Thursday, May 14, 2009

This Week's Forum West and South

Council Vows Battle Over FDNY Cuts

16 Fire Companies, 30 EMT Tours Would be Cut Under Mayor’s Proposal

By Conor Greene

Residents and elected officials are concerned that the Bloomberg administration’s plan to eliminate 16 fire companies will lead to increased response time and the loss of lives.

As part of his effort to balance the city’s budget and save $18 million, the mayor has proposed shutting four units, including Engine 271 on Himrod Street, starting July 1. The companies, which also include Ladder 53 in the Bronx, Engine 4 in Manhattan and Engine 161 on Staten Island, have been subject to nighttime closures since January.

In addition, 30 ambulance tours would be eliminated, and another 12 fire companies – which have yet to be identified – will close on January 1. Under the plan, Ladder Company 124 and Battalion 28, which are both also based out of the Himrod Street fire house, will continue to operate around the clock.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) joined many of her colleagues on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday to protest the mayor’s budget proposal. She is particularly concerned about the closing of Engine 271, which responds to about 2,500 calls each year in Queens and Brooklyn. It’s the first responder for much of Ridgewood and also assists at emergencies in Glendale and Maspeth.

“Response time is crucial because fire grows exponentially every minute,” said Crowley. “In an area lined with attached and semi-attached houses, one house burning can spread into an entire block burning. This is a safety issue where time lost equals lives lost.” She added that the problem is compounded by the recent closings of St. John’s Queens and Mary Immaculate hospitals. “A heart attack victim only has five minutes. Without 271, who will save them?”

The rally was organized by Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), who said he is ready to “declare war against the firehouse closings” and proposed budget. “The alarm must go out to residents that their neighborhood might be next,” he said, adding that the additional dozen closings on January 1 “is going to be a bad New Year’s gift” to city residents. “You’re talking about the loss of human life, and that’s not acceptable.”

Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, accused the city of cutting from the department’s budget since it doesn’t generate revenue. He also blasted the mayor for waiting until “after the election in November” to announce what other 12 units will close on January 1. “Does that sound like a coincidence?” he asked.

Cassidy and Vacca said the city has rejected other suggested budget cuts, including reducing administrative costs and eliminating borough commands. “If there have to be cuts, they should start with those not saving lives every day,” said Cassidy. “They’re playing Russian Roulette with the lives of New York City taxpayers.”

Vacca called the borough commanders a “bureaucratic layer” that should be cut. “We made suggestions that are real and can be implemented,” he said. Instead, the Bloomberg administration proposed reducing the amount of men in some companies that currently have five firefighters, something Vacca and Cassidy say will endanger lives. Of the department’s 198 engine companies, 64 have five men while 134 are operating with four men.

The community was informed of the imminent closing of Engine 271 through a letter sent last Friday to Crowley and Community Board 5. In it, Daniel Shacknai, a deputy fire commissioner and general counsel, explains that the decision to “permanently close” the engine company came after the FDNY examined “years’ worth of data and exhaustively analyzing all available relevant information.” The goal was to identify “those companies that could be closed with the least impact on public safety while retaining the maximum effectiveness of our finite resources.”

In making its assessments, the FDNY used three main criteria: the projected impact on first response times, the number of occupied structural fires at which the company performed work at and the projected impact on second response times. In making its determinations, officials looked at the company’s workload, the proximity of other units, the impact of the closing on surrounding units, street layout and geographic obstacles, impact of the closing on the community and the overall safety of the city and operational knowledge and experience of senior chiefs.

“While making these decisions has not been easy, we make them in the context of historically low civilian fire fatalities and the fastest citywide response times since 2002,” wrote Shacknai. “The FDNY will continue to provide the highest level of service to the communities we serve, as we have throughout our history.”

