Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eco-Logic, WBAI's Environmentalism Show on Birding with James OBrien, Hugh Carola and Don Riepe

Eco-Logic, WBAI's Environmentalism Show

Listen to the show...

Today's episode of Eco-Logic, WBAI-FM's environmental radio show, was about birds and birding. Ken Gale and his guests talked about the joys of birding and its relationship to environmentalism and citizen science.

Eco-Logic began June 18, 2002. It had been a while since WBAI-FM (99.5 NYC) had a regularly-scheduled environmentally-oriented show.

Eco-Logic is a forum for the expression of ecological thought, analysis and activist endeavors featuring the Restoration and Appreciation of the Natural World, Environmental Justice, Community Ecology, Bioregionalism, Energy Issues and Activism.

The guests were:

James OBrien, a Manhattan birder who posts frequently to ebirdsnyc and has a blog entitled blog named The Origin of Species...
Hugh Carola, from Hackensack Riverkeeper in New Jersey and
Don Riepe, from the American Littoral Society and the NYC Audubon Society
and former head naturalist for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Some of the topics discussed were:

Audubon Safe-flight Program...
Peregrine Falcons Live video nest cam:: 55 Water Street, New York
Palemale & Lola...just can't stop watching them!
yahoo ebirds nyc groups

Eco-Logic, WBAI 99.5FM, NYC
The show is 11 AM to 11:55 AM
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
WBAI is also live-streamed on the internet via http://www.wbai.org

Ken Gale

Serf's Up With First TV Ad by Elizabeth Benjamin - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

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Queens Republican Sen. Serphin Maltese, the Democrats' top target in their quest to take control of the Senate this fall, is up on the air with his first TV ad more than six months before the election.

According to Maltese's campaign, this is the first of a series of ads (the next will highlight his crime-fighting record) that will be running "on a heavy cable television schedule" throughout the 15th SD. Channels include everything from CNN and TNT to NY1.

The spot is scheduled to start airing tonight. The campaign would not release details about either the size of the buy or the duration of time the ad will air.

It's hard to overstate how unusual this is. Generally speaking, state lawmakers wait until at least after the legislative session ends in June to begin campaigning for re-election.

But given how Maltese came so close to losing his seat in 2006 to Democrat Al Baldeo, who received zero assistance from the Democratic Party, the Republicans are clearly giving this election the pull-court-press treatment.

Maltese recently said he has been assured by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno that the GOP is willing to spend "as much as it takes" - the $1 million figure was bandied about - to keep him in office.

The Democrats are planning to run Councilman Joe Addabbo, who recently held a fundraiser, but Baldeo says he wants to take another crack at unseating Maltese and threatens to remain in the general election on a minor party line of his own creation even if he loses a Democratic primary.

Interestingly, the spot prominently features former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and makes no mention of the fact that he's no longer in office. No doubt the Republicans hope to remind viewers of the Democratic leader who was felled by a prostitution scandal without actually pointing that out.

Here's the script:

State Senator Serf Maltese. You see Serf in the neighborhood all the time. But did you know he works just as hard in Albany? Good thing, too.

When Gov. Spitzer tried to slash $440 million in local education funding, Serf Maltese fought back and won.

When Spitzer moved to cut $350 million from our hospitals and nursing homes. Maltese stood up for us, and saved vital services.

Serf Maltese, fighting for Queens, delivering for you.

Pizza Tour Leads Cheese-and-Sauce Faithful to City's Cream of the Crust by Jotham Sederstrom - NY Daily News

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Scott Wiener of Scott's Pizza Tour with pies from Patricia's Pizzeria in Morris Park, Bronx

No bus tour ever tasted this good.

New York City — already home to a "Sex and the City" tour, a TV and movie trek and a Harlem gospel expedition — has a new attraction sure to please tourist taste buds.

Each Sunday, Scott's Pizza Tour will sample the slices at a half-dozen of the city's famed pie palaces like John's in Greenwich Village and Totonno's in Coney Island.

"This is like a dream, this pizza tour. It's great," said Chris Brady, 28, a Massachusetts customer service rep who downed 10 slices at five pizzerias yesterday during the tour's maiden voyage.

"I just wish I didn't have breakfast. I could've had more."

The trek is the brainchild of Scott Wiener, a New Jersey resident who quit his job as events coordinator for the City of Hoboken to launch the tour.

Pizza lovers with $55 to spare can tool around in a school bus on the first citywide pizza tour, which will hit premier pizzerias on a rotating basis.

Wiener is hoping to feature up-and-coming joints — like Luzzo's in the East Village, yesterday's second stop — as well as established favorites.

"They may not have the track record of Lombardi's or John's, but their pizza is still on the same level," said Wiener, 26, who said his personal favorite among the 130 pizzerias he's visited citywide — Brooklyn's Grimaldi's — will be on an upcoming junket.

Don't look for a Jersey stop anytime soon.

"A lot of pizzerias in Hoboken don't try very hard because they don't need to," Wiener said about pies in Frank Sinatra's hometown. "The market doesn't demand it. The standard is low."

At Patricia's in the Bronx, where workers dished out free extra helpings of the Neapolitan-style Margherita pie, Jon Anzalone said the wood oven-cooked pie ranked high on his short list of authentic pizzerias.

"I would go back to every one of these places, but they really spoiled us here," said Anzalone, 25, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

At Lombardi's, billed as the country's first-ever pizzeria, fans enjoyed the famed coal-oven pies without waiting on the Spring St. pizzeria's infamously long lines.

"Take a look, take a picture if you want, this is Lombardi's famous coal-oven pizza" said Wiener, who giddily showed off one of the city's few remaining coal ovens as chefs stuffed pie after pie into the 859-degree stove.

Not everyone on the tour could eat like a pro.

"I ate till I quit," said John Moyer, 53, of Pennsylvania, who inhaled 41/2 slices before calling it quits at Louie & Ernie's in the Bronx.

"Too. Much. Pizza."

Register online at www.scottspizzatours.com for the trek, which will leave from Lombardi's on Sundays starting May 11.

Christine Quinn Gives Your Cash to West Side Project - and Gets Campaign Money by Tina Moore - NY Daily News

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A celebrity-studded campaign to turn a rusting elevated rail line into a glitzy West Side park has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars through Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

And she's gotten a little something in return.

Officials with Friends of the High Line - the top recipient of Quinn-controlled City Council pork - have given more than $50,000 to her campaigns since 1999, records show.

More than half of the 19 board members of Friends of the High Line made contributions to Quinn and to her predecessor, Gifford Miller, who as Council speaker steered millions to the nonprofit founded by an old college chum. Employees of board members' firms kicked in, too.

Miller got even more than Quinn - about $60,000 in contributions from board members and business associates between 2002 and 2007, including $1,000 from actor/board member Ed Norton in 2005.

In fiscal year 2008, Quinn co-sponsored $290,000 in Council "discretionary funds" for the nonprofit. Quinn is under investigation for parking millions of dollars in discretionary funds in fictitious nonprofits for later distribution to real nonprofits.

City records show Friends of the High Line got $290,000 from the Council for "borough needs" in 2005 and 2006. It's not known if Quinn was the sponsor because until this year, sponsors weren't publicly listed.

Quinn and Miller have been out front pushing for transformation of the High Line - usually with help from city taxpayers - since 2002. The first section of the park is to open late this year.

"It seems to reinforce the idea that there's too much of a pay-to-play atmosphere at City Hall," said Susan Lerner, executive director of the government watchdog group New York Common Cause.

Friends of the High Line, with help from celebrities like Norton, Glenn Close and Kevin Bacon, has grown exponentially since 2002.

The organization had $55,000 and no paid employees in 2002. By 2006, it had amassed $11.5 million and was paying founder Robert Hammond - Miller's good friend at Princeton University - more than $90,000.

Friends of the High Line also hired Hammond's lobbying firm, 215 Argyle, which in turn paid Hammond $108,272 for services performed for the nonprofit, 2006 tax filings show.

