Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wakefield News: The latest rules for precinct councils

Wakefield News: The latest rules for precinct councils: Wakefield Area News By Mary V. Lauro We don't know why, but every 10 or 15 years the NYPD decides to change the format (By-laws of...

The latest rules for precinct councils

Wakefield Area News
By Mary V. Lauro
We don't know why, but every 10 or 15 years the NYPD decides to change the format (By-laws of its Precinct Councils). We don't know whether it is because all organizations have a tendency to break down, becoming more and more deliberate and less and less structured as they age or whether money finds its way to the wrong places. We thought of that possibility when we realized that Chief Phillip Banks III, Commander of NYPD Community Affairs Unit does not want Precinct Councils to fund raise more than $50,000 each year.
Fifty thousand is a nice sum. One would like to know which Precinct in this City can collect all that money in one year. In the Bronx it would take at least 10 years. It hardly seems fair.
Membership in the Council is free so long as one is over 18 years of age, crime free, lives or works in that particular precinct and applies by filling out the Personal Data Sheet. In order to have voting privileges, one must have attended 4 meetings prior to the vote. This is decidedly different. It used to be 3 meetings. Attendance is marked by one's signature on a special NYPD hard cover book which is kept at the Precinct.
Interestingly, we note that the new By-laws are being repaired especially where they were last time. This time, instead of seven executive members, Councils will have a choice of five or seven. They are President, Vice President, Treasurer, Recording Secretary, Sergeant-at-Arms, (Corresponding and Assistant Secretary are not required for executive boards having less than seven members).
Now here is a nice touch and different. We have term limits. The president and other board members can only be chosen for consecutive two year terms. Even so, after a hiatus of a year, should that person want to run again and the members wish to re-elect him, that individual may run again.
Another interesting twist is the role envisioned for the Sergeant-at-Arms should partner with the president to keep order during the meeting and enforce any rules that seem to be going astray. The Sergeant-at-Arms will also be the bearer of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th edition.
Much in fact, most of the previous adjustments to the Precinct Council By-laws remain central in the newly revised By-laws. We understand that currently there are 85. Precinct Councils in the City. We have come a long way since 40', 50's and 60's. At that time it seemed rude to criticize the police and besides we didn't have as much crime then.
The entire set of new rules is available from the internet or by calling, the Community Affairs Unit.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The sieve

Wakefield Area News
By Mary V. Lauro
BRONX, NEW YORK, March 22- If we had our way, we would forbid the City Council and the State Legislature to enact new laws until all the current ones are enforced. 
To begin, enforcing our current ones would assist us in our current financial difficulties. It is not something which can not be done. Con Edison did it for years. If one did not pay one's bill in a timely manner, one's gas and electricity would be shut off. While in some cases it was sad, in most cases, it was just.
We have always noted that when there is an NYPD Patrol Car close by, other cars do not double park or park near a hydrant or slip though a red light. In fact, whenever we inadvertently drive through a red light, most of us automatically look behind us to ensure that a patrol car is not in our wake. Why are we so nervous?
It is not that we are ashamed of the summons. Not at all. We have witnessed entirely too many traffic infractions to think we have done something shameful. It is the fine we do not want to pay; which is interesting since we pay so many other fines without a struggle, probably because we call them something else. Think of auto license, drivers license, tax of all kinds, etc. . The difference between the fee for a driver's license and a red light summons is that one's (driver's license) is universally applied while the other is not.
It is the, haphazardness of our law enforcement that leads to an escalation of disrespect, for our regulations. (Crime is another story.) Last month, The Daily News ran a story on one of our favorite topics: Illegal conversions. The story praised John Liu, our current controller and contender for Mayor for excoriating the Buildings Department (DOB) on its poor showing after the city had vowed, years before to crack down on illegal landlords that chopped up apartments creating firetraps.
While the Daily News seems to think that Queens has the most illegal conversions, we disagree. If it is so, the Bronx is a close second. But it really does not matter. The Bronx has had its share of lost lives due to the fact that its buildings also burn. In any case the trend to illegally convert is growing city wide. In the article, John Liu is quoted as saying, "The Buildings Department is just dysfunctional and incapable of improving itself.”
In April 2011, here in the Bronx, a fire in a converted house took the life of a 12-year-old boy and his parents. It turned out that DOB inspectors had gone to the building twice but was not let in, so they dropped the case. We know that story. In response to Liu's investigation, DOB responded that landlords had become more vigilant about letting inspectors enter their houses. An audit showed that from July 2010 to June 2011 the failure rate of inspectors to gain access to buildings rose to 80 percent. We all know that Inspectors can and should get judicial clearance to force access. Lots of Luck! Consider that in 2008, DOB requested and received 13 judicial permissions to enter illegal conversions. In 2011 it rose to 80, but in view of the 5,577 conversions to which the inspectors could not gain access, that increase amounted to nothing or more that 1.4 percent!
Meanwhile during World War II when all one and two-family houses were asked to convert so as to house returning soldiers and moving families, a house on Bronx Boulevard converted the basement. That was 60 years ago. With the war and the emergency behind them, they rented the little apartment to a relative. That was 50 years ago. When a DOB inspector knocked on their door, they thought they had nothing to hide. Little did they know. According to the law the owners must now return the basement to its original condition! Go figure.