Tagged: NYC

Drunken narc shoots pals in tussle over gun


One of the two shooting victims on the way to hospital

Cops swatted a .40-caliber Glock out of a drunken state narcotics agent’s hand Friday night after he shot two drinking buddies on the Upper West Side, authorities and witnesses said.

Amsterdam Ave. erupted in gunfire and blood-curdling screams just after 9 p.m. when Victor Zambrano Jr., 49, shot a 31-year-old woman in the left foot and the woman’s 42-year-old boyfriend in the right calf during an argument over his weapon…

The three pals had been drinking together and were walking on Amsterdam Ave. near W. 82nd St. when the woman asked the New York State Bureau of Narcotics enforcement agent for his pistol, a police source said.

Zambrano handed it over, but quickly demandegd it back, cop sources said. As the argument became increasingly heated, the agent fired a round. The bullet ricocheted off the concrete and hit both the woman and her boyfriend…

As diners along Amsterdam Ave.’s restaurant row ducked for cover, the narcotics investigator bolted.

The boyfriend chased after him, and Zambrano allegedly turned to shoot but misfired — causing a live round to fall to the ground as he ran toward W. 83rd St., stunned witnesses said…

It was not entirely clear why the woman wanted Zambrano’s gun, but early reports suggested she was concerned about his intoxication level.

Someday, I hope to read a stupid tale like this and no one will try to excuse dangerous behavior by saying, “he was just drunk and things got out of hand!”

You have some sort of idea what happens when you drink – or drink too much. You have the responsibillity and supposedly enough smarts to make decisions on your own. Like should I drink or not? Should I bring my gun with me when I’m out drinking? You are responsible for your own decisions.

“Take picture now of what we have…”


Illustration by Tom Bachtell

In June, 2001, Konstantin Petrov, an immigrant from Estonia, got a job as an electrician at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower of the World Trade Center. He was given a little office without cabinets, and after he built a shelf there, by bolting a steel plate to an exposed steel girder, he sent his friends a photograph of himself lying across it, and boasted that if the shelf ever collapsed the building would go down with it…

Petrov worked the night shift. This suited him, not only because he had a day job, as the superintendent of an apartment building at the other end of Manhattan, but because he was an avid photographer, and the emptiness of the Trade Center at night, together with the stunning vistas at dawn, gave him a lot to shoot, and a lot of time and space in which to shoot it. In the summer of 2001, he took hundreds of digital photographs, mostly of offices, table settings, banquettes, sconces, stairwells, kitchen equipment, and elevator fixtures. Many shots were lit by the rising sun, with the landscape of the city in the background, gleaming and stark-shadowed, more than a hundred floors below.

This past summer, Erik Nelson, a documentary filmmaker, was trying to finish cutting a film called “9/10: The Final Hours,” for the National Geographic Channel. He’d dug up all kinds of footage shot the day before the September 11th terrorist attacks, but very little of what the buildings had looked like inside. Amid a desperation for interiors, there was talk of abandoning the project. Then one of Nelson’s film researchers came across a trove of Petrov’s pictures, on an Estonian photo-sharing site called Fotki.

Nelson felt as though he had stumbled on the tomb of King Tut. For whatever reason, this Petrov had turned an archivist’s eye on the banalities of an office building and a sky-top restaurant, which, though destroyed in one of history’s most photographed events, had hardly been photographed at all. The pictures were beautiful, too. Devoid of people, and suffused with premonitory gloom, they made art out of a site that most New Yorkers, at the time, had come to think of as an eyesore. Petrov seemed to be a kind of savant of the commonplace, as though he’d known that all of it would soon disappear down a smoking pit. Inadvertently or not, he left behind a ghostly record, apparently the only one, of this strange twentieth-century aerie, as though he’d been sent here for this purpose alone.

Another Estonian named Dmitri Don developed one of the first photo-sharing sites – for Estonians to share photos from America with friends back home. Fotki is where Petrov’s photos live. RTFA for the whole tale.

Petrov died less than a year after 9/11 in a motorcycle crash on the West Side Highway.

“It’s a big lesson to all of us,” Dmitri Don said. “Take picture now of what we have.”

