<![CDATA[NBC New York - Local News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usThu, 23 Mar 2017 18:15:17 -0400Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:15:17 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Deportee Nabbed in 'Heinous' NY Attacks on Girl, Women]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:53:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/novini+perp+walk+update.jpg

A 31-year-old man who had previously been deported four times faces a litany of charges for a series of alleged crimes on Long Island, including a sex attack on a 2-year-old child and brutal stabbings of two women, officials say. 

At a news briefing Thursday, Acting Nassau County Police Department Commissioner Thomas Krumpter described Tommy Alvarado-Ventura's alleged five-hour spree as "probably the most heinous criminal act I've ever seen" in 28 years on the job. 

"It really is nauseating," Krumpter said.

Police say the violence began late Tuesday at the Hempstead home Alvarado-Ventura shares with his girlfriend, her 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, and another tenant who was watching the children while their mother was at work. 

Around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday he left the house and, according to police, the 2-year-old girl was heard crying at about the same time. Police say Alvarado-Ventura allegedly sexually assaulted the girl. 

Alvarado-Ventura went to a nearby bar and got into a fight with a 24-year-old woman over a marijuana purchase, police say. When the woman left the bar, he allegedly confronted her in the parking lot, started punching and kicking her, and then stabbed her multiple times. The victim was stabbed in the back, thighs and mouth and sustained a collapsed lung in the attack. She was last listed at a hospital in serious condition, authorities said. 

By the time police arrived at the bar scene, Alvarado-Ventura had gone back to the home. When his girlfriend returned from work some time between 3:15 a.m. and 4:15 a.m., she saw her daughter had "severe injuries" allegedly inflicted by Alvarado-Ventura and confronted him, police say. 

The argument escalated and Alvarado-Ventura allegedly punched his girlfriend, then took out a knife and stabbed her repeatedly. The wounded mother managed to grab her children and escape to another area of the apartment where the babysitter lives. They called police who arrived to find Alvarado-Ventura sleeping. 

The girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter were taken to a hospital. Prosecutors said the toddler, who had been beaten in addition to sexually attacked, had to undergo surgery for her injuries. The mother was being treated for her stab wounds and injuries suffered in a severe beating. 

Alvarado-Ventura was arrested on charges of predatory child sexual assault, attempted murder, assault and other crimes. He pleaded not guilty after a court appearance Thursday and was remanded. His court-appointed lawyer declined comment.

Prosecutors asked for three orders of protection for the victims. It wasn't clear if he knew the woman he allegedly attacked at the bar. It also wasn't known how long he had been with his girlfriend or lived with her or her children, but police said he is not the biological father. The 4-year-old child wasn't hurt.

Alvarado-Ventura, an admitted member of the notoriously violent El Salvadorian gang MS-13, according to police, was first deported back to El Salvadore in September 2006 and most recently in December 2011. Police did not provide information on the reasons for the four deportations, but said at least one was related to prior criminal convictions, which include assault, DWI, drug possession, disorderly conduct and false impersonation. 

Alvarado-Ventura's family didn't comment in court Thursday. But emotions ran high, and one person fainted, collapsing on the floor. 



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Cashier Sentenced In NYC Credit Card Theft Scheme]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:38:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/credit+cards+generic.jpg

A cashier at a popular chain eatery in Manhattan has been sentenced to prison after she admitted stealing credit card information of dozens of customers last summer and going on a $20,000 shopping spree at luxury retail stores. 

Aida Matias, 23, of the Bronx, was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in state prison Wednesday after pleading guilty in February to theft, forgery, grand larceny and other charges. 

Matias was working at Le Pain Quotidien in SoHo from July through September of 2016 when she used a handheld skimming device to steal credit card information from more than 70 customers, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. 

When she was arrested, she had more than 15 forged credit cards in her possession, some encoded with the stolen data, Vance said. A search warrant later executed at her apartment turned up more forged cards, forgery devices and a fake New York state ID card.  

Prosecutors say she used the cards to go shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, Louis Vuitton and other luxury department stores and retailers. She also reserved a premium hotel suite in Manhattan last December.

Vance urged New Yorkers to monitor their own financial statements closely for signs of fraud. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cop Put Hidden GPS on Ex-Girl's Car to Stalk Her: Prosecutor]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:13:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/CopPutsGPSonGF.jpg

Authorities say a New Jersey police officer allegedly attached a hidden GPS tracking device on his ex-girlfriend's vehicle without permission so he could track her whereabouts.

Police arrested Vache Assadourian, of Ringwood, on invasion of privacy and stalking charges, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal announced Thursday.

The Fairview police officer allegedly placed a GPS tracking device on his former girlfriend's vehicle in January without permission, which she later discovered, Grewal said.

An investigation revealed Assadourian had been tracking the woman for three months using the device and had disclosed private information of her personal life without consent, prosecutors said.

The 35-year-old was served a summons Thursday and was charged with one count of invasion of privacy and one count of stalking, prosecutors said.

Assadourian's next court date is scheduled for April 12.

The Fairview Chief of Police wasn't able to immediately respond to a request for comment.

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<![CDATA[Dead Woman Wrapped in Sheet Found Outside Home: NYPD]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:48:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/FEMALE+DOA+WRAPPED+IN+SHEETS+BK+VO+-+00003423_WNBC_000000015576.jpg

Police discovered the body of a woman wrapped in a bedsheet outside a Brooklyn home Thursday, next to a bloody 35-pound dumbbell and knife, police say. 

The dead woman found wrapped in a bedsheet, with trauma to the body, in front of 1635 Union St. in Crown Heights early Thursday, police said.

The bloody items were found outside the apartment window, police say. 

A person of interest, a 32-year-old man, was taken into custody at the home, police said. Investigators believe the victim may be the man's grandmother. 

No charges have been filed. 



Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Boyfriend Who Chucked Pug off NYC Balcony Charged: DA]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:51:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DOG+THROWN+OUT+WINDOW+QNS+RAW++-+20062001_WNBC_000000015539461.jpg

A man who allegedly angrily chucked his ex-girlfriend's 12-year-old pug off the seventh floor balcony of her Queens apartment has been charged with animal cruelty, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced Thursday.

Yuk Cheung of Fresh Meadows was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals for the senseless killing of the female pug, Brown said. He was arraigned Wednesday, and bail was set at $10,000.

If convicted, the 35-year-old faces up to two years in prison.

"Such acts of aggression towards defenseless animals cannot -- and will not -- be tolerated in Queens County," said Brown.

Cheung and his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Chan, allegedly argued about who would care for the dog Friday evening, prosecutors say. According to police, he picked up the dog and tossed her from the balcony of Chan's seventh floor apartment in Flushing before he walked back inside empty-handed. 

The dog fell 70 feet to her death and Cheung fled the scene, authorities said.

He allegedly told his ex-girlfriend Tuesday that the pug had slipped, Brown said. When authorities questioned him about the dog's death, he told detectives he tripped while walking onto the balcony and the dog escaped from his hands.

Cheung later changed his story to say the pug leapt out of his arms and went through the balcony's metal railing. Prosecutors said he found the animal dead on the street, stuffed her in an ice-filled box and dumped the remains in a nearby trash bin.

According to a criminal complaint, he allegedly had to have thrown the dog 40 feet into the air for her body to have landed six feet from the curb.

Cheung's next court appearance is scheduled for April 4.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Struck by Oil Truck Near NYC Expressway, Dies: Police]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:28:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_545593015+%281%29.jpg

Police say a 59-year-old woman has died after she was hit by an oil truck while crossing the street near a Bronx expressway.

The victim was crossing the street at East 138th Street and Bruckner Boulevard in Mott Haven around noon Thursday, FDNY officials said. 

Both police and a witness told News 4 the walk signal had ended and traffic was moving as she crossed.

"She tried to beat the light, but she didn't have the light," said Sophie Texeira, who tried to save the victim's life. "She went to cross the street, the truck hit her very hard and she went under the truck."

Shortly after, an oil truck slammed into her near the Bruckner Expressway.

The truck driver stayed at the scene and called 911. The woman later died at Lincoln Hospital.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating, police said.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands of Family, Friends Mourn Fallen EMT at Wake ]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:38:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ArroyoWake.jpg

Thousands of family, friends and colleagues of slain FDNY emergency medical technician Yadira Arroyo packed into a funeral home in the Bronx to say their final goodbyes.

The two-day wake for the 44-year-old mother of five began Thursday and will continue Friday at the Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home in the Van Nest neighborhood. Viewing times will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Hundreds of FDNY officials in white caps and matching gloves stood in front of the funeral home on Morris Park Avenue, quietly milling around as they waited to enter. A sea of navy blue stretched along Hunt Avenue as company members patiently waited to pay respect to their fallen comrade.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was present at the afternoon wake. He expressed his condolences to Arroyo's family and mentioned the outpouring of supportive calls and messages from hundreds throughout the borough to her family.

"This is really a show of support for someone who was truly a hero," he said. "It is tragic, it's hurtful, it is painful, but her life and legacy will continue to be celebrated through her sons."

FDNY Paramedic Alex Tull, who worked with Arroyo, says his colleagues are still in shock as they mourn for the sister they lost. "Yadi", as she was affectionately called, was like a mother to their station, always making sure everyone was fed before their shifts and treating her patients like family.

"That was Yadi. She was just...the light. She always made me smile," said Tull. "At Station 26, we're really gonna miss her, but we're getting though it by remembering the good times and sticking by each other."

Several other colleagues echoed Tull's sentiments as they recalled the 14-year veteran's outgoing nature and ability to put whoever she came in contact with at ease.

David Cadogan, who worked with Arroyo for 14 years of his 17-year career, described Station 26 as a family, one where she was the matriarch. He called her "one of the most confident, well-respected and caring individuals" he's ever worked with.

"In this field, your name is your reputation. As you can see, her name, her reputation is impeccable," said Cadogan. "I miss her. That's one of the dynamics of this station that makes this so hard for us -- we're literally a family."

Arroyo's funeral will be held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in University Heights at 11 a.m. Saturday. She will be buried at St. Raymond's Cemetery following the procession.

Hundreds of people lit candles at a vigil for Arroyo Sunday night at the scene where her life was taken. Family and friends shared stories about the selfless, hard-working mom. 

The man accused of killing her, Jose Gonzalez, is behind bars. His attorney says he's severely mentally ill.

In a show of force, mourning members of the FDNY packed the Bronx Criminal Courthouse Wednesday for Gonzalez's hearing, which he skipped.

The EMT was killed last Thursday after she and her partner tried to stop the 25-year-old from hijacking the ambulance they were riding in. Police say Gonzalez put the ambulance in reverse, ran her over, then went forward, dragging her into an intersection.

Gonzalez has 31 prior arrests and four prior misdemeanors on his record, authorities say. He faces murder, manslaughter and robbery charges.



Photo Credit: NBC News 4]]>
<![CDATA[Stop Using Your Furniture to Hold Street Parking: NJ City]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 09:36:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/No-Standing-Parking-edit.jpg

Parking spaces are hard to come by in Elizabeth, New Jersey, but the city says it's had enough of people using furniture to save slots. 

Starting Thursday, the city tweeted that it will be removing "all furniture and objects" that have been put in the streets to reserve parking spots. 

"As you know, city street parking is open to the public, and while some are accustomed to 'reserving parking spaces,' this is not permitted," the tweet said. 

Residents are being asked to bring any furniture they want to keep back inside. The rest will be tossed by city waste haulers. 

The tweet prompted a slew of "thank yous" from relieved city residents.


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<![CDATA[Man Foaming at Mouth on JFK Flight Saved From Overdose]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:09:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pa+rescue+jfk.png

A 24-year-old man who authorities say overdosed on heroin and pills aboard a plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport was saved by two quick-thinking Port Authority police officers.

