Court Reporter Symposium Kicks Off Amid Worker Shortage

two black tables sit before a black backdrop with "AM970" written in white in a grid pattern. A tablecloth on the table to the right reads "AM970, THE ANSWER, NEWS. OPINION. PASSION." Six people sit at the tables, some wearing headphones.

The panel at the symposium.

By Carmo Moniz |

The Court Reporter Symposium returned to Plaza College in Forest Hills for its seventh year on Friday, amid a current national shortage of people in the profession.

Court reporters exist at every level of the court system, and are responsible for creating official transcripts of legal proceedings. There is currently a shortage of around 5,000 court reporters across the country, with an estimated 27,000 in the industry, according to the National Court Reporters Association.

The event featured prominent figures in the court reporting industry in a discussion moderated by celebrity lawyers Arthur Aidala and Kevin McCullough, both Fox News legal commentators.

Plaza College has the largest court reporting program in the country, and is the last remaining court reporting school in New York City. The school’s program began when it took over the New York Career Institute’s program in 2016, according to Plaza College Court Reporting Program Adviser Karen Santucci.

“We thought it was important to let the court reporting community know that we were the only school left in the New York City area,” Santucci said in an interview. “This field is a field that most people don’t know about, the job opportunities are endless, and the problem is getting the word out.”

Nationally, court reporters can earn anywhere from around $30,000 to over $100,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same data, salaries were found to be on the higher end in New York, averaging out at around $106,000.
David Gordon, said it took him about four years to get to typing at a rate of 225 words per minute, the program’s requirement for graduation. Gordon said that he recently took a job at the grand jury across the street from the school.

“You don’t even need to graduate to get a job, but you will get a job immediately once you finish, ” Gordon said. “It’s very very rewarding, you turn out a transcript, you look at it and it’s perfect, and you just feel good. And the money is amazing.”

Cecilia Kurtz, who is currently enrolled in the program, said she is hoping to graduate by the end of the year.

“It’s definitely a lot of work, you definitely need dedication and practice,” Kurtz said. “Everybody keeps saying that there’s a shortage and pushing us to get out of class, get out of school, practice.”

Less than 10 years ago, in 2014, the number of court reporters was enough to address demand across the country, according to a report sponsored by the National Court Reporters Association. The same report estimated that there would be a shortage of 5,500 court reporters by 2018, only a small overprediction of today’s numbers.

In New York’s court system, the shortage means that court reporters are not guaranteed to be available to cover arguments on motions, according to the New York State Unified Court System website. Assistant Supervisor of the Queens Grand Jury Pam Fuller said that court reporters play a critical role in grand jury operations.

“You just need to really be able to take down testimony at 175 words a minute,” Fuller said. “[Grand jury proceedings] require an exact record of what occurred in each case that is being presented to a grand jury, so, with that you are really gearing yourself for lower courts and then moving on to the Supreme Court.”

New York State Court Reporters Association president Reid Goldsmith, who worked as a court reporter in the New York State Queens Supreme Court for nearly 40 years before retiring, said that he is not concerned about technology like artificial intelligence taking over court reporting jobs because the quality those technologies provide is not as high.

“We are often seen but not heard, so the tendency is to overlook us as a profession,” Goldsmith said in an interview. “But we’re at the front row of everything.”

19-year-old fatally shot on Metropolitan Ave.


This car belongs to a witness. Photo: Anthony Deluca

By Oona Milliken |

A 19-year old male was shot dead on 79-45 Metropolitan Ave. in the Middle Village on Sunday, July 23 at around 3:30 a.m.

The man, who suffered a gunshot wound to the torso, was found by emergency medical services in a vehicle on the property and was later pronounced deceased at Elmhurst Hospital. A 21-year old who was also involved in the incident was transported to the Brookdale University Hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm but remains in stable condition.

Anthony Deluca, a resident in a building near where the incident took place and a witness to the shooting, said he heard two rounds of shots as he was dozing off on Sunday morning, and looked out the window to see a car pulling away from the scene and a car parked in the middle of the street with the driver side door open.

“I heard boom boom boom boom, and then another burst of gunfire. I went down on my kitchen floor and then I called 911,” Deluca said. “I could see that a little bit of the driver side door was open, and I told the 911 operator, ‘The door’s open, there’s no movement,’ I said, ‘He’s got to be hurt.’”

The crime scene on Metropolitan Ave. Photo: Anthony Deluca

According to Deluca, there were 50 rounds of ammunition collected by police officers from the scene of the crime on Sunday, several of which hit his own personal vehicle. Deluca said his car has bullet holes through his back windshield that shattered a side window and hit the front steering wheel.

