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1985 Story About GEMCO

Citibank Joins in Electronic Commodities Network: Venture with McGraw-Hill for First Time Combines Information Access, Trading, and Settlement Capability

American Banker September 11, 1985, by David O. Tyson NEW YORK -- Citibank and McGraw-Hill Inc. Tuesday announced a joint venture to operate what they claim is the first electronic network that combines information access, trading, and settlement capability in the commodities markets. Called Gemco, for Global Electronic Markets Co., the new partnership takes over the 24-hour-a-day commodity information and trading service McGraw-Hill has operated for two and a half years through a wholly owned subsidiary, Electronic Markets & Information Systems (EMIS). EMIS presently enables two customers to negotiate on-line for a trade in the spot or forward contract market. Gemco intends to bring banks onto the network directly. Building on the present service, it said it will enhance the trading capability and add the ability for customers to issue settlement instructions to their banks, arrange letters of credit, obtain bankers acceptances or other financing, transfer funds to pay for trades, arrange spot or future foreign exchange transactions, and monitor their bank balances, cash, debt, and foreign currency positions. Though Citibank holds a 50% interest in Gemco, the system is open to all banks doing an international business. The chief executive officers of Citibank, McGraw-Hill, and Gemco told a news conference they expect Gemco customers themselves to bring in their banks as participants. John S. Reed, Citibank chairman and chief executive officer, said it is inconceivable that a bank would refuse a customer request to arrange for settlement of trades via EMIS. "If they want to do it electronically, the motivation will be for banks to become a part of all these systems," Mr. Ree said. "So I don't anticipate any trouble whatsoever." EMIS (pronounced "E-miss") now has 220 terminals installed in the offices of about 80 customers. "We deal with the trader," said Joseph L. Dionne, president and chief executive of McGraw-Hill. The system covers 352 commodities, chiefly petroleum, but including also petrochemicals, metals, lumber, fertilizers, and others. It does not cover futures contracts, either in commodities or financial paper. "Gemco will not bring up trading in financial instruments," Brenton W. Harries, president and chief executive of Gemco, told reporters. "There are a whole host of regulatory problems there that we do not want to get into." Mr. Reed noted that commodities are traded in unstructured markets around the world, and the deals are in big-ticket items, such as a tanker-load of crude oil. "This is an attempt to bring the benefits of electronic settlement to the market," he said. Mr. Harries said the market for Gemco is the 300 to 500 trading operations conducted around the world, which he acknowledged is fewer than three years ago because of the decline in oil prices. Citibank and Partnerships Gemco is a general partnership registered in Delaware. It already is installed in headquarters at 437 Madison Ave. in midtown Manhattan, with six employees. Mr. Harries said he anticipates 30 to 50 people on board by this time next year and 100 eventually. Equal interests are held by EMIS and Citibank Electronic Trading Services Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the bank. The only regulatory approval necessary for Gemco was the permission Citibank obtained from the Comptroller of the Currency. In addition to its equity investment, Citibank bought the EMIS software, contracts, and franchises. "Citicorp is not famous around the world for partnerships," Mr. Reed said. But he said a partnership was considered appropriate in this instance and the bank holding company may enter into others. Mr. Harries declined to disclose how much the general partners invested. "I'm not sure we want to give an answer," he said. "It's several million dollas." He reports to a seven-member management committee, which consists of three representatives from Citibank, three from McGraw-Hill, and Mr. Harries, who has no vote. Chairman of the executive committee is Kenneth A. Hines Jr., senior vice president in charge of electronic banking, global cash management, and information services development at Citicorp. Mr. Harries has been an executive vice president of McGraw-Hill since 1983. He was president of the Blue List Publishing Co. when Standard & Poor's Corp. acquired it in 1966 and held several positions with Standard & Poor's after McGraw-Hill acquired that firm in 1967. The EMIS system is installed on the IBM and Amdahl computers of I.P. Sharp Associates Ltd. in Toronto, Ontario, a provider of computing and communications services. It is accessible from personal computers, terminals, and telex machines through 54 local telephone nodes of I.P. Sharp, 20 of them in North America. Mr. Harries ducked the question when asked what Gemco's competitors are. "I could name people now, but I don't want them to know they may become competitors," he said. One obvious potential competitor is Reuters. The Reuters Monitor Dealing Service has a trading capability for every major currency and many smaller ones. It added the gold bullion market in 1981 and the Eurobond market last year. The service has about 2,700 video terminals in the offices of more than 1,000 subscribers around the world. "The Dealing Service allows the user to press a button that says 'Deal Concluded,'" said Michael Reilly, Reuters spokesman. "On both ends is a printout of the conversation, including an agreement that they have concluded the deal. That normally is taken as a piece of hard copy and handed to people who will arrange the settlement. "There's no reason that set of instructions couldn't be channeled into the banks' own systems, and some banks do it. We don't get involved in clearance." Mr. Harries noted the efforts to immobilize stock certificates and declared: "You can't believe the paperwork flying around the commodity business. There are 360 documents that go with every shipment of oil. "There are no other systems out there that offer everything: information, trading capability, and the ability go into financial institutions worldwide and finish the transaction, and do it all electronically."