Officers Eric Stern and Sean Pomerantza were on duty at the airport Wednesday when they received a call about a man needing medical attention around 10:50 p.m., Port Authority Spokesman Joe Pentangelo said.

Upon arrival, the officers found the man barely breathing, confused and foaming at the mouth aboard a JetBlue plane taxiing for takeoff to Florida. The Bethpage resident had taking heroin and anxiety meds, causing him to slur his speech.

Stern and Pomerantza gave him a dose of Narcan, which stabilized the man's behavior and breathing, potentially saving his life.

The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital for treatment shortly after.



Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Man Hacks Up Wife With Saw, Throws Remains in Trash: DA]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:02:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gavel+and+book2.jpg

Prosecutors say a 42-year-old Brooklyn man has been indicted on murder and manslaughter charges after he admitted to killing his wife.

Phillip Martin was arraigned on second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and concealment of a human corpse charges in Brooklyn, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced Thursday.

A Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge ordered him held without bail. 

"The allegations against this defendant are truly disturbing and we are determined to hold him responsible for this barbaric murder," Gonzalez said.

Relatives of Diana Rodriguez became worried mid-February after not hearing from her for almost a month and went to the apartment the 43-year-old shared with Martin to look for her, prosecutors said.

Martin allegedly told Rodriguez's family that she had left him about a month prior, but gave conflicting accounts on her whereabouts, the DA said. Her relatives then reported her missing.

The Prospect-Lefferts Garden man was arrested Feb. 16. Prosecutors said he told detectives he killed his wife around his birthday on Jan. 14, then kept her body in the living room for a week.

In his statements, he admitted to using a saw to dismember her remains and stashed the body parts using garbage bags and a laundry cart before dumping them in trash cans on the street, prosecutors said. Her body has not been found.

Martin's next court date is May 4. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years to life in prison.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock Stock Image]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Breaks Out at High-Rise on Central Park West]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:09:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/Fire-Generic5.jpg

No one was hurt in a fire that broke out at a residential high-rise building on Central Park West Thursday morning, officials say.

Officials say they got a call about the fourth-floor blaze at the building shortly before 10 a.m.; it was under control within about half an hour.

According to StreetEasy, the pre-war building has 17 stories and about 90 apartments. It was built in 1925. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Firefighters also battled a blaze at a Bronx high-rise Thursday morning. No one was injured in the fire, which broke out shortly after 8 a.m. on the 10th floor of the building on 156th Street, officials said. It was under control within an hour.

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<![CDATA[5 NYC Bars That Let You Bring Your Dog ]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:11:55 -0400 here.]]> here.]]> http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*160/stustutheshihpoodba.PNG These New York City bars let you bring your furry friends along with you, so you don't have to choose between spending time with your pup and going out.

Photo Credit: Instagram User @stustutheshihpoo]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Outraged Over School Response to Autistic Boy's Bruises]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:56:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/wallace+autistic+teen.jpg

The mother of a severely autistic Bronx boy says she has been stonewalled in her efforts to find out why her 11-year-old non-verbal son came home from a public school with unexplained bruises. 

Priscilla Cabrera told the I-Team she received a phone call from the school nurse at P 17 in Melrose in December.

"She said, 'He has a red mark and I cleaned him up. I’m sending him back to class,'" Cabrera said the nurse told her. 

Cabrera said she didn’t worry at the time because her son, Dennys Duran, is assigned to a one-on-one paraprofessional at school and on the bus. But that December evening, as she helped get the boy ready for bed, Cabrera said she saw multiple bruises on her son’s body; most were on his chest. 

“I was shocked, devastated, hurt, upset,” she said. “For my son to come home with multiple bruises, that’s not him falling. It’s clear that someone manhandled him very badly.” 

Cabrera said she demanded a meeting with school officials and reported the case to the NYPD. 

“I haven’t got any answers at all,” she said. 

The day she complained, Cabrera said she received a visit from an investigator with the city's Administration for Children’s Services who told her there had been "a claim" -- against her. 

Cabrera said she cooperated and later received a letter stating that the complaint against her was unfounded. 

“I believe they (the school) called ACS just to cover themselves and put the blame on me,” she said. 

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education told the I-Team the school immediately reported by the boy's bruises to the Office of the Special Investigator, which “concluded that school staff followed the proper protocol.”

Citing privacy reasons, the spokesperson declined to give additional details about what may have happened except to say, "Appropriate follow-up action is being taken." 

Cabrera is considering legal action.

“You can’t beat up my handicapped son just because he can’t speak,” she said. “I’m afraid to send my son to school. I’m afraid to switch my son from school. I’m just afraid for my son.” 

The NYPD said it couldn’t determine whether an attack took place on school grounds so no one has been charged.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[The Elite Eight of Love: Vote for Your Favorite TV Couple]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:59:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/march42.jpg


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<![CDATA[New York City's Most Popular Dog Breeds ]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 09:59:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP45774610273.jpg The Labrador Retriever may be the most popular dog breed in America, but the French Bulldog reigns supreme in New York City.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[SUV Driver Dozes Off, Smashes Into NYC School: Police]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 09:17:48 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/car+smash+into+school.jpg

An SUV driver dozed off and smashed into a Brooklyn middle school Thursday morning, police say, leaving a gaping hole in the building.

The 60-year-old driver refused medical treatment at the scene of the 7 a.m. accident at East New York Family Academy on Linden Boulevard, and no one else was hurt, police said.

Chopper 4 footage showed the front of the SUV completely demolished, with bricks and other debris littering the sidewalk. The airbag deployed.

The school serves about 500 students in grades six through 12. Police said school was to remain in session Thursday and no criminality was suspected. 



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[NYC’s Big Gay Ice Cream Goes Pint-Sized ]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:25:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/big+gay+ice+cream+pints.jpg

New York City ice cream institution Big Gay Ice Cream is releasing pints of its soft serve.