However, Crowley isn’t convinced that lives won’t be in danger as it takes longer for firefighters to reach the scene. She noted that on March 18 a fire near Wyckoff and Greene avenues left a dozen families homeless. With Engine 271 closed for the evening, it took four minutes for the fires engine company to arrive on scene – about double what it would have been before the nighttime closure. “It is outrageous that the FDNY jeopardizes the people’s safety due to their fiscal irresponsibility,” she said.

Following the rally, FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta defended the planned cuts during testimony before the City Council. “We have carefully picked the companies with an effort to reduce any impact on operations. You do the best you can with these things and I think in the past we have made wise decisions and I hope that we have made wise decisions here,” he said.

Councilmembers were critical that the remaining dozen companies to be cut have yet to be identified. For example, Engine 293 in Woodhaven is not among the four units to be eliminated in July, but there is concern in the neighborhood that the city will eventually try to close that unit, as it attempted to do in 2003.

“While the firehouses in my district are not one of the four slated to be closed [in July], they’re still at risk for closing in the near future,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “People are very concerned that the Woodhaven firehouse in particular could end up on the chopping block... We should take the battle we went through six years ago as a lesson that nothing is indispensable if the city is going to bring the ax down and close firehouses.”

The city’s plan to shut Engine 293 resulted in huge backlash from the community, which eventually proved enough to prevent the closure. That didn’t mark the first time the area has been forced to lobby on behalf of its fire coverage. In 1994, Engine 294 in Richmond Hill reopened three years after Mayor David Dinkins ordered it shut as a result of budget cuts.

Area residents are now forced to wait to find out if any local companies are among the dozen yet-to-be-identified units to be eliminated in the New Year. When asked if the City Council is prepared to hold up the budget process to prevent the cuts, Crowley said she can’t see a scenario in which the Council adopts a budget as currently proposed.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley speaks out against FDNY cuts at a rally in front of City Hall on Tuesday. Looking on is Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), who organized the rally (right), and Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis). The Forum Newsgroup/photo by CONOR GREENE

Glad to be Back on Dry Land

Friends Rescued at Sea After Boat Sank

By Patricia Adams

A fishing excursion planned by a group of friends was, according to authorities, no more than 15 minutes away from turning deadly. Boat owner Anthony Dattolo, 26 and his girlfriend Lisa Shavers, 24 have been taking their 25-foot boat out with friends to go fishing since last season without incident.

Howard Beach residents Danielle Caliendo, 26 and Anthony Blas, 23 are friends of Dattolo and Shavers and were aboard the boat that sunk off waters near the Marine Parkway Bridge after midnight on Saturday night.

“Anthony [Dattolo] is so conscientious about everything on the boat,” said Danielle. “It can accommodate up to 12 passengers, but he never allows more than 6 at a time.” They had been going out as a group three to four times a week last year and at least once or twice a week this year. In addition, she said that there were at least 15 life jackets aboard the craft. Dattolo is certified and licensed to drive the boat and Lisa Shavers is a member of the auxiliary Coast Guard.

On Saturday night, when the four left the dock in Sheepshead Bay with two other friends from Ozone Park, Erik Halka, 25, and Jason Damone, 25, they had no way of knowing what was in store for them. Before the night was over, the trip to snag some bluefish would soon turn into a nightmare of epic proportions for the young fishing crew.

They left the dock about 9 PM on Saturday night and got out to the waters around the Marine Park Bridge about 9:30. The six, who have been friends since grammar school, joked about how calm the water was; how it resembled an ice skating rink. The weather was fine — they were all wearing T-shirts. Reports had been checked and there were no small craft advisories in effect.

“We were having a great time,” said Danielle, “I caught my first bluefish.” Then, she said everything changed so quickly. “The storm came in so fast,” said Anthony Blas, “from out of nowhere.” Dattolo took the lead, telling everyone to keep calm as he sounded a mayday. Ironically, as Dattolo was sending out a mayday from his boat, he learned later that a small craft advisory had gone into effect at the same time. Less than three hours into their fishing trip, enjoyment was replaced by a sense of urgency and fear that swept across the boat as quickly as the waves that continued to fill the craft with water.