 
 
1994 Depth Sounding Article

Dredging May Follow Testing At Norristown Dam Pool The Waterway Has Been Silting Up. After Two Years Of Talks With Environmentalists, Action Is Promised.

By Lisa E. Anderson, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

Posted: September 04, 1994

In the last hazy days of summer, the Norristown Dam is a great place to go to watch the water and relax. It's a favorite spot of local fishermen and boaters, but the waterscape is a just a reminder of what used to be. Once upon a time, people came from far away to Norristown for a vacation, perhaps while there to paddle down the Schuylkill. Barbadoes Island, now the site of a derelict power plant, had an amusement park. Nowadays, area residents fear that the dam pool is trouble. Boaters have noticed that the pool, which lies behind the 900-foot-wide dam spanning the Schuylkill between Norristown and Bridgeport, is getting shallower, an indication that the waterway is silting up. After two years of discussion with area environmentalists, the state Department of Environmental Resources has agreed to begin taking depth soundings at the dam pool on Sept. 12. If it is determined that more than half of the pool's depth is silted up, DER will remove the silt. The dam was deeded to Montgomery County by Peco Energy Co. in August. The pool last was dredged in the 1950s.Eugene Counsil, chief of DER's Division of Waterways Management, said several methods of dredging could be used at the dam. One method uses a crane on a work barge, fitted with clam buckets, to scoop the silt out of the dam pool. Another uses pumps and suction equipment to suck the silt from the bottom of the pool - "like a giant vacuum cleaner," Counsil said. The silt would be pumped into the barge or transported to higher ground. Bart Levy, managing director for the Greater Port Indian Association - a group "dedicated to the preservation of a navigable and environmentally sound Schuylkill" - said that the DER agreed in the 1970s to annual depth sounding. But it has not been done in recent years, he said. Before it begins dredging in mid-September, the DER will test the silt in the dam pool to see whether it is contaminated. "Some of the material combines with pollutants, by absorption or on a physical level. The (particles) just kind of stick together," Counsil said. ''Pollutants would be almost anything produced by man: heavy metals, oil, asbestos, sewage effluent, outflow from factories (and) processing discharges from industry (or) runoff from the soil around factories. "Pollution in a silted body of water can be serious because there is less dilution of any contaminants. If the DER's tests determine that the silt is polluted, then it would have to be disposed of by incineration or buried in a landfill designated to take such material. Levy said the attention from the DER has been a long time in coming. "Two years ago, we became aware of the fact that the Schuylkill river bottom (was) coming up. It's filling up rapidly," he said. "First of all, from a recreational standpoint, we're hitting bottom so much now, it's actually dangerous to navigate. "Those who pilot bass boats and 25-foot motorboats along the river must take care not to run aground in the three-foot-deep water along the uppermost tip of Barbadoes Island, Levy said. And the mouth of Stony Creek lives up to its name, he said. Once a river silts up and becomes shallow, its makeup changes. Shallow water heats up more quickly, and is less oxygen-rich. As a result, fewer fish and aquatic plants are present, said Jonathan Rinde, an environmental attorney for the Greater Port Indian Association. Levy said he is hoping that the DER's attention to the dam pool will be the first step toward restoring the area to its former glory. "I collect color postcards. I could tell you what this river looked like when it was used only as a recreational area," Levy said. "It was beautiful."

