Monday, December 6, 2021

NYC Mayor mandates That All Private Employers Get Their Employees Vaccinated Against COVID


Credit...Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Betsy Combier

New York City sets sweeping vaccine mandate for all private employers

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a sweeping Covid vaccine mandate for all private employers in New York City on Monday morning to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

Mr. de Blasio said the aggressive measure, which takes effect Dec. 27 and which he described as the first of its kind in the nation, was needed as a “pre-emptive strike” to stall another wave of coronavirus cases and help reduce transmission during the winter months and holiday gatherings.

“Omicron is here, and it looks like it’s very transmissible,” he said in an interview on MSNBC. “The timing is horrible with the winter months.”

New York City has already put vaccine mandates in place for city workers and for indoor dining, entertainment and gyms. Nearly 90 percent of adults in the city now have at least one dose of the vaccine.

But Mr. de Blasio said the city must go further to combat another wave of the virus in New York City, once the epicenter of the pandemic. Some private employers have required employees to get vaccinated, but many others have not.

The mayor also announced that the rules for dining and entertainment would apply to children ages 5 to 11, starting on Dec. 14, and the requirement for adults will increase from one dose of a vaccine to two starting on Dec. 27.

Mr. de Blasio and Gov. Kathy Hochul held a news conference last Thursday to announce New York State’s first five cases of the Omicron variant. The number of coronavirus cases in the city has increased rapidly in recent weeks; daily case counts have increased more than 75 percent since Nov. 1.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat with less than a month left in office, said he was confident the new mandate would survive any legal challenges.

“We are confident because it’s universal,” he said of the mandate.

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 

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
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
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

Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
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.