Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Weld draws line against eminent domain


Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2006 15:19:32 -0500
From: "Tenant"
Subject: William Weld a tenant ally?

NB - Sure, many believe that no matter what, Elliot Spitzer will be the
next Governor. They may be right. But it's also important to realize
that in eight years as the NY Attorney General, Spitzer has done next
to nothing to help tenants. His family and fortune are real estate.
No wonder like Bloomberg, Doctoroff and Quinn, he supports bulldozing
Manhattan's West Side.

Which is why William Weld's statement against Eminent Domain is very
interesting. It's not necessarily pro-tenant, but it does recognize
perhaps the greatest danger to tenants these days (both regulated and
non-regulated) is the intense real estate pressure that creates
incentives for developers and landlords to push tenants out. With the
weakening of tenant protections, the abandonment of any focus on
Housing Court or DHCR by the so-called liberal politicians, and with
some housing and social justice groups (i.e., Acorn, Jobs with
Justice, Housing Here and Now, etc.) being for sale to anyone that
comes along, it's interesting to see Weld's comments.

One thing about Democratic candidates ... they will go with those who
are the easiest to buy. Usually that means Tenants &
Neighbors/Michael Magoo (who even shilled for Peter Vallone a few
years back). Last year both Ferrer and Perkins did it. Buying off
these groups is cheaper than going to Costco!

Yeah, Spitzer is the odds-on favorite. But then again remember Mario
Cuomo in 1993?

Weld draws line against eminent domain
Associated Press Writer
March 1, 2006, 11:24 AM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Republican candidate for governor Bill Weld on
Wednesday strongly opposed governments' growing power under a U.S.
Supreme Court decision to use eminent domain to take private property
to spur economic development.

"If that's true, government can destroy an entire neighborhood of
homes if they can be replaced by tenants who will pay higher taxes,"
Weld told The Associated Press. "That, to put it mildly, doesn't
strike me as the American way. This isn't communist China."

Weld, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan administration, was
to detail his attack on last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in a
speech Wednesday that is closed to the press at the Harvard Club in
Manhattan. He said he's making the issue part of the campaign because
the next governor could seize that power.

"I think the issue cuts very deep," Weld said in an interview before
the speech. "It raises the specter of statism."

The speech underscores Weld's position as a libertarian Republican, a
political approach that helped him be elected to two terms as
governor of heavily Democratic Massachusetts.

In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court broadened the government's
right to seize private property, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said
then it could mean wealthy investors and city leaders were given the
power to run people from their homes to make way for new development.

The high court ruled the Connecticut city of New London could raze a
residential neighborhood and replace it with hotels and offices that
officials say could add millions of dollars to the tax base. But city
officials and developers said that taking property is sometimes the
only way to spur development in cities struggling to pay bills.

In Albany, Democratic Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester has
proposed a bill that would provide better protections for homeowners
against eminent domain.

Weld quoted American historian Louis Hartz: "`The essence of
democracy is the idea that the individual may not be thrust into a
corner' ... That's right. This (Supreme Court) decision runs 180
degrees in the opposite direction."

Weld is seeking the GOP nomination against John Faso, the former
Assembly minority leader and one-time lobbyist; former state
Secretary of State Randy Daniels, and Patrick Manning, an assemblyman
representing Dutchess County.

Democrats Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general; and Tom Suozzi,
the Nassau County executive, are also running.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
TenantNet(tm): http://tenant.net
email: tenant@tenant.net
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.

Edited 3/1/2006 4:47 pm ET by Reysmont

RENT STABILIZATION LAW (repeal?) - Hearing this FRIDAY

Public Hearing on Renewal of Rent Control/Rent Stabilization and Repeal of The Urstadt Law

- Friday March 3rd,
City Hall 10:00 AM

The 2/N/R subway goes to City Hall.
Bring ID to get in.

U.S. Law Firms Set Their Sights on Cuba After Castro

U.S. Law Firms Set Their Sights on Cuba After Castro

Lindsay Fortado
The National Law Journal
February 28, 2006

Lawyers in the United States are turning their thoughts to a new type of Cuba: one without Fidel Castro.

The Cuban dictator turns 80 this year, and he's been in power for 47 of those years. While it's impossible to predict what system of government or economy will form in a post-Castro Cuba, U.S. firms are getting ready.

"[Castro's death] is an inevitability," said Pedro Freyre, a partner at Akerman Senterfitt and the co-chairman of the Florida firm's international practice group. "It will happen, and it will happen much sooner than much later. But that having been said, the what-ifs and the scenarios are complex."

Among U.S. lawyers, there are at least two sources of interest in Cuba. Some -- mostly Cuban-American attorneys with sentimental ties -- want a hand in shaping the country's legal system when the Communist regime falls.

Others view the island as a lucrative source of business, from tourism and infrastructure to oil and other industries. Canada, India, Norway and China are making investments in oil deposits recently found off the coast of Cuba.


Legal work in Cuba will include "everything under the sun," said Jose Sirven, a partner in Holland & Knight's Miami office and a member of the firm's Cuba action team. "That country's been in limbo since 1959, so you have roadwork, water and sewer, refurbishing of buildings, basic needs of consumers -- from toilet paper to soap, everything's in short supply ... U.S. companies are going to want to enter the market immediately."

When U.S. companies will be able to enter the market is up for debate.

The general sentiment among Cuban-American attorneys is a hope that a Democratic government will follow Castro's Communist reign, but many admit to the possibility of a succession.

Castro has named his younger brother, Raul, next in line to take power, but other party leaders could also take over.

"The older members of the party will work very hard to keep their stranglehold on power," Freyre predicted. "But the loss of Fidel is a huge loss; they lose their ace."

But it is not Castro preventing U.S. businesses from investing in Cuba; it is the current administration enforcing a trade embargo.

"The market [in Cuba] is open to everybody," said Kirby Jones, the founder of Alamar Associates, a consulting firm for U.S. companies looking to do business with Cuba, and the head of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association.

"It's really post-embargo, not post-Castro," Jones said. "Cuba does business with everyone in the world; there's foreign investment in every sector. Cuba is already open; we're the ones who are closed.

"In terms of any fundamental change, it's going to take a U.S. administration with a different approach," added Jones.

If a democratic government is installed, new law will have to be created to guarantee investors that property rights will be respected, and the United States will have to lift the trade embargo with the island nation. Should there be a democracy, an end to the embargo appears likely, as it would benefit U.S. business.

"The laws have to be changed to do business in Cuba," said Frank Angones, the president-elect of the Florida Bar beginning in 2007 and a partner at Angones, McClure & Garcia in Miami. "There will have to be some kind of opening in the market."

Many attorneys are optimistic that the market will open, perhaps not immediately after Castro's death but within the decade after. At that point, legal work should be plentiful.

"In places like Miami, probably Washington, certainly New York, practitioners ... are looking with close attention to Cuba and thinking, 'What do we do to take advantage of the opportunities there?' " said Freyre. "We keep our eyes peeled on Cuba. Akerman has a very, very keen interest."

So do other large U.S. firms.

"We've been preparing since over a decade ago," said Holland & Knight's Sirven. "It's something we talk about. We want to be one of the first U.S. law firms there."

In the mid-1990s, when Castro was in poor health, the firm created its Cuba action team to assess business opportunities on the island.

"We put a plan in place to go into the Cuban market and assist clients entering that market," Sirven said. "We obviously haven't used it."

With other countries able to invest in the island, it appears that some U.S. companies are growing antsy.

In January, a meeting in Mexico City between Cuban government officials and U.S. oil executives from Exxon Mobil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. was cut short when the delegation was forced to leave its American-owned hotel under pressure from Washington.

"That has caused an uproar and a pique of interest in Cuban relations," said Sirven, who counsels clients on the current legal framework in Cuba.

There are currently several exceptions to the embargo laws, which include certain business transactions in the fields of telecommunications and agriculture, Sirven said.

"We have advised companies that had an interest in knowing more about those opportunities," he said.

Jones has worked with law firms looking to do business with Cuba or dealing with embargo problems.

"There are always issues of what you can and can't do," he said. "Law firms get very active on this side helping clients with embargo-related issues."

Economists at the National Summit on Cuba predicted that trade between the United States and the island nation could generate more than $50 billion and 900,000 jobs during a two-year period if the embargo were lifted.

Cesar Alvarez, president and CEO of Greenberg Traurig in Miami and a Cuban-American, said that he fields calls from companies inquiring about doing business with Cuba.

