Thursday, January 6, 2011

This Week's Forum South and West

A full version of The Forum South is now posted online at

Meltdown! City Slow to Pick Up Trash Weeks After Storm

By Jason Barczy

Residents and politicians in Queens, and throughout the outer boroughs feel the city and Mayor Michael Bloomberg failed in its response to the Christmas Blizzard of 2010.

From a slow response time plowing city streets, delays on MTA buses and subways, and the evergrowing piles of trash in front of businesses and homes, the effects of the storm can still be seen nearly two weeks later.

“[Department of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty] is telling us his men did a great job and would give them an A,” said Glendale resident Chris Maxham, whose street wasn’t cleared until the Thursday after the storm. “But most New Yorkers would probably give them an F.”

Councilman Dan Halloran (D-Whitestone) alleged in a New York Post report that Sanitation workers neglected streets in the outer boroughs to protest layoffs and staff reductions, and residents are now demanding answers.

District attorneys in Queens and Brooklyn and federal prosecutors are opening preliminary investigations into the allegations. Also, the City Council has called an oversight meeting on Monday, January 10, to question offi- cials, particularly Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and members of the Bloomberg administration, about the city’s response.

“I hope the deputy mayor will be in town to answer some pretty tough questions about why the city wasn’t prepared,” said City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village). “This was his first real test and lives were lost and property was damaged.”

Response Time

The City Council announced it will hold a series of meetings, with next Monday’s meeting focusing on the response time. Critics questioned why certain measures weren’t taken prior to the storm and why a snow emergency was not declared by the mayor’s office.

“I think the city hesitated to do three important things,” Crowley said. “First, call a snow emergency. Second, get the sanitation workers into work and get the process started. Third, put the resources together to fight the storm. They should’ve started planning Christmas night.”

Questions linger as to who was in charge because Bloomberg refuses to say where he was over the Christmas weekend, while Goldsmith, who oversees sanitation and other emergency services, was in Washington D.C. Another deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, was vacationing in London.

“You can focus on who was here, whether this was here,” Wolfson told NY1. “The bottom line is, we didn’t do the job... Had we done that, nobody would be asking questions about where the mayor was.”

In 2008, Bloomberg issued an executive order handing over power in his absence to his first deputy, which is currently Patricia Harris. Harris, and many others in City Hall, remains quiet about who was in charge as the storm approached.

“New Yorkers have serious questions about the City’s snow emergency policy and response,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement. “The collective storm response was not anywhere near up to the standards New Yorkers are accustomed to. This hearing acknowledges the reality that many New Yorkers are experiencing, that something went wrong.”

Monday’s meeting will be held at the Emigrants Savings Bank at 49-51 Chambers Street in Manhattan at 11 a.m. and will be the first of five held throughout the city.

“Nobody is going to get off easy,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “There’s going to be a lot of tough questions asked and a lot of information revealed. It didn’t just go wrong one day but a lot of mistakes were made before and after that day.”

Sanitation woes

The New York Post first reported that Department of Sanitation (DOS) workers deliberately slowed down the snow removal and neglected to plow streets in the outer boroughs in an effort to protest a 6 percent staff reduction in the past two years along with demotions for 100 supervisors.

The allegations include:

  • Sanitation supervisors in Brooklyn bought beer during the storm instead of working.
  • Streets in the outer boroughs were neg- lected by plow trucks to protest downsizing and wage cuts in the department.
  • Between 660 and 720 sanitation workers called in sick because of the blizzard, more than double the normal rate.
  • Sanitation bosses issued directives to plow the streets of certain city officials.
  • Plow trucks passed over streets with the plows raised, only clearing off a top portion of the snow.

The Department of Investigation (DOI) has said it is looking into the allegations. Meanwhile Halloran says three plow drivers claim they were told to leave many roads unplowed and skip streets that were not on their routes.

“This is what happens when Bloomberg has his minions do for him and not everybody else,” said Middle Village resident who identified herself as Jennifer C. “This is New York and we’re supposed to have access to everything so why wasn’t it done? I don’t blame Sanitation, if the city would’ve done what it was supposed to it wouldn’t have been what it is.”

