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Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

As NYC de Blasio Talks Parking UN Abuse of Diplomatic Plates Raised By Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, Photos

NEW YORK CITY, February 21 – When Mayor Bill de Blasio took questions in the Chinatown Senior Citizen Center on February 21 on parking placards, Inner City Press asked him if his new digital approach can do anything about abuses by the UN and diplomatic missions withe blue licence plates. Good question, de Blasio said. Video here. Then his team said this is an issue for the City's Office of International Affairs - which has yet to respond to a months' old Inner City Press Freedom of Information Law request. We'll have more on this. De Blasio to his credit then took questions on other topics. Inner City Press asked him about the City's proposed $5 million settlement with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Video here. De Blasio replied, we screwed up, some of our friendly in the Department of Transportation present company excluded screwed up. (Alongside him on the placard issue was DoT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.) De Blasio said the City worked with the Federal government to make them whole. The settlement is for now proposed - here's from the U.S. Attorney's press release: "Following Sandy, the NYCDOT created a list of vehicles within the agency’s fleet that had been damaged by the storm and submitted it to FEMA for indemnification pursuant to the Public Assistance program.  The NYCDOT personnel responsible for generating the list of damaged vehicles, to whom the City provided no training on the Public Assistance program, made no effort to inspect the vehicles or otherwise determine whether any reported damage was attributable to Sandy.  In fact, a number of the vehicles included on this list were inoperable long before Sandy.  In 2014, based on this faulty list, the City submitted a request for indemnification to FEMA seeking to recover the full cost of replacing 132 NYCDOT vehicles.  The City submitted a certification to FEMA as part of the program and a request for indemnification that falsely attested that all costs were incurred as a direct result of Sandy.  Many of the vehicles for which the City sought full replacement costs had been nonoperational or not in use prior to the storm.  As a result of these false certifications, FEMA paid the City millions of dollars to which it was not entitled.  As part of the proposed settlement, the City will pay the United States a total of $5,303,624.  Specifically, the City will make a cash payment of $4,126,227.34 and relinquish rights to an additional $1,177,396.66 that FEMA had previously approved for disbursement.  During this Office’s investigation, the City withdrew another $3,196,376 in indemnity requests, acknowledging that the costs were ineligible for reimbursement." We'll have more on this, and these beats. Back on February 8 before Norman Seabrook, former head of the NYC Corrections Officers union, was sentenced  by the SDNY to 58 months in prison, a victim's statement to the court cited what it called Seabrook's racist rant on YouTube.

   Afterward on Worth Street Inner City Press asked Seabrook about the YouTube video - actually, an audio file with an array of still photographs.  Seabrook told Inner City Press they doctored it to make him look bad. His (actual) answer on Periscope here - and here now audio file on YouTube, here.

  In the SDNY courtroom it was cognitive dissonance: Norman Seabrook who rose from poverty to head of a union with 10,000 members, who endorsed Michael Bloomberg; Norman Seabrook who asked for tens of thousands of dollars to steer union money into a Cayman Islands hedge fund which failed.

  Prosecutor Martin Bell referred to a Ferragamo bag visible in Seabrook's house for months. When Seabrook spoke he said it was a gift with cigars, taking a cigar out of his suit jacket.

Seabrook's lawyer Paul Shechtman cited Seabrook's work on the so-called feces bill to make throwing excrement at a corrections officer a felony. On the hand Seabrook was accused of threatening his board members with returning to work in a prison as punishment, and of going after anyone who dared run against or otherwise oppose him. Seabrook felt that it was his time to get paid, that he was bigger than the cause he began fighting for, Bell said.

Shechtman also spoke after the sentencing. Inner City Press asked him about Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein's seeming reversal of an initial position that it would be hard to leave Seabrook out on bail pending appeal. Shechtman replied affably that he had to win something, after the 58 month sentence.  Video here.

  An issue on a appeal will be whether Seabrook's second jury should have heard about the $19 million loss.

 Inner City Press asked Shechtman about the restitution, how much would be paid by hedge funders Murray Huberfeld,  Jona Rechnitz and perhaps (Judge Hellerstein indicated) Jeremy Reichberg. Shechtman told Inner City Press, If Norman wins $19 million in the lottery, we'll have about that. For now, $2500 is due in 60 days, through the SDNY Clerk, for the union. We'll have more on this.

   Exiting the courthouse after Seabrook, with a bag of Utz potato chips and a copy of the Daily News was New York Knicks icon Charles Oakley. He said that there are others who need to be locked up as well, and that the Knicks need better players. There was no rebuttal. Periscope video here.

Upcoming in the SDNY is a recently-filed complaint by the Bangladesh Central Bank for the $81 million hacking of its funds, which were then wired through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a case that Inner City Press will cover. Times change. Watch this site.


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