Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $160 million investment designed to grow large scale clean energy projects statewide. As part of the State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, this funding is being made available to support public-private sector partnerships in clean energy projects. Funding will be administered competitively, and proposals will improve energy affordability and reliability, while also expanding new economic development opportunities and protecting the environment.
REV calls for creating a cleaner, more reliable and more affordable energy system in New York State. This funding will support significant private investment in renewable energy sources such as wind farms, fuel cells, biomass facilities, renewable biogas and the upgrading of small- to medium-sized hydropower projects that provide power to the electric grid. More information about the solicitation process is available here.
This $160 million competitive solicitation promotes development of a broad range of new clean energy resources. Contracts for these projects will be awarded for a term of up to 20 years. Recognizing the maturation of fuel cell equipment, for the first time ever, fuel cell projects will also be eligible for 20-year contracts.
Support for these new grid-based projects will be provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) through the Main Tier of the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which is New York’s primary policy to promote the development of new large-scale renewable energy resources.
For every $1 invested in RPS Main Tier projects, New York realizes $3 in economic benefits. More than $3 billion of direct investment in New York State is expected as a result of existing Main Tier projects in the form of jobs, payments to public entities, in-state purchase of goods and services and land leases.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced more than $233 million in federal grants that will support counterterrorism and emergency preparedness activities in counties across New York State. The funding, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through its Homeland Security Grant Program, supports regional preparedness efforts, including planning, organization, and training activities that are critical to sustaining and improving community prevention, protection, response, and recovery capabilities
The homeland security grants support exercises and training for first responders, equipment purchases, and other capabilities essential to keeping New Yorkers safe. Federal guidelines require that 25 percent of each county’s total award be directed toward law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.
Priority projects include efforts that build upon Governor Cuomo’s Citizen Preparedness Program, development of effective cyber security programs and policies, and continued coordination of emergency management planning efforts. The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is also advancing regional partnerships and enhancing information sharing among law enforcement. The agency provides guidance and support to counties, which must submit detailed project plans in order to receive reimbursement-based grant contracts.
Key programs and grant amounts announced include:
- The Urban Areas Security Initiative, which is providing nearly $181 million in funding to critical anti-terrorism programs in the New York City urban area, which includes New York City, the City of Yonkers, Westchester County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County.
- The State Homeland Security Program, which is providing more than $52 million in funding to counties across the state and to New York City to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism and other catastrophic disasters.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $1.4 million in funding for projects related to the research, promotion and development of New York’s flourishing agricultural economy. Approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, this funding includes support for a second year of malting barley research at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, equipment and operating expenses at the New York Wine & Culinary Center, and funding to help Western New York maple syrup producers better market their products.
Every year, the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, solicits applications to assist in the development of agriculture and agriculture-related businesses in a nine county region, which include Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. On Friday, March 27, the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority Board of Directors voted to fund the following projects in 2015:
- NY Wine and Culinary Center – $300,000 – equipment replacement, facility repairs and expansion, and operational costs.
- New York Wine and Grape Foundation – $216,664 – Phase Five of the NY Drinks NY campaign.
- Western NY Maple Producers – $33,336 – Mobile maple exhibit.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County – $60,231 – To provide support and training to farmers through a farmers’ market specialist program.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County – $43,416 – To provide specialty cut flower, vegetable and mushroom production for the county’s Bhutanese market.
- New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – $74,518 – To support research to improve the profitability and productivity of lima beans in New York State.
- New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – $159,893 – To support maintenance and equipment, including a temperature controlled ploy house and summer scholar support.
- New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – $241,716 – To accelerate production of organic grains, corn and soybeans in Western NY.
- New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – $133,242 – To support the second year of a multi-year research plan for malting barley production in New York State.
- Foodlink – $100,000 – To purchase equipment necessary to maximize efficiencies and create product diversity in value-added product lines.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the designation of 12 brownfield opportunity areas in economically-challenged communities across New York State. The Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program helps local communities establish revitalization strategies that return dormant and blighted areas into productive areas to spur economic development. This designation is based upon plans of varying focus that reflect local conditions, and projects receiving this designation are given priority status for grants and additional Brownfield Cleanup Program tax credit incentives.
