Friday, January 30, 2009

New York Hotel Workers Union Endorses Gulluscio for City Council - Over 600 Members Pledge to Work Hard in Queens Special Election...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Neal Kwatra (917) 337-7661

January 29, 2009

New York Hotel Workers Union Endorses Gulluscio for City Council

Over 600 Members Pledge to Work Hard in Queens Special Election


NEW YORK – The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO (HTC), a 30,000-member union, today announced its endorsement of Frank Gulluscio for New York City Council in the 32nd District. The union plans an aggressive field program to communicate with its members and recruit volunteers for the campaign.


The special election to fill the vacancy in the 32nd District has been scheduled for February 24. The district includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, and parts of the Rockaways.


“For years, Frank Gulluscio has been a fighter for quality jobs and responsible development in Queens,” said HTC President Peter Ward. “In these perilous times, when thousands of New Yorkers are losing their jobs and facing hardships we haven’t seen since the Great Depression, the 32nd District needs a leader like Mr. Gulluscio on the City Council. He has the experience and commitment to be a leader in the fight for economic recovery that will lift the bottom up and provide genuine stability for working families,” Ward said.


The union’s decision was based on Gulluscio’s strong record as a community leader and his record as an advocate for issues of concern to its members. Gulluscio’s many years of service as District Manager for Queens Community Board 6 and a Democratic Party leader have given him a deep understanding of how to represent the diverse issues that make a difference to district residents, such as over-development, quality jobs, and affordable housing.


“Families in Queens need to have someone with Frank Gulluscio’s commitment to quality jobs, responsible development, and equitable economic recovery fighting for us on the City Council,” said Doris Gomez, an HTC member and Howard Beach resident who works at the Doubletree Hotel at JFK Airport. “He has worked hard for the people of this community for years,” continued Gomez. “As a union member and Queens resident, I am proud that we are supporting Frank Gulluscio to be our next councilmember.”


“I am so proud to have the support of the Hotel Trades Council and its members,” said council candidate Frank Gulluscio. “With the power of working people behind this campaign, we will truly be able to deliver on our mission of create a voice for working families on the City Council in this period of economic recovery. I am confident that, working with HTC and the members in my district, we can ensure that our community comes out of this economic crisis stronger and more vibrant than it was before,” Mr. Gulluscio said.


HTC has 30,000 members in the metropolitan area, including 12,000 in Queens and 600 in the 32nd Council District. It is New York State’s second-largest private-sector labor union. A few weeks ago, HTC was the first union to endorse Julissa Ferreras in the 21st Council District race.

Committee On Education Debates Mayoral Control Of Schools by Grace Rauh - NY1

Read original and watch video report...

A packed crowd attended the first of five public hearings over mayoral control of city schools in Queens on Thursday, as Education Chancellor Joel Klein continued to press for extensive school faculty cuts. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg hits the campaign trail, he'll be touting his record at City Hall, and that includes his takeover of the city schools.

But with the mayoral control law up for renewal, top education aides are already making the case.

"It's very important to me, and it's very important to the future of the city that the mayor be held accountable for the decisions about the school system. The model that doesn't work is if you have divided authority," said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

State legislators have final say on whether the law stays in place, and Assembly members on Thursday conducted the first of five hearings on the contentious issue.

Some of the toughest criticism is coming from parents, who complain they are shut out of the centralized school system.

"It's not saying that everything we say is right, but we have to be brought to the table. Unfortunately, too often, that's the problem. We are not at the table," said Zakiyah Ansari, a concerned parent.

"The mayor and Chancellor Klein serve as dictators. There is no open dialogue between them and the parents," said David Quintana, a concerned parent.

But education officials dispute that claim.

"I think they have more information and more access than ever before. Are there things we can do to improve it? We are always listening and looking to improve the system," said Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott.

Bloomberg's top Democratic opponents in the mayor's race support mayoral control, but that doesn't mean it won't become a campaign issue. City Comptroller Bill Thompson already has said parents need more say over the schools -- an opinion shared by other lawmakers.

