Category Archives: News

Truman Club under fire for violating campaign finance laws

Last week the NY Post ran a story about the Truman Democratic Club violating campaign finance laws for years:

The Lower East Side political club that for years served as the home base for disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has failed to publicly disclose its finances, as required by law, for nearly two decades, an activist charges.

Full disclosure: that “activist” is me. First I noticed that neither the Truman Club nor its two candidates for Democratic District Leader, Karen Blatt and Jacob Goldman, had registered campaign committees with the state board of elections. Then, by searching for payments other campaigns have made to the Truman Club over the years, I found close to $100,000 in contributions to Truman that the club has never disclosed. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, because most donors — individuals and corporations — are not required to report their own contributions.

All of this information comes straight from the board of elections database of contributions, which is searchable online.

In contrast, Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman, who are challenging Blatt and Goldman, registered their campaign committee earlier this year and filed their first disclosure report on time.

The Post article appeared last Sunday; on Monday, Blatt registered “Committee to Re-elect Blatt”. This is the second time she’s running for office, but only the first time she’s registered with the state. Her first financial disclosure is due in one week.

Silver’s “enforcer and gatekeeper” still working Grand Street

Meanwhile, NY1 ran a report on Sheldon Silver’s appeal to the Supreme Court, making a sideline to report on Silver’s continued influence on Grand Street in the form of his “enforcer and gatekeeper” and former chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel, who is actively campaigning for the Truman Club’s District Leader candidates, Blatt and Goldman.

Blatt, in a statement to NY1, welcomed Rapfogel’s involvement, calling her “an asset that any campaign would want to have on their side.”

Blatt appointed by Silver to patronage job

Finally, a newspaper in Albany revealed what Blatt herself has not: her current job. Blatt’s online bio does not disclose her current occupation; neither does a color flyer distributed to voters in Seward. Turns out she is co-executive director of a state agency called the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Appointment (LATFOR). LATFOR is essentially responsible for redistricting in New York State, though that authority was shifted to an independent commission following a constitutional amendment passed by voter referendum in 2014.

Critics contend that the agency is now toothless and just “a place for patronage”. The report notes, “LATFOR had faced criticism for drawing district lines that favor the candidates of majority Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans.” Blatt’s position was made on appointment by Assembly Democrats, who at that time were still controlled by Sheldon Silver.

Sheldon Silver will try for Supreme acquittal

More interesting twists in the case of disgraced former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver:

Instead of waiting for federal prosecutors to retry his corruption case with revised jury instructions, his lawyers are attempting to get a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court for an outright acquittal.

Silver’s original convictions were thrown out last month because of a subsequent Supreme Court decision that overturned the corruption conviction of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Silver is hoping to get the same friendly reception by the D.C. Nine.

U.S. Attorney Joon Kim wants to prosecute Silver again, but now has to wait for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear the case.

Silver’s appeal successful, will get new trial on corruption charges

Sheldon Silver
Former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s 2015 conviction on seven counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering was overturned today by the Court of Appeals based on a new definition of “official acts” as set by the Supreme Court in 2016.

The appellate court ruled that instructions to jurors were too broad when compared to the new guidelines devised by the Supreme Court.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim issued a statement that Silver should expect a new trial and expressed confidence that even with narrower jury instructions Silver would be convicted again. At the same time, Silver’s lawyers said “We’re absolutely delighted with the result, and look forward in the future to a full Silver vindication.”

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney who pursued Silver’s conviction, said on Twitter, “The evidence was strong. The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be retried and re-convicted.”

M14A bus gets another hearing with community board Tuesday

M14A

The community board transportation committee Tuesday will get an update from State Senator Squadron’s office on increasing the frequency of M14A buses.

Tuesday, July 11 at 6:45pm
Downtown Art, 1st Floor Theater
70 East 4th Street

It’s happened to all of us: waiting 30 minutes or more for the M14A at Union Square while watching bus after bus after bus marked M14D pick up passengers. The MTA says there’s a 3-to-1 ratio. The question is, why the disparity?

Two years ago cooperator Joseph Hanania started a petition to bring attention to the problem. He made two suggestions: increase the number of M14A buses, and let the M14D continue down the FDR access road to Grand, then turn and use the two stops for the M21 on its way to its normal end of route under the Williamsburg Bridge.

The MTA then reviewed ridership and decided that the frequency of buses was consistent with the count of riders. Advocates like Hanania said those counts were flawed because of how many people at Union Square just give up on getting an M14A and hop on the M14D instead.