It's not known how much Argyle received from the group, but the nonprofit has spent more than $2 million on consulting fees since 2002.

But there is no way to determine who was paid for the work because nonprofits are not required to detail professional fees.

Since 2002, Hammond has given nearly $6,000 to Miller.

The city has committed to providing $86.5 million - or nearly half - of the $176 million project's cost.

Hammond said board members make political contributions "as individuals and not as representatives of [Friends of the High Line]."

He said the group applied for the last round of City Council funds "through the standard Council application procedure" and is subject to audit. He said the city estimates the project will generate $898 million in "public economic benefit."

Four board members listed real estate developer Millennium Partners as their employer. They and other Millennium employees gave $31,000 to Miller in 2003 and 2004 and about $20,000 to Quinn in 2007.

Millennium's founder, Philip Aarons, is the High Line board's chairman. He and his wife, psychiatrist Shelley Fox Aarons, gave nearly $12,000 to Miller's 2005 mayoral campaign and $8,000 to Quinn's 2009 campaign.

Mario Palumbo, board treasurer in 2006, gave Miller $7,375 between 2003 and 2005 and $5,950 to Quinn after she took over as speaker. Palumbo has worked for Millennium Partners.

Founding High Line board member James Capalino gave just under $5,000 to Miller and $1,500 to Quinn between 2003 and 2007. He also gave $10,000 to Quinn's co-sponsor of High Line funds, Councilman David Weprin (D-Queens), during that time.

Capalino, who does government consulting with Capalino & Co., said he and his employees received no compensation from the nonprofit.

"I don't think there is any ethical violation with members of a nonprofit board making political contributions," he said. "Citizens of our country are entitled to make contributions to people running for public office."

Board member Alan Stillman gave $5,000 to Miller between 2002 and 2003, while board member Elizabeth Gilmore has given $4,600 to Gifford and $4,000 to Quinn since 1999.

Quinn spokesman Andrew Doba said the speaker has supported the renovation of the High Line since becoming a Council member in 1999. "The High Line will be a new and innovative park that will be a one-of-a-kind open space for all New Yorkers," he said.

Weprin and Miller did not return calls for comment.

A review of Friends of the High Line's tax filings revealed at least one board member has been paid for services.

The nonprofit paid Bronson van Wyck, an event planner, $53,401 in 2006 for "event decor," tax records show. He gave Miller about $1,000 for the 2005 election cycle and Quinn $500 in 2007.

Former board member Michael O'Brien, a lawyer, gave $10,950 to Miller and more than $6,000 to Quinn. Other lawyers with O'Brien's then-firm, King & Spalding, added another $4,000 to Miller's campaign funds. O'Brien said his old firm did some work for the Friends but was not paid for legal work.


With Celeste Katz

Brooklyn Pol Put $187G of Your Dough Into Wife's Nonprofit by Robert Gearty, Benjamin Lesser and Greg B. Smith

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Brooklyn city councilman Erik Dilan has funneled more than $180,000 in taxpayer money into a small nonprofit run by his wife, the Daily News has learned.

Dilan (D-Brooklyn) was sole sponsor of "discretionary" city funds for the North Brooklyn Community Council, a nonprofit that started out organizing youth football and has expanded almost entirely with government money.

His wife, Jannitza Luna, has been executive director of the group since at least 2005, tax records show.

She was on Dilan's staff before she began running the nonprofit, and she is a district leader for the Brooklyn Democrats.

Jannitza Luna, district leader for the Brooklyn Democrats, was on husband Erik Dilan's staff before she started running North Brooklyn Community Council, whose office (above) is on Wilson Ave.

Each City Councilmember gets a pot of "discretionary" money to use for pet projects in their districts. Potential misuse of these funds is at the heart of an ongoing probe by the city Department of Investigation and the Manhattan U.S. attorney.

Two aides to City Councilman Kendall Stewart (D-Brooklyn) have been charged with embezzling $145,000 from a nonprofit supported with "discretionary" funds. Stewart has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

The News also disclosed that City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx) sponsored $80,000 in member items for a Bronx nonprofit that employed her sister and a nephew.

In an interview with The News, Dilan said he disclosed the conflict to the City Council and that no one objected, although a letter sent to the Conflicts of Interest Board obscures details of the arrangement.

At least three times in the past three years, Dilan sponsored member items for the North Brooklyn Community Council totaling $187,500. The amounts grew each year, from $30,000 to $57,500 to $100,000.

He was engaged to Luna sometime in 2006 and they got married in March 2007, he said. During that time, she was listed on the group's tax forms as the only salaried employee.

On the latest tax form filed, 2006, she claims a salary of $45,000. The group also paid $34,658 to unnamed "consultants."

On Friday, at the group's small storefront office in Bushwick, a receptionist told a reporter she would give Luna his number. Luna did not return the call.

In its last filing, the group claimed it organized youth sports teams. In an interview, Dilan said the group, which first reported income in 2004, is now doing less sports and more of what he called "immigrant services."

Each year, at least 90% of its funds come from either city or state taxpayers. Brooklyn Democratic leader and Assemblyman Vito Lopez sponsored a $50,000 state "member item" for the group last year, records show.

Nonprofit Helps Homeowners Stay (and save) Green by Jess Wisloski - NY Daily News

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Many a homeowner eager to hop on the "green" bandwagon may have reconsidered after seeing the price tag on Earth-friendly renovations.

But some savvy owners in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx have found ways to save mountains of money by implementing methods to cut down their energy usage - and having the government pay for it.

In the era of near $4-a-gallon gas prices, organizations that specialize in tapping federal funds for energy efficiency upgrades are being inundated with calls.

"I don't know if it is marketing or the price of oil or what it may be, but there has been an upswing on the amount of calls we've gotten," says Greg Elcock, an energy auditor at the Community Environmental Center in Long Island City. "We almost can't handle it."

The 14-year-old nonprofit group got its start by focusing on weatherizing buildings, but has since become a conduit for a number of funding sources for those seeking to save energy.

"We capitalize on all the funding the city makes available and pass it on to our clients," Elcock said.

The center even has its own in-house construction crews.

After the group performs an audit on a home, the same team draws up a detailed plan as to how to save energy.

If the building owner doesn't have a lot of cash to spend on renovations, the consultant may suggest only a few essential improvements.

Other clients take out low-interest loans and do a full efficiency upgrade, in hopes of seeing the best savings, Elcock said.

A Coney Island management company spent $1 million on a recent upgrade of a 172-unit rental property. It included adding low-flow water fixtures, pipe insulation, lighting upgrades and replacing old windows and appliances.

"They definitely achieved savings," Elcock said.

In the Bronx, homeowner and mom Amy Kenette said the $32,000 cost of upgrading her Woodlawn house was well worth the cash savings and the reduced impact on the Earth.

"We have been surprised how little the heat goes on and how long the house stays warm," she said. "We're kind of pioneers in our immediate circle."

But for Carole Gutowski, a grandmother in South Ozone Park who called Elcock's group looking for a senior-citizen program, the renovation was a happy accident.

"My bills were getting bigger and bigger," she said, until the center gave her a renovation fully subsidized by government grants. "It was just like Christmas for us."

Judge Approves New York Racing's Bankruptcy Plan | U.S. | Reuters

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The New York Racing Association received approval on Monday to move forward with a bankruptcy reorganization plan that will allow it to run the state's horse tracks for another 25 years.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Peck in Manhattan signed off on the plan, ruling the association had met all the statutory requirements needed.

The association filed for bankruptcy in October 2006 after a series of probes faulted its managers for not monitoring how some clerks handled cash bets.

The non-profit association, which for decades has run the state's three racetracks -- Aqueduct, Saratoga and Belmont Park -- overhauled its management.

The group's bankruptcy plan had been delayed as it negotiated with state lawmakers over a franchise agreement, a settlement agreement and lease terms for its racetracks.