 
 
1996 Hovercraft Proposal

Plan Outlined For Hovercraft Service Along Schuylkill

By Rena Singer, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

Posted: March 21, 1996

What's 36 feet long, 10 feet high, weighs 6,600 pounds, and flies over dam and lock, up and down the Schuylkill? A hovercraft. Or at least that's what stockbroker/investor/dreamer Bart Levy hopes. Levy, a river rat in the highest sense of the term, is hoping to start hovercraft service next year between the rolling hills of Valley Forge National Historical Park and the trendy cafes of Manayunk. No small feat. His idea will require no less than $400,000 in construction to allow the vessel - which will weigh 4 tons when accommodating a maximum load of 20 passengers - to hop or shoot around three dams and one lock on the river. Plus another $400,000 to build a suitable hovercraft. Plus untold amounts of cash for engineering fees and permits. Undaunted, Levy outlined his ferry dreams to the Norristown Borough Council Tuesday night. His proposal calls for fencing off a borough-owned slice of land about 40 feet wide and 300 feet long near the SEPTA Transportation Center for a passenger terminal for the hovercraft. Levy said he hoped to start service at Valley Forge just before the Route 422 bridge. Under the plan, the hovercraft shuttle service would run seven days a week, six round trips a day, at a cost of about $15 each way. The trip from Valley Forge to Manayunk would take about a half-hour, he said. The terminal could be a boon to area businesses, Levy told the council, saying, ``I will only increase the property values of everything around it.''To avoid a dam in the river near Norristown, the hovercraft would travel on land for about the length of a football field. The craft might be able to fly over the next dam downstream, and then it would dock at a terminal at the base of Fayette Street in West Conshohocken. From there, the vessel would travel just a few minutes to dock at Noah's floating restaurant in Conshohocken. Then around another dam in Gladwyne and on to Manayunk. Passengers could get on and off all along the route. Once the daily shuttles begin, Levy said, he hopes to explore the possibility of expanding service to Reading and Philadelphia International Airport. Councilman Joseph DeDominic told Levy that it was the best idea he had heard ``since someone wanted to bake the world's largest doughnut on Main Street. ''Councilwoman Marge Hunsicker said she thought the proposal was ``exciting'' and had ``potential. ''The council plans to tour the proposed terminal site, which is now a weed-covered area used by anglers in the summer and the homeless at night. A short-term lease will be considered.Besides Norristown, Levy still needs approval from private property owners in other municipalities where the hovercraft would scoot around; from dock owners, and from the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Protection, among others.

 
 
1998 West Norriton Succession Crticle

W. Norriton Group Aims For Secession From School District Its Members Are Upset With The Norristown Area School Board Over Plans For The Burnside School

