So will George Tillman of Maryland who was shot and killed by police recently for allegedly having a gun and pulling it out, some in the community including Senator James Sanders were outraged and demanded a “special investigation”, yet when something like this happens in the community (which is a common occurrence and a much bigger issue), you don’t hear shit from these same people.
I don’t get it, am I missing something here, is it something I don’t understand, WHAT or is it just normal to accept black on black violence as just a normal every day thing that happens.
How many black men died at the hands of other black men in this community just since January of 2015, and how many black men where shot and killed by NYPD in this community during the same time that were doing absolutely nothing.
Down the hall came Inmate No. 78764-053, a fist of a man diminished by the loss of the $2,500 suit and the $800 shoes he had just been forced to exchange for a jumpsuit, following a guard to his cell.
First night in federal prison, and he was already headed to solitary confinement, his case too notorious for him to mingle safely with the others. He remembers the cell being clammy and dark. It made him think of Rikers Island, where his father had been held after being arrested when Pedro was 11. But this was a few grades higher: the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a windowless cage looming over New York Bay.
From the next cell came a voice, pricking him out of his numbness:
“Hey, Espada! Hang in there. You’re the senator, right?” the voice said. “My mother voted for you.”
Senator, he was: Pedro Espada Jr., once the third-most powerful man in New York State. And “senator” he remains — even today, three years into a five-year sentence for stealing money from a nonprofit.
There are a lot of “senators” in America’s federal prisons these days. In May, three more corrupt New York State lawmakers are expected to join the jumpsuited ranks, three more cautionary tales from a State Legislature with no apparent shortage of them.
There is Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and former Assembly speaker, who was convicted of abusing his office in return for nearly $4 million in kickbacks. There is Dean G. Skelos, a Republican and former Senate majority leader, who was found guilty of selling official favors for payments and jobs for his son. Convicted last fall in overlapping trials that sent Albany into upheaval, the two men are to be sentenced within 10 days of each other in May, with Mr. Silver’s sentencing scheduled first, on Tuesday.
And then there is John L. Sampson, all but eclipsed by the convictions of Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos, who led the Senate Democrats for three and a half years. Mr. Sampson was convicted last year of trying to thwart an investigation into allegations that he had embezzled state funds. He is to be sentenced on May 19.
Like many of those convicted before them, Mr. Silver, Mr. Skelos and Mr. Sampson have asked for minimal or no prison time. Prosecutors, sentencing guidelines and recent history suggest they should not expect any leniency.
If interviews with four former lawmakers — two currently incarcerated and two who have been released — are a guide, the three men are in for a prolonged humbling. Their former colleagues tell of spiritual awakenings, physical survival and mental toughening. But what figures largest in these personal narratives — what they say has sustained them throughout — is the belief that they were wrongly prosecuted.
Contrition? What for?
Outside, their names are synonymous with scandal. Inside, they command a measure of respect.
John L. Sampson, Sheldon Silver and Dean G. Skelos, all former state lawmakers who have been convicted of crimes, will be sentenced in May. Credit From left: Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times; Seth Wenig/Associated Press; Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times
“I have a title for life,” said Efraín González Jr., a Democrat and former state senator from the Bronx who was convicted in 2009 and spent almost six years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J., before being released in February. “I introduced myself as Efraín. But they called me senator.”
With the expected arrivals of Mr. Skelos, Mr. Silver and Mr. Sampson, there will be at least nine former members of the New York State Legislature in the federal prison system. Nine more were released over the last few years. One, facing terminal cancer, is under house arrest. Another died in prison.
“I laugh at all those who turned up their nose at me,” said Shirley L. Huntley, a former state senator from Queens who spent 10 months in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. — the institution on which the women’s prison in “Orange Is the New Black” is based — after pleading guilty in 2013 to stealing more than $87,000 in taxpayer money through a nonprofit she ran. “Now look where they’re at. They’re in worse shape.”
Puffing on an e-cigarette in her living room in Queens, the same room where she once secretly recorded seven of her colleagues for the authorities, she went down the list. Friends. Enemies. Allies. Idiots.
Then came the kiss-off, bile tempered with a laugh.
“You can tell all the other crooks I say hey!”
‘Too Consumed’ With Power
Mr. Espada prefers a new honorific: prison abolitionist.
