Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Governor Cuomo Resigns - What Does This Mean For Mass Transit and Infrastructure Projects?

Governor Cuomo looking at progress of the 72nd Street Second Avenue subway station
 in December 2016 
NY GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

Cuomo resigns. What does that mean?

We believe that as long as he has a telephone and a computer, not much, other than the title of Governor. And we still have the COVID deaths in nursing homes to investigate and hold him accountable for.

This is New York, where the web of politics strangles independent thinkers. 

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, Advocatz.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

What Cuomo’s Resignation Could Mean For Mass Transit and Infrastructure

By Stephen Nessen, Gothamist, August 11, 2021

When Governor Andrew Cuomo steps down in two weeks, he leaves behind a legacy of transportation and infrastructure projects — from bridges to airports, to a new train station in midtown Manhattan. Other projects have yet to begin or secure the funding they need, but transportation watchdogs are optimistic that the incoming governor, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Hochul, and whoever comes after her, will keep them on track.

As governor, Cuomo has lorded over transportation projects for better and worse, and has called the shots from Albany on many matters that affect the daily commute in the New York City region. Most prominently, he controls the MTA by recommending the majority of its 21 board members, and approving all of them.


“One can hope that transit professionals will be able to serve independently, and have space to do their jobs,” said Rachael Fauss, senior research analyst with the good government group Reinvent Albany.


Former New York City Transit President Andy Byford said the main reason he resigned in January 2020 was because of the Governor making his job “intolerable,” and that he was being “undermined.”


MTA board member Neal Zuckerman, who has been on the board since 2014, said Cuomo’s involvement moved along some major projects. Three Second Avenue subway stops opened, East Side Access is nearly complete, and four new Metro-North stations in the Bronx are on track to be completed.


“It is certainly true that in those years, related directly to greater involvement from Governor Cuomo and through his representatives, there have [sic] been an increased focus on operational efficiency and capital investment and it has benefited New Yorkers,” Zuckerman wrote in a statement. But, he added that he’ll be glad to see an end to the governor’s interference with the board’s decision-making.


“The MTA, as an independent public authority, should be governed as one,” he said.


Board member David Jones said Cuomo’s successor will need to remain focused on the MTA’s expected deficit in the coming years — up to a $3.5 billion in 2024 and 2025 combined if there are no fare hikes, wage freezes, or reductions in service. And the agency is still trying to figure out how to get more people back to mass transit, due to plummeted ridership during the pandemic.


“We have a lot at risk here, we’ve seen it from a lot of the projections that we’re going to need resources into mass transit,” Jones said.


Two of Cuomo’s appointees to the MTA board were cited in Attorney General Letita James’ report that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women, and it’s unclear if they would have to step down along with the governor.


Board member Linda Lacewell, who is also Department of Financial Services Superintendent and a former special counsel to Cuomo, was referenced several times. The report says she helped co-write a statement about Cuomo’s integrity, and one victim said Lacewell was involved in working to discredit Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan.


In March, MTA board member and Cuomo confidante Larry Schwartz, who was named the state's "Vaccine Czar," called county executives to drum up support for the governor, after a second allegation of sexual misconduct surfaced.


The group Riders Alliance has held frequent rallies and press conferences condemning Cuomo for playing politics when it comes to mass transit. The group is looking forward to seeing what Hochul could do to improve it.


“The future of the city and state hinges on our governor putting fast, frequent, reliable, affordable, and accessible public transit at the top of her crowded policy agenda. Riders will look to Governor Hochul to empower competent MTA leaders and give them the resources they need to provide the services we demand,” spokesperson Danny Pearlstine wrote in a statement.


Other regional projects are likely to forge ahead without Cuomo.


He recently balked at supporting the Gateway project, which would require a mix of federal and local funds to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River, and repair another damaged by Hurricane Sandy. He questioned whether New York would contribute its share of the funding, and seemed to be tying Gateway to his redevelopment plans for Penn Station. But with a deadline at the end of August for all parties to get paperwork in to federal officials, it now appears Gateway is still on track.


"New York State has made its support for and commitment to Gateway clear time and again, including in its most recent capital and financial plan published just a few days ago,” according to a statement from Stephen Sigmund, a spokesperson for the Gateway Project. “Today's announcement does not change that commitment,” he said of the governor’s resignation.