A Middle Village business owner who did not want their name to be shared said the incident is unfortunate but thinks that the neighborhood still remains safe.

“It’s not great for the area, I can tell you that much. It’s just a shame. I think that these were people not from this area, and they created a really bad environment for people,” the business owner said. “I think the neighborhood is still safe, you know, this has never happened before.”

No arrests have been made and the investigation remains ongoing, according to spokespeople from the NYPD.

New York City Remembers Tony Bennett

Native Son of Astoria and Legendary Singer Dead at 96

By Matthew Fischetti

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco but his soul belonged to Astoria.
The 96-year-old legendary crooner known for his ballads, jazz and pop tracks passed away on July 21 after battling Alzheimers. While his tracks broke billboard records, the singer started from humble stock. Bennett came from a working class Italian immigrant family, the son of a butcher and seamstress in Queens.
People who knew Bennett over the years said that he never forgot those roots.
Many may remember Bennett for his many accolades and illustrious decades long career, but Kevin Breslin said that he was defined by the little things and not the big ones.
Kevin Breslin’s first memory of Bennett was when he was around six-years-old, sitting on the kitchen counter watching his father, legendary New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin, turn up the transistor radio and slow dancing to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” with his wife Rosemary Dattolico.“I thought that was kind of charming and it always stuck in my head, of a husband and wife – but Tony Bennett was a part of it.”
It was his Mother’s favorite song. Years later, as Dattolico was battling cancer at Lenox Hill Hospital, Bennett called her to sing her favorite song shortly before she passed away.
“The dancing in the kitchen was always spectacular. And then calling her at this hospital – the little things become the big things,” said Breslin.
Former City Council president and fellow Astoria native Peter Vallone Senior warmly remembered Bennett in an interview.
Vallone knew Bennett from the neighborhood. While Vallone was eight years younger than Bennett, he said that his cousin Joseph Petralia, was particularly close with the late singer due to their shared interest in music.
Vallone continued to say that his father, who was president of the civic association at the time, even got Tony Bennet his first singing performance at 14 years old, after listening to his renditions.
Out of the things Vallone remembers Bennett for, one of the biggest was his role in helping get the Frank Sinatra School in Astoria built.
Vallone helped secure funds in order to build the school at 35-12 35th Ave. which Bennett was a large supporter of and helped raise millions of dollars for the arts high school.
Vallone emphasized Bennett’s humility as he refused to let the school be named after him, despite Vallone’s insistence.
“The school probably wouldn’t exist without you, so we’re going to name it the Tony Bennett school,” Vallone recalled saying.
“No! I won’t do it,” Bennett said back. “You have to name it the Frank Sinatra school.”
“Tony, there would be no school without you. I love Frank Sinatra too. He’s a very nice guy. But he has nothing to do with this school.
“I’m not going to allow that,” Bennett said. “He was my mentor, I love the guy and want to do this.”
“Look at the humility of Tony Bennett,” Valone emphasized in the interview.
Maria Cuomo Cole, the daughter of former Governor Mario Cuomo (who had a close relationship with Bennett), remembers Bennett as someone who was a close and supportive friend and mentor to her family.
“Tony Bennett was a hero, friend and mentor to our whole family, and had a very deep, meaningful friendship with my father. And my mother, who was is 91 and loves him very, very much and was a very close friend of our parents,”
Cuomo Cole emphasized the long standing relationship between her family and Bennett, whether it was being a supporter of her brother and former Governor Andrew Cuomo or his interview.
Cuomo Cole also noted that an important part of Bennett’s legacy was how his career spanned generations, with his highly regarded duets with contemporary artists.
“With the love and support of his children, and Danny [Bennett’s son, who managed his father] celebrating his talent with contemporary talent, the years of his duets with contemporary artists and serving as a mentor for them – that process helped to make him a more contemporary figure,” said Cuomo Cole.
“I was really struck by that. I really think his children celebrated his life in the most important way, the most meaningful way and keeping him healthy to keep him highly relevant. He brought so much to our culture for three generations.”
When reminiscing on Bennett’s legacy, Kevin Breslin deferred to a quote his father used to always say.
“I’ll never forget the quote from my father: ‘singers win hands down.’ And Tony Bennett won hands down.”

Delivery and Rideshare Workers Demand Exemption from Congestion Tax

A group of around 30 people protest outdoors while holding signs. A tent is visible behind them.

Rideshare workers protesting outside MTA headquarters.

By Carmo Moniz |

Delivery and rideshare app workers are demanding to be exempt from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s planned congestion tax, a fee ranging from $8 to $23 that will be charged to anyone entering Manhattan from below 60th Street.

