Reports to the people of the 81st Assembly District
Norwood Satellite Office:
Serving the communities of Kingsbridge, Norwood, Riverdale, Van Cortlandt Village, Wakefield and Woodlawn.
|Assemblyman Dinowitz Passes Landmark Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking|
Governor Eliot Spitzer signed into law my bill to combat the crime of human trafficking in New York State. The new law strengthens penalties against human traffickers, provides assistance to victims, and works to curb demand by increasing the penalty for patronizing a prostitute.
Human trafficking occurs when people – mostly women and children – are transported, usually across borders, and subjected to ongoing sexual exploitation or forced labor through coercion or threat. In some cases, physical force is used. In other cases, false promises are made regarding job opportunities or marriages in foreign countries. Once enslaved, victims are sometimes drugged and beaten into submission, and their travel documents and IDs are confiscated or destroyed to make it harder for victims to escape or for authorities to track them down.
The legislation creates a new class B felony, “sex trafficking,” with a mandatory prison sentence of up to 25 years for perpetrators who profit from prostitution by engaging in sex trafficking; creates a new class D felony, “labor trafficking,” with a penalty of up to 7 years in prison; makes it illegal for travel-related businesses to facilitate the patronizing of prostitutes; puts those convicted of sex trafficking on the sex offender registry; directs the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to coordinate the provision of services to sex trafficking victims, including temporary housing, health and mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment; ensures that sex trafficking victims are eligible for services from the Crime Victims Board; increases the penalty of “patronizing a prostitute” from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor in order to diminish the demand for prostitutes; and creates an interagency task force to report on the extent of trafficking and to make recommendations on improvements in the state’s response.
Human trafficking is simply modern-day slavery. I’ve worked on this crucial legislation for three years and am extremely pleased that we are finally taking tough action to combat human trafficking. I am grateful for the support for this legislation from Speaker Sheldon Silver and for the strong leadership of Governor Spitzer in pushing hard to combat human trafficking. This is the toughest law in the nation and will serve as a model for other states.
|Assemblyman Dinowitz Appointed Chair of Assembly Aging Committee|
I have been appointed Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging. As Chair, I will serve as the Assembly’s point person for policy and legislation pertaining to senior citizens throughout the state. One of my top priorities as assemblyman has been senior citizen issues. Now I will be working with groups and individuals from throughout the state in our effort to improve the lives of our seniors. While I feel I have accomplished much these past four years as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I am looking forward to working on the many challenges that our seniors face in the coming years. Long-term care, improving prescription drug coverage, housing for the elderly and the expected explosion in the number of people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease are but a few of the issues we face and that I will be working on as chairman of this important committee.
|Assemblyman Dinowitz Calls for Investigation of Water Filtration Plant Scandal|
I have asked the New York City Department of Investigations (DOI) to launch an inquiry into the Croton water filtration plant scandal. Billions in cost overruns, possible conflicts of interest, and negligent technical preparation have plagued this massive boondoggle from Day 1. I have been joined by Councilman Oliver Koppell, Congressman Eliot Engel, State Senators Eric Schneiderman and Jeff Klein, Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster, and community residents in insisting that the DOI investigate this ongoing scandal that surrounds the construction in Van Cortlandt Park.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has already contracted $2.1 billion for a project that was slated to cost $1.3 billion. Additional expenses actually bring the current cost to almost $3 billion.
Either city officials lied in their estimates or they’re incompetent, or it’s a combination of both. Yes, a budget can be affected by high construction costs and inflation, but this project has more than doubled in cost. When overruns are in the billions, it raises questions of fraud. One of the DEP’s chief justifications for selecting Van Cortlandt Park for the plant instead of an industrial park in Westchester was cost. Former DEP Commissioner Ward insisted the Van Cortlandt Park plant would be $400 million cheaper than the alternatives.
I’ve also asked the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to investigate the former DEP Commissioner, who left his post at the DEP the day after the plant was approved by the City Council and just one year later became the head of the General Contractor’s Association, a main advocate for building the plant in a city park.