By Angela Pomponio, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF

Posted: November 03, 1998WEST NORRITON —

A group of residents who say they are fed up with the Norristown Area school board plans to hit polling places today with a petition seeking to secede from the school district. Bart Levy, a member of the West Norriton Educational Reform Movement, said yesterday that the group hoped to garner about 14,000 signatures in its effort to break away from the district and move students to the Methacton School District. Prompting the secession drive, Levy said, is the Norristown school board's failure to make a decision on the future of the deteriorating Burnside Elementary School at a meeting last week.The board originally had said it would make a decision in October, but last week decided to wait another month, until October enrollment figures were available. ``There is no other recourse against the school board but to pick up and leave,'' Levy said. ``It appears if the board moves to close Burnside, they are no longer acting in the interest of West Norriton, and if they do that, I think they should lose this electorate.''President Murray Toas said the school board likely would set a direction for Burnside sometime next month. Members are considering three options: close the school and move students to other locations; rehabilitate the school; or close the school and build a new one. ``We put it off for a month and I can understand their impatience, but even in a month, there won't be a final decision. . . . If we close, we have to set a hearing,'' Toas said. ``The fact that we haven't made a decision on Burnside shouldn't make people want to secede from the school district.''But enough is enough, said Starr Stanley, the West Norriton group's president and one of many parents who have attended recent board meetings, trying to persuade the board to keep Burnside open and to upgrade it. Others want to see an entirely new school there. ``I have pounded the pavements enough around here. Everyone is concerned about the money they have to pay for the education their children are getting,'' Stanley said. ``People are fed up, and we're hoping this [petition] will give people a real alternative they can get behind. ''Methacton school board president James Van Horn said that board members had received calls from the group to inform them about the petition, but that that was the extent of it. ``I take it as a positive statement on Methacton, but I would take it only as that for now,'' Van Horn said. ``There is absolutely no position by our board on that issue. ''Secession from a school district could take several years to complete, said Dawn Schaffer of the state Department of Education. If the petition ever makes it to the secretary of education, she said, both school districts involved would have to inform the department of the effect the transfer would have on taxes and teacher-student ratios. In the last 10 years, the state has considered six secession petitions, but has granted only one. In April 1997, a two-year effort by a group in Montgomery Township to secede from the North Penn School District in favor of the Hatboro-Horsham School District was halted by a Montgomery County Court judge. Norristown Superintendent Mike Woodall said he was skeptical about the West Norriton petition. ``Secession is very hard to do. It comes up in other states from time to time,'' he said. ``I just think that would almost be impossible because of the legal requirements.''In the meantime, Woodall said he would present more figures concerning Burnside to the school board on Nov. 24. In August, Woodall presented information that showed that Burnside students could be accommodated at other schools in the district.

 
 
2003 Hovercraft Project Article

Hovercraft idea never took off Plans for service to towns along the Schuylkill went nowhere. By Marc Schogol INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Posted: October 05, 2003 Bart Levy had an idea he thought would really fly. But he was never able to get it off the ground. Seven years ago, the Montgomery County stockbroker announced plans to start a hovercraft service on the Schuylkill between the rolling countryside of Valley Forge National Historic Park and the chic cafes of Manayunk. In addition to tourists, Levy, who then lived along the Schuylkill in West Norriton, was convinced the plan would be a boon to struggling river communities along the hovercraft route. When he outlined the proposal to the Norristown Borough Council - which would have had to approve turning a piece of borough-owned land into a passenger terminal - the initial reaction was fairly positive. But that was then. Seen any 36-foot-long, 10-foot-high, 6,600-pound hovercraft skimming inches above the Schuylkill lately? "I gave it from about 1996 to 1998," Levy, who still lives along the river, in Conshohocken, said last week. Besides Norristown's, he needed the approval of private-property and dock owners, the Coast Guard, and the state Department of Environmental Protection, among others. "I fought a lot of fights and lost most of them," Levy said. "I went as far as I could with it." Which, ultimately, was nowhere. But don't think you've heard the last of Bart Levy. After abandoning the hovercraft project, he began taking night courses at the Widener University Law School in Wilmington. He currently works in the legal/compliance department of a major Philadelphia bank. "And once I get my law degree next year," said Levy, 48, "you'll be hearing a lot more from me." Levy still gets nostalgic when the topic of the hovercraft proposal is mentioned. In every sense of the word, it was a grand plan. It would have required about $250,000 just for starters - half that amount for a 20-seat hovercraft and the other half for construction. Then there would have been operating expenses, engineering fees, permits. But the payoff, Levy said, would have been a big plus for tourists and area residents alike. "It was something people would want to see and pay to see." And as hovercrafts rose over the river, so would property values in the riverfront communities, Levy said. Out of his own pocket, Levy spent about $20,000 on a feasibility study, which, he said, indicated the project was feasible. (At the same time, as managing director of the Greater Port Indian Association - a group "dedicated to the preservation of a navigable and environmentally sound Schuylkill" - Levy said he got a $3,500 state grant and personally built a 30-foot work barge to remove debris from the river near the Norristown Dam. He said he also used state river sounding data to create navigation charts.) Though the hovercraft plan sunk, Levy, a self-described dreamer, said: "I couldn't be completely happy in life without tilting at windmills." In 1998, Levy did battle with another windmill - the Norristown Area School District. The father of two and other West Norriton residents attempted to secede from the district because nothing was being done about their community's deteriorating elementary school. So district officials did something; they closed the school. Grumbling, the would-be secessionists stayed right where they were. Defeats and setbacks, however, do not daunt Levy. The abortive hovercraft project, he said, "was a learning process." And, he said, "it wasn't to make money - my interest was based purely on aesthetics. . . . I started out to prove a postulate, a theory." There were just "a couple of obstacles. Looking back, I would have dealt with it differently." And even though the plan did not come to fruition, Levy said, there were fringe benefits. He took his campaign to virtually every village and hamlet in the area, honing his public-speaking skills and making "a lot of contacts." He firmly believes the hovercraft service remains a good idea. Someday, he predicted, "somebody may do it."