These workers already pay a for-hire transportation specific tax of $2.75 every time they enter the city from below 96th Street, and are urging the MTA not to impose an additional tax. The agency has not yet decided on what groups will be exempt from the tax, and has received requests for exemption from more than 120 different groups.

On Wednesday, the same day the MTA’s Traffic Mobility Review Board held a public hearing to discuss the details of the congestion pricing plan, dozens of drivers with the organization Justice for App Workers took to the agency’s headquarters to voice their frustrations.

“We understand, the MTA needs money, but we can’t be the people that they turn to to get the money all the time,” said Justice for App Workers co-chair Naomi Ogutu. “We are people who don’t want trouble, but then every time they want to come to us to get extra taxes, they want to get extra money from us, for how long are we going to be milked by this city?”

The MTA is currently projected to have close to a $3 billion budget gap by 2025 due to declining fare revenue and COVID-19 funds drying up.

Larry Penner, a transportation advocate and who worked in the transit industry for over 30 years, said the different groups looking to receive exemptions are creating “tremendous political pressure” for the MTA to grant them, but that allowing more exemptions will lead to less revenue.

“You need political clout,” Penner said in an interview. “It’s a question of who their lobbyists are and who their elected officials are.”

The congestion pricing plan is expected to bring $15 billion in revenue for the MTA’s capital plan, which is aimed at improving public transit infrastructure. It could be implemented as soon as this coming spring.

“The number of taxi and For-Hire Vehicle trips has doubled in recent years while travel speeds in Manhattan dropped precipitously,” MTA spokesperson John J. McCarthy said in a statement. “Congestion pricing provides a solution and improves mass transit for the vast majority of people.”

The plan was recently hit with a lawsuit from New Jersey officials claiming that it would unfairly impact the state’s residents, both financially and environmentally. The federal lawsuit calls for a more in-depth environmental review of the pricing plan, and was followed by a similar lawsuit from Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella.

McCarthy denied that not enough study was done ahead of the federal government’s approval of the plan, adding that New Jersey residents and public officials had multiple opportunities to voice their concerns during the outreach process.

“This lawsuit is baseless,” McCarthy said in a statement. “We’re confident the federal approval — and the entire process — will stand up to scrutiny.”

Asad Ijaz, a Brooklyn native who has been driving for Uber and Lyft for over nine years, said that the tax would prevent him from picking up larger fares in Manhattan and keep him confined to driving in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

“We are delivering New Yorkers from point A to point B, if we have to go empty-handed to Manhattan that’s going to be unfair,” Ijaz said. “The only thing is to keep fighting with the MTA not to implement this, we have to gather and we have to fight.”

A day before the protest, five Brooklyn pols signed a letter to the TMRB chair calling for the congestion tax pass down to passengers using services like Uber and Lyft, rather than be paid by drivers.

The politicians, including Greenpoint Assemblymember Emily Gallagher and North Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar, proposed increasing the $2.75 tax that drivers already pay when entering from below 96th Street, with the added cost being paid by the passenger. Discounts would be provided at night, and yellow cab rides would be exempt from the added tax under the proposal in the letter.

“Our view is that taking an Uber from Tribeca to Central Park is a luxury and should be priced as such,” the letter reads. “Concerns about worker dislocation should be taken with utmost seriousness during the shift to new policies and technologies, but we should not accept the argument that polluting industries be protected for the sake of preserving jobs and profits.”

Another group of 16 politicians representing communities in Brooklyn, including Gallagher, Salazar and councilmember Lincoln Restler, signed a letter addressed to the TMRB calling for tolling fees to be equalized across entrances to Manhattan.

“We are focused on making sure that no single crossing into Manhattan disproportionately bears the burden of traffic,” Restler said in an interview. “I hope that the Traffic Mobility Review Board will take our concerns into account as they develop policies for how congestion pricing will work.”

How Are CD Rates Changing?