Cuomo was a champion of airports, pushing renovations and upgrades at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia, as well as the controversial AirTrain plan in Northern Queens. There were also his bridge projects, with expanded lanes opening on the Kosciuszko Bridge in 2019, and the replacement of the ailing Tappan Zee Bridge with new spans named after his father in 2017. In the midst of the pandemic, he heralded the opening of the Moynihan Train Station, across the street from Penn Station, and now used by Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road riders.


“Any one of these projects is more than any one individual,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of the Regional Plan Association. “I think what’s been put in place is going to remain, and in particular with the federal funding coming through, now’s not the time to slow down, take a pause, rethink things, but rather to try to move forward and try to complete them.”


On the day Cuomo announced his resignation, the U.S. Senate passed President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, although its fate in the House is uncertain. An expected $11 billion from the bill could flow to the MTA for major projects Cuomo championed, like the next phase of the Second Avenue subway into East Harlem, and the Gateway Project. A key component of Gateway includes expanding Penn Station and redeveloping midtown, a project Cuomo made the centerpiece of his final state of the state speech this year.


There’s also the future of congestion pricing, which could raise a billion dollars a year for mass transit. The plan to charge drivers that enter Manhattan below 60th Street was approved by Cuomo in 2019, held up by the Trump administration, and then moved forward by the Biden administration this spring. It appears congestion pricing is not a priority for Cuomo because the MTA has not created the paperwork the federal government requires to move it forward, a point Mayor Bill de Blasio flagged last month.


“New York City’s congestion pricing plan is mission critical for generating a new revenue stream for the MTA, reducing traffic congestion in Manhattan, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a statement from Renae Reynolds, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


“As the city recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, the new governor must move quickly to implement congestion pricing fully and fairly, provide more frequent subway, bus, and commuter rail service, and build out a more accessible transit network.”

Thursday, June 24, 2021

PS 197 Used By AP and Teacher as a Place For Sex Tryst

 

Assistant Principal Sergio Herrera

I don't know which is more disturbing about this story - what the AP and teacher did, or why they thought they could get away with it. The secrets of the New York City Department of Education would make a great movie.

Jessenia Zapata

My opinion is that the NYC DOE "allows" people to do something wrong and then picks the people who blow the whistle to remove from their jobs. Here, Herrera will probably be given a job as an administrator within the walls of 52 Chambers street, similar to Santiago Taveras while Ms. Zappata will be put into a rubber room.


 Betsy Combier

betsy.combier@gmail.com

Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials


Sex ed! NYC teacher and her married boss had trysts in school library, science labs
by Jason Beeferman and Selim Algar, NY POST, June 23, 2021

A married principal and his teacher lover turned their Queens elementary school into a hot sheets motel — having sex everywhere from the library to the science labs, sometimes while kids were in class, sources told The Post.

Officials are now investigating Assistant Principal Sergio Herrera for allegedly conducting a torrid affair with underling Jessenia Zapata — and threatening the jobs of staffers who found out, the sources said.

“This is a school run by fear,” said one of nearly a dozen sources at PS 197 in Far Rockaway, who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity.

“Everyone is scared to say anything. We don’t know what else to do.”

The Special Commissioner of Investigation is in possession of text messages that indicate Herrera and Zapata had sex in their school building during workdays, the sources said.

“I just had sex with him in his office,” Zapata wrote to a colleague during a school day in October 2019. “We’re in library now. Girl it was worth the risk.”

The venue changed to a science room on another occasion, according to a message.

“We just had sex in rickys lab in the closet,” Zapata wrote in a December 2019 message viewed by The Post.

Several school staffers said they were appalled.

“How is a parent going to feel that this is going on in their kid’s school?” a teacher said. “It’s just totally inappropriate and shows that they feel like they can do anything.”

School sources said Herrera and Zapata also schemed to call out sick on the same day to meet at a hotel

“U think people r going to talking shit if we r both out?” Herrera asked before the October 2019 meeting.

“Idgaf anymore,” Zapata replied. “Let them talk amor.”

Herrera, who is married, grew concerned that their activities were drawing attention at the school — and confronted one teacher about the rumors in a January 2020 meeting.

With Zapata in the room, Herrera told the crying educator that he would extinguish her career if she didn’t tell him who knew of the relationship or if she ever leaked word of it.

Meanwhile, Zapata has been shown favoritism in her school assignments and currently oversees the third grade as a grade leader, sources said.

Herrera’s wife eventually found out about the affair and furiously alerted principal Christina Villavicencio in 2020, sources said.

Concerned teachers contacted their union representatives late last year and the SCI began an investigation this January that is ongoing.

