On the brief side...
City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe resigned on June 18 to take a position with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national leader in creating city parks and raising money for local conservation. Benepe, who headed the Parks Department for some 10 and a half years, will be succeeded by New York City Center for Economic Opportunity Founding Executive Director Veronica White.
Since he became Parks Commissioner in January 2002, Benepe has overseen a major expansion of city parks, as well as the largest expansion of waterfront parks in the city’s history. In his newly created position at the Trust for Public Land, he will be charged with replicating many of the city’s most successful initiatives on a national scale. “It is fortunate that the person who knows most about the subject is also the best qualified to lead the effort to accomplish the goals of the Trust for Public Land,” Benepe’s predecessor, former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, said. “With his broad experience, good nature and long term commitment to open space, [Benepe] is that person, and we look forward to parks’ continued growth over the years.” Benepe started his career in the Parks Department as a summer seasonal worker with Stern as his boss more than 30 years ago.
In an effort to ensure New York City water rates remain reasonable, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder (DRockaway) announced that A.3725-A, a bill he sponsored, that would change the composition of the New York City Water Board has passed the Assembly. The bill would give appointing power to two other offices of the city government and would offer a level of accountability to ratepayers. All members of the board are currently appointed by the mayor.
Under the proposed legislation, the mayor would be able to appoint four of the seven members with the speaker of the city council, the public advocate and the city comptroller being able to appoint one member to the board each.
“Water is a daily necessity that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg,” Goldfeder said. “The mayor shouldn’t have complete control of the city’s water board. By adding two additional offices to the board, we’re one step closer to ensuring the people are properly represented and water rates are left in check.”
Currently, the New York City Water Board sets the rates for water and sewer fees charged to all building owners, homeowners and businesses in the city.
Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz and state Senator Joseph Robach on June 15 announced the state senate passed their legislation (A.10095/S.7446) to require parental consent for persons less than 18 years of age to receive a body piercing. The Assembly passed the measure last week and now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
The measure amends the public health law to prohibit an owner, operator or employee of a body piercing studio from performing a body piercing on a person under 18 years of age without the written consent of a parent or guardian. This legislation is necessary to mitigate the dangerous effects of body piercing, while ensuring that parents/guardians play a pivotal role in the decision for persons less than 18 years of age to receive a body piercing. At this time, 31 states have laws that prohibit body piercing on minors without parental permission.
“Body piercings can pose a significant health risk if not cared for properly,” Simanowitz said. “This bill will ensure that parents are aware of their son or daughter’s intent to receive a body piercing to prevent complications such as allergic reactions, skin infections or scarring.”
Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. has blamed a Department of Education policy that he terms “unreasonable” for the theft of cellphones belonging to 200 students from a truck parked outside Christopher Columbus H.S. in The Bronx on June 12. “This theft is the result of a wrongheaded DOE policy which endangers our kids,” Vallone declared.
Vallone, chair of the council Public Safety Committee, sponsored a bill in 2007 (Intro 351-A), which passed despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto, stating that no one shall interfere with the right of a person to bring a cellphone to and from school. However, it was found that the council did not have the right to mandate what occurs inside schools regarding cellphones. This ruling has forced many students to pay a fee to deli owners and truck companies to hold their cellphones during school hours.
Brian Merlis, a teacher of vocal music at Springfield Gardens H.S. and an amateur historian who by 2000 had collected more than 10,000 pieces of ephemera, 5,000 negatives and several thousand prints and authored or co-authored six books on Brooklyn, will be honored at an awards reception on Tuesday, July 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Woodlands, One Southwoods Rd., Woodbury, at the Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course. For more information, call Legendary Events at 516-222-0550.
Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) announced the passage of legislation making it illegal to knowingly access child pornography online – bringing New York into line with federal law. The bill, A10713/S7742, which Simanowitz was a prime sponsor of, easily passed both the Assembly and senate this week and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“Technology is constantly changing and evolving, so must our diligence to ensure our laws are updated as well,” Simanowitz said. “This measure will protect our children, making it a crime to knowingly access child pornography on the Internet with the intent to view it.”
The legislation will make it a class E felony to knowingly access, with the intent to view, a sexual performance by a child less than 16 years old. In addition, this measure will clarify that attorneys are not guilty of possession of child pornography when such possession is part of the attorney’s representation of a defendant charged with a child pornography crime.
Congressmember Bob Turner criticized President Obama for invoking Executive Privilege, a policy he himself criticized while in the Senate, to conceal documents related to the Fast and Furious issue.
“When President Obama ran for office in 2008, he vowed to have an open and transparent administration. Today, he showed once again that his words were just empty campaign rhetoric. The president has chosen the misguided step of using executive privilege to seal documents related to the Fast and Furious case. The use of executive privilege is a move he criticized as a Senator. His attempt to shield his political appointees is an affront to the American people and the family of border patrol agent Brian Terry who was killed as a result of the Fast and Furious debacle. This is a despicable act of self-preservation which makes one wonder if the administration’s involvement in this issue goes all the way to the top. The president should do the right thing and have the documents released so that Brian Terry’s loved ones can receive the whole story.”
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas released a statement on the Pena Plea: “The importance of calling rape by its name was demonstrated today by the guilty plea of former Police Officer Michael Pena. Though there was a mistrial on the rape charges at his trial earlier this year, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office heeded the wishes of the victim in this case to ensure that Pena was convicted of the crime he committed—rape. I am heartened to see the justice system follow through with these meaningful charges. No victim of this kind of brutal sexual assault should be re-victimized by being told they were not raped. The Rape is Rape bill I have introduced in the New York state Assembly redefines rape to include forcible oral and anal sex and will ensure that no other victim will face the same indignity that this Bronx schoolteacher suffered. The justice system must have two goals at its heart—providing victims with a sense of justice and punishing the guilty.”
Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) announced the passage of legislation in the Assembly and senate, which he introduced, increasing penalties against individuals who falsely represent themselves as lawyers.
“This bill will make appearing as an attorney-at-law without being admitted and registered, a class E felony instead of a misdemeanor and increases penalties for the unlawful practice of law when damages are in excess of $1,000,” said Assemblyman Braunstein.