Opinion: The Cuomo watch

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Last week Andrew Cuomo began his third term as governor of New York State. This week the clock starts ticking on whether he will shortly seek a new job…president of the United States.

It’s not as if Governor Cuomo doesn’t have enough to occupy his time in Albany.

In fact, he and the state legislature have a full plate of issues to contend with. Rent laws for New York City, health insurance, MTA funding, repairing an aged infrastructure, ethics and election reform, passage of a new state budget by April 1, and much more.

To be accurate, Mr. Cuomo has said repeatedly that under no circumstances will he run for president in 2020. Yet the rumors persist. To a large extent, they have been fueled by his recently amped up talk about the conditions in Washington, D.C. and the failures of the Trump presidency with comparisons to his own leadership in New York. Andrew Cuomo would surely not be the first politician to say one thing and proceed to do another especially as it relates to a run for higher office. Some call that lying, some politicians call it strategy.

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Nanny gets 15 years for shoving baby wipe down an infant’s throat at Waterside

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, a nanny who was found guilty last month of trying to kill an eight-week-old boy in his family’s Waterside apartment was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

Apparently fed up with the baby’s crying and her salary, Marianne Benjamin-Williams, 47, had shoved a baby wipe down the infant’s throat on May 18, 2017. Despite arguing that the baby’s toddler sister had done it, the jury found her guilty on all charges, including attempted murder, assault and strangulation.

It hadn’t helped her case that she’d lied about her employment history to the family she worked for, including past work and references and had doctored her IDs.

Following the sentencing, District Attorney Cyrus Vance called the former nanny’s actions “gruesome.”

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Man allegedly stole from Walgreens since summer

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested a man last week for allegedly swiping shampoo and toothpaste from the Walgreens in Stuyvesant Town on more than a dozen occasions since last July. Sam Lee, 32, was arrested on Wednesday, January 3 at 5:30 a.m. for 16 alleged thefts from the Walgreens at 298 First Avenue.

Lee’s alleged spree began on July 8, 2018 around 7 a.m. when he allegedly took shampoo bottles that he stuck in a backpack before leaving without paying. Police said that he returned to the store on July 16, 2018 at 11:15 a.m. when he took shampoo and conditioner that he concealed in a backpack before leaving without paying.

The next time he returned to the store on August 29, police said that he stole multiple Crest toothpaste products.

Police said that he went back to the store almost a month later on September 25 at 2:35 p.m. and took shampoo, allegedly hiding it in a green bag before leaving.

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Pick-pockets preying on customers at local Trader Joe’s markets

Trader Joe’s market on Sixth Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The NYPD wants help from Trader Joe’s to stop pickpocketing in their stores but the California-based grocer reportedly does not want to spare the expense. Thirteenth Precinct Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman said that the company has been unwilling to install security cameras in their stores to aid the police department in catching sticky-fingered suspects who have reportedly been stealing from other customers in the store.

“They’ve been targeting Trader Joe’s because they know they can get away with it,” Hellman told Town & Village of the suspects. “When we don’t have video, it’s almost impossible to make any arrests on these cases. The lack of cooperation from Trader Joe’s shows a lack of empathy for the victims and the people shopping at their stores.”

Police said that after a handful of unattended property thefts this summer, the NYPD was able to convince the company to install security cameras but the cameras were ultimately removed before officers were even able to get access to the footage through a warrant for one of the recent cases.

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Cabbie punched and robbed in Gramercy

jan17 taxi robbery suspect1

First robbery suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for two men who stiffed a cabbie, stole his phone and punched him in the face on a street in Gramercy.

Cops said that on Wednesday, January 9 at 7:10 p.m., the 31-year-old driver was dropping off the men at Park Avenue South and East 22nd Street, after they’d hailed the cab at 96th Street and Broadway. However, the passengers didn’t pay the fare before getting out and when the driver asked for the money, one of them reached into his window and stole his cell phone. When the driver got out of his car to get it back, one of the two men punched him before they both fled.

jan17 taxi robbery suspect2

Second robbery suspect

The victim refused medical attention at the scene.

The two suspects are described as being black and about 18-20.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). All calls are strictly confidential.

 

Kips Bay residents say planned renovation of Bellevue South Park won’t make it more inviting

The renovation plan was discussed at a Community Board 6 meeting last Wednesday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A plan to renovate Bellevue South Park that city officials presented to the Community Board 6 Parks committee last Wednesday left neighborhood residents feeling like they hadn’t been listened to.