Thanks, Mike

E.R. ready to open at site that used to offer a full-service hospital


Christopher Gregory/New York Times

Residents of the West Village will soon see something unusual arriving at the shiplike building on Seventh Avenue that used to house part of St. Vincent’s Hospital: ambulances.

Four years after St. Vincent’s closed, the hulking white building, between West 12th and West 13th Streets, is reopening in the coming days, not as a hospital, but as a free-standing emergency room.

“We’ve given back the community the No. 1 thing we think the community needed the most when St. Vincent’s Hospital closed,” said Dr. Warren B. Licht, the medical affairs director for the new emergency room, which will be run by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

The new E.R., however, is part of a trend that has as much to do with a hospital’s bottom line as it does with providing acute care.

Free-standing emergency rooms — which are distinct from urgent care centers, which treat non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries at low cost — have sprouted up around the country in recent years, driven by competition to capture lucrative markets, like the neighborhoods around Greenwich Village.

They can bring in significant revenue, since they are allowed to charge the same high fees that hospitals charge while having lower overhead. And, since half of admissions come from the emergency room, free-standing E.R.s can funnel patient business to their parent hospitals…

Arthur Z. Schwartz, a local Democratic district leader who brought an unsuccessful suit to force the state to build a full-service hospital in the neighborhood, said that the HealthPlex “looks like a magnificent facility” but that he worried about its inability to treat the most acute cases.

“All it’s going to be capable of doing is attempting to stabilize someone while they stick them back in an ambulance and ship them off to a hospital,” he said…

Nationally, the first free-standing emergency rooms opened in the 1970s, mostly to serve rural areas that lacked access to emergency care. But the number of such emergency rooms has exploded in recent years, to more than 400.

“It used to be that just for-profit hospitals were starting this trend, but now academic medical centers are realizing that it is quite profitable, too,” said Dr. Renee Hsia, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Profits before people remains the watchword of American medicine, publicly-accessible healthcare.

My experience here in Santa Fe with the one urgent care facility I ever visited puts the lie to the concept of treatment at low-cost. Over $800 billing exceeded my Medicare + Medigap insurance at the time including a set of absolutely irrelevant X-rays for what turned out to be a sinus infection.

Forgive my skepticism; but, knowing a number of dedicated physicians who take their Hippocratic seriously says as little about the healthcare available in the United states as knowing a few ethical lawyers says about the American practice of law.

Court rules parents haven’t a right to send their unvaccinated kids to school

In New York City, parents do not have the right to send their unvaccinated kids to school if another student has a vaccine-preventable illness…That’s according to a Brooklyn Federal District Court judge, who ruled earlier this month that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religion does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements.

New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons.

When three families in New York City recently tried to do so, their children were barred from attending school, leading them to file suit against the city. Citing a 1905 Supreme Court case — in which the court ruled that Massachusetts was permitted to fine a man $5 for refusing a smallpox vaccine — Judge William Kuntz ruled that the court had “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations…”

All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who’d been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further.

The idjits and ignorant have every right to believe what they do, say what they wish – and keep their silliness out of everyone else’s lives.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Boy Scouts make statement by marching in gay pride parade


James Estrin/The New York Times

The color guard leading the annual Gay Pride March down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday carried flags of sky blue, navy blue, red-white-and-blue and rainbow. But, for these marchers, the colors that mattered most were the ones they wore.

Khaki shirts, olive pants and rainbow neckerchiefs: the Boy Scout uniform, pride-style — a uniform that had never been seen on a group of marchers in New York City’s pride parade before.

They had come to mark progress — the Boy Scouts of America’s breakthrough vote last year to end a decades-old policy of prohibiting openly gay youths from being scouts — and to call for more. However, the organization, a touchstone of traditional America, still bars openly gay adults from participating as troop leaders or volunteers. Ending that ban has become a signature cause for the gay-rights movement…

The marchers’ uniforms were a provocative statement. Boy Scout officials have said that scouts are forbidden to wear their uniforms in events that support social or political positions, including gay pride events, and have disciplined scouts and scoutmasters in other states for doing so. But the New York area council has adopted a nondiscrimination policy that leaders of the parade group, called Scouts for Equality, said they believed would protect them.

