our family, especially in these tough times. The fact that we got paid just a fraction of the salary of others who did exactly the same work is insulting and unfair. We are very grateful that Attorney General Schneiderman is taking on the tough fights to protect the wages we deserve for our hard work”. 

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Haeya Yim, Labor Bureau Section Chief Andrew Elmore, and Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $182 MILLION FOR NEW YORKERS AS PART OF $7 BILLION CITIGROUP SETTLEMENT

RMBS Task Force, Co-Chaired By Schneiderman, Produces Second-Largest Settlement Ever Levied Against A Financial Institution In United States

Schneiderman: “Today’s Settlement Is A Major Victory In The Fight To Hold Those Who Caused The Financial Crisis Accountable”  

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today joined members of a state and federal working group he co-chairs to announce that $182 million – $92 million in cash, and at least $90 in consumer relief – would be allocated to New York State as part of a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup. As part of the settlement, Citigroup acknowledged it made serious misrepresentations to the public – including the investing public – arising out of the packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) by Citigroup. The resolution also requires Citigroup to provide relief to underwater homeowners, distressed borrowers, and affected communities through a variety of means including financing affordable rental housing developments for low-income families in high-cost areas. 

The settlement requires Citi to pay $4.5 billion in hard dollars and provide $2.5 billion in consumer relief. New York State will receive at least $182 million: $92 million in cash and a minimum of $90 million in consumer relief for struggling New Yorkers. The settlement was negotiated through the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a joint state and federal working group formed in 2012 to share resources and continue investigating wrongdoing in the mortgage-backed securities market prior to the financial crisis. Attorney General Schneiderman co-chairs the RMBS working group.

“Since my first day in office, I have insisted that there must be accountability for the misconduct that led to the crash of the housing market and the collapse of the American economy,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This settlement will build upon our work bringing relief to homeowners around the country and across New York, and is exactly what our working group was created to do. Systemic frauds harmed thousands of New York homeowners and investors, and today’s result is a major victory in the fight to hold those who caused the financial crisis accountable.” 

The settlement includes an agreed-upon statement of facts that describes how Citigroup made representations to RMBS investors about the quality of the mortgage loans it securitized and sold to investors.  Contrary to those representations, Citigroup securitized and sold RMBS with underlying mortgage loans that it knew had material defects. As the statement of facts explains, on a number of occasions, Citigroup employees learned that significant percentages of the mortgage loans reviewed in due diligence had material defects.  In one instance, a Citigroup trader stated in an internal email that he “went through the Diligence Reports and think[s] [they] should start praying . . . [he] would not be surprised if half of these loans went down. . . It’s amazing that some of these loans were closed at all.”  Citigroup nevertheless securitized the loan pools containing defective loans and sold the resulting RMBS to investors for billions of dollars.  This conduct, along with similar conduct by other banks that bundled defective and toxic loans into securities and misled investors who purchased those securities, contributed to the financial crisis.

Attorney General Schneiderman was elected in 2010 and took office in 2011, when the five largest mortgage servicing banks, all 50 state attorneys general, and the federal government were on the verge of agreeing to a settlement that would have immunized the banks – including Citigroup – from liability for virtually all misconduct related to the financial crisis. Attorney General Schneiderman refused to agree to such sweeping immunity for the banks. As a result, Attorney General Schneiderman secured a settlement that preserved a wide range of claims for further investigation and prosecution. 

In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the formation of the RMBS Working Group. The collaboration brought together the Department of Justice (DOJ), other federal entities, and several state law enforcement officials – co-chaired by Attorney General Schneiderman – to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. The negotiations for settlement, which were led by Associate Attorney General Tony West of DOJ, were part of the RMBS Working Group.

Under the settlement, Citi will be required to provide a minimum of $90 million in direct consumer relief to struggling consumers, which will include principal forgiveness on first and second mortgages, mortgage refinancing at lower interest rates and financial assistance for down payments and closing costs for first-time or returning home-buyers.  

The settlement also includes a series of new mandates, which are intended to assist local governments with their community revitalization efforts. These include requirements for Citi to provide direct funding to support land banks and similar community development agencies working to revitalize distressed and underutilized housing, and a program that will create low-cost rental housing for low- and moderate-income families.

The settlement also requires Citi to provide direct funding to support legal services and housing counseling agencies that provide no cost representation to struggling homeowners. In New York, Attorney General Schneiderman has made significant investments in these services under his Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP). Attorney General Schneiderman’s program funds roughly 90 organizations across the state under the HOPP program, and they have served a combined total of nearly 30,000 families since the program launched in October of 2012.

As a result, families in New York have reaped significant benefits from previous Agreements like the National Mortgage Settlement. Where as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initially estimated that New York homeowners would receive approximately $600 million in benefits under that settlement, thanks in large measure to the HOPP network and its proactive representation of homeowners, families in New York ultimately received more than $2 billion in mortgage benefits.

Compliance with the settlement will be overseen by a federal monitor who will be responsible for ensuring that targets under the settlement are met and that quarterly reporting requirements which will measure how relief is being allocated at a Census Tract level are made available to the public.

WEEK IN THE NEWS

July 7 to July 11, 2014

TOP HEADLINES

Schneiderman Works With Uber To Cap Pricing During Emergencies And Natural Disaster

Attorney General Schneiderman reached an agreement with Uber, to limit prices during emergencies and natural disasters, consistent with New York’s price gouging statute.  In addition, Uber used that agreement as the basis for a new national policy to limit pricing in emergencies. Under its agreement with the Office of the Attorney General, Uber will set a cap on its pricing during “abnormal disruptions of the market,” limited to the normal range of prices it charged in the preceding sixty days.

Schneiderman Encourages New York Police Departments To Apply For Bulletproof Vest Program

In an address to the New York State Association of Police Benevolent Association, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that more than 110 police departments across New York State have applied to receive funds under the inVEST Partnership, a $3.5 million program dedicated to assisting New York State law enforcement agencies with the purchase of vital and lifesaving bulletproof vests. Attorney General Schneiderman also encouraged more departments to apply, noting the deadline for applications is Tuesday, July 15.

The Attorney General also detailed his record on public safety and cooperation with the law enforcement community, with which he has worked collaboratively to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems. In an op-ed posted on The Huffington Post, he expanded on this idea and elaborated on efforts to be tough and smart on crime over the past three years, during which time murder and burglary rates have dropped by double digits statewide.

Schneiderman Reminds Protestors That New York Laws Protecting Access To Reproductive Health Facilities Are In Effect

As part of his longstanding commitment to protecting rights to reproductive health care, Attorney General Schneiderman issued an open letter to law enforcement agencies around the state clarifying New York’s clinic protection laws and regulations in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month that struck down a buffer zone law in Massachusetts.  While activists in some communities have sought to use the ruling to create confusion about which legal protections remain in place in New York, Attorney General Schneiderman noted that the ruling has no impact on buffer zone requirements already covering 22 counties in New York State. For information on reporting violations of buffer zones, click here.

Schneiderman Secures Refunds From EmblemHealth For Thousands Of New Yorkers Wrongly Denied Mental Health And Substance Abuse Treatment

In a settlement with New York City-based Emblem Health, Attorney General Schneiderman has required the health insurer to reform its behavioral health claims review process, cover residential treatment and charge the lower, primary care co-payment for outpatient visits to mental health and substance abuse treatment providers. The settlement also requires the health insurance plan — which has 3.4 million members — to submit previously denied mental health and substance abuse treatment claims for independent review. That review could result in more than $31 million being returned to members wrongfully denied benefits.

 

Schneiderman Strengthens Protections For Breastfeeding Mothers In Agreement With Barnes & Noble

Attorney General Schneiderman announced an agreement with Barnes & Noble, Inc. that will protect the rights of nursing mothers seeking to breastfeed at its stores in New York. Among other things, Barnes & Noble will train all New York store employees and managers on its breastfeeding policy, which prohibits employees from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed at its stores, and will display the international symbol for breastfeeding at the entrances to its New York stores. In addition, the company will pay $10,000 to Rockland County to support the activities of its Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Program.

Schneiderman Steps In To Ensure School Discipline Reform In Syracuse

Attorney General Schneiderman secured an agreement with the Syracuse City School District that will help reduce the high use of exclusionary discipline in the district. The agreement follows the Attorney General’s investigation of the school district, which revealed that 30 percent of its students were suspended during the 2012-13 school year, giving it one of the highest rates of suspension in the nation. The district also had a record of suspending black students at twice the rate of white students. The Attorney General also found that students with disabilities were often disciplined for behavior that was directly related to their disability. The agreement will further the commitment of both the Attorney General and the Syracuse City School District to protect school safety, while ensuring that every student in Syracuse has access to a quality educational environment.

Schneiderman Reaches Settlement With Beverage Company Over Misleading Advertising Claims Targeting Hispanic Communities

Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his office has reached a settlement with The Varas Group for conducting a misleading advertising and social media campaign, which claimed that the purple corn in its Chicha Limeña soft drinks could fight cancer and diabetes. The Varas Group has been marketing its products in the U.S. since 2006, mostly to Hispanic communities. The Varas Group has agreed to cease the use of health-related claims in all marketing materials and agreed to pay the State of New York penalties, costs, and fees.

Schneiderman Announces Agreements Ending Discriminatory And Predatory Practices at NYC Employment Agencies

Attorney General Schneiderman reached agreements to end unlawful discrimination and predatory business practices directed at immigrant job seekers by five employment agencies in New York City. These five agencies targeted immigrant and Spanish-speaking job seekers. The agreements reached require the businesses to cease engaging in unlawful discrimination when making job referrals, referring applicants to jobs paying below minimum wage, charging excessive fees and refusing to refund advance fees.

Schneiderman Arrested Westchester Medical Transport Company Owner On Felony Theft Charges

Attorney General Schneiderman secured the arrest of the owner of New Rochelle-based transportation company Carewell Ambulette, Inc., on felony charges for allegedly stealing more than $200,000 from the Medicaid program. The owner is accused of doctoring requests for taxi services to look like requests for ambulette services, for which Medicaid pays four times as much. The defendant potentially faces a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison.

JOINT STATEMENT BY A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & SUPERINTENDENT LAWSKY ON LYFT

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin M. Lawsky today released the following statement regarding their motion for a temporary restraining order against the scheduled New York City launch of ridesharing service Lyft:

“After Lyft rejected a reasonable request by the State to delay its launch, we filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in State Supreme Court this morning. As a result of that action, the court has granted an injunction preventing Lyft from launching this evening in New York City. We will return to court on Monday, to address issues pertaining to Buffalo and Rochester in addition to New York City.

“We pursued this action only after repeatedly offering to work with Lyft in order to ensure that its business practices complied with the law. Instead of collaborating with the State to help square innovation with statute and protect the public, as other technology companies have done as recently as this week, Lyft decided to move ahead and simply ignore state and local laws. Lyft’s arguments are a disingenuous attempt to disguise old-fashioned law-breaking that jeopardizes public safety.

“We are pro-innovation and pro-competition, but allowing Lyft to flout dozens of different laws would, in addition to putting the safety of New Yorkers at risk, put law-abiding competitors at a substantial disadvantage — and discourage innovators from innovating in a place where the regulatory environment is unevenly applied. We are committed to fostering a competitive marketplace where each participant is treated fairly.

“We are hopeful that Lyft will now recognize that it has to play by the same set of rules as everyone else.”

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND NASSAU COUNTY D.A. RICE ANNOUNCE RINGLEADER OF CHILD MODELING SCAM TO SERVE 2 ½ TO 5 YEARS IN PRISON

James Muniz, 45, President Of Hicksville Child Modeling Agency, Pleaded Guilty In May To Scamming $236K From Families

Schneiderman: Those Who Take Advantage Of Unsuspecting New Yorkers Will Be Held Accountable

MINEOLA – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice today announced that the ringleader of a child modeling scam and the corporation of which he is president were sentenced today for scamming 100 clients of more than $236,000 with promises of lucrative modeling and acting jobs that did not exist.

James Muniz, 45, of Smithtown, and New Faces Development Center, Inc. (also known as Model Talent Development Corp.), were sentenced today to two and a half to five years in prison by Nassau County Court Judge William Donnino. Muniz pleaded guilty to two counts of Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree (a D felony), one count of Scheme to Defraud in the 1st Degree (an E felony), and one count of Conspiracy in the 5th Degree (an A misdemeanor).

Muniz admitted to the court that he committed these crimes acting in concert with his co-defendants, Michelle Alperin-Smith, 43, of Nesconset; Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn; and Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica. Some of the cases against those defendants are pending.

“James Muniz used his business to prey upon proud, loving New York parents, even after the company was prosecuted civilly for committing similar offenses years earlier,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “His sentence sends the message that those who take advantage of unsuspecting New Yorkers will be held accountable. My office will continue working diligently to prosecute fraud, and seek restitution for those who have been victimized.”

“With one broken promise after another, James Muniz and his accomplices turned the hopes and dreams of parents for a better life for their children into a money-making enterprise based entirely on taking advantage of others for a quick buck,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “It is my hope that with this sentence, these families will receive solace knowing that the man who deflated those hopes will be spending significant time behind bars.”

Between Jan. 1, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2012, Muniz, along with his co-defendants, approached adults with children and unaccompanied teenagers in Roosevelt Field Mall, Queens Center, Smithtown Mall and other public places and told them that the children or teenagers had modeling or talent potential.

Based on these representations of modeling or talent potential, Muniz and other New Faces employees would persuade clients into purchasing services such as photographs, discs of photographs, and placement of photographs on a website known as Gigacomps.

Muniz and his co-defendants then induced some of their clients to enter into multi-year agreements with New Faces by making false representations that the company had agreements with major retailers such as The Children’s Place, Target, Toys R Us, and Macy’s, and falsely representing that the clients’ children had been selected for multi-year contracts with said major retailers. The defendants also told clients that if immediate payments were not made, the clients would lose those opportunities.

The losses incurred by victims in this case ranged from $500 to $5,100. Victims were also promised refunds that Muniz and his employees never processed.

Muniz and his subordinates were charged in September 2013 after a five-month joint investigation between DA Rice’s office and  the New York State Attorney General’s office, and the AG’s Nassau Regional Office. The investigation identified approximately 100 victims of the scheme.

DA investigators arrested Muniz in October 2013 in Florida, where he fled after being charged in the case. He later waived extradition and returned to New York to face charges. A Nassau County grand jury subsequently indicted Muniz and his co-defendants.

Muniz was also sentenced to six months in jail by Judge Donnino in May after pleading guilty in an unrelated case to Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree (an A misdemeanor) for violating an order of protection for his then-wife in 2011.

Diane Peress, chief of DA Rice’s Economic Crimes Bureau, Marshall Trager, chief of DA Rice’s Government and Consumer Fraud Bureau, ADA April Montgomery of DA Rice’s Economic Crimes Bureau, and former Assistant Attorney General Victoria Safran and Senior Investigator Paul Matthews investigated and prosecuted the New Faces case. Safran was cross-designated as an Assistant District Attorney for the purposes of this prosecution for the Attorney General’s Office.

Assistant District Attorney D.J. Rosenbaum of DA Rice’s Special Victims Bureau is prosecuting the criminal contempt case.

Muniz is represented by Joshua Ketover, Esq.

The charges against any of the remaining defendants are merely accusations and the remaining defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT ADDRESSING SCHOOL DISCIPLINE ISSUES IN SYRACUSE 

Agreement Will Ensure That All Students Have Equal Access To Educational Opportunities In The Syracuse City School District

Schneiderman: My Office is Committed to Addressing the School-to-Prison Pipeline Across Our State

SYRACUSE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that his office reached an agreement with the Syracuse City School District that will help reduce the high use of exclusionary discipline in the district. The agreement will further the commitment of both the Attorney General and the Syracuse City School District to protect school safety, while ensuring that every student in Syracuse has access to a quality educational environment.

“It is critical that every child in our state has access to a quality education, and the use of zero-tolerance policies by school districts deprives them of that basic right,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “My office is committed to protecting New York’s students by ensuring that districts adopt proven disciplinary policies conducive to a safe and effective learning environment. I applaud the Syracuse School District School Board and Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras for taking steps that will help eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline and expand the pathway to opportunity.”

Last year, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau began investigating the disciplinary policies and practices of the Syracuse City School District.  Specifically, the bureau reviewed the district’s practices for compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits state and local government entities receiving federal funding, such as school districts, from discriminating against their students on the basis of race or national origin. Discrimination includes the use of school discipline in a manner that treats similarly situated individuals differently on the basis of race. The bureau also investigated the district’s compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state education law, which provides students facing discipline with certain procedural rights that must be respected.  

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that the district suspended 30% of its students during the 2012-13 school year, giving it one of the highest rates of suspension in the state and nation. A significant proportion of those suspensions were for non-violent conduct. The Attorney General’s office also found that the district had a record of suspending black students at twice the rate of white students. These disparities persisted even when the conduct at issue was non-violent. The investigation revealed serious procedural deficiencies in the district’s implementation of discipline. The district often failed to provide adequate notice or convene adequate hearings for students facing discipline. Finally, the Attorney General found that students with disabilities were often disciplined for behavior that was directly related to their disability, in violation of federal law. 

Research has shown that suspensions have negative consequences for students, decreasing student achievement and increasing the likelihood that a student will drop out of school or enter the juvenile justice system, often called the school-to-prison pipeline. Moreover, studies have shown that, contrary to popular belief, removing a student from a classroom for disruptive conduct does not improve the performance of the remaining students.  Disciplinary alternatives to suspensions exist that better address student misconduct and do so without the negative effects of suspensions. Given the efficacy of these alternatives, most experts in the field agree that suspension should only be utilized as a measure of last resort.

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said, “What happened in Syracuse schools was deeply harmful to students and completely unacceptable.  But today, the Syracuse City School District is beginning the work to end the harm, address racial inequalities and protect the rights of all students. The agreement today sets an important precedent for districts across the state. The Board of Regents and the Department will continue to work closely with Attorney General Schneiderman to protect students’ civil rights in every classroom in every school in New York State.” 

“Today, we have come together to ensure that all of our students are provided with a safe and supportive learning environment,” said Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras. “We still have difficult work ahead in order to implement appropriate disciplinary policies and practices. I look forward to working with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, his Civil Rights Bureau, our dedicated staff and the entire community to provide our children with the highest quality educational opportunities and schools of which we can all be proud.”

“Today’s announcement of the results of the Attorney General’s investigation help bring closure to a difficult chapter for the Syracuse City School District. While challenges continue, we are now able to move forward with a substantive plan for addressing exclusionary discipline practices,” said Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “I will continue to work closely with the Superintendent, the Syracuse Teachers Association, parents, and community leaders to foster an environment where teachers are treated respectfully and students are treated fairly. I appreciate how everyone has worked together to help address these issues and develop a plan to move forward. I extend my thanks to Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership and involvement.” 

“As a community we must work together if we truly value education and value our children. We must identify and implement better ways to support our students and our teachers,” said Board of Education President Michelle Mignano. “The Board of Education is committed to providing the best possible education for each of our students.  Our collaboration with the New York State Attorney General’s Office will help us to strengthen our school discipline policies, promote safe schools and most importantly, keep kids in school.” 

Under the terms of the agreement, the District will commit itself to reducing its use of exclusionary discipline against students.  The district will:

 

  • retain an independent monitor to provide oversight during the agreement and audit the district’s compliance with the agreement and with state and federal laws periodically and report his or her findings to the Attorney General’s Office;
  • create plans for the adoption and implementation of preventative techniques at its schools that will be aimed at encouraging students to avoid misbehavior;
  • amend its Code of Conduct to adopt or encourage the use of disciplinary strategies that do not rely on exclusion as a form of discipline, except as a last resort;
  • train its staff on these new preventative strategies, and on the new provisions of the Code of Conduct;
  • designate an Ombudsman to help the district and individual schools comply with the new Code of Conduct, and address school-level issues;
  • upgrade its data-keeping and analysis capabilities to ensure that it has the tools necessary to identify issues in its discipline practices and act accordingly;
  • enter into a memorandum of understanding with any entity that supplies the District with school safety officers that will provide policies governing officer’s conduct and training for officers on interacting with children in a school environment; and
  • implement new measures aimed at informing teachers, parents and students of their rights, and protecting their voices in the formulation of the discipline process. 

 

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney Generals Ajay Saini and Sandra Pullman, and Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Executive Deputy Attorney General of Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to promoting access to equal educational opportunities and combating discrimination for all New Yorkers. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ISSUES OPEN LETTER NOTING THAT ALL NEW YORK LAWS PROTECTING ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH FACILITIES REMAIN IN EFFECT

Notice Clarifies That New York’s Clinic Protection Laws Remain Intact After Recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision

Schneiderman: I Am Committed to Protecting the Right of Every New Yorker to Full and Safe Access to Reproductive Health Care Services

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued an open letter to law enforcement agencies around the state clarifying New York’s clinic protection laws and regulations in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month that struck down a buffer zone law in the Massachusetts.  While activists in some communities have sought to use the ruling to create confusion about which legal protections remain in place in New York, Attorney General Schneiderman noted that the ruling has no impact on buffer zone requirements already covering 22 counties in New York State. 

“I am committed to protecting the right of every patient in New York to full and safe access to reproductive health care services,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will not allow activists to use a narrowly targeted Supreme Court decision as an opportunity to create confusion about the critical protections here in New York.  Not only do New York State’s clinic protection laws remain completely in place, I am committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure they are fully enforced.”

After receiving reports of protestors allegedly disregarding buffer zones provided for under state law, the Office of the Attorney General sent a formal notice to law enforcement agencies detailing New York’s existing clinic protection laws and regulations.

New York City law establishes a 15 foot buffer zone in front of clinics to prevent harassment and intimidation.  In addition, the United States District Court for the Western District of New York granted a permanent injunction in 2005  requiring a group of 63 individuals and organizations to maintain a 15 foot buffer zone at reproductive health care facilities in the 17 counties in western New York.

Last month, in its decision in McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme Court struck down a specific 35-foot buffer zone law in Massachusetts.  But the Court also affirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to reproductive health services.

In at least one case in Western New York, protestors wrongfully asserted that McCullen v. Coakley allowed protesters to disregard all buffer zone requirements.  In response, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office issued an open letter clarifying that existing protections remain in place.  

In addition to today’s letter, Attorney General Schneiderman has dispatched investigators to ensure safe and lawful access to reproductive health clinics.

Those who are aware of violations of the state’s clinic protection laws are encouraged to contact local law enforcement agencies and to contact the Civil Rights Bureau in Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office by calling (212) 416-8250 or emailing civil.rights@ag.ny.gov.

Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of thirteen states and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the McCullen v. Coakley case. The brief argued that states require latitude to craft appropriate responses to the unique factual circumstances their citizens face, and that the Massachusetts law was a reasonable restriction on the time, place and manner of speech. In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing with the Supreme Court were California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Memorandum

To:       Law Enforcement Agencies in New York State
From:   Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
Date:   July 10, 2014
Re:       Protecting Access to Women’s Health Services.

Last month the Supreme Court issued a ruling in McCullen v. Coakley striking down a Massachusetts state law intended to  protect access to women’s health services. In the wake of that decision, we have received reports of activist groups in parts of New York suggesting to service providers that the Supreme Court invalidated all buffer zones and other protections.  That is not true. 