In February, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer sealed a pact with the association that allowed the state to choose a company to add slot machines to the its Aqueduct Racetrack. In return, the association gave up claims that it owned the tracks and facilities it has run for decades.

(Reporting by Emily Chasan; editing by Kim Coghill)

Hard Rock Bids for Aqueduct VLTs by Tom Precious | bloodhorse.com

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A major commercial real estate developer said April 28 it has combined forces with the Hard Rock Entertainment hotel and restaurant chain in a bid with New York state to operate a VLT casino at Aqueduct racetrack.

The deal between SL Green Realty Corp., a Manhattan based company, and Hard Rock would create a sprawling entertainment complex, including restaurants, retail space, and hotels.

The SL Green bid was one of three submitted April 25 to New York Gov. David Paterson, who is expected within a few weeks to choose a VLT operator after several years of stalled efforts to install 4,500 VLT devices at Aqueduct. The other bidders are Delaware North, which already operates several VLT casinos at racetracks in New York, and a consortium that includes Capital Play and Mohegan Sun.

The actual bids were not publicly released by the three competing entities.

The submissions come as the New York Racing Association is operating under a new temporary franchise arrangement, which was approved last week by a state oversight panel. The new deal permits NYRA to continue operating racing until mid-July.

The temporary extensions for NYRA are necessary because the state and NYRA have still not finalized a range of paperwork needed to go ahead with the agreement earlier this year giving NYRA a new 25-year franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks. The overall plan must also be approved by a federal bankruptcy court judge in Manhattan, where NYRA has had its Chapter 11 protection case for more than a year.

Marc Holliday, chief executive officer of SL Green, said the partnership with Hard Rock will “complement the core horseracing and gaming enterprise at Aqueduct.’’ Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock Entertainment, said the plan calls for turning the track into “an unforgettable destination worldwide.”

Earlier in the day April 28, state regulators approved NYRA’s racing dates – but only through July 13 to coincide with the expiration of its new extension to run racing. For NYRA to operate its Saratoga meet, another approval will be needed by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board – pending final approval of the final set of agreements between NYRA and the Paterson administration.

NYRA said April 28 that Judge James Peck, the bankruptcy judge overseeing its Chapter 11 proceeding, entered an order saying that NYRA had met all the statutory requirements to have its plan to emerge from bankruptcy approved.

“Today’s confirmation represents one of the most significant events in what has been a complex and protracted franchise process,” said NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker. “With the new franchise legislation in place and the chapter 11 plan confirmed, we look forward to working with the state to finalize the necessary documents to incorporate and form the new NYRA not-for-profit corporation. It is our hope that we can accomplish this in the very near future, consistent with the terms of the franchise legislation.”

NYRA’s bankruptcy lawyer was not available for comment. But officials say NYRA still needs to get the final set of agreements with the state before it can end its Chapter 11 case.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Does It All Come Down To Addabbo? by Elizabeth Benjamin - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

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Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith thinks so.

According to an attendee at Councilman Joe Addabbo's midtown fundraiser last night, which officially kicked off his challenge to GOP Queens Sen. Serf Maltese, Smith said the 15th SD would be the lynchpin race in the Democrats' effort to take control of the Senate this fall.

"This is the tipping point," said Smith, who's pictured here with Addabbo and Lourdes Ventura, special counsel to the minority leader.

"The tipping point to winning the election. The tipping point to winning the Senate. There is no race more important than this one. We should all eat, sleep and dream. Joe Addabbo, Jr."

(No pressure or anything).

Maltese has been the Democrats' top target since Al Baldeo came out of nowhere to come within less than 800 votes of toppling the 10-term senator without receiving any help from the Democratic Party. The only problem is that Baldeo has not yet agreed to step aside for Addabbo, whom the Democratic establishment prefers.

Baldeo, who is almost entirely self-financed, has even insisted he will create his own third party line on which to run in the general election if he runs and loses to Addabbo in the Democratic primary. Last I checked, he didn't seem to care that by doing this, he would increase Maltese's chances of holding on to his seat.

With the elevation of former LG David Paterson to the governor's office, the Senate Democrats now need to pick up two seats to flip the Senate, whereas they were previously hoping to need only won to tie up the chamber (the tie would have been broken by Paterson, who presided over the Senate as LG).

There is a disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans over how many votes Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who is now imbued with all the powers of the LG, would have in the event of a tie. If that occurs, the whole mess is sure to end up in court.

Addabbo had $77,709 on hand as of mid-January. Maltese had $89,694. Baldeo had $309,023, most of which is his own money, plus $343,000 worth of debt (all of which he owes to himself).

With the departure of ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the Senate Democrats lost their best fundraiser and chief cheerleader in the quest to gain control.

Candidates are now going to have to shoulder a bigger burden when it comes to fundraising, and sources close to Paterson say it's unlikely he'll campaign hard for Democratic hopefuls like Spitzer did.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

OMG! :( It Ain't Write by Anick Jesdanun, AP- New York Post

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It's nothing to LOL about: Despite their best efforts to keep school writing assignments formal, two-thirds of teens admit in a survey that emoticons and other informal styles have crept in.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a study released yesterday, also found that teens who keep blogs or use social-networking sites like Facebook or MySpace have a greater tendency to slip nonstandard elements into assignments.

The results may give parents, teachers and others a big :( - a frown to the rest of us - although the study's authors see hope.

"It's a teachable moment," said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew.

"If you find that in a child's or student's writing, that's an opportunity to address the differences between formal and informal writing. They learn to make the distinction . . . just as they learn not to use slang terms in formal writing."

Half of the teens surveyed say they sometimes fail to use proper capitalization and punctuation in assignments, while 38 percent have carried over the shortcuts typical in instant messaging or e-mail messages, such as "LOL" for "laughing out loud." A quarter of teens have used :) and other emoticons.

Overall, 64 percent have used at least one of the informal elements in school.

Teens who consider electronic communications with friends "writing" are likelier to carry the informal elements into school assignments than those who distinguish between the two.

The study was co-sponsored by the National Commission on Writing at the College Board, the nonprofit group that administers the SAT and other placement tests.

The chairman of the commission's advisory board, Richard Sterling, said the rules could possibly change completely within a generation or two: Perhaps the start of sentences would no longer need capitalization, the way the use of commas has decreased over the past few decades.

But defying conventional wisdom, the study also found that the generation born digital is shunning computer use for most assignments. About two-thirds of teens say they typically do their school writing by hand.

Go Green - Save the Environment...A New Blog..!

My daughter Kayla has set up a blog of her own with the name Go Green - Save the Environment...I wish her all the luck in the world to get her message out...!

This all about going green and saving the environment from pollution. If you want to go green this is the place for you. Have fun looking to see how to become more greener!

Gulluscio Launches Campaign by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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Friends of Frank Gulluscio, who is running for the 32nd District City Council seat in November 2009, held a campaign kickoff and dessert reception on Thursday, April 10 at the Roma View, a catering hall located at 160-05 Cross Bay Blvd. in Howard Beach.

More than 300 guests attended the two-hour event, which began at 7:30 p.m. and raised more than $30,000. Among the participants were St. Mary’s Gate of Heaven students, above, holding posters and throwing confetti. Many of the students are cast members of the school’s “Beauty and the Beast” show, which Gulluscio produced and directed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Press Release: Weiner Delivers ‘State of the National Park’ Speech on Earth Day

9TH DISTRICT – Brooklyn and Queens
April 22, 2008
John Collins, 917-496-4587

Weiner Delivers ‘State of the National Park’ Speech on Earth Day

Outlines $70 Million Dollar Facelift and Future Vision of NYC’s Gateway National Park

Weiner Arrives at Earth Day Speech in French Fry Powered Car

Brooklyn, NY – Representative Anthony D. Weiner (D–Brooklyn and Queens) today issued a list of accomplishments to date in Gateway National Park and an ambitious plan for the future of the park during his annual “State of The National Park” Speech. Rep. Weiner outlined more than $70 million over the past 10 years to protect wetlands, restore wildlife refuges, build nature trails, and expand playgrounds and recreation areas in Gateway National Park. In 2007 alone, Rep. Weiner has been able to secure $4.8 million to renovate the Ryan Visitor Center, a project which has been needed since the 1970s and will include removing asbestos.