"About once a month I get a call from somebody saying we'd like to do something in Cuba, and they assume that because you're sitting here in Miami that you can help," Alvarez said. "But we don't represent anyone trying to make investments in Cuba directly or indirectly."

Law firms are actively monitoring the situation in Cuba, especially because so many U.S. businesses are eager to enter the market, Angones said.

"Most of the large corporations in the U.S. have a contingent plan, not just in Castro's death but a change in the way that Cuba does business and whether private property is respected or not, whether you can buy land and buildings," said Angones.


Freyre, a Cuban-American, monitors the situation in Cuba daily and knows the business sectors that could produce the most lucrative work.

"Tourism is a solid prospect for the future. Cuba is very beautiful. It's the largest island in the Caribbean," Freyre said. "Add an element of exoticism, this has been the forbidden land for Americans, go explore it, and it's very tempting."

But tourism is not the biggest target.

"The golden ring is who represents Wal-Mart," Freyre said. "But you can represent Halliburton when they build the airports, or you can represent Exxon when they try to get their oil fields back in the harbor."

Freyre said that his knowledge of both Cuban and U.S. societies will give his firm an advantage in procuring lucrative work should the governments allow it. The firm beefed up its Washington office for lobbying work, which could also help Akerman's prospects.

"I think once Castro moves on, the chances of things happening there will open up, but predicting what will ultimately happen is mostly speculation right now," Alvarez said. "We certainly hope that democracy and capitalism would return to Cuba."

Alvarez expressed more interest in helping to shape a new legal system in Cuba rather than to view the country solely as a business opportunity.

"My friends would be much more interested in [restructuring] the nonexistent legal system," Alvarez said of the Cuban-American legal community. "Our focus will be much different than just what to do for financial gain when Castro's gone.

"It's going to be some time before significant private investments return after Castro," he said. "There's no legal system; the legal system is ultimately the Communist regime.

Freyre noted, "Here, I have to be loyal to my client, and my obligation is to defend my client."

In Cuba, the mindset is "I work for the revolution, and everything I do for my client has to be for the revolution," he said.


Alvarez's ideal is for a new Cuban legal system to be based on the American model.

"The ultimate key to get investments in a post-Castro Cuba is to duplicate what you have in the American [judicial] system," Alvarez said.

"First, property rights have to be respected; two, rule of law and the respect of human rights, and not the whims of a dictator, must be the guiding principles; third, a truly independent judiciary must be in place," he said.

Alvarez is not alone in his ambition to help Cuba rebuild its legal system. The Cuban American Bar Association is currently planning a symposium at the University of Miami School of Law, slated for June, to discuss the past, present and future of the legal system in Cuba.

"There's just so much interest in this topic," said Corali Castro-Lopez, the president of CABA and a partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Coral Gables, Fla. "This is the first seminar focused just on the [Cuban] legal system and what needs to be done."

Some firms are eyeing the possibility of opening a Havana office should the opportunity arise.

"The proximity [of Cuba], the need for every conceivable product and equipment makes it a natural place to want to be," Sirven said of opening a Havana office, noting that he couldn't speak for his firm.

Freyre agreed, but was hesitant to say he'd return to his native land to live. "Most of us look at it. Would we like to be the ones designated to open the Cuban office in Havana? Heck yes, but I have no particular wish to relocate," he said. "I'd only do it on a project basis."

Alvarez also said that Greenberg Traurig would be interested in Havana, but he didn't foresee any immediate action. "If there's democracy in Cuba, we certainly would view Cuba to be a logical place for [Greenberg Traurig] to be, but I think that's a few days away," he said.

For many attorneys, the resounding sentiment is an eagerness to enter the Cuban marketplace, but an exasperation at the resilience of Castro.

"I remember in the mid-'90s people thinking this fellow can't last too long, and here we are 12 years later," Angones said. "We can make educated guesses, but we can't predict what the future will hold."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Town Hall' Mtg. Fosters Discussion

Columbia Spectator
Home > >Manhattanville Expansion" href="http://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2004/02/26/NewsManhattanvilleExpansion/">News>>Manhattanville Expansion

'Town Hall' Mtg. Fosters Discussion
By Nick KlaggeSpectator Staff Writer
Issue date: 2/26/04 Section: >Manhattanville Expansion" href="http://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2004/02/26/NewsManhattanvilleExpansion/">News>>Manhattanville Expansion

Last night's "geographic town hall meeting" marked a subtle change in the tone of relations between Columbia and community activists over the University's proposed Manhattanville expansion. The meeting, which brought together community residents, Columbia administrators, and City Councilman Robert Jackson, was relatively free of confrontation.

The "geographic" town hall meetings are a series of public events held by the Columbia administration targeted at specific sections of Columbia's Harlem and Morningside Heights neighborhood. Last night's meeting, though open to the general public, was targeted at residents living between 135th and 145th Streets from St. Nicholas Avenue to the Hudson River.

Held at Roberto Clemente Middle School on 135th Street, the meeting had relatively low turnout, probably due to competition from a CB9 meeting nearby addressing the 197-A expansion plan. But those who did attend were vocal, and offered more constructive criticism than outright opposition to Columbia's plans.

Organizers of the meeting had advertised in both English and Spanish, hoping to attract some of the area's considerable Spanish-speaking population. But though they offered a simultaneous translation into Spanish at the outset of the meeting, nobody present accepted.

Councilman Jackson delivered the opening remarks, setting the tone for the rest of the meeting. "I personally believe that the area should be developed," he said. At the same time, though, he was openly wary of administrators' statements, professing ultimate allegiance to his constituents. "If in fact they are lying to me, they can only lie to me once," he said of the administration.

The floor then went to Emily Lloyd, Columbia executive vice president for Government and Community Affairs. As Coalition to Preserve Community steering committee member Tom Kappner pointed out, Lloyd's presentation differed little from those at previous events. "A lot of what I've heard here we've heard before," Kappner said. But many needed the basic background that Lloyd provided--several present didn't know about CB9's 197-A plan, for example.

One of the areas Lloyd stressed was the long-term nature of the project. In the next 10 years, she said, Columbia would expand only between 125th and 130th Streets--an area that, as CB9 member Maritta Dunn later pointed out, is actually little more than one block. As usual, job creation was another major focus of Lloyd's presentation. Although the university projects the creation of 2,400 permanent jobs from the expansion, Lloyd said that a breakdown of the types of jobs involved in that figure is "something we will be developing in the weeks ahead."

Lloyd also discussed the possibility of synergies between Columbia's School of the Arts and the community--a topic that would become a major emphasis throughout the meeting. "The Harlem arts community and the School of the Arts could continue some of the partnerships they have already started," she said.

CB9 member Vicky Gholson stressed the need for Columbia to come out with more specific plans on certain expansion issues, including the 135th Street Marine Transfer Station and the development of Harlem Piers. "Those are some of the conversations that have not been had in the public purview that are necessary to lessen distrust," she said. Gholson called the expansion of Columbia's School of the Arts "exhilarating," pointing out that many Harlem residents would be qualified to teach in the arts.

Another community activist present was Norma Ramos, an environmental justice attorney from West Harlem Environmental Action. She too, professed a cautious optimism: "I've had a long-standing mistrust of Columbia," she said, but continued, "This new president [Bollinger] gives me hope that Columbia is going to build a better relationship with the community."

Still, she argued for close scrutiny of environmental issues as expansion proceeds. "Let it be green," she said.

Last night's meeting was still only one element of a sustained series of meetings on expansion. Administrators indicated several important events in the near future, including a meeting between University President Bollinger and the CPC and the release of the official Environmental Impact Statement in late spring or early summer. Jackson also expressed an interest in meeting with the CPC. "This area needs to be developed into something positive for our community," he said.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes

New York Times
February 21, 2006

States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes

In a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government's power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.

The measures are in direct response to the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision last June in a landmark property rights case from Connecticut, upholding the authority of the City of New London to condemn homes in an aging neighborhood to make way for a private development of offices, condominiums and a hotel. It was a decision that one justice, who had written for the majority, later all but apologized for.

The reaction from the states was swift and heated. Within weeks of the court's decision, Texas, Alabama and Delaware passed bills by overwhelming bipartisan margins limiting the right of local governments to seize property and turn it over to private developers. Since then, lawmakers in three dozen other states have proposed similar restrictions and more are on the way, according to experts who track the issue.