Separate from the sites receiving BOA designation today, the 2015-16 State Budget extends the Brownfield Cleanup Program for ten years, and includes important reforms to protect taxpayers and promote brownfield redevelopment, particularly Upstate. The Budget also includes a new $100 million appropriation and extends the State Superfund cleanup program for ten years. The Superfund has been instrumental in identifying, investigating and cleaning up hazardous waste sites throughout the State.
The 12 designated BOAs announced are:
- Chadakoin River Central/Eastern BOA, City of Jamestown, Chautauqua County
- City of North Tonawanda BOA, Niagara County
- Batavia Opportunity Area, Genesee County
- Lyell-Lake-State (LYLAKS BOA), City of Rochester, Monroe County
- Vacuum Oil-South Genesee River Corridor BOA, City of Rochester, Monroe County
- Village of Macedon Waterfront and Downtown BOA, Wayne County
- Downtown Rome BOA, Oneida County
- Village of Lyons Falls BOA, Lewis County
- Fort Edward Northeast Industrial BOA, Town and Village of Fort Edward, Washington County
- Jamaica BOA, Queens County
- Port Morris Harlem Riverfront BOA, Bronx County
- Wyandanch Downtown BOA, Town of Babylon, Suffolk County
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the following eight appointments to his administration:
Matthew Driscoll will be nominated to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. Mr. Driscoll previously served as President and CEO of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, where he implemented new business models which have resulted in record-setting investments in New York State’s clean water infrastructure.
Ron Thaniel has been appointed Deputy Secretary for Transportation. Mr. Thaniel has nearly two decades of transportation experience at federal, state, local and international levels on investments needed to rebuild and modernize transportation infrastructure. He previously served as Founder and Principal of Thaniel Government Relations LLC, a transportation consulting firm.
Karen Rae has been appointed Senior Advisor for Innovative Project Delivery for Empire State Development. Ms. Rae, a nationally-recognized transportation expert with over 35 years of related experience, previously served as Governor Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Transportation, a position she held since 2011. In this role, she oversaw and coordinated budget, policy and the Governor’s initiatives within the transportation portfolio, including the New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Thruway/Canals corporation, MTA, Department of Motor Vehicles, Port Authority of NY/NJ and New York State Bridge Authority.
Lola W. Brabham has been appointed Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Civil Service. Previously, Ms. Brabham served as Deputy Commissioner for Administration and Chief and Financial Officer for the State Department of Labor and, prior, was Assistant Chief Budget Examiner for the State Division of the Budget. She was Assistant Secretary for Health, Medicaid and Oversight and Director of Human Services in the Executive Chamber under Governor David Paterson.
Christopher J. Schoepflin has been appointed Western New York Regional Director, Director of Special Initiatives & President of USA Niagara. Mr. Schoepflin has served as President of the Corporation since 2005 and will be gaining additional responsibilities as Regional Director and Director of Special Initiatives. He previously served as Senior Project Manager for the Corporation and, prior to his time there, worked for the Buffalo Sabres for ten years, including five as a member of the senior management team.
Felisa Hochheiser has been appointed Special Counsel to the President & CEO for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Empire State Development, where she will work with ESD’s Director of Compliance and Senior Counsel for ethics. For over five years, Ms. Hochheiser served as Director of Investigative Reporting and Special Counsel in the Office of the New York State Inspector General, where she led major investigations into criminal activity and abuses of office in New York State.
Barbara Comninos Kruzansky has been appointed Special Counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the Office of Children and Family Services. Ms. Kruzansky most recently served as Lawyer in Residence at Albany Law School’s Government Law Center, where she worked on priority projects for the Law School’s legal and public policy research center. She previously served as a Senior Court Attorney for the New York State Court of Appeals.
Adam W. Silverman has been appointed Special Counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Mr. Silverman previously served as an associate at Greenberg Traurig LLP focusing on complex civil litigation, regulatory and administrative law, governmental investigations and litigation, and media and First Amendment law.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Career Fair, to be held on April 16, will be the biggest yet with 150 businesses ready to hire for more than 3,000 available Capital Region jobs.
The Career Fair will be held on Thursday, April 16, from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The event is free for job seekers and businesses. Job seekers are encouraged to pre-register early: www.labor.ny.gov/mlkcareers.