I am committed to protecting the right of every patient in New York to full and safe access to reproductive health care services.  Not only do New York State’s clinic protection laws remain intact, I am committed to working with your offices to ensure they are fully enforced.

Enclosed please find a pamphlet prepared by my office that details the protections afforded under State law. If you have any questions or would like assistance, please contact my Civil Rights Bureau by calling (212) 416-8250 or emailing civil.rights@ag.ny.gov(Read the pamphlet here.)

WESTCHESTER MEDICAL TRANSPORT COMPANY OWNER ARRESTED ON FELONY THEFT CHARGES IN MEDICAID FRAUD 

Kurien Palliankal Charged With Stealing More Than $200K By Falsifying Transportation Requests To Inflate Reimbursement

Schneiderman: Medicaid Dollars Are Meant To Help Our Most Vulnerable Citizens, Not Line The Pockets Of Businesses Owners

PEARL RIVER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Kurien Palliankal, the owner of New Rochelle-based transportation company Carewell Ambulette, Inc., on felony charges for allegedly stealing more than $200,000 from the Medicaid program. The individual and his company are charged with altering transportation requests sent to them by medical facilities authorizing taxi pickups and dropoffs for Medicaid patients. The defendants are charged with doctoring the requests during a four year period to claim requests for ambulette service, which is paid by Medicaid at a rate four times higher than for taxis. The corporation and Palliankal, 48, of Yonkers, are charged with top counts of Second Degree Grand Larceny. Palliankal faces a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison. 

“New York’s important Medicaid program ensures our neediest citizens have access to medical care and that they can get to their doctor,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Every dollar stolen from Medicaid impacts our state’s ability to provide this care to those most in need. My office will pursue individuals and companies who steal from the Medicaid program and deprive our citizens of health care.”

Transportation of Medicaid patients to medical facilities requires a request from the medical provider and a prior approval from Medicaid. The provider must request only the level of service which is medically necessary based upon the patient’s medical condition: ambulance, ambulette or taxi. These requests are forwarded to a transportation company, and the transportation company uses them to secure an approval and payment from Medicaid. 

From July 2006 through March 2010, Palliankal and Carewell received over 4,000 request forms from medical providers authorizing taxi transportation. Palliankal changed these request forms from “taxi” to “ambulette,” causing Medicaid to pay a much higher rate for transportation – $31 per ride for ambulette service, compared to the reimbursement rate of $7.50 per ride for taxi service. By falsifying these records, Palliankal and Carewell were able to defraud Medicaid. 

Palliankal and Carewell are each charged with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony; and five counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony; Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony; and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony. 

Palliankal and the Corporation were arraigned today before the Honorable Susan Kettner in New Rochelle City Court. Palliankal was released on his own recognizance. The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

The Attorney General would like to thank the Westchester County Department of Social Services for its assistance in conducting the investigation.  

The investigation was led by Senior Investigator Frank Bluszcz, Supervising Investigator Peter Markiewicz, Supervising Auditor Investigator Lora Pomponio and Associate Auditor Investigator Melissa Stoebling. 

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General William McClarnon of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Pearl River Regional Office, led by Regional Director Anne Jardine. MFCU’s Downstate Chief of Criminal Investigations is Thomas O’Hanlon. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Acting Director Amy Held. The Criminal Justice Division of the Attorney General’s Office is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENTS ENDING DISCRIMINATORY AND PREDATORY PRACTICES AT FIVE NYC EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES

Agreements Seek To End Scams, Exploitation Of Job Seekers And Low-Wage Workers

Schneiderman: The Law Guarantees Equal Employment Opportunities For New Yorkers 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced agreements ending unlawful discrimination and predatory business practices directed at immigrant job seekers by five employment agencies in New York City. The agreements reached with Excellent Employment Agency, United Employment Agency, Patricia Employment Agency, Rivera Employment Agency, and Sunset Employment Services require the businesses to cease engaging in unlawful discrimination when making job referrals, referring applicants to jobs paying below minimum wage, charging excessive fees and refusing to refund advance fees.

These five agencies targeted Spanish-speaking job seekers in two neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn. Four of them are located in Jackson Heights and one is in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. An 18-month investigation by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau found that the agencies collected national origin, gender, and age information from job seekers to unlawfully steer them, in accordance with employers’ discriminatory preferences, away from jobs such as “Mexican pasta man,” “European-looking sales girl,” “delivery, looking for a guy,” “construction 2-3 guys,” and “sales 20-25 years.” In addition, the employment agencies unlawfully referred applicants to jobs paying as little as $3.75 per hour, far below the applicable minimum wage in New York State.  Finally, the employment agencies charged job seekers excessive referral fees and failed to provide refunds of advance fees as required by New York law.

“Employment discrimination against vulnerable populations is an increasing and disturbing trend, and we need to do everything we can to protect job applicants across our state,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These agreements will send a strong message: Employment discrimination and exploitation of job seekers – including among our hard-working immigrant communities – are unacceptable. We will continue to fight for a level playing field for New York workers and our law-abiding businesses.”

In addition to requiring compliance with the law, the agreements reached with these five employment agencies require the agencies to report to the Office of the Attorney General any employers that make discriminatory requests for job applicants or seek applicants for jobs paying below minimum wage. These provisions will aid the Attorney General in stopping businesses from using employment agencies to advance discriminatory and other unlawful hiring practices. The agreements also require the employment agencies to revise their policies and procedures, obtain training, and pay a total of $20,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to New York State.

There are over 450 licensed employment agencies in New York State, and more than 360 of them are located in New York City. These agencies are often small, family-run businesses, staffed by a small number of employees, which can serve an important function and have a large impact on their communities.  The five agencies with which the Attorney General has secured agreements have themselves referred hundreds of job seekers to employment each year, advertising in Spanish-language phone books and distributing Spanish-language flyers or business cards.

The agencies located in Jackson Heights are Excellent Employment Agency, located at 88-14 Roosevelt Avenue; the United Employment Agency, at 89-04 Roosevelt Avenue; the Patricia Employment Agency Corp. at 89-18 Roosevelt Avenue; and the Rivera Employment Agency at 82-07 Roosevelt Avenue.  Sunset Employment Services, Inc., operates out of 4905 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.

Julie Menin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, said, “Protecting the rights of immigrants is a top priority for the City, and we commend the New York State Attorney General’s office for its continued commitment to protecting consumers from discrimination and unlawful business practices by employment agencies. Many of the bad actors in this industry prey on the most vulnerable and take advantage of their efforts to find a job and provide for their families. We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General in our efforts to close down employment agencies that are taking job seekers’ last dollars and leave them with nothing.”

Valeria Treves of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) said, “For years, the Queens community has been complaining about the predatory, fraudulent and substandard practices of local employment agencies. After conducting and releasing an in-depth study on this issue and shining a spotlight on the problem, we uncovered that this kind of fraud is very widespread. New York City’s new immigrants, many of whom rely on employment agencies to connect them to the job market, are particularly at risk of exploitation by employment agencies. We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking action against this kind of fraud and securing agreements that will help ensure that job seekers will be protected and the law will be enforced against unscrupulous employment agencies.” 

Council Member Julissa Ferreras (21st Council District) said, “As the representative of the district that encompasses Jackson Heights and serves as home to thousands of hardworking immigrants, I know that predatory and abusive employment agencies exploit some the most vulnerable communities among us. Low-wage workers in Jackson Heights deserve meaningful access to employment opportunities.  I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for going after fraudulent agencies that prey upon vulnerable communities and thank his office for making this issue a civil rights priority.”

State Senator Jose Peralta (13th Senate District) said, “I applaud the Attorney General for this important work. These agreements will serve to protect the most vulnerable members of the labor force, many of them immigrants, who are all too often the targets of predators seeking to profit from their struggles to make ends meet.”

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (39th Assembly District) said, “I want to thank the Attorney General for continuing to protect vulnerable New Yorkers, many of whom are in my district.  Hard working individuals should not be victimized trying to make a living for themselves and their families, and this settlement will go further to ensure fairness.”

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (51st Assembly District) said, “At a time when many New Yorkers are continuing to feel the impact of the Great Recession and the job market has still not recovered, it is important that we protect job seekers and end the exploitative practices at some employment agencies that take advantage of immigrant workers.  I was proud to sponsor legislation this year that sought to crack down on labor sharks and I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking steps to end this predatory behavior.”

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mayur Saxena and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Matthew Lemle Amsterdam of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. Assistant Attorney General Donya Fernandez of the Labor Bureau and Legal Assistant Shamika Rosario also assisted with the investigation. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting all New Yorkers from unlawful discrimination. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OP-ED: THE RIGHT WAY TO BE TOUGH AND SMART ON CRIME

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today published an op-ed on the Huffington Post on his office’s use of creativity and collaboration to tackle issues in law enforcement, an approach that is both tough and smart on crime. The following are excerpts from the op-ed:

ON BEING BOTH TOUGH AND SMART ON CRIME: In the last three years, crime has decreased across the board in New York.  Murder and burglary are down by double digits. At the same time, the state’s prison population has declined 4 percent. That is in large part thanks to our shared efforts to tackle crime in a way that is both tough and smart. While some folks are still pushing to bring back the draconian drug laws from a bygone era – policies that flooded our prisons but did nothing to make our streets safer – we have chosen a path that actually works.

ON CURBING THE ILLEGAL DRUG TRADE: Those of us in law enforcement cannot and will not tolerate violent predators or gangs that flood our streets with illegal drugs. That is why my office’s Organized Crime Task Force has worked with police departments across the state to break up some of the largest gangs and drug trafficking rings in New York. Since 2011, we have taken down 17 of the largest drug rings, busting at least 345 dealers.

ON COMBATING THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE EPIDEMIC: I partnered with leaders in the public health and law enforcement communities to pass the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing — I-STOP — which requires doctors and pharmacists to check a real-time database to see if a patient has one prescription for pain pills – or 20. By flagging addicts who are doctor-shopping to get their pain pills before they make the move to cheaper, more dangerous drugs like heroin, we are severing a key link in the chain of addiction and steering addicted patients into treatment.   

ON KEEPING DEADLY WEAPONS OUT OF DANGEROUS HANDS: Being tough and smart on crime means partnering with responsible gun owners and our local colleagues law enforcement to keep dangerous weapons out of our communities. That is why I have worked with police departments across the state to host gun buybacks. Together, we have taken more than 800 guns off the streets.  That is also why I partnered with gun show operators to develop an innovative set of procedures that guarantee a background check is performed for every firearm sold at a gun show in New York.

ON FIGHTING FOR A SOLUTION TO RISING SMARTPHONE THEFTS: We figured out that this epidemic would end if we could force the industry to install kill switches into every smart phone, so they can be shut off the way you cancel your credit card. Initially, the industry resisted. But in just one year, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative has pressured some major smartphone makers into installing kill switches. And it is working. Preliminary statistics suggest crimes targeting products with theft-deterrent features fell, even as crimes targeting smartphones from manufacturers that refused to install those features rose.

ON PUTTING POLICE OFFICERS IN BULLETPROOF VESTS: No approach to crime – no matter how tough or smart – can work if we don’t protect the people protecting us.  When I learned that Congress had gutted a federal program to help local police departments buy bulletproof vests for their officers, I created the inVEST Partnership. This $3.5 million program uses funds seized from criminals to help police departments buy body armor for their officers. 

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read here.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH BEVERAGE COMPANY OVER MISLEADING ADVERTISING CLAIMS TARGETING HISPANIC COMMUNITIES

The Varas Group Made Illegal And Unsubstantiated Claims That Purple Maize Extract, An Ingredient In Chicha Limeña, Fights Cancer And Diabetes

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached a settlement with The Varas Group for conducting a misleading advertising and social media campaign for its Chicha Limeña soft drinks. The beverage, marketed mostly to Hispanic communities in metropolitan New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, was advertised as containing an ingredient that fights cancer and diabetes. The Varas Group has agreed to cease the use of health-related claims in all marketing materials and agreed to pay the State of New York penalties, costs, and fees. 

“There has to be one set of rules for everyone, including those who would make dubious health claims about their products,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “While soft drink companies may market the advantages of their products, they may not make unsubstantiated claims that their products have the potential to prevent or cure serious health problems.”

The Varas Group has been marketing its products in the U.S. since 2006, mostly to Hispanic communities. Chicha Limeña is a non-carbonated beverage containing water, sugar cane, purple maize extract, pineapple, lemon, cinnamon and cloves.  Chicha Limeña is made with ingredients native to Central and South America and is modeled on traditional Peruvian (Limeña or “of Lima”) soft drinks; “Chicha” is a maize- or corn-based beverage. These beverages often appeal to consumers with a fondness for foods and beverages that represent their heritage and are familiar to their tastes. 

Purple corn, touted as containing high levels of antioxidants, is enjoying popularity as a healthful ingredient. However, neither the precise health benefits nor required consumption levels to achieve a benefit have been established in scientific literature.  In an effort to expand its sales and capitalize on the popularity of purple corn-based products, Chicha Limeña was advertised on its webpage and in social media as “a nutritional powerhouse packed with antioxidants  … [that] may help prevent obesity and diabetes.”  Other marketing touted unsubstantiated health claims including purple maize’s purported ability to fight cancer and provide “tons of health benefits.” Obesity and diabetes are serious health problems in Latino communities. As part of the settlement, the company will pay $5,000 in penalties, costs, and fees.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Ellen J. Fried, Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, all of the Consumer Frauds Bureau, and Executive Deputy Attorney General of Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ADDRESSES NEW YORK STATE ASSOCIATION OF POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATIONS ON KEEPING NEW YORKERS SAFE

Schneiderman’s Office Has Taken Down 17 Major Drug Trafficking Rings, Given Police Departments Tools To Keep Officers And The Public Safe, And Used Innovative Tactics To Stop Illegal Gun Sales

Schneiderman: Our Approach To Crime Is Both Tough And Smart

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today addressed a conference of the New York State Association of Police Benevolent Associations, and detailed his record on public safety and cooperation with the law enforcement community.  Following are excerpts from his remarks as prepared for delivery:

ON A TOUGH, SMART APPROACH TO CRIME
 
“What it takes is an approach to crime that is both tough and smart. As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I understand the challenges you face every day. And it is my job  to help my colleagues in law enforcement protect their members and the people we all serve.”

ON A TOUGH AND SMART APPROACH TO ILLEGAL DRUGS

“My office also takes a tough and smart approach when it comes to the crisis of illegal drugs that have flooded our streets and ruined so many lives… Since 2011 we have broken up 17 major drugs rings, recovered $1.3 million from drug dealers, confiscated 79 kilos of cocaine, more than 500 grams of crack and more than 2,500 grams of heroin, and made 345 felony arrests of drug dealers and kingpins  statewide.”

ON THE COMMUNITY OVERDOSE PREVENTION (COP) PROGRAM
 
“We are also giving police officers  the ability to save lives when there is an overdose by paying to give naloxone – a proven antidote to heroin overdose – to any police department in the state that wants it. So far, 135 law enforcement agencies around the state  have been approved to receive  more than 27,000 naloxone kits  under my Community Overdose Prevention, or COP, Program. These include 16 of your member departments, including the Nassau County Police Department, the MTA Police, the Suffolk County Police Department  and the Lynbrook Police Department.”

ON THE inVEST BULLETPROOF VEST PROGRAM

“Because of cuts in federal funding, many departments  can’t afford  vests for new recruits or to replace vests  for veteran officers.

“That’s just wrong. So we stepped up, and my office created the inVEST Partnership. Through this partnership, we are devoting $3.5 million in forfeiture funds to help law enforcement agencies all over the state buy bulletproof vests for every police officer who needs one. As of yesterday,  more than 110 agencies statewide, including more than 10 of the police departments that belong to the New York State Association of PBAs, had applied for inVEST funding.”

ON ILLEGAL GUNS
 
“We sent undercover investigators into gun shows around the state,add comma and it didn’t matter what story they told the sellers – that their wives had gotten orders of protection against them, that the police had come and taken their guns away – they were still able to buy guns  without a background check.”

“We arrested the sellers, but then, instead of going on the attack and grandstanding, we sat down with the operators of six major gun shows and together drew up a set of  Attorney General model protocols to close the gun show loophole in New York.”

“Responsible gun owners are not the enemy. The only way  to make this country safe from illegal guns is to end the poisonous rhetoric about gun ownership and instead  get law enforcement and responsible gun owners working together. That’s being tough and smart, and that’s what we are doing.”

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH UBER TO CAP PRICING DURING EMERGENCIES AND NATURAL DISASTERS  

Uber To Implement New Formula Limiting Prices To Normal Range During Emergencies 

New York Agreement To Serve As Model For National Policy

Schneiderman: This Agreement Represents The Thoughtful Application Of Long-Established Law To New Technology

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Uber, a mobile application that connects riders with for-hire vehicles, to limit prices during “abnormal disruptions of the market” – typically, emergencies and natural disasters — consistent with New York’s price gouging statute.  In addition, Uber is expected to announce a national policy to limit pricing in emergencies that is based on this agreement. 

“This agreement represents the thoughtful application of long-established law to new technology,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “It provides consumers with critical protections to which they are entitled under the law – and it provides Uber with clarity from government about how the law will be applied to its innovative pricing model.  This agreement also serves as a model for the kind of effective collaboration that should exist between government and technology companies like Uber. I am particularly proud that Uber is adopting a similar policy nationwide.”

Travis Kalanick, C.E.O. and co-founder of Uber, said, “This policy intends to strike the careful balance between the goal of transportation availability with community expectations of affordability during disasters. Our collaborative solution with Attorney General Schneiderman is a model for technology companies and regulators in local, state and federal government.” 

New York’s law against price gouging (General Business Law §396-r), was passed in the winter of 1978-79 in response to escalating heating oil prices.  It defines an “abnormal disruption of the market” as “any change in the market, whether actual or imminently threatened, resulting from stress of weather, convulsion of nature, failure or shortage of electric power or other source of energy, strike, civil disorder, war, military action, national or local emergency, or other cause of an abnormal disruption of the market which results in the declaration of a state of emergency by the governor.”  During an abnormal disruption of the market, all parties within the chain of distribution of any essential consumer goods or services are prohibited from charging “unconscionably excessive prices.” 

Uber does not set a single, fixed price for rides. Instead, its rates are dynamic, rising and falling with demand.  Under its agreement with the Office of the Attorney General, Uber will set a cap on its pricing during “abnormal disruptions of the market” limited to the normal range of prices it charged in the preceding sixty days.  In addition, it will further limit the allowable range of prices by excluding from the cap the three highest prices charged on different days during that period.  

Uber is expected to propose a similar change to its pricing model nationwide.  

The agreement announced today will apply to all Uber services that use dynamic pricing, including UberX, Uber Black and Uber SUV.

This matter was handled by Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices, and Gary S. Brown, Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ENCOURAGES NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENTS TO APPLY FOR BULLETPROOF VEST PROGRAM 

More Than 110 Departments Have Applied To The inVEST Partnership, Which Will Provide Law Enforcement Agencies With Funding To Purchase Bulletproof Vests

Schneiderman: Officers Who Risk Their Lives To Protect Us Deserve Protection In Return

NEW YORK – During remarks to the New York State Association of Police Benevolent Associations conference, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that more than 110 police departments across New York State have applied to receive funds under the inVEST Partnership, a $3.5 million program dedicated to assisting New York State law enforcement agencies with the purchase of vital and lifesaving bulletproof vests. Attorney General Schneiderman also encouraged more departments to apply, noting the deadline for applications is Tuesday, July 15. 

“The brave men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe deserve our every effort to protect them in return,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Reducing the cost of lifesaving bulletproof vests is consistent with our commitment to ensuring the safety of these officers and showing gratitude for the sacrifices they make on our behalf every day. The inVEST Partnership will arm officers across our state with life-saving vests they might not otherwise have, adding a critical layer of safety to one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”

In June, Attorney General Schneiderman established the inVEST Partnership. As part of the program, the Office of the Attorney General will provide selected law enforcement agencies with up to 50 percent matching funds to purchase new vests. Law enforcement agencies in New York State in need of new or replacement bulletproof vests are encouraged to apply to the inVEST Partnership.

In 1998, recognizing the need to outfit police officers across the country with bulletproof vests, the U.S. Congress passed the Bulletproof Vest Partnership. The program has since provided New York State with over $25 million to help purchase more than 212,000 vests. However, since 2010, funding from the federal program has dropped by over 80 percent in New York State, while the demand for this lifesaving equipment has not decreased.

In response, Attorney General Schneiderman has allocated $3.5 million in funds seized as proceeds from joint federal and state criminal investigations in order to provide financial relief to New York State law enforcement agencies seeking to purchase bulletproof vests.

In the past thirty years, 71 police officers in New York State have died as a result of injuries sustained from gunfire in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. While no vest offers absolute protection, the National Institute of Justice has reported that more than 3,000 law enforcement officers have been saved by ballistic body armor in in the past thirty years. 

In order to apply, a law enforcement agency must be a member of the United States Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Equitable Sharing Program. Approved departments will be required to submit receipts for reimbursement by the end of this year.

 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH BARNES & NOBLE TO STRENGTHEN PROTECTIONS FOR BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS 

National Chain To Pay $10K To Support Rockland County’s Breastfeeding Promotion And Support Program 

Schneiderman: Breastfeeding Mothers Are Afforded Equal Protection Under Our Laws

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Barnes & Noble, Inc. that will protect the rights of nursing mothers seeking to breastfeed at its stores in New York. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into the national chain following a March 16 incident in which a woman was asked to cover up or leave the company’s Nanuet, New York, store while breastfeeding her infant son. Under New York State law, a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, so long as she otherwise has the right to be there, regardless of whether she is covered while nursing. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the law’s passage.

“All New York residents, including breastfeeding mothers, must be afforded equal protection under the law,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “No mother should endure harassment for breastfeeding her baby in public. There is one set of rules for everyone in New York, and I applaud Barnes & Noble for taking steps to ensure that moms are not harassed or discriminated against.”

Under the agreement, Barnes & Noble will strengthen its customer complaint resolution procedures with respect to the handling of complaints received from breastfeeding mothers, train all New York store employees and managers on its breastfeeding policy, which prohibits employees from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed at its stores, and display the international symbol for breastfeeding at the entrances to its New York stores. In addition, the company will pay $10,000 to Rockland County to support the activities of its Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Program. 

Barnes & Noble operates 42 stores in New York State: 13 in New York City, eight in the Mid-Hudson region; seven on Long Island; six in Western New York; three in the Southern Tier region; two in the Capital Region; two in Central New York, and one in the Mohawk Valley.

Dr. Susan Vierczhalek, chairperson of the New York Statewide Breastfeeding Coalition, said, “Mothers who choose to breastfeed their children must not be discouraged from doing so when in public. We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for bringing attention to this very important issue and for working to remove barriers to breastfeeding.”

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “Health care providers and the law make clear that families who choose to breastfeed their children should be able to do so whenever and wherever necessary. We thank the Attorney General’s Office for taking steps to ensure that women seeking to exercise their right to breastfeed in New York State are able to do so.” 