She said her street wasn’t cleared until the Thursday after the storm and her car’s transmission now needs to be fixed after attempting to drive it in the snow, which, according to her, will cost upwards of $1,000.

Residents are also upset knowing Manhattan was given preference in the plowing process while Queens and the outer boroughs suffered.

“Manhattan and probably the fancier areas of Queens were definitely plowed first,” said South Ozone Park resident Albert Pfisper. He added that his street, Linden Boulevard, wasn’t plowed until Thursday, December 30.

According to the New York Daily News, Sanitation Department records show that by 4 a.m. Monday, December 27, all of Manhat- tan's primary streets and 92 percent of its secondary streets had been plowed at least once. The same records show in western Queens, all primary streets were plowed by 4 a.m. Tuesday, December 28, but just 47 percent of secondary streets had been plowed.

“Throughout the district I represent snow removal was not done efficiently,” Crowley said. “The situation was not unique to any one neighborhood, it was everywhere outside of Manhattan.”

Ulrich said New Yorkers want someone to blame and shouldn’t be pointing the finger at sanitation workers.

“The city is looking for a bad guy,” Ulrich said. “I do not believe for a second that the city was effectively shutdown because angry supervisors were laid off. It did not happen across the board. It wasn’t a citywide slowdown that brought the city to a screeching halt. I am not prepared to let [the Bloomberg administration] off the hook for their decisions.”

Garbage piling up

Trash has not been collected in many areas throughout Queens for nearly two weeks since before the storm and can be seen piling up on city streets.

The DOS resumed garbage collection on Monday and Mayor Bloomberg said he expects all the trash to be picked up within three to four days; however, recyclables will not be collected until further notice.

“They should have started picking up garbage on Saturday (January 1),” Crowley said. “All the major streets were plowed by then. It’s uncomfortable and smelly and it’s becoming a public health concern.”

While trash is being cleared from streets such as Queens Boulevard, Woodhaven Boulevard and Crossbay Boulevard, there are still many where garbage is piling up such as Metropolitan Avenue, Myrtle Avenue and Liberty Avenue.

Mountains of trash and recyclables are rising above cars at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard near the A Train stop.

“It’s in the way and I’m running out of space in my garbage can,” Pfisper said. “They’re not picking up Tuesday and there’s two weeks of recyclables we have, which will probably not be picked up until next Tuesday.

Mayor Bloomberg did back off of statements he made that the storm wasn’t the end of the world and acknowledges the city should have been better prepared.

“We did not do as good a job as we wanted to or as the city had the right to expect,”
Bloomberg said from a hardware store in Hunts Point, Bronx on December 29. “And there is no question we are an administration built on accountability. When something works, we take credit for it. When it doesn’t, we stand up and say, ‘Okay, we did it, and we will try to find out what went wrong and then make that information public.’ I cannot tell you for sure why it was a lot worse this time than the other times.”

Feds Begin Probe of Disastrous CityTime Project

By Eric Yun

CityTime was already in hot water as the $63 million project ballooned to more than $700 million, and that was before federal prosecutors charged four men working on the project with stealing $80 million from the city.

The Office of Payroll Administration (OPA) began CityTime in 1998 to develop an automated timekeeping system. City officials said the new system would ensure employees would get paid more accurately, efficiently and securely.

As early as 2004, the expected completion year, there were concerns about the rising cost of the program. In 2008, Councilman, Joe Addabbo, now a state Senator, held hearings on the project. Also, Daily News’ reporter Juan Gonzalez revealed that a whistleblower sent a letter describing possible fraud to the city Department of Investigation (DOI), but the whistleblower claimed the letter was ignored.

In 2010, investigators from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office and DOI found evidence of foul play. Working from a position of authority, prosecutors said Mark Mazer, hired as a consultant to conduct quality assurance on the CityTime project in 2001, approved contracts for consulting firms run by Dmitry Aronshtein, who prosecutors believe is related to Mazer, and Victor Natanzon.

The two firms were paid over $75 million, and prosecutors say at least $24.5 million was kicked back to shell companies linked to Mazer.