The National League of Cities, which supports the use of eminent domain as what it calls a necessary tool of urban development, has identified the issue as the most crucial facing local governments this year. The league has called upon mayors and other local officials to lobby Congress and state legislators to try to stop the avalanche of bills to limit the power of government to take private property for presumed public good.

The issue is not whether governments can condemn private property to build a public amenity like a road, a school or a sewage treatment plant. That power is explicit in the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, provided that "just compensation" is paid. The conflict arises over government actions to seize private homes or businesses as part of a redevelopment project that at least partly benefits a private party like a retail store, an apartment complex or a football stadium.

"It's open season on eminent domain," said Larry Morandi, a land-use specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "Bills are being pushed by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and they're passing by huge margins."

Seldom has a Supreme Court decision sparked such an immediate legislative reaction, and one that scrambles the usual partisan lines. Condemnation of the ruling came from black lawmakers representing distressed urban districts, from suburbanites and from Western property-rights absolutists who rarely see eye to eye on anything. Lawmakers from Maine to California have introduced dozens of bills in reaction to the ruling, most of them saying that government should never seize private homes or businesses solely to benefit a private developer.

The Supreme Court seemed to invite such a response in its narrowly written ruling in the case, Kelo v. City of New London. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, expressed sympathy for the displaced homeowners and said that the "necessity and wisdom" of the use of eminent domain were issues of legitimate debate. And, he added, "We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power."

Two months after the ruling, addressing a bar association meeting, Justice Stevens called it "unwise" and said he would have opposed it had he been a legislator and not a federal judge bound by precedent.

Plenty of legislators took the hint.

The issue was one of the first raised when Connecticut lawmakers returned to session early this month. There are bills pending in the Legislature to impose new restrictions on the use of eminent domain by local governments and to assure that displaced businesses and homeowners receive fair compensation.

(The New London project is essentially delayed, even after the Supreme Court go-ahead, because of contractual disputes and an unwillingness to forcibly remove the homeowners who sued to save their properties.)

In the New Jersey Legislature, Senator Nia H. Gill, a Democrat from Montclair who is chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, proposed a bill to outlaw the use of eminent domain to condemn residential property that is not completely run down to make room for a redevelopment project. The bill, which is pending, would require public hearings before any taking of private property to benefit a private project.

In New York, State Senator John A. DeFrancisco, a Republican, has proposed a measure similar to one in other states that would remove the right to exercise condemnation power from unelected bodies like an urban redevelopment authority or an industrial development agency.

Texas was one of the first states to act after the Kelo ruling, taking up the issue in a special legislative session that was supposed to focus solely on education. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed a bill on Sept. 1 that prohibits use of eminent domain to benefit a private party, with certain exceptions. Among those exceptions is the condemnation of homes to make way for a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.

The sponsor of the Texas measure, Senator Kyle Janek, Republican of Houston, said the state was weighing an amendment to cement the eminent domain restrictions, but that process can take years. He sponsored his bill, he said, because "We wanted something in place quickly that the governor could sign and would take immediate effect."

The bill could affect a huge highway project now in the planning stages known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, a public-private toll road and rail project that would require the taking of large swaths of privately owned land.

There are six proposed laws and five constitutional amendments before the California Legislature, as well as several proposed citizen initiatives to curb the eminent domain power. The bills are supported by, among others, the California Farm Bureau Federation, which fears that the Kelo ruling will empower cities to gobble up more farmland to build subdivisions and strip malls.

The lobbyist for California's local economic development agencies said the ruling and the resultant legislation had been a nightmare.

"My life hasn't been the same since June 23, 2005," said the lobbyist, John F. Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Association, referring to the date the Supreme Court handed down the ruling. The group represents 350 local redevelopment authorities around California and believes such agencies need the eminent domain power to rebuild distressed cities.

Ohio's legislature, acting swiftly and unanimously after the Kelo decision, declared a moratorium on all government takings until the end of 2006. The state has created a 25-member bipartisan panel to study the issue and make recommendations for changes, if necessary, in Ohio's eminent domain statutes. The sponsor of the moratorium measure, Senator Timothy J. Grendell, a Republican lawyer who specializes in property rights cases, noted that the Ohio Supreme Court was now weighing a potentially crucial eminent domain case involving the city of Norwood, a suburb of Cincinnati.

In that case, city officials have approved a plan to condemn about 60 homes to make way for an upscale office and retail complex. The homeowners are represented by lawyers from the Institute of Justice, a public interest law firm that litigates against what it calls eminent domain abuse and that represented the plaintiffs in the New London case.

Scott G. Bullock of the Institute for Justice described the Norwood case as an important test of property rights law in the post-Kelo era, but would not predict how the Ohio court would rule. He said he hoped to take another case before the Supreme Court in the next few years to determine whether the courts can curb eminent domain power further, even as state legislatures act on their own.

Mr. Bullock said he expected municipal officials and redevelopment authorities to try to fight the wave of eminent domain legislation by offering cosmetic changes to existing law, for example by requiring an extra hearing or an economic impact statement. But he said that major changes were coming in how the takings power of government is used.

"Our opposition to eminent domain is not across the board," he said. "It has an important but limited role in government planning and the building of roads, parks and public buildings. What we oppose is eminent domain abuse for private development, and we are encouraging legislators to curtail it."

More neutral observers expressed concern that state officials, in their zeal to protect homeowners and small businesses, would handcuff local governments that are trying to revitalize dying cities and fill in blighted areas with projects that produce tax revenues and jobs.

"It's fair to say that many states are on the verge of seriously overreacting to the Kelo decision," said John D. Echeverria, executive director of the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute and an authority on land-use policy. "The danger is that some legislators are going to attempt to destroy what is a significant and sometimes painful but essential government power. The extremist position is a prescription for economic decline for many metropolitan areas around the county."


Thursday, February 16, 2006

University Presents New Science Facility at CB9 Meeting Facility May Prompt Renovations Of Dodge Fitness Center-

Columbia Spectator

University Presents New Science Facility at CB9 Meeting Facility May Prompt Renovations Of Dodge Fitness Center
By Tanveer Ali and John Davisson
Columbia Daily Spectator

February 17, 2006

The University presented its proposal for a new science facility on the Morningside Heights campus to a room that has not always welcomed Columbia�s development plans at Thursday�s Community Board 9 general meeting.

The building, to be located on the northwest corner of the campus, was among a host of items discussed at the meeting, which included an update on negotiations between Columbia and community members concerning the University�s proposed Manhattanville expansion.

Marcelo Velez, assistant vice president of facilities, gave a presentation on the proposed interdepartmental science facility to go atop Dodge Fitness Center on the corner of 120th Street and Broadway.

The administration has eyed the building site for decades, but the project got a jump start in Fall 2005 when the University announced that Rafael Moneo, a well-known architect of civic structures, would design the building. Preliminary construction will begin later this year and is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2010.

�This building would provide laboratory space that promotes research that cuts across many different disciplines,� Velez said. Velez told CB9 that, while preliminary designs aren�t expected until March, the University will likely apply for a zoning variance, which would allow the building to stand flush with Columbia�s property line rather than ten feet back as currently mandated by law. He estimated that the facility would house 150,000 square feet of labs, classrooms, and offices when complete.

Though several audience members praised the plan, a few voiced concerns about the impact of the new building on infrastructure and the architectural character of the Broadway and 120th Street intersection. Velez said that construction would have no foreseeable effect on transportation and that Moneo �is very sensitive to historical context.�

CB9 chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc expressed uneasiness about the planned uses of the building. �One of the things that will be very much in the minds of this community is exactly what kind of research is going to take place in there,� he said.

In an interview after the presentation, Velez said that construction of the building would likely cause Dodge to be closed for several months.

�We�ve been in close contact with the athletic department,� Velez said. �It looks as though there will be a period [of closure]. We�re trying, to the extent possible, to overlay that with the summer months.�

The new facility is slated to include an entrance onto 120th Street and connections to Chandler and Pupin, Velez said, and may offer the chance to renovate portions of Dodge. �We have been looking at what opportunities exist as part of this plan to improve Dodge.�

Reyes-Montblanc gave an update on talks between Columbia and CB9 concerning Manhattanville.

�Their technical people and ours will meet to review the 197-a and 197-c. That is progress,� Reyes-Montblanc said. He added that the board is still creating a local development corporation that will negotiate with Columbia over community benefits agreements.