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating unlawful harassment and discrimination and protecting reproductive rights across New York State. To file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Dariely Rodriguez of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH EMBLEMHEALTH FOR WRONGLY DENYING MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT FOR THOUSANDS OF NEW YORK MEMBERS

Health Insurance Company To Overhaul Behavioral Health Claims Review Process, Cover Residential Treatment And Bring Co-Pays Into Line With Primary Care

Insurer To Submit Thousands Of Denied Claims For Independent Review; Could Result In More Than $31 Million In Restitution To 15,000 Consumers; Will Pay $1.2 Million Penalty

Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Vigorously Enforce New York Mental Health Parity Laws

NEW YORK – After an investigation uncovered widespread violations of mental health parity laws by the company, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with New York City-based EmblemHealth, Inc., requiring the health insurer to reform its behavioral health claims review process, cover residential treatment and charge the lower, primary care co-payment for outpatient visits to mental health and substance abuse treatment providers. The settlement also requires the health insurance plan — which has 3.4 million members in its HIP and GHI divisions — to submit previously denied mental health and substance abuse treatment claims for independent review. That review could result in more than $31 million being returned to members wrongfully denied benefits.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau found that since at least 2011, EmblemHealth, through its behavioral health subcontractor, Value Options, issued 64% more denials of coverage in behavioral health cases than in medical cases. The agreement with EmblemHealth is the third reached by the Attorney General’s office so far this year enforcing the mental health parity laws and stems from a broader and ongoing investigation into health insurance companies’ compliance with the laws. Further information about the earlier cases can be found here and here.

“Our mental health parity laws were enacted to ensure that New Yorkers have adequate access to mental health and substance abuse treatment,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Insurers must comply with the laws – and they must treat people with mental health and substance abuse conditions as they do those with medical conditions. Under this settlement, improved services will be available to the millions of New Yorkers who are members of EmblemHealth plans. My office will make sure that everyone, including big insurance companies, play by the rules.”

New York’s mental health parity law, known as Timothy’s Law, was enacted in New York in 2006, and requires that insurers provide mental health coverage at least equal to coverage provided for other health conditions. The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, enacted in 2008, prohibits health plans from imposing greater financial requirements or treatment limitations on mental health or substance use disorder benefits than on medical or surgical benefits.

Mental and emotional well-being is essential to overall health. Every year, almost one in four New Yorkers has symptoms of a mental disorder, but less than half of those people receive treatment. And, despite the fact that in any given year, one in ten New Yorkers has a substance use disorder, only 11% of these individuals receive any treatment. Lack of access to treatment for vulnerable individuals, which can be caused by health plans’ coverage denials, can disrupt work, family, and school life, and lead to more serious illness.

Under the agreement, EmblemHealth has agreed to provide members with an independent review of claims or requests that were denied as not medically necessary from 2011 through present, and to reimburse members for residential treatment costs that the plan did not pay due to its exclusion of coverage for this service.  In total, this could result in more than $31 million in reimbursement to more than 15,000 members.

The company – which serves members from Albany to Suffolk counties — will also submit to monitoring by an external entity, will file an annual parity compliance report, and will pay $1.2 million to the OAG as a civil penalty.

The Attorney General’s investigation into EmblemHealth revealed that the plan scrutinized behavioral health care claims more rigorously than it has medical and surgical claims. Since 2011, this has resulted in thousands of its members not receiving coverage for care requested by their doctors and therapists. The disparity is especially pronounced in more intensive levels of care. The plan denied 36% of its members’ claims for inpatient psychiatric treatment and 41% of its members’ claims for inpatient substance abuse treatment.

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that before 2014, EmblemHealth did not cover residential treatment for behavioral health conditions for its 1.4 million HIP members, even though it is a standard, evidence-based form of treatment. EmblemHealth excluded this type of treatment while covering similar treatment — skilled nursing, for example — for medical conditions. In one case, EmblemHealth denied coverage of residential treatment for a young woman with a severe case of anorexia nervosa, a potentially life-threatening condition. EmblemHealth only agreed to cover the treatment after the Attorney General’s Health Care bureau intervened. 

Under today’s settlement, EmblemHealth has agreed to cover residential treatment for behavioral health conditions, including eating and substance abuse disorders, for all of its 3.4 million members. 

Emblem improperly denied requests for coverage of substance abuse rehabilitation, for example, on the grounds that the member was not experiencing “life-threatening withdrawal.” Such a withdrawal is not a requirement for such treatment. In fact, Emblem members who are suffering from life-threatening withdrawal require a more intensive level of care than rehabilitation, including medically managed inpatient detoxification. Emblem also denied requests for coverage of substance abuse rehabilitation treatment through application of “fail first” requirements. For example, Emblem improperly denied a request for coverage of substance abuse rehabilitation because the member had not recently failed an outpatient program.  

EmblemHealth has agreed to overhaul its claims review process by:

 

  • Removing visit limits for almost all behavioral health services.
  • Classifying claims correctly so that reviews are done expeditiously and members are afforded full appeal rights.
  • Removing the requirement that members “fail” outpatient substance abuse treatment before receiving inpatient rehabilitation treatment.
  • Basing the number of treatment days or visits approved on members’ needs rather than arbitrary limits.
  • Integrating medical and behavioral health claims review staff, which will facilitate the coordination of members’ care.
  • Ensuring that letters denying behavioral health claims are accurate and specific, so that members and providers understand the reasons for the plan’s denials, and can exercise their appeal rights.
  • Continuing coverage of treatment pending the completion of appeals, so that treatment is not interrupted.

Members will be notified by Emblem of their eligibility for independent review of eligible claims.

EmblemHealth also charges some members the higher, specialist co-payment for psychotherapy, which can deter members from seeking treatment. Under the agreement, EmblemHealth will charge all members the lower, primary care co-payment for members’ outpatient visits to behavioral health professionals.

To assist members in accessing their behavioral health benefits, EmblemHealth will appoint full-time behavioral health advocates to help members cut through red tape, and will provide information regarding claims review and treatment options.

Consumers with questions or concerns about this settlement or other health care matters may call the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau Helpline at 1-800-428-9071.

The investigation of this matter was conducted by Assistant Attorney General Michael D. Reisman, of the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Lisa Landau. The Health Care Bureau is a part of the Social Justice Division, led by Alvin Bragg.

 


STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement today regarding the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: 

“Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, one of the most significant milestones in our nation’s ongoing effort to ensure equal justice under the law and one set of rules for all Americans.  Passed in the face of fierce opposition, the act was a monumental victory for civil rights activists in their fight to eradicate Jim Crow laws — which had long perpetuated widespread discrimination based on race.  For fifty years, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has protected New Yorkers from institutionalized inequality.  It establishes the right to fair treatment in employment, in housing, in education and in accessing places of public accommodation and transportation.  

“While we have made great progress, we also know that the struggle to end discrimination on the basis of race is not yet won — and that the strong medicine provided by the Civil Rights Act remains as crucial to the protection of equal justice today as it was then. My office is committed to ensuring equal justice for all New Yorkers by enforcing one set of rules for everyone. We will continue to use the Civil Rights Act as a tool to combat discrimination and ensure equal access for all New Yorkers in housing, education, employment and public accommodations.”

The Civil Rights Bureau Chief is Kristen Clarke. The Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg. 

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to promoting equal justice under law. To file a complaint, contact the Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $25 MILLION SETTLEMENT WITH NATIONAL VETERANS CHARITY AND ITS DIRECT MAIL FUNDRAISERS

Agreement Provides $10 Million To Support Medical Research For Disabled Veterans; Disabled Veterans National Foundation To End Misleading Fundraising Appeals And Reorganize Board; Direct Mail Vendors Required To Reform Business Practices

Schneiderman: Charities, Direct Mail Companies Must Not Mislead Donors In The Name Of Our Brave Veterans

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has secured a $24.6 million settlement of his Charities Bureau’s investigation into direct mail fundraising abuses at what has become one of the country’s largest veterans’ charities, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF). The abuses, the investigation found – including misleading solicitations and failure to disclose conflicts of interest –were perpetrated by DVNF’s two outside, for-profit direct mail vendors, Quadriga Art and Convergence Direct Marketing. 

Under the settlement, Quadriga, which produced and sent out the mailings and played the dominant role in running DVNF’s fundraising efforts, will pay $9.7 million in damages, and Convergence, which designed the solicitations and provided other advice, will pay $300,000 in damages. This $10 million will go to help support and improve the lives of disabled American veterans. In addition, Quadriga will forgive $13.8 million in debt that DVNF owes to Quadriga, and adopt a number of significant reforms to improve transparency and set a higher ethical bar for the direct mail charitable solicitations industry. Quadriga will pay an additional $800,000 to the State of New York for costs and fees. 

“This investigation sheds light on some of the most troublesome features of direct mail charitable fundraising as it is practiced in the United States today,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Taking advantage of a popular cause and what was an unsophisticated start-up charity, these direct mail companies used cleverly designed but misleading mailers to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations from generous Americans, nearly all of which went to the fundraisers and their agents, and left the charity nearly $14 million in debt. Charities and their fundraisers that rely on direct mail campaigns can and must do better — and this settlement is an important milestone on the path forward.”

The settlement with Quadriga and Convergence is believed to represent the largest amount of financial relief ever obtained in the U.S. for deceptive charitable fundraising. In addition to forgiving DVNF’s current debt of approximately $13.8 million, these for-profit direct mail companies will pay $10 million to assist the disabled vets who were supposed to have been helped by the DVNF’s nationwide appeals. Those funds will be used to support federally conducted research into technological advancements, new treatments, and innovative rehabilitation and service-delivery practices designed to improve the lives of disabled veterans. For example, $1 million of the funds will be directed to support cutting-edge spinal cord research at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx; $1,250,000 will go to support research on mental health issues; and $750,000 will be directed to support research into medical issues confronting disabled women veterans. 

DVNF, the Louisiana-incorporated, Washington, D.C.-based charity in whose name millions of misleading mailings were sent to the public, was founded in late 2007 by a board with no direct mail fundraising experience.  The charity is required by the settlement to reorganize its board, including replacing all of its founding directors; appoint a committee to re-examine its business model; terminate Quadriga and Convergence as fundraising advisers, and discontinue in all of its nationwide fundraising appeals the use of certain messaging, such as fictional stories of wounded veterans supposedly helped by the charity, that the New York Attorney General’s Office found to be misleading to the donating public.

Through the end of 2013, DVNF had raised over $116 million in charitable donations from members of the public who generously responded to the mailings and product inserts that Quadriga and Convergence designed, manufactured and shipped. Many of those mailings were false and misleading, the investigation found. Some highlighted a moving story about a wounded veteran who was never helped by DVNF; others falsely claimed that DVNF had a robust “network” of veterans’ advocates and benefit coordinators throughout the country; and still others claimed that for every dollar donated, the DVNF would be able to deliver $10 in goods and services to disabled veterans, when in reality over 90 cents of every dollar went to cover DVNF’s direct mail costs. Indeed, despite having already paid its fundraisers over $104 million, DVNF still owed them another $13.8 million.

DVNF was founded in November 2007 by the board of the National Association of State Women’s Veterans Coordinators, another Louisiana not-for-profit corporation. From the beginning, the investigation found, DVNF failed to maintain adequate independence from its principal fundraiser, Quadriga. Quadriga’s lawyers got the charity up and running and drafted the fundraising counsel agreement that DVNF signed with Brick Mill Studios, a Quadriga affiliate; Quadriga selected DVNF’s auditor; Quadriga’s  agent, Larry Rivers, a veteran with deep ties to the DVNF board, served as a highly influential “unpaid financial consultant” to that board, even while earning over $2.3 million in undisclosed commissions from Quadriga on the business that the fundraiser did with DVNF; and, when the media asked probing questions about these relationships, it was Quadriga that managed DVNF’s public relations response.

The Attorney General’s investigation determined that Quadriga took advantage of the DVNF board’s lack of fundraising experience to sign the charity up for a “funded model” direct mail solicitation campaign far larger in scale than the DVNF board ever imagined. Under the “funded model” arrangement, the fundraiser assumes the up-front printing, packaging and mailing costs of the direct mail campaign, and is paid only out of the revenues brought in by the campaign. In exchange, the fundraiser obtains effective control over the charity’s donated revenues, as well as a lien on the charity’s donor list. In this case, the investigation found, DVNF was not adequately informed, and did not ask, about many critical elements of such a campaign, including its projected revenues and costs, the projected break-even point for the charity, the price of particular items used in the campaign or potential conflicts of interest. Here, there were multiple conflicts of interest, including among the Quadriga affiliates, between Convergence and Quadriga, and between Larry Rivers, Quadriga’s commissioned sales agent, and DVNF, where Rivers served as a consultant and which then hired his daughter as chief administrative officer.

Since its founding, DVNF’s principal program activity has been its “gift-in-kind” program. Under this program, DVNF paid a third-party vendor, Charity Services International (CSI) of South Carolina, to obtain donated goods from corporate or institutional donors, document the supposed value and transfer of title to the donated goods and transport the goods to recipients such as veterans’ homeless shelters and “stand-downs” (sites where goods are distributed to needy veterans and their families).  The investigation found that DVNF’s board provided minimal oversight of its “gift-in-kind” program, failing in many cases to ensure that the donated goods were being directed to disabled veterans, as the fundraising appeals suggested, or had any useful purpose at all.  The investigation also showed that, without telling its charity client, Convergence received commissions from CSI linked to the amount of goods that DVNF obtained from CSI.  

Under the settlement agreement, DVNF has terminated its relationship with CSI and will establish a board-level gift-in-kind committee to re-evaluate this program and, if it is continued, improve its administration. 

The settlement affords DVNF, which hired a new executive director while the investigation was ongoing, the opportunity to make a fresh start:  It is relieved of its enormous debt burden; all of its original board members must step down by the end of 2014; at least five new qualified directors must be added to its board; and, in addition to the gift-in-kind committee, the board must establish a new, independent audit committee. Furthermore, after a transition period winding down its existing direct mail campaign, DVNF is prohibited, for three years, from using Quadriga or Convergence to design or manage its charitable fundraising appeals, and it must permanently cease and desist using the fundraising claims the Attorney General’s office found to be false and misleading.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s settlement also requires Quadriga and Convergence to adopt a comprehensive set of reforms that will serve as important rules of conduct for the charitable fundraising industry going forward. Among other things, the reforms agreed to by Quadriga and Convergence require full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest, prohibit dealings with a start-up charity that does not have independent counsel, and require the direct mail vendors to exercise due diligence concerning the factual accuracy of the fundraising appeals they send out in a charity’s name. To ensure that its “funded model” charity clients fully understand the scope and costs of their fundraising campaigns, Quadriga is also required to provide these clients with a complete written description of the elements of the proposed campaign, the costs and rate structure associated with each such element, and the annual and total costs and revenues the campaign is projected to generate.

The parties to the settlement have neither admitted nor denied the Attorney General’s findings.  A copy of the settlement is available here

The investigation was conducted by Assistant Attorneys General Michael Torrisi and Elizabeth Fitzwater of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and Senior Enforcement Counsel David Nachman of the Executive Division, together with Research Analyst Liam Arbetman. The Charities Bureau is led by Bureau Chief James Sheehan. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN OP-ED: CRACK DOWN ON WORKPLACE RETALIATION

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today published an op-ed in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. The following are excerpts from the op-ed:

ON WORKPLACE RETALIATION AT A NEW YORK MCDONALD’S: Imagine you work in a restaurant kitchen. You detect a gas leak and report it to your supervisor, who does nothing. When you call 911, the fire department finds the gas leak and closes the place for the night. And instead of a raise or praise for potentially saving lives, you get … fired. This is what happened in an upstate New York McDonald’s last year.

ON WHAT RETALIATION MEANS FOR WORKPLACES: The case demonstrates many aspects of today’s workplaces: the absence of job protections for low-wage workers, the capriciousness with which an employee’s livelihood can be whisked away, the importance of a strong labor movement, and the critical role for protective statutes and muscular labor law enforcement. But the case also exemplifies something fundamental that is missing from the current debate about today’s workplace: the extent to which labor rights affect more than just employees. Workers’ ability to speak out without fear of retaliation creates a safer society for everyone.

ON WHAT WORKERS’ RIGHTS MEAN FOR PUBLIC SAFETY: Workers’ rights and public safety are inextricably intertwined. When workers cannot speak up, the potential consequences are dire: tainted food, unsafe water, harm to the environment, hazardous roads, gas leaks that are ignored.

ON PROTECTIONS FOR WORKERS: State and federal laws do provide some protection for workers who report violations and unsafe conditions. In the case of the McDonald’s worker who reported the gas leak, our office got involved. Because the employee did not want to be reinstated, we obtained a year and half of “front pay” in lieu of reinstatement for him; as a part-time minimum-wage worker, even a year and a half of front pay totaled just $10,000.

ON CHANGING THE PUBLIC DEBATE: Laws prohibiting retaliation could certainly be strengthened. But the public debate needs to be changed as well. Workers are not just another interest group whose rights are somehow distinct from the well-being of society as a whole. We are all substantially healthier — both figuratively and literally — when workers have a voice.

The full op-ed by Attorney General Schneiderman can be read here.

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON MOVE TO PROHIBIT BURNING OF COAL AT DANSKAMMER POWER PLANT IN HUDSON VALLEY

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today hailed a decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to prohibit the burning of coal at the Danskammer Generating Facility, located in the Town of Newburgh. The half-century-old power plant has been dormant for two years, and plans are in the works to reopen the facility. With the DEC’s decision to prohibit the burning of coal, the facility will instead use natural gas. Oil will be used as a backup energy source. 

Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following statement on the DEC’s decision:

“The decision by the Department of Environmental Conservation to prohibit the future use of coal at the Danskammer facility is a major victory for every New Yorker who shares my commitment to fighting for clean air.  The burning of coal poses a real threat to public health, contributes directly to climate change and creates coal ash waste containing toxins. I’m pleased the DEC recognized these concerns and issued a decision that will benefit all New Yorkers.”

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON INDEPENDENCE DAY

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in honor of Independence Day:

“Today we join together to commemorate the tireless hope and wisdom of those individuals who gave rise to this great nation. Our nation was built on the fundamentally American value that there should be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or powerful. Our task as a nation has been to make that vision closer to reality, and I am committed to using every tool in my office’s disposal to fight for equality for every New Yorker.  

“Today we also honor the men and woman who have risked everything and continue to sacrifice for our freedom and safety. Let us celebrate our past achievements and recommit to improving our country with each generation, in pursuit of greater justice and equality.

“I wish every New Yorker, and all Americans, a memorable and joyous 4th of July.”  

THIS WEEK IN THE NEWS

June 30 to July 4, 2014

TOP HEADLINES

Schneiderman Reaches a $25 Million Settlement with National Veterans Charity & Its Direct Mail Fundraiser

Attorney General Schneiderman secured a precedent-setting $24.6 million settlement as a result of his Charities Bureau’s investigation into direct mail fundraising abuses at what has become one of the country’s largest veterans’ charities, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF). The investigation found that two for-profit direct mail vendors – Quadriga Art and Convergence Direct Marketing – used cleverly designed but misleading mailers to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations from generous Americans, nearly all of which went to the fundraisers and their agents, and left the charity nearly $14 million in debt. $10 million of the statement will go to help support and improve the lives of disabled American veterans, and the debt that DVNF owes to Quadriga Art will be forgiven. In addition, Quadriga will adopt a number of significant reforms to improve transparency, setting a higher ethical bar for the direct mail charitable solicitations industry. The news of this agreement was broken on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

 

Schneiderman Secures Settlement With Reverse Mortgage Provider Over Misleading Advertising

Attorney General Schneiderman reached a settlement with New View Mortgage Corp. arising from misleading direct mail solicitations sent to nearly 10,000 New York seniors. The solicitations, advertising reverse mortgages, were designed to look like official government notices from the Federal Housing Administration. The mailings also claimed to present the “facts” behind reverse mortgages, but they offered only the benefits and none of the risks. As part of the settlement, the company must pay a penalty of $12,500 and may not misrepresent the features, benefits, and eligibility requirements of reverse mortgages in future solicitations. The Attorney General also released tips for homeowners considering a reverse mortgage.

Schneiderman Negotiates Agreement With Westchester Town Ensuring Fair Consideration Of All  Job Applicants

Attorney General Schneiderman announced an agreement with the Town of Greenburgh in Westchester County to amend a policy that unlawfully disqualified certain individuals from employment with the municipality based solely on past criminal history. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an inquiry into Greenburgh’s policy after receiving complaints from the Osborne Association, an advocacy organization that works to address the needs of individuals recently released from prison. In response, the Town of Greenburgh amended the background check policy, bringing the municipality into compliance with state law. Going forward, the town will consider the mitigating factors required by state law when determining whether an individual’s criminal history is related to the employment opportunities he or she seeks.

Schneiderman Op-Ed: Crack Down On Workplace Retaliation

Attorney General Schneiderman published an op-ed in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle on the need to combat worker retaliation in order to create a safer society for everyone. The Attorney General offered a number of recent examples – including the tainted peanut butter outbreak at the Peanut Corporation of America and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – in which fear of reprisal by employees stopped them from speaking out against public hazards observed at their workplace. He not only highlighted his office’s ongoing efforts to provide some protection for workers who report violations and unsafe conditions, but also called for a change in the public debate to recognize that we are all substantially healthier when workers have a voice.

Schneiderman Commemorates 50th Anniversary Of Civil Rights Act

Attorney General Schneiderman honored the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as “one of the most significant milestones in our nation’s ongoing effort to ensure equal justice under the law.” The Attorney General also reflected on the ongoing struggle to end discrimination on the basis of race in New York and across our nation. New Yorkers who believe they have been victimized by discrimination are urged to contact the Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250, or civil.rights@ag.ny.gov.

WEEK IN THE NEWS

June 23 to June 27, 2014

TOP HEADLINES

Schneiderman Files Lawsuit Against Barclays For Allegedly Deceiving Investors

Attorney General Schneiderman announced his lawsuit against Barclays – one of the world’s largest banks – arising from the operation of  its dark pool and other aspects of its electronic trading division. The complaint alleges Barclays has dramatically increased the market share of its dark pool through a series of false statements to clients and investors about how, and for whose benefit, Barclays operates its dark pool. While Barclays represents to investors that  it has implemented special safeguards to protect clients from “aggressive” or predatory high-frequency traders, Barclays is accused of operating its dark pool to favor high-frequency traders. The lawsuit also alleges that Barclays falsified marketing material purporting to show the extent and type of high frequency trading in its dark pool.  This would not only negatively impact institutions trading within the dark pool, but also individuals who might have invested with those institutions.

Schneiderman& NYPD Commissioner Bratton Announce Takedown Of Worldwide Khat Trafficking Ring

Joined by representatives of the NYPD, State Police and Department of Homeland Security in New York City, Attorney General Schneiderman detailed the 215-count indictment of 17 members of a criminal drug ring who allegedly flooded New York City, as well as other parts of New York State, with several tons of khat. Khat is a plant containing controlled substances similar to amphetamines, a dangerous and illegal drug with worldwide reach. The indictment claims defendants obtained khat from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia and shipped large quantities to U.S.-based managers for distribution. The ring then laundered the proceeds through operations in Minnesota and wired the money to various locations abroad, including Dubai and England.