Now Hanania says State Senator Squadron may have gotten the MTA to review its counting method  to take into consideration M14D riders who get off the bus and continue to walk to Grand Street. And so the issue is back before the community board’s transportation committee on Tuesday.

Update: No new counting methodology was introduced by the MTA this week. In fact, the MTA continues to insist that the ratio of M14D to M14A is appropriate.

East River Coop Yard Sale returns June 11 — reserve your spot today

Dawn Fox is bringing back the wildly popular East River Coop Yard Sale on Sunday, June 11.

  • Spaces are FREE.
  • Selling is for ER cooperators only (but anyone is welcome to buy).
  • Yard Sale will take place on the blacktop next to building #2 (577 Grand Street).
  • Sellers must bring their own tables and chairs.

If you want a spot, you’ll need to email her right away at ERyardsale@gmail.com. You can use the contact form below (all fields are required):

Board fills in cooperative garden with concrete

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, East River maintenance pulled out all the plantings in the cooperative garden behind building 1 and filled in a large section of the garden with a concrete slab.

 

Somehow this gorgeous rose bush survived the slaughter:

The garden was started five years ago with the board’s blessing; East River maintenance assisted in preparing the beds. A year later, the board backed away from their support, but cooperators continued to cultivate the area on their own initiative.

Those cooperators this week were given no warning of the landscaping changes, nor any reason for them. (A member of the maintenance crew pouring concrete told me that the snow plows needed the area for snow removal, though I’ve seen snow from the parking lot plowed onto the grass here for several years without any ill effect to the grass or garden.)

No permit for fence construction — stop work order issued by NYC

If you’re wondering why the new fence on Grand Street has been sitting half-built since it first popped up three weeks ago, the answer can be found on the website for NYC’s Department of Buildings:

It turns out that management neglected to get a building permit. From the DOB website:

REAR OF BUILDING AT GRAND STREET OBSERVED CONSTRUCTION WORK GOING ON TO INSTALL NEW METAL FENCE WITHOUT PERMIT – APPX 9 FT H BY 70 FT TOTAL LENGTH – APPX 70% OF WORK DONE WITHOUT PERMIT

Furthermore, the DOB site states that this property “may be subject to DOB civil penalties upon application for a permit.”

“We will build a wall … “

No, not that wall … this one:

As promised last year, the Grand Street security fence has started to be erected between buildings 1 and 2 on the south side of the street. East River maintenance workers were outside yesterday and today putting in the first stretch of ironwork, which will, when finished, be painted black with gold spikes, just like the fence in front of the Hillman playground up the street.

As noted by board president Gary Altman in last year’s annual report, the total cost of these fences is expected to be a mere $45,000 because all the fabrication and installation is being done in-house.

Altman emphasized that the fence is not simply to guard against potential trespassers, but to advertise our privileged existence to potential buyers:

“The fence will again be not only a security fence but an enhancement to the value of our apartments as new people look behind the fences and see our beautiful gardens, playgrounds and sitting areas all reserved for those of us lucky enough to call East River our home. Perhaps a key to our private parks will one day carry some of the cache as a key to Gramercy Park has for over a hundred years.”

What do you think about the new fence?

Board president Gary Altman to retire from City Council

Gary Altman (Mark Chiusano/AM New York)
AM New York has the scoop this morning that Gary Altman is retiring from his position as chief legislative counsel to the New York City Council.

Altman has worked for the Council for almost four decades, under many mayors and council presidents. He has been on the East River board of directors almost as long, and now will have even more time to devote to the coop as board president.

Board announces another maintenance increase

The board announced a new maintenance increase today, just two weeks after distributing audited financials showing an even greater deficit for the last fiscal year than previously reported.

This is the second increase in a year.

In addition to monthly maintenance for everyone, rates for parking are going up for the first time in years, as are the fees for storage rooms and bike storage.

The board is also promising to recertify the parking lot — which is a fancy way of saying they will make sure that the cars parked in our lots are the ones that are supposed to be there. They also promise a crackdown on motorcycles and storage units that take up extra space in the parking lots.

The board’s memo today says “It is expected that these increases will raise revenue by around $1.2 million a year.” You can read the whole memo here.

Last year’s deficit clocked in at $2.4 million. That won’t be effected at all by this increase.

This year’s budget expects a deficit of $970,000. The new maintenance increases going into effect May 1 would reduce that deficit by approximately $200,000. That’s a $3.2 million shortfall over two years that the board has no plan to cover.

Just for good measure, the board will impose new penalties on owners with pets who defecate or urinate anywhere on coop property. $250 each time your pooch can’t hold it in from the front door to the curb.