“We’ve got to try and get back,” Dattolo told his friends and decided to head for the Venice Marina where the boat is docked. “The waves were the biggest any of us had ever seen,” Danielle told The Forum. She described how they tried to stay in the back of the boat to keep the weight distributed.

With huge waves continuing to wash over the boat, Anthony Dattolo remained unsure that his Mayday was heard. “He couldn’t hear a response. We had no way of knowing if anyone heard him or not,” said Anthony Blas.

In the meantime Lisa and Danielle tried to make their way to get extra life jackets for everyone. But some of the vests had already been swept overboard. Now the boat was taking on water quickly. The six friends grabbed for seat cushions to substitute for life vests. The water in the boat had risen past their shins.

Erik Halka made his way to the front of the boat where there was a surplus of life jackets stored in a compartment in the floor. “Erik was trying to get them [the vests] out of the floor hold. Then a wave came and he was knocked off into the water,” said Danielle. “We were screaming his name. It was sheer terror.” Halka grabbed a buoy at the front of the boat and clung to it in the stormy seas. Halka’s friends back in the boat now stood in water up to their knees.

Only minutes later, Danielle tried to make her way to the front of the boat when her foot got caught in an open compartment. She lost her balance and slipped into the cold waters. “I wanted to try and get back in the boat but I didn’t want to risk turning it over completely,” said Danielle. Seconds later, she was next to her boyfriend Anthony Blas — he had jumped in after her. They both grabbed seat cushions floating near them.

The couple tried to swim to Erik Halka. “Anthony just kept trying to keep us calm,” said Danielle. “We tried to swim back toward the boat but the tide was too strong for us to match.” Finally, they managed to get closer to Erik. Danielle remembered the thoughts that played over and over in her mind. “We have to stay together. We have to stay calm.”

Back on the boat, Jason Damone and Lisa Shavers had both managed to keep their cell phones dry. Holding the phones overhead, the pair made frantic calls to 911 trying to give the operator an idea of where they were and what was going on. In the water the three could hear their friend screaming. His voice was panicked. “You’ve got to get someone here! My friends are in the water. We’re watching them slip away.”

It was about 15 minutes later that the three friends adrift were being carried out even further by the tide. “We kept trying to keep the bridge in our view, the waves kept smacking us in the back of the head. It all seemed to be slipping away,” remembers Danielle. “We lost sight of the boat and our friends. We were cold. My legs were tingling. I said a prayer to my grandmother. I remember thinking this was it.”

About 150 yards away were their three friends clutched on whatever parts of the boat were reachable. They were cold and exhausted. Overhead there was a new sound. The blades of an NYPD helicopter, shining its lights on the waters below.

The 911 calls from Jason and Lisa had alerted emergency crews of their peril; the mayday calls placed by Anthony Dattolo had been heard. Help was within sight.

The NYPD chopper hovered overhead. It flew back and forth between the two groups before turning to fly off. The pilot flew back to guide the Captain Dave Fishing/Party Boat to help with the rescue. “The water was too rough to get near us,” Danielle explained, “so the crew and the passengers were holding poles out for us to grab onto. When we got close enough they pulled us up with rope."

Once aboard the Capt. Dave they were stripped of their wet clothes. Passengers and crew took off their own clothing and used it to cover the freezing trio. “They huddled around us,” said Anthony Blas, “it was amazing. These people were really pulling for us.”

And back in the water, another vessel, the sea-tow vehicle of Capt. Cody Catapano had also followed the helicopter back to the scene. Catapano had heard Datollo’s mayday, got his first mate Dana and set out immediately. Now they set about rescuing Jason Damone, Lisa Shavers and Anthony Dattolo.

