NYC, in Brief

April 23, 2009 Updated: April 23, 2009

Oil Painting Stolen by Nazis Returned

A painting stolen by Nazi’s in the 1930s was returned to the estate of its German Jewish owner. It is somehow fitting that on Holocaust Remembrance Day, officers from ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) returned the painting—“Portrait of a Musician Playing a Bagpipe”—to the estate of the late Dr. Max Stern.

Some 72 years ago Nazis forced Dr. Stern to sell the 17th century oil portrait and 200 other works of art. Stern fled Germany soon afterwards and the proceeds from the forced sales were never forwarded to him.

ICE officers tracked “portrait of a Musician Playing a Bagpipe”—which is on several international lists of stolen artwork—to a gallery in Manhattan owned by Lawrence Steigard. An undercover investigation showed that Steigard did not know the painting—which is worth about $60,000—was stolen, and Steigard was subsequently convinced to surrender the painting to the Dr. Stern’s estate.

Yassky Proposes to Regulate Pension Fund Placement Agents

New York City Council Member David Yassky has proposed to further regulate the placement agents that handle New York City’s multi-billion dollar pension funds.
This comes on the tails of recent scandal involving the mismanagement of the funds.

Yassky’s proposal in the Council would focus on issues of transparency and disclosure as a way to reign in the lobbying power of the banks and investment firms that act as the placement agents for the pension funds.

"The troubling revelations of recent weeks have shined a spotlight on the potential for corruption in the administration of public pension funds. The City pension funds should take preventive measures to ensure that these types of problems do not arise in the future,” said Yassky. "It is critical that the pension boards move quickly to reassure the public that protecting their retirement funds is their sole concern, and in doing so, seriously consider this proposal."

Placement agents are representatives of investment funds that are, in effect, lobbying the city for a piece of the pension fund “action.” Yassky’s proposal is meant to make this process more transparent and discourage corruption in the process.

Bill Protects Children From Playground Burns

Children sometimes suffer serious burns from playground equipment and protective materials that have become hot in the sun. City Council voted today on a bill sponsored Council Members Bill de Blasio and Jessica Lappin that would require warning signs be posted in public playgrounds throughout the five boroughs. In some areas the signs would have to be bilingual.

“This is a serious problem with a simple solution. By alerting parents to the potential dangers posed by equipment in the summer heat, we are enabling them to effectively protect their children from serious burns,” said de Blasio.

Playground equipment in city parks can reach temperatures as high as 166 degrees Fahrenheit on hot days. According to playground safety advocates, contact with an object over just 120 degrees can burn the skin.

Health Department Launches Nicotine Patch and Gum Giveaway

To help New Yorkers quit smoking, the New York City Health Department launched on April 22 a new program that will distribute free nicotine patches and nicotine gum. The giveaway will last for two weeks and follows recent cigarette tax increases, which bring the yearly cost of smoking a pack a day to roughly $3,000.

In tandem with the two-week giveaway the Health Department is running a television spot that depicts Marie, a former smoker from the Bronx, who tells of losing her fingers, a leg, and part of one foot to smoking related illness.