He also allegedly developed a scheme to hide his illicit dealings, including routing funds to shell companies and corporations controlled by family members, submitting false vendex forms to the city and telling others in the project that he discovered the firms run by Aronshtein and Natanzon through casual conversations.

Prosecutors also said the three men and a fourth conspirator, Scott Berger, generated and approved fraudulent timesheets for consultants at the suspect firms. The falsified timesheets are estimated to have cost the city over $200,000.

The four men were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Mazer, Aronshtein and Natanzon were also charged with conspiring to launder the proceeds of the fraud conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds. Mazer’s wife, Svetlana Mazer, and his mother, Larisa Medzon, also face the second charge.

“Mark Mazer and his cohorts allegedly used the city as their own personal cash cow,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “In an ironic twist, funding for CityTime, a project intended to prevent payroll waste, fraud and abuse, was itself al- legedly bilked in part by fraudulent timekeeping.”

Since the allegations surfaced on December 15, the fallout has been swift. Joel Bondy, OPA’s Executive Director, resigned on December 23 after Mayor Michael Bloomberg suspended him without pay.

Federal prosecutors also subpoenaed the records of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), the lead contractor on the project, which subcontracted the fraudulent consulting firms. Federal prosecutors have not charged SAIC with wrongdoing but want to investigate if large sums of money could be stolen without notice, according to the New York Daily News.

Bloomberg, who supported the CityTime project as expenses continued to rise, finally admitted the program was a “disaster” in March. In response to the criminal allegations, he said, “Any vi- olation of the public’s trust is categorically unacceptable and we are implementing a series of changes to reform oversight of the CityTime project.”

Reforms include appointing Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Comptroller John Liu to direct oversight of the project. The Mayor also promised he would work with federal investigators to conduct a thorough audit to recoup the taxpayer dollars that were stolen.

Still, CityTime comes as a blow for Bloomberg, who for years campaigned as a strong fiscal and business leader. On his weekly radio show he said that the $80 million simply “slipped through the cracks.”

Politicians were not pleased that Bloomberg was asleep at the wheel.

“I wonder what we could have done with the millions of dollars wasted if the Mayor’s administration had only realized it back in 2005, when we first raised the issue about CityTime, and possibly could have prevented hurting employees, making education cuts and closing firehouses,” said Addabbo.

Judge Upholds Black Appointment

By Eric Yun

Cathie Black is officially the city’s newest Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor. State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly ruled on December 29 that the state and city acted fairly in appointing Black.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg selected Black on November 9 after former Chancellor Joel Klein announced he would step down at the end of the year. Bloomberg praised Black’s extensive leadership as the former executive of Hearst.

State DOE Commissioner David Steiner agreed and on November 29 certified Black as a “school district leader,” a mandatory certificate needed to become Chancellor.

Parents and educators, however, questioned Black’s qualifications and had sued the state to stop her appointment.

Eric Snyder, a parent from Park Slope, and others sued the state on behalf of their children. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) joined the parents in the lawsuit. The parents argued that Black did not possess the necessary educational and teaching experience required by the state.

According to state law, school district leaders must have a master’s degree and have completed sixty semester hours of graduate study. The Education Commissioner can waive graduate study for “exceptionally qualified persons,” but the parents argued that the master’s degree requirement could not be waived. They said a person who had a master’s degree but not 60 hours could receive a waiver, but the degree was necessary.

The parents also criticized the new Senior Deputy Chancellor and Chief Academic Advisor position created for Cathie Black. A new position dealing with education should not be needed for a qualified Chancellor candidate, the parents said.

Connolly said while the waiver rules might be ambiguous Steiner was acting legally and within his duties when he interpreted the rules and issued the waiver.

Connolly’s decision ends the two-month battle over Black’s appointment. Bloomberg released a statement praising the decision: “This decision should bring an end to the poiticking and grandstanding and allow us all to focus on what matters most: continuing to improve the quality of education we offer New York City’s public school children.”

Black began her tenure on Monday touring schools throughout the boroughs. There, she told reporters she had found her “dream job” and was excited to get started.