Less than a half-hour after the first sighting of the chopper, six friends had been plucked from the water. They were all suffering from hypothermia, but Anthony Dattolo was turning blue and Erik Halka was also in more serious condition than the others. All were taken back to the closest dock in Coney Island where they were taken to a Brooklyn hospital, treated and released.

In the wake of her personal storm, Catholic school teacher Danielle Caliendo thought about having been delivered from a night of hell. As for the experience she shared with already close friends, Danielle smiled and speculated it was just another way of making them even closer than before. They discussed the possibility of getting matching tattoos -Six went in. Six came out — to symbolize the strength of their friendship.

As far as getting back into the water, Danielle says they’ll all take baby steps. And if the urge for fishing becomes too overwhelming, they plan on boarding the Capt. Dave and shoving off under the watchful eye of one of their heroes.

Smiling faces have replaced frowns and fears in those rescued from cold waters after their fishing boat sank in a sudden storm. From left to right, friends Anthony Dattolo, Jason Damone, Danielle Caliendo, Lisa Shaver and First Mate Dana. Behind them Capt. Cody Catapano stands with Anthony Blas.

No Objections Raised During Rezoning Hearing

By Conor Greene

There were no major objections raised Monday during a public hearing on the city’s proposal to downzone 300 blocks in Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.

Community Board 5 members were expected to vote in favor of the Department of City Planning’s proposal, which is intended to prevent out-of-character development, at its meeting this past Wednesday. Borough President Helen Marshall was scheduled to hold her public hearing on Thursday, which would allow the proposal to then move on to the City Planning Commission for review before the City Council considers adopting it.

Residents and civic leaders have been frustrated that the downzoning effort, which required volunteers to survey the blocks property-by-property, languished for several years before the Department of City Planning (DCP) finally released it for public review last month. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she hopes the new zoning measures would become law by early summer.

Once the City Council approves the rezoning, all new development projects would be subject to the updated zoning. Only projects in which the entire foundation is completed before the City Council vote would be allowed to continue under the current zoning, which has been in place since 1961.

The majority of the plan consists of replacing the existing zoning “with newer, lower density and contextual zoning district to more closely reflect the existing built form of the neighborhoods,” according to the DCP. At Monday’s hearing, Queens Director of City Planning John Young called this particular rezoning effort “very complex” and said it will eliminate the developer’s ability to tear down a one-or-two-family home and replace it with a large multi-family building, as is being done now.

“That was what was creating a lot of that overdevelopment pressure,” he said during the session in Christ the King High School. “The benefit for everybody... is that you can more clearly understand what should be happening on a lot.” While the measure isn’t going to prevent all future development, it will ensure that projects conform to what already exists on neighboring properties. “What comes there should look pretty much like the street that it’s on,” said Young.

An environmental assessment conducted by the DCP predicted that the rezoning will result in development on ten sites resulting in a net increase of 66 dwellings, along with a net increase of 13 square feet of commercial space.

The rezoning area is generally bounded by the Long Island Expressway to the north, Woodhaven Boulevard to the east, Forest Park and Mount Carmel Cemetery to the south and 59th Street to the West. City Planner Tom Smith explained that the project has been broken down into four smaller sections: eastern Glendale (20 blocks), western Glendale (90 blocks), Maspeth (125 blocks) and Middle Village (65 blocks).

Following the public hearing, CB 5’s executive committee discussed the proposal before voting 8-1 in favor of it. According to board member Robert Holden, a question was raised about the R5D zoning along Myrtle Avenue, which raises the allowable floor-to-area ration. Smith and Young told the board that the R5D zoning matches the buildings already existing along Myrtle Avenue.

In a statement, Crowley vowed to continue pushing for the rezoning to become law. “Before even taking office, I started working on downzoning because it is necessary for limiting overdevelopment; maintaining and strengthening the value of our homes and protecting the character of our community,” she said. “After three years, I am pleased that at my appeal the Department of City Planning has finally moved forward with the rezoning proposal.”