The funding that has been put to very good use, providing facelifts for the Golf Center, Gateway Marina, the popular Riis Pitch & Putt golf course, preserving the Wildlife Refuge, restoring the beaches and wetlands, rehabilitating the playing fields in Fort Tilden and the Riis Park Tot Lot.

As part of his ambitious vision for the next ten years of Gateway, Rep. Weiner plans to help:

1. Restore Jamaica Bay Marshes: In 2002, Rep. Weiner organized the first Blue Ribbon panel of world class scientists who developed a series of goals designed to save the wetlands, including new restoration, long term analysis of Jamaica Bay’s sediment layer, field mapping, and public education and technical workshops. Weiner’s 4-point plan to save Jamaica Bay marshes included: doubling sewage capacity by 2011; reducing nitrogen in Jamaica Bay by 60 percent in 10 years; doubling funding for marsh restoration projects; and creating an emergency taskforce to put problem solving strategies into motion within one year.

2. Complete the Gateway Greenway: Gateway’s greenway, including a multi-use path for bikers, runners, walkers, and nature lovers, is one of the best places to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. And yet, there are multiple gaps in access – blocking New Yorkers who want to get out and enjoy the environment. Rep. Weiner aims to close those gaps. Access to the park via bicycles and rollerblades can also be improved by expanding the existing Greenway path to include the Spring Creek area in Howard Beach, and building a new path throughout the Rockaways from Broad Channel to Riis Park.

3. Replenish Beaches in the Rockaways: The beaches of Jamaica Bay are under constant attack – from water, tides, and development. Since 1999, Rep. Weiner has secured nearly $9 million for the Rockaway Inlet, helping lay down more than 1,000,000 cubic yards of sand in 2003 to prevent shore erosion at Rockaway Beach. Weiner secured funds to study ways to provide long-term storm damage protection to the Rockaways, including the use of groins and jetties. Weiner is working to secure $516,000 to complete the study.

4. Install a Boat Launch at Floyd Bennett Field: There is currently one launch for kayaks and canoes located on the eastern end of Floyd Bennett Field at the sea plane ramp. There are no plans to install a ramp for small motorized boats and sail boats, which are allowed in Jamaica Bay. Rep. Weiner wants to increase opportunities for boaters, kayakers, and canoers to get out on and enjoy the water by installing a boat launch on the grounds of Floyd Bennett Field.

5. Expand Ferry Service to the Rockaways: Here’s a simple reality: it takes far too long to commute to Manhattan from the eastern edges of Queens and Brooklyn. Ferry service could help reduce commutes – and help the environment by taking cars off city streets. In 2005, Rep. Weiner secured $15 million to purchase three ferries and establish service from Queens and Brooklyn to Manhattan. Rep. Weiner envisions improved transportation to the park by connecting Gateway to ferry service at an improved Riis Landing dock.

6. Expand Community Gardens throughout Gateway: The gardens at Floyd Bennett Field began in 1970 and currently hold over four-hundred garden plots. The community gardens program offers a picnic area, Champions of Courage Garden with wheelchair access, Children's garden, pumpkin patch, and much, much more. Rep. Weiner plans to expand community gardens, giving more New Yorkers a chance to use their green thumbs.

7. Restore Wildlife Habitat in Floyd Bennett Field: As development grows, many natural species are pushed out – almost to the brink. Rep. Weiner proposed a three-year project to remove invasive species. Project will bring back local wildlife to the area. Weiner is working to secure the $490,000 needed for the project.

8. Remove NYPD Cars: For years, the New York Police Department has been talking about moving their training facility from Floyd Bennett Field to College Point. And yet, no plans exist to make that move a reality – meaning that buildings are occupying valuable space in the heart of the park. Rep. Weiner will work with the NYPD to expedite the enactment of their planned transfer from Gateway to College Point.

9. Expand Oyster Beds in Jamaica Bay: Oysters absorb nitrogen – a byproduct of human waste – and can filter between 5 and 50 gallons of water a day. While natural oyster beds once stretched for 350 square miles in New York’s waterways, there have been no oysters in Jamaica Bay since the 1930s. The city plans to introduce shellfish to the bay in 2009, and Rep. Weiner will work to expand those oyster beds and their water–filtering abilities.

Rep. Weiner said, “Though millions enjoy Gateway National Park every year, it’s still one of New York City’s best kept secrets. These improvements will continue to fuel an ongoing renaissance at Gateway that will allow even more New Yorkers to enjoy the outdoors without leaving the Big Apple.”

In 2007, Rep. Weiner received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) for his work in Congress. According to the LCV, Rep. Weiner voted to protect the environment time after time on issues ranging from offshore drilling to drilling royalties, public health and environmental funding.

John Collins
Representative Anthony Weiner (D - Brooklyn and Queens)
Office: 718.520.9001
Cell: 917.496.4587
Email: johncollins@mail.house.gov

Big Apple Goes Green For Earth Day - NY1: Brooklyn

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People across the city celebrated Earth Day Tuesday in a wide variety of ways.

In honor of the day, one Brooklyn man found a way to make fast food good for the environment. He took a 1965 Lincoln Continental, pictured above, and converted it to run on cooking grease. He said he can get 28 miles per gallon, and all he needs is the oil from the restaurant he runs.

"We took the gas compression engine out, put a diesel engine in, retro-fitted it, and it literally runs," said restaurant owner Sean Meenan. "We have the grease, after we use it we strain it, and we put it straight in the engine, and it runs right through and the car runs on our used plantain and French fry oil."

One local congressman who took a spin in the eco-friendly car said Meenan has the right idea.

"One of the things we need to do in government is get out of the way so innovation like Sean has done here can take hold in a larger form," said Congressman Anthony Weiner.

As a tribute to Earth Day, Weiner also took some time to discuss the future of Gateway National Park in the city.

The congressman said he wants Gateway to come to mind when people think of famous national parks such as Yosemite or Grand Teton.

While $70 million has already been spent over the past 10 years to spruce up the park, Weiner says there is still more to do.

"We have an ambitious $100 million plan for the next 10 years," said Weiner. "Everything from making sure that we keep these resources clean, to making sure that the boardwalk and benches are in good shape, to making sure that we restore the delicate ecosystem here in Jamaica Bay."

There are also plenty of events being organized throughout the city in celebration of Earth Day, including nature walks, lectures, crafts, and concerts.

Republican Lawmaker in a Heavily Democratic District Is Atop Election Hit List by Trymaine Lee - New York Times

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State Senator Serphin R. Maltese strode slowly through the midmorning crowd at the Peter Cardella Senior Citizens Center like a shepherd corralling a weary but loyal flock. In the corridors and cafeteria, Mr. Maltese, 75, stopped repeatedly and leaned in to hear the greetings or gripes of his constituents — most of them Italian-Americans — who in the twilight of their lives have traded their neighborhood social clubs for centers for the elderly like this one in Ridgewood, Queens.

Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Senator Serphin R. Maltese, left, visiting a center for the elderly. He faces a re-election challenge.

Mr. Maltese spoke to them softly as a stocky man with a shiny red tie and a microphone sang a song in Italian and another plucked gingerly at a piano’s cream and black keys.

“This group here has been absolutely essential to keeping me in office all of these years,” Mr. Maltese said. “It’s what this group stands for. It stands for a community.”

But this fall, Mr. Maltese may need more than these loyal supporters to stay in power.

Of the half-dozen or so incumbent Republican state senators whom Democrats are singling out for defeat this year, Mr. Maltese is No. 1 on the list. A conservative Republican who has represented the overwhelmingly Democratic western part of Queens for almost two decades, Mr. Maltese has rarely faced a tough re-election. His supporters have been mostly “old-line Democrats” with Italian, Irish and Polish bloodlines and conservative leanings.