"For the most part, parents are not feeling involved in the process and the schools are not being involved in the process. There's a real disconnect and that's got to change," said Queens Assemblyman Mark Weprin.

Debate on the issue is sure to intensify as lawmakers near the deadline to renew the law.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Recruiting Parents, Mayoral Control Supporters Hit Snags by Elizabeth Green - GothamSchools

Read original...


Brooklyn mom blogger Louise Crawford posted Learn NY's statement on her web site, but other parents are refusing.

Learn NY is ramping up its dogged campaign to bring public school parents on board its effort to preserve mayoral control of the city schools. Its latest technique: asking parent-bloggers to post a canned introductory letter directly to their web sites.

The group, which includes a set of four high-profile board members, some anonymous rich donors, and one seasoned political hand, was formed last year as the premier campaign to lobby for mayoral control when it comes up for renewal this spring. (The law could be scrapped, bringing back the old school board, revised, or kept intact.) Part of Learn NY’s argument for keeping mayoral control is that, though some very vocal parents loudly criticize the system, a silent majority of non-loud parents support it — or would, if they properly understood what mayoral control is.

The blogosphere campaign is part of its effort to find those parents and educate them. An earlier effort involved shooting off an arsenal of e-mails to parent e-mail lists.

The campaign is hitting some snags. After e-mails went out to parent list-serves, Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, denounced the group on the public school parents list serve she runs. Another blogger, David Quintana of Queens, who received an inquiry from Learn NY today, declined the offer and passed it on to press contacts. Quintana’s blog includes a clock excitedly counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds left in the Bloomberg administration.

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Learn NY, said the organization is deliberately reaching out to diverse groups because it wants to start a dialogue. “It’s similar to what we’ve been doing all along, going to forums where there are lots of people against us, people who have lots of disagreements with mayoral control and the mayor,” she said.

She said Learn NY also wants to transform the conversation about mayoral control from a shouting match about Mayor Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and Learn NY’s own behind-the-scenes happenings into a substantive debate on the merits of mayoral control as a way to govern the public schools. “If this is a referendum on Joel Klein, that doesn’t serve the interests of the school system,” she said. “We think that it’s about more than that.”

The group is waging campaigns off the Internet, too. Community organizers employed by Learn NY have held meetings in the outer boroughs with groups of 20 or 30 parents, Wood says, and the group right now is marshaling a set of nonprofit allies who could come with Learn NY spokesmen to testify at Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan’s hearing on mayoral control in Queens Wednesday (the first of a set of hearings in every borough).

The letter Learn NY asked Quintana to post is below:

Backers of Mayoral School Control Face Resistance By Jennifer Medina - NYTimes.com

Read original...

When close allies of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg banded together last summer to create a political organization to push for the renewal of a 2002 state law that gave New York City’s mayor control over its public schools, the initial buzz was that it would become a powerhouse lobbying group, raising as much as $20 million and helping shape the debate over the year.

Instead the group, called Learn NY, has raised less than $3 million from several foundations. Rather than producing flashy television spots, it has placed simple ads on Web sites of news organizations and urbanbaby.com, and tried to spread its positions by posting on education and community listservs and blogs.

At times, such efforts have backfired, with parents calling the posters puppets of the mayor and suggesting that they take their suggestions elsewhere.

With the first of five public hearings on mayoral control by the Assembly’s Education Committee scheduled for Thursday in Queens, the group has lined up supporters to testify about what they see as Mr. Bloomberg’s successes and how the school system is better off now than when the initial legislation took effect.

“This isn’t an issue that people have a lot of knowledge on, but there certainly is a positive general feeling that the schools have gotten better, not that they are perfect,” said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the group and paid consultant with Global Strategy Group, which has ties to Gov. David A. Paterson and several other top Democrats. “We want to draw on that.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday showed that 47 percent of New Yorkers think the mayor’s takeover has been successful; 31 percent disagreed. Also on Wednesday, Learn NY announced partnerships with the Hispanic Federation, Black Equity Alliance and Asian-American Federation of New York and said it would sponsor forums on the topic with those nonprofit groups.