In a letter calling for the investigation, I’ve also questioned the DEP’s refusal to consider membrane filtration for the project. Instead they are using an antiquated chemical filtration process which is more expensive and uses considerably more acreage. Remarkably, the DEP spent millions studying whether or not the Croton needed to be filtered, but refused to study membrane filtration for this project even though it is an internationally accepted state-of-the-art methodology.
|Assemblyman Dinowitz called for an investigation of the massive cost overruns of the Croton Water Filtration Plant being built in Van Cortlandt Park. Many elected officials joined him in speaking out on this scandal, including Councilman Oliver Koppell, Congressman Eliot Engel, as well as many community leaders, including Margaret Fogarty, Karen Argenti, Sally Reganhard, and Marcia Allina.||Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Congressman Eliot Engel attended the installation of Michael Fogarty as President of United Irish Counties Association of New York. Pictured are Eileen Bonfiglio Fogarty, Congressman Eliot Engel, Margaret Fogarty, Michael Fogarty, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Brendan Fogarty.|
Community Service Fair
The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums and I sponsored the first Annual Riverdale Community Service Fair. Over thirty local organizations participated and were able to distribute information to the public – and each other – about the services provided by each of the organizations. I was heartened by the large turnout of organizations and members of the public. It is important to give residents of our community the opportunity to become aware of all of the services that we have to offer and to meet representatives of these great organizations.
News for Tenants
The NYC Rent Guidelines Board recently determined the lease renewal increases for the coming year. Lease renewals that take effect from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008 can contain rent hikes of 3% for a one-year lease or 5.75% for a two-year lease.
Income limitations for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE) changed as of July 1, 2007, thanks to enabling legislation that I co-sponsored in the Assembly. That means if your lease is up after July 1 you can get your rent frozen if you reside in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment or a Mitchell-Lama, you are at least 62 years old, your rent is at least a third of your household income and your income is $27,000 or less. If you think you are eligible for SCRIE contact my office, and we will help you with the paperwork.
|Around the Community|
Talking Traffic Lights
NYC DOT recently installed Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) at the intersection of Knolls Crescent, Kappock Street and Netherland Avenue. I made this request with the Riverdale Senior Center after being contacted by Community Board 8 Aging Chair Irving Ladimer. APS is a new type of street signal technology that can be programmed to play audible messages informing a visually impaired user when the “walk” message appears. I am very pleased that DOT acted positively on my request, especially since there are a very large number of seniors who live in this area. This is the first APS installed in the Bronx.
Safer Crossing at West 239th Street
The NYC DOT finally finished reconstruction of the overpass at West 239th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway, but it was still unsafe to cross from the east side of the overpass at Riverdale Avenue. In order to make it safe I urged DOT to widen the sidewalk area along the greenstreet at this intersection so that people can walk or wheel carriages safely. DOT agreed to my request and in doing so improved pedestrian safety. But there’s more to be done. I have asked them to repaint the crosswalk on the west side of the overpass that was removed during the construction process.
Nuisance Bar Closed in Kingsbridge
Upon my urging, as well as the 50th precinct, the NYS Liquor Authority closed down a nuisance bar in the Kingsbridge community. The bar on Bailey Avenue had been a blight on the community and a danger to local residents for a long time. A deadly shooting outside the bar was the last straw. The problems posed by this establishment went beyond quality of life issues and actually posed a public safety hazard. I’m pleased to have helped remove this source of danger and aggravation for the neighborhood.
Addressing Youth Violence in Norwood
I have provided an increase in funding for the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center to combat the growing problem of gang activity and youth violence in the Norwood community. Recent incidents in the community have made it clear that we must do more to address this issue. That means a greater police focus in the area, but also giving community groups additional means to provide much-needed youth programs in the area.
Post Road Parking
I recently convinced the NYC DOT to return 25 parking spots to Post Road between West 242nd and West 246th Streets. Inexplicably, the DOT eliminated parking on the east side of the street without notice. After my intervention they restored nighttime parking so that local residents could park after they get home from work, by changing “No Parking Anytime” signs to “No Parking 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
Penalties for Illegal Tree Removal
Developers on Irwin Avenue, the construction site where the huge Riverdale Avenue retaining wall and street collapse took place five years ago, took it upon themselves to remove two beautiful trees adjacent to the West 232nd Step Street. I contacted the Parks Department to express my outrage at what I believe was the illegal removal of two more trees from our community. The Parks Department issued summonses to the developer which could cost as much as $15,000 per tree.
Beautiful Music for the Community – and It’s Free!
Two of our wonderful Bronx cultural organizations recently held events that were funded through grants I secured from the State. Hundreds turned out for the annual Memorial Day Concert of the Bronx Arts Ensemble in Van Cortlandt Park. Beautiful music and beautiful weather combined to make this a most memorable event. And the Bronx Opera Company performed for neighborhood residents at the Van Cortlandt Senior Center, bringing their incredible talent to the Van Cortlandt Village community.
