NY Lawmakers on the Move, April 7, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Walker Acknowledges Rollback to Bail Reform in Coming Budget

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker

Assemblywoman Latrice M. Walker (D-Brooklyn) yesterday acknowledged in her e-newsletter to constituents that there will probably be rollbacks on bail reform/criminal justice issues as part of the final 2022-23 fiscal year state budget.

The roughly $216 billion spending plan was due April 1 and thus is now late as lawmakers in Albany continue to hammer out the details.

“The last few weeks have been challenging – to say the least – as we worked to reach a budget deal that addresses the needs of New Yorkers. Yes, the budget was due on April 1, but the Assembly and the Senate passed extenders so state employees could still get their paychecks while negotiations continued. In the end, we were able to reach a budget deal that delivers critical investments for child care, more money for tuition assistance and funding for renters’ assistance,” wrote Walker in the e-mail.

“Barring a last-second reprieve, it appears there are going to be rollbacks to bail reform that criminalize poverty and contribute to the mass incarceration of Black and brown people. I am not pleased,” she added.

Walker said the latest proposals, which are expected to be voted into law later this week, include coded language that will introduce a dangerousness standard into the criminal justice system. It will allow judges, for the first time in state history, to make their own assessments as to whether a person is dangerous before deciding whether he or she gets bail. This invites bias, because we all know who judges will find dangerous, she said.

Maloney, Nadler on the Departure of Rupa Bhattacharyya Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (Photo Credit: U.S. House Office of Photography)
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler

U.S. Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) yesterday issued statements regarding the stepping down of Ms. Rupa Bhattacharyya as the Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

“A tremendous debt of gratitude is owed to Ms. Bhattacharyya, who is stepping down as Special Master, for her service to her country and to the responders and survivors of 9/11,” said . Maloney.  “She stepped into her role and led the VCF through several challenges, including a funding shortage and the permanent authorization of the VCF, which was made possible by our Never Forget the Heroes Act in 2019. She oversaw the distribution of nearly 40,000 claims totaling almost $8 billion in awards. She has touched the lives of thousands of Americans and helped ensure the government lived up to its responsibilities to care for those suffering from the 9/11 attacks against our nation.  We thank her for her dedication and for her service.

“The September 11, 2001 attacks happened two decades ago, but the responders and survivors are still in need of help. Ms. Bhattacharyya ensured that 9/11 responders, survivors, and their families whose claims have not yet been finalized receive the financial compensation they needed and deserved. I am deeply grateful to Ms. Bhattacharyya and look forward to working with the interim Special Master. We hope that Attorney General Garland will appoint a new career civil servant as Special Master quickly.”

Nadler said for nearly six years, Special Master Bhattacharyya has been a stalwart ally in the fight to secure the funding that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) deserves. 

“She has dutifully faced some of the VCF’s toughest challenges head-on in order to ensure the Fund could fully pay every eligible claim. It has been a pleasure to work closely with Special Master Bhattacharyya, and her service and partnership will be sorely missed,” Nadler said.

AG James Sues Eviction Lawyers for Taking Advantage of New York Tenants

Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James yesterday announced a lawsuit against Balsamo, Rosenblatt & Hall, P.C., A. Balsamo & Rosenblatt, P.C. (Balsamo), and its partners Robert Rosenblatt and Edward Hall for engaging in deceptive rent collection practices and initiating frivolous lawsuits against New York tenants. 

Following an investigation, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Balsamo, a Brooklyn-based real estate law firm retained largely by landlords, did not conduct any meaningful reviews of their non-payment eviction cases before filing litigation, resulting in the distribution of deceptive rent collection letters, unnecessary legal actions against tenants, and improper evictions without cause. 

In addition to penalties, James seeks to stop Balsamo from all deceitful rent collection practices, suspend all unjustified cases against tenants, and return all the profits they have received from the unjustified cases.

“In failing to fulfill their basic responsibility, Balsamo caused untold trauma, stress, and financial hardship to New York tenants throughout the city,” said James. “With each housing case, there is far too much at stake for lawyers to cut corners. We are talking about people’s ability to have a roof over their head — a right that Balsamo unjustly denied New Yorkers. This lawsuit is the first step in righting the wrongs done by unscrupulous landlords and their lawyers and reversing the negative impacts of their negligence on our communities. My office will continue to protect tenants and root out those that seek to unfairly threaten New Yorkers.”

Malliotakis, 9/11 Victim Push President Biden To Do The Right Thing

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn), who represents hundreds of families who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, joined House Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) in sending a letter to White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain regarding the White House’s handling of $3.5 billion in assets seized from the Afghanistan Central Bank.

These assets were specifically made available to the “Havlish Plaintiffs,” roughly 150 individuals who have legal claims against the Taliban, under an executive order signed by President Biden on February 11, 2022, which excludes a large portion of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the September 11, 2001 attacks.

By making these assets specifically available to the Havlish Plaintiffs, President Biden’s executive order circumvents Congressionally-established mechanisms for the compensation of victims of terrorism, including the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act that established the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (VSST Fund) that provides a way for victims of terrorism, particularly those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, to receive compensation.

“The Biden Administration, it seems, has departed from this established process with respect to the assets seized from the Afghanistan Central Bank,” the lawmakers wrote. “Rather than directing the $3.5 billion in seized assets into the VSST Fund where all victims with valid claims may be equitably compensated under the pro-rata formula established by Congress, the Biden Administration has chosen to circumvent this process in an apparent attempt to pick winners and losers among victims of terrorism.”

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