But in its early, largely low-key campaign, the leaders of Learn NY have drawn the ire of some of the most active and vocal parent-advocates in the city. When David M. Quintana, a Queens father whose blog features a clock counting down to the end of the mayor’s term, received an e-mail message this week asking him to post a letter introducing Learn NY to his readers, he instead sent it to a listserv that is often critical of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

“I just suspected that they were sort of a Gal Friday for the mayor,” Mr. Quintana said in an interview. “They tried to recruit parents and they just picked the wrong parents to recruit.”

The group has faced intense skepticism from those who believe that the billionaire mayor, who has lavished handsome sums on many nonprofit groups and spent millions of dollars on his own campaigns, would quietly finance the effort.

While organizers of Learn NY declined to name their donors, they did say that Mr. Bloomberg had not given a dime. They said they were concerned that his doing so could undermine the effort.

But the group’s message to lawmakers and community groups thus far largely echoes the message coming out of City Hall: that it is open to the creation of an outside group to monitor student and budget data, but it bristles at any kind of independent governance board that would have to approve changes in policy.

Dennis M. Walcott, the deputy mayor who oversees education, said the administration opposed any change in the Panel for Education Policy, which is appointed by the mayor and largely serves as a rubber stamp, in part because it believes most of the mayor’s controversial initiatives would never have passed had he not had full control over the schools.

“You have to remember the history of what it was like before — people were appointed to fixed terms, and then took on their own life, and the people who appointed them complained that they were bowing to other groups,” Mr. Walcott said. “I think the other suggestions that are out there about changing the makeup of the panel would really cut into our reforms.”

Mr. Walcott is among those scheduled to testify at Thursday’s hearing, at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, the first of five weekly sessions, one in each borough. Legislators are not expected to begin debating the law in earnest until the budget is passed.

In many ways, the mayor’s bid for a third term could hurt his efforts to keep control. Many legislators complain about Mr. Klein, who they say has not responded adequately to parent complaints.

“No one wants to go back to the old system of finger pointing and no one being in charge and there’s an appreciation of the line of authority,” said Michael N. Gianaris, a Queens assemblyman. “That being said, there’s a wide belief that parents are real stakeholders, and that has not been appreciated as much as it should be, and too often parents are shut out of the process.”

Learn NY organizers said they hope lawmakers and the public could separate their views on Chancellor Klein from the concept of mayoral control, but such a distinction can be difficult to make in the political world.

“If the mayor was not running for re-election, one could be more objective about it, but I think people see that the chancellor hasn’t made a lot of friends in the last several years and that’s part of what happens when you have one person having this level of authority,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers’ union, who has sparred with Mr. Klein repeatedly in recent years and is influential in Albany.

“So in the same way that the mayor would say, ‘Look at the last seven years, and hold me responsible,’ in this iteration of control, you can’t separate out the people from the institution.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

After Hospitals Save Fire Victims, Rep. Weiner Fights to Save Hospitals - Calls for 90-Day Reprieve

EWS: After Hospitals Save Fire Victims, Weiner Fights to Save Hospitals

'Hospital Closings Would Be Too Great a Loss,’ Weiner Says

After Mary Immaculate Hospital treated family members who suffered from injuries as a result of a fire, Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens) renewed calls for the State Department of Health to keep both St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals open. Both hospitals filed for bankruptcy and are currently awaiting the state to provide additional temporary aid to avoid closure.

The family, which included a 29 year-old mother and two young children ages 5 and 9, were in critical condition and treated at Mary Immaculate and Jamaica hospitals. A fire broke out in their two-story Ozone Park home. The family was then transferred to the burn unit at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Rep. Weiner pointed out the critical role of these hospitals and the countless lives saved. In a recent letter to the State Department of Health, Rep. Weiner called for granting hospitals a 90-day reprieve to create a restructuring plan. The two hospitals service approximately 200,000 Queens residents and employs 2,500 medical and health-care workers.

