‘Bank’s Wrist Slapped, Give Refund To Customers’
State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. are burned up over a $4.8 million penalty imposed on investment giant Morgan Stanley because of its participation in an illegal anti-competitive case involving two Astoria power companies.
Vallone blasted it because “the bank gets to keep most of the “dirty money” and Gianaris criticized the penalty because it allows Morgan Stanley “to profit from its misdeeds by more than $16 million”.
But what also rankles both Astoria lawmakers is that the judge didn’t order any reimbursement for Western Queens families that were bilked in the lousy deal.
The two Astoria Democrats criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for the punishment it imposed on Morgan Stanley for the giant bank’s role involving two Western Queens power-generating companies, KeySpan Energy Corporation and Astoria Generating Company.
Besides complaining about the easy treatment the federal agency gave to the bank, Vallone and Gianaris told the overseer in the case that the settlement should also have included “reimbursement to ratepayers who lost money due to the price fixing deal”.
They have also requested a re-evaluation of the agreement between Morgan Stanley and the Department of Justice. Vallone and Gianaris charged that the “minuscule amount ($4.8 million), compared to the $21.6 million the company collected over the two years”, as a result of its illegal practices and the nearly $300 million lost by energy ratepayers.
“As a former prosecutor,” Vallone explained, “you always require restitution in crimes involving money. Instead, Morgan Stanley gets to keep most of the ‘dirty money’ they received, and the fine they get hit with is nothing more than the cost of doing business for them. First Morgan Stanley took advantage of us, and now the court system has.”
Gianaris stated, “I am extremely disappointed that today’s decision allows Morgan Stanley to profit from its misdeeds by more than $16 million. This decision not only denies consumers justice in this case, but it also fails to deter other banks from engaging in similar schemes in the future.”
WEPRIN’S SHINING MOMENT: When Assemblymember David Weprin (D–Great Neck) was a councilmember (and Finance Committee chairman), one of his pet peeves was the annual increase homeowners steadily received in their water bills. Weprin and Councilmember James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) made their attacks on Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the annual increases involving huge numbers of homeowners, but the increases continued nevertheless.
But last week, at a hearing called by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, to confront the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with 326 complaints about unfair bills or other mistreatment, Weprin was in the limelight because DEP has sent him an inflated bill for his home in Holliswood.
Weprin testified he had been paying about $400 every three months for his water bill when suddenly a bill came for about $1,300 for three months.
Weprin conceded that the higher bill might have been caused by a leaky lawn sprinkler, but he said he should not be charged for it since he didn’t receive an “alert” from DEP before the higher bill was assessed.
Associate Commissioner Matt Mahoney, who was on the stand testifying, said Weprin’s matter would be looked into. Mahoney heard some greater horror stories, but said his department had received over 6,000 complaints out of three million bills a year sent out. De Blasio said 500 angry homeowners who appealed to his office would disagree.
Summing up, de Blasio said the problem is that the city is only interested in collecting as much money as possible, and that’s the problem.
LIU FIGHTING POSTER FINE, THOMPSON SMILING: City Comptroller John Liu and his predecessor William Thompson were both given heavy fines after the 2009 election for illegally hanging campaign posters. Thompson ran and lost his election against Mayor Bloomberg; Liu allegedly committed his misdeed in running for and winning the comptroller’s seat.
Liu was fined $527,000 and Thompson got hit with $594,374 in penalties. Liu said recently he expects to continue fighting to reverse the fine against him, but Thompson got some great news last week from the city Campaign Finance Board. It sent Thompson a check for $444,029, representing matching funds he was still owed for the 2009 election.
Doing the arithmetic, Thompson could reduce his debt to $150,345, but his campaign said after receiving the windfall that they’re not sure what they’ll do with the newly found riches since he’s campaigning to run for mayor next year.
In a recent news story, Liu, also expected to run for mayor next year, said the 7,032 tickets he received were issued, “believe it or not, two years after the election”. Apparently, he feels that may be grounds to challenge the validity of the huge fines.
“I think it’s unfair and we’re going to use every channel, every venue of due process that I’m entitled to,” Liu said.
Liu’s remarks came before Thompson’s windfall was announced and the question is: Is Liu entitled to a huge matching funds bundle like Thompson received?
SILVER LIKES QUEENS AS CASINO SITE: State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful men in Albany, has made it abundantly clear that he does not want any casino in Manhattan in the future and he reiterated that in Monday’s Daily News.
But in that same article, a source or sources close to Silver mentioned two possible sites in Queens: Willets Point in Flushing, and Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park.
The Aqueduct site has already proven itself as friendly territory for gamblers for four or five months, the World Resorts racino opened its doors and has been doing remarkable business with only about 500 one armed bandits to attract the crowds.
Actually, since the racino opened, the operators have often mentioned their desire to open a full fledged casino on the huge racetrack site.
As for Willets Point, it is presently in the development stage, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg a strong sponsor of the idea, although new building ideas were reported recently. But the news hinted Bloomberg looks favorably on the casino idea at the site.
Other site location ideas attributed to Silver is Coney Island in Brooklyn and this would be an easy sell to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz who’s already said he would welcome the betting industry to his borough.
However, legalization of casinos in New York state is already in the process and will take a couple more years to be completed, so there has been little talk about where casinos should be built.
SOCCER STADIUM IN QUEENS TOO? Also on the subject of major developments coming to Queens, the New York Post reported Monday that a major league soccer stadium is close to being approved for construction at Flushing Meadows- Corona Park in Flushing.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D–Rego Park) was pushing the idea for it. As reported on Monday, the major league soccer stadium will cost $300 million private funds to build, would hold 25,000 seats and 10 other fields for community use, and would join the Mets’ Citi Field and the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium as a sports destination.