She will continue her citywide tour of schools by visiting John Adams High School on January 10 where she will meet with parents, teachers and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

Ulrich has said the new chancellor will have to make tough decisions.

“She faces the enormous challenge of pro- viding quality education to our students while dealing with a very tight budget in the coming fiscal year,” said Ulrich. “I look forward to hearing her ideas on how to improve public schools for all students.”

Gov. Cuomo Begins Term

Governor Andrew Cuomo has wasted no time since assuming office on New Years Day. The new Governor, who beat Republican candidate Carl Paladino in November’s general election already signed several executive orders, announced appointments and nominations, and on Wednesday, delivered his “State of the State” address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.

“New York faces a deficit, a deficit that we talk about all day long: the budget deficit, the budget deficit,” Cuomo said in his innaugural address on Januray 1. “But it’s actually worse. The state faces a budget deficit and a competence deficit and an integrity deficit and a trust deficit. And those are the obstacles we really face.”

Cuomo said he would bring the needed in Albany to balance both the budget and restore the people’s faith. He started the process by cutting his own salary.

The Governor’s salary is $179,000 by law, and it has not changed since 1999. However, Cuomo announced on Monday that he would reduce his salary by 5 percent and return the $8,950 to the state. Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and senior members of Cuomo’s staff have also agreed to a 5 percent reduction.

“Change starts at the top and we will lead by example,” Cuomo said. “Families and business owners in every corner of the state have learned to do more with less in order to live within their means and government must do the same.” Cuomo signed two executive orders, one
removing barriers around the State Capitol and reopening the Hall of Governors to the public. The hall, where many of the executive chamber offices are located, has been closed to the public since 1995.

The second executive order requires ethics training for Executive Chamber staff and top
state officials. The order includes agency commissioners and their staffs.

At the “State of the State” address on Wednesday, Cuomo promised more sweeping changes.

“We must transform the State of New York from a government of dysfunction, gridlock and corruption to a government of performance, integrity, and pride,” Cuomo said. “This is not about budget trimming or cutting, it’s about looking at how we can fix government and make it work for the people. Together, we must take the significant steps needed to reinvent, reorganize and redesign government to restore credibility and to rebuild our economy by creating jobs all across this state.”

Cuomo outlined his plans to close the $10 billion deficit by instituting a salary freeze and a state spending cap. He also proposed revisions to the recently enacted Excelsior Tax Credit Program to produce better results and give New Yorkers property tax relief.

Addabbo Eyes Ballot Reform

Many voters are not pleased with the new ballot machines unveiled during the 2010 primary and general elections. Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) is introducing new legislation this year after fielding complaints about incompetent workforces and small ballot print.

Addabbo, Chair of the Senate’s Elections Committee, is sponsoring a new bill, S.609, during the legislative session in Albany this month, that amends election law by requiring that paper ballots use a simple and easy-to-read bold, enlarged typeface and by requiring that the State and New York City boards of elections (and those in the largest counties) have a full-time employee on staff trained in ballot design and usability. The newly introduced bill will take effect 60 days after it becomes a law.

Under the new bill, paper ballots will have easy-to-read type, such as Arial or Univers, and candidates' names, office titles and political designations. The reading form of all ballot questions submitted will be printed in capital letters followed by lower case letters of at least 12-point bold (black-faced) type.

“This was the most common complaint I heard on the campaign trail from my people, and I promised them that I would see it was fixed,” said Addabbo. “Current election law does not contain any requirements as to ballot readability or usability.”

Also, a new subdivision to the election law requires that the New York State and New York City boards of elections, as well as those in Erie, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, have one full-time staffer who is trained in effective ballot design and ballot usability.

Additionally, such an employee on the State board of elections must be available to re- view and advise the other counties on the proposed design and usability of their ballots for primary, gen- eral and special elections.

According to Addabo, these changes would help New York’s election ballots conform to the recommendations in the 2007 report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the 2008 “Better Ballot” report by the Brennan Center.