Some facts before going further: Before all this happened, he had run for office about a dozen times, losing more often than he won. He had shaken a swarm of investigations and one indictment before succumbing to a second. He had risen from poverty to become the highest-ranking Latino in New York State government — and, briefly and under bizarre circumstances, the third-most powerful man in the state — but only after single-handedly bringing the Senate to a standstill and making Albany a national laughingstock in the process. He once tried to hide from a television reporter by putting on an orange ski cap and using a baby to shield his face.
On a recent morning at the Metropolitan Detention Center, sitting in a plastic chair in an airless, glassed-in booth in what resembled a large hospital waiting room — minus the televisions, the pastel watercolor paintings, the magazines and the windows — Mr. Espada seemed shorn of the grandiloquence that those in Albany had come to know so well over the two decades of his singularly unruly political career.
No more ego, he promised — or not as much, anyway. No more referring to himself, without irony, as Hurricane Espada. He said he was devoting his life to reforming America’s prisons.
He had seen, he said, how prison devastates lives and families instead of rehabilitating inmates. He had seen prisoners released, only to return within months, unable to cope in a society that no longer wanted much to do with them.
He had been studying the mass-incarceration literature: Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow;” Harvey A. Silverglate’s “Three Felonies a Day;” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Prison,” by Jeff Smith, a former Missouri state legislator. Mr. Espada said that only violent offenders, people like murderers and rapists, should be in prison, and that others should be forced to serve their communities. Of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver, Mr. Espada said, “Anybody that would want to put them in jail for 10 or 15 years should spend a weekend in here and think whether that’s necessary. It wouldn’t pay back the people they harmed.”
New York Today
He avoided addressing the victims of his own crimes. Mr. Espada, a Democrat, was convicted in 2012 of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit health care clinics he ran in his Bronx district when he was a state senator. He spent the spoils on sushi, parties, spa treatments and a Bentley. Then he got caught.
‘This Is Our New Existence’
In the years since, there have been 16 months of no daylight and no fresh air, and before that nearly a year of not seeing his family. And before that, a 10-week stint in solitary confinement after he stepped over the property line at the Federal Correctional Institution in Schuylkill, Pa., one of three prisons where he has spent the past three years. All in all, a thorough humiliation.
“I know that I was too consumed with the search for personal power,” he said. “I know that I was too consumed with materialistic things.” He gestured at his khaki jumpsuit, his shiny white sneakers. “Now, I don’t miss any of that,” he said. “I’m used to living on $300 a month.”
His time at Schuylkill overlapped briefly with that of Larry B. Seabrook, a former city councilman from the Bronx who is serving five years for corruption. But neither felt much like talking shop.
“This is our new existence,” Mr. Espada said. “We’re thinking about how to fit in.”
At Fort Dix, his third stop, he said he learned how the other inmates made prison hooch out of sugar and candy distilled in the bathroom, each six-ounce bottle going for $40, and where they bought cellphones and drugs. Once back at the detention center in Brooklyn, he learned to get his protein from canned tuna, eggs and peanut butter bought at the commissary, and to relish microwave meals of commissary mackerel, chicken, pork sausage and rice. Once a professional brawler, he learned to avoid confrontation. (There have been a few close calls, even so.)
He learned to sleep through the noise of 100 other men snoring and going to the bathroom and working out and watching television, so he can wake up at 4:30 a.m. to lift weights. To survive solitary confinement by running in place until he was exhausted. To love God, about whom he had not thought all that much for many years. To keep busy with Bible study and a biweekly book club. To cherish every visit with his wife, who has visited him each weekend, even though touching is restricted and they have had to sit side by side, knees facing forward, rationing their two kisses and hugs.
He learned about small satisfactions, like when eight of the students in the G.E.D. class he teaches every afternoon recently passed their test. They call him “Professor.”
Professor Espada takes pride in teaching nearly illiterate men to read, in counseling younger inmates, and in helping others work through their cases in the library.
Senator Espada sits here unchastened, boasting of the “political revolution” he once led — same as Bernie Sanders, he said. Senator Espada is the one planning to tear down a bad system from the inside out. The one insisting he was framed.
‘I Didn’t Steal the Money’
If they have one thing in common, these Albany alumni, it is this: They refuse to be expunged from the rolls of the innocent.