Schneiderman Announces Lawsuit Against Continuum Health Partners, Beth Israel Medical Center& St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center For Violations Of False Claims Act

Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his office has filed a lawsuit alleging that New York City-based Continuum Health Partners, Inc., Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center failed to return money to the New York State Medicaid Program that they knew they had no right to have received. In one example, the complaint alleges that in February 2011, Continuum identified over 900 potentially improper claims to Medicaid, totaling approximately $1,000,000, but it failed to  take steps to repay all of the affected claims.

Schneiderman Announces NYS MAP Program To Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure

Attorney General Schneiderman launched his new  NYS MAP  program, which aims to provide low cost loans to New Yorkers struggling to avoid foreclosure. With many families statewide denied mortgage modifications as a result of small outstanding debts, NYS MAP aims to assist homeowners stay in their homes by helping them resolve those debts. The program is an enhancement to the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), which provides struggling borrowers with free legal and housing counseling services, serving more than 28,000 homeowners since its launch in October 2012. NYS MAP is being established first on Long Island, a region that has been particularly devastated by the foreclosure crisis. Borrowers in the rest of the state can apply beginning October 15. If interested, visit www.nysmap.org for more information.

Schneiderman Recovers Millions For Individuals Scammed By Hard-Tactic Telemarketer

Along with the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General, Attorney General Schneiderman reached a $15.6 million settlement with The Tax Club, for scamming consumers out of millions of dollars by allegedly misleading them into believing that its services would help consumers’ home-based businesses succeed. The schemes charged a large initial fee, between approximately $1,000 to $3,000, with a restrictive refund policy and recurring monthly “membership” payments of at least $19.99 a month. Many of the services offered were actually unnecessary—and were never provided. The settlement includes restitution, recovered from the personal assets of Tax Club executives, for 26 New Yorkers victimized by the company’s schemes.

 

Schneiderman Announces Sentencing Of Buffalo Man Who Posed As An Optometrist

Attorney General Schneiderman secured the sentencing of a Buffalo man who fraudulently operated as an optometrist without a license for 13 years. As part of his sentencing, the defendant has paid back the $116,821 he illegally collected from New York’s Medicaid program and other health insurers.

Schneiderman Secures Suspension Of “Legal Assistance Firm”

Attorney General Schneiderman announced that Supreme Court Justice James McClusky ruled in favor of his office’s case against Legal Docs By Me, suspending operations at the alleged unscrupulous business’ two locations in Watertown and Syracuse. The Attorney General’s Office has argued that Legal Docs By Me was misrepresenting the services it was providing to consumers, misrepresented pricing of its services and regularly provided misinformation to consumers about legal transactions – even relying on legal guidance obtained via Google search.

Schneiderman Announces Arrest and Indictment of Alleged Queens Fraudster

Attorney General Schneiderman indicted and arrested a New Rochelle woman who has allegedly operated a long-running scheme to steal from Queens residents. As alleged in the indictment, she defrauded her customers, many of whom were immigrants, by making false promises to perform a variety of services, from helping them obtain legal residency status to clearing up traffic tickets. Between 2012 and 2013 she collected more than $38,000 from her clients without providing the services for which she charged. If convicted, the defendant faces up to 7 years in prison.

 

Schneiderman Arrests Two After They Failed To Care For An Ailing Veteran Patient

Attorney General Schneiderman arrested and arraigned a Westchester nurse and nurse aide after they failed to provide care to an ailing Korean War Veteran in their care at the New York State Veterans’ Home. The defendants are accused of making false statements in the resident’s medical records to falsely reflect that they had provided the necessary care. They each face up to four years in prison. This investigation was part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing effort to protect vulnerable seniors and veterans who deserve the best of care.

Schneiderman Sues Western NY Mechanic for Deceiving Customers

Attorney General Schneiderman has sued a Western New York mechanic for allegedly defrauding racing enthusiasts by accepting payments for work on high performance engines he never completed. The mechanic allegedly used cash payments from consumers to issue refunds to other customers, took money for parts but then never ordered the parts, and even removed parts from customers’ engines to use for other projects. In one case, a consumer paid Leverentz $3,500 to install an engine in a vintage Corvette. Rather than install the engine, valued at $30,000, he gave it away to settle a debt he owed. The lawsuit seeks refunds for consumers and civil penalties for his violations of consumer protection laws.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FRAUD CHARGES AGAINST BARCLAYS IN CONNECTION WITH MARKETING AND OPERATION OF ITS DARK POOL

Investigation Into Barclays’ Dark Pool And Electronic Trading Business Uncovered An Alleged Pattern Of Fraud And Deceit, Misrepresentations to Investors

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit against the international bank Barclays, arising from the operation of Barclays’ dark pool and other aspects of its electronic trading division. The complaint alleges Barclays has dramatically increased the market share of its dark pool through a series of false statements to clients and investors about how, and for whose benefit, Barclays operates its dark pool. Contrary to Barclays’ representations that it has implemented special safeguards to protect clients from “aggressive” or predatory high-frequency traders, Barclays is accused of operating its dark pool to favor high-frequency traders.

“The facts alleged in our complaint show that Barclays demonstrated a disturbing disregard for its investors in a systematic pattern of fraud and deceit,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Barclays grew its dark pool by telling investors they were diving into safe waters. According to the lawsuit, Barclays’ dark pool was full of predators – there at Barclays’ invitation.”

The complaint alleges that Barclays falsified marketing material purporting to show the extent and type of high frequency trading in its dark pool.  For example, Barclays removed from a marketing document intended for institutional investors the dark pool’s then-largest participant – a high frequency trading firm Barclays knew engaged in predatory behavior in the dark pool.  In response, one employee stated:  “I had always liked the idea that we were being transparent, but happy to take liberties if we can all agree.”

Barclays heavily promoted a service called Liquidity Profiling, which Barclays claimed was a “surveillance” system that tracked every trade in Barclays’ dark pool in order to identify predatory traders, rate them based on the objective characteristics of their trading behavior, and hold them accountable for engaging in predatory practices.

Contrary to those promises, the complaint alleges that:

  • Barclays has never prohibited any trader from participating in its dark pool, regardless of how predatory its activity was determined to be;
  • Barclays did not regularly update the ratings of high-frequency trading firms monitored by Liquidity Profiling;
  • Barclays “overrode” certain Liquidity Profiling ratings – including for some of its own internal trading desks that engaged in high-frequency trading – by assigning safe ratings to traders that were otherwise determined to be toxic.

The complaint further alleges that, contrary to Barclays’ representations that it protects clients from aggressive or predatory high-frequency trading in its dark pool, Barclays in fact operates its dark pool to favor high-frequency traders and has actively sought to attract them by giving them systematic advantages over others trading in the pool. As alleged in the complaint, this included:

  • Falsely underrepresenting the concentration of aggressive high-frequency trading in its dark pool;
  • Misrepresenting its “Liquidity Profiling” service – which Barclays claimed protected investors from predatory behavior – by failing to provide many of the benefits marketed with the service; and
  • Claiming that Barclays does not favor its own dark pool when routing client orders to trading venues, while in fact doing just that. As alleged in our Ccomplaint, Barclays falsified an analysis of how it routed a major client’s orders.

Today’s complaint results from Attorney General Schneiderman’s Insider Trading 2.0 initiative and an intensive investigation into Barclays’ practices. The investigation was aided significantly by a number of former Barclays’ employees, who observed much of the conduct described in the complaint. These witnesses helped advance the investigation by providing meaningful information and testimony.

“No regulator – no matter how broad their authority – can succeed on its own,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I want to personally thank those that have courageously reported wrongdoing to our office and encourage others to do the same.”

Attorney General Schneiderman launched his Insider Trading 2.0 initiative over one year ago, and began examining the multitude of special relationships and early access to market-moving information that are far too prevalent in today’s electronic markets. Since that time, Attorney General Schneiderman has cracked down on early peeks at market-moving data on consumer and analyst sentiments, and he has worked to end the distribution of corporate earnings releases directly to high-frequency traders ahead of the investing public.

The Barclays investigation and litigation is led by Chad Johnson, Chief of the Investor Protection Bureau; Nicholas Suplina, Senior Advisor and Special Counsel; and Assistant Attorneys General John Castiglione, Jordan Salberg, and Rebecca Reilly.  Karla G. Sanchez is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN RELEASES CONSUMER ALERT ON FIVE COMMON PHONE SCAMS TARGETING SENIOR CITIZENS

A.G. Offers Tips To Seniors As Scams Spike During Summer Months

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a consumer alert on five common telephone scams targeting senior citizens. These common scams, identified by complaints and other evidence collected by the Attorney General’s Office, typically spike during the summer months. In a move to raise awareness about these scams and to help keep seniors safe, Attorney General Schneiderman is also participating in a Tele-Town Hall on elder abuse being hosted by AARP. 

“My office will use every legal tool at our disposal to protect senior citizens and hold scammers accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “To prevent senior citizens from becoming victims of fraud and abuse, we must empower them with information they can use to protect themselves.”

“Identity theft and other forms of fraud rank high among the concerns of the 50+ in New York, threatening to rob them of their life savings and destroy their fragile kitchen table economies,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. “AARP established a Fraud Watch Network, which provides free of charge to Americans of all ages information to help them protect themselves and their families while also offering assistance to victims.” 

“It’s estimated that fraud cost older Americans $2.9 billion in 2011 alone, and as society ages and people live longer this problem threatens to get worse,” said Finkel. “So we’re delighted that Attorney General Schneiderman will be joining thousands of our members across New York during our Tele-Town Hall today to discuss what they can do to avoid fraud and what his office can do to help them if they need it.”

Common Telephone Scams Targeting Seniors:

Grandparent Scam – Typically, this scam comes in the form of an urgent phone call. The caller claims to be “your favorite grandson” or just says “it’s me”… prompting the grandparent to supply the needed name. While the emergencies vary, the scenario is usually this: tThe “grandson” is out of town and needs money fast — to make bail, or to pay for automobile repairs or medical expenses. The caller begs the grandparent not to tell his parents, just wire the money immediately. Scammers know that parents and grandparents fear a call that tells them their loved one is in trouble. Each year, thousands of Americans get caught in the Grandparent Scam. Increasingly, scammers use actual relatives’ names and information gleaned from social media and other internet sites.

Jury Duty Scam – The caller will claim to be an officer of the court and say there’s a warrant for the arrest of the victim for failing to report for jury duty. The scammer will also claim that there is a fine for failing to show up for jury duty, and that unless the fine is paid immediately, the police will be sent to the victim’s home to make an arrest. The scammer will request that the “Jury Duty Warrant” be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. The scam has been around for years and surfaces periodically in New York.  In one recent case, the calls were traced to a Georgia prison.

Lottery Scam – The caller says you’ve won a foreign lottery and requests that you, as the “winner,” send a check or to wire money to cover taxes and fees.  Legitimate contests never ask for money upfront. The caller may request your banking information in order to electronically direct deposit your winnings. This is an attempt to steal your identity and will wipe out your bank account.

The callers often use a name that sounds like a government agency or official-sounding authority. The name can be invented, like the “National Sweepstakes Bureau,” or “The National Consumer Protection Agency.” Sometimes they will use an actual name of a government agency, like the Federal Trade Commission. The scammers claim that the government “oversees” the integrity of foreign lotteries. This is a scam.

IRS Scam – The caller will claim to be an agent or police officer from the Internal Revenue Service calling about a past due tax balance that is owed. The caller will tell the victim that unless the debt is paid immediately, a team of officers will come to the victim’s home that day to arrest the victim. The scammer will also request that the “IRS Tax Warrant” be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram.  These scammers often use caller ID spoofing so that the victim’s caller ID box says “Internal Revenue Service” or displays the phone number of the Internal Revenue Service.

Utility Scam – The caller claims to be a representative of a local utility provider. In some cases, the scammer has the victim’s correct account number. The scammer will then advise the resident that the utility bill is past due and must be paid immediately to avoid termination of service.  The scammer will also request that the delinquent bill be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram.  Suspects committing this scam have often obtained personal information via the internet, Facebook, Instagram or other social media. 

Tips For Seniors to Avoid Falling Victim:

Think Of The Telephone As A “One Way Street” 

It’s okay to give out information over the phone if you made the call to a number you know and trust (such as your own bank). However, never give out personal information when you receive an unsolicited call. If you receive a call soliciting personal information, just hang up the phone, no matter what the caller ID says. If the caller says he’s from your bank and is checking on possible unauthorized withdrawals from your account, hang up the phone and then call your bank.  If it was your bank that was trying to call, then it will be happy to confirm the call and will often provide requests to you in writing.  If your bank says it wasn’t trying to reach you, that means the caller you hung up on was a scammer.  

Beware If A Caller Ask To Keep A Conversation A Secret

A legitimate caller will never request that a conversation remain a secret, and you should immediately be suspicious. Whether the caller claims to be from the government, a bank, or a family member, requests for confidentiality should raise a red flag.

Just Say No!

You don’t have to be polite when you receive unsolicited phone calls. The safest thing to do is to say “no” and hang up. Legitimate callers will typically also provide requests in writing. It is better to be guarded than to fall victim.

Remember the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Be wary of any offers or deals that sound too good to be true, as they likely are too good to be true. 

Attorney General Schneiderman reminds New Yorkers that in addition to being vigilant consumers, they should also report instances of fraud to his office.

Consumers are encouraged to file complaints by visiting the Office’s website or calling 1-800-771-7755.

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON SUPREME COURT’S RULING ON MASSACHUSETTS LAW CREATING A PROTECTIVE BUFFER ZONE AROUND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH FACILITIES

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley:

“While we are pleased that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to necessary reproductive health care services, we are disappointed that the Court rejected  the particular approach adopted by Massachusetts. New York’s clinic protection laws are not implicated by today’s decision, but my office remains committed to supporting the ability of a state to provide other kinds of protection as required by its own experience.”

Background

Massachusetts’s Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act creates a protective buffer zone within 35 feet of the entrances of designated reproductive health facilities. In today’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Massachusetts Act serves a significant governmental interest in a content neutral way, but burdens more speech than is necessary to achieve the Act’s purposes.

Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of thirteen states and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case.  The brief argued that states require latitude to craft appropriate responses to the unique factual circumstances their citizens face, and that the Massachusetts law was a reasonable restriction on the time, place and manner of speech. In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing with the Supreme Court were California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

New York’s amicus brief was prepared by New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood, Deputy Solicitor General Andrea Oser and Assistant Solicitor General Zainab A. Chaudhry, with assistance from the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau.

A copy of today’s brief can be viewed here.

A.G. SCHNEIDMERMAN ANNOUNCES NATIONAL SETTLEMENT WITH HARD-TACTIC TELEMARKETERS THAT RETURNS $16 MILLION TO CONSUMERS 

Twenty-Six New Yorkers And Consumers Nationwide To Receive Restitution; Company Took Millions From Entrepreneurs Seeking Help Launching Small Internet-Based Businesses

Schneiderman: Hard-Sell Telemarketing Tactics Are Often Illegal  

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office, along with the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General of Florida, have reached a $15.6 million settlement with The Tax Club, Inc., which operated out of the Empire State Building, related to deceptive business practices and false advertising seen in telemarketing schemes that targeted consumers operating internet-based businesses. The settlement agreement, entered in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this month, prohibits future misconduct. The settlement money will be returned to consumers across the country as restitution, including to 26 New Yorkers.

“As a result of this settlement, former Tax Club executives will be giving up a substantial chunk of their personal assets,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Before turning over your hard-earned money to telemarketers, it’s important to make sure they have a reputation for delivering what they promise.” 

Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “Before you put money into a work-at-home business opportunity, ask questions to determine if it is legitimate. We encourage consumers to read our consumer information to learn how to recognize schemes that promise more than they deliver.”

Information about telemarketing fraud and tips to avoid becoming a victim can be found here.

The investigation into The Tax Club, which also does business as Success Merchant Services, Corporate Tax Network, and Corporate Credit, adversely affected consumers nationwide, including senior citizens. New Yorkers targeted by the company filed complaints with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office beginning in 2010 and continue to come in. The victims lived across the state, including in Binghamton, New York City and on Long Island; and in Cattarangus, Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Orange, Putnam, Renssealer, Rockland, St. Lawrence and Westchester counties. 

The operators of The Tax Club’s telemarketing schemes took millions of dollars from consumers by allegedly misleading them into believing that its purported services would help consumers’ home-based businesses succeed. According to a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court in January 2013 by Attorney General Schneiderman, the FTC and the Florida Attorneys General, The Tax Club, which purchased lists of small business owners from companies that offered internet-based business opportunities, called consumers and falsely claimed to be affiliated with companies that they had already bought services or products from. The lawsuit alleged that the telemarketers pitched business development services, including business coaching services, corporate formation services, and credit development services. 

The suit further charged that, after an initial hard-tactic sale, the telemarketing companies called consumers repeatedly to sell other services they claimed were “essential,” typically for several thousand dollars per service. The schemes charged a large initial fee, between approximately $1,000 to $3,000, with a restrictive refund policy and recurring monthly “membership” payments of at least $19.99 a month. Many of the services offered were actually unnecessary—and were never provided. 

Under the settlement, the defendants are banned from selling business coaching services and work-at-home opportunities, subject to certain exemptions. They are permanently prohibited from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information and violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which established the federal Do Not Call Registry and which prohibits abusive and deceptive telemarketing acts. They must also clearly disclose the seller’s identity, that the purpose of a call is to sell a good or service, and the nature of the good or service.

The settlement includes judgments against three of the former company’s executives. The order against Edward B. Johnson, the company founder, bans him from selling credit development, business planning, and merchant account processing services. He is personally required to pay $2.6 million. The assets to be turned over include bank and brokerage accounts, and proceeds from the sale of real and personal property. Brendon A. Pack, the former director of marketing at The Tax Club, and Michael M. Savage, the former president of The Tax Club, are required to jointly pay $13 million. They are banned from selling business coaching services, credit development services and work-at-home opportunities and are prohibited from calling consumers unless they have express written consent from a consumer to receive calls, or they are fulfilling or providing services previously purchased by the consumer. 

In New York, Investigators Robin Womack and Mike Ward assisted with this investigation. The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judy S. Prosper, Guy H. Mitchell, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Harlem Regional Office, and Jane Azia, Bureau Chief of the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds Bureau. Marty Mack is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices. Karla G. Sanchez is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice. 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES LAWSUIT AGAINST CONTINUUM HEALTH PARTNERS, BETH ISRAEL MEDICAL CENTER AND ST. LUKE’S-ROOSEVELT 

Lawsuit Alleges False Claims Act Violations Against Continuum Health Partners, Beth Israel Medical Center And St. Luke’s Roosevelt  

Schneiderman: Those Who Fail To Return Funding That Isn’t Rightfully Theirs Will Be Held Accountable

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit alleging that Continuum Health Partners, Inc., Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, headquartered in New York, failed to return money to the New York State Medicaid Program that they knew they had no right to have received.

“This lawsuit sends the message that those who violate the New York State False Claims Act and fail to return funding that isn’t rightfully theirs will be held accountable,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “My office will continue working diligently on all fronts to protect the integrity of the Medicaid Program.” 

The complaint in intervention alleges that between 2009 and 2010 Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, submitted improper claims to Medicaid for services rendered to Healthfirst enrollees as a result of a computer error. In 2010, the New York State Comptroller’s office informed Continuum (which at the time of the conduct operated Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt) that it had identified a handful of improper claims stemming from the computer problem. After learning of this from the Comptroller’s Office, Continuum conducted an internal investigation.

The complaint also alleges that in February of 2011, Continuum identified over 900 potentially improper claims to Medicaid, totaling approximately $1,000,000. It also alleges that nonetheless, Continuum failed to take steps to repay all of the affected claims within 60 days after these claims had been identified, and that Continuum proceeded to repay only small batches of affected claims, some of which were brought to its attention by the Comptroller, over the next two-plus years. Final repayments were not made until March 2013, and repayments were made for more than 300 of the claims only after the United States, through the United States Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York, issued a Civil Investigative Demand to Continuum concerning these payments in June 2012.  

The complaint against Continuum, Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt was filed under the New York False Claims Act and other statutes in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the United States Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York coordinated on the investigation. The New York investigation was conducted by Special Auditor-Investigator Elliot Hirshon and Special Auditor Investigator Deowattie Persaud.

The matter is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Jacob M. Bergman of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, led by Acting Director Amy Held, and Executive Deputy Attorney General of the Division of Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ARREST AND INDICTMENT OF ALLEGED SERIAL FRAUDSTER

Court Papers Charge That Victims Paid Cash For A Wide Variety Of Services That Were Never Delivered

Schneiderman: Those Who Defraud New Yorkers Will Face Justice

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and indictment of Sonia Vertucci, for operating a long-running scheme to steal from Queens residents. As alleged in the indictment, Vertucci falsely promised a wide range of services to her predominantly immigrant clients and collected more than $38,000 in upfront cash payments, but never delivered any services or refunded any money.  

“Scam artists who prey on immigrants, or other hardworking New Yorkers, with false promises will not be tolerated in our state,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “No matter how elaborate their schemes, those who defraud New Yorkers will face justice.”

The indictment, filed in Supreme Court in Queens County, charges Vertucci, age 42 of New Rochelle, with two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class “E” felony), three counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class “D” felony), two counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class “E” felony) and four counts of Petit Larceny (a misdemeanor). If convicted, Vertucci faces up to 7 years or more in prison.  

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that between 2012 and 2013, Vertucci operated an elaborate scheme to defraud New Yorkers, allegedly promising a wide variety of services she could not, and did not deliver. She promised immigrants Social Security cards and help obtaining legal residency status. She promised truck drivers she would clear up tickets and license suspensions to allow them to get back to work. In each case she demanded money up front, usually in cash, and then did nothing. Her alleged fraud cost victims more than $38,000. 

Vertucci went to great lengths to cloak her scam with an appearance of legitimacy. The investigation revealed that she rented retail storefronts on busy avenues, with awnings and signs advertising “Express DMV Services,” “Mailbox Rentals,” “Auto Insurance,” “Immigration,” and other services. The stores had plausible sounding names, such as “Multi-Service Center” and “Tristate Business Center,” and were populated with administrative staff. Customers were falsely told that Vertucci had lawyers on call to assist her, and were given official-looking receipts for payment. In reality, Vertucci had no businesses on file with the New York Department of State. She obtained leases for her commercial spaces by passing bad checks, and vacated – with victims’ money – just before being evicted. She then set up a new store and defrauded new victims.

Vertucci most recently moved from Queens to New Rochelle. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Vertucci is urged to call the Attorney General’s immigration fraud hotline at 1-866-390-2992.

This investigation was initiated by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau. The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their cooperation on this case. The investigation was handled by Investigator Sixto Santiago, Senior Investigator Luis Carter, Deputy Chief Investigator Vito Spano, and Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau. 

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Brian McDonald and Senior Analyst Jacqui Brown in the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. Essential assistance has been provided by Assistant Attorney General Dariely Rodriguez, Special Counsel Jessica Attie, Legal Assistant Shamika Rosario, and Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Civil Rights Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. 