Participating businesses come from 16 industry sectors, including:
- Finance and Insurance
- Utilities and Construction
- Professional, Scientific & Technical
- Healthcare and Social Assistance
The Dr. King Career Fair is sponsored by the New York State Department of Labor in collaboration with the Office of General Services.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that PW Minor, a manufacturer and international distributor of leather footwear and orthopedic products, will bring previously outsourced production work from China back to New York State. The move will create 100 additional jobs at the company’s Batavia facility. This news comes on the heels of the Governor’s announcement in August 2014 that PW Minor, which was scheduled to close on July 31, 2014, will remain open under new local ownership and management, retaining more than 50 manufacturing jobs.
PW Minor’s $7.35 million project will automate its processes, allowing the company to close the gap between Batavia and China and thereby granting the company the ability to shutdown overseas operations and bring 100 new jobs to Batavia. Empire State Development (ESD) will provide up to $1.75 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits in return for job creation commitments. This is in addition to the previously awarded $449,505 in 2014. If ESD did not incentivize this project, the company would not be able to close production in China and continue to grow in Batavia.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo encouraged New Yorkers to help fight obesity during this year’s 20th anniversary of National Public Health Week, which begun April 6. Obesity, the second leading cause of preventable death in the nation, has also reached epidemic levels in New York State. Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will lead a tour throughout the state visiting organizations working on community-wide initiatives that address obesity and lack of physical activity.
In addition to the statewide tour, the state Department of Health will also be providing health tips through social media under the hash tag #GetFitNYS. For more information on ways to stay fit and eat healthy visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/GetFitNYS.
In New York State, 25.4 percent of adults are obese and another 35.9 percent are overweight, affecting an estimated 8.7 million people. Overweight and obesity affect 40 percent of New York City public school students aged 6-12 years and 32 percent of students throughout the rest of the state.
Obesity and overweight can cause serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, several forms of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Not only have some of these diseases become increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents, but they have also led to New York being ranked second among states for medical expenditures attributable to obesity. Expenditures totaled $11.1 billion in 2009 with $4 billion financed by Medicaid and $2.7 billion financed by Medicare. This evidence supports the strong focus on obesity reduction efforts in the Prevention Agenda 2013-17, the state’s health improvement plan.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State’s fight against opioid addiction has been strengthened by new funding to provide naloxone kits to schools statewide and training for school personnel.
Included as part of the 2015-16 New York State Budget, $272,000 in funding will be used to offer training for school nurses and other personnel from the state’s approximately 3,000 school districts. Those who complete the training will receive naloxone kits for their schools. While naloxone kits and training have been available to school personnel under Governor Cuomo’s Combat Heroin campaign, this funding is specifically earmarked for schools. Final regulations establishing the program’s implementation are currently being drafted in conjunction with the State Education Department. The training is expected to be similar to what is already in use for training first responders and community members.
The increased availability of naloxone, a medication which reverses an opioid overdose, is one of the priorities at the center of Governor Cuomo’s fight to end opioid abuse in New York State. When administered, it can reverse the effects of an overdose by temporarily blocking the effects of the opioid, whether illicit or prescription, allowing the individual to regain consciousness and resume normal breathing. It poses no danger to persons who otherwise might come into contact with it and it is not the kind of medication that can be abused.
Since Governor Cuomo signed a legislative package to combat this epidemic into law last year, New York State has pursued one of the most aggressive campaigns against opioid overdoses in the nation by addressing the problem from several different angles. There are currently more than 45,000 first responders and community members trained in the use of naloxone when an opioid overdose occurs, and more than 500 lives have been saved in the last year alone.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the launch of a new online application system that will aid crime victims and their family members who are seeking compensation for medical bills, moving expenses, lost wages, and other forms of assistance. Last year, the state Office of Victim Services received more than 17,500 paper-based claims, making this online system a more efficient and streamlined way to process those requests for help.
Administered by the Office of Victim Services, the online Victim Service Portal is now live in Western New York, accessible to victim advocates who work for the 49 victim assistance programs funded by the agency in that region. The portal will be activated in the five remaining regions of the state over the next six weeks, with all 228 agency-funded programs able to file online claims by mid-May.
Approximately 85 percent of claims filed are submitted by victim assistance programs. The Victim Service Portal also is accessible to victim assistance programs not funded by the agency and is scheduled to be available in June to individuals seeking to file their own claims.