Efraín González Jr., a Democrat and former state senator from the Bronx who was convicted in 2009, spent almost six years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J. He was released in February and is now back home in the Bronx. Credit Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times
“It doesn’t weigh on me that there’s this opinion of me, because it’s not true,” said William F. Boyland Jr., a Democrat who represented Brownsville in the Assembly. He is serving a 14-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pa., a five-hour drive out to the western part of the state, after being convicted of bribery in 2014.
It is a recurring theme.
“I don’t have that thing where I’m a criminal, so I’m smiling,” said Mr. González, who spent much of a four-hour interview at his Bronx apartment outlining, in baroque detail, all the ways he said he had been railroaded by prosecutors, the judge and even his own lawyer. (Before he left prison, he said, his fellow inmates told him, “You’re safer here with the homies. The billionaires will put out a contract on you. They don’t like you, ’cause you tell it like it is.”)
“I did not steal money from Soundview or from anybody,” said Mr. Espada, referring to the health care network he ran. He had not received a fair trial, he said; he would have continued to contest the charges had he not run out of resources and the will to subject his family to what he described as further pain.
“Maybe I didn’t spend the money right, but I didn’t steal the money,” said Ms. Huntley, who suggested that she had been the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by old enemies in Albany. Besides, she added, as if this would mitigate things, the actions in question had occurred before she entered the Senate.
In a more reflective moment, Ms. Huntley said she could not bring herself to move on.
“Some people say, let it go,” she said. “I don’t know how to let stuff go. I don’t want to die being known as, what’s the word all the newspapers used? ‘Disgraced senator.’”
She said she wanted to be treated “just as a person. Just use my name. I’m not saying you’ve got to make me sound like I’m great. You all call me disgraced, but in my mind, I’m not disgraced.”
In this season of high-profile corruption cases, few phrases have dominated discourse in the State Capitol like ethics reform. Yet Mr. Boyland, Mr. Espada, Mr. González and Ms. Huntley had little to say on the subject. If anything, they suggested, they and their colleagues had been punished simply for doing things the Albany way.
“I wouldn’t say they were crooks. Everybody does all that,” Mr. González said of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver. “It’s, ‘I help you, you help me.’ So what is that? Politics.”
Mr. Boyland was asked if he would endorse any of the reforms his former colleagues have discussed this session, including closing a campaign-finance loophole and banning outside income for legislators.
“I can’t endorse anything now,” he said.
On ‘This Side of the Table’
A day begins at Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto. A former monastery on a hilltop, it would resemble a high school campus were it not for the rings of concertina wire that surround it.
Former New York lawmakers Pedro Espada Jr., William Boyland Jr. and Larry Seabrook have spent time in federal prisons. Credit From left: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times; Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times; Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Mr. Boyland is awake at 6:30 to meditate before going to work on the facilities team. (Mr. González, too, was initially assigned a job assisting a plumber, but, by his own account, was deemed more of a burden than a help.) Mr. Boyland runs around the track. He lifts weights. Without the constant nag of his cellphone, without the late, indulgent Albany dinners, he is, he said, the healthiest and most focused he has ever been.
To other inmates, he introduces himself as Will. But he lives with men from New York, even some familiar with his old district. There is a Boyland Street in Brownsville, named for his uncle, who once held the same Assembly seat.
“You the same guy?” the inmates ask.
Amid the chaos of this year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Boyland said, he is in demand as a political analyst. “All. The. Time,” he said, flashing a smile.
Some of the queries have a more local bent: “What’s going on with Cuomo and de Blasio?” he has been asked, referring to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, combatants in a never-ending intrastate quarrel. “They’re both Democrats, so what’s the beef about?”
He passes the rest of the day with religious services, Bible study, work on his legal appeal and reading. He is taking classes in Spanish (because of the Spanish-speaking constituents in his old district), small-business skills (just in case) and crocheting (hats, mostly).
He has almost finished James Redfield’s “The Celestine Prophecy,” which he described as a science-fiction novel about the spiritual journey of a wrongly imprisoned man. He said he could relate.
From afar, he tries to raise his 13-year-old son, who is back in Brooklyn. He was the hardest thing to leave behind.
Albany, he does not miss. It was serving his constituents, he said, that he loved.
“I wasn’t used to being on this side of the table,” he said, indicating the round visitors’ room table where he sat across from a reporter. “I was the one visiting to bring help. I’m usually on that side of the table.”
They watch the evening news and read the New York City papers, eavesdropping on a world that has tried to delete them from its memory.