The charges are accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law. 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO HELP HOMEOWNERS AVOID FORECLOSURE

New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS MAP) Will Provide Loans To Families Struggling To Avoid Foreclosure

Program Will Bridge Struggling Homeowners To Affordable Mortgage Modifications

HEMPSTEAD — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the launch of the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program, or NYS MAP, which will provide small loans to families struggling to avoid foreclosure. The loans will assist families in securing mortgage modifications and result in more families staying in their homes. The program is an enhancement to the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) which provides struggling borrowers with free legal and housing counseling services, and has served more than 28,000 homeowners across the state since the launch of the program in October of 2012. Today’s announcement will be detailed at a Nassau County Town Hall in Hempstead and will outline the terms of the program including the decision to roll out NYS MAP in Long Island first; recognizing that the region has been particularly devastated by the foreclosure crisis. Applications from Long Island families will begin being processed on September 15. Borrowers in the rest of the state can apply beginning October 15.

“For many families across New York State, receiving a small loan through this program will mean the difference between a mortgage modification and the loss of a home. It’s hard to imagine a better investment in communities and families still feeling the effects of the housing crisis,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We know that our Homeowner Protection Program has had real results, helping thousands of families keep their homes. I’m pleased to announce that the Mortgage Assistance Program will go even further, providing a lifeline to families still in need.”

In the course of its work mitigating the damaging effects of the housing crisis in New York State, Attorney General Schneiderman’s office discovered that many families are being denied mortgage modifications as a result of small outstanding debts. Even families with reliable income streams are denied modifications due to things like a series of missed mortgage payments, delinquent second or third mortgage liens, or unpaid property tax bills which need to be satisfied before a first mortgage holder will grant a modification. By filling the gap for families, the NYS MAP program will empower consumers to negotiate with their mortgage holders and ultimately remain in their homes.

Eligible loan uses will include, but not be limited to, paying off arrears including mortgage payments or unpaid interests and fees; paying down second or third mortgages; satisfying property tax liens or other liens that might lead to loss of homeownership; and supplying borrowers with a “matching” fund to achieve principal reduction or other beneficial first lien modification terms. Consumers will be eligible to apply for loans of varying amounts not to exceed $40,000 per borrower, and the Attorney General anticipates that the program will have the capacity to disburse several hundred NYS MAP loans over the next 18 months. In all cases, a NYS MAP Loan will result in homeownership retention at the time the loan is made. 

To access NYS MAP, homeowners will work with an existing HOPP counselor or legal aid provider to complete the application. Today, the Attorney General’s office launched the website www.nysmap.org where prospective applicants can find out about the program and get connected to a HOPP lawyer or counselor.  Consumers can also contact the New York Attorney General Consumer hotline at 855-HOME-456. 

The program is modeled after a New York City funded pilot program administered through the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN). The Attorney General Program is working with CNYCN, as well as the Empire Justice Center, to assist in the operations of NYS MAP. Both agencies are contracted by the Office of the Attorney General to assist with the administration of the HOPP program.

“We are proud to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman, the Empire Justice Center, and all of the HOPP partners across the state on the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program,” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “Despite reports of an improving housing market, communities all over New York are still struggling from the impacts of the housing crisis, and homeowners are still fighting every day to keep their homes in the face of foreclosure. Thankfully, these loans will keep hundreds of families in their homes and in their neighborhoods.”

Ms. Veneta Burton is one example of how the NYS MAP program expects to change lives. Ms. Burton lives with her daughter and three grandchildren in the Bronx. After getting diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Burton fell behind on both her mortgage and her condo association payments. Soon after she received a foreclose notice. Fortunately, Ms Burton found her way to Legal Services, Bronx NYC, a HOPP grantee, who connected her with the MAP pilot program. With her $22,000 loan, she was able to pay down her mortgage and her condo association arrears, which also brought down her housing expenses by $300 per month. “We would have lost our home to foreclosure without this program,” said Ms. Burton.

“For homeowners facing foreclosure a MAP loan can provide the extra financial assistance they need to bridge the gap to a successful workout or mortgage modification,” said New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been. “The city’s Mortgage Assistance Program has already helped more than 170 New York City homeowners stave off foreclosure. The New York State Mortgage Assistance Program will be another critical resource in providing the counseling and financial services needed to help New Yorkers keep their homes and find stable financial footing. I thank the Attorney General’s office for their commitment and partnership in our work to combat the foreclosure crisis.”

Housing Counselors and Legal Services providers outside of NYC are anxious to see NYS MAP expanded to their region, particularly those who are working in communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. On a regional basis, Long Island has the highest distressed mortgage rate– loans that are 90 days or more delinquent but not yet in foreclosure –across New York State at 11.1%. Certain communities on the Island have even higher rates such as Brentwood and Hempstead, whose rates are 24% and 28% respectively. For these reasons, the Attorney General has chosen to roll out NYS MAP in Long Island first.

Other areas across the State which will be eligible for the program later in the fall, continue to suffer the effects of the housing crisis. In the Hudson Valley, distressed mortgage rates in Newburgh and Spring Valley are at 16%, and Middletown is at 19%.

Across upstate and Western New York, the distressed mortgage problem is concentrated in certain communities, with the highest rates in Troy (9%), Rochester (7%) and certain neighborhoods in Buffalo, such as Kensington (10%). Overall, Erie County has the fifth highest distressed mortgage rate in New York State. Monroe County ranks the eighth highest for mortgage distress.

“The NYS MAP funds will provide a safety net for eligible homeowners and will serve as a critical tool for counselors to assist families in obtaining an affordable payment and home-ownership retention,” said Marianne Garvin, President and CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Long Island. “We are privileged to be part of the network of providers under the New York State Attorney General Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) and value Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing commitment to New York.”

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN & NYPD COMMISSIONER BRATTON ANNOUNCE TAKEDOWN OF WORLDWIDE KHAT TRAFFICKING RING

Seventeen Indicted For Funneling Several Tons Of Khat Across Four Continents, Distributing The Drug Across New York And Other States 

Schneiderman And Bratton: Today’s Indictment Is The Result Of Our Relentless Fight Against Organized Drug Distribution Rings

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner William J. Bratton today announced the indictment of 17 members of a criminal drug ring who allegedly flooded New York City, as well as other parts of New York State and parts of Massachusetts and Ohio, with several tons of khat, a plant containing controlled substances similar to amphetamines. The 215-count indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Supreme Court charges that the defendants obtained khat from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia; shipped it to the United States through countries including the United Kingdom, China, Holland and Belgium; and trafficked it around New York City and several other New York counties, as well as Massachusetts and Ohio. The ring then laundered the proceeds through operations in Minnesota and wired the money to various locations abroad, including Dubai and England.

“Khat is a dangerous and illegal drug with worldwide reach. As a result of this international takedown, a sophisticated operation accused of bringing drugs into the United States and sending the profits overseas has been shut down,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Trafficking often funds other criminal activity. Traffickers who threaten our communities and inflict untold harm on countless families will be brought to justice.”

“Illegal drugs can find their way into our city from any corner of the world via organized criminal networks,” NYPD Commissioner Bratton said. “Through the far-reaching capabilities of our joint law enforcement partners these criminals can be tracked down and brought to justice wherever they are located, as evidenced in today’s indictments by the New York State Attorney General’s office.”

Khat is a plant cultivated largely in Kenya and Ethiopia. Among its active ingredients are cathinone, a stimulant classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the New York State Public Health Law, and cathine, which is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Users of khat chew the leaves and stems of the plant and swallow the juice, which is most potent when it is fresh. Khat traffickers, therefore, must operate efficiently to transport khat from Africa, where it is cultivated, to users in the United States and elsewhere. Khat became illegal in the United Kingdom on Tuesday.   

As part of the investigation, state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division conducted a nearly year-long investigation. The indictment alleges that England-based defendant Yadeta Bekri, known to his co-conspirators as “Murad,” systematically shipped large quantities of khat to his U.S.-based “managers,” Bayan Yusuf and Ahmed Adem, through multiple U.P.S. stores located in Manhattan. Yusuf and Adem, both of Rochester, NY, would then allegedly deliver the khat to their distributors and direct customers based in Brooklyn, Rochester and Buffalo, as well as Everett, Mass. 

Surveillance conducted as part of the investigation revealed that, in each city, the defendants would use various buildings to store large quantities of khat until they were able to distribute the drugs. For example, two of the defendants – Mustafa Sadeq Ali and Sadeq Hassan Ali – were observed on several occasions via electronic surveillance bringing multiple boxes of khat (containing approximately 25 pounds per box) into the Islamic Society of Flatbush on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, which was adjacent to the apartment they shared. Defendants were also repeatedly observed at storage rental facilities including CubeSmart and Storage Deluxe locations in both Brooklyn and Queens.

At Bekri’s direction, Yusuf and Adem allegedly transported the proceeds of these illegal sales by car to Bekri’s fiancée and co-conspirator Ibsitu Hashi in Minnesota who, in turn, sent the money back to Bekri via Dubai and other countries.

The New York State Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, and United States Customs and Border Protection all assisted in the investigation.

“ICE Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection dedicate significant resources to identify vulnerabilities in trade and travel systems like those exploited by the criminal syndicate dismantled today,” James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York, said. “HSI is committed to leveraging partnerships across all levels of law enforcement to preserve America’s national security.”

“We are proud to have partnered with the New York State Attorney General’s Office in bringing to justice those involved in this criminal organization,” said Robert E. Perez, Director, New York Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  “CBP remains ever vigilant at our ports of entry to ensure the security and safety of our nation.”

Today’s indictment charges 17 co-conspirators with crimes including Operating as a Major Trafficker and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, Money Laundering and Conspiracy to commit those crimes.  The Operating as a Major Trafficker statute (§220.77(1) of the Penal Law of the State of New York), authored by Attorney General Schneiderman, went into effect in November 2009 as part of changes to the Rockefeller-era drug laws and is the only felony narcotics charge in the state that carries a possible life sentence.

The defendants charged today are:

Yadeta Bekri (a.k.a. “Murad”), 23, of England
Mustafa Sadeq Ali, 21, of Brooklyn
Sadeq Hassan Ali, 46, of Brooklyn
Noman Saleh Almoflehi, 21, of Brooklyn
Ahmed Khader Sulaiman, 25, of Brooklyn
Al Khader Sulaiman, 29, of Brooklyn
Wail Seidi, 21, of Queens
Nabil Seidi, 35, of Queens
Mohamed Seidi, 26, of Queens
Abubaker Seidi, 39, of Queens
Ali Saleh, 39, of Rochester
Mohamed Mohamed, 54, of Rochester
Bayan Yusuf, 31, of Rochester
Rumiya Osman, 30, of Rochester
Ahmed Adem, 31, of Rochester
Malyun Ibrahim, 49, of Everett, Mass.
Ibsitu Hashi, 34, of Blaine, Minn.

The investigation was directed by OCTF Investigator Brian Fleming and Supervising Investigator Arthur Schwartz, OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta and Investigations Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella in the Attorney General’s office, and by NYPD Detective Milton Lopez, Sergeant Scott Mackay and Lieutenant Joseph Sullivan of the Intelligence Division and Deputy Inspector Paul Mauro. The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Deputy Bureau Chief Tarek Rahman, with the assistance of OCTF Analyst Nicole Accurso and Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.

The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT TO ENSURE GREATER DIVERSITY IN THE FILM/TV PRODUCTION INDUSTRY

Agreement Offers A Level Playing Field For African-Americans, Latinos, And Other Minorities

Schneiderman: New Yorkers Must Have Equal Employment Regardless Of Race Or National Origin

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the International Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees, Local 52, concerning the Local’s admissions process and the exclusion of African-Americans and Latinos from the union. Local 52 agreed to an overhaul of its admissions process to ensure equal opportunity for membership without regard to race, ethnicity, or national origin. In addition to injunctive relief, the Local also agreed to pay $475,000 in monetary relief.  

“My office is committed to ensuring equal access to employment opportunities in New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “For decades, the film and television production industry has been a cornerstone of the New York economy, an international symbol of our state, and a source of good-paying jobs. I applaud Local 52 for taking steps that will make more of those jobs available to all workers regardless of their race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Local 52 is one of the labor organizations representing employees in the film and television production industry. Headquartered in New York City, the Local’s active membership totals over 3,500 employees who perform a variety of essential jobs – for instance, electrical, grip, property, sound, and video – on film and television shoots in New York and four other states.      

Beginning in 2012, the Attorney General received complaints from experienced African-American and Latino applicants who were denied admission to Local 52 – many of them repeatedly – about irregularities in the union’s admissions process. The investigation revealed that the Local followed a policy of nepotism in admissions and inconsistently applied its application procedures – such as prior work experience and examination requirements – to the benefit of family and friends of mostly white existing members. These policies had a discriminatory effect upon minority applicants and caused significant disparities between the number of African-American and Latino members in the Local and the number of minorities in the available labor pool in New York. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Local 52 will:

  • restructure its admissions process; 
  • adopt equal employment opportunity/anti-harassment policies;
  • hire a diversity consultant to assist in the creation of a recruitment plan to increase the number of minorities in its applicant pool;
  • establish partnerships with educational and community organizations aimed at identifying and preparing African-Americans and Latinos for the industry and for membership in the union; 
  • hire a full-time human resources director to manage the new admissions and recruiting processes; 
  • develop EEO/anti-harassment trainings for all union leadership and new members as they join the Local; 
  • establish new recordkeeping requirements; and
  • pay $475,000 in costs, fees, and restitution for complainants who participated in the OAG’s investigation and were denied admission to the union.

“We are pleased to have assisted the Attorney General’s Office in casting a spotlight on certain arbitrary and illegal barriers to local union membership for Latinos and minorities in New York’s lucrative film and cable industry” said Jackson Chin, Senior Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “We are likewise pleased that the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau has looked into the concerns we raised, and has taken action to implement measures that will lead to fair access to union membership and equal employment opportunities.”

Howard Sherman, Interim Executive Director of The Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, said, “For decades, our organization and other advocates have been working tirelessly to diversify the film and television industry, both in front of and behind the camera. I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for working to make this highly visible industry reflect the true composition of America today.”  

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Justin Deabler and Dariely Rodriguez of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Civil Rights Bureau, led by Chief Kristen Clarke, is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH WESTCHESTER MUNICIPALITY ENSURING FAIR CONSIDERATION OF ALL APPLICANTS FOR EMPLOYMENT

 

Town Of Greenburgh Agrees To Amend Town Policy That Unlawfully Denied Jobs To Certain Class Of Applicants With Felony Convictions

 

Schneiderman: Illegal Barriers Denied Jobs To Felony Offenders

 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the Town of Greenburgh to amend a policy, initially adopted in January, which unlawfully disqualified certain individuals for employment with the municipality based solely on criminal history. The policy required the town to review the criminal convictions of any applicant conditionally hired for municipal employment and automatically disqualify those applicants with certain felony convictions, including anyone with a felony conviction within the last 10 years.

 

“Every New Yorker looking for work should be fairly considered by employers, and not automatically disqualified or denied access to employment opportunities,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Those who have served their time have a right to re-enter society free of barriers or roadblocks to employment.”

 

The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an inquiry into the Town of Greenburgh’s policy after receiving complaints from the Osborne Association, an advocacy organization that works to address the needs of individuals recently released from prison. In response, the Town of Greenburgh amended the background check policy, bringing the municipality into compliance with state law. Going forward, the town will consider the mitigating factors required by state law when determining whether an individual’s criminal history is related to the employment opportunities he or she seeks.

 

The town policy, adopted in January 2014, violated state law, which requires employers to consider several factors before disqualifying an individual based on his or her criminal record, including the nature and gravity of the conviction, its relation to the duties of the job sought, the amount of time which has passed since the conviction, the age of the applicant when the offense was committed, and any evidence of rehabilitation.

 

The Town of Greenburgh joins the City of Oswego which, in 2013, reversed a local law that prohibited individuals with felony convictions from obtaining taxi licenses, without first considering several factors required by state law. Further information on that case can be found here. This work is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing work to combat barriers to reentry and to ensure that individuals with prior criminal convictions are provided an equal opportunity to reintegrate into society.

 

Carolina Cordero Dyer of the Osborne Association said, “We applaud the Attorney General for taking action following the complaint that we brought to the attention of his Office’s Civil Rights Bureau. The resulting change better reflects what we know is true about the Town of Greenburgh. That it is a town committed to fairness and doing what is right. We know better than to discriminate based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender; this action by the Attorney General reminds us that we also know better than to discriminate against those with a criminal conviction in their past.”

 

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to promoting access to equal employment opportunities and combating discrimination in New York State. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

 

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney Generals Sandra Pullman and Ajay Saini of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The bureau is part of the Social Justice Division of the Attorney General’s Office, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2014
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH REVERSE MORTGAGE PROVIDER OVER MISLEADING ADVERTISING TARGETING SENIORS

Company Misrepresented Itself As A Government Entity, Misled Seniors About Benefits Of Reverse Mortgages

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with New View Mortgage Corp. arising from misleading direct mail solicitations sent to nearly 10,000 New York seniors. The solicitations, advertising reverse mortgages, were designed to look like official government notices from the Federal Housing Administration. Solicitations were mailed in envelopes that read, ‘Economic Stimulus Notice’ and ‘Government Lending Division,’ and the body of the solicitation identified the sender as ‘Federal Housing Administration Home Benefit HECM Program.’ As part of the settlement, the company must pay a penalty of $12,500 and may not misrepresent the features, benefits, and eligibility requirements of reverse mortgages in future solicitations.

“Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising practices,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our office will hold companies accountable when they seek to rip off or defraud seniors and require them to comply with the letter of the law.”

The solicitations sent by New View Mortgage contained a section called “Facts you need to know” about the HECM mortgages. However, these “facts” presented only the benefits of reverse mortgages and none of the risks. For example, the solicitation emphasized “No Monthly Mortgage Payments Required Ever!” but failed to disclose that consumers who enter into reverse mortgages continue to be responsible for tax and insurance payments. The solicitations also stated that “Your Heirs WILL inherit all remaining equity” but failed to disclose that heirs have to pay off the reverse mortgage loan in order to keep the home. While reverse mortgages may allow seniors to stay in their home without making mortgage payments, they are not necessarily the best option for all homeowners. Fees and other charges can be high in some cases. There are often less costly and more appropriate options available. 

New View Mortgage Corp. is a mortgage broker and banker located in Woodbury, New York.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeanna E. Hussey and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia of the Consumer Frauds Bureau. The Consumer Frauds Bureau is part of the Division of Economic Justice led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

Tips for Homeowners Considering a Reverse Mortgage

  • Don’t sign loan documents unless you understand how a reverse mortgage works.
  • Shop around and compare your options and the terms various lenders offer.
  • Become familiar with the different types of reverse mortgages.  Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) are federally insured and backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Proprietary reverse mortgages are private loans offered by individual companies.  HECMs generally provide bigger loan advances at a lower total cost compared with proprietary loans. But if you own a higher-valued home, you may get a bigger loan advance from a proprietary reverse mortgage.
  • Be aware that reverse mortgages can have high upfront fees.
  • Think about the impact of a reverse mortgage on your heirs. A reverse mortgage can use up all or some of the equity in your home and decrease the value of any inheritance for your heirs. Your heirs will have to repay the loan in full to retain ownership of the home.
  • You are required to go to counseling before you are eligible for a federally insured reverse HECM  mortgage. Visit HUD’s website http://go.usa.gov/v2H to find out more information or call HUD’s housing counselor referral line (1-800-569-4287) to find a qualified reverse mortgage counselor.  
  • Before deciding to enter into a reverse mortgage, discuss your circumstances with a trusted friend, advisor, or family member.  You may want to invite that person to your discussion with the lender and/or HUD approved counselor.
  • Resist pressure to use a reverse mortgage to pay for goods or services, like home improvement services, because the total cost of the product or service is tied to getting the reverse mortgage.
  • Resist pressure to buy any financial products or services, like annuities or long-term care insurance.
  • If you need cash, always consider a less costly option.  A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit might be a cheaper way to borrow cash. In addition, there are state and local programs that may help you defer property taxes, lower your heating costs, or save on other bills.
  • You can cancel most reverse mortgages within three business days after closing for any reason, without penalty.

For more information on reverse mortgages visit the following websites for the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

STATEMENT: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES MULTI-STATE SETTLEMENT WITH SUNTRUST, HAILS BENEFITS TO NEW YORKERS RECOVERING FROM HOUSING CRISIS

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement regarding today’s announcement of a multi-state settlement with SunTrust to remedy mortgage origination, servicing and foreclosure abuses:

“The law applies to everyone equally, no matter how rich or powerful, and our office will continue to hold mortgage servicers accountable when their practices abuse New Yorkers still struggling from the housing crisis. This settlement with SunTrust will result in $7.5 million in direct relief for New Yorkers to address abuses and delays they suffered throughout the mortgage process. Consumers will now be able to secure loan modifications and receive direct payments, and SunTrust will be subject to tough new mortgage servicing standards and oversight from an independent monitor.”

The settlement includes New York and 48 other states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The three-year settlement provides direct payments to New Yorker borrowers for past foreclosure abuses. The agreement’s mortgage servicing terms largely mirror the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement reached in February of that year between the federal government, 49 state attorneys general, including Attorney General Schneiderman, and the five largest national mortgage servicers.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FUNDING TO EQUIP NASSAU AND SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE WITH LIFE-SAVING HEROIN ANTIDOTE

The AG’s COP Program Has Approved More Than $200K To Equip And Train Police Officers At 18 Long Island Law Enforcement Agencies, Including Nassau And Suffolk County PDs

Schneiderman: Making Naloxone Available To Long Island Officers Will Save Lives

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that the Nassau County and the Suffolk County police departments have been approved for his Community Overdose Prevention (COP) Program. Since the Attorney General’s program was launched just over two months ago, 18 law enforcement agencies on Long Island have been approved for $222,788 in purchases and training for the use of 2,452 naloxone kits. The Attorney General’s $5 million, statewide program aims to put naloxone, an antidote that can instantly reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, into the hands of police officers across New York.

“The COP Program is an essential part of our effort to combat the spike in heroin overdoses that is plaguing communities and families on Long Island and across New York State,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “By providing police officers with naloxone, we are making this life-saving overdose antidote, available in every town, village and hamlet on Long Island.”Long Island had the second largest number of naloxone kit reimbursements in the state, after New York City, and the second largest number of approved law enforcement agencies in the state, after the Mid-Hudson Valley.

Nassau County Acting Police Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter said, “Although Naloxone kits have been a required piece of equipment on Nassau County Police Ambulances for many years, the impact of it the hands of our patrol force has been tremendous. In the past few months, some Nassau County police officers have been equipped with Naloxone kits, resulting in numerous lives having been saved from accidental heroin overdoses. With the funding from the Attorney General’s office, the entire patrol will now have this life saving tool available to them.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Edward Webber said, “The Suffolk County Police Department is grateful to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his office for approving our application for 350 Narcan kits. As the first law enforcement agency in the state to begin using Narcan, we have already saved more than 200 people and trained 1,183 police officers to administer this life saving drug. The additional supply of Narcan from the Attorney General will help us to continue fighting this war on drugs and save lives.”

Long Island had the second largest number of naloxone kit reimbursements in the state, after New York City, and the second largest number of approved law enforcement agencies in the state, after the Mid-Hudson Valley. Suffolk County has the second highest number of approved agencies in the state, with ten. Nassau County has the second largest number of kits, with 1,933.

In Nassau County, the Floral Park Police Department; Garden City Police Department; Glen Cove Police Department; Great Neck Estates Police Department; Lynbrook Police Department; Port Washington Police District and the Rockville Centre Police Department have also been approved.