Seven pint-sized flavors have been posted on Amazon.com, including American Globs, Birthday Cake, Dorothy, Blueberry Gobbler, Rocky Roadhouse, Lunchbox, and fan favorite Salty Pimp. 

Big Gay Ice Cream's website has also added a “where to buy” section, which will be accessible on Tuesday at http://biggayicecream.com/wheretobuy.

Big Gay Ice Cream started as a seasonal food truck in 2009 before opening a brick-and-mortar location in the East Village in 2011 and the West Village in 2012.

According to the shop’s website, founders Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff have been focusing on growing the Big Gay Ice Cream brand as of late. It appears supermarket pints are a part of that expansion. 

Another New York City-born ice cream shop, Van Leeuwen, also started as a food truck before opening storefronts in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Los Angeles. Van Leeuwen, which describes itself as a “mini ice cream empire,” has already made the move to pints.



Photo Credit: Big Gay Ice Cream]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Makes Anti-Muslim Remarks, Punches Victim: Cops]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:26:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/QUEENS+ANTI-MUSLIM+ATTACK+web+-+00003223_WNBC_000000015559383.jpg

A woman walked up to another woman in Queens earlier in the month and blurted out anti-Muslim comments before punching her, according to the NYPD.

The 26-year-old victim was approached by the suspect in the area of Sutphin Boulevard and 109 Avenue in Jamaica earlier this month, authorities said.

The suspect made the racist remarks and punched the victim in the side of the neck, police said.

Police released surveillance video and photos in hopes of getting the woman off the streets. 

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<![CDATA[Target Goes Photoshop-Free in New Swimsuit Campaign]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:10:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/032217+target+swim+campaign.jpg

This Summer, retail giant Target is going bold and embracing every body in its new swimsuit campaign.

The company launched #TargetSwim which celebrates positive body image and features real women of different body types. But, what makes this campaign even more special is that the photos of the models are not photoshopped.

The models show off their authentic selves while rocking bikinis and swimsuits. Dancer Megan Batoon, pro skateboarder Lizzie Armanto, model and body activist Denise Bidot and TV host and model Kamie Crawford flaunt their curvy bodies.

“Target shows women of all shapes, sizes and colors looking beautiful and confident in themselves and their swimsuits and that resonates with women everywhere,” Crawford said. “Confidence is contagious!”

People on social media are praising Target for the photoshop-free campaign, many calling the move perfect, great and inspiring.

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<![CDATA[Renovation of R Stations to Bring ‘New Age’ for Subway: MTA]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:23:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/MTA+R+line+renovation.jpg

Three R line stations in Brooklyn will soon close to undergo top-to-bottom renovations that are part of a modernization project aimed at upgrading the city’s aging subway system, the MTA said.

The three stations — 53rd Street, Bay Ridge Avenue and Prospect Avenue — will each close for a period of six months as part of the $72 million project.

The first station to close will be 53rd Street on Monday, March 27. Bay Ridge Avenue will close on April 29 and Prospect Avenue will close on June 5. The stations will be closed in both directions, with all three stations slated to reopen by the end of the year.

During the renovations, commuters are advised to use nearby subway stations or the B37 or B36 bus routes, which run on Third and Fifth avenues, parallel to the R line.

The three stations, built in 1915, will be partially demolished before renovations are made to the entrances, turnstile areas, mezzanines and platforms.

The project is part of a $27 billion, five-year MTA capital program that Gov. Cuomo announced last year. The plan includes upgrades to buses, subway cars, stations, and control technology. It looks to improve the reliability, capacity and reputation of the most heavily used public transit system in the U.S.

The stations will essentially be made over from the ground up, with new granite flooring, upgraded communication systems and improved station signage among the new features. Repairs will be made to track and platform walls, and glass barriers will be installed at the mezzanine level. Infrastructure work like concrete and steel repairs will also be done.

New amenities will include digital screens that broadcast real-time service information at street level, as well as information dashboards, brighter LED light fixtures, improved security cameras, help points, and charging stations for electronics.

"These first three stations to be renovated represent the start of a new age for our subway system,” MTA Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said in a press release.

In the release, MTA said it worked with architects to study and revise existing design guidelines for subway stations. The agency hopes to improve the appearance and usage of stations, as well as the flow of foot traffic. The new guidelines will “change the way that subway stations look and feel going forward” and influence station design for years to come.

The MTA has hired a contractor, Citnalta-Forte Joint Venture, to employ a new design-build method at the stations — the first time the agency has adopted the method in its construction projects. Previously, the MTA would allow limited service at stations as they underwent construction, an approach that stretched the construction time line, sometimes to years.

The contractor will be given complete access to each station and trusted with finishing the renovations as quickly as possible.

The MTA plans to continue the renovations after the three R line stations are completed. The next group of stations to be renovated will be the Broadway, 30th Avenue, 36th Avenue and 39th Avenue stations on the N line in Astoria. 



Photo Credit: MTA
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<![CDATA[Happening Today: London, Health Bill, Spying, Bird Flu]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:54:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/cms746.jpg

Get the top headlines of the day in your morning briefing from NBC 4 New York, Monday through Friday. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Police Officer, Attacker, 3 Others Dead in Rampage

A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage in the heart of Britain's seat of power, plowing a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, and 40 others were injured in what Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as a "sick and depraved terrorist attack." A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some had "catastrophic" injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip and two Romanian tourists were among the casualties. British police said they believe the attacker who killed four people including a police officer outside Parliament acted alone and was 'inspired by international terrorism.' There was no immediate claim of responsibility. 

Spying Claim by Intel Chair Renews Fight Over Russia Probe

Private communications of Donald Trump and his presidential transition team may have been scooped up by American intelligence officials monitoring other targets and improperly distributed throughout spy agencies, the chairman of the House intelligence committee said. Rep. Devin Nunes' comments led the committee's ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, to renew his party's calls for an independent probe of Trump campaign links to Russia in addition to the GOP-led panel's investigation. Schiff also said he had seen "more than circumstantial evidence" that Trump associates colluded with Russia. In back-to-back news conferences at the Capitol and then the White House — where he had privately briefed the president — Nunes said he was concerned by officials' handling of the communications in the waning days of the Obama administration.