A spokesman for the national organization declined to comment on the group of marchers, which included parents and straight supporters of the gay rights movement as well as gay and straight scouts and leaders…

The scouts did not take their “marching” lightly. No meandering on the asphalt for them, no dancing and high-fiving the spectators. As they stepped off to frenzied cheers from the crowd, lifting their flags, Peter Brownstein conducted their progress in low, determined tones, as if he were directing a military procession: “Left, right, left right left right.”

As the group passed the Stonewall Inn, the West Village bar known as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, he and the other marchers paused and gave the Scout salute.

Mr. Brownstein, a Boy Scout leader from Utah, was forced to leave his troop after marching in the Salt Lake City pride event last year. That did not deter him in the least from coming to New York’s celebration.

We’re showing,” he told his fellow scouts, “that we belong.”

Power to the People still means all the people, folks. Cheers to the scouts who marched for progress.

North Brother Island, NYC


Collapsing roof of the boiler plant, which provided heat to the island

Photographer Christopher Payne visited North Brother Island, a 13-acre island between the Bronx and Riker’s Island that’s been abandoned since 1963. After it became inhabited in 1885, North Brother housed a hospital to quarantine victims of contagious disease and later provided housing to World War II veterans. It also held a treatment center for teenage drug addicts.

Now, nature reclaims the island.

Here’s the link to more photos.

Thanks, Mike

Minister to repay $1.2 million he “borrowed” from charities he ran

A New York City minister who was the subject of an Associated Press investigation about misspent 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina charity funds has agreed to repay $1.2 million that he took from his congregation to buy an 18th-century farmhouse on seven acres in rural New Jersey.

The Rev. Carl Keyes and his wife, the Rev. Donna Keyes, who jointly led the Glad Tidings Tabernacle in Manhattan, signed a legal judgment Wednesday settling a probe by the New York attorney general into a series of questionable church financial transactions.

Those deals included an illegal loan the couple took from the church in 2008 to buy a house in Stockton, New Jersey, near the Delaware River, and $500,000 the church loaned to an anti-poverty charity controlled by Carl Keyes, called Aid for the World.

Some of that money, the attorney general’s office said, was used to buy the minister and his wife a BMW. According to the settlement, which was scheduled to be officially announced Thursday, other funds were used to finance family trips to California, West Virginia, Africa and Florida, where the couple’s sons went to college.

Glad Tidings former executive director, Mark Costantin, agreed to repay $482,000 he still owed Glad Tidings on $1.2 million in loans he’d taken from the church, some of which were used to pay off the mortgage on his house in Chester, New York…

Three former members of the Glad Tidings’ board agreed to pay $50,000 in penalties for neglecting their oversight duties.

The attorney general’s office began its investigation after the AP raised numerous questions about Carl Keyes and two charities he controlled, including one that had received $4.8 million in donations intended to help victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina…

Using a combination of internal documents and public records, the AP also chronicled how the church disposed of $31 million it made by selling off its historic Manhattan church in 2007. That report included detail on some of the loan transactions that were the subject of Wednesday’s settlement. After the AP began asking questions, Keyes filed eight years of tax returns for Urban Life Ministries and three years for Aid for the World.

Nice to see the Fourth Estate behaving with traditional backbone. In a craft so often dazzled and dumbed-down by reclassification as media and entertainment, commitment to ethics, functioning as a genuine watchdog is too rare.

I holler at AP folks frequently enough – mostly their editors – about politics. Always nice to witness dedication to traditional standards of journalism.

New York Congressman hit with 20-count indictment

grim Grimm

A two-year investigation into U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm’s campaign finances resulted in his indictment on Monday — on federal charges of cheating the government out of taxes on his restaurant.

Grimm was slammed with a 20-count indictment charging he fraudulently underreported the wages he paid his workers at Healthalicious on the Upper East Side and concealed the eatery’s actual income…

Grimm, 44, is also charged with obstruction and perjury for allegedly lying about his involvement in the business in a sworn deposition…

The feds said Grimm ran the day-to-day operations of the restaurant between 2007 and 2010, and “engaged in schemes to fraudulently under-report the wages he paid his workers — many of whom did not have legal status in the United States — and fraudulently under-report the true amount of money the restaurant earned to both federal and New York State tax and insurance authorities.”