In Suffolk County, the East Hampton Village Police Department; Huntington Bay Village Police Department;Northport Police Department; Riverhead Police Department; Sag Harbor Village Police; Southampton Town Police Department; Southampton Village Police Department; Southold Town Police Department; and the Quogue Village Police Department are also approved.

Since the COP Program was launched April 3, the Attorney General’s office has approved 117 police departments, and more than $1.72 million, to fund the reimbursement for 26,273 naloxone kits. New York City had the largest number of naloxone kit reimbursements in the state, with five law enforcement agencies, including the New York City Police Department, approved for reimbursement of $1.2 million for the purchase and training for 20,385 naloxone kits. The Attorney General’s Office has approved 35 law enforcement agencies in the Mid-Hudson Valley for reimbursement of $104,780 for the purchase and training for 1,461 naloxone kits.

Almost 200 departments statewide have applied for funding and the Attorney General’s Office has approved enough kits to equip almost half of the state’s police with naloxone. A total of 26 Long Island agencies have applied to the program.

Each naloxone kit consists of a zip bag or pouch containing two prefilled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves and a booklet on the use of the drug. The cost of a naloxone kit is approximately $60, and the shelf life of each kit is approximately two years.

The success of naloxone in combatting opioid overdoses cannot be overstated. Since the fall of 2010, the police department of Quincy, Massachusetts, the first department in the nation to require its officers to carry naloxone, has used the drug 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses (as of February), a success rate of over 95%. In New York’s Suffolk County, 563 lives were saved last year alone.

Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has fought against the scourge of heroin in New York. He led the effort to rein in prescription opioid abuse by passing unanimous legislation to create I-STOP – the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing. Initial figures indicate that I-STOP has reduced doctor-shopping – the practice of going from doctor to doctor to accumulate prescriptions – by 75% in just the first year. On the criminal side, I-STOP has led to the prosecution of several doctors who willingly participate in doctor-shopping. Separately, the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force has successfully dismantled a number of heroin rings around the state.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES RESOLUTION OF MCDONALD’S FRANCHISE RETALIATION INVESTIGATION

McDonald’s Franchisee In Upstate New York Agrees To Pay $10K To Employee Who Was Fired When He Reported Gas Leak To Fire Department

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with Warrenone, Inc., a franchisee operating four McDonalds restaurants in Wayne and Monroe counties. The settlement resolves the Attorney General’s investigation into the illegal firing of an employee at Warrenone’s Lyons, New York location.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found that on April 8, 2013, a part-time minimum-wage employee of the restaurant made multiple attempts to report a gas leak. When his supervisors did not address the situation, he reported the leak to the Lyons Fire Department. Responding firefighters and local law enforcement both confirmed that there was a gas leak, and the store was temporarily closed to the public for the night. While the firefighters were at the restaurant investigating the leak, two supervisors informed the employee that he was fired.

New York Labor Law Section 740 forbids employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting to a supervisor or to the authorities when an employer violates a law that poses a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. The public health and safety issue reported here — a gas leak — involved a violation of provisions of the New York State Fire Code, among other things.

“It’s outrageous that an employee would be terminated for contacting the local authorities about a serious safety risk. He should be thanked, not fired,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Workers who try to protect the public and their fellow employees deserve protection, and the state should have their back.”

As a result of this settlement, the company will pay $10,000 in restitution which constitutes approximately one and one half years’ worth of front pay in lieu of reinstatement for the discharged employee. Lost compensation was already obtained through enforcement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on May 17, 2013. Labor Law Section 740 does not provide for additional liquidated damages.

In addition to payment of restitution, Warrenone will create and implement procedures for complaints, and investigation of complaints, regarding health and safety in its restaurants. Warrenone will also report quarterly to the Attorney General about any health and safety complaints, and about the management’s response to those complaints.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Kevin M. Lynch and Special Counsel Patricia Kakalec in the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI ANNOUNCE SENTENCE OF FORMER MET COUNCIL CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER FOR ROLE IN STEALING $9M IN KICKBACK SCHEME

Friedman Was Integral Part Of Conspiracy To Steal From Publicly Funded Social Services Group 

Herbert Friedman Sentenced To 4 Months In Jail And Will Pay $775,000 In Restitution

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the felony conviction and sentence of Herbert Friedman, former Chief Financial Officer of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council). Herbert Friedman, together with other co-conspirators, stole approximately $9 million from the taxpayer-funded nonprofit organization in a 20-year grand larceny and kickback scheme.

“The conspirators in this case abused their positions of trust to help steal millions of dollars from a taxpayer-funded charitable organization – one dedicated to serving some of New York City’s poorest and most vulnerable residents,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “As this case and others have shown, those who rip off taxpayers will be prosecuted and punished. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for his continued partnership in our efforts to root out public corruption and to ensure that taxpayer money is protected. I also thank the Met Council board of directors for cooperating with our investigation.”

State Comptroller DiNapoli said, “Stealing money meant to aid the needy is just plain wrong. This conviction sends a strong message to those who would violate the public’s trust: you will be caught and prosecuted. My office will continue to work with Attorney General Schneiderman as part of our joint task force to root out corruption and protect public money.”

Met Council is a New York State not-for-profit organization that provides the poor and elderly in the metropolitan New York City area with social, economic, housing, food and emergency financial assistance as well as anti-family violence programs. Met Council receives funding through New York State and New York City grants, legislative member items and contracts.

Friedman, 80 years old, pleaded guilty on May 6, 2014, before the Honorable Michael Obus in New York County Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony) and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (a class E felony). Friedman admitted that between the early 1990s and 2009, he received approximately $250,000 from the grand larceny and kickback scheme. Three other defendants, David Cohen, William Rapfogel and Joseph Ross, previously pleaded guilty in the case. The OAG’s recommended sentence took into account Friedman’s age and medical condition, his cooperation with the investigation and his payment of more than $250,000 in restitution to offset the severe financial loss to Met Council.

Cohen and Rapfogel, previously admitted to their part in the elaborate scheme. The thefts began in 1992, when Cohen devised the scam with Joseph Ross, of Century Coverage Corporation. The company would submit inflated invoices for insurance coverage to Met Council. Met Council would pay the inflated premiums and Ross would then pay cash kickbacks to Cohen, Rapfogel and Friedman, Met Council’s chief financial officer until his departure in 2009. Friedman, was responsible for overseeing all payments to outside vendors such as Century.

This sentence is a result of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office in conjunction with New York State Comptroller DiNapoli, as part of the Joint Task Force on Public Integrity.

The joint investigation by the Attorney General’s and Comptroller’s offices continues.

Gerard Matheson is the lead investigator assigned to the case. Supervising Investigator Michael Ward of the Investigations Bureau is also working on the case. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarella. Also assisting in the investigation are Supervising Auditor Edward J. Keegan, Associate Auditor Matthew Croghan, and Supervising Investigative Analyst Paul Strocko of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, Legal Support Analyst KerryAnn Rodriguez of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Policy Analyst Liam Arbetman of the Charities Bureau.

This case is being prosecuted by Gary T. Fishman, Chief of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, with Assistant Attorney General Jihee Suh of the Public Integrity Bureau. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.

 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH NATION’S LEADING RETAILERS TO PROVIDE UNIT PRICING ONLINE

Unit Pricing Information Helps Consumers Comparison Shop Across A Variety Brands And Pricing Options

Schneiderman: Making New York More Affordable For The Middle Class Includes Empowering Consumers To Spend Their Money Wisely 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a first-ever initiative to bring unit pricing information to online supermarkets and drugstores nationwide, including top national and New York retailers. Within nine months, this information will be available on the websites and mobile apps of Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS and Drugstore.com. Amazon refused to participate in this consumer-oriented initiative.

“As the internet becomes the shopping mall of the 21st century, we need to ensure that consumers have the same robust protections online that they do in brick-and-mortar stores,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.“Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes empowering consumers to spend their money wisely. This agreement, in which government and the private sector worked collaboratively to adapt conventional rules to an evolving marketplace, is a victory for consumers. I commend these retailers for recognizing the need for transparency and promoting openness online.”

Unit pricing benefits consumers by allowing them to quickly compare prices of different items regardless of quantity, manufacturer, packaging size or discounts. For example, a single product category, such as breakfast cereal, can feature a wide array of sizes and packaging combinations from a variety of competing brands. The unit price combines those factors and gives the price per ounce, generally displayed next to the retail price, allowing consumers to make better and faster choices.

According to Forrester Research, online grocery sales are projected to reach $21 billion a year nationwide by 2016. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have some type of unit pricing requirement.  New York law requires that large retail stores clearly display the price per unit of measurement for most types of food, cleaning and paper products, toiletries, pet food and over-the-counter medications.

Prior to this initiative, unit pricing information online was rare. Among large retailers, full availability of unit pricing was limited to online grocer Peapod.

Under the agreement, Walmart and Costco will provide unit pricing information on their websites and mobile stores throughout the United States by the end of 2014. Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS and Drugstore.com will provide unit pricing online by March, 2015. All six chains have agreed to continue providing unit pricing to consumers in the future, including in any online stores they create in the years to come.

“FreshDirect is an industry leader, and we were pleased that the Attorney General asked us to lead the charge to upgrade information to enhance customer knowledge in the online fresh food sector,” Jodi Kahn, FreshDirect’s Chief Consumer Officer said.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau encourages other retailers to recognize the benefits of providing this information to consumers and follow the strong example these chains have set.

‎Although Amazon displays unit pricing on some of its pages, it does not provide the information uniformly across its platforms. Furthermore, its subsidiaries do not currently display unit pricing. Unfortunately for consumers, Amazon refused to agree to provide this information. The company claims it will extend unit pricing to its subsidiary Quidsi, which operates online stores like Soap.com, but refused to commit to that in a written agreement. It also would not agree to extend unit pricing to pages where that information is absent, nor would it commit to continue providing unit pricing information to consumers in the future.

Attorney General Schneiderman encourages anyone with questions about the unit pricing initiative to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds hotline at (800) 771-7755.

The initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Tristan C. Snell, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection Laura J. Levine, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND D.A. GASCÓN ANNOUNCE THAT GOOGLE AND MICROSOFT WILL INCLUDE A SMARTPHONE KILL SWITCH IN NEXT OPERATING SYSTEMS

Inaugural Report Also Reveals New Data Showing That Thefts Fell Drastically Following Apple’s Introduction Of A Kill Switch 

Schneiderman & Gascón: In Just One Year, The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative Has Made Tremendous Strides Towards Curtailing The Alarming Trend Of Violent Smartphone Theft

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón today announced that, for the first time, Google and Microsoft will incorporate a kill switch into the next version of their respective operating systems. Google’s operating system, Android, runs on more than half of all smartphones used in the United States. Microsoft’s operating system is on all Nokia smartphones. Today’s announcement means that a kill switch will be incorporated into the three dominant smartphone operating systems — Android, iOS, and Windows Phone — which currently encompass 97 percent of smartphones in the United States.

The announcement is part of a new report issued by the Secure Our Smartphones (“S.O.S.”) Initiative, an international partnership of law-enforcement agencies, elected officials and consumer advocates, which will mark its first year tomorrow.

The report also revealed new crime statistics showing that, after Apple added a “kill switch,” robberies and grand larcenies involving iPhones plummeted. Simultaneously, violent crimes against people carrying phones without a kill switch surged. The data is part of a new report issued by the Secure Our Smartphones (“S.O.S.”) Initiative, an international partnership of law-enforcement agencies, elected officials and consumer advocates, which will mark its first year tomorrow.

“The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “In just one year, the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative has made tremendous strides towards curtailing the alarming trend of violent smartphone theft. We will continue the fight to ensure that companies put consumers’ safety first and work toward ending the epidemic of smartphone theft. ”

The new report, “Secure Our Smartphone Initiative: One Year Later,” includes previously unreleased data from the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), as well as the police departments of San Francisco and London. The new statistics describe the scope of the smartphone theft epidemic and validate the kill switch as an effective part of a multi-layered approach to combatting smartphone crimes. The statistics also validate the necessity of a ubiquitous opt-out solution.

In New York City, theft of iPhones fell significantly after the release of Apple’s Activation Lock on September 18, 2013, as indicated in the chart below. In the first five months of 2014, robberies and grand larcenies involving Apple products dropped 19% and 29%, respectively, compared to the same time period from 2013. The decrease in Apple thefts far surpassed the citywide decrease in all robberies (-10%) and all grand larcenies (-18%). Perhaps most tellingly, robberies and grand larcenies from a person involving a Samsung smartphone, which did not have a kill switch during much of this time, increased by over 40%. (Encouragingly, Samsung introduced a kill switch solution in April of 2014 on their Verizon Wireless devices, the impact of which will likely be seen in future statistics.)

Statistics from San Francisco and London show similar outcomes. In San Francisco, iPhone robberies declined 38% while robberies of Samsung devices increased by 12%. In London, Apple thefts declined by 24% while Samsung thefts increased by 3%. (In both cities, data from six months leading up to Apple’s Activation Lock was compared to the six months following its introduction.)

“We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that,” saidDistrict Attorney George Gascón. “It was evident from day one that a technological solution was not only possible, but that it would serve as an effective deterrent to this growing threat.  This past year we successfully held the wireless industry’s feet to the fire and it’s already having an impact for consumers. In the year ahead we will work to ensure this technology is deployed industry-wide, and in the most effective manner possible.”

“In the year since London joined with our friends and colleagues in the US in the Secure Our Smartphones coalition we’ve made significant progress in reducing the number of smartphone thefts, which have been a shared problem across our cities,” said London Mayor Boris Johnson. “By making the phone manufacturers face up to the responsibility they have to their customers, technology that previously attracted thieves is now being used to deter them. The SOS has shown that the only solutions to these global problems are ones developed globally and Londoners and I look forward to further progress as we enter our second year.”

Richard Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said, “Cell phone theft has become a major public safety issue in New York and across the country. Unfortunately, these robberies often become violent and put innocent people at serious risk. The Crime Commission is proud to have been a part of the S.O.S. Initiative from the beginning, and we are encouraged by the positive impact it has had on this crime trend in such a short time under the leadership of Attorney General Schneiderman. There is still much to do, however, to protect citizens in our city and elsewhere from cell phone theft. Local law enforcement, Congress, and hardware and software companies must work together to make stealing a smartphone a worthless endeavor for criminals.”

In the year since its inception, the S.O.S. Initiative has spurred a major shift in the wireless industry, evidenced by several tangible accomplishments:

 

  • In September, 2013, just three months after S.O.S. began its efforts, Apple unveiled “Activation Lock,” a proof-of-concept kill switch available on all iPhones running the iOS 7  operating system with ‘Find My iPhone’ enabled. In April, 2014, Samsung introduced “Reactivation Lock.”
  • Earlier this year, S.O.S. worked with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Jose Serrano to introduce companion federal legislation to require carriers and manufacturers to make kill switch anti-theft solutions mandatory for all smartphones in the United States. On May 15, 2014, Minnesota became the first state to mandate a kill switch on all phones.
  • In April, 2014, the industry group CTIA abandoned its long-held opposition to a kill switch and announced a “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” in which AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and others pledged to implement a kill switch solution on an opt-in basis.

 

The work of the S.O.S. Initiative continues. With the majority of phones still without a kill switch, smartphone-related thefts and violence remain a tragic reality. Criminals now target devices not likely to be equipped with a kill switch, increasing the importance of immediately implementing the life-saving technology across all manufacturers. Because kill switches are only available on an opt-in basis, not enough consumers are signing-up. This underscores the urgency of S.O.S.’s call to make kill switches a standard opt-out function on all phones.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN IN HONOR OF LGBT PRIDE WEEK

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released the following statement in honor of LGBT Pride Week:

“The United States of America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law, but equal justice did not become a reality when the Declaration of Independence was signed, or when the Constitution was ratified. Instead, it’s been the task of each successive generation of Americans to strive toward ever greater justice and equality. Now, we mark the anniversary of a critical milestone in that struggle. Forty-five years ago this week, after generations of being harassed, abused and even jailed simply for being true to themselves, gay men and lesbians took to the streets in righteous outrage and said, “Enough!” And so, on a summer morning in 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the modern gay rights movement was born.

“This week we honor the countless LGBT heroes who have chosen, over the past four decades, to be part of a powerful movement for equality by living openly and proudly. We honor the LGBT allies who have taken a stand for equality because of someone they know and love. And we honor those friends who are no longer with us, but whom we know would celebrate the tremendous progress that we’ve made in just the past year. All those who have been part of the LGBT rights movement have made America a better country by insisting that we live up to our fundamental values.

“Just days before our last annual celebration of Pride, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. In the months that followed every single court to address the issue has concluded that the government must recognize the right of gay and lesbian couples to equal protection under the law. Last week President Obama announced that he would be signing an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by any business that seeks to do business with the US government. It’s been an incredible year of change for a diverse community.

“My office is deeply committed to the essential Constitutional principle of equal protection under the law, and to assuring that all New Yorkers’ civil rights – including LGBT New Yorkers – are vigorously protected.  Every day there is more work to be done to move the needle of progress forward, but in that work there is a time and place to pause and reflect upon our victories. Let us take this week to celebrate the LGBT family, friends, and neighbors whose spirit and contributions have advanced the great American project of achieving ever greater justice and ever greater equality with each generation. Happy Pride.”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES ELECTION DAY HOTLINE TO HELP ENSURE ACCESS FOR VOTERS ACROSS NEW YORK STATE DURING 2014 ELECTION CYCLE

Attorney General Will Operate Hotline To Address Language Access, Polling Place Barriers, Voter Intimidation On Election Day

Schneiderman: Effort Will Help Ensure Equal Access To The Ballot Box 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an Election Day hotline to help ensure that minority-language voters, people with disabilities and all eligible voters are able to cast an effective ballot during the June 24th federal primary election. The Attorney General urges voters to call the office’s hotline at800-771-7755 or email civil.rights@ag.ny.gov at any time between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday to report issues or problems at the polls. The hotline will be staffed by attorneys and staff in the office’s Civil Rights Bureau.  Hearing-impaired voters can call 800-788-9898 for TDD services.

“The right to vote remains one of our most important civil rights.  My office remains committed to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other federal and state laws that require that all voters be provided equal access to the ballot box,”  said Attorney General Schneiderman. Our Election Day hotline will help ensure that all eligible voters across our state are able to exercise their constitutionally-protected right to vote on Election Day.”

During the office’s 2012 and 2013 Election Day monitoring efforts, the office fielded hundreds of complaints from voters across the state and worked with local election officials and others to help troubleshoot and resolve a range of issues and barriers encountered by voters at the polls. The Election Day hotline is part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing statewide initiative to ensure that voters do not encounter language barriers on Election Day.

In addition, the Attorney General’s Office will focus on barriers impacting voters with disabilities, voter intimidation reports, and other issues faced by minority voters. The office will receive and respond to election-related complaints relating to any of the statutes that the office enforces.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LAUDS SUPREME COURT’S BACKING OF CLEAN AIR ACT AUTHORITY TO LIMIT CLIMATE CHANGE POLLUTION FROM MAJOR SOURCES

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a key authority of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states to limit emissions of climate change pollution by major stationary sources under the federal Clean Air Act:

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court further solidified the authority provided by the federal Clean Air Act to address the mounting dangers posed by runaway climate change. In its decision today, the high court agreed that a key permitting program applies to limit emissions of climate change pollution from power plants, refineries, and other large industrial facilities. Today’s decision affirmed requirements that large sources control climate change pollution as well as other pollutants. “This is the latest in a line of decisions upholding Clean Air Act authority to address climate change pollution.”

Background

In today’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA reasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act to require large industrial facilities to limit their emissions of climate change pollution if they are also required to obtain permits due to their emissions of certain other dangerous air pollutants. The Court rejected arguments from industry and other states that these limits on climate change pollution are unworkable.  At the same time, the Court held that EPA could not extend permitting requirements to sources that emit only climate change pollution and not other dangerous pollutants.

Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of 15 States and New York City in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case.  The brief argued that EPA’s interpretation was reasonable and demonstrated that the States’ recent experience with permitting for climate change pollution has proven to be workable and sensible.

In addition to New York, the states joining in the filing with the Supreme Court were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the City of New York.

The industrial facilities at issue in this case are new plants, including power plants, refineries and cement kilns, and plants undergoing major modification that increase emissions.

This matter was handled by Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, Deputy Solicitor General Steven C. Wu, and Assistant Solicitor General Bethany A. Davis Noll.  From the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner, Assistant Attorneys General Michael Myers and Morgan Costello worked on this matter.

For further background on this issue click here.

 

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2014

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SECURES OVER $220,000 SETTLEMENT FROM HOBBY LOBBY STORES IN AN INVESTIGATION OF MISLEADING ADVERTISING

Stores Ran Bogus Sales During Two-Year Period, Consumers Deceived Over Supposed Discounts

Settlement Includes $138,600 For Nearly 700 Public Schools Across Upstate New York

ROCHESTER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that retail chain Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has agreed to enter into a settlement of his office’s investigation into alleged deceptive advertising practices. Hobby Lobby misled customers into thinking they were receiving steep discounts through deceptive advertising over a two-year period.  As part of the settlement, the company will change its advertising practices over the next 60 days, contribute $138,600 in supplies to public schools near Hobby Lobby stores in Upstate New York, and pay $85,000 in civil penalties and other costs.

“When companies mislead customers by advertising never-ending sales, our office will hold them accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Ultimately, a permanent sale is no sale at all.”

As a result of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s settlement, Hobby Lobby, a major seller of school supplies, will be required to give nearly 700 schools a total of $138,600 in gift cards for supplies in addition to paying civil penalties.  

The investigation began in 2013, when Attorney General Schneiderman’s office began tracking marketing materials advertising 50 percent off and 30 percent off sales. Hobby Lobby advertised its custom framing, furniture, and home décor products as sale items for more than 52 consecutive weeks.  The investigation determined that Hobby Lobby violated New York’s General Business Law (350-D) for False Advertising. Sales that are never-ending are in violation of the false advertising law. 

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Bruce, and the investigation was handled by Investigator Jennifer Hill of the Rochester Regional Office, which is led by Assistant Attorney General In-Charge of the Rochester office Debra Martin. The Rochester Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices, headed by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack.

Number of Schools Eligible to Receive Gift Cards for Student Supplies:

Erie 177
Monroe 108
Onondaga 102
Dutchess 49
Albany 48
Oneida 37
Schenectady 35
Niagara 26
Chemung 23
Orange 20
Rensselaer 20
Saratoga 14
Ulster 14
Madison 5
Wayne 5
Herkimer 3
Oswego 3
Total 689

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2014

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES COMMITMENT BY CAPITAL ONE TO EXPAND ACCESS TO BANK ACCOUNTS FOR CONSUMERS PREVIOUSLY EXCLUDED FROM THE BANKING SYSTEM 

Policy Changes Will Help Eliminate Barriers That Unfairly Keep Low-Income New Yorkers And Consumers Nationwide From Opening Checking And Savings Accounts 

Schneiderman: New Yorkers Must Have Equal Access To Banking Services 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Capital One Financial Corporation has agreed to adopt new policies governing its use of ChexSystems, a credit bureau that screens people seeking to open checking or savings accounts, which will allow many more New Yorkers to open bank accounts. Working in cooperation with the Attorney General’s office, Capital One has devised new policies that will allow many thousands more New Yorkers and consumers nationwide to open bank accounts by the end of this year. The change comes amid concerns that screenings by ChexSystems and other credit bureaus, which are used by many of our nation’s biggest banks, adversely affect lower-income applicants and those who fall prey to identity theft. 