GOP Health Bill on the Brink Hours From House Vote

The GOP's long-promised legislation to repeal and replace "Obamacare" stood on the brink just hours before Republican leaders planned to put it on the House floor for a showdown vote. Short of support, GOP leaders looked to President Donald Trump to close the deal with a crucial bloc of conservatives, in the first major legislative test of his young presidency. Frenzied last-minute wheeling and dealing was under way on Capitol Hill and the White House, where Trump summoned the balky conservative Freedom Caucus to meet with him mid-day Thursday, ahead of the planned vote.

Shooting in Wisconsin Leaves 4 Dead

A police officer and three other people were shot and killed when a domestic dispute at a bank escalated into shootings at three locations in northern Wisconsin, investigators said. A suspect was in custody. The shootings happened at a bank, a law firm and an apartment complex, where officers, including a SWAT team, had a standoff with the suspect for several hours before ending in a volley of gunfire. 

Botox Injections Offer Migraine Relief, Advocates Say

Typically when you think of Botox, you think of it as treatment for youthful skin, but now those injections are being used to treat chronic migraines as well. One patient says her migraines started when she was in high school and they were pretty excruciating. When she found out Botox was an option, she hopeful, but also skeptical. A doctor at St. Francis Family Medicine says the Botox weakens the muscles that give the intense part of the headaches. The key is to prevent migraines before they start and Botox may be the answer.

Bird Flu Outbreak Nation's Worst Since 2015, Expert Says

A bird flu outbreak that has led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals in three Southern states already is the nation's worst since 2015 and new cases are still popping up, an expert said. Agriculture officials are trying to limit the damage, but it's unclear whether quarantines, transportation bans and mass killings will stop the spread, a poultry science professor at Auburn University said. The disease was first confirmed in southern Tennessee earlier this month. 

Seniors Worry About Loss of Meals Under Trump Budget Plan

A 97-year-old woman living in a senior housing complex said she has been using the meal delivery service Meals on Wheels since her brother died about three years ago. There is a Trader Joe's about a block from her complex, which she walks to, but not often. She relies on her daily meal delivery because she can’t carry things. North Jersey is just one of the thousands of Meals on Wheels branches that could see cuts to its funding under President Trump's proposed budget plan. 

Ed Sheeran Is Just a Fake Character, Rupert Grint Says

After years of people confusing the two, Rupert Grint has finally come clean about Ed Sheeran: the singer is just a figment of his imagination. The Snatch actor joined MTV and opened up about the startling news, revealing how he needed to find a way to make some magic of his own following the end of Harry Potter. Thus, he created the singer "with the voice of an angel, impossibly wispy facial hair."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Long-Lost Sisters Reunite as Cops at NYPD Precinct]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:38:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/young+molina+sisters+nypd.jpg

Yadarquiris Molina joined the 42nd Precinct fresh out of the police academy. It was her first NYPD assignment, but she was the second Molina there — Jasmine had just transferred from the 41st.

It's not the first time in the NYPD where two officers share a last name and a precinct. The two shared a locker room as well, and that's where an interesting conversation took place in the summer of 2014.

The women soon discovered they shared a lot more than a precinct — they shared a father.

"When she told me his name — which is the exact same as mine — I stood speechless," said Jasmine. "I didn't have anything to say."

"She gave me that strange look like, 'This girl's crazy,'" Yadarquiris said. "I'm like, 'I'm your sister!'"

Yadarquiris knew she had a younger sister because she had met her once before. She said she remembered her father bringing their family to meet Jasmine, and that was it.

Jasmine learned she also had another sister and two brothers. The six half-siblings gathered at their father's bedside in his final days.

"[It was] very emotional," Jasmine said. "When we each spoke in the room, his heart rate went up drastically... that's how we knew. He knew all six kids were together for the first time."

The sisters are together almost every day now, making up for lost time. Commanding officer Ernest Morales thinks their bond helps the rest of his precinct.

"They're loving. They take shots at each other just like siblings, they encourage each other," he said. 

Regardless of what happens beyond the precinct doors, the sisters will always remain steady.

"We were destined to meet. I mean, come on. She worked in the 4-1, I lived in the 4-1. We have the same locker, we grew up in the Bronx not far from each other," Jasmine said. "It was something that was going to happen, it was just a matter of time."

Neither holds resentment over how long it took for them to reconcile. 

"The relationship that we have now is what matters at this point," Yadarquiris said.



Photo Credit: Provided to NBC NY
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<![CDATA[NY Zoo of April Fame Announces Birth of Twins (Not Giraffes)]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 10:07:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/april+giraffe+new+1.JPG

We have new life at the Animal Adventure Park — just not a giraffe calf.

One of the upstate New York zoo's pygmy goats gave birth to twins, according to its Wednesday night Facebook update.  

As for the long-necked beauty April, she's still pregnant and continues to be herself following a bit of a "cranky" stage. 

The zoo live-streaming the giraffe's now world-famous pregnancy said April had some mood swings Wednesday but remains healthy.

Although the wait isn't over for the arrival of the giraffe's fourth calf, progress is still being reported. 

"As you can see from the cam, her back end is huge," the zoo posted on Facebook. And "we wait."

Nearly 100,000 people were tuned in, watching and waiting with baited breath, before 8:30 a.m. Thursday as April bent her long neck for a snack, her 5-year-old beau Oliver watching with interest from his own nearby pen.

The zoo said Thursday morning April was moving a little slower at breakfast, but otherwise appeared to be her usual self.

Watch the live stream below.

 

Although still no calf, the lovebirds seem to be getting into a bit of trouble. 

The zoo said they "popped a latch on their stall door" Wednesday. 

But don't worry, a safety latch is in place to prevent a full opening. 

"We never denied their curious nature," the zoo posted. 