Rep. Weiner said, “Every Queens resident deserves quality, affordable health care. The closing of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals would be too great a loss. We must give them a lifeboat so that they can continue to provide excellent care that residents have been receiving for decades.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Work on Paths and Lighting at Ridgewood Reservoir May Begin...

I have heard whispering that the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) will be seeking approvals from Comptroller's Bill Thompson's office to begin work on improving perimeter fencing, public lighting and paths at the Ridgewood Reservoir...I feel this is a good thing...

But, there are also rumors that the DPR will be rolling out the same plans (ie: baseball fields, ziplines in the basins and watercraft in basin 2) for the Reservoir that were previously voted against by both Brooklyn Community Board 5 and Queens Community Board 5...This is a very bad thing...

The community has spoken out loud and clear that they want this valuable gem of green in the neighborhood to stay that way...

New Environmental Study: Over Half of New York State’s Birds Have Seen Dramatic Population Changes Since 1980...


For Immediate Release

For interviews contact:
Kevin J. McGowan at kjm2@cornell.edu
Kimberley Corwin at kjcorwin@gw.dec.state.ny.us

For additional information contact:
Jonathan Hall at jlh98@cornell.edu



Ithaca, NY (1/07/2009) -- A new atlas on the birds of New York reveals that during the past two decades over half of New York State’s bird populations have seen dramatic changes in their distributions, with 70 species experiencing significant increases, 58 species experiencing serious declines, and 125 species maintaining relative stability. Among the birds showing the largest increases in New York State are Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, and Merlin. Those showing the largest decreases are Henslow’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, and Canada Warbler. Resident woodland birds showed the greatest increases as a group, and grassland birds showed the greatest declines.

These new findings, published this month by Cornell University Press in The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, are the result of over 140,000 hours in the field by nearly 1,200 volunteers across New York State. The atlas, edited by two prominent figures in the field, ornithologist Kevin J. McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and wildlife biologist Kimberley Corwin of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was initiated by the New York State Ornithological Association and implemented by the NYSDEC, which provided the funding, management personnel, oversight, direction, and data capture and management. The majority of the funding came from the state tax check-off program, “Return a Gift to Wildlife.”

“This new atlas was truly an incredible team effort by the citizens of New York,” said Kevin J. McGowan. “From those who funded it with small donations via their tax returns to the impressive volunteers who collected the data, the atlas is an inspired monument to the dedication and love New Yorkers have for their wildlife.”

Added Kimberley Corwin, “And what’s more, New Yorkers have considerably helped bird populations by planting trees and shrubs that provide food and cover, supporting conservation organizations, and participating in cutting-edge programs such as the Landowner Incentive Program, which we think is outstanding.”

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State will be an invaluable resource for the DEC and other state agencies involved in land management and conservation, as well as counties and towns who make management decisions on smaller scales. Data will also be used at the national level by federal agencies, non-governmental agencies such as the NY Natural Heritage Program and Audubon, as well as universities across the country.

Council Member Crowley Speaks Out Against MTA Cuts to Public Transportation in 30th CD...

NYC Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley Speaks at MTA Hearings at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing Jan 21st

January 20, 2009

The 30th Council District is comprised of the Queens neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Glendale, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

As a City Councilmember I must address the MTA planned service reductions which unfairly burdens the residents of my district.

  • The elimination of the Q56, Q74, QM 23 bus routes, the reduction in service QM 24 and QM12 bus routes, the elimination of the Z train and the reduction in service to the J train.

  • Q56; The Q56 which runs down Jamaica Avenue, a vital business district, needs an MTA bus. The J train which runs above Jamaica Avenue should not be the only option for public transportation on Jamaica Avenue, since the elevated train stations are not handicap accessible and in some stations the stairs to the elevated J trains are in need of repairs and present dangers to commuters.