“No one – least of all struggling New Yorkers – should be forced to rely on high-cost alternatives to banks just because they bounced a check or were a victim of identity theft,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Equal access is the least we can do to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to widely used services such as our nation’s banking system. I commend Capital One for stepping up and working with us to help eliminate an unnecessary barrier to opening a checking or savings account. I would hope other banks will step up and join us to do the same.”

ChexSystems is one of several databases used by some of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions to analyze the banking history of consumers who apply for bank accounts. Customers who are deemed by ChexSystems to present a credit or fraud risk are typically denied the opportunity to open an account. Such databases disproportionately affect lower-income Americans, often punishing them for relatively small financial errors and forcing them to resort to fringe banking services that are more costly than mainstream checking and savings accounts. 

Studies show that more than 3 million New York households are either unbanked, meaning that no family member has a bank account, or are underbanked, meaning that they have a bank account but also rely on high-cost alternative financial services. According to one study, the New York State average for unbanked households is 9.8%, higher than the national average of 7.7%. Of counties with more than 100,000 households, the study ranks the Bronx as the second most unbanked county in the country and Brooklyn as the eighth most unbanked county. Of cities with more than 100,000 households, Buffalo ranks as the eighth most unbanked city in the country. Of midsize cities– those with 50,000 to 100,000 households– Rochester is the eighth most unbanked. In New York City, according to a 2010 study, more than 825,000 adults did not have bank accounts and, in two neighborhoods —Jamaica in Queens and Melrose in the Bronx—residents spent more than $19 million per year on check cashing fees.

 The Attorney General’s agreement with Capital One comes as part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights and Consumer Frauds Bureaus into the use of credit bureaus like ChexSystems by major American banks.  

Under the terms of the agreement, Capital One will continue screening customers for past fraud but will no longer seek to predict whether customers present credit risks. Capital One also has committed to expanding its support for the Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), a New York City agency that provides financial education and counseling to low-income New Yorkers. Capital One, which has an existing partnership with the city agency, will donate $50,000 to help OFE provide counseling for applicants who are rejected by the bank on the basis of a ChexSystems report. OFE’s services are available to all New Yorkers, regardless of their county of residence. The changes to Capital One’s policies, which are expected to take effect by the end of 2014, will be implemented nationwide. 

Marc Morial, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League, said, “Promotion of economic opportunity for minority and low-income families and communities must be a top priority.  Too many African-American and Latino communities are denied access to traditional banking products and left vulnerable to costly and predatory check cashing outlets. I thank the Attorney General’s Office for taking action to ensure that banks are extending basic services equally to all communities.”

Justine Zinkin, CEO of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, said, “Today’s announcement is an important step in the process of reforming how the big banks serve low-income consumers. At Neighborhood Trust our clients are regularly denied basic banking services because of errors in ChexSystems or identity theft, and it is nearly impossible to correct these inaccuracies. The irony is that our clients and millions of other low-income New Yorkers, the majority of whom are underbanked, would be reliable customers. This is not to mention the outsized social impact of getting someone banked. Neighborhood Trust applauds the Attorney General’s office and Capital One. We hope investigations like this one will continue and that other banks will follow Capital One’s example.”  

Kleber Santos, Capital One Bank’s Senior Vice President of Retail and Direct Banking, said, “We greatly appreciate the work of the Attorney General’s staff in bringing these concerns to light, and we’re pleased to be able to work together to expand access to critical banking services for all New Yorkers. Capital One is committed to providing the broadest possible access to our banking products and services to consumers across the credit spectrum to help ensure that economic opportunity is available to everyone, in every community.”

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Melvin Goldberg of the Consumer Frauds Bureau and Special Counsel Jessica Attie of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Civil Rights Bureau, led by Chief Kristen Clarke, is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. The Consumer Frauds Bureau, led by Chief Jane M. Azia, is part of the Division of Economic Justice headed by Executive Deputy Attorney General Karla G. Sanchez.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2014.

Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

STATEMENT FROM A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ON THE ASSEMBLY’S PASSAGE OF LEGISLATION AUTHORIZING 10 NEW LAND BANKS

NEW YORKAttorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to the passage today by the New York State Assembly of legislation authorizing ten new land banks in the State of New York:  

“I commend Assemblyman Magnarelli and the State Assembly for passing legislation to increase the maximum number of land banks in New York State from 10 to 20. Land banks are a critical tool to help communities that are plagued by vacant and abandoned properties to recover from the housing crisis. My office is already funding eight land banks, from Long Island to the Hudson Valley to Central and Western New York, and more funds will be available in this year. By supporting land banks, we are empowering local communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block. I urge the Senate to join with the Assembly in giving more communities the opportunity to revitalize neighborhoods by returning derelict properties to responsible, productive use.”

The Attorney General’s program bill, sponsored in the Assembly by the Chairman of the Committee on Local Governments, William Magnarelli, changes state law to increase the maximum allowable number of land banks from 10 to 20. Many cities do not have land banks, but there is a critical need for the kind of community redevelopment that land banks can make possible.

Following the collapse of the housing market, the New York State Legislature passed a law in 2011 establishing land banks — nonprofit organizations that can acquire vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties and choose to rebuild, demolish, or redesign them. By restoring vacant or abandoned properties, land banks lower costs for local governments, benefit public schools, reduce crime and boost the local economy. However, the legislation that authorized land banks in New York did not provide funding for them. Attorney General Schneiderman launched a Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to fill that gap and allow the land banks to fulfill their purpose.  He has dedicated $33 million to fund that initiative.  In February of this year, the Attorney General proposed his program bill to expand the number of land banks from 10 to 20.

Following are the first round of awards through the program, which were announced on October 29, 2013:

  • The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Corporation was awarded $2.087 million;
  • The Rochester Land Bank Corporation was awarded $2.78 million;
  • The Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation was awarded $3 million;
  • The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation was awarded $1.5 million;
  • The Newburgh Community Land Bank was awarded $2.45 million;
  • The Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation was awarded $675,000;
  • The Capital Region Land Bank was awarded $150,000; and
  • The Broome County Land Bank was awarded $150,000.

Attorney General Schneiderman first announced last June that he would dedicate National Mortgage Settlement funds to support land banks. In July, he opened the first round of the competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process.

The projects selected for funding will carry out a range of vital community development activities, including demolition of blighted, vacant, and abandoned homes; acquisition and renovation of vacant homes, including remediation of environmental hazards; resale of renovated properties as affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families; acquisition of vacant land that will be transferred to existing community residents who will maintain and repurpose the underutilized open space; and environmental pre-development studies and analyses that will eventually lead to remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites. Proceeds from the resale of renovated properties will go back to the land banks and allow them to continue their work.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative will particularly benefit cities and counties that have struggled to maintain local services despite significant declines in tax revenue as a result of the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent epidemic of vacant and abandoned properties. The eight land banks funded have committed to return hundreds of properties to productive use and to get those lots back on the local and county tax rolls over the next 24 months.

The land banks are also using Attorney General Schneiderman’s funding to leverage additional resources from both private and public sources in order to expand their community revitalization efforts. A conservative estimate suggests that the land banks will be able to access a combined total of more than $21 million in other public and private funding over the next two years.

Finally, the Attorney General is providing most grantees with funds to hire full-time staff, which will allow the land banks to expand operations and seek long-term sustainable sources of funding.

The second round of the competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process will open this summer.

THIS WEEK IN THE NEWS

May 26 to May 30, 2014

TOP HEADLINES

=============

Schneiderman’s COP Program To Fund Equipping Of NYPD Officers With Life-Saving Heroin Antidote

Joined by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that the NYPD – the largest police force in the United States – has joined his Community Overdose Prevention (COP) Program, which will provide the force with $1,170,000 funding to equip 19,500 police officers with the extremely effective heroin antidote, naloxone. The COP Program uses funds seized from drug dealers and other criminals to reimburse local police departments for the cost of naloxone kits.

The Attorney General also announced that, in less than two months since the COP Program was launched, more than 150 law-enforcement agencies have applied to the COP Program, with several dozen more in the process of completing necessary steps. The COP Program has now approved the distribution of approximately 25,000 kits to 150 police departments across the state.

=============

Schneiderman Busts International Cocaine Pipeline In “Operation Snowfall”

Attorney General Schneiderman dismantled a “quick-delivery, high-volume” cocaine pipeline allegedly operating between New York City and the Dutchess County town of Wappingers Falls. According to an indictment unsealed this week, cocaine was packaged and sold out of two apartment buildings in Washington Heights, with deliveries made several times a week to Wappingers Falls, where drugs were also distributed out of a local deli. The ring allegedly funneled the proceeds of its sales to the Dominican Republic.

As a result of the investigation, known as “Operation Snowfall,” eight people have been charged with a combined 140 counts related to the trafficking and possession of cocaine and a ninth person was arrested on drug-related charges. One of the defendants includes a member of a prominent Wappingers Falls family. During the bust, the Attorney General’s Office also seized nearly $10,000 in cash and almost three kilos of cocaine, which has a street value of approximately $200,000.

=============

Schneiderman Applauds Assembly’s Passage Of Land Banks Bill

Attorney General Schneiderman commended the New York State Assembly for passing legislation, sponsored by Assemblymember William Magnarelli, to increase New York’s number of land banks from 10 to 20, doubling the availability of this critical tool to help communities plagued by vacant and abandoned properties recover from the housing crisis. The Attorney General’s Office is already funding eight land banks, from Long Island to the Hudson Valley to Central and Western New York, and more funds will be available in this year. Learn more about this initiative here.

=============

Schneiderman Praises Consumer Credit Fairness Act’s Passage

The Attorney General also applauded the passage of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act in the New York State Assembly, and thanked Assemblymember Helene Weinstein for her leadership on this issue. This bill would protect consumers when debt collectors attempt to collect on debt by using the judicial process, ensuring notice is provided when a suit is filed and requiring collectors to prove that the debt is legally owed to them. Similar to Chief Judge Lippman’s proposed reforms to the legal process for consumer credit cases – which the Attorney General praised last month – this legislation will promote an overall fairer system for thousands of New Yorkers.

=============

Schneiderman Arrests Broome County Nurse For Endangering Nursing Home Resident And Falsifying Records

Attorney General Schneiderman announced the arrest and arraignment of a Broome County nurse who allegedly failed to follow nursing home policy after a resident fell and injured himself, lying to the facility about what happened. The Attorney General restated his commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers can trust their loved ones will be appropriately cared for in nursing facilities.

1357166389_GL_21357166691_Senate1357166691_SenateSource: New York State Senator George Latimer Office.

Latimer Formally Launches Re-Election Campaign for 37th District

(Westchester, NY) Yesterday at an annual summer picnic in his home community of Rye, Senator George Latimer formally launched his re-election campaign for the 37th State Senate District.

“Over an extended period of time, I’ve put partisan politics aside in the interest of getting real results that our constituents demand of us and I’ve done that at every level of government that I’ve been privileged to serve at,” Latimer said.  “It’s important after two years in the Senate to continue those efforts and reach all of the people in all parts of this district.  This campaign will be about the people of this district and the State issues that face them, not the interests of political parties and cynical insiders.  We’ve made some significant progress over the last two years fighting to improve the economy, our classrooms, and our communities as a whole.  There are issues that remain incomplete; it’s important for the people of this district to elect the best advocate to fight for their needs.”

Latimer’s announcement comes on the conclusion of the formal party designating process where candidates collect signatures on a petition for their name to appear on the ballot.  Latimer will appear on the Democratic and Working Families Party ballot lines.  His campaign announced last week that they had completed the petition process with approximately 4,000 signatures, nearly 4 times the minimum amount required.

Latimer continued, “Our strength during the petition drive reaffirms that there is tremendous grassroots support for my candidacy and now, it has manifested in every corner of the district, from Bedford to Yonkers.”  Latimer served in the Rye City Council, County Legislature and State Assembly representing the Sound Shore communities only until he was elected to the Senate in 2012.  The 37th District encompasses East Yonkers, Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Eastchester, White Plains, Harrison, North Castle, Armonk, Bedford, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Port Chester, Rye Brook, Rye City and New Rochelle.

The Republicans announced their candidate on the last legal day to file a candidacy after struggling to find a viable option to challenge Latimer according several news accounts.  “I’ve worked hard over the last two years to develop relationships in the 15 communities,” Latimer explained.  “I’m fully prepared to go to every voter I can to ask them to put their faith in me again for another 2 years.  I plan on running a spirited campaign about the issues, and their impact on Westchester families, not a slash and burn campaign that focuses on who controls the institution.”

Senator George Latimer Files Nearly 4,000 Democratic Petitions


(Westchester, NY) Senator George Latimer has announced that his campaign has filed designating petitions with nearly 4,000 signatures from registered Democrats throughout the 37th District.  The signatures obtained by Latimer and local Democratic volunteers are nearly four times the amount required to qualify for the ballot in the fall.

“This is a great outpouring of real grassroots support in every part of the district,” said Senator George Latimer, who is running for his second term in the State Senate.  “As someone who spends a great amount of time in the communities I represent, I always enjoy working with local party leaders and activists to help gather signatures and have another opportunity to discuss important issues with people on a one by one basis.”

The petition gathering process is widely viewed as a “dry run” of the campaign’s operation and an early test of ability to reach large chunks of voters in a condensed period of time.  Latimer’s strength in this area was one of the significant factors in his decisive 2012 victory and will remain a priority in 2014.

“Even with no announced opponent, it is still important to me to get out and meet as many voters as I can.  I believe that over the last two years, New York has taken strides in the right direction and that gives me confidence that we will be able to tackle the next set of challenges head on.  I’m thankful to all of the people that carried petitions, both with and without me, for helping spread that message.”

In order to qualify for the ballot, candidates must submit a required amount of signatures that is determined by the amount of party registrants in a given area.  1,000 signatures are needed to qualify for the Democratic line in the 37th Senate District.

Latimer Sponsors Key Environmental Issues in State Senate
Shows Bi-Partisan skills in gaining
Senate support for legislation

(Albany, NY) Senator George Latimer has introduced two pieces of legislation that are of high priority to the environmental community, both highly rated by the Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY), and other important statewide environmental groups.  Latimer introduced S.7739, “The NY-Sun Act”, which would establish a $1.5 billion solar incentive program and solidify New York’s commitment to solar energy; the bill has passed the State Assembly under the sponsorship of Assemblyman Steve Englebright.  The other bill, S.7830, sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, reforms and extends the state’s Brownfields Cleanup Program (BCP) and Brownfields tax credits for 10 years and authorizes over $1 billion in bonding to fund the State Superfund and Environmental Restoration Program.

Latimer emphasized that both of these bills demonstrate the opportunity for improvement in environmental policy in the state. “Our environmental future depends in part on making solar energy a viable source of renewable energy; that future also pivots on our ability to clean up polluted sites, and turn them back into economically viable sites for development and growth. That’s why these two bills are so important”.  Latimer explained, “We have nearly one-third of the Senate committed as co-sponsors of both bills, and I’m confident there will be more who agree”. Co-sponsors of the bills include Senators aligned with the mainline Democratic Conference, and those with the IDC. “Despite all the political chatter, we can forge agreement across conference lines with members in different conferences signing on board. That is the kind of multi-partisan, cooperative leadership we are showing on environmental issues. These bills deserve much greater attention by Senate leadership,” Latimer added.

In addition to these two prime sponsored measures, Latimer is co-sponsor of over 35 other bills highlighted by the environmental community as important legislation; topping the list are “super-bills” such as 1) establishing a 3-year moratorium on hydro-fracking to ensure an independent study of health impacts; 2) legislation to help make coastal communities more storm resilient and 3) creating The Child Safe Products Act that would firmly regulate the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products.  “Taken as a group, these bills represent a serious set of sound priorities for ensuring clean air, clean water and clean earth for us, our children, and generations to come”, Latimer stated.

Further, Senator Latimer noted that some bills hurt the environment, and deserve to be defeated. “I have voted NO on a number of proposals – oversized ATVs (bill number S.1946); policies toward rural farm dams (S.2621) – just to name two – that do not reflect sound policy, in my judgment. But if we can get past the rhetoric of political interest, and get to the heart of the public interest, I think Republicans and Democrats can find common ground on the environment, and help protect this fragile physical world that we all share”.

TO; The Yonkers Insider

Subject: Senator Latimer’s session remarks on Luigi DelBianco

Senator George Latimer spoke today on the New York Senate Floor, celebrating the life and accomplishments of Luigi Del Bianco, an Italian-American immigrant, resident of Port Chester who died in 1969, and was the Chief Carver for the Mt. Rushmore National Monument.

The life of Mr. DelBianco will be honored at a ceremony this Saturday, June 21 in Port Chester at 1 p.m. Sen. Latimer will present his grandson, Lou delBianco, a framed proclamation from New York State to honor his noted grandfather.

For Release: June 10, 2014

Italian American Legislators Conference Names Latimer “Distinguished Legislator of the Year”


(Albany, NY) State Senator George Latimer was recently honored as the New York State Conference of Italian American State Legislators “Distinguished Legislator of the Year” at the organization’s annual dinner in Albany.

Senator Latimer has been working to urge the US Interior Department to recognize the work of Luigi Del Bianco, a long time Port Chester resident and chief carver of Mt. Rushmore.  Unfortunately, Del Bianco was never recognized by the Interior Department for his work, likely due to his status as an immigrant from Italy.

“Luigi Del Bianco immigrated from Italy, as did my great-grandfather before him, to find a better life in America. Their values of hard work, faith and family were the bedrock that built not only Mt. Rushmore, but built this nation during the 20th Century,” Latimer stated. “That heritage is a part of me to this day, and honoring Luigi Del Bianco for his accomplishments is to honor the contributions made by all Italian American and immigrants from other lands to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.”

“The New York Conference of Italian-American State Legislators is pleased to have recognized our colleague Senator George Latimer at our annual Festa celebration. George is an outstanding public servant and a proud Italian-American on his Mother’s side,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Conference President.

Latimer gets his Italian roots from his mother, Loretta’s side of the family.  She grew up in Harrison and was a parishioner of St. Gregory’s before moving to Mt. Vernon and raising two children.  Many of the values Latimer’s parents instilled in him are present in his work as a public official and were influential in the reasons the group honored him.

The New York Conference of Italian American State Legislators is a bipartisan group of members of the Senate and the Assembly who are of Italian descent.  Every year, the Conference honors 1 Senator and 1 Assembly Member.  This year Assemblyman Andy Raia of Long Island was honored with Latimer.

For Immediate Release:
John Drago, Sr. Prominent Yonkers Veterans Advocate Inducted into Veteran’s Hall of Fame

(Albany, NY) Earlier today, Senator George Latimer posthumously inducted lifelong Yonkers resident and prominent Veterans advocate John ‘Jack’ F. Drago, Sr. into the NYS Senate Veteran’s Hall of Fame.
Drago was a football standout at Roosevelt High school before volunatirly enlisting in the Army and serving from 1950 to 1953 during the Korean conflict.  Upon completion of his service, Drago was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant First Class and returned to his hometown of Yonkers.
Many of the people that knew John Drago would say that his most important work came when he returned home.  Drago served in numerous leadership roles with the Yonkers Central War Veterans Committee, several times as Commander of the VFW Empire Post #375 and the County VFW Commander.
While balancing his work as Vice President of a local realty company, Drago was instrumental in coordinating many Veterans and Memorial Day Parades, advocated for more military monuments to be displayed and was committed to helping homeless and sick Veterans in Yonkers get shelter, treatment and better understanding of the benefits they may have been entitled.
Dan Drago was on hand in Albany to recognize his late father who passed away in 2010.  ‘John F. Drago Sr. ‘Jack’ as he was known, was a veteran’s veteran.  After proudly serving his country during the Korean War, he continued to serve by working tirelessly for the veterans of Westchester County for close to forty years.  The Hall of Fame induction is a great honor to his life and his accomplishments,’ stated Dan Drago.
Latimer explained the selection, ‘The level of John Drago’s dedication to the Yonkers community has inspired so many other people in the City.  It was abundantly clear that the work John did on behalf of the local Veterans community had a real impact that manifested itself in an outpouring of support for his induction into the Senate’s Veteran’s Hall of Fame.  I am grateful that his family has honored his legacy and is committed to pursuing the same goals that John was.’
The New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame was created to honor and recognize outstanding veterans from the Empire State who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life. Their meritorious service to our nation deserves the special recognition that only a Hall of Fame can provide, as a fitting expression of our gratitude and admiration.                                                                                                                                              ###
A high-resolution photo of Latimer and Dan Drago can be downloaded here

For Immediate Release:Assemblywoman Lupardo & Senator Latimer Push Cost Cutting Measure to Administer Tax Rebate Distribution.

 

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator George Latimer are proposing a significant cost cutting measure as the State starts planning how to administer a new tax rebate program through the Department of Taxation and Finance, their offices announced today.  The recently enacted State budget provides middle class families with children who have incomes between $40,000 and $300,000 with a $350 ‘family tax relief credit’ per year for three years, beginning in October of 2014. The measure being proposed by Lupardo and Latimer would stop the State from issuing the credits in the form of hard rebate checks, cutting down on expenses such as printing, postage and the cost of administering the program similar to the STAR program. Latimer and Lupardo are urging the Tax and Finance Department to make the credit available for claim at tax time instead of incurring the costs associated with mailing a check.’The goal of providing a family tax relief credit is to reduce the tax burden on middle class New Yorkers. Mailing a check would seem to be the least efficient way of delivering a tax credit to over one million taxpayers, as opposed to simply allowing them to claim it at tax time. Our legislation ensures that taxpayers will get the full benefit of the tax credit, while removing the perception that it exists purely for political gain at election time,’ said Lupardo.’We have taken successful steps over the last few years to reduce the tax burden on New Yorkers and this additional middle class tax rebate is certainly helpful to those families,’ Senator Latimer stated.  ‘To continue those efforts and make government run as efficiently as possible, we are proposing a cost effective way to administer the distribution of tax rebates while still achieving the same result: lowering taxes for middle class families.’Latimer and Lupardo have filed legislation (S4745/A6926) that will require the Tax and Finance Department to make the tax credit available when a taxpayer files his or her return for the taxable year.  Lupardo and Latimer also sent a letter to Tax and Finance Commissioner Thomas Mattox asking for an estimate of the costs associated with mailing the checks.A copy of the letter that was sent to Commissioner Mattox can be downloaded by linking to:http://www.scribd.com/doc/138495494/Latimer-Lupardo-Tax-Credit-Letter

For Immediate Release: Larchmont Resident, Kate Bialo, Executive Director of Furniture Sharehouse Selected as Woman of Distinction.

(Albany, NY) State Senator George Latimer has selected Larchmont resident Kate Bialo, Executive Director of Furniture Sharehouse as a 2013 NYS Senate Woman of Distinction.  Furniture Sharehouse provides free furniture to economically disadvantaged individuals and families living in Westchester County, giving them the basic household furnishings that enable them to rebuild their lives and live with dignity.