Fighting Unscrupulous Contractors
I was contacted by a constituent from Kingsbridge who had been ripped off for $8,500 by J. Arceri Home Improvements, a delinquent contractor who had disappeared after taking the money. When the constituent came into my office, I assisted her in filling out a Department of Consumer Affairs complaint form, and I asked Commissioner Jonathan Mintz to take notice of her case. The constituent became part of a record-setting settlement for the Department of Consumer Affairs and received all of the money that had been stolen by the contractor. If you have been ripped off by an unscrupulous contractor, call my office and we’ll try to help.
Punishing Tow Operators Who Violate the Law
I frequently am called upon to address the problem of tow operators who violate the law or city regulations. New regulations went into effect earlier this year requiring towing companies to prominently display signs at the entrances to parking lots containing certain required information. Unfortunately, some tow operators failed to comply with these regulation. I helped several constituents file complaints with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, which issued a number of summonses to one of the towers in our community subjecting that business to fines well in excess of $10,000.
|Assemblyman Dinowitz presented a Proclamation recognizing Community Leader Randi Martos, who was honored by the Riverdale Community Center. Pictured are RCC President Helen Morik, Randi Martos and Assemblyman Dinowitz.||Assemblyman Dinowitz and colleagues recently met with U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton to discuss some of the key issues facing New York. They are shown here in the Speaker’s Conference room in Albany.|
|Assemblyman Dinowitz is pictured with William Scribner, Executive Director of the Bronx Arts Ensemble, students and teachers at P.S. 81, and the new musical instruments he provided for the school with a grant he secured for the Bronx Arts Ensemble.||Assemblyman Dinowitz attended the opening day of the Kingsbridge Little League where he is shown with 50th Precinct Captain Dermot Shea, Community Affairs Officer Det. Luis Rodriguez and several baseball stars.|
|End of Legislative Session|
While there were a number of issues that remained unresolved at the end of the legislative session, there were many accomplishments as well. My law to crack down on the crime of human trafficking was a highlight of this legislative session, but there were many other important bills signed into law. We passed a major reform of the state’s budget process, ethics reform, lobbying reform and Worker’s Compensation reform.
We achieved a number of victories in the state budget, including an initiative to provide $1.7 billion in additional school aid throughout the state. We implemented the principles of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision with increased funding and a new school funding formula. We increased funding to higher education by nearly $280 million. We implemented some of the governor’s Medicaid reforms, yet prevented the worst of the proposed cuts to healthcare. The budget also enhanced Child Health Plus by providing health insurance to 400,000 uninsured children.
|Dinowitz Appears on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight|
I recently appeared on the Lou Dobbs Tonight program on CNN to talk about legislation I had introduced while I chaired the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The bill authorizes the Commissioner of Education to restrict the sale and advertisement of alcoholic beverages during sporting events participated in by any SUNY or CUNY college in New York. Sports events are frequently watched or attended by young children. It’s obvious that alcohol should not be advertised at these events. If we want to discourage young people from drinking, advertising alcohol at sports events is not the way to do it. The story was part of a series the Lou Dobbs show is doing on binge drinking by college students.
|Assemblyman Dinowitz marched in the opening day parade of the North Riverdale Baseball League. Pictured with some of the ball players are Joe O’Brien from Congressman Engel’s Office, Assemblyman Dinowitz, Borough President Adolfo Carrion and Councilman Oliver Koppell.||Assemblyman Dinowitz helped honor Joyce Pilsner at the annual dinner of the Riverdale Mental Health Association where he presented the RMHA with $300,000, which represented two grants he secured for the organization. Pictured are Executive Director Robert Brewster, President Sandra Lerner, Assemblyman Dinowitz, and honoree and former Executive Director Joyce Pilsner.|
|Many honorees, officers and elected officials are pictured at the annual breakfast of the Riverdale Jewish Community Council, some holding awards from elected officials. Shown are honorees Jonathan Dzik and Rabbi Dr. Nachman Cohen, State Senator Eric Schneiderman, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Councilman Oliver Koppell, honoree January Akselrad, co-President Ted Weinstein, honoree Siobhan Dennehy, co-Presidents Ari Hoffnung and Stefa Hassan.|
Free Notary Service
My office provides free notary service during our regular office hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you would like your signature notarized, please bring two forms of identification, at least one with your photo and signature.