But his district is quickly changing, with many more Asian, South Asian, Caribbean and Latin American immigrants calling it home.

Democratic strategists say that several factors in the district have created conditions for an upset: an aging candidate, an eroding base and a population of nonwhite new Americans whose struggles could make them more sympathetic to Democrats.

The Democrats are trying to end 40 years of Republican dominance of the Senate, and shortly before he resigned last month, Gov. Eliot Spitzer raised millions of dollars for that effort. Democrats won an upset in a special Senate election upstate in February, putting them one seat away from control.

But Mr. Spitzer’s departure had a ripple effect, elevating Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, to governor and allowing the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, to take over as presiding officer of the Senate while maintaining his Senate leadership position. That means Democrats are now two seats away from a majority. And Mr. Maltese is a marked man.

“My staff says they want to buy me a T-shirt with a big target on the back,” Mr. Maltese joked. “But if my seat is a target, Joe said he will allocate over a million dollars,” he said, referring to Mr. Bruno. “He said we will spend whatever it takes.”

In New York politics, truces between Democrats and Republicans in some districts have resulted in incumbents’ going unchallenged for long stretches. Mr. Maltese enjoyed such an arrangement for more than a decade, until 2006, when a largely unknown Democratic candidate, Albert Baldeo, an Indo-Guyanese lawyer, challenged and nearly defeated him, winning 49 percent of the vote — in part by tapping into the district’s rising nonwhite immigrant population. And Mr. Baldeo did so without the backing of the institutional party machinery.

Mr. Baldeo immediately announced plans to run again this year.

Mr. Baldeo’s career has not been without controversy: As a candidate for City Council he was accused of waving a handgun at the wife of a rival Democratic candidate. Charges against him were eventually dismissed.

“There has been a groundswell of support for my campaign. It will clearly be a much stronger campaign than last time,” Mr. Baldeo said in an interview. “The demographics have been changing from Maspeth to Middle Village to Ozone Park. These massive changes are toward minority, new-American immigrants, people of color, and they will all rally around me because I will be there for them no matter what and will always be a part of them.”

Because Mr. Maltese now seems vulnerable, Mr. Baldeo does not have the Democratic nomination assured. He is expected to face City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. in a primary race.

Like Mr. Maltese, Mr. Addabbo has strong roots in the Italian community. Mr. Maltese grew up on the Lower East Side, and was introduced to politics in the back of his immigrant grandfather’s shoe shop, where Irish police officers and Italian politicians from the neighborhood would gather for a taste of the grape and the politics of the day.

Mr. Addabbo’s father was a well-respected and popular member of the House of Representatives from Queens for 25 years. Mr. Addabbo has the backing of the Democratic machine and is popular among Mr. Maltese’s constituents. His supporters had urged him to challenge Mr. Maltese for years, but he opted to hold out until the time was right.

Now the time is right, he said. And he faces term limits on the Council.

“He was one of the first people I approached when I finally made the decision to run,” Mr. Addabbo said of Mr. Maltese. “I said, ‘I gave you a pass in 2006, but I’m not giving you a pass this time.’ ”

The district spans working-class Queens, from Howard Beach in the south to Richmond Hill, now home to Punjabis, Surinamese and West Indians, among others, in the middle to Woodside, a neighborhood long home to the largest Irish community in Queens, which now boasts a sizable Asian population.

In 1990, 83 percent of the district’s residents identified themselves as white, according to census data analyzed by the Queens College department of sociology. By 2000, that number had dropped to 63 percent. The foreign-born population of the district jumped to 39 percent from 29 percent during that time, according to the data, with the largest increase among Hispanics.

“All politics in New York are ethnic politics,” Mr. Maltese acknowledged. So, he said, he attends the meetings of as many different groups as possible.

“What I find with this new immigrant group is that it seems to be very traditional,” Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian American Museum, in Manhattan, said of the newcomers in the district. “And although they are not the same immigrant groups that came before them, they have very traditional values in terms of family and values.”

Though many of them are Democrats, he said, they “are Democrats with Republican values.”

“Mr. Maltese has probably appealed to that constituency and appeals to that community for that reason,” Mr. Scelsa said.

Mr. Maltese has also surrounded himself with a diverse group of staff members who match the changing face of the communities around him. They are Hispanic, Polish, Italian and Bangladeshi.

Still, it is clear he is not reaching everyone. In Richmond Hill, a few miles from the Cardella Senior Citizens Center, a bearded Sikh mechanic in a turban and an Indo-Guyanese shop owner hustled through their afternoon duties; Hispanic and Asian laborers and teenagers and business executives and tailors filled the sidewalks, streets and businesses.

“I will tell you one thing,” said one of them, a Guyanese store owner along 101st Avenue who said he speaks for many others. “The white politicians don’t care about us here.”

He said white elected officials could not rival the support or popularity that Mr. Baldeo has in the nonwhite immigrant community in Queens. “We know Baldeo and he will always do better in this neighborhood,” the store owner said. “You want to vote for someone who dwells in the same places you dwell and speaks to you in a certain way. He knows who we are.”

Special Election Date Set Amid Flurry Of Activity by Austin Considine - Queens Chronicle

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The District 30 City Council special election to replace former Councilman Dennis Gallagher will be held on June 3, according to a mayoral proclamation issued last week.

The proclamation makes official a run-off in which a number of local hopefuls have already been campaigning since last month.

That number looked like it was going to drop from six to five last week, with the withdrawal of Democrat Michael Mascetti.

“While putting my campaign together, I realized that the unique time constraints and circumstances of this special election are not the surmountable hurdles that I had once envisioned,” Mascetti said in a statement. He went on to cite the difficulty in a special election of securing matching funds in time to wage an effective campaign.

The difficulties faced by the remaining candidates are not limited to financing. Whomever wins the election in June has to run in a September primary, and again in a November general election, to fill the remainder of Gallagher’s term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2009.

Almost as soon as Mascetti made his exit, however, another candidate, previously unacknowledged, was discovered to be making a run at the seat. Democrat John Seminerio, despite having made no public appearances at community candidate nights, has been gathering signatures.

“My hat’s been in there for a while, nobody’s noticed,” Seminerio said.

The son of Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, of Richmond Hill, John Seminerio has run once before, in 2001 for the 32nd District seat. According to him, he technically lives two blocks into District 32, but grew up in Richmond Hill, much of which is in District 30. He is an attorney, has worked extensively with the Boy Scouts, is the former president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, and has been a mentor for the Covent House Rites of Passage Program for 10 years.

“As my old man always says, it’s always a horse race,” he said. “Why not run? It’s the greatest city on earth. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it.”

With John Seminerio’s entry, voters are once again faced with an even choice among three Democrats and three Republicans. The other Democrats are: Elizabeth Crowley, who recently garnered the endorsement of the Queens County Democratic Party and Charles Ober, a long-time local civic leader and business executive.

The Republicans are: Anthony Como, commissioner for the Queens Board of Elections, legal counsel to state Sen. Serphin Maltese and recipient of the Queens County Republican Party endorsement; Thomas Ognibene, a 10-year City Council veteran for the district and former council minority leader; and Joseph Suraci, a private practice lawyer and former president of the Middle Village Republican Club.

In a phone interview, Mascetti said he would give fellow Democrat Crowley his full support.

Special election rules stipulate that candidates cannot run as party members in June, but must run as independents. Still, party politics have prevailed thus far, with party endorsements viewed as important for consolidating support.

Last week, for example, Ober accused the Queens County Democratic Party — of which Elizabeth Crowley’s cousin, Congressman Joseph Crowley, is chairman — of making its endorsement without having properly considered his candidacy. Ober said in an interview that the endorsement process was “not a process to find the best candidate” because party leaders had told him their pick was a “foregone conclusion.”

Michael Reich, executive secretary for the QCDP, said he was present at the meeting between Ober and county leaders and that the allegations of bias were false.