April's pregnancy was catapulted into global headlines late last month after YouTube briefly yanked the zoo's stream following complaints by animal activists that it violated the site's policies concerning "nudity and sexual content." Thousands upon thousands of commenters voiced their frustration on Facebook and YouTube, and the stream was restored within an hour or so.

Jordan Patch, owner of the Animal Adventure Park, says the natural curiosity surrounding giraffes and their birthing process has been a huge factor in drawing crowds.

"I think the fact that she's a giraffe and she's a neat species that people are interested in, that's fostered a lot of the attention," he said. "The fact that you're gonna get to witness the miracle of birth from an animal that you really don't get to see give birth — that's neat."

He added that April's pregnancy is not just live entertainment, but a teachable moment and source for education.

Giraffe pregnancies last up to 15 months. Labor lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The calf, which will be the first born at Animal Adventure Park, will be about 150 pounds and 6 feet tall at birth and up and walking in about an hour.

The zoo said it will hold an online competition to name the baby giraffe once it's born.


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<![CDATA[Spa Castle Owners Allegedly Failed to Pay $1.5M in Taxes]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:32:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/spa+castle+owners+indicted.jpg

The family owners of a popular spa destination in Queens have been indicted on felony charges for failure to pay $1.5 million in taxes over the course of three years, authorities announced Wednesday. 

The owners of Spa Castle Inc., a 100,000-square foot spa facility in College Point, Queens, didn't pay the sales, withholding, corporate and MTA surcharge taxes they owed from 2010 through 2013, state officials say.

"The scale of theft alleged in this case is staggering," said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion, who announced the indictment along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. 

The investigation began when authorities executed a search warrant at Spa Castle Inc. in August 2015, and found records showing the spa owners underreported earnings and paid workers and vendors in cash. 

Steven Chon, 57; his brothers Daniel Chon, 54, and Victor Chon, 50; and daughter Stepahanie Chon, 29, were arraigned Wednesday in Queens Supreme Court. Bail has been set at $100,000 bond. 

Attorney information for them was not immediately available. 



Photo Credit: NY Attorney General's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Purebred Buffalo Arrive at Bronx Zoo]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:41:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC+TINY+CLEAN+AIRCHECK+0500-0600+-+05561210_WNBC_000000015560+copy.jpg

It's a bit of the wild, wild west in the Bronx. The newly arrived American bison are a gift from Native American tribes. The bison are among the few remaining pure breeds left. There are seven females and one male. The zoo hopes to increase the herd.

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<![CDATA[NJ Man Allegedly Shouted Racial Slurs, Threatened Neighbors]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 17:55:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NJManBiasCrimes.jpg

Authorities say a New Jersey man allegedly shouted racial slurs and made death threats to his married neighbors.

Glen Miller, of Union Township, was re-arrested by officers last week after the charges agaisnt him were upgraded, Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park said. He was initially arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest March 7, but was released.

The 59-year-old was charged with third-degree making terroristic threats, harassment, and second- and fourth-degree bias intimidation, authorities said. He's also charged with third-degree criminal mischief.

An investigation by the Union Police Department uncovered a married couple reported to police that Miller allegedly parked his truck on the grass divider between the curb and the sidewalk directly in front of their home March 3, Union County Bias Crimes Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Barnes said.

Miller was issued a traffic summons by responding officers, but he continued to antagonize his neighbors.

Four days later, police were again called to the victims' home for the same reason and found his truck parked in the same place, Barnes said.

Authorities said Miller spewed expletives and racial slurs at the victims when they confronted him with police. On one occasion, he allegedly threatened to kill the female neighbor, prosecutors said.

Miller's next court date is March 28.



Photo Credit: Union County Prosecutor's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Suspect in EMT Killing Waives Court Appearance]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:58:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/suspect+emt.jpg

The Bronx Criminal Courthouse was packed with mourning members of the FDNY as a man accused of running over and killing an emergency medical technician in a stolen ambulance last week was scheduled to face a judge Wednesday. 

Jose Gonzalez, 25, is accused of murdering Yadira Arroyo, a mother of five and a 14-year veteran of the FDNY EMS. His attorney, Alice Fontier of Bronx Defenders, said Gonzalez was waiving his appearance and later told News 4 that he is recovering in the hospital. 

The Bronx resident is said to be in poor condition as concerns about his mental and physical health were raised. The judge presiding over his case ordered that he undergo medical treatment.

He had visible injuries on his face when he was led from a police station after his arrest last week. His attorney has said he was arrested "in a very rough manner," and had severe bruising and a dislocated jaw. 

Gonzalez is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and first-degree robbery, authorities said. He has four prior misdemeanors but has been arrested 32 times, according to Fontier. 

Gonzalez's next court date is April 5. 

Family members and colleagues still reeling over Arroyo's death lined the hallway in a show of force. 

"Our motto is 'do no harm', so for someone to harm us, it's upsetting," said Anthony Sanchez of Paramedic Station 27. "It's also very sad that we have to worry about getting hurt in the line of duty."

EMS union Local 2507 President Israel Miranda said he'll be present at every court appearance.

"We will be pursuing justice and we will not accept anything but justice," he said. "We are the hands that help New York City."

"We are angry. We are sad some of us are still in shock," said FDNY EMS Lt. Jessica Duffy, who worked with Arroyo. "The system failed Yadi, not him."

A moment of silence was held out of respect for Arroyo's partner, Monique Williams, who remained silent as she walked into the courtroom to a round of applause with her head down, covered by an FDNY hat. She sat in the front row, too overcome with emotion to speak.

In chilling cellphone video from the aftermath of the crash, Williams could be heard wailing, "My partner, my partner!"  

"She literally died trying to save her partner's life," said Louis Montalvo of EMT Station 14. "This is going to be on Monique's mind forever. This happened right in front of her."

Also in the crowd was Robert Soto, an EMT who tried to save Yadira. The pain of losing her lingered in his eyes as he looked on.

"It doesn't feel real," he said. "It's a very difficult time for us. We just want justice served."