�It was more complicated than we anticipated,� said Reyes-Montblanc, ensuring the attendees that those negotiating will be representative of the community-at-large.

�We don�t want something to be set up and explode in our faces,� Reyes-Montblanc said.

Columbia development was not the only issue on the agenda.

Representatives of Village Academies, which runs charter schools in Harlem, said they will be setting up a permanent charter school which will be located on 144th Street between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard for the upcoming school year. They are asking for applicants currently in the fourth grade. Admission for 60 students will be decided based on a lottery system.

TONIGHT! Film: 'Bastards of the Party'

[ this event is in BROOKLYN this evening ]

Film & Culture Series


In Partnership With
Clara Cardwell Elementary & Middle School
Academy For The Gifted P.S./I.S. 308


'Bastards of the Party'
Directed By: Cle Sloan

Surrounded by death and the brutal lifestyle that feeds it, a Los Angeles gangbanger
explores the history of Southern California street gangs from the 1950s through the
1990s in an attempt to fully understand his existence. Eloquently and passionately
directed, Bastards of the Party humanizes the staggering casualties of the LA gang wars.

The title of this gripping examination of five decades of gang violence in Southern California
refers to the notorious Los Angeles street gangs the Crips and the Bloods, the so-called
bastard children of the radical 60s Black Panther Party. Incorporating a wealth of archival
photos and footage of African Americans throughout history, the film traces the journey of
blacks in this country from their migration from the South to the West at the start of the
industrial revolution to their establishment of local, neighborhood, and musical clubs in the

The documentary chronicles the rise of the Crips, who came about in the late 1960s
in order to fight racist white gangs. Interviews with L.A. historian Mike Davis, author
of the book City of Quartz, fill in the historical blanks about how innocent social clubs,
like the Baby Slausons-christened gangs by law enforcement-set in motion the staggering
dance of death between police and blacks that would come to haunt future generations.

Bastards frankly points an accusing finger at the failure of black leadership, which,
together with the migration of jobs, allowed gang subculture to proliferate.
That proliferation, abetted by police instigation that keeps gang wars alive,
(even during their self-imposed truces), helps to explain why many parts of
Southern California play host to an endless parade of coffins.

'Bastards of the Party' was named Best Documentary
at the American Black Film Festival.

The film will be followed by a community/panel discussion,
'Building A Powerful Future', featuring:

Dalani Aamon, Harambee Radio Founder
Sadiki 'Shep' Ojore Olugbala, Original NY Black Panther
Sol McCants III, Master Photographer/BNYEE Activist
Empress Modupe Olufunmi, Artist/Educator, Secondary School For Journalism
Dr. Luticia Santipriya, Author
April Silver, Entrepreneur, Activist, Writer Founder Akilaworksongs
Cle 'BONE' Sloan, Director/Actor

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Doors open at 6:15PM
Seating is on a first come basis

OPEN MIC HOSTED BY 'Mo Parle' Revolutionary MC'

Film & Culture series program begins
at 7:00pm sharp!

Preceding The Film Will Be A Live Performance By : RL Tha Gifted 1

And a special screening of:

'The Freedom Messengers : Music As Liberation Theology'
A Work In Progress
By Philip Thorne

Medgar Evers College
Founders Auditorium
1650 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225


Take the #2, 3, 4 or 5 train to the Franklin Ave. stop.
The auditorium is between Crown & Montgomery Sts.

Seating is first come first serve to guarantee
seating RSVP by email miles@mec.cuny.edu
with your name and number of guests or call 718-270-6096

Please Bring A Picture ID

'The Sankofa Project'
Spring 2006 Schedule

"Telling Our Stories : Eyewitnesses to History"
Live performances open each program
and dynamic discussions with community leaders,
industry professionals and scholars follow each screening.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Film Screening: 'Favela Rising'

The dilemma of those who live in Rio's slums and struggle to overcome
unbelievable poverty and gang violence seems even more painful since
their favelas overlook one of the world's most beautiful beaches.

Live Performance Featuring : Capoeira Action To AfroReggae Beats

Panel Discussion : 'Brooklyn To Brazil - Creating Unity For Strentgh'
Featuring Omali Yeshitela of the African People's Socialist Party,
and Author Sekou Nkrumah


Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Film Screening:
The Classic! - 'SANKOFA'

Live Performance Featuring : 'Poethica'

Panel Discussion : 'What Is The Role Of The Community?
Where Are We Today?'
Featuring Oyafunmike Ogunlano, lead actress Shola and Mona
in 'Sankofa', Dr. Gail Bell-Baptiste, Principal P.S./I.S. 308,
Dorthy Beatty, MEC Student Advocacy & Support Services

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

'Sista's Speak & Teach'
Film Screening: 'Harlem Mart 125'

Tuesday, April 25, 2006



Resistence to Revolution


The Original, The Most Conscious, The Best
Going Strong Since 2001,
For The People, By The People:

For more information and full film synopsis



For more information on the programs and
performing, vending opportunities and screening
films contact, Miles at 718-270-6096 or e-mail
miles 'at' mec.cuny.edu

This Series is produced in alliance with:

Hollah.com - http://www.hollah.com/ads/m1.html
Imagenation - http://www.imagenation.us/
Artmattan Productions/ADFF - http://www.africanfilm.com/
International Black Panther Film Festival - http://www.pantherfilmfest.com/
Malcolm X Musuem - http://www.themalcolmxmuseum.org/
Harambee Radio - http://www.harambeeradio.com/
FAM - http://www.gameforlife.com/
'Mahogany Blues Magazine' - http://www.mahoganyblues.com/
Hank Shocklee Experience - http://www.shocklee.com/
Hard Hittin Harry Meridian Entertainment - http://www.planetmeridian.com/
Harriet's Alter Ego Clothing - http://www.harrietsalterego.com/
Underground Madness - http://www.undergroundmadness.org/
A-Marketing/Sista Factory - http://www.sistafactory.com/
The Shield - shieldnews@yahoo.com/
AMAG - http://www.awarenessmagazine.net/
Black Documentary Collective - http://www.BDCNY.net/
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement - http://mxgm.org/
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc - http://naacpldf.org/
National Campaign For A Peace Tax Fund - http://www.peacetaxfund.org/
RCP - http://rwor.org/
XyayX Multimedia Productions - http://xyayx.com/
Joseph Webb Experience - http://www.jwebb.info/
Brecht Forum - http://www.brechtforum.org/
Da Ghetto Tymz - http://www.daghettotymz.com/
Hip-Hop Association - http://hiphopassociation.org/
TransAfricaForum - http://www.transafricaforum.org/
FreeMix Radio: Mixtape Radio - http://voxunion.com/
Mr. Tyson Hall - http://www.tysonhall.com/

"Working Together Works" - Don King

please pass on

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bush Proposes Housing Cuts 2007 Budget to Reduce Funding For Homes of Disabled, Seniors

Columbia Spectator

Bush Proposes Housing Cuts
2007 Budget to Reduce Funding For Homes of Disabled, Seniors
By Tom Faure
Spectator Staff Writer

February 15, 2006

President George W. Bush issued his budget for the 2007 fiscal year last week, prompting angry reactions from New York politicians who say it cuts too heavily into vital housing services.

Under the president�s proposal, Community Development Block Grants, a federal program which provides housing funds for state governments, entitlement communities, and loan guarantees, would be cut by $736 million, or 20 percent. Funding for housing for the elderly would drop $189 million, or 26 percent, while funding for housing for persons with disabilities would be cut in half. Public housing would be slashed overall by eight percent, a total of $459 million.

�It will affect everyone in New York City,� Community Board 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said of the housing cuts. �Usually when the city gets short-changed, Harlem is short-changed.�

Nellie Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council, Inc., agreed. �If NYC catches a cold, Harlem catches pneumonia,� she said.

�It�s devastating, but it�s to be expected from the Bush administration,� Bailey said.

President Bush has repeatedly voiced his concern with the increasing federal deficit and has said large cuts are necessary to curb unnecessary spending. In a speech last week on his budget proposal, he said, �Families set priorities. Individual Americans set priorities. Business people set priorities all the time when it comes to setting the budget, and that�s what the federal government needs to do ... The budget I submitted this year proposes to cut discretionary spending that�s not related to defense and homeland security. We will keep the growth in overall discretionary spending below the rate of inflation so we can cut the deficit in half by 2009.�

But several of New York�s elected officials vowed to fight the cuts.