“We met with him for over an hour, discussing his possible candidacy, what he brought to the table,” Reich said, asserting that the decision was made because the party’s district leaders and elected officials had all backed Elizabeth Crowley.

The accusations echoed similar claims made by Ognibene last month, who said the QCRP nomination was made in “clandestine fashion” without properly considering him. The QCRP likewise denied any hints at unfairness.

Earlier this week, however, the Queens County Conservative Party endorsed Ognibene, balancing the scales slightly.

The mayor’s proclamation coincided with Gallagher’s last day in office on April 18. Gallagher — who was chief of staff under Ognibene before he took the seat himself — was forced to resign as part of a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual misconduct.

Since the guilty plea, Gallagher has maintained his innocence in news interviews, stating publicly that he took the plea deal because of concerns over mounting legal fees. The victim has held fast to her rape accusations.

Democrats Act Like Republicans in Gallagher District by Azi Paybarah | The New York Observer

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The two Republican candidates running in the June 3 special election to fill Councilman Dennis Gallagher's seat in Queens have already split the local G.O.P. into a conservative faction and an establishment one. Now there's a hint that the same thing, albeit to a lesser degree, could happen with the two Democratic candidates.

Last night, both Elizabeth Crowley and Charles Ober were invited to speak to the Stonewall Democratic Club in Manhattan. Only Ober, who is openly gay, showed up, and later earned the club's endorsement.

Club president Matthew Carlin said via email, "We invited both candidates to speak and seek our endorsement. I was told that Ms. Crowley knew we would be voting last night, but she neither attended the meeting, nor sent her regrets or an advocate. Mr. Ober gave a brief, but impressive, presentation and took a few questions." They endorsed after a short discussion.

But the Queens Democratic establishment is largely uniting behind Crowley, who is related to the Queens County Democratic leader, Representative Joe Crowley.

Stonewall doesn't exactly have huge sway in a relatively conservative area of Queens, but in a special election, turnout matters. Marty Algaze, a member of the club, said that the endorsement from one of the city’s major gay Democratic clubs would have been a boon to any candidate.

“I would think that that the more support in a special election like this, the better,” said Algaze, who described Ober’s support in the club as “overwhelming.”

UPDATE: Crowley's campaign manager, Alyson Grant, released this statement: "As a mother, educator, and urban planner, Elizabeth Crowley is clearly the Democrat best capable of winning this pivotal seat back from the Republicans. That’s why she is strongly supported by the Queens County Democratic Party, Congressman Joe Crowley, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Assemblywoman Marge Markey, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Councilman Eric Gioia, Councilman Joe Addabbo, Ed Koch, and dozens of other elected officials and community leaders.

Overcrowded School Gets Fined by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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An overcrowded South Ozone Park school has long caused trouble for students and parents, so when a city inspector fined P.S. 124 last month for violating safety codes, anger came as no surprise.

The community asked for a school expansion, according to District 27 Community Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey. Parents wanted the school converted from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to K-8, and got their wish in 2006.

Parents said a variety of factors forced the school conversion. A wave of multi-family dwellings engulfed the neighborhood, bringing in more residents with children.

Once the school was converted and the option to send children to a smaller middle school became available, parents pulled their children out of J.H.S. 226 and enrolled them in P.S. 124. In addition to this, the Department of Education opened access to P.S. 124’s gifted program to qualified children who do not live in the school zone.

Operating well above capacity, the school cut pre-K classes this year and split space to create more classrooms. Next year, the school’s science lab will be converted into a classroom, according to published reports.

Still, the insufficient space forces students into the hallways during their free time. A city inspector called this a fire hazard and cited the school March 31. It was reported that city officials reviewed the situation last month, but made no plans to correct it.

An education department spokeswoman said more than 2,300 elementary and middle school seats will be created in District 27 by 2013 in order to alleviate overcrowding. One new school is set to open in September and another next year, both in Woodhaven.

Pastosa For Quality Pasta And More by Dan Tress - Queens Chronicle

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Common or hard to find, Pastosa Ravioli can fill your needs. The Italian specialty store, located at 132-10 Cross Bay Blvd. in Ozone Park, has all the Italian imports one would expect and more.

“People come to us all the time with special orders and usually we are able to find it for them,” said owner Sal Cracchiolo.

Part of a Brooklyn-based chain, Pastosa offers a wide variety of imported and domestic cheeses, meats and pastas. Also among the store’s specialties is its homemade mozzarella, which is made fresh daily as well as sauces and prepared foods such as lasagna, meatballs and salads.

Of course, the specialty is the more than 30 fillings for its ravioli, plus its tortellini, gnocchi and other fresh pasta made daily in Brooklyn.

Pastosa has a full catering menu at very reasonable prices, but if you’re just looking for a simple sandwich, the price is right for that too.

Cracchiolo said an average sandwich costs about $5 and they offer daily lunch specials such as chicken parmesan sandwiches and sausage and pepper sandwiches. He also carries a full line of Boars Head cold cuts.

According to Cracchiolo, who now co-owns the store with his sister, Elena, the quality and variety of Pastosa, which has been in existence for over 30 years, sets it apart from other, similar stores. It’s a family-style operation with the Cracchiolo siblings customers of the store since they were children. They remember going there with their parents every Sunday after church.

In addition, their employees, Rosa Maria and Mike, who are also brother and sister, have worked at Pastosa for more than 20 years and know most of the customers by name.

“We have a lot of things you won’t find in the supermarket and everything is fresh,” Cracchiolo said.

The store hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Shipping is available at www.pastosa.com.

Vallone Says He'll Remain on Council: Astoria Rep Denies Plan to Leave Seat for Possible Boro Prez Run by Nathan Duke - Times Ledger

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City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he was not considering a rumored plan under which he would resign his post and focus on his campaign for higher office, which would allow state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) to run for his seat in a special election.

Gianaris, who declined comment on the plan, said he would campaign this fall to retain his Albany seat. And Vallone, who laughed off the idea that he would step down from the Council, said he is seriously considering a run for borough president next year, but has not yet officially declared his candidacy.

"It would make absolutely no sense for me to step down," Vallone said. "There are a lot of graffiti vandals who want me to resign, but it's not going to happen. I'm going to continue to be the [City Council's] Public Safety [Committee] chairman for the next year and a half."

Other candidates who have been mentioned as potential candidates for borough president include Council members Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) as well as state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach).

Both Vallone and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall will be term limited out of office in 2009.

But Scott Levenson, a Democratic consultant for Manhattan's Advance Group, said that some members of the Queens County Democratic Party support a plan in which Vallone would step down and Gianaris would run for his City Council seat in a special election.

Under the plan, Gianaris would serve out the remainder of Vallone's term, giving him a headstart to work toward becoming the next City Council speaker after current Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) is term limited out of office in 2009, Levenson said.

But Levenson said the rumored plan could very likely not leave the speculative stage.

"It's a very rare occasion for an elected official to voluntarily resign from his post for some kind of political positioning and it is rare when giving up that post is a strategically beneficial solution," he said.

In early April, the Insider of Crain's New York Business reported that the Queens Democratic Party had floated a scenario under which it would support Gianaris for Council speaker, Pheffer for borough president, Comrie for deputy borough president and Vallone for Gianaris' Assembly seat to prevent party in-fighting.

"These are talented people who are up for a competitive, theoretically open seat," Levenson said. "So, if one could find a solution to these talented folks not running against each other, it would clearly be ideal from the county organization's point of view."

But Gianaris said he would focus on retaining his Assembly seat during this fall's election.

"I've said that the City Council would represent an interesting opportunity for me to make a difference for my neighborhood," he said. "But right now, I'm planning on running for re-election."

CB 6 Manager Throws 1st Council Fund-raiser by Howard Koplowitz - Times Ledger

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A City Council hopeful from Howard Beach held his first fund-raiser last week at Roma View on Cross Bay Boulevard in his bid for the seat that will be vacated by Joseph Addabbo in 2009.

Candidate Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6, said he could not say how much money he took in from the event because donations were still being counted, but he said the affair was standing-room-only as 300 people showed up to support him.

"It was an exciting event," Gulluscio said. "More people than we anticipated. We had people from Rockaway to Richmond Hill. We had all ages there."

Gulluscio, a Democrat, has set his sights on the post currently held by Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who will be forced out of office due to term limits. Addabbo threw his support behind Gulluscio, who used to work for the councilman, two months ago.

Meanwhile, Addabbo was expected to hold his first fund-raiser for his state Senate bid this Thursday at Metro 53 in Manhattan.

Although Addabbo said he would formally announce his candidacy to unseat state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) next month, the $250-a-head fund-raiser has been in the works for two months.

"Raising money is a formula for any campaign," Addabbo said, noting that he is planning to take in upwards of $1 million.

"Unfortunately, these Senate races have just gone out of control," he said, referring to a race upstate in which $4 million was spent three months ago. "What gets lost in this money game is the focus on people. My focus has been and only will be the concerns of the people."

State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) is headlining the fund-raiser, Addabbo said.

Maltese said State Senate Minority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Saratoga Springs) "pledged $1 million" for his campaign.

Under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Maltese's seat along with state Sen. Frank Padavan's (R-Bellerose) was the target of an ambitious effort to put Democrats in control of that chamber. Republicans currently hold a one-seat majority in the Senate.

Addabbo was one of the Queens elected officials who attended the event in support of Gulluscio, including state Assemblymen Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) and City Council members David Weprin (D-Hollis), Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).

Supporters were treated to Roma View's dessert tables and also got a sneak preview at a television spot produced by Gulluscio's campaign that featured a montage of the Howard Beach resident.

Gulluscio declared his candidacy for the seat six months ago and said he would run on his experience as CB 6 district manager, a former teacher and as an adviser to Addabbo on education issues.

Citywide races, including elections for City Council, are to be held in November 2009.

New Cell Tower Is News To Locals by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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Cellular transmission equipment was installed on the roof of a building near St. Elizabeth’s School in Ozone Park — news to the school and parents.

Small laminated signs posted around St. Elizabeth’s School in Ozone Park warned parents that their children are in danger and urged them to call local politicians for help.

Neither the school, nor Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park) knew of the signs or the situation that prompted their creation — the installation of a cell phone tower on the roof of 84-04 95th Ave.

“The radiation that is released by cellular antennas ... is especially damaging to children,” the signs read. Some words were highlighted for emphasis and, to passersby, seemed to link St. Elizabeth’s and Pheffer to “danger” and “radiation.”

Cell towers are unlikely to cause cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Studies on the effects of radiowaves and radiofrequency emitted by the transmitters have not determined potential health risks to the general public, but have found possible problems relating to occupational exposure, according to the World Health Organization.

St. Elizabeth’s principal, William Ferguson, was upset about the use of the school’s name on the signs claiming the tower is a health risk. The signs’ creators are most likely also responsible for e-mailing an anonymous letter to a handful of elected officials and newspapers demanding they take action.

“People misread it,” Ferguson said. “The tower is not on our building and they shouldn’t use our name. (The signs) weren’t authorized by us.” He fears parents will associate the school with the tower installation and pull their kids out.

“I have to look at it as a positive,” Pheffer said of having her name associated with the situation. “People felt that something was wrong in the neighborhood, that they should call my office because they get results.”

Cell phone tower installations have become common in the last few years, the assemblywoman said: “as people increase cell phone usage, (the companies) need towers. To install towers, they need a buildings department permit.” Pheffer has asked the Department of Buildings to inspect the tower near St. Elizabeth’s and make sure it adheres to the permit.

She is also reviewing legislation proposed in the Assembly that prohibits the placement of cellular transmission equipment, including towers and antennas, within 500 feet of a school in New York City.

An unsigned e-mail, with return address Concernedparishioners@yahoo.com, was written on behalf of St. Elizabeth’s School and Church, despite the “concerned parishioners” failure to notify either of the problem. E-mails requesting a name or contact number were not returned.

The concerned parishioners — who may not even be affiliated with St. Elizabeth’s Church, according to Ferguson — urged readers to support the Assembly bill.

They also suggested that a temporary restraining order be placed on the wireless service provider responsible for erecting the tower, which the concerned parishioners claimed had not yet been operating last week.

Because there is no current law restricting the installation of cellular transmission equipment near schools, the tower on the roof of 84-04 95th Ave. is as of right. “On a private house, as long as they have the permit, at this point, there’s nothing that we can find that would demand that they remove it,” Pheffer said.

Ferguson said there is no question that he would call for the tower’s removal if it posed a danger to students. But currently, he said, that has not been proven.

Several parents who had not heard anything of the situation indicated they would have to research the potential health risks involved with cellular transmission equipment in order to become concerned.

“I’m going to try to find out what the downsides are,” said Edwin Diaz, while waiting to pick up his 10-year-old.

One way to do that, he added, is holding an informational meeting between parents, school officials, the building owner and the wireless service provider.

When reached by phone, building owner Raymond Masaitis refused to answer questions about the tower installation, and calls to wireless service provider Metro PCS were not returned. But it appeared that parents weren’t demanding answers because they were not informed of the situation.

Kathy Afnaime, whose two children attend St. Elizabeth’s School, was angered that she did not receive notification of the tower installation. She considered circulating a petition calling for the tower’s removal, despite not yet knowing its possible effects.

Confused about what is considered a safe distance between a tower and a place where children congregate, Maria Rodriguez wants to research the matter. She picked up her twin sixth graders and headed home. “I’ve got some homework to do.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Democrats Plan for Vallone's Exit by Brendan Brosh - NY Daily News

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Queens Democrats have floated a plan that could usher Assemblyman Michael Gianaris into the City Council a year early and perhaps lead to his becoming speaker.

The plan envisions Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. resigning this year, forcing the mayor to call a special election.

Gianaris would then run for the seat and - if he wins - enter the Council a year ahead of his colleagues elected in 2009.

The plan would give Gianaris an extra year to forge relationships and seek the speaker's seat when Christine Quinn is term-limited out of office in 2009.

"We're declining to comment," a Gianaris staffer told the Daily News.

Vallone, a potential candidate for Queens borough president in 2009, insisted he's not resigning.

"I can't comment on a private conversation with Mike," said Vallone (D-Astoria). "I will be completing my term in the Council. I will not be stepping down."

Rumors of the plan have been swirling recently, with one version of the scenario appearing last week in Crain's Insider. It reported that Queens Democratic bosses wanted to prevent party infighting between Vallone, Councilman Leroy Comrie and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer in the borough president's race.

Vallone would run for the Assembly, while Pheffer would be tapped for beep and Comrie as her deputy, according to Crain's.

But party insiders said that was inaccurate and the plan only involves Vallone and Gianaris.

Gianaris' political consultant Evan Stavisky declined to speculate on what he called "a random published report."

But another Democratic consultant, Scott Levenson, said the strategy would indeed give Gianaris a valuable head start, should he make it to the Council.

"For someone like Mike Gianaris, a potential speaker candidate, [it] would give him an opportunity to build relationships a year early," he said.

GOP rivals said the plan smacks of back-room politics.

"It's very anti-democratic," said Robert Hornak, a Republican running for Vallone's seat in 2009. "Mike is too much part of the status quo."

Doug Muzzio, a professor of political science at Baruch College, noted Gianaris is normally "extremely press friendly."

"But he's absent on this and not commenting," Muzzio said. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Parks See Upsurge in Crime...Reporting by Shane Miller - Queens Ledger

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The NYPD will be releasing crime statistics in more city parks, with the number expected to grow over the next six months.

It was announced last week that the Police Department would add 10 other parks to the list of 20 that it already releases crime data for. They include Canarsie Park and Joseph T. McGuire Park in Brooklyn and Kissena Park and Rockaway Community/Edgemere Park in Queens, along with six others, two in each borough.

"We tell residents about the crime on the streets," said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., who co-sponsored legislation mandating that the NYPD release crime statistics for parks. "They also deserve to know about the crimes on the grass just the same."

In 2005, Vallone and Councilman Joseph Addabbo introduced a bill that would require the department to release crime information for all of the city's parks. But recognizing certain technological complications, the City Council and NYPD agreed to start with the four largest parks in each borough, and expand from there.

Last week, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly admitted that the additional reporting would be difficult to manage, but that the NYPD was committed to the program.

"While this expansion will place an added burden upon the department's resources," he said, "we do so in the interest of strengthening the collaborative relationship that currently exists between the NYPD, the City Council, and the community we serve."

An advocacy group called New Yorkers for Parks recently compiled the statistics for the last 18 months in the 20 pilot parks and found that 308 crimes were committed.

"Parks are a place for people to let their guard down and be alone, but that peace can sometimes put them at risk," said Vallone. "Now that we have statistics on more parks, people will have more tools to stay safe."

DC 37 Contract Stalled Over Residency by Lisa Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Wednesday, April 9th 2008, 4:00 AM

Should city workers who are members of District Council 37 have to live in the five boroughs?

It's an issue that won't go away. But it also doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

In July 2006, Mayor Bloomberg and DC 37 officials announced a contract decision with a bonus - members of the city's largest municipal union would no longer have to live in the city.

But City Council members, who need to sign off on that provision, weren't quick to embrace it. Many worried that by eliminating a residency requirement, more and more nonresidents would apply for city jobs.

In the end, they reasoned, that would mean fewer Civil Service jobs for people who live in the city.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens), who heads the Civil Service and Labor Committee, said he is anxious to hash all of this out at a hearing. But he can't move ahead with a hearing until all sides agree on some version of a bill.

DC 37 members have said they can no longer afford to live in the five boroughs. It's a complaint often heard from all New Yorkers.

Uniformed city workers - police, fire, sanitation and correction officers - are allowed to live in suburban counties outside the city.

Talks have been ongoing with members of the Bloomberg administration, the City Council and DC 37.

Didn't I write this exact same column seven months ago? Yup. And not much has changed.

No hearing has been scheduled. The mayor's office said it is waiting to get a copy of legislation to review it.

Meanwhile, the City Council is busy with budget negotiations. And then the summer break will come. And then it will be two years since the agreement was reached.

Sources say members of DC 37 and the Council have come to an unofficial agreement that would require new city workers to live in the five boroughs for at least two years.

But the Bloomberg administration doesn't seem happy with that compromise.

Here is the real question: Why can't anyone afford to live in the city anymore?

Everywhere I look, new buildings are going up in areas where working New Yorkers thrived - Long Island City, Astoria, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, just to name a few.

Almost all are being touted as luxury (read expensive) units. The few affordable units are usually set aside for people who make very low wages with limits below the salaries of city workers.

Meanwhile, rent-stabilized apartments are disappearing. Mitchell-Lama and other housing built for middle-class New Yorkers are going market rate. You can't just blame owners for this one. In many cases, tenants are willing participants.

Mayor Bloomberg's plan to create and maintain affordable housing has been lauded by many. But it doesn't seem to be enough to help his city workers find or keep housing in the current market.

DC 37, once furious with Council members for refusing to move on the legislation needed to lift the residency requirement, has softened its tone.

BACK in October, The Daily News' Frank Lombardi reported that DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts promised, "We will do whatever is required" to get the legislation through.

"We will support our friends and [be] damn sure to defeat our enemies," she said at City Hall.

In a statement issued this week, Roberts said discussions are continuing.

"We are hopeful that the goodwill of all will soon carry us to a satisfactory conclusion of an issue that affects so many hardworking city employees," she said.


Crime Report Mugs Park by Victor G. Mimoni - The Queens Courier

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008 8:00 PM EDT
A recent report by the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, calls Flushing Meadows-Corona Park the most dangerous in the city after Central Park.

“For the first time, New Yorkers now know how the largest parks fare in terms of safety,” said Christian DiPalermo, Executive Director of the group.

The report, issued on Wednesday, March 26, contains crime statistics obtained from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) over 18 months in the 21 largest city parks.

The figures were collected from April 2006 to September 2007 and cover seven serious felonies: murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft.

During the study period, there were a total of 308 of those crimes.

Central Park tops the list with 162 of the felonies, but was held separate from other parks, because it has its own NYPD precinct.

Of the 20 largest parks that vie with their neighborhoods for police protection, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park topped the list with 99 felonies, far ahead of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, with 57.

According to Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, the report paints a misleading picture.

“The period includes two summers, when all parks are more heavily used,” Lewandowski said. “The thing to remember is that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park includes Shea Stadium and the U.S. Tennis Center and about half the reported crimes happened within those areas,” she pointed out.

“From six to seven million people visit the park each year and enjoy everything it has to offer, without the slightest trouble,” she said.

An analysis of the figures also shows Queens’ largest park in a less dismal light.

Nearly half the crimes (45) involved theft of property worth more than $1,000 and another eight were car thefts. Less than four in 10 of the crimes were classified as violent.

In addition, the one murder, about half the assaults and several of the robberies were connected to three youths who were arrested during the study.

Lewandowski pointed out that given the size of the park, which stretches nearly half way across the borough, it’s impossible to police every inch of it. She also observed that people in the park during hours of darkness have an increased risk - especially if alcohol is involved.

She isn’t dismissing the need to make parks safer. “We are working closely with the 109th Precinct, which focuses on serious crimes and have increased the number of Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers, who focus on quality-of-life issues, to prevent crime,” she said.

City Parks Commissioner Andrew Benepe noted that they had nearly doubled the number of PEP officers, adding 81 full-time officers since the study began.

Officials don’t want the public be unreasonably afraid. Estelle Cooper, the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Administrator said, “We also know that a well-used park with lots of activity is a safe park. From dog walkers to sports leagues… park users play an integral role in keeping our public spaces safe.”

Lewandowski said that in the first quarter of 2008, there had only been four crimes reported. “Two boats were burglarized in the World’s Fair Marina, [also part of the park] a window was broken on a building on the golf course and someone using the pool reported that property was taken from his locker.”

City Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr., who chairs the Public Safety Committee, sponsored the legislation that requires the NYPD to report crimes in all city parks by 2010, along with Councilmember Joseph Addabbo.

Vallone confirmed that 10 more parks were being added to the list citywide. Kissena Park in Flushing and the Rockaway Community Park at Edgemere will be included in the next report.

“Now that we will have statistics on more parks, people will have more tools to stay safe,” Vallone said.

Cop Had Help In Bank Heists by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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The disgraced transit cop from Woodhaven, who authorities say robbed a Manhattan Sovereign Bank branch twice last year appears to have had help.

Christina Dasrath, 20, a teller at the bank, confessed to investigators last Thursday that she disclosed information about the bank’s internal security protocols to the 21-year-old cop, Christian Torres, and met with him after the June and November robberies to collect her share of the loot.

Torres, an exemplary cadet who was on the force less than a year and a full fledged transit cop for only four months, was arrested in Muhlenberg, Pa. on April 10 after allegedly robbing a Sovereign Bank branch there of $113,000.

Police said he confessed to the two Manhattan robberies, from which he made off with more than $118,000, allegedly used to buy a new car and a diamond engagement ring for his fiancee.

Torres’ lawyer, Paul Missan, accused Dasrath of being the “mastermind” behind the robberies, according to published reports. He was quoted as saying, “She set the whole thing up.”

Dasrath’s court-appointed lawyer, Hugh Mundy, said Dasrath was afraid to go to the police because Torres was a police officer. He denied any knowledge of Dasrath’s relationship with the young cop, but admitted that both had attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Dasrath was charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making false statements to the FBI, and released on a $250,000 bond.

As of last week, Torres was still waiting in a Berks County, Pa. jail cell to be taken into federal custody. A federal detainer was placed on his $1 million bail, keeping him in jail even if the bail is posted.