Inquirer researchers Denise Boal, Frank Donahue and Ed Voves contributed to this article.

 
 
2009 Levy v USPS

Truth, Justice & Peace

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

It's the last part of the Stevie Wonder song that's been causing us problems at the office. It all started last week, when we realized that our mail delivery had substantially slowed. Then, one day, we had no mail at all. With the number of people in the office, this only happens on holidays, when there isn't any mail delivery.

A call to the post office revealed the problem -- our mail had been deliberately stopped. Our local postmaster had decreed that the address we had used for the nine years we occupied the office was no longer sufficient. He then decided that all of the businesses in our building needed to change suite numbers. Of course, neither he or anyone else at the post office bothered to tell us about this beforehand, so our mail ended up being returned to sender as undeliverable.

No mail -- including payments from clients, bills from vendors and correspondence related to various pending legal matters, including from the courts. In this economy, a prolonged denial of our mail delivery could put a number of small businesses out of business.

Our efforts to deal with the postmaster were rebuffed. We requested that he put the new requirements in writing and explain the necessity for the change, as well as provide us with a phase-in period before ceasing our mail delivery. He laughingly refused to do anything. He basically read his role as being the "master" and forgot about the "mail" part. So, we spent much of this past week filing complaints, contacting the postal service and our representatives, trying to restore our delivery.

Imagine our surprise when one of the LLWL picked up her Inky Thursday morning, to discover that Hateful Harrison, our postmaster, was featured in a piece by Daniel Rubin. In Dog stops mail; customer howls (http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/41879187.html), Rubin describes the travails experience by a neighborhood who also stopped receiving their mail delivery when postmaster John Harrison abruptly changed the delivery rules for them. The column reports:

[S]even households received "Dear Postal Customer" letters, informing them their delivery might be suspended due to safety concerns. They learned they needed to install mailboxes at the curb so carriers could reach them without having to leave their trucks.

And that was the last day mail was distributed to this old pocket of Whitemarsh Township.

Bart Levy relies on the mail to receive legal papers and rent checks from tenants who live in his properties.

He said postmaster John B. Harrison had told him he couldn't put a box just anywhere; the Postal Service would have to come out and determine the safest location. This investigation, Levy said he had been told, would take an unspecified amount of time.

After Levy, a lawyer, brought suit, concern about a dog was used as justification for the new rule, although Rubin discovered that the dog was in fact fenced in. It took the lawsuit to reach a resolution among the parties that restored mail delivery.

Of course, our tales of mail woe were merely a microcosm of the mail madness that enveloped Philly last year. See, e.g. Complaints about service piling up - like mail that isn't being delivered (http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20081203_Complaints_about_service_piling_up_-_like_mail_that_isn_t_being_delivered.html) and Docs blast delays in the mails (http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20081204_Docs_blast_delays_in_the_mails.html). For the whole Philly Daily News series on the mail tales, see Dead letters (http://www.philly.com/dailynews/hot_topics/Going_postal.html).

Perhaps it was the bad press from the article, along with our complaints and letters, but our mail finally resumed by week's end, even if it was lighter than usual.

So, at least we can finally sing "Signed, Sealed & Delivered" with Stevie & Beyonce