Even so, what lies beyond the prison walls has begun to seem abstract — fuzzy around the edges.
When Mr. Espada was in solitary confinement at Schuylkill, he was allowed one hour a day to go outside, shackled and cuffed. He always went, no matter the weather.
“An opportunity to experience daylight, sunlight, rain hitting your head — it’s as basic as that,” he said, his voice softening. “I said to myself, I would never complain about the elements again, because I loved it when the rain hit my head, when it was cold.”
Then the man who was once the third-most powerful in New York State gathered himself, pivoting back to the pitch. He was the better for surviving this, he said. Not that it was about him; it was about those far less fortunate than him, who would carry this scarlet letter the rest of their lives. He had promised them he would fight for them, for reform, and he would.
He would never give up. There was a reason they still called him the Senator.
Times in Jamaica are slowly changing. The extremely stylish and good Indian restaurant, Mirch at 172-27 Hillside Avenue, just opened to raves last month. Now another, and from what I saw in the inside, nice restaurant, Dhan Shiri at 169-28 Hillside Avenue, just a few blocks west of Mirch. Their site states they are having a grand opening on May 13th. Dhan Shiri is described as mixed Desi style Chinese and Desi cuisine, which has become very popular.
Since I have moved here in 2011, that location has been several different businesses from a health food/deli to the recently closed Charcoal Kabob. Well, hopefully this new place will stay for awhile. If they really clean up Hillside, could this possibly be a restaurant row. Time will tell.
Most city agencies are fucking lazy, especially the notorious lazy and corrupt DOB (Department of Buildings), hence, why Queens has so many damn illegal conversions and other DOB issues. They come out (if they do), they inspect and find nothing, they inspect and can’t get into building, try a 2nd time and if they can’t get in again, they close the case, other times they never find the correct address you give the. Always some shit with. BUT sometimes they do get it right, but as with anything, folks need to put in the effort and stay on top of shit and FILE NUMEROUS TIMES.
Cases where they did get it RIGHT (sometimes after numerous complaints:
3. Fence was falling down at 170-19 89th Ave and they actually was on this one pretty quickly, yet why did they not give a violation for the stored CAT construction equipment that has been sitting on this property for a few weeks.
WHEN THEY GET IT FUCKING WRONG (which is many times).
I MEAN REALLY
Lot at corner of 162 St and 89th Ave in a residential area, commercial trucks are being parked and waste containers are being stored on property, a big no no in residential areas. Yet even with specific instructions and photos these clowns state they cannot find it.
SERVICE REQUEST #:
04/17/2016 7:15:30 PM
Zoning – Non-Conforming/Illegal Vehicle Storage
The Department of Buildings attempted to investigate this complaint but could not locate the premises. If the problem still exists, please call 311 and file a new complaint with additional information about how to gain access to the building. If you are outside of New York City, please call (212) NEW-YORK (212-639-9675).
Once the announcement was made FINALLY for Queens to get a full service animal shelter, many were concerned that it would NOT be a “no kill” shelter, but now it has been made clear that it will be a “no kill”, but read on. It still is good news though.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that the city’s executive budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 includes $10 million for two new full-service animal shelters in Queens and in the Bronx, many QNS readers asked if the shelters would have a no-kill policy.
QNS reached out to the Mayor’s office as well as to the Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) who are under a contract with the city to operate existing animal shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as the admission centers in Queens and the Bronx. In doing so, we learned that there is a lot of grey between “kill-” and “no-kill” shelter.
“There is actaully no such a thing as a no-kill shelter,” explained Katy Hansen, communications director at ACC. “It is basically a marketing tool.”
According to Hansen, any large metropolitan area will have several different welfare models to handle the over-population of animals. The animal shelters operated by New York City have an open-admission shelter model, which means that the shelter accepts any animal.
“When people refer to no-kill shelters, they are not open-admission. They pick and choose what animal they take,” said Hansen. “We take every animal that comes in.”
So-called limited admission shelters have the opportunity to say no to an animal. Other type of shelters are focused on rescue of a specific breed such as Golden Retrievers, or will take only animals with behavioral issues.
“These new shelters [in Queens and in the Bronx] will also be open-admission,” said Hansen. “A decision to euthanize an animal is a difficult one and sometimes because of sickness or behavior we have to make these decisions.”