CD Rates Could be Amiss

By Claire Baierl and Alison Grillo

On the sun filled street of Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, sits Maspeth Federal Savings bank. It’s a small building on the corner of the street, lined with bricks and bright green shades. Just a six minute drive away is Ridgewood Savings bank, a tall building rich in history that sits right in the center of bustling Myrtle Avenue.
What makes these banks stand out from your Chase or Bank of America on practically every block of Queens? Is it the warm smiles that greet customers, the bank teller that knows your name, or could it be something more concrete, something like Credit Deposit rates.
While some may not be familiar with Credit Deposits, for others, this savings product can offer a vital influx of money each month. The type of account and rate one holds could be the difference between getting a Toyota or a Lexus.
Credit Deposits (CD) are savings accounts for those that want to hold a lump sum in the bank for a fixed period of time. The bank, in turn, pays the holder interest on that lump sum. And yet, this rate of interest is constantly changing.
CD rates fluctuate depending on a variety of factors, and in the past two-decades, bankers have seen dramatic highs and lows. The 1980s saw one of the highest rate increases in over 60 years. Rates rose to double digits, banks were giving out 3-month CDs at 18.65% at its peak.
On the other side of the spectrum, after the housing crisis of 2008, banks were flush with cash infusion bailouts given to stabilize the economy. What this meant was that banks no longer felt dependent on competitive interest rates to bring in deposits. And with banks less focused on attracting CD accounts, interest rates on these accounts fell to record lows between 0.20-0.30%.
These fluctuations are based on a variety of factors. At its most basic level, the CD rate one receives depends on the CD length. In the past, at times of economic stability borrowers often received higher rates the longer they kept their money in the account.
Another main driver of what rate a CD can earn is the Federal Funds Rate. This rate, determined by the Federal Reserve, can change up to eight times a year depending on the economic stability of the country. As the funds rate rises, banks often follow suit.
Another factor is changes in the Treasury yield, the interest rate the government pays on its debt. Similar to the Federal Funds Rate, as the interest for Treasury yield increases, CD rates increase as well.
Banks sometimes find it hard to attract customers and CD rates are one way they can draw in borrowers. Competition among banks is another factor that affects rates, the higher the rate, the more competitive stand in the market.
Competition between banks can be dramatic, with some rates for national banks such as Bank Of America as low as 0.02% for a 12 month fixed term CD with a minimum deposit of $1,000 versus at your local Ridgewood Savings Bank, one can open a 12 month CD at a rate of 4.25% with a minimum balance of 100$.
For Neil Hect, a Gowanus native, CD rate competition has about everything to do with where he banks. You won’t catch him in a Bank of America either, as a former local bank manager, he joked, “I wanted our slogan to be, ‘we won’t screw you like bank America will.”
“Higher interest rates do bring about a competitive nature for banks, causing clients to feel if they want higher rates they have to move, or open up several banking relationships,” said Anna-Marie Vallone, vice president of First Central Savings Bank, which has branches throughout Queens.
With the rise in demand for high yielding CDs in our current economic cycle, rates between banks have risen fast enough to constitute a “CD war,” said Christian Hernandez, vice president and director for retail banking at Maspeth Federal Savings Bank.
And yet, as more and more customers seek the highest rates possible, banks that cannot compete are left in the dust. “Everybody is now hurting the banks by trying to find better interest rates,” said Hect. “Your little bank down the street needs to make loans. They need to get deposits,” he urged.
There are large differences between certain banks, whether a local branch or your neighborhood Bank of America, each with their own perks and disadvantages. But one thing is certain, banks need funds, whatever that source may be.
For your local bank, one of these ways to maintain funds can be the lending of deposits such as a CD. And often, income will come from borrowing deposits at a low rate for shorter term investments while lending for long-term investments at a higher rate. Yet in our economy today, this is where the story begins to complicate.
“In a perfect world, when somebody sits in economics class, they’re taught the time-value of money. The longer you agree to lock in your money, the higher the rate of interest you should expect,” said Mark Sanchioni, Chief Banking Officer for Ridgewood Savings Bank. “Right now, that principle is not holding true.”
In our current economy, CD rates are in a uniquely confusing state. Now, shorter-term investments often have higher interest rates than their long-term counterparts. This phenomenon is called the inverted yield curve.
The inverted yield curve is a downward-trending curve that displays for investors in simple terms the differences between yields on bonds of different maturities. This doesn’t happen often, but when the curve inverts, it is a sign of something amiss.
Since 1978, the yield curve has only inverted six times in total not including this current term, and a recession has followed shortly after in each of those cases. The current market shows a steeply curved inversion, which explains the current high rates of over 5% returns.
“Bankers need to be careful,” said Sanchioni. “We’re always mindful of what our loans are earning, and what our deposits pay. You want to make sure the numbers aren’t inverted.”
And yet, past performances do not always guarantee a future recession. The last inversion was in 2019, and while a short recession did follow, many other factors were in play at the time that could have been a part of the cause.
While the future is still up in the air, borrowers still have time to take advantage of the current high rates. “I do see deposit rates stabilizing and plateauing, and then I see them decreasing. I do not see them going up,” said Hernandez.
As for a recession, no one can be sure.
“Is it gonna start next week? I hope not,” said Hect. “I’ve got two second interviews lined up next week and if a recession shows up next week, they may cancel one or both. I want to get a job.”




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