“Expertise in ballot design and usability is lacking within our boards of elections,” said Addabbo. “However, no additional hiring should be necessary to meet the requirements for one full-time employee in the State board of elections and one in the election boards of each of our largest counties to develop the necessary ballot design and usability. Self-study of the extensive amount of literature in this field, along with some training courses, can significantly develop such expertise.”

Addabbo said he hopes that this and other similar bills can be voted on and approved early in the 2011 legislative session.

Super-Bad Supermarkets

By David J. Harvey

New York’s supermarkets seem to have gotten worse for customers over the last four months, racking up hundreds of violations during Department of Consumer Affairs inspections.

According to Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, the frequency of violations at the city’s supermarkets has increased since the last investigative report was compiled in August 2010; markets dropped from a compliance rate of 48 percent to a meager 33 percent.

“Supermarkets are clearly not getting the message that New Yorkers demand that they get it right at the check out counter,” Mintz said.

After a yearlong series of investigations concluded in August, the DCA announced that supermarkets were failing consumers by overcharging, shelving goods without prices and taxing non-taxable items. In response, the city levied fines totaling $381,750 citywide, ranging from $50 to $150 per violation.

Additionally, the DCA announced in August that it would double the number of inspections, from a total of 983 in the previous fiscal year. In the past four months, the DCA has conducted 491 inspections, and has issued nearly 750 citations. The city expects these violations to accumulate $310,000 in fines.

Out of the 122 inspections in Queens since August, 79 led to violations. The compliancy rate in the borough dropped from 55 to 35 percent.

Just over one quarter of all the inspections citywide were conducted in Queens, and though the borough saw a significant increase in cited violations, it was behind only the Bronx in compliance. In Brooklyn, 30 percent of supermarkets were compliant with city regulations, and in both Staten Island and Manhattan, the rate was below 25 percent.

Mintz said the increase in violations wasn’t likely a result of improved DCA method, but evidence of dismal customer service prevalent throughout the city’s markets.

DCA inspectors don’t comb through a store item by item, but aim to replicate the “typical shopping experience,” Mintz said. “Supermarkets make choices about the emphasis and resources they provide for quality control.”

All boroughs dropped in compliance from the last round of inspections except the Bronx, which had the five neighborhoods with the most violations in the last fiscal year. Nevertheless, a DCA spokesperson said no comparison has been done yet to determine whether fines or other factors were responsible for reforming Bronx stores.

Mintz said he is hopeful supermarkets can be brought up to code, noting that New York has some of the strongest consumer protection laws.

“We are going to keep turning up the heat,” Mintz said. “We hope a combination of public awareness and a higher cost of doing business will bring supermarkets into compliance.”

Resident Asks for Better Enforcement at Park

By Eric Yun

A Ridgewood resident is urging his community to stop the rampant abuse at Grover Cleveland Park. During the summer, the park creates traffic nightmares, and park goers trash the park and drink alcohol illegally.

John Perricone started Ridgewood Residents for Grover Cleveland Park in early August. He lives around the block from the park, and he’s tired of the antics of unruly athletic leagues and other park users.

“The park gets overcrowded, there’s noise from parties, and illegal food vendors are there,” said Perricone. “Everyone should have the right to the park.”

In the height of the summer season, athletic leagues use the fields for games. Leagues must be registered with the Parks Department, and Perricone does not believe many of the groups have registered. He also suggested Parks should give preferences to leagues local to the neighborhood.

“If I want to play ball, I’m not going to travel all the way to Juniper Valley Park,” Perricone said. “Local groups should be given preference with park permits.”

Problems with athletic leagues have led to traffic nightmares. Cars are constantly double parked on Stanhope Street and block fire hydrants and driveways. Perricone says his
neighbors have been threatened when they politely asked people to move their cars.

Perricone said problems with parking could be alleviated if police removed illegal food vendors. Vendors are not allowed to operate within 75 feet of a public park. The 104th Precinct has said that police officers have issued summons to illegal vendors but many are properly licensed to sell at the park.

Perricone wishes there was a better relationship between the Parks Department, the 104th Precinct and the community. “When you contact Parks they say they are trying to get more patrol, and when you contact the police they say you have to contact Parks,” he said.