CROWLEY, DA BROWN, ADDABBO COMMENT ON SIKH SHOOTINGS: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), whose district includes many Sikh- Americans issued the following statement following the tragic shooting and killing of them in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin:
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families and community of those injured and killed in today’s (August 7) tragic shooting and join the people of Wisconsin and the entire Sikh-American community in mourning. There is no room in any society for such violence.
“While we do not yet know the motivations of this senseless act and it’s important to wait for more information from law enforcement, we do know that Sikh-Americans are too often the victims of intolerance and hate. Today we all grieve for all those lost in this tragic event.”
Crowley, a leader on Sikh- American issues in Congress, has actively worked to promote efforts to protect that group from crimes and to encourage recognition of their history and culture. He said that over the last year, Sikh-Americans have been targeted for attack in New York, Michigan and California. In April, Crowley filed a letter signed by 93 members of Congress urging the FBI to document and quantify the commission of hate crimes against Sikh-Americans.
Also commenting on the latest attack against Sikh- Americans in Wisconsin, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown stated:
“As the District Attorney of Queens County, the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, I am deeply moved and saddened by the tragic shooting of members of the Sikh community gathered for prayer at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
“As we join to include the victims in our thoughts and prayers, it is fitting that we also reaffirm our commitment to do everything we can to prevent acts of gun violence. Those who commit such crimes must know that they will be held accountable. And those who seek to live and worship freely in our state and nation must know that we will be vigilant to keep them safe and secure.
“We extend our sincerest sympathies to members of the Sikh community as we continue to extend our hands and hearts in brotherhood and solidarity.”
Adding his voice to the outcry against Sikh-Americans in Wisconsin, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) stated: “The tragic shooting in Wisconsin reminds us again that illegal and criminal gun violence poses a serious threat to communities across the country and cannot be tolerated. When innocent people, going about their daily lives, such as going to the movies, playing in a park, or praying at a religious site, are fatal victims to brutal crime, action must be taken.
“As a state senator, I feel it is my duty to advocate against gun violence and to ensure that our law enforcement agencies are given the resources they need to keep our communities safe. We must examine all legislative means necessary to address this issue. Our focus should always be on preventing future acts of violence, not merely reacting to the latest senseless act.”
MILLER GETS ENDORSED FOR REELECTION: Two powerful labor organizations, Local 32 BJ SEIU and Local 1199 SEIU last week announced their endorsements of Assemblymember Mike Miller for re-election in November. Representing a broad collection of 100,000 workers—security officers, doormen, porters and maintenance workers, and hospital and nursing home attendants and food service workers—the endorsements assure Miller of strong assistance in his campaign for re-election to the 38th AD post in areas of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale.
Tipping his hat to the unions, Miller stated, “Organized labor is the backbone of our economy. I am proud to represent a district containing one of the largest concentrations of 32 BJ members in all of New York City. Their concerns are my concerns…”
ACKERMAN, P.O. OFFICIALS HUDDLE ON BAYSIDE ISSUE: Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D–Bayside), who played a role earlier this year in blocking the closing of a huge postal distribution center in College Point, is now holding discussions with postal officials who want to close the Bayside post office located at 212-35 42nd Ave., near Bell Boulevard.
Postal officials have said they want to shut down this facility and move it into the postal carrier annex at 41-29 216th St., also in Bayside. Ackerman and others in Bayside feel the proposed new facility is in a remote area while the present post office is in an accessible commercial area.
Ackerman said in a statement, “As the USPS decides whether to move forward with their plan to relocate the Bayside post office, I am hopeful and confident that postal officials will listen to the concerns I have expressed to them in our discussions, and conclude that relocating this facility to an isolated and out-of-the-way spot is unwise for both them and the community.”
The lawmaker emphasized, “The location of the Bayside branch has served the area and postal service well for decades, and I am optimistic that we can reach a positive resolution that will allow the Bayside facility to stay where it is.”
TURNER SAYS FED DOT GRANT AWARDED FOR JAMAICA BAY GREENWAY: A grant of almost $1.5 million has been awarded by the federal Department of Transportation for use on the Jamaica Bay Greenway implementation plan, according to Congressmember Bob Turner (R–C–Queens/Brooklyn).
“National parks and other federal lands are a time capsule that provides visitors a look into our nation’s history and a safe environment for outdoor activities and education for all Americans to enjoy,” said Turner.
The lawmaker added, “It is crucial to provide the necessary infrastructure to maintain and improve transportation around these American landmarks which is just what these grants enable. This grant will help fund critical improvements to Flatbush Avenue, the Marine Parkway Bridge, Beach Channel Drive, Veterans Memorial Bridge, Cross Bay Boulevard, Shore Parkway and several smaller connector streets. I am excited for the improvements these funds will create in Queens and Brooklyn.
NEW DEMOCRATIC CLUB IN RICHMOND HILL: Community members from the Richmond Hill section have joined together to form a new Democratic club called the Richmond Hill Democratic Club.
At the same time the group has endorsed Councilmember James Sanders as its candidate for state senator from the 10th District, which includes a substantial part of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.
In a statement released by Gurpal Singh, he said, “The largely immigrant neighborhood has been underserved by the city and state, and been the victim of severe gerrymandering in the Assembly and City Council.
“The impetus to establish a club has come from a total disregard by the political establishment to assist the community in organizing and empowering themselves politically. The club plans on being very active in the upcoming city council redistricting process. Five Assembly districts and three city council districts currently gerrymander the Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park community.”