Elected officials and Transport Workers Union Local 100 representatives gathered in Astoria last week to demand the MTA restore station agents at subway booths who were removed throughout New York City in 2010.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who spearheaded the rally, joined members of TWU Local 100, along with City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), outside the Steinway Street-Broadway station in Astoria June 6 as part of a citywide day of action and petitioning to highlight the need for restoring station agents and booths across the city’s subway system.
The recent incidents of deadly violence on Roosevelt Ave. — two murders committed in broad daylight within days of each other last month — underscore the fact that we need a lot more than trash bins and video cameras to make Roosevelt Ave. safe.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m in favor of the proposed expansion of the 82nd St. Business Improvement District, which would cover more than 800 businesses on Roosevelt Ave. from 81st St. to 104th St. Fresh paint, additional trash cans and video cameras are certainly welcome. And banding together under the banner of the BID would be good for the small merchants and vendors along the avenue.
But Roosevelt Ave. is referred to as the old Times Square, and for good reason. When police successfully cracked down on prostitution in Times Square and midtown in the 1980s, much of the business simply moved to Roosevelt Ave., where it is fueled, in part, by the sale of foreign-born women into sexual slavery.
With holiday shopping bills coming due, State Senator Jose Peralta is cautioning consumers to keep an eye out for unauthorized or suspicious transactions on their bank and credit card statements and is introducing legislation to help law enforcement crack down on “21st Century” organized crime activity.
Identity theft and the confiscation of personal information, such as bank PINs, are not "seasonal" crimes, but they occur with greater frequency during periods of increased financial activity—like the Christmas shopping season.
Gangs are becoming more involved in these and other white-collar crimes, such as bank fraud, credit card fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting and mortgage fraud, according to the FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center, which identifies New York and Florida as the twin epicenters of this troubling new development in organized crime.
“Despite the increasing prominence of these crimes, the law used in New York to prosecute gangs and organized crime organizations does not include a wide variety of cyber and identity crimes,” Senator Peralta said. “That’s not surprising considering that when the Enterprise Corruption Statute was passed in 1986, pagers were the cutting-edge personal technology of the day and the identity theft law did not even exist.”
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who worked closely with Senator Peralta in drafting the legislation, said, “Those committing the crimes of identity theft are well-organized enterprises that inflict economic harm on a global scale, often leaving multiple victims and significant financial losses in their wake. My office has utilized the enterprise corruption statute in the past to pursue justice against those committing these crimes and this legislative fix to strengthen the law will allow us to do that more efficiently. I thank Senator Peralta for his leadership in introducing this legislation and for recognizing that the law must keep pace with emerging technology.”
Including crimes such as identity theft in the Enterprise Corruption Statute would also save the state money by eliminating duplicative legal proceedings, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per case.
When a defendant is charged with the crime of enterprise corruption by committing larceny through identity theft, for example, current law requires the defendant be indicted twice for the same underlying actions—one indictment for enterprise corruption and larceny and a second indictment for the identity theft charges.
In turn, a defendant must also be arraigned twice, have bail set twice and have two sets of motions. In the end, a defendant is tried for the same conduct not once, but twice.
In addition to being needlessly costly to the state, the current law is inequitable to defendants, who also face duplicative costs stemming from needing to pay two retainers to defense counsel.
Here’s a small sampling of high-profile cases of new-age organized crime activity: U.S. Says Ring Stole 160 Million Credit Card Numbers; an identity theft ring spearheaded by the Crips, Bloods and a Brooklyn-based gang called the Outlaws stole more than $2 million from New York charities; a cyber-theft of 10 million credit and debit card records was attributed to a New York City based street gang with ties to Central America; a Romanian man with ties to organized crime was charged with stealing at least $1.5 million by installing "skimmer" devices at ATM machines across New York City and Long Island.
“The bill would bring the law into the 21st Century,” Senator Peralta said. “And it would make it easier for police and prosecutors to go after gangs and organized crime syndicates, in addition to saving the state money.”
Thirty-five employers conducted more than 800 interviews, hired 16 applicants on the spot and scheduled close to another 200 meetings with candidates they met at a job fair Thursday in Elmhurst sponsored by State Senator Jose Peralta in conjunction with Queens Center.
“We were able to help some people still struggling to make ends meet on the heels of the Great Recession,” said Senator Peralta. “From past experience, I expect that a number of others will also end up getting offers in the near future as a result of the interviews they scheduled and contacts they made at the job fair.”
More than 1,000 job seekers turned out for the fair, held at the Queens Center. In addition to employers such as the Coca Cola Company, Time Warner Cable and United Parcel Service, the New York State Department of Labor and non-profit organizations were on hand to provide career counseling, as well résumé writing and interview preparation advice.
The fair was held at the Food Court, located on the lower level of the JC Penney wing of the Queens Center.
"The good news is that millions of upstanding, hardworking undocumented immigrants will now be able to continue contributing to our economy without having to live and work in fear of deportation.
"The bad news is that millions of other upstanding, hardworking undocumented immigrants will remain in the shadows of our economy and society.
"President Obama is to be applauded for taking a strong first step toward long-overdue reform of our broken immigration system. Like the president, we in New York should not wait on Congress to make additional necessary repairs.
"The DREAM Act is sensible, compassionate public policy. It is the law in Texas, a red state, California, a blue state, and New Mexico, a purple state. Here, the New York DREAM Act is supported by editorial boards throughout the state, including those at newspapers as different as the New York Post, The New York Times and the Daily News.
"Let’s follow the bipartisan example of the five states that have already passed a DREAM Act. Let's collaborate in New York on making an investment in our young people, our economy and our state’s future that will pay for itself several times over."