Furniture Sharehouse was founded through the efforts of Kate Bialo and The Junior League of Westchester on the Sound (JLWOS). Through her work as Past President and Community Grants Coordinator for JLWOS, Kate learned of the social service community’s frustration at having furniture that their clients desperately needed slip through their fingers because no one had space to store it temporarily. So she conceived the idea of setting up a “shared warehouse” where donations could be collected and redistributed to agency clients as needed.

Furniture Sharehouse was incorporated in 2006, and, with seed money from JLWOS and a matching HUD grant from Westchester County, warehouse space was secured at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains and operations commenced in April 2007.

In accepting the award, Kate Bialo said, ‘I am honored to have been nominated by Senator Latimer as a NYS Woman of Distinction, and very pleased to have the opportunity to highlight Furniture Sharehouse, Westchester’s Furniture Bank, and its mission of providing free furniture to families in need.  We are the only furniture bank in New York, and since opening in 2007, we have distributed over 32,000 items of free furniture to more than 6,200 individuals, giving them a bed to sleep on and a table to share a family meal, and other basic furniture to help them create a comfortable and stable home and rebuild their lives.  Senator Latimer has been a friend of Furniture Sharehouse since the beginning and we appreciate his continued support and this recognition.’

Latimer praised Bialo’s work, ‘Lots of people come up with good ideas but the ones that have the drive and perseverance to turn those ideas into reality are the truly distinct members of our community and Kate certainly fits that description.  I find it fitting that we are honoring her right around Mother’s Day when we salute many of our mothers for providing their families with better lives.  Kate and the team of volunteers at Furniture Sharehouse have done the same thing for thousands families throughout Westchester.’

Bialo was honored in Albany on May 7th with women from the 62 other Senate districts.  During her day in Albany, she was a guest on Senator Latimer’s Public Access TV program, which can be viewed by Larchmont Residents Tuesday and Thursdays at 6 PM on Channel 77 for Cablevision subscribers and 34 for Verizon subscribers.

The Women of Distinction Event is sponsored by the NYS Senate and showcases outstanding women living and working in New York State whose contributions have greatly enriched the quality of life in their communities and beyond.
                                                     

A high-resolution photo of Latimer and Bialo can be downloaded here.

Senator George Latimer announced today that the New York Conference of Italian-American State Legislators is now accepting applications for four $1,500 scholarships to be awarded June 10th  at their Annual Legislative Conference Day.  Scholarship winners must be present to receive their awards.

“Given the high costs of college, every opportunity must be made by local students and their working families to meet their required expenses with scholarships as well as with student loans, available financial aid, and personal contributions,” said Senator Latimer  “I highly recommend that our area’s students apply to the Conference for these prestigious scholarships so that they may hopefully secure as much extra help with their expenses as possible.”

This year, the Italian-American State Legislators Conference will be awarding four $1,500 scholarships to four current or future college students from New York State.  Eligibility will be based upon the student’s grade point average, interest in pursuing a higher education, involvement in the local community as well as individual financial need.

The Conference is bipartisan organization of New York State Assembly and Senate members who are actively involved in promoting and celebrating the state’s Italian-American community. The Conference mission is to work hard to elevate and highlight Italian-American contributions to the State of New York and beyond, in all aspects of society, including literature, the arts, architecture and politics. The conference also tries to dispel negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.

“Our conference is very proud of our role in promoting higher education and assisting students in reaching their academic goals and full potential for future success in the global marketplace,” Latimer continued.  “This year’s recipients will be invited to Albany to receive their scholarship awards in June.

Eligible applicants must reside in the 37th Senate District which includes all of the Westchester communities of Armonk, Banksville, Bedford, Bedford Hills, Bronxville, Eastchester, Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, North White Plains, Port Chester, Rye Brook, Rye City, and Tuclkahoe and parts of Katonah, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers.  Area students may request an application by contacting Latimer’s office at (914) 934-5250 and return it by May 8th.

For Immediate Release:Senator Latimer Re-Affirms Opposition to Wakefield Homeless SheltersShare Tweet
Last week, New York State Senator George Latimer was the guest speaker at the Hyatt Association meeting, where he took questions on state and local issues.  During his remarks, the Senator reaffirmed his opposition to a New York City proposal to add homeless shelters in the North Bronx’s Wakefield neighborhood, adjacent to Yonkers.The plan has previously been opposed by Bronx elected officials such as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz.’The concentration of homeless individuals proposed in this plan by the City administration will place an undue burden on the neighborhood, particularly in the adjacent sections of Yonkers known as the 9th Ward,’ Latimer stated. ‘The issues of transportation, police, fire and sanitation services will have a spillover effect on the homeowners and taxpayers in Yonkers as well as in the North Bronx.’Latimer grew up on the Southside of Mt. Vernon, also near the affected area, and has a lifetime knowledge of the section where Yonkers, Mt. Vernon and the Bronx meet,’I look forward to helping the Hyatt Association and other interested stakeholders address this problem in a coordinated, strategic effort.  It is our job as elected representatives to advocate for the desires of our constituents and the opposition to these homeless shelters is fair and reasonable but most importantly, shared by a clear majority of people in the community.’

Media Advisory:Senator George Latimer & Assemblymember Shelley Mayer

Share Tweet

Press Conference to Announce Introduction of Flood Mitigation Bills
WHO:         
State Senator George Latimer,
Assemblymember Shelley Mayer,
Residents Affected by flooding in East YonkersWHAT:
With resident victims of east Yonkers flooding in attendance, State Senator George Latimer and Assemblymember Shelley Mayer will present a legislative package they have introduced to support local flood mitigation efforts.  Residents will also share their stories.WHEN:       
April 21, 2013; 12 PMWHERE:
Parking Lot of Grinton I. Will Library; 1500 Central Park Avenue, YonkersWHY:
Latimer & Mayer have been working closely with various neighborhood associations and other governmental entities to identify and respond to flooding issues in East Yonkers.  To that end, they have introduced legislation that will: a) require the State DoT to assess and respond to any flood related impacts of barrier walls b) create a $10 million grant to aid municipalities in implementing flood mitigation plans c) create a flood mitigation council in the Department of Environmental Conservation and enhance inter-municipal and inter-agency coordination.

For Immediate Release:

Latimer Calls for Bipartisan Passage of Bills to Deter Public Corruption.

On the first legislative session day since the arrests of several New York lawmakers, Senator George Latimer (D-Rye) began pushing a package of new ethics legislation designed to reform state government and combat the ongoing corruption issues facing New York.  Among the bills included in the legislative package are measures to strip pension benefits, both retroactively and moving forward, from any state or local elected offocial and convicted of a felony involving a breach of the public trust.

‘I am angered by the actions of a few public officials. Not every politician is stupid, venal and corrupt and the ones that are make it difficult for the ones that aren’t to effectively do their jobs.  If we don’t respond to this crisis, every elected official at every level is going to be labeled the same way,’ stated Senator Latimer.

Latimer also signaled his support for legislation that would eliminate the use of campaign funds for criminal defense.  Latimer explained, ‘When you are elected to office at any level, you owe it to the public to conduct the public’s business at the highest ethical level of conduct.’

The new legislative package also makes reforms to the campaign finance rules related to running for office in New York.

‘By retroactively stripping pension benefits from any state or local official who breaches the public trust and tightening the way campaign funds are spent, we will add additional deterrents to those seeking to betray the trust of their constituents.  Many of these proposals enjoy bipartisan support and demonstrate a clear desire on our part, as public officials, to clean up this mess,’ Latimer concluded.
A photo from the press conference in Albany can be downloaded -

http://securenetgate9.com/Uploads/1841/1366058806_(04-15-13)650-28-0099.jpg

Statement from Senator George Latimer re: Governor Cuomo’s Proposals on Public Corruption Crimes.
“Governor Cuomo is to be highly commended for his package of proposals that would increase penalties for those elected officials who would participate in any corrupt scheme to defraud the public, to use public assets for corrupt purposes, and who, in general, violate the public trust. Increasing penalties are meant not merely to provide draconian punishment to the guilty, but to deter such behavior by offering a severe set of consequences for corrupt behavior.

“I intend to support these proposals as an important step in restoring some faith in our public institutions and officials. As an official myself for over two decades, I am deeply tired of watching colleagues disgrace the profession – I’m perhaps more angry than the everyday citizens who are outraged – because these illegal actions cast a dark cloud on the ethics of the rest of us.”

George Latimer
NYS Senator – 37th S.D.

For Immediate Release:Senator Latimer: Corruption Arrests Make Perfect Case for Campaign Finance Reform Share TweetSeveral days after suggesting that Senator Malcolm Smith resign in a radio interview, Senator George Latimer today made a case for campaign finance reform citing this weeks events.’I am saddened and angry by what I have read about these recent scandals.  Not every politician is stupid, venal and corrupt and the ones that are make it difficult for the ones that aren’t to effectively do their jobs,’ stated Senator George Latimer.During a press conference this week, the US Attorney in charge of these investigations stated that the ‘show-me-the-money’ culture is pervasive and certainly alive and well.  In order to combat that, Senator Latimer is joining a chorus of good government advocates that are fighting for campaign finance reform to end the ‘pay to play’ mindset of politics.Latimer stated, ‘If we don’t respond to this crisis, every elected official, at every level is going to be labled the same way.  We need to come up with some way to remove the incentives to behave in corrupt way that way we can all focus on the issues and have our constituents trust that we are fighting for them.  I believe campaign finance reform would accomplish that goal.’With the completion of the state budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, it is likely that campaign finance reform will be discussed in the remaining portion of the legislative session.  Latimer specifically supports a system of matching small donations with public funding.’By passing a fair elections proposal, we will put every day New Yorkers at the center of financing campaigns.  Under a public matching system, elected officials will be more accountable to more people, not big developers and political bosses,’ concluded Senator Latimer.

For Immediate Release:

NYS Senate Passes Bipartisan Budget Bills 
Latimer works across the aisle as parts of state budget advance to next steps

 Share Tweet

During a Sunday work session, the NYS Senate approved the next pieces of the 2013-14 State budget in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion. The Senate approved three separate budget bills, the first for public protection and general government, the second to fund transportation, economic development and environmental conservation activities and the last to fund capital improvements throughout New York.  The Senate passed a bill regarding the State’s debt service on Wednesday of last week.’We have to show in Albany what Washington DC seems incapable of–working across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion,’ stated Senator George Latimer. ‘I voted for these budget bills because they presented real solutions that address the needs of the people I represent.’The Public Protection and General Government budget bill contains measures to help make government run more efficiently, encouraging shared services among local governments by funding local government efficiency grants and the Capital Improvement plan allocates $790,000 to Westchester County for various projects.In the Transportation, Economic Development, and Environmental Conservation bill, funding for the consolidated local street and highway improvement program dedicated to local bridge and highway projects was increased by $75 million. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Fund was increased by $19 million in the current fiscal year and $15 million annually will be added to the EPF; in addition to funds received through enforcement actions by redirecting unclaimed bottle deposits and by strengthening enforcement of the ‘Bottle Bill’ to prevent fraud.Latimer continued, ‘This portion of the budget accurately addresses both the need for efficincies in government as well as the responsibility to fund programs that will help grow the economy.  Investing in our infrastrucuture and capital improvements will help create jobs in the near future.As a member of the Assembly, Latimer was the sponsor of legislation that would have increased the funding for the EPF through bottle deposits and was recognized last year by Environmental Advocates for that work.’I have been advocating for an increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund for several years and this budget makes it a reality.  By adding money to this fund, we will protect our environment, create green jobs and help produce energy efficient technology to make businesses and homes run safer and more efficiently,’ stated the Senator.Latimer went on to caution that some of the more controversial sections of the budget are still to be dealt with before the deadline.’I’m deeply concerned about the level of education funding for Yonkers, and other high needs school districts in Westchester.  We must also carefully analyze if enough funding is given to local governments to help them provide services that local residents rely on.  Finally, I believe that senior citizens, in addition to many residents, need greater tax relief in order to stay in our communities.  These issues will be debated in the next few days,’ Latimer concluded.

PRESS RELEASE – Free Online Tax Service — Special to Yonkers Insider.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Senator Latimer Urges Constituents to Take Advantage of Free Online Tax Services Provided by IRS & Free File Alliance.

Taxpayers Making $57,000 or Less Can Visit IRS.gov/efile to Access Free Tax Preparation Software through Partnership between IRS & Tax Software Industry.

Senator George Latimer (D-Westchester, 37th S.D.)  today encouraged constituents to take advantage of free tax preparation and e-filing services available through the IRS Free File program. Since its inception in 2003, Free File has offered 70 percent of taxpayers free access to leading commercial tax preparation software.

This year, every taxpayer with a 2012 Adjusted Gross Income of $57,000 or less may visit www.IRS.gov/freefile to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at absolutely no cost.

This service is made possible through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance – http://www.freefilealliance.org/, a non-profit coalition of industry-leading tax software companies.

“This tax season, I encourage constituents to take advantage of free tax help available through the IRS Free File program,” said Senator Latimer.

“Free File provides access to online tax software that helps you prepare and e-file you federal tax returns – at absolutely no cost. The service is available to everyone who made $57,000 or less last year. Just visit www.IRS.gov/freefile to get started.” To begin, taxpayers should visit the IRS website – www.IRS.gov/freefile. Users will find a list of Free File Alliance member companies and may either choose one that fits their needs or utilize the “Help Me Find a Company” tool.

After selecting a tax software company, users will be transferred to the company’s website to prepare, complete and electronically file their federal income tax returns.

The service is also available in Spanish. “Free File is the one-stop shop for 70 percent of taxpayers to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns,” said Tim Hugo, executive director of the Free File Alliance.

“The service is unique because it gives taxpayers access to 15 different tax software offerings so they can choose the one that works best for their tax situation.

With Free File, the industry’s top software is all in one place, and it’s all free.” The Free File Alliance is also partnered with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) – a walk-in service for low-to-moderate income taxpayers – which offers Free File software on self-assist kiosks at VITA sites in 29 states.

Through its partnership with VITA, the Free File Alliance will be able to provide e-filing services for taxpayers who do not have Internet access at home, as well as those who want to e-file, but need additional help.

Free File Alliance member companies have worked closely with the IRS to strengthen the Free File program, and taxpayers have consistently reported the program as being user-friendly and efficient.

Responding to a 2009 IRS survey, 96 percent of users said they found Free File easy to use, while 98 percent said they would recommend the program to others.

About the Free File Alliance.

The Free File Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of 15 industry-leading tax software companies, has partnered with the IRS since 2003 to help low- and middle-income Americans prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns online.

The Free File Alliance is committed to giving 70 percent of Americans free access to the industry’s top online tax preparation software.

More than 36 million returns have been filed through IRS Free File since its inception. For more information, visit www.freefilealliance.org.

For Immediate Release:

Senator Latimer & Assemblymember Mayer Host Community Budget Forum in Yonkers

On Thursday, February 21st at the Grinton I Will Library, State Senator George Latimer (37th SD) and Assemblymember Shelley Mayer (90th AD) hosted a community budget forum to provide residents an opportunity to share their budgetary concerns and priorities with their representatives.

The three-hour forum provided community groups, non-profits, local elected representatives, and residents an opportunity to speak for up to four minutes and submit written testimony concerning the 2013-14 Executive Budget.  Approximately 50 people, in individual capacities and as representatives of numerous organizations, attended the meeting to express their views on issues ranging from flood mitigation and mandate relief to funding for public schools and other initiatives.

“This budget continues our commitment to tax reduction and responsible, intelligent spending,” stated Senator Latimer. “The budget contains no new taxes and funds critical programs that benefit the lives of all New Yorkers.  I’m glad that a wide array of groups and individuals had the chance to share their opinions directly with us in an open forum so that we can go back to Albany and advocate on their behalf.”

‘It is extremely important that as elected officials we hear directly from our constituents about the state budget and how it will affect them.  This forum provides us with the information we need to fight for our constituents while we push for a budget that is responsible, timely, and fair,’ said Assemblymember Shelley Mayer.

Latimer and Mayer both reiterated their optimism that the budget will be done prior to the April 1 deadline.
For Immediate Release:

Statement from Senator George Latimer
Honoring Mayor Ed Koch.

At a time in the late 70’s, when people lost faith in New York City, it’s economy, it’s safety, Ed Koch came to personify the tough spirit of New Yorkers.  He helped the City rebound. In his last years he personified the desire to reform Albany…and I am honored to have supported his efforts and to have received his support. May he rest in peace after his long, well-lived life of public service.

Media Advisory: State Senator George Latimer.

For Immediate Release:

Senator George Latimer’s Office Announces Income Tax Preparation Assistance;

Office will make IT-201 and other related NYS forms available at office and by delivery for seniors

State Senator George Latimer has announced that beginning immediately, NYS income tax forms, including the IT-201, will be available for pickup at the Senator’s office or via delivery for senior citizens who request them.

‘Offering this service is just another way of being helpful to the community,’ stated Senator Latimer.  ‘Every year we all fill out these forms and many of us have the same questions year after year but have to pay an expert to get the right answers.

As a Senator, my job is to advocate on behalf of the people who elected me and try to improve their lives.

By performing this service, we are anticipating the needs of the community and taking proactive steps to make certain critical functions easier than they ordinarily would be.’

Up until a few years ago, New York State used to send forms out by mail.

With that service no longer available, Latimer’s office has taken the initiative to perform this function for local taxpayers.  Forms are also available online at www.tax.ny.gov/forms.

The Senator’s office reminds constituents that this is a State office and therefore, can only furnish forms for New York State.  Additionally, the Senator has asked that all requests be placed by March 31st, 2013.

Senator Latimer’s District Office is located at 222 Grace Church Street, Room 305 in Port Chester and can be reached by phone at (914) 934-5250 or by email at Latimer@nysenate.gov.  Requests for tax related material can be placed through any of those avenues.

Latimer To Testify at Attorney General’s Public Hearing On Charity Disclosure Regulations.

WHO:          State Senator George Latimer and the Office of NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

WHAT:         State Senator George Latimer will testify at Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Albany hearing on charity disclosure regulations.

WHEN:        January 29, 2013 at 11 AM

WHERE:      Legislative Office Building, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, 2nd Floor, Albany, NY

WHY:           The Attorney General’s Office will take testimony at a public hearing regarding the need reform financial disclosure requirements for 501 (c) (4) organizations.

Latimer will lend first hand experience on the impact of ‘dark money’ in elections and the need to close loopholes that allow for the average citizen’s voice to be drowned out by special interests.

For Immediate Release:

Statement from Senator George Latimer
Regarding Governor Cuomo’s 2013-14 Budget Proposal.

‘Today, Governor Cuomo put forward his third executive budget proposal that is consistent with the needs of the economy; a budget with no new taxes and a spending increase that is less than 2% above the previous year’s budget.

Over the last three years, the budget gap has dwindled, consumer confidence throughout New York has gone up and we have shown that our state provides a ripe climate to conduct business.

We have demonstrated to the taxpayers that we understand their needs and are doing what we need to in order to take the next steps toward a full economic recovery.

I believe that investing in a quality education that prepares our children for the future should go hand in hand with the economic recovery.

In this budget, Governor Cuomo has shown that he understands what that investment would yield and has taken bold steps towards reforming an education system and preparing for a changing economy.

I look forward to reviewing the allocations for each individual district upon their availability.

I join Governor Cuomo in his commitment to holding the line on taxes, maintaining fiscal integrity and implementing an innovative and intelligent budget.’

Latimer Named Ranking Member of Education Committee.

For Immediate Release: Senator George Latimer Named Ranking Member of Education Committee;
Receives 5 Additional Committee Assignments.

State Senator George Latimer has been named the Ranking Minority Member on the State Senate’s Education Committee, his office announced today.

Latimer will now be the leading advocate for the Democrats on educational issues in the New York State Senate.  Senator John Flanagan of Long Island is currently the Chairman of the Education Committee.

“All of the school districts in Westchester accurately represent a cross section of the rest of New York in my opinion.

Every school district has unique needs and deserves an advocate that will keep the best interests of our children in mind and I am confident that my background, experience and knowledge of the needs of Westchester students has appropriately prepared me for this assignment.

I am very grateful to our Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for giving me this appointment and I look forward to working with Senator Flanagan, school districts and other education advocates as we fight for the true next generation of our State,” stated Senator George Latimer.

Latimer also received assignments to other committees including Environmental Conservation and Local Government.

During Latimer’s time in the Assembly he served on both committees and has extensive background and familiarity with the subject matter involved with these committees and intends to help shape those public policy areas.

Latimer was also assigned to the Consumer Protection, Mental Health and Racing, Gaming and Wagering committees, the latter of which will be critical as the State is in the process of legalizing full-fledged casino gambling.

Latimer stated, “Serving at different levels of government has given me unique opportunities to advocate for my constituents on a wide range of issues and individual concerns.

Moving from the Assembly to the Senate, gives me an opportunity to continue working on some issues and also gives me a chance to grow as a public official expand my own base of knowledge to be the best supporter for my constituents that I could possibly be.”

News From State Senator
George Latimer.

George Latimer will be Guest Speaker at East Yonkers Kiwanis Club Meeting.
WHO:          State Senator George Latimer, Members of East Yonkers Kiwanis ClubWHAT:         State Senator George Latimer will be the Guest Speaker at the
monthly meeting for the East Yonkers Kiwanis Club.WHEN:        January 16, 2013 at 7:30 PMWHERE:      Luciano’s Italian Restaurant 2192 Central Park Avenue, YonkersWHY:           Senator Latimer will provide members of the East Yonkers Kiwanis Club
with an update of pressing issues in Albany, a recap of Governor Cuomo’s
State of the State address and will take any questions on the minds of local residents. Senator George Latimer Opens Temporary Senate Offices.
Today, newly minted State Senator George Latimer opened temporary offices in Port Chester and in Albany ensuring that constituents will continue to have points of access for their local representative during the ongoing transition period.  Latimer’s temporary office in Port Chester is located on the third floor of Port Chester Village Hall at 222 Grace Church Street and is reachable by phone at 914-934-5250. The Senator’s temporary office in Albany is Room 615 of the Legislative Office Building and can be contacted at (518) 455-2031.  Latimer’s new Senate website was launched today and can be found at http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/george-s-latimer.“During this transition period, I am happy to give constituents somewhere to turn should they need assistance,” stated Senator George Latimer.  “Transitions are always complicated, but when we are working for the people, it is imperative that we give them as many points of access to their government as possible so we can seamlessly advocate for all of their needs. ”Latimer is the Senate representative for the Towns of Bedford, North Castle, Harrison, Rye, Mamaroneck and Eastchester; the City of Rye; the Villages of Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Larchmont, Armonk, Port Chester and Rye Brook.  He also represents part of the Cities of New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers.  Latimer recently completed 4 terms as a NYS Assemblyman for the 91st District.Latimer will take a formal oath of office in the Senate Chamber on January 9th, 2013.

Yonkers Insider Online Show on Blog Talk Radio.

Listen to internet radio with yonkers insider on BlogTalkRadio

Richard Diguglielmo Clemency Petition.

Blog Stats

  • 296,756 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 25 other followers

StatCounter.

sc_project=3706065; sc_invisible=0; sc_partition=44; sc_security="9808bd77";
website statistics
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers