Government briefs

Brooklyn district attoney’s office at 350 Jay Street
Bedbug outbreak spreads to government buildings

Bedbugs were discovered last month at the headquarters of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office at 350 Jay Street, the Wall Street Journal reported. The critters have also been spotted recently at the Empire State Building, One Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn and the AMC movie theater in Times Square. Several clothing retailers — including the Hollister store in Soho, Abercrombie & Fitch at the South Street Seaport and Victoria’s Secret on the East Side — were also victims. In the past, bedbugs have also been found in offices of the Department of Health, the Human Resources Administration and the City University of New York’s John Jay College. The government is “usually pretty fast” to resolve the problem, according to Council Member Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side. Brewer has asked the city to look at other prevention efforts in the battle against the bugs, including buying bug-sniffing dogs.

AG fines company for duping homeowners

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo settled last month with Pinnacle Security Group, a Utah-based company that allegedly used deceptive sales tactics to trick close to 4,000 New York homeowners into signing contracts for unnecessary services. An investigation by the AG revealed that Pinnacle’s sales staff often targeted homeowners who had existing contracts with other companies. Cuomo accused Pinnacle of a deceptive practice known as “slamming,” where the company reportedly made false representations to convince people to sign up for their products even though the consumer had a contract with another company. Those who tried to void the contract faced cancellation fees. The settlement requires Pinnacle to provide full compensation to all New York consumers who signed up with the security company since 2008 and were subject to deceptive sales practices. The company must also pay a $150,000 penalty.

Foreign missions deemed exempt from property taxes

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India's Permanent Mission to the U.N. on East 43rd Street

After years of litigation, New York City’s attempts to collect property taxes from foreign missions to the United Nations have been dealt a major setback, according to the New York Law Journal. The U.S. Court of Appeals has decided to exempt the Permanent Mission of India to the U.N. and the representative of the Mongolian People’s Republic from property taxes as a benefit under the Foreign Missions Act. The designation renders the missions exempt from all property taxes and clears all outstanding liens against them. The U.S. State Department issued a notice that applies to taxes on property owned by foreign governments used to house the staff of permanent missions to the U.N. or the Organization of American States.

Budget cuts curb land purchases

Financial troubles are forcing state and local governments in New York and New Jersey to scale back efforts to buy choice pieces of farmland and open space for preservation, according to reports. Conservation groups have viewed the real estate slump as the perfect opportunity to buy cheap land from struggling developers and banks, industry experts say. But the funding for such programs is being cut as governments try to balance budgets. The budget that was passed last month in New York cut funding by 65 percent for open space and farmland preservation, to $28.4 million. In New Jersey, the state is continuing to purchase and protect farmland and open space through a $400 million bond that voters approved last year. But New Jersey counties, facing pressure to reduce taxes and balance budgets, are restricting their preservation efforts.

Compiled by Yaffi Spodek