“Our schools must be safe havens for all students and staff, and these are very troubling allegations,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon. “Immediately following these allegations being reported, the teacher was reassigned to a different supervisor and there is an ongoing, independent investigation to determine appropriate next steps.”

School sources said that Zapata and Herrera still appear together on Zoom meetings related to curriculum and maintain close professional ties.

Zapata declined to comment on the allegations.

Herrera could not be reached.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Parcare Vaccine Fraud: Who is Investigating AG Letisha James?

 

ParCare CEO Gary Schlesinger [photo: Paul Martinka]

OK, so Attorney General Letitia James is "chummy" with Gary Schlesinger, whose company allegedly fraudulently obtained 2,300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and she recuses herself from the investigation by her office.

Our question is: who is investigating AG James?

Gov. Cuomo says AG to probe vaccine ‘fraud,’ vows $1M fine for violations

We want to know.

Betsy Combier
Susan Edelman, NYPOST, January 2, 2021

State Attorney General Letitia James has recused herself from the ParCare vaccination probe “to avoid even an appearance of conflict,” her office told The Post.

The AG’s office will still investigate whether ParCare Community Health Network “fraudulently” obtained 2,300 doses of the coveted Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, a case referred by Gov. Cuomo,  but James will have “zero involvement,” officials said.

James is chummy with the boss of the embattled network, which runs four Brooklyn clinics, one in upstate Kiryas Joel and another in Harlem.

Gov. Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker have accused ParCare of misidentifying itself as a “qualified health center” to obtain the vaccine from the state Health Department.

ParCare said it administered 869 of 2,300 vaccine doses, and handed over the remainder, along with documentation “regarding the proper receipt of the vaccines.” The company denied any wrongdoing, and vowed to cooperate with the probe.

The recusal was announced after questions were raised whether James — a former City Councilwoman in central Brooklyn and NYC Public Advocate — is too friendly with PareCare CEO Gary Schlesinger.

“In order to avoid even an appearance of conflict, the Attorney General has personally recused herself from this matter,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

A  fixture in the Orthodox Jewish community, Schlesinger was photographed smiling broadly alongside James at a 2015 Democratic Party fund-raiser at Junior’s restaurant in downtown Brooklyn.

In January 2016, Schlesinger posted a Facebook photo of himself next to James and ParCare’s executive team, captioned, “catching up with the energetic NYC Public Advocate Letitia James to discuss healthcare needs of Brooklyn’s underserved communities.”

In  2017, Schlesinger posted a photo of himself and James “celebrating last night with my friend,” calling her the “future NYC mayor.” 

In 2018, James ran for state attorney general instead of mayor. Schlesinger was a key supporter of James’ AG campaign, and reportedly was involved in running a PAC to help her get elected.

“I endorse Tish James, who is devoted to fair justice for all and religious liberty which is why I join Jewish community leaders and advocates to endorse” her, Schlesinger posted on Facebook, one of several messages urging followers to vote for her.

The history of Schlesinger’s political alliance with James, and Cuomo plopping the ParCare probe into the AG’s lap, has raised eyebrows.

No one’s taking it seriously as a threat,” said an Orthodox Jewish resident.  “It’s known she’s very good friends with the Hasidic community. She’s  unlikely to do anything  to jeopardize that relationship.”

AG officials said the Brooklyn born-and-bred James knows a wide range of political and community leaders in the borough, and that her relationship with Schlesinger will not compromise the probe.

“Our office will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead,” a spokesperson said in the statement.

The offices of Cuomo and Zucker would not explain why the state failed to check ParCare’s credentials before shipping the vaccines.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

NY Public Schools' v Charters Teacher Credentialing Battle

 


NewYork’s Teacher-Credentialing Battle

As charters train teachers their own way, the floundering establishment fights back.

Larry Sand, City Journal, November  2017

A new study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) comparing academic achievement in traditional public schools (TPS), charter management organizations (CMOs), and independent charters in New York City found charters generally superior to their traditional cousins, with charter elementary school students outperforming traditional public school students in reading and math. The gains for independent charter schools—those charters not part of a network—also outdid TPS, but by a smaller margin. Not only do charters do it better; they also do it for less money. A recent University of Arkansas study shows that charters are educating children in New York City for almost $5,000 a year less than traditional public schools.