“I don’t see much of what we talked about in the focus groups,” said Aaron Humphrey, a resident of Straus Houses and a longtime advocate for the park. “We have quality of life and safety issues. In the southeastern part of the park, we have a lot of homeless who sit on the benches there and smoke marijuana. The trees block all of it. We wanted the gate removed to make it more community friendly, and we wanted to maximize the space.”

Community organizers have been pushing the city to make changes to Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay to create an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible dog run and separate the adult exercise equipment from the children’s play equipment, primarily to discourage residents from the nearby shelters from congregating near where children play. But residents also said that the amount of tree cover in some areas of the park encourages shady behavior and had been hoping that the design would take more of this into account, possibly by opening up the park and removing some of the fences.

“I recall a conversation that one of the goals was to keep it more open so that the transient population wouldn’t stay there,” Kips Bay resident Karen Keavey said. “I know we have limited funds but I don’t see any changes to how the park is now. What we’ve been talking about is the entire ethos and vibe of the park so it’s more user-friendly and safe.”

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Editorial: We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work. How about you?

We will freely admit that the governor’s slamming the brakes on a plan that would have made 250,000 straphangers miserable for 15 months (instead proposing significantly less misery for that time or perhaps five months longer) felt like a white knight rescue.

But.

Andrew Cuomo is no knight. Nor is he, for that matter, an engineer.

Andrew Cuomo is a politician, and the experts he’s relying on for all this newfound information also have no experience with the subway they’re proposing to fix. So please forgive us if we’re not phone banking for Cuomo’s 2020 presidential campaign just yet. Especially since it’s still curious as to why the famously calculating governor would take such an incredible risk. The election against his formidable primary challenger is over, after all. NYC Transit President Andy Byford believes he is the one who would be on the hook if this plan fails spectacularly and he is of course right, but so would Cuomo since we all know he’s the one strong-arming all of this.

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Stuyvesant Town residents hope for less chaos on 14th St., old layout on 20th St.

Workers remove signs surrounding the L train construction zone on East 14th Street after Governor Cuomo’s announcement for an alternative plan to the shutdown. (Photo by Hermann Reiner)

By Sabina Mollot

With the dreaded L train shutdown no longer in the works, residents along the East 14th Street construction zone are now wondering if this means they can finally get a break from the endless construction, at least on Saturdays, while others are hoping the city will undo the recent reconfiguration of East 20th Street that’s led to a slew of parking tickets and towed cars.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, is among those wondering about both.

“What effect will the change have on the construction on East 14th Street?” she asked. “Did the relevant agencies just spend two years doing work they didn’t have to? Will East 14th Street still be a staging area? Will there be impacts on noise, dust and debris? Does that mean the East 20th Street redesign was not required? Can 20th Street be restored to what it was originally?”

Until those questions are answered, Steinberg said the TA has no position on the new plan.

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Letters to the editor, Jan. 10

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

A royal screw-up on East 20th Street

Dear Editor:

I am deeply disturbed by the current state of our city. It appears from all indications that our dear mayor and his erstwhile Department of Transportation have absolute “Royal Authority” to change whatever they feel like without any community review or input.

Case in point is their recent removal of parking spaces along 20th Street between First Avenue and the FDR. To make matters worse they (without any notice or review) changed the traffic pattern on 20th Street. One can no longer access the FDR North by turning left at 20th Street. There is absolutely no explanation for this. There is no traffic coming from the opposite direction. What is the problem?

Now if you are uninformed you must turn right going south rather than being able to turn left to go north. There is absolutely no logic whatsoever that would explain this.

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Police Watch: Robbery at Goodwill, Employee assaulted at Washington Irving

ACCUSED SHOPLIFTER AT GOODWILL ALLEGEDLY HIT EMPLOYEE WITH HELMET
Police arrested 38-year-old Nicholas Vandermillen for an alleged robbery inside the Goodwill at 220 East 23rd Street on Saturday, January 5 at 10 a.m. Police said that Vandermillen took a helmet from a display inside the store and attempted to leave without paying for it. An employee then confronted him, and this turned into an argument outside the store.

Police said that Vandermillen then spilled coffee in the victim’s face and both he and the victim fell to the ground. Vandermillen allegedly stood up while the victim was still on the ground and grabbed the helmet with his left hand, then swung it and hit the victim in the face with the intention of causing physical harm.

Vandermillen was also charged with petit larceny and possession of stolen property.

TEEN ASSAULTS EMPLOYEE AT WASHINGTON IRVING BUILDING
Police arrested a teenager for assaulting a Department of Education employee inside the Washington Irving campus at 40 Irving Place on Thursday, January 3 at 11:53 a.m. Police said that the teen punched a DOE parent coordinator in the head, causing pain to the left side of her face. The coordinator was removed to Beth Israel Hospital for treatment.