�This is Robin Hood in reverse: the Bush Administration is taking from the poor to give to the rich,� U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) said in a statement. �For a president who touts morality as his guiding light, it�s shocking to see how far he�ll go in denying our elderly, disabled, and working poor their basic right to shelter.�

�We�ll be voting on the budget ... There will be amendments,� said Reid Cherlin, Nadler�s press secretary. �We�re actively looking at our strategy because the cuts were outrageous.�

Cherlin added that Nadler was optimistic concerning the amendment process, though he said it was too early to predict how much of the cuts could be stopped. �There are so many steps in the process, but hopefully we�ll get amendments passed ... they�ll get sent for review, they�ll be negotiated, and hopefully some deals will be cut,� Cherlin said.

Advocates said that the cuts would worsen an already difficult housing situation in the city.

�Massive cutbacks in social programs will lead to even more homeless people,� Bailey said. �Surveys show that the increase in homelessness in this city is unlike anything we�ve seen in the last three decades.�

�The infrastructure is crumbling,� she said. �The priorities have to be addressed locally, as well as nationally.�

�One thing you can be sure is New York City won�t take it laying down,� Reyes-Montblanc said.

Some housing programs are left intact by the president�s budget proposal. Representative Nadler said that Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, a program he has championed, did not appear to have its funding reduced.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Friday, February 10, 2006


Any agency collecting debts from New York City residents must be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and must comply with New York City law, which affords the strongest anti-harassment protection in the country. Illegal debt collection practices rank among the DCA's "Top Five List" of complaints. For more information on the DCA's top complaints, read the press release.

Following is a snapshot of your rights and debt collectors' responsibilities under the law. For more comprehensive advice, please download the DCA's debt collection tip sheet (PDF) and Debt Collection Guide (PDF).

Your Rights

By law, debt collectors must notify you of your right to dispute a debt, and cease collection attempts on disputed debts until a correction has been made or an explanation has been sent.
Prohibited Practices

It is illegal for a debt collection agency to...

Engage in acts of violence, threats of violence, or obscene language.

Call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., or more than twice a week.

Contact your employer, neighbors, family, or friends for any reason other than to locate you. Creditors and debt collectors cannot discuss debts with anyone other than you.
Important Advice

NEVER IGNORE COLLECTION NOTICES. If you do not know if the debt is valid, send by certified mail a letter to the collection agency within 30 days of receiving notice, requesting proof of the original debt/purchase and creditor. After 30 days, if the debt is not disputed, a collection agency is entitled to treat the debt as valid and pursue it further. Once proof of the original debt has been provided, the agency can seek to collect it.

If the debt is valid...

Calculate your finances and try to negotiate a repayment plan that neither over promises nor underreports your ability to pay. Get terms of the agreement in writing. Failure to pay a debt could hurt your credit rating and your ability to obtain loans.
If you do not want the collection agency to continue contacting you, send a cease collection letter by certified mail. Debt collection agencies can send one final notice stating any further legal action they intend to pursue. If you choose this option, the creditor can sue, report you to a credit agency, and take other lawful actions to pursue the debt.
If the debt is not valid...

Send a cease collection letter by certified mail. Debt collection agencies can send one final notice stating any further legal action they intend to pursue. At the same time, consumers should warn the collection agency in writing by certified mail against falsely reporting the debt to anyone else.





To file a complaint about a debt collection agency or to check an agency's complaint history, call 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside the City) or visit www.nyc.gov/consumers.


The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs

This is the NYC.gov News You Requested for:

Consumer Updates

To subscribe please go to this link:

Comment on this news service


Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Blizzard of 2006

The Blizzard of 2006
Hamilton Square Broadway 135th to 138th Streets

February 12th, 2006

Pictures Courtesey of William J. Palma

Blizzard of 2006 is officially second biggest in NYC history


DA Morgenthau announces the indictment of thirteen men on drug and gun trafficking charges stemming from "Operation Take Out"

Robert Morganthau

News Release
February 10, 2006
Contact: Barbara Thompson

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced today the indictment of thirteen men on drug and gun trafficking charges stemming from a long-term investigation, known as �Operation Take Out�, into wholesale cocaine dealing, heroin dealing and firearms trafficking at the El Duarte restaurant, located at 3517 Broadway in Hamilton Heights.

Following the execution of arrest warrants and six search warrants throughout Upper Manhattan, 7 of the 13 defendants indicted are in custody. In addition, 13 other defendants were arrested and charged in criminal complaints with participating in related illegal drug activities within the immediate vicinity of the restaurant.

Today�s indictment was the culmination of a long-term investigation conducted jointly by the New York City Police Department�s Manhattan North Narcotics Major Case Squad and the District Attorney�s Firearms Trafficking Unit.

The investigation used undercover detectives and surveillance to infiltrate a group of wholesale narcotics dealers using the El Duarte restaurant on the corner of West 144th Street and Broadway, as their base of operation. The wholesale narcotics sales were conducted as cash-and-carry transactions, often entailing undercover detectives sitting down with the dealers inside the restaurant, exchanging currency for narcotics and then exiting the restaurant with their �take out� order. Customers commonly would place their orders and negotiate prices with one or more of the defendants, who would relay the order to others; those individuals would in turn retrieve the drugs for �delivery� to the customer at the restaurant. In other cases, the delivery of drugs would be made in the neighboring apartment buildings. Other transactions included a similar �drugs to go� scenario in the dining area of a McDonald�s restaurant located at West 145th Street and Broadway, in which the narcotics trafficker would package cocaine for his customers in McDonald�s take out bags.

The dealers indicted today made �weight� sales of narcotics to lower level drug dealers, who would in turn re-sell the product to users at other locations. These dealers sold cocaine in powder form, available throughout the day at negotiable prices per gram, in large quantities. In all, undercover detectives made 14 narcotics buys constituting class A felony offenses from these dealers. In addition, two of the defendants, MARTIN MARTINEZ and JOHN DOE GLASSES, have been charged with selling a gun to an undercover police officer and one defendant, WALLY RAMIREZ, was charged with selling an imitation controlled substance to an undercover officer.

The following individuals were indicted in connection to this investigation:

MARTIN MARTINEZ, a/k/a �Lalo,� FELIX RAMIREZ, a/k/a �Fran,� HECTOR BOCIO, a/k/a �Waldia,� JULIO TAVERA, a/k/a �Blue,� JOSE PEREZ, a/k/a �Charlie,� ANGEL ROJAS-MERCED, a/k/a �C,� JOHN DOE WHITE, WILLIAM JEREZ, a/k/a �Eddie,� PENA DIESON, a/ka, �Gringo,� DOMINGO VARGAS, a/k/a �Domingo,� CHRISTOPHER NUEZ, a/k/a �J,� WALLY RAMIREZ, a/k/a �Jesus,� and JOHN DOE GLASSES.

The Firearms Trafficking Unit was created in May of 1993 to investigate and prosecute the sources of illegal firearms in New York City. The unit targets gun traffickers, including unlicensed street sellers, and corrupt licensed dealers who provide significant numbers of firearms to street gangs, narcotics crews, and organized crime. The investigation was handled by Assistant District Attorney Jordan Arnold, who will prosecute the case with Assistant District Attorney Christopher Prokop, under the supervision of Unit Chief Dan M. Rather.

Mr. Morgenthau would like to thank Inspector Kenneth Cully, Captain Gerard Staples, Lt. Stephen Betts, Sergeant Michelle Turner, case Detective Marc Valentin, and the undercover detectives of the Narcotics Borough Manhattan North Major Case Squad.

Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree is a class A-I felony which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or more if the defendant is a prior felon. Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree is a class A-II felony which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison or more if the defendant is a predicate felon. Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Third Degree is a class D violent felony which is punishable by up to 7 years in prison. Sale of an Imitation Controlled Substance is a misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 1 year in jail.