The portal streamlines the application process. For example, users can edit or modify applications prior to submission; electronically submit required documents, such as crime reports or medical records; and check the status of a claim. It also will reduce the time it currently takes staff to process, review and decide claims.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a statewide crackdown on distracted driving, as part of April’s designation as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. From April 10 to April 15, Troopers in marked and unmarked vehicles will aggressively ticket drivers using handheld devices—like smartphones—while behind the wheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 were injured nationwide in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2013. Additionally, ten percent of all fatal accidents involved a driver who was identified as distracted at the time of the crash.
Governor Cuomo signed into law in 2013 some of the most stringent penalties in the nation, and current New York State law includes the following penalties for distracted drivers:
- For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum is $200
- A second offense in 18 months increases the maximum fine to $250
- A third offense in 18 months results in a maximum fine of $450
- Probationary and junior drivers face a 120-day suspension of their license for a first offense, and one year revocation of their permit or license if a second offense is committed within six months.
Governor Cuomo alerted New Yorkers to a new opportunity to help the families of two fallen police officers while increasing charitable deductions for 2014. Federal legislation – the Slain Officer Family Support Act – recently signed into law by President Barack Obama extends the period for specific tax deductions until April 15, 2015. Taxpayers can claim 2014 deductions for donations to charities that support the families of New York Police Department Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, both of whom were murdered while on duty in December, 2014.
Individuals and families earning $60,000 or less can file their state and federal income tax returns online and for free at any of the Tax Department’s 80 Free Tax Assistance Sites statewide. Tax Department experts are on-site to help taxpayers through the process. To find a site near you, visit tax.ny.gov/fsa.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln will be commemorated starting this month with numerous special events statewide, including a full day of free activities on Saturday, April 25 at the New York State Capitol. This is the date the Lincoln Funeral Train arrived in Albany in 1865 carrying the slain President’s body that then laid in state at the old Capitol on April 26.
The East Gallery of the Capitol will feature an exhibit dedicated to Lincoln’s memory and the contributions New York made to the Union effort in the Civil War. Central to the exhibit is the flag that laid on the President’s coffin. In addition, numerous Lincoln-themed activities will take place at the Capitol including re-enactors, period music and more. To cap off the day, the National Parks Service is sponsoring a presentation by a noted actor who will portray Lincoln in the War Room of the Capitol at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. However, because of limited seating, reservations are required for the Lincoln portrayal and can be made at www.governor.ny.gov/lincolntribute.
Visitors will be able to experience the exhibit at the Capitol through the summer. In addition, New York’s Path Through History program will feature sites and events statewide that explore President Lincoln, the Civil War and their connection to the Empire State. Information is available at www.iloveny.com/Lincoln. More information on the National Parks Funeral Train events can be found here.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the kick-off of the spring and summer season of the I LOVE NEW YORK Bus service, which offers easy and affordable getaways from New York City and Long Island to destinations across New York. This spring and summer, the bus service has doubled the number of opportunities to experience the state’s rich heritage with tours to various destinations including the Hudson Valley, Long Island and the Catskills, as well as overnight trips to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Saratoga Springs and Niagara Falls.
“Following a successful opening season, the I LOVE NEW YORK Bus is hitting the road with more to offer than ever before,” said Governor Cuomo. “This service provides downstate New Yorkers an easy and affordable way to head out of town to experience the best that the Empire State has to offer. Whether it’s a wine tour on Long Island or a family trip to Niagara Falls, there’s something for everyone – all while generating economic activity and supporting jobs in communities across the state.”
The I LOVE NEW YORK Bus was launched last fall to increase transportation access to tourism opportunities, promoting economic growth and jobs throughout New York. This spring and summer lineup builds on the 14 fall and winter outings that brought hundreds of travelers Upstate by offering dozens of additional day and overnight itineraries.
The complete list of I LOVE NEW YORK Bus trips is available at www.iloveny.com/bus.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that work will begin this week on a $15.6 million project to replace seven bridges carrying Route 73 in the Town of Keene, Essex County. The bridges are among the first under contract as part of New York State’s Scour Critical/Flood Prone Bridge Program. The Governor has requested funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to strengthen 105 bridges – the seven announced are among the initial 80 that have been approved by FEMA thus far.