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Opinion: With Dems in control of House, time for a progressive agenda

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney

By Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney

When Democrats take control of the House of the Representatives in January, we will have an opportunity to change the course of our country by pursuing a bold progressive agenda that serves all Americans and providing a badly needed check on President Trump and his administration.

In the next Congress, I will be the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, chair of the Capital Markets Subcommittee and a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Using these positions, I will fight to expand opportunities for all Americans, strengthen our health care system, defend our rights and liberties and make sure Congress acts as the check and balance envisioned in the Constitution.

The first order of business in a Democratic House will be H.R. 1, a bold reform package designed to strengthen our democracy. It will include campaign finance reform, similar to New York City’s system, that combines small-donor incentives and matching support — to increase and multiply the power of small donors — and requires all political organizations to disclose their donors. In addition, it will impose strong new ethics rules to stop officials from using their public office for personal gain, as well as election reforms to make it easier to vote by strengthening the Voting Rights Act, promoting automatic voter registration and bolstering our election infrastructure against foreign attackers.

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Burglar swipes tools, iPad from restaurant

Burglary suspect

By Sabina Mollot

Cops are on the lookout for a burglar who swiped an iPad and other things from Bazar, a tapas bar/restaurant in NoMad on Saturday, December 22.

Police said he was seen entering the restaurant located at 31 West 26th Street through a front door at about 6:10 a.m. and then proceeded to take an iPad Touch worth $200, and tools including a drill, bottles of Windex and a box of gloves. There was no sign of forced entry. The suspect, based on a fuzzy surveillance photo, is a black man last seen in a blue beanie hat.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 1-800-577-TIPS. All calls are confidential.

Man charged with assaulting bus driver

An M34A bus at Waterside Plaza (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police arrested 42-year-old Sharif Pasha for allegedly assaulting an MTA bus driver at Waterside Plaza in Kips Bay on Friday, December 21 around 10 p.m.

According to Patch.com, Pasha, who is homeless, walked over to the driver’s side window when he got off the bus at Waterside Plaza and grabbed the 28-year-old driver, repeatedly punching her in the face and chest. Police said that Pasha fled the scene but was arrested about an hour later near the 30th Street Men’s Shelter near First Avenue, where he lives.

Police said that the driver was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment and is in stable condition. Pasha was charged with assault. The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not have any further information about the case.

Hoylman bills get support in governor’s 2019 agenda

State Senator Hoylman is the sponsor of the Child Victim’s Act and GENDA. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted a number of causes frequently championed by State Senator Brad Hoylman in his speech outlining his agenda for 2019 earlier last month, in addition to pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The governor specifically called for the passage of Hoylman’s legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes and the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime and human rights laws. The governor also called for bolstering gun control measures and passing Senator Hoylman’s bill banning bump-fire stock devices.

Hoylman said that he’s optimistic about the governor’s commitment to pass his legislation, especially because of the Democrats’ new majority. Of Hoylman’s bills that the governor mentioned in his address, the senator said that the Child Victims Act, which would increase the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, is one of the most crucial.

“New York is an outlier for protections for child sexual abuse and LGBT issues, which were two issues that the governor mentioned, so I’m really glad to see him supporting them,” Hoylman said. “And now we have a Senate to support them. No longer does the governor have to compromise, which unfortunately has been the case in the last decade.”

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Producer of Stuyvesant Town documentary dies

Partner on project says he will complete film

Marie Beirne, who had a background in preservation, died on November 26. (Photo from Marie Beirne bio)

By Sabina Mollot

It was over a decade ago when, as part of an effort to get Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village landmarked, the Tenants Association formed a committee to help with this goal, including by potentially making a short film.

Ultimately what happened was that, while the apartment complex still hasn’t been landmarked or even on the waitlist for consideration, the short film turned into a full-length documentary that according to one of its two co-producers, William Kelly, is currently about 85 percent complete.

Sadly, the other co-producer of the film, Stuyvesant Town resident Marie Beirne, died on November 26, 2018. Beirne’s death at age 72 was unexpected, Kelly said, stemming from complications from what was supposed to be a routine hip replacement last May. There wound up being complications including infections that landed her back in the hospital, including for more surgery. Though Beirne seemed in good spirits just four days prior to her death, when family and friends celebrated Thanksgiving with her over Chinese food at her hospital room, she was never able to recover.

She died peacefully in her sleep at New York Presbyterian.

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