He pulled off part of the scam by paying a “large portion” of employees’ pay in cash, “thereby lowering the restaurant’s payroll tax costs,” the feds said.

In all, prosecutors said, he hid more than $1 million in Healthalicious sales and wages…

FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos noted that…“As a former FBI agent, Rep. Grimm should understand the motto: fidelity, bravery and integrity. Yet he broke our credo at nearly every turn. Rep Grimm lived by a new motto: fraud, perjury and obstruction,” Venizekos said…

Last week, Grimm’s lawyer said the investigation into his Republican client was politically motivated and predicted he would be vindicated of whatever the charges were…

Grimm made headlines in January after threatening a New York 1 reported who’d asked him about the investigation.

In the exchange, which was caught on camera, Grimm said, “Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.”

A real class act – Congressman Grimm. As an ex-Marine, an ex-FBI agent, you’d think the concept of standing up for law and order might have made an impression on him. Though his behavior towards the press – and not so incidentally ordinary working people in his employ – makes it seem that exploitation is more in his line.

Boss’s prayer meetings + his warnings Gay folks are Hellbound = $1.6 Million award to chef

Mirella-SalemiX390

A New York appeals court has affirmed a lower court’s 2012 ruling that a lesbian chef is owed $1.6 million for being forced to attend weekly prayer meetings where her boss would regularly warn that “gay people” were “going to go to hell.”

Mirella Salemi sued Gloria’s Tribeca Inc., Gloria’s Tribecamex and principal owner Edward Globokar for violations of the New York City Human Rights Law after a string of incidents that occurred between 2004 and 2007. Gloria’s Tribeca is a Mexican restaurant.

Salemi was awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages in what her lawyer, Derek Smith, called “the largest employment verdict in 2012 in New York.” A three-judge panel of the Appellate Division’s Manhattan-based First Department affirmed the verdict for Salemi.

He not only threatened her soul, but he also threatened her livelihood,” Smith told the New York Post in 2012. “He thought praying might cure her of her sexuality, but she is someone who didn’t need to be saved.”

There is no civil reason in the Land of the Free for an employee to put up with harassment over their sexuality. That is – if you live and work in one of the states that protects your civil rights. There is no federal law, yet, protecting LGBT workers from being fired for their sexual orientation and many states provide no protection at all.

What we witness in this case is an example of American homophobia cloaked once again in the freedom-of-religion trick bag adopted nowadays by rightwing hypocrites.

New York State Attorney General finds charity telemarketers keep 62% of what you donate

boiler room

In 2012, New York charities raised nearly $249 million, but telemarketers kept about 62 percent of the donations, the state attorney general says…

Often telemarketers target seniors or the disabled because they are home, answer the phone and are usually socially isolated and eager to speak with people because they are lonely. However, many are on fixed incomes and these donations are a real sacrifice that eats into funds needed for healthcare, food, prescriptions and heat.

Charities in New York City received the highest rate of return, with telemarketing campaigns taking in $42 million and returning $22 million, or 53.9 percent, while Long Island organizations fared the worst, pulling in a gross of $8 million and a net of $2 million or 25 percent…

Some of the non-profit groups with the worst percentage of money to the charity and fundraising expenses are law enforcement and veterans groups — two areas that seniors are apt to donate.

For example, the Department of New York Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States collected 15 percent from the fundraising money, the Police Conference of New York also gained 15 percent and the state Association of Chiefs of Police received 20 percent.

For those considered a donation via a telemarketer, Schneiderman advises asking the caller making the solicitation to describe the programs conducted by the charity, how much of a donation will be used for those programs, how much the telemarketer is being paid and how much if any of a donation the charity is guaranteed to receive.

Checking up on folks asking for charitable donations should be number one. Cynicism aside, charities are a great source of marks for any hustler. The NY AG’s report [.pdf] is available over here – and it’s useful whether or not you live in the Empire State.