Defendant Information:


MARTIN MARTINEZ, a/k/a �Lalo,� * FELIX RAMIREZ, a/k/a �Fran,�
Martin Martinez DOB: 2/28/1958 Felix Ramirez DOB: 1/30/1959
651 W. 158th St. 2070 Clinton Avenue
New York, NY 10031 Bronx, NY 10457
1 count CSF 3, 3 counts CSCS 1 1 count CSCS 1
Maximum sentence: 67 years Maximum sentence: 20 years

HECTOR BOCIO, a/k/a �Waldia,� JULIO TAVERA, a/k/a �Blue,� *
Hector Bocio DOB: 8/14/1955 Julio Tavera DOB: 4/27/1963
529 W. 141st St. Basement Apt. 500 W. 144th St. Apt. 4H
New York, NY 10031 New York, NY 10031
2 counts CSCS 1 1 count CSCS 1
Maximum sentence: 40 years Maximum sentence: 20 years

JOSE PEREZ, a/k/a �Charlie,� ANGEL ROJAS-MERCED, a/k/a �C�
Jose Perez DOB: 1/08/1963 Angel Rojas-Merced DOB: 9/18/1971
740 Riverside Dr. Apt. 4K 3592 Broadway
New York, NY 10031 New York, NY 10031
3 counts CSCS 1 1 count CSCS 1
Maximum sentence: 60 years Maximum sentence: 20 years

Address unkown DOB: unknown William Jerez DOB: 5/16/1968
815 Fox Ave. Apt. 1A
Bronx, NY 10459
1 count CSCS 1 1 count CSCS 2
Maximum sentence: 20 years Maximum Sentence: 10 years

PENA DIESON, a/ka, �Gringo,� DOMINGO VARGAS, a/k/a �Domingo,� *
Pena Dieson DOB: 7/5/1969 Domingo Vargas DOB: 12/24/1964
547 W. 142 St. 607 W. 139th St. Apt. 1B
New York, NY 10031 New York, NY 10031
2 counts CSCS 1 2 counts CSCS 2
Maximum sentence: 40 years Maximum sentence: 40 years

CHRISTOPHER NUEZ, a/k/a �J� WALLY RAMIREZ, a/k/a �Jesus,� *
Christopher Nuez DOB: 3/15/1986 Wally Ramirez DOB: 1/27/1980
615 W 144th St. Apt 4D 640 W. 140th St.
New York, NY 10031 New York, NY 10031
3 counts CSCS 1 1 count CS Imitation CS
Maximum sentence: 49 years Maximum sentence: 1 year

Address unknown DOB: unknown

1 count CSF 3
Maximum sentence: 7 years

* Still being sought




News Release
February 10, 2006
Contact: Barbara Thompson

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced today the indictment of two teenagers on charges stemming from the gunpoint robbery of a 19-year old Manhattan resident in East Harlem last week. A third individual is still being sought by law enforcement.

GILBERT CRUZ, 18, and JOVANY FLORES, 15, have been indicted for Robbery in the First and Second Degrees and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property. The robbery occurred on February 1, 2006 in front of a building on the corner of East 119th Street and First Avenue. CRUZ will be arraigned today in New York State Supreme Court. He is in custody in lieu of $15,000 bail. FLORES was arraigned on February 9th and released on $3,500 bail.

The investigation leading to today�s action revealed that the victim was entering his building at about 1:30am when he was confronted by FLORES, CRUZ and the unapprehended young man who was holding the gun. The defendants took the victim�s coat and two cell phones and fled. The victim followed the three defendants and told the police the direction in which they were headed. Later that day, after further investigation, FLORES and CRUZ were arrested. The police recovered one of the victim�s cell phones from CRUZ and the second cell phone was recovered from FLORES. The investigation into the whereabouts of the third individual continues.

Robbery in the First Degree is a class B felony which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison; Robbery in the Second Degree is a class C felony which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison; Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree is a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail.

Assistant District Attorney Patricia O�Connor presented the case to the grand jury and will be in charge of the prosecution.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sewage fireball threat in blackout

New York Daily News - Home -

Sewage fireball threat in blackout

'03 Harlem near miss


A sewage treatment plant in Harlem nearly exploded into a "catastrophic" fireball during the 2003 blackout - a disaster only averted by a city worker armed with an old broomstick, new records show.
The dangerous near disaster, never revealed by the city, was detailed this week in federal court documents as part of a plea agreement with the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

Under the deal, the DEP admitted that it failed to maintain backup generators at a sewage treatment plant in Red Hook, Brooklyn - causing some 30 million gallons of raw sewage to dump into the East River during the August 2003 blackout.

But records also show that DEP screwups at another plant, the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant between 137th and 145th Sts. on the Hudson River in Harlem, nearly caused a huge fireball that could have threatened nearby homes.

"We have been advised," wrote U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia in a memo to the court last month, "that this situation created the risk of a catastrophic explosion near a residential neighborhood."

Garcia's investigators concluded that when the blackout hit, the lack of working generators at North River caused a flame that safely burns methane gas at the plant to go out, much like a pilot light going out inside a boiler.

With the burner extinguished, methane gas slowly built up - creating a time bomb that was defused only after "a DEP employee, at considerable risk to himself," lit an old broomstick and reignited the burner, records show.

The actions of the employee - who was not identified in court papers or by the DEP yesterday - assured that "excess gas could be burned off and an explosion avoided," Garcia concluded.

DEP officials yesterday disputed that any real danger existed and argued that the plant is designed to safely vent methane gas, even in the absence of electricity.

"We deny that there could be a catastrophic explosion," said DEP spokesman Charles Sturcken, whose agency agreed to submit to federal oversight of its wastewater operations for three years as a result of lapses exposed in the blackout.

But news of the methane mixup yesterday outraged some Harlem leaders, who as recently as Monday were briefed by DEP officials on plans to install new backup generators at the plant but were not told of any past problems.

"I am disappointed that this has not been known by more people in the community," said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9 in West Harlem.

"I'm an old Marine and I have been blown up several times," Reyes-Montblanc added. "So when I read 'catastrophic,' I can really visualize the fires of hell."

Originally published on February 9, 2006

Sewage Failure in Blackout Puts City Under Court's Thumb

New York Times

February 8, 2006

Sewage Failure in Blackout Puts City Under Court's Thumb

New York City's Department of Environmental Protection admitted yesterday that its failure to maintain and repair backup generators at several sewage treatment plants violated environmental laws and caused the illegal discharge of 30 million gallons of untreated human waste into the East River during the 2003 blackout.

As a result, a federal judge ordered the agency to submit to court oversight for at least three years as part of a probation sentence, under which the department or its employees cannot violate federal, state or local laws.

This is the second time in five years that the department has been put under court supervision and on probation for violating federal environmental laws.

Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney whose office has been investigating the department for more than five years, said the agency had failed to meet a basic responsibility of ensuring that the pumps were in good working order so they could be used in an emergency like the blackout, which knocked out power to 50 million people in the Northeastern United States.

"The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is entrusted with performing critical functions for all New Yorkers, including the provision of drinking water and the prevention of water pollution," Mr. Garcia said in a statement. "Today's proceeding is an important milestone in achieving the goal of this federal prosecution: to ensure that the D.E.P. complies with all applicable environmental and worker safety laws while carrying out its responsibilities."

The legal penalty is the latest embarrassment for one of the city's largest bureaucracies, an agency of more than 6,000 employees that oversees an enormous system of aqueducts and reservoirs from Staten Island to the Catskill Mountains.

The department was put on probation and forced to submit to a court-mandated monitor in 2001 after a federal investigation found a renegade attitude among some workers in the upstate watershed who ignored federal environmental laws or treated them as mere nuisances.

Among other things, the prosecutors found that the department had allowed mercury to enter the vast reservoirs that provide the city with more than a billion gallons of potable water a day. It was also using equipment that was contaminated with PCB's near the water supply.

Emily Lloyd, the department's commissioner, said she would have preferred to resolve the sewage violation in some other way other than back in the courtroom, but she said she understood the court's position.

"The fact of the matter is that we were already under probation," she said. "The expectation is that you don't make mistakes."

The department's past problems have played out largely out of public view. Nearly 900 of its employees work in the 2,000-square-mile upstate watershed, as far as 125 miles from the city. Most do not report to a central headquarters, and communication in the region is spotty.

Since he began his oversight in 2001, the monitor, A. Patrick Nucciarone, has documented how the department, which was an independent authority with sweeping powers until 1978, had developed its own culture, one ruled by engineers who neither lived nor worked in New York City, and who treated some federal regulations as mere irritants.

Some workers at the city's reservoirs upstate were not treating potential pollutants as serious hazards because they believed that the vast quantities of water would dilute any threat so much that that it could pose no danger.