While the park is quiet during the winter months, Perricone hopes to gather enough community support to stop the illegal activity by the summer. Working closely with Citizens for a Better Ridgewood, he has started a Facebook page and contacted elected officials.

By the spring, when the permit process begins, Perricone hopes to meet with the Parks Department to discuss ways to ease the strain the community feels. The best way to accomplish the goals is to have a huge amount of community support and stories, he said.

To join Ridgewood Residents for Grover Cleveland Park, visit its website at

Cops Fatally Shoot Glendale Man Eight Times

(c) Terrence Jennings
Police officers responding to domestic dispute call in Glendale fatally shot Zachary Bingert after he struck at them with a knife in his mother’s home.

Police said Bingert, 21, attacked the officers when they entered the house, shortly after his mother had called 911 to report her son was threatening her by knifepoint and was possibly suicidal on December 22.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the three officers involved, all from the 104th Precinct fired eight shots and that Bingert had nine entry and exit wounds.

Kelly explained that Bingert’s mother already had a protective order that restricted the contact her son was allowed with her but let him sleep on the couch because he was living in a car, in the cold.

Paramedics declared Bingert dead when they arrived. Police released photos of the small hunting knife used by Bingert and found two more knives in the home.

Bingert had previously been arrested, on Nov. 11 for assault and on Sept. 20 for menacing. He was also charged with criminal possession of a weapon on Dec. 16.

The NYPD is not releasing information on whether the officers will go before a grand jury or be subjected to other penalties, as an investigation into the use of deadly force is still pending, Kelly told the New York Times.

Aviation HS Teacher Charged

A 58-year-old teacher was charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old female student at Aviation Career & Technical Education High School in Long Island City Monday, January 3.

George Zola, of Valley Stream, Long Island, has taught at the school for 22 years as a shop teacher but now is awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of first-degree attempted sexual abuse, third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, Zola, who is presently assigned to administrative duties at the school, faces up to four years in prison.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Zola sexually abused one of his female students on multiple occasions and on at least one occasion, Zola allegedly told the student, “This is how it’s gonna be.”

The incidents allegedly occurred inside the school between December 1, 2008 and January 22, 1009 and only came to light when the student informed a school guidance counselor in June 2010.

“The charges are disturbing on so many levels,” Brown said. “As a teacher and an adult, the defendant was in a position of power and had no business engaging in inappropriate contact with one of his students. Such conduct cannot go unpunished.”

Cocaine Busts at JFK Airport

Three men have been arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport since the Christmas holiday, in two separate cases, for attempting to smuggle cocaine into the country.

Roger Levans, of Queens, got off a Delta Airlines flight from Georgetown, Guyana, on December 29, and told customs that he was carrying ‘cooked rabbit,’ according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Levans was indeed carrying some food items in the three suitcases he had, but no rabbit. Instead inspectors found three brick-shaped packages filled with three kilos of cocaine.

He was released on a $100,000 bail and told authorities that he works for Guardsmark Security at Yankee Stadium.

In the second case, two men flying into JFK on Christmas Day from San Juan, Puerto Rico have been ordered held on $100,000 bail each on Sunday, Dec. 26 on charges of smuggling 92 pounds of cocaine into the country.

Enmanuel Rojas Peralta, 24, and Israel Rodriguez Jacobo, 25, both of Puerto Rico face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

“The defendants are alleged to have brazenly tried to smuggle 92 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $3 million into Queens via JFK airport,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “Drugs such as these are a scourge on soci- ety and endanger our citizens — particularly our young people.”

Peralta and Jacobo were arraigned on December 26 in Queens Criminal Court before Acting Justice Joel Blumenfeld and were or- dered to return to court on January 19.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent inside the Delta Airlines terminal at JFK spotted the defendants at approximately 6:45 p.m. following their arrival from San Juan.

The agent observed they were each in possession of two baggage claim checks for four pieces of luggage, each containing 42 packages of cocaine which was recovered through a search of the luggage by a Port Authority Police Department detective.

“Our law enforcement partners put a stop to the defendants’ reckless plan and they now face up to 20 years in prison if convicted,” Brown said.