On the evening of March 16, Arroyo was driving an ambulance when she and her partner were alerted that someone was riding on the back of their bumper, police said.

Arroyo pulled over, got out of the vehicle and that’s when Gonzalez walked around the side of the ambulance, jumped in the driver’s seat, put the vehicle in reverse and ran over Arroyo, according to authorities.

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<![CDATA[Jurors See Suspect Talk to Cops in Deadly Carjacking Trial]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:12:32 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/THOMPSON+MALL+CARJACKING+MURDER+TRIAL+FOR+WEB+-+00000403_WNBC_0.jpg

In the continuing trial of the accused getaway driver in a deadly New Jersey mall carjacking three years ago, jurors saw the suspect's initial statements to police after his arrest.

Basim Henry made the statement to detectives a day after his arrest in the deadly carjacking of Dustin Friedland at The Malls at Shore Hills in December 2013. He admitted hearing two gunshots in the mall parking deck.

And then, he said, after Friedland's Range Rover was driven out of the mall, he told the alleged gunman it was only supposed a strong-arm carjacking.

"I says something's f----- up," Henry says on the videotape. "He says he shot him. He shot him."

Over and over, the two detectives grill Henry after reading him his Miranda rights, video shows. The lead detective had taken some of Henry's clothing at arrest, even his thermal underwear.

Finally, detectives get a statement out of him after Henry refers to a scuffle: "What did I say to him? I say, 'Why the f--- you do that.' He says, 'What the f--- you gonna do?'"

Henry sat calmly in court Wednesday, showing no emotion as his statement was played.

Photos of the stolen Range Rover next to an abandoned house were also shown to the jury.

Dustin Friedland, a young attorney in Hoboken, was shot and killed in the parking lot at The Malls at Short Hills just 10 days before Christmas in 2013.

Friedland's widow, Jamie Schare Friedland, gave emotional testimony about the sudden ambush and the harrowing wait for help, and state Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Falzon testified that Friedland died of a gunshot wound to the head in a homicide.

Henry, along with Hanif Thompson, of Irvington, and Newark residents Karif Ford and Kevin Roberts have pleaded not guilty to felony murder and other charges in connection with the carjacking.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Boy, 6, Reunites With Students, Docs Who Helped Save Him]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:29:02 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/CHANDLER+6+YR+OLD+REUNITED+WITH+DOCTORS+LI+PKG+530+-+01012326_W1.jpg

Just weeks ago 6-year-old Erblin Sllaminku was a different little boy: a congenital heart defect had sapped his energy, his appetite, his smile. In their native Kosovo, his father feared his son would soon die. But a group of aspiring medical students from St. Anthony's High School raised thousands of dollars with help from Gift of Life to bring the boy to Long Island and get him the relatively simple surgery that would save his life. On Wednesday, he got to meet the students and doctors who helped him -- and he was all smiles. John Chandler reports. 

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<![CDATA[4 Investigates: Coast Guard Releases Report on Investigation Into Ferry, Kayak Crash on Hudson River]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:51:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/HOLT+4I+KAYAK+V+FERRY+UPDATE+PKG+6PM+-+00011810_WNBC_0000000155.jpg

It’s been more than six months since a ferry boat plowed through a group of kayakers on the Hudson River. The bizarre accident raised questions about safety in the waters around New York City. 4 Investigates is getting answers from the Coast Guard. Stefan Holt reports.

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<![CDATA[Food Pantry Opens Inside Bronx High School]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:33:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/BELL+FOOD+PANTRY+INITIATIVE+PKG+5PM+-+01000000_WNBC_00000001555.jpg

The goal is to make sure kids from low-income families have healthful food to take home if the pantry there is bare. Stacey Bell reports.

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<![CDATA[Winds Knock Tree onto Subway Tracks, Trains Delayed: MTA]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:24:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mta+subway+tracks+parkside.png

A tree knocked onto the outdoor subway tracks in Brooklyn is causing delays on several lines, the MTA says.

Winds brought the tree down at Parkside Avenue in Flatbush Wednesday afternoon, and was causing delays on the B, D, F, Q and N trains. 

Check mta.info for the latest information. 



Photo Credit: MTA]]>
<![CDATA[D'oh! Beer Truck Crash Spews Bud All Over NY Road]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:00:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/BEER+TRUCK+OVERTURNS+LONG+ISLAND+2.jpg

Cases and bottles of beer littered a Long Island roadway early Wednesday morning after a truck carrying the beer crashed into a car and rolled over, police said.

The 18-wheeler careened into the red sedan at South Service and Walt Whitman roads in Melville shortly after midnight, according to police.

The force of the impact caused the truck to roll over and break apart, unleashing an avalanche of Bud Light. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of blue cases of beer lay on the roadway after the crash.

Despite the damage inflicted on both vehicles, the drivers of the truck and sedan suffered minor injuries, authorities said. They were taken to Nassau University Medical Center and are expected to recover.

The Department of Transportation arrived a short time later to deal with the spillage. A stretch of South Service Road was closed as the beer-soaked mess was cleaned up.

The driver was issued a ticket for unlicensed operation of a vehicle, officials said.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Cocaine Found Concealed in Wooden Picture Frames at JFK]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:56:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Untitled+design+%281%29.png

One woman’s plan to bring cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico was not so picture-perfect after all.

Fabiola Guerrero Mendoza, 31, of Mexico faces narcotics smuggling charges after customs authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport found cocaine concealed in three wooden frames Monday.

Customs agriculture specialists searched Mendoza’s baggage when she arrived at JFK from Mexico City. They discovered a white powder when her picture frames were x-rayed, which tested positive for cocaine.

Authorities say about 14 pounds of cocaine-filled frames were seized. They say a street value cannot be determined at this time.

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<![CDATA[Seniors Worry About Loss of Meals Under Trump Budget Plan]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:27:02 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/IMG_82502.jpg

Dale Lamphier, 97, never married and her closest living relatives―three nephews―live across the country. About two years ago, she moved to a senior housing complex in Westwood, New Jersey, a town she has lived in her whole life. She has been using the meal delivery service Meals on Wheels since her brother died about three years ago.