Some shelters euthanize up to 10 percent of their animals due to health and behavioral issues, and still consider themselves no-kill. ACC’s live release rate in 2015 was 86 percent, and 94 percent in March and April 2016. (Full stats are available here.) Live release means that the animals were either adopted, returned to the owner, or they were sent to another nonprofit partner who then provides adoption services to people.
Accoding to NYCLASS, which is a nonprofit animal advocacy group dedicated to changing New York City’s laws to protect animals, ACC has changed their policy about three years ago. “They used to euthanize about 90 percent of their animals, and only 10 percent were sent to adoption,” said John Collins who works NYCLASS. “But because of this new policy they work with other nonprofits who are associated with ACC, they flipped that ratio — now they have about 90-percent adoption rate.”
According to Raul Contreras from the Mayor’s office, in 2015 the euthanasia rates plummeted – down 36 percent for dogs and 25 percent for cats compared to the previous year – with adoption rates rising by 17 percent.
“For us it’s really not about statistics and we don’t want statistics to drive the decision about individual animal. We put the animal welfare first,” explained Hansen.
“The real issue is that we will always have an overpopulation [of animals] until we start getting at the root of its causes,” she added. “We need to cut out the source of these homeless animals. We need to invest in low cost spay/neuter programs; we need to support trap/neuter/release programs for cats; we need to expand outreach and education; and we need to target areas where many strays are born and encourage people to adopt from shelters.”
Queens residents will have a chance to discuss the impact of the new full-service animal shelter with Council Member Vallone and NYCLASS this coming Monday, May 2 at 12:45 p.m. at Alley Pond Environmental Center, at 228-06 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston. To attend please RSVP to John Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next time there is a fire and your house burns down due to missing fire hydrant caps, you can of course place blame on elected leaders from the Mayor, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and many of our local elected leaders, except for Senator Tony Avella who seems to be the only one who cares about this problematic issue which as usual is not being addressed or swept under the wrong. Next time you are walking around, take notice at the fire hydrants and you will notice, like I have that many are missing the caps.
Yet, a major issue that can have major consequences and cause injury and even death, goes completely unnoticed, because fire hydrants with missing caps are not juicy enough for photo ops. One is a major issues that can affect everyone and two are not, at least at this point.
Nothing like going for the issues that as usual divides the people and ignoring the other that has more serious consequences and would actually hold city officials accountable and cause city officials to actually do something that would require work.
Ever notice how elected officials always focus on issues that sometimes are not really issues or focusing on issues that they really cannot do much about, but looks good, especially for a photo op, but major quality of life issues that can be solved by HARD WORK and being held accountable for, like illegal truck driving on residential streets, illegal conversions, illegal curb cuts, illegal garbage dumping, squatters, dumping of homeless shelters by the dozen in communities of color, political corruption, especially by the dirty Southeast Queens folks, seem to always NOT get addressed, talked little about or hear the phrase “it’s on our radar.”
Photo by Michael Shain -Tony Avella claims that fire hydrant caps in Northeast Queens are falling prey to scavengers.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) made the observation over the summer that many of the fire hydrants in his district were missing caps.
Without a cap, rust and trash can accumulate in the hydrant, obstruct the flow of water and hamper firefighter efforts to extinguish the blaze, he said.
“It’s really incredible just how many fire hydrant caps are missing. This issue is not localized to one or two neighborhoods either,” Avella said. “I’ve seen this throughout my entire district alone. Left unprotected, they become obstructed with gunk or trash, which may impede firefighters from accessing them during an emergency. If they don’t already, the FDNY needs the proper resources to proactively go about replacing them.”.
The senator believes scavengers, who prey on any scrap metal that is not secured, are taking the caps for extra pocket money..
Avella wrote a letter to the Fire Department and the Department of Environmental Protection to bring the matter to their attention.
The response did not please the senator from Bayside.
“An elected official may as well write their letters in crayons, for all the good it would do getting this administration’s attention on a crucial issue. Fire hydrants all throughout the city have been left with missing caps,” he said. “According to the Department of Environmental Protection, what I should have done is call 3-1-1 to report each missing cap rather than attempt a direct discussion about this systemic problem.”
Avella went on to further blame the de Blasio administration for dismissing the issue and the lack of adequate response from the agencies. The lawmaker said this was just another failure by the administration to respond to the issues that matter.
“Am I supposed to physically survey every hydrant, phone them in, and re-survey again to see if the caps have been replaced?” Avella said.