Specific details of the rezoning plan can be found on the DCP’s homepage by going to In general, it replaces existing zones (R3-2, R4, R4B, R5, M1-1 and M1-4D) with lower density or contextual zoning districts (R3A, R4-1, R4A, R4B, R5B and R5D).

It also eliminates or reduces the depth of some commercial overlay zones to prevent commercial intrusion on residential blocks. In addition, several commercial overlays were added where appropriate to reflect current land uses and encourage retail continuity along prime shopping streets.

Graphic: A map shows the area included in the proposed rezoning (outlined in yellow), as well as the area rezoned in 2006 (outlined in blue).

Cyclist Killed While Riding for Charity

By Patricia Adams

A 40-year-old cyclist, raising money for charity, was killed after he collided with a 10-wheel-truck owned by the Metropolitan Lumber Company at Lefferts Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue.

Stephen Hodnett, a native of Dublin, was peddling around the globe to raise money for a project from the Lion’s Club of Canada. The goal of the fund raising - to facilitate the pairing of seeing-eye dogs with the blind.

Hodnett had cycled through other world cities on his mission. Among them were Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, and a host of others. According to published reports, one of Hodnett’s fellow “charity riders”, Gavin White of Newfoundland, told reporters that Hodnett “loved cycling” and that the bicycle he was riding had “been all over the world.”

The pair of athletes picked charities and rode along subway routes to promote it. Back in their hometowns they had enlisted the aid of family, friends and other contacts to sponsor their ride. They secured donations based on the number of subway stops they covered on the tour.

They had put off coming to New York in anticipation of how rewarding it would be. Their goal was to go to places that tourists would not likely frequent. Among their stops was Richmond Hill. Hodnett was rushed to Jamaica Hospital. He was pronounced dead, minutes after the crash.

Police say the driver is not facing any charges.

The Forum Newsgroup/photo by MICHAEL O’KANE

MTA Approves Scaled Back Fare Increases

By Conor Greene

The MTA will begin raising its fares and tolls in the coming months to reflect the increases approved this week by the transit authority’s board. The vote came days after the New York State Legislature reached a bailout agreement that results in more modest increases than initially proposed and eliminates the need for deep service cuts.

“Today we implemented a bittersweet solution that comes with additional pain for our customers, our employees and those who live and work in our region,” said board chairman Dale Hemmerdinger. “But it will – at least for the short term – prevent the Armageddon that loomed large when we last met.”

Under the plan, commuter rail fares will begin to increase on June 17, with the “vast majority” of tickets on the Long Island and MetroNorth railroads increasing between 9.75% and 10.75%. On June 28 fares on subways and buses will increase, with the single ride fare going from $2 to $2.25, a 12.5% increase. The 30-day unlimited MetroCard will increase almost 10% from $81 to $89. Finally, bridge and tunnel tolls will increase on July 12, when cash and EZ-Pass tolls increase by about 10%.

Before the Legislature approved a $2.26 billion bailout package, the MTA has warned of much greater fare increases and the elimination of bus and subway lines. “There’s nothing to be happy about,” said Hemmerdinger at the board’s meeting on Monday.

“The fare and toll increase passed today is not ideal, but it spares our customers from actions that would have been extraordinarily painful,” said Elliot G. Sander, who subsequently stepped down as MTA executive director and CEO. “Implementing severe fare increases and deep service cuts directly contradicts the MTA’s mission and my goals as CEO. It is a great relief to know we will be able to continue providing the service our customers expect at an affordable price.”

The bailout package doesn’t include tolls on East and Harlem river bridges, but does call for a surcharge on taxi cab rides and a payroll tax for employers in the 12 counties served by the MTA. Fares and tolls will rise again by 7.5% in 2011 and 2013 and the bailout provides enough funding to cover two years of the MTA’s five-year capital plan, which starts next year and funds basic maintenance including track and signal upgrades.