At about the same time that the CREDO report was released, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers filed a lawsuit claiming that proposed new standards, which allow charter schools to certify their own teachers, will water down the quality of the schools’ educators. The suggested changes, authorized by the State University of New York’s charter school committee, suggest that teachers could be certified after 160 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of teaching practice, rather than going through the seemingly endless process required of TPS teachers, who ultimately must earn a master’s degree to teach in New York.

The value, if any, of a master’s degree on teacher quality, is minimal—as I can attest, from my own experience in education school. “Paying teachers on the basis of master’s degrees is equivalent to paying them based on hair color,” Harvard researcher Tom Kane maintains. The progressive Center for American Progress reports that teachers with master’s degrees “are no more effective, on average, than their counterparts without master’s degrees.”

New York’s charter proponents want to change the standards in part because many schools are short on teachers and because they believe that they can train teachers better than traditional education schools can. New York City TPS are also facing a teacher shortage, it turns out, but their solution, courtesy of Mayor Bill de Blasio and school chief Carmen FariƱa, is to draw on the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR)—800 or so teachers from schools that closed or whose jobs may have been eliminated. Many of these reservists are inept, have checkered pasts, and have sat idle for years because no principal wants to hire them—but firing them is next to impossible because of their powerful union. So they do no teaching but still collect their paychecks and get yearly raises. Now the city is in the process of reinstating them, and principals have little say about it. Worse, many of these unwanted teachers will be placed in low-performing schools, where they will instruct the at-risk kids who can least afford their incompetence.

The New York Times profiles a few unfireable teachers who will soon have regular assignments. In her last permanent job, one unnamed science teacher did not bother to enter her students’ grades regularly. She gave one student in her earth-science class a grade of 83 percent, though the student never came to school. Administrators observing her classes often found students talking, listening to music on headphones, or sleeping. Francis Blake, who worked in a Bronx elementary school, was disciplined for poor performance, insubordination, and neglect of duties. He had been caught sleeping in a classroom when he was supposed to be helping with school dismissal. Felicia Alterescu, a special-education teacher, has been without a permanent position since 2010. She received a string of unsatisfactory ratings, was disciplined for calling in sick when she was attending a family reunion, and had been arrested on harassment charges. Both Blake and Alterescu earn salaries at the top of the pay scale—$113,762 a year—despite not working. But paying them not to teach is preferable to subjecting innocent children to their influence in the classroom.

Consider the contrast: while teachers’ unions try to stifle a non-traditional charter school certification program, hundreds of ATR teachers trained the old-fashioned way are about to flood the public school system. Their students won’t be impressed with their masters’ degrees.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Bill de Blasio-Chirlaine McCray-Thrive NY Scam In the News Again

 

Bill de Blasio + Chirlaine McCray

Has anyone had enough of this scam, the game of hide and seek with public funds for the McCray organization ThriveNY?

It’s once again time, boys and girls, for the Bill & Chirl Hour




Public Outrage in NYC Over $1 Billion Spent on ThriveNYC Program

When can the Department of Investigation start looking into both Bill and Chirlaine?

We want to know.

  Betsy Combier

Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials  


Chirlaine and Bill de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio, first lady tout pilot project with no plan or even a name

It’s a new pilot project without a plan — or even a name — being overseen by New York City first lady Chirlane McCray’s embattled billion-dollar ThriveNYC program.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife revealed scant details of the new unnamed mental-health initiative in front of the cameras Tuesday, only saying the plan is to divert calls about emotionally distressed New Yorkers away from the NYPD and to newly formed teams of specially trained workers.

Yet neither the mayor nor McCray could say which two neighborhoods the project will target first when it starts in February or when it might be rolled out citywide.

The pair also failed to reveal how much the project will cost or how many workers it will involve.

City Hall did not respond to The Post’s questions on even these basic details.

Instead, the administration sent out a press release involving the new “Mental Health Teams,’’ with McCray saying, “Treating mental-health crises as mental-health challenges and not public safety ones is the modern and more appropriate approach.

“That is because most individuals with psychiatric concerns are much more likely to be victims or harm themselves than others,’’ added the first lady — the face of the city’s widely panned $1.25 billion ThriveNYC mental-health-care program.

“Of the more than 170,000 mental health calls to 9-1-1 last year … the majority concern people who just needed help,’’ she said.

The idea behind the project is to help de-escalate tensions between the NYPD and communities over cops’ handling of mental-health calls by taking police out of the equation altogether for most such 911 emergencies.

ThriveNYC — which has been accused for years of failing to properly detail its spending or how it is meeting its main goal of connecting the mentally ill with services  — “will provide programmatic oversight for this pilot,” the press release said.