Mr. Nucciarone has told the court that despite occasional violations � as in the case of an employee who was convicted last year of falsifying water quality records � the department, under Ms. Lloyd and her predecessor, Christopher Ward, has made substantial improvements in management and communications, clearing up violations and imposing new standards and regulations.

But problems remain. In yesterday's proceeding in United States District Court in White Plains, department officials admitted that backup power systems in two of the city's 14 sewage treatment plants that should have kicked in immediately after the lights went out in August 2003 did not function properly.

Without electricity to run the pumps, thousands of gallons of wastewater were dumped into New York waterways, forcing the closing of city beaches and increasing the amount of fecal coliform, or human waste, in the water to unsafe levels.

Officials said employees knew that the diesel-powered generators at the wastewater treatment plant in Red Hook, Brooklyn, had not worked for two years. There also were unaddressed problems at the North River plant on the Hudson River.

Workers tried repeatedly to have the motors repaired, or to hire contractors to fix them, but never completed the job. On the day the blackout began, the critical machines were inoperable.

The malfunctioning generators and the resultant discharge of sewage are violations of federal and state laws. But the department will not be prosecuted for those violations. Instead, the department admitted to violating the terms of the court ruling from 2001.

Department officials questioned whether the United States attorney's office had unfairly singled out New York, since the sewage systems in many other cities also failed during the blackout.

For example, Cleveland discharged at least 60 million gallons of raw sewage into the Cuyahoga River, Lake Erie, and other bodies of water near the city because it had no backup power during the blackout. And Detroit was under an advisory to boil water for a week after the city's water treatment plants lost power.

Neither city has faced federal prosecution as a result of those failures, city officials said.

"We wish that the U.S. attorney's office had recognized that there was a massive blackout and that the D.E.P.'s conduct didn't warrant a probation violation," said Paul Schectman, the department's lawyer. "But since we were on probation already, and we had failed to comply with the regulations, their heightened scrutiny is understandable."

Judge Charles L. Brieant of the United States District Court in White Plains said yesterday that improvements in the department's upstate operations had been significant.

"We mustn't lose site of the progress that's been made despite this very serious violation," the judge said. He ordered the special monitor's supervision of the watershed to end on schedule in August.

However, the department itself will remain on probation, and the monitor will shift his attention to the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment. The term of probation will be at least three years, but if the situation does not improve sufficiently, it could be extended for up to two years.

The department will also have to develop an aggressive new compliance program that will train its employees to deal with environmental, health and safety regulations to avoid future violations.

Anne C. Ryan, the assistant United States attorney who handled the case, called the treatment plant malfunction "a serious violation" of the department's probation. But she said the extended probation and the new compliance program represented a step toward "reforming the culture and practices of this agency."

While the violations and the extended monitoring probation have damaged the reputation of the department, Commissioner Lloyd said, none of the violations had had a lasting impact on the quality of the water the department provides to the city.

"The quality of the water in the rivers and the harbor has continued to get better, very significantly better over time, and that is a progression that is not questioned, and will only continue," Ms. Lloyd said.

New York Council Calendar for the week of 02/13/2006 to 02/17/2006

Subject: RE:Council Calendar
Date: 2/10/2006 4:29:51 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: webmaster@council.nyc.ny.us
To: ReysmontJ@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

New York Council Calendar for the week of 02/13/2006 to 02/17/2006:
DATE: Monday, February 13, 2006
COMMITTEE: Aging, Chairperson(s):Maria del Carmen Arroyo
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Oversight - The Elderly and Social Isolation

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Civil Rights, Chairperson(s):Larry B. Seabrook
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor
Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: Economic Development, Chairperson(s):Thomas White, Jr.
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Oversight - Recent Changes in New York State's Empire Zone Law and its implications for New York City

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* General Welfare, Chairperson(s):Bill de Blasio
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Oversight - HRA's job training and job placement programs for New Yorkers receiving public assistance

COMMITTEE: Parks & Recreation, Chairperson(s):Helen D. Foster
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Oversight - Distribution of Department of Parks Funds Throughout the Boroughs - Part ll

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Education, Chairperson(s):Robert Jackson
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall

Oversight - The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) Lawsuit, the Governor's Failure to Comply and the Impact on New York City Schools.

Res. No. 14-A - By Council Members Jackson, Fidler, Comrie and The Speaker (Council Member Quinn), Arroyo, Brewer, Dickens, Foster, Garodnick, Gentile, Gerson, Gonzalez, James, Katz, Koppell, Lappin, Liu, Mark-Viverito, McMahon, Mealy, Recchia Jr., Reyna, Rivera, Seabrook, Sears, Stewart, Vann, Weprin, Addabbo Jr., Clarke, Gennaro, Martinez, Palma, Sanders Jr., Vacca, White Jr. and Mendez - Resolution - calling upon Governor George Pataki to immediately abide by the court order in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit and fully fund New York City?s public schools, in consideration of the emergency facing our school system.

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Waterfronts, Chairperson(s):Michael C. Nelson
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor
Organizational Meeting

DATE: Tuesday, February 14, 2006
COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Oversight and Investigations, Chairperson(s):Eric N. Gioia
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: Technology in Government, Chairperson(s):Gale A. Brewer
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall

Oversight - Expanding 311 Service to Include Information on Social and Nonprofit Services

COMMITTEE: Transportation, Chairperson(s):John C. Liu
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor

Oversight - Truck, Trucks, Everywhere: Does the City Make Any Effort to Manage Truck Traffic?

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Joint Meeting. Public Safety; General Welfare , Chairperson(s):Peter F. Vallone, Jr., Bill de Blasio
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Oversight - Coordination between the Police Department and the Administration for Children's Services in responding to reports of child abuse and neglect

COMMITTEE: Housing & Buildings, Chairperson(s):Erik Martin Dilan
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Organizational Meeting

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Waterfronts, Chairperson(s):Michael C. Nelson
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Civil Rights, Chairperson(s):Larry B. Seabrook
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor
DETAILS: Organizational Meeting

DATE: Wednesday, February 15, 2006
COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Health, Chairperson(s):Joel Rivera
TIME: 10:30 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Int. 758-A - By Council Members Quinn, Addabbo, Jr., Brewer, Clarke, James, Jennings, Liu, Palma, Seabrook, Sears, Stewart, Weprin, Jackson and Martinez - A Local Law - to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the Health Care Security Act.

M 11 - Communication for the Mayor - Mayor's veto and disapproval message of Introductory Number 758-A, in relation to the Health Care Security Act.

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Finance, Chairperson(s):David I. Weprin
TIME: 11:00 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Preconsidered LU ___ - Section 202 Supportive Housing Program for the Elderly, Los Sures Senior Housing, 145 South 3rd Street, Brooklyn, Community District No. 34.

COMMITTEE: , Chairperson(s):
Council Chambers - City Hall

Stated Council Meeting Ceremonial Tributes......... - 1:00 p.m. Agenda.............................................................................. - 1:30 p.m.

DATE: Thursday, February 16, 2006
COMMITTEE: Environmental Protection, Chairperson(s):James F. Gennaro
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor
Oversight - A look at the City's underground storage tank systems, including the recent federal consent decree regarding these systems.

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, Chairperson(s):Alan J. Gerson
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services, Chairperson(s):G. Oliver Koppell
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: Civil Service & Labor, Chairperson(s):Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Oversight - Issues Facing Our City's Workers in 2006

COMMITTEE: Contracts, Chairperson(s):Yvette D. Clarke
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 16th Floor
Organizational Meeting

COMMITTEE: Juvenile Justice, Chairperson(s):Sara M. Gonzalez
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Organizational Meeting

COMMITTEE: Veterans, Chairperson(s):Hiram Monserrate
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Details to be announced
Tour: The USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Details to follow

DATE: Friday, February 17, 2006
COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services, Chairperson(s):G. Oliver Koppell
TIME: 10:30 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
Organizational Meeting

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Public Housing, Chairperson(s):Rosie Mendez
TIME: 11:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall
Oversight - The New York City Housing Authority's Implementation of the Community Service Requirement

*Selected Commitees are not listed.
This is an automated mailer, so please confirm these dates by checking the Hearings and Meetings Calendar on our website, for the schedule may change at the last minute. Thank you.
The Webmaster of the New York City Council

Food and Drink Newsletter 2/9/2006

Subject: Food and Drink Newsletter
Date: 2/9/2006 11:28:44 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Food_and_Drink@email.trb.com
To: ReysmontJ@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Brown sugar and Bourbon
baby back ribs
(Photo by Mel Melcon)

Los Angeles Times

Brown sugar, Bourbon baby back ribs

Cooking time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Preparation time: Overnight marinating
Servings: 4

1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Bourbon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
2 pounds baby back ribs (1 rack)
Purchased barbecue sauce

1. Mix the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, Bourbon, garlic, salt, pepper and cayenne in a bowl. Place the ribs in a baking pan and pour the sauce over both sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees; meanwhile, bring the ribs to room temperature. Pour off all of the marinade and reserve.