“Today’s agreement will allow commuters to avoid the painful service reductions approved by the MTA board earlier this year, and dramatically reduces the proposed fare and toll increases,” said Gov. David Paterson at a news conference last week announcing the bailout agreement.

Locally, residents and elected officials were relieved that service cuts, including elimination of the Q56 and Q74 bus lines, have been avoided.

Under the bailout agreement reached by lawmakers, Sander resigned as CEO and executive director. That position will be combined with the position of board chairman. Paterson has not yet announced if Hemmerdinger will remain on in that capacity.

Teenagers Mimic Terrorists

MS 202 Suspends Pair for YouTube Video

By Patricia Adams

Concerned parents describe themselves as both fearful and uneasy about what they say is not the behavior of “normal” teenagers. The parents were alarmed when they learned that at least four of the students at MS 202, all 13-year-old males of Middle Eastern decent, had produced and acted in videos mimicking the acts of terrorists and a range of violent, criminal activity.

Eleven separate videos credited to one of the students appear on The videos are extremely graphic in nature, depicting violent criminal acts including drug deals gone wrong, car jacking, a surprise ambush and several on kidnapping and ransom. They were posted as far back as 7 months ago and in combination, have been viewed almost 6,000 times.

Of particular concern was one video entitled Ozone Park Ransom, in which one of the students, wearing a traditional Muslim prayer hat known as a Kufie, is seen holding a knife to the throat of another teen who is kneeling on the floor in front of him. The boy on the floor has been blindfolded with what appears to be white gauze. The video is eerily reminiscent of video in which Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street journalist, was beheaded by his captors after being kidnapped in 2002.

In the video, the student is identified in the video credits as IPU, demands 10 million dollars for the return of his “prisoner” played by ABZ. With a ghoulish grin the teenager repeatedly passes what appears to be a real knife across the throat of his “prisoner” and repeats his demands for money and threats of death over and over. The video ends with a chilling scream from the exhilarated “captor,” as he proclaims the name of Allah.

School administrators who notified the 106th pct. said that parents had reported concerns over the videos, bringing officers to the school. The videos were viewed by police authorities, and according to inside sources, were deemed to be of a distasteful nature, however, non-criminal. Parents who were present at the school were all advised of the serious nature of the situation and it was explained that the school would administer any disciplinary action.

Administrators at the school were thoroughly cooperative concerning inquiries made over the students involved. Principal William Fitzgerald told The Forum that, “two students acted inappropriately and they have been suspended.”

One parent said that despite the seriousness of the situation, it was important that the school community remain separated from the incidents having nothing to do with the school. “We can’t allow this deviate behavior to reflect how good this school is,” said the mother of two students at MS 202 who asked not to be named.

Attempts to contact the parents of the suspended students were unsuccessful as of press time.

A video posted on YouTube shows two local teens reinacting a hostage ransom video, which resembles a 2003 video of the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Renters Unwittingly Caught in Foreclosure Crisis


By Conor Greene

Among the victims of the nation’s foreclosure crisis are renters who lose their home because the property owner fell behind on the mortgage payments.

Under the current law, these tenants are often given just ten days to move out, despite having paid the rent each month – something that State Senator Jeff Klein is hoping to change through a tenant notification bill. The law, which would require banks to give tenants 90 days to move out, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 37-25, and is pending in the Assembly.

“Tenants who pay their rent on time deserve better than to find themselves on the other end of a notice to evict in 10 days without any prior knowledge that their homes have been foreclosed on, through no fault of their own” said Klein (D-Bronx). “If we don’t stem the tide and protect the innocent victims of this crisis – the renters – they will be the new face of homelessness in New York City.”

Across the five boroughs, an average of 581 renters are evicted each month, and the Center for Housing Policy estimates that almost 20% of all foreclosures are rental properties. Due to fallout from the housing crisis, states including Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, Rhode Island, Michigan and California have also instigated stronger notification requirements to protect unwitting renters from becoming evicted without sufficient notice.

