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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended their temporary shelter assistance program for victims of Sany by 28 days at his request.

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That means those displaced by Sandy can continue to stay in participating hotels and motels.

FEMA will call applicants who are eligible for the extension to alert them that their new checkout date is May 29.

Those displaced by Sandy can use the following methods to apply for assistance::

· Registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov;
· Registering via smartphone or tablet by using the FEMA app or going to m.fema.gov; or
· Registering by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) (TTY 800-462-7585). For 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

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The Department of Investigation says it is establishing a six-person unit to focus on "fraud, waste and corruption" at the city's Board of Elections.

The DOI, the city's 140-year-old agency dedicated to rooting out corruption, announced today that it got $824,000 to start up the investigative unit and has begun filling positions.

Because the Board of Elections is staffed by city employees, the DOI has jurisdiction over the agency.

DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in the announcement that the decision to create the unit followed the agency's review of the November 2011 election. That investigation was labor-intensive and pointed out the need for more consistent oversight of the BOE.

"The newly created unit will provide the capacity to investigate possible waste, fraud and corruption in an expanded way that was not possible before," she said in a statement.

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The U.S. Attorney who announced the most recent spate of corruption cases against New York lawmakers likened corrupt politicians to green-skinned, slug-like aliens with no concept of "integrity" or "moral rectitude."

Preet Bharara spoke this morning in front of the Citizen's Crime Commission on how the string of corruption cases against legislators nearly every level of government should concern every New Yorker.

Nothing will change, he said, unless people fundamentally reform a corrupt culture.

Bharara began his presentation to the nonprofit reform group by referencing to a book from the popular science fiction series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which he said he read as a kid. In the book, he said, an alien species known as Vogons "are not above a little bribery and corruption in the same way the sea is not above the clouds."

"So, is Albany full of Vogons?" he asked. "Of course not."

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Lawmakers want New York City to be the first city in the U.S. to raise the legal smoking age to 21 from 18.

The law would make ban vendors from selling any tobacco products to New Yorkers under the age of 21, which Council Speaker Christine Quinn cautiously likened to the sale of alcoholic drinks.

She pointed to an 80 percent decline in drunk driving deaths after the drinking age increased in the 1980s.

Quinn stood alongside Health Department Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, fellow council memebers and anti-smoking advocates when she unveiled the new legislation today. The bill would join a group of bills also recently endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg aimed at curbing New Yorkers' smoking habits.

"This can work," Quinn said during a press event at City Hall.

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Several candidates who want to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg have responded lukewarmly to City Hall's plans to offer new contracts to city employees in exchange for foregoing retroactive pay increases.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Democratic frontrunner, said in a statement to the Gotham Gazette that she supports fair compensation for city workers and a dialog between union leaders and the administration.

"At the same time," she said, "we must always be mindful of the city budget, and honor our obligations to NYC taxpayers, and should strive to reach agreements that are fair to all parties."

Independence party candidate and former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión also supported ongoing talks balanced with fiscal restraint, as did Republican candidate and former MTA chief Joe Lhota.

"I applaud the mayor for making contract negotiations a priority," Lhota said. "Getting contracts in place for the city's workers that are fair and fiscally responsible is in the best interest of all New Yorkers."

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