"Meals on Wheels is important because I can't do much shopping―very little," she said. "And I can't carry things. There are a lot of people here that can't."

There is a Trader Joe's about a block from her complex, which she walks to, but not often. She relies on her daily meal delivery.

North Jersey is just one of the thousands of Meals on Wheels branches that could see cuts to its funding under President Donald Trump's proposed budget plan. Jeanne Martin, the executive director of Meals on Wheels North Jersey, said her program reaches about 220 senior citizens across 30 towns in northern Bergen County. If Trump's budget plan passes, her branch will lose about $32,000―10 percent of her annual budget―and potentially more money from other Department of Health and Human Services grants.

As a whole, the national Meals on Wheels organization receives about 35 percent of its funding from the federal government. Trump is proposing to end the Community Development Block Grants, one of many federal grants that fund the program. Other cuts to Health and Human Services, the parent agency for Meals on Wheels, also could affect the program negatively, but the magnitude of those cuts is unknown. 

Martin has been the executive director of Meals on Wheels in North Jersey for 12 years. She said she has never seen a federal cut this large.

"I don't see any room for us in that budget," she said. "I haven't seen any positive things coming from [the Trump administration] in the social services or the senior service so far."

"It is going to impact our program," she said. "We're not going to be able to offer the subsidies to our clients that they really need."

Andre Sitbon, a Holocaust survivor in his early 90s, has been using Meals on Wheels for more than five years out of the Westwood seniors complex. Around three years ago Sitbon's wife died and he started having severe eye problems, which interfered with his love of cooking. He said the program "receives you with arms open," with extremely friendly staff and good food. On Monday he received meatloaf, mashed potatoes and mixed greens.

Another senior, a 65-year old mentally disabled man, had virtually nothing in his fridge except the two meals―one hot, one cold―that Martin delivered to him Monday morning. The only other parcels were an apple and a small carton of milk, which were given to him by Meals on Wheels the day before.

Martin estimated that about 30 percent of the seniors in her program are no longer visited by family and, like Lamphier, are isolated. Martin said the 550 local volunteer drivers who deliver the meals are often the ones who report health problems and find fallen or sick seniors. Meals on Wheels, she said, is "more than just a meal."

"We're helping people stay in their homes, which is where they want to stay," she said. "It's keeping people out of nursing homes. And they want to spend the rest of the time they have on this world in their homes and we're doing the best we can to give them that."

When Martin became director there were about 100 seniors in the program. The number has more than doubled during her tenure, though she thinks that there are hundreds more seniors who need assistance but are too isolated or too worried about appearing needy to receive help.

If Martin loses funding she would have to make changes to the program's model. The food is now prepared by four local nursing homes to meet federal guidelines. But if the program no longer receives federal funds, it would be free to receive donated meals from volunteers.

"It seems to me that all of the programs that support our most needy, vulnerable populations are the ones that are being jeopardized," said John Birkner Jr., the mayor of Westwood. He also said that recent comments made by Trump administration officials "trivialize" the importance of programs like Meals on Wheels.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, called Meals on Wheels a program that is "just not showing any results." 

"We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good," he said at a news conference last Thursday. "Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again, that's a state decision to fund that particular portion, to take the federal money and give it to the states, and say look, we want to give you money for programs that don't work."

Martin called Mulvaney’s comments "insulting" and said he "couldn’t be more wrong."

Supporters have cited studies to back their case. A University of Illinois review in 2013 of home-delivery programs for seniors found that they "significantly improve" the nutritional quality of diets, as well as increased chances for socialization and an overall "higher quality of life."

Another study in 2015 by Brown University researchers found multiple benefits of Meals on Wheels for senior citizens, including reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness, an increased feeling of security and fewer falls and hospitalizations.

Martin said the cost of a year's worth of meals from her program was $1,500. She compared that to the cost of a one-day hospitalization. 

"So, if we're keeping someone well-nourished and doing a well-check on them, we're saving the government money by keeping them out of the hospital," Martin said. 

Meals on Wheels has about 5,000 local and state delivery programs that supply food to isolated, disabled or poor seniors. In 2016, they served about 2.4 million people, including more than 500,000 veterans.

National Meals on Wheels spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette confirmed to NBC that the program has seen a significant spike in donations since Mulvaney’s comments last Thursday. On a typical day, the nonprofit receives about $1,000 in individual online donations.

Three days after the preliminary budget was released, Meals on Wheels had received about $140,000 in donations. On Tuesday, the nonprofit told The Associated Press that it had received an additional $50,000 donation from NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. 

Bertolette said the organization was "thrilled about the public’s passionate support" but also said the additional donations could not replace what it gets from the federal government.

The portion of Meals on Wheels' budget that comes from the federal government is part of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, which falls under Health and Human Services. Trump is calling for an 18 percent cut to the department.

Each state uses Community Block Development Grants differently, so the amount that funds Meals on Wheels per branch varies widely. For example, one program in the suburbs of Detroit could lose 30 percent of its budget; on the other end, New York City's Meals on Wheels is funded through other grants, so it is not affected by the potential loss of Community Block Development Grants.

The program is also funded by private money.

"Cuts of any kind to these highly successful and leveraged programs would be a devastating blow to our ability to provide much-needed care for millions of vulnerable seniors in America," Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, said in a statement.

The cuts are no sure thing. Congress must pass the budget that Trump has outlined and there has already been support from both sides of the aisle for Meals on Wheels.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., tweeted that cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels "jeopardizes the health and safety of the poor."

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., told CNN he would "never vote to cut even one dollar" of Meals on Wheels.

Since Mulvaney's comments last week, Martin has gained three more volunteers and an additional donor. 

Even if the budget doesn't cut as much as the 10 percent that is currently threatened, to Martin "a cut is a cut." 



Photo Credit: Shannon Ho
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