The numbers are particularly stark in Queens, which has been hit especially hard by the foreclosure crisis. There were 311 tenant eviction cases in the borough in April, compared to 101 in Brooklyn, 49 in the Bronx, 69 in Staten Island and 4 in Manhattan. Since December, there have been 1,789 tenants evicted due to foreclosures in Queens, accounting for more than half of the 2,907 total cases of tenants evicted citywide.

The new legislation stipulates that after taking possession of a home, the bank must notify tenants that they have no less than 90 days to vacate the foreclosed home. The bank or new property owner would also have to file proof that it provided the tenant of its intent to evict them. Currently, many renters are unaware that their homes have fallen into foreclosure until the bank assumes ownership after auction and provides the tenant a Notice to Petition for Holdover. Tenants must then move within 10 days under threat of a lawsuit.

“With much of the attention and focus on saving homeowners from losing their homes, thousands of renters have fallen through the cracks in the foreclosure crisis and are facing eviction with little or no notice, as well as bad marks on their credit histories which can prevent them from securing adequate housing for their families. This city’s hard working families deserve adequate notice and time to make life altering decisions.”

As part of his study, Klein also released a snapshot showing the top five banks responsible for evictions in New York City. Deutsche Bank, which received $11.8 billion in federal bailout funds, evicted residents 689 between December 2008 and April 2009.

“It is unconscionable for a financial institution accessing federal bailout money to be so unrelenting in evicting people from their homes,” said Lionel Ouellette, executive director of CHANGER, a non-profit housing group based in the city. “In order to avoid an even greater public health epidemic, foreclosure related evictions and foreclosure cases must come to a halt and financial institutions must engage in more aggressive loan modifications that include principal write downs.”

Klein speaks in support of legislation to protect renters who are immediately evicted once the property owner defaults on the loan. He is joined by City Councilman Thomas White (D-Jamaica), whose district has been hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis, and renter Lisa Brown, who was forced out of her Long Island rental home when the bank foreclosed on the property.

The Forum Newsgroup/photo courtesy of WILLIAM ALATRISTE

Senator Pushes for Sex Offender Notification

By Conor Greene

There are more than 3,400 sex offenders living in the five boroughs, and several lawmakers want the state to notify residents via e-mail every time one moves into their neighborhood.

“More and more families with young children are choosing to stay in New York City and raise their families. It would be near criminal to deny New Yorkers the added convenience of better protecting our children from the kind of unsavory individuals who are, in many cases, our neighbors,” said Senator Jeff Klein, who is calling on the state to adopt the legislation.

According to Klein (D-Bronx), an existing statewide emergency communication system managed by the Department of Homeland Security would make it easy to allow residents to register for e-mail notifications. Currently, residents who want up-to-date information on sex offenders in their communities must search the Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, noted that New Yorkers are already able to get notification of traffic delays, storm warnings and other information from government agencies through the NY-Alert system. “The cost to merge this information into NY-Alert and notify New York parents when sex offenders move into their neighborhood is negligible, and the benefit is self-evident,” said Lancman.

As of May 4, there were 11,428 level-two-and-three sex offenders in the state’s registry, with an average of 15 residing in each city zip code. Of the 3,428 known sex offenders living in the city, 133 live in Staten Island, 1,197 in Brooklyn, 639 in Manhattan, 928 in the Bronx and 531 in Queens. While level two and three (moderate and high risk) offenders are listed on the state’s website, the information is constantly changing as new offenders are added and existing registrants update their information, noted Klein.

In addition, with offenders subject to the 12-year-old registration requirements being released from prison every day and an increasing number of crimes, such as sex trafficking, being added to the list of registerable offenses, the number of registered offenders is likely going to continue expanding in the coming months and years.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation on Monday.