Most recently, ThriveNYC also has been accused of being virtually AWOL amid the city’s homeless crisis.

A law-enforcement source, referring to the new program, seethed to The Post, “This is all smoke and mirrors, just the latest sham known as ThriveNYC.

“I guess [the mayor] sees this as another way to take every last penny from the city before he leaves. I just hope he leave himself enough to get a MetroCard when he leaves City Hall.”

The city Police Benevolent Association also ripped the new pilot program.

“Police officers know that we cannot single-handedly solve our city’s mental-health disaster, but this plan will not do that, either,” police-union President Pat Lynch said in a statement. “It will undoubtedly put our already overtaxed EMS colleagues in dangerous situations without police support.

“We need a complete overhaul of the rest of our mental-health-care system so that we can help people before they are in crisis, rather than just picking up the pieces afterward.

“On that front, the de Blasio administration has done nothing but waste time and money with ThriveNYC and similar programs. We have no confidence that this long-delayed plan will produce any better results.”

The new pilot project’s mental-health response teams will include FDNY EMS workers, city officials said.

FDNY dispatchers will decide when to call these special teams to scenes instead of cops, the city said. If things look violent, then the NYPD will get involved, officials said.

The project was revealed a little over a year after the mayor announced a related, never-launched pilot program involving teams of cops and mental-health workers responding together to scenes.

That program, announced in October 2019, failed to get off the ground because of COVID-19, the administration told The Post on Tuesday.

“We’re still determining when and how best to launch the program,” a rep said in an e-mail.

The city said in the press release for the new plan, “This pilot represents a concerted effort by FDNY,[Health+Hospitals], [city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene], the NYPD, and the Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC to move towards a more health-centered approach.”

Friday, October 16, 2020

Two Social Justice Senior Members of Mayor de Blasio's Administration, Resign

 

 Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice PHOTO: BESS ADLER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Two Senior Officials Leave New York City Government

Architects of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s criminal-justice approach are latest high-profile departures

By Ben Chapman and Katie Honan

Two architects of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s criminal-justice approach resigned, the latest high-profile officials to leave government as the city has struggled with the coronavirus pandemic.

Elizabeth Glazer announced her resignation as director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in an email to staff early Wednesday. New York Police Department Chief of Patrol Fausto Pichardo, who was appointed to the role in January, put in his resignation papers late Tuesday.

Mr. de Blasio said Wednesday that Chief Pichardo told him he had made a “personal decision” to leave. Chief Pichardo met with the mayor to discuss the chief missing calls and messages from Mr. de Blasio recently, officials said. But the mayor said that didn’t prompt Chief Pichardo’s resignation.

“There was one thing I needed to talk through with him where I think there was some miscommunication, but he and I have talked dozens and dozens of times and had no problem communicating and working through things,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It is unusual, obviously—someone who had a very bright future ahead, but he’s making a decision for family reasons.”

Chief Pichardo declined to comment.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a television interview that he and others had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Chief Pichardo to stay. The patrol chief’s last day will be in November, according to officials.

Chief Pichardo, 43 years old, is the first Dominican-American to reach his high-ranking position in the NYPD, and he often appeared at public events with Messrs. Shea and de Blasio.

Police officials said that Chief Pichardo offered his resignation after being summoned to City Hall for questioning by Mr. de Blasio after missing calls from the mayor while working overtime in the field.

Chief Pichardo met again with Mr. de Blasio on Tuesday after submitting his retirement request, according to the officials. Mr. de Blasio asked the patrol chief to remain at his post, the officials said, but Chief Pichardo refused.

Ms. Glazer is expected to remain on the job until the end of October, according to officials at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. Ms. Glazer declined to comment.

A longtime adviser to Mr. de Blasio, she created some of the nation’s most aggressive criminal-justice overhauls in New York City, including a plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four neighborhood jails.

Part of that plan was dealt a legal blow last month after a Manhattan judge nullified necessary land-use approvals to build a neighborhood jail in Chinatown in Manhattan, citing a number of issues including the city’s efforts to collect community input and address potential health concerns in the planned development.

Her departure  followed those of other high-ranking officials who recently left city posts, including Oxiris Barbot, the former health commissioner, and Allison Hirsch, who was an adviser to the mayor.

Write to Ben Chapman at Ben.Chapman@wsj.com and Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the October 15, 2020, print edition as 'Two Senior Officials Leaving City Posts.'