Compiled by Megan Bungeroth, Alissa Fleck, Rebecca Harris and Sam Levine
Biberaj Hits Fundraising Limit in Four Months
Upper West Side City Council candidate Ken Biberaj has joined the ranks of the few in his campaign efforts. He is among a small handful of candidates in races around the city to have reached the fundraising limit with over a year to go before the fall 2013 elections. According to his campaign, Biberaj will report a total haul of $130,000 for the current filing period from over 850 donors; average contribution size, they said, is $150. This total qualifies the campaign for the full matching funds allowed for both the primary and general elections.
Biberaj said that this doesn’t change his campaign strategy, but it certainly frees him up to focus on things other than fundraising.
“Our plan all along has been to go door to door, person to person, to listen to the concerns of my neighbors and talk about how we can make the Upper West Side an even better place to live,” he said in an email. “The fact that we reached this point so quickly shows that people are excited about our message and excited about our plan to help the Upper West Side. This is a grassroots campaign and we worked very hard over the last four months to meet as many people as possible and raise the funds needed for this campaign.”
Biberaj, who works in real estate and is an executive at the Russian Tea Room, credits the campaign’s focus on small events in living rooms and getting many low-dollar contributions.
Free Summer Tennis Program for Kids
This summer until Aug. 24, accompany your child (ages 5-18) to the New York Junior Tennis League at the Brandeis High School Campus at 145 W. 84th St. There you can register your child for the free tennis program that runs every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1-4 p.m. Loaner tennis rackets and balls are provided. The program is funded by the City Council.
Manhattan Ivory Ring Busted
Two dealers in the sale of illegal elephant ivory pled guilty on Tuesday to felony charges of illegal commercialization of wildlife, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance announced. Mukesh Gupta, 67, and Johnson Jung-Chien Lu, 56, entered guilty pleas for themselves as well as for their companies—Raja Jewels Inc. and New York Jewelry Mart Corp., respectively—for violations of the Environmental Conservation Law. Under the law, it is illegal to sell products made of material from endangered or threatened wildlife species without a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Today, all classifications of elephants are listed as endangered or threatened animals under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
“Today’s cases are a small but important step in protecting the endangered and threatened elephant species,” Vance said in a statement. “This investigation is part of an ongoing and focused effort by my office to combat environmental crime and clamp down on the illegal ivory underground marketplace, which fuels the international poaching crisis.” Neither Gupta nor Lu possessed the proper permits required to legally sell ivory. The charges come after ivory valued at more than $2 million in total was seized from the two businesses during an investigation by the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, with aid from the D.A.’s Office, the DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Delivery Bike Crackdown
Cyclists flouting the law found themselves the targets of several attacks from the city last week. On Thursday, City & State reported that Upper East Side Council Member Dan Garodnick and Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called for legislation to double traffic violation fines for those riding electronic-assisted bicycles, which are illegal in the city. Even though the City Council overrode a mayoral veto to ban electronic bikes in 2004, both Garodnick and Van Bramer said at a press conference in Queens that motorists are still dangerously riding electronic bikes on the sidewalk, against traffic and through red lights. Noting that he had seen an electronic-assisted bike just minutes before the press conference, Van Bramer said there was an “epidemic of reckless driving” in his district and across the city. By doubling the fines, Garodnick said the city could step up enforcement.
“Navigating our city streets is dangerous and difficult enough without the reckless actions of many cyclists who are riding illegal electric bikes today,” Garodnick said. “We need to empower our law enforcement officials to help crack down on this illegal activity.”
The legislation, introduced by Garodnick and co-sponsored by Van Bramer and seven other council members in June of last year, is awaiting a hearing by the Council’s transportation committee this fall. In February, Council Member Jessica Lappin introduced a separate bill to double the $500 fine for selling or operating an electronic-assisted bicycle.
The next day, Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan held a press conference to announce the DOT’s new education and enforcement program for delivery cyclists. The commissioner was joined by Council Members Gale Brewer, Lappin, Garodnick and Council Transportation Committee Chairman James Vacca, as well as some restaurant owners, to introduce the efforts and explain the program that will target first the Upper West and then the Upper East Side.
A special six-person unit of the DOT will go door to door to businesses and explain to employers the legal requirements and safety information for their delivery cyclists. After a six-month period, businesses who violate the laws will receive fines ranging from $100 to $300.
The program comes after the Upper East Side community has called repeatedly for holding businesses accountable for delivery cyclists’ reckless behavior.
“New Yorkers believe they have a constitutional right to great food delivered to their door while it’s still hot—and they’re right,” said Garodnick. “That cannot mean that we will compromise the safety of our streets in the process.”
The education portion of the program will give businesses brochures on safety and the law as well as ID cards their cyclists can fill out and keep on them. Employers will be required to provide upper body apparel with the name of their business clearly identified as well as safety equipment like lights, reflective gear and helmets.
“We need to put the brakes on dangerous delivery bicycles,” said Lappin. “Education and enforcement will make us all safer on our streets.”
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