3. Line a clean baking pan with foil and arrange the ribs, meat side up, in the pan. Cover the ribs tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour.

4. Remove the foil and continue to roast for another hour, basting the ribs as desired and making sure they don't burn. Cut into individual ribs and serve warm with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Nutrition information per serving:
588 calories; 26 grams protein; 36 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 31 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 122 mg. cholesterol; 850 mg. sodium.

Thursday, February 09, 2006



Gas Extraction
to work



Lake Kivu, between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo is unique in the world : its deep waters contain an enormous
quantity of dissolved gas (3/4 carbon dioxide, � methane).

When static,
this highly stratified lake, is stable and benign. A powerful disturbance caused
by the volcanic activity of Nyiragongo, situated on the north shore of the lake,
could cause an upsurge of deep water charged with dissolved gas.

These waters
would release, either through localised and limited emanations or through a cataclysmic explosion involving a large part of the lake, a large quantity of suffocating gas which would threaten the safety of neighbouring populations.

Remember that Lake Nyos, in Cameroon, was the site of a gas explosion in 1986 which caused the death by suffocation of 1800 people in an area of 30 km around the lake. Lake Kivu contains 1000 times more gas than Lake Nyos and there are millions of people living under threat.

W e decided to conduct a multidisciplinary study of the physico-chemical properties of Lake Kivu with the aim of evaluating the risk of gas explosion in various scenarios involving the activity of Nyiragongo (eruption or sub-lacustrine magmatic intrusion, effusion of lava during a fissural eruption,as occurred in January 2002).

Lahmeyer& OSAE. Bathymetric Survey of Lake Kivu

Monday, February 06, 2006

CRD Newsletter: "Saving Sherman Creek"

Subject: CRD Newsletter: "Saving Sherman Creek"
Date: 2/6/2006 3:54:57 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
From: crd@manhattan-institute.org
To: reysmontj@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

The Manhattan Institute�s
Center for Rethinking Development

Ideas that shape the city�s planning, housing, and development
A Monthly Newsletter by Julia Vitullo-Martin, MI Senior Fellow
Saving Sherman Creek

Julia Vitullo-Martin, January-February 2006

What's the best use for a 150-acre peninsula in Northern Manhattan bordered on one side by the thriving, teeming neighborhood of Inwood and on two sides by the Harlem River? In an ideal world, the answer would be mixed-use development of housing, retail, and commercial coupled with waterfront access.

But the land in question, called Sherman Creek and the subject of a Jan. 31 breakfast panel at the Harvard Club sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, is a desolate, low-rise jumble of Con Ed substations, garages, subway yards, parking lots, auto repair shops, markets, and a lonely school. Just moving Con Ed would be a stupendous task. Decking over the subway yards would be almost as difficult. Those two impediments are huge, but the government parking lots and garages run by the Departments of Transportation and Sanitation offer pretty serious problems as well. The two agencies have to park their trucks somewhere, and no other Manhattan or Bronx neighborhood is likely to welcome them if they're pushed out of Sherman Creek.

Nonetheless, visionary Inwood and Washington Heights residents have worked for decades to produce plans and proposals for rezoning the area to permit residential and commercial development�and to rid it of at least some of the noxious uses. The executive director of the Department of City Planning, Richard Barth, says the administration is sympathetic and has set up an inter-agency task force to talk about the many obstacles to implementation. "There's probably a consensus now that Sherman Creek is an area ripe both for regulatory change and for redevelopment. But we still have to be able to provide city services for New York's growing population, and Con Ed has to worry about energy. Con Ed is a major landholder, and whatever the plan, it must work for us, the community, and for Con Ed," Barth cautions. Economist Regina Armstrong notes that along with other industrial areas, Sherman Creek has been losing employment, even as housing demand and property values in Inwood have surged.


If you cross the 207th Street Bridge (known locally as the Broadway Bridge), you come to an area that 10 years ago was the mirror image of Sherman Creek. Today the most successful shopping center in the Bronx stands on 9 � acres that once held auto parts stores, chop shops, an abandoned warehouse owned by Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and a chicken stand.

From 1999 to 2002, developer Paul Travis, managing partner of Kingsbridge Associates (formerly of Washington Square Partners), acquired six privately owned parcels, originally for Home Depot, which pulled out of the deal when a new CEO came in. "Even though we were halfway through assembling the lots and were out to the bank for millions of dollars, this was a very lucky thing for us because it made us really look at the area," Travis recalls "There's an artificial division between Manhattan and the Bronx on the maps and in the minds of outsiders, but not in the minds of locals, who just walk back and forth across the bridge, and think of it all as one area. We saw the explosive population growth, and also the growth in income, and realized we should do something very different from what we planned."

Travis ended up building a shopping center as a venture with Target Stores that included a Marshall's and a Starbucks. "People thought we were insane," he says, "but that Starbucks is now the 7th highest grossing in the United States." A zip code study undertaken by Target showed they were getting enormous pull from North and South of the shopping center, but very little from the West Bronx, which is immediately to the East. This was the opposite of what they had anticipated. Their main market turned out to be higher-income Manhattan households whose pent-up demand had gone unrecognized.

The site that now supports 1100 jobs had only 55 when Washington Square Partners began�a startling example of low-grade industrial converting to high-grade commercial. Travis believes this commercial success could extend to Sherman Creek, particularly if joined with residential development. The first problem, however, is that current zoning restricts commercial development to two stories�despite strong commercial demand in the area. (Retail and commercial ground-floor space is fully rented.)


Talking about what a community wants is tricky, of course, since neighborhoods are diverse. But architect Warren Antonio James, who conducted a study and developed an area plan for the Audubon Partnership, says the number one issue has been and will continue to be housing. He would like to see R7 zoning (mid-rise housing) extended to the water's edge, eliminating low-rise R3. At the same time he opposes high-rise housing, noting that many Latinos tend to equate it with undesirable low-income housing�and that Latinos, particularly Dominicans, constitute a majority in Inwood. Across and down the Harlem River stand the 40-story River Towers, the tallest in the Bronx and objectionable to many residents of Inwood as overly domineering of the waterfront as well as too dense. James envisions Sherman Creek as "affordable," meaning that the rents of moderate-income households would be subsidized to let them live there.

There's the crux, says Travis. How will you pay for the subsidies on the affordable units unless you have a majority of market-rate units with good enough views to command high rents? (He believes the finest view in all of New York is from the top of the Target store, which has a clear sight all the way to the Statue of Liberty.) Economist Regina Armstrong, who authored a study of the area for the Manhattan Institute, believes Sherman Creek could take density of up to 7,500 people but that its planning should be done in conjunction with the redevelopment of Fordham Landing, directly across the river in the Bronx. Like Sherman Creek, Fordham Landing has low-grade industrial uses, primarily housing flatbed containers relocated from Highbridge Yards. (Sadly, Fordham Landing is a field of broken dreams, having once been the site of a middle-income housing initiative that never materialized.)

The most workable proposal, Travis argues, would be 50-30-20 housing, meaning 50% market, 30% moderate-income, and 20% low-income. He doesn't believe Sherman Creek could sustain 100% market, on the one hand, nor would the project be able to pay for more than 50% affordable units. While some area residents have called for housing that his "100% affordable," Travis notes that Inwood has many 2nd generation households that are doing very well financially, and for whom very little housing exists. "They want to stay in the neighborhood," he says, "but they want larger, better units than rent-stabilized housing offers. A lot of locals are doing very well and have more income than ever before."


The ball is in the city's court, but whether it gets played quickly depends on community pressure. Only city officials are really able to negotiate with Con Ed, the elephant in Sherman Creek, or even with other city officials at the Departments of Transportation or Sanitation. The Bloomberg administration has been immensely successful in tackling rezoning in the city�s southern regions. Now it should turn its eyes northward.

All Sherman Creek illustrations courtesy of Kingsbridge Associates.