The seven bridges included in the Keene project are:
- Route 73 bridge over Beede Brook, near St. Huberts
- Route 73 bridge over Beede Brook, near St. Huberts
- Route 73 bridge over the East Branch of the Ausable River, near St. Huberts
- Route 73 bridge over Johns Brook in Keene Valley
- Route 73 bridge over Johns Brook Overflow in Keene Valley
- Route 73 bridge over the East Branch of the Ausable River, near Marcy Field
- Route 73 bridge over Cascade Lake Outlet, west of Keene
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced his office completed the following audits:
Town of Blooming Grove – Board Oversight Over Recreation Cash Receipts (Orange County)
The board has not adopted comprehensive written policies for departmental cash receipts or implemented procedures to provide guidance for employees when recording transactions to help ensure financial reports are accurate and reliable.
Village of Cayuga Heights – Board Oversight (Tompkins County)
The board did not ensure the village’s accounting records were current, complete and accurate, and that purchases were made in accordance with the procurement policy. The village’s procurement policy is outdated and the current process does not comply with the procedures outlined in the policy.
Greenville Fire District #1 – Board Oversight (Greene County)
District budgets did not include detailed estimates of revenues and did not include estimates of fund balance. Claims were paid prior to board review and did not contain itemized vouchers. Also, the treasurer does not provide budget status reports to the board and there is no independent oversight to ensure that completed bank reconciliations are correct.
Hauppauge Fire District – Mandatory Training and Procurement (Suffolk County)
Three of the district’s five fire commissioners have not attended mandatory training, as required by law. In addition, the district did not always use competitive methods when procuring goods and services, and did not have contracts with all vendors.
Village of Holley – Financial Condition of the Water and Sewer Funds (Orleans County)
The board did not adequately monitor the financial condition of the water and sewer funds. Both funds relied on interfund advances from the general fund to help finance operations. As a result, the water and sewer funds had deficits of $153,000 and $37,000, respectively.
Town of Olean Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 – Controls Over Financial Activities (Cattaraugus County)
The treasurer did not maintain appropriate records or provide the board with monthly financial reports. Company members did not maintain records for each activity to show an itemized list of the receipts collected from fund-raising events. Further, board minutes were missing from 14 of the 20 meetings held during the audit period.
Plattsburgh Public Library – Circulation Desk Cash Receipts (Clinton County)
Although the board adopted a circulation policy that contains procedures related to collecting cash receipts, the procedures were insufficient. Procedures did not establish which employees were authorized to collect cash receipts or the processes for determining accountability over cash receipts recorded in the library’s computer system.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced a tentative schedule for the planned sale of obligations for the State, New York City, and their major public authorities during the second quarter of 2015.
The proposed new issuances total approximately $4.95 billion, including $2.06 billion scheduled for this month, $662.5 million scheduled for the month of May and $2.23 billion scheduled for June. The anticipated new issuances in the second quarter compare to past planned new issuances of approximately $2.44 billion during the first quarter of 2015, and $2.2 billion during the second quarter of 2014.
The second quarter new money borrowings are expected to include the following:
Dormitory Authority of the State of New York – bond sales of up to $170 million in tax-exempt fixed rate bonds for the month of April, bond sales of up to $110 million in tax-exempt fixed rate bonds for the month of May and a bond sale of up to $1.4 billion of taxable and tax-exempt fixed rate bonds for the month of June.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority – a bond anticipation note sale of up to $500 million in tax-exempt fixed rate notes for the month of June.
New York City Housing Development Corporation – a bond sale of up to $95.4 million in taxable and/or tax-exempt fixed and/or variable rate bonds for the month of April.
New York City Transitional Finance Authority – a bond sale of up to $1.08 billion in taxable and tax-exempt fixed and variable rate bonds for the month of April.
New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation – a bond sale of up to $325 million in tax-exempt fixed rate bonds for the month of June.
New York State Housing Finance Agency – bond sales of up to $371.2 million in tax-exempt fixed and variable rate bonds for the month of April and bond sales of up to $252.5 million in taxable and tax-exempt variable rate bonds for the month of May.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – a bond sale of up to $350 million in tax-exempt fixed rate bonds for the month of April.
Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority – a bond sale of up to $300 million in tax-exempt fixed rate bonds for the month of May.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a lawsuit against the board of directors of two Brooklyn-based nonprofits, Brooklyn Child & Family Services, Inc. and Project Teen Aid Housing Development Fund Corp., for alleged gross negligence and failed management of the organizations – and of two converted townhouses in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The Rose F. Kennedy Family Center, located at 178 Halsey Street, and the Rosa Parks Apartments, located at 243 Hancock Street, have been owned by the jointly operated nonprofits since the 1990s. The charitable organizations were intended to provide housing and support services for pregnant women, young mothers and their children. As set forth in the lawsuit, an investigation by the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau found that several board members listed the townhouses for sale without necessary approval. Supreme Court Justice Genine D. Edwards granted the Attorney General’s Office a temporary restraining order earlier this week that freezes the organization’s assets.
According to a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Monday, the Attorney General’s investigation, which began in February, found that the board of directors of the two organizations ignored the long-standing charitable mission of the groups and led the organizations to financial ruin, resulting in their loss of public funding. The board members who are being sued by the Attorney General’s Office include directors and officers Thomas McKinney and Amuel Renard Hilliard; Gene Baynes, the organizations’ financial manager, whose certification as a financial planner was revoked in 2010 in California; Vivian Munsey-Thomasson, the vice-chair of both boards; and Reggie Wells, a resident of Chicago.
According to the Attorney General’s petition, in August 2013 and at the board’s direction, the organizations evicted the young women who resided at the Rose Kennedy Center and the Rosa Parks Apartments –who the nonprofits were supposed to serve. The board then allegedly attempted to profit personally by marketing the buildings for private sale: The Rose F. Kennedy Family Center was listed by Halstead for $3.6 million in December 2014, and Rosa Parks Apartments was listed by Halstead for $2.1 million in May 2014. According to the allegations, the board also enlisted Vice Chair Munsey-Thomasson’s son, who is a real estate broker, to market both properties, with the prospect of earning six percent commissions.
As part of an ongoing focus on widespread allegations of wage theft at public works projects in New York City, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters announced the arrests of five subcontractors on charges they underpaid wages and benefits to workers at three publicly-funded New York City construction projects.
The arrests stem from an investigation into underpayment and kickback schemes that allegedly took place at P.S. 7X, an elementary school in the Bronx, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Sugar Hill Houses in Harlem, and the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Pomonok Houses project in Fresh Meadows, Queens, between January 2012 and November 2014. The Manhattan case includes a top count felony of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree against Sergio Raymundo and his New Paltz-based construction company for allegedly cheating eight workers at the Sugar Hill housing project out of approximately $800,000 in wages during a 17-month period.
These arrests are part of an ongoing effort to root out prevailing wage underpayment practices in New York City. In December, three other subcontractors were arrested for allegedly violating prevailing wage laws. Those arrests involved work done at P.S. 196K in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the NYCHA Pomonok Houses development in Fresh Meadows, Queens.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and Senator Patrick Gallivan will sponsor the Attorney General’s program bill regulating the use of payroll cards to increase protections for workers, clarify ambiguities in the law, and ensure that payroll cards offer a convenient and beneficial method for workers to access their pay. Several Rochester area labor and community organizations also announced their support for the bill, including the Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, the Rochester Building & Construction Trades, the Rochester Legal Aid Society, Metro Justice, the Worker Justice Center of New York, and Empire Justice. The Attorney General’s Payroll Card Act requires clear disclosure of payroll card fees, and restricts certain fees. The legislation was first proposed last year, following recommendations made in a report released by the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau.
A payroll card is a prepaid debit card used by employers to pay wages to employees, typically as an alternative to direct deposit or a paper check. Each payday, a cardholder employee’s wages are deposited electronically into an account at a bank selected by the employer or by the payroll card vendor. The employee can obtain access to the funds in the account by using the payroll card. Similar to a bank-issued debit card, the payroll card can be used to withdraw funds from an ATM, make point-of-sale purchases, and electronically transfer funds, among other functions.
Use of payroll cards has increased significantly in recent years. Nationally, an estimated 5.8 million workers received their wages via payroll cards in 2013, and that number is expected to increase to 10.8 million by 2017, according to research reported in Forbes. Often cited benefits of payroll cards include cost savings for employers; payroll cards’ usefulness in weather-related disasters when paper checks are hard to deliver to employees; payroll cards’ limited environmental impact, compared with paper checks, and the lower transactional cost to employees of payroll cards, when compared with check-cashing outlets. These benefits however cannot be used as an excuse to charge onerous fees or withhold basic information to participant wage earners.