  • Q74 Bus for those going to Queens College, Townsend Harris, and John Bowne High Schools, the elimination of the Q 74 between Kew Gardens and Queens College means that the cost for a round-trip will become $10 since only one transfer is allowed. Three buses will be necessary: from Richmond Hill to Kew Gardens from Kew Gardens to Main Street and Union Turnpike and the Q20 or Q44 up Main Street to school or Queens College. In addition to students, there are many Richmond Hill commuters who take their kids to summer programs at Queens College or work at these sites. I recommend that the Q74 is not eliminated, and if elimination happens please extend the Q37 or Q10 to Queens College.

  • The elimination of the QM23, and the reduction of service of the QM24 and QM 12 will lengthen an already long commute for many residents. Our district residents that do not have direct access to the subway system need reliable express bus service into Manhattan

  • The elimination of the Z train and J-Skip Stop service will increase the length of time to get downtown making it unbearable for many. The E trains and F trains will become the only train option for many Richmond Hill residents making those trains even more overcrowded, and further crowding the Q10 and Q37 to Kew Gardens.

As a representative for the City, I oppose the increase of the monthly MetroCard from $81 to $105 and the proposed increase of Access-A-Ride doubling the current $2 fare to $4. We must do everything possible to encourage the use of mass transit and sustain a high quality of service but not at the cost of such extraordinary increases. We must charge a fair amount that does not overburden working people particularly at a time when many New Yorkers are experiencing employment hardships. Our seniors and the physically challenged who utilize the service of Access-A-Ride often live on the tightest of budgets and are finding it increasingly more difficult to live in this City.

I must also state that I believe that we have a very intelligent transit system and that I support the need to continuously reinvest in our system's infrastructure. I know the importance of rebuilding for current need and to prepare for the growing need of tomorrow.

While I support your plan for the Second Avenue Subway line and the East Side Access, you must hold the LIRR Third Track with an equal importance to fairly give Queens and Brooklyn residents who commute to Nassau and Suffolk Counties an option for rapid transit. These three projects are immense and only the LIRR Third Track will allow for a "reverse commute" and have any benefit for the growing number of people who live in the communities I represent. These three major capital projects mentioned above will take billions over the course of years before measurable real results happen.

Today I also bring to your attention the condition of much of the real estate owned by the MTA. I am speaking of areas abutting the right-of-ways, empty abandoned lots and sections that ring my neighborhoods that are contaminated areas. This real estate needs to be improved. The tracks identified as LIRR and utilized by private corporations for freight distribution run through Richmond Hill, Glendale, Ridgewood, and Middle Village. The property is poorly maintained and in dire need of beautification.

In addition to your financial troubles you must realize the broad deficit of property in my neighborhoods that could be improved. Please remember that our Queens neighborhoods are not just a doormat for commuters to Manhattan.

Position Letter of Council Member Elizabeth Crowley on the Maspeth By-Pass Project...

Mr. Uchenna Mada

New York City Transportation Coordinating Committee

c/o New York State Department of Transportation

47-40 21 Street

Long Island City, New York 11101

January 13, 2009

Dear Uchenna Madu,


As the City Councilmember for District 30, I wholeheartedly support the Maspeth By-pass Project. The Maspeth By-pass Project is vital for our community. It makes our streets safer for pedestrians and motorists, decreases emissions from commercial vehicles, and improves the efficient flow of traffic while reducing congestion throughout the city.

There are several factors that warrant the necessity of the Maspeth By-pass Project. First, there is a heavy concentration of commercial truck traffic at Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues in both eastbound and westbound directions.

Second, the antiquated Grand Avenue Bridge in the center of Maspeth is insufficient to the demands of the 21st century. Its lack of capacity has forced much of the eastbound traffic coming from Brooklyn to continue eastward on Metropolitan Avenue to merge with Flushing Avenue and enter local business areas.

Third, an elementary school, Saint Stanislaus Kosko, a short half block from Flushing Avenue participates in a safe schools to walk program, however, heavy trucks, whenever possible, should not be traveling on streets this close to a school.

Fourth, there are quality of life concerns such as truck traffic shaking buildings as well as environmental issues that warrant the necessity of the Maspeth By-pass Project. The concentration of traffic in this part of my district is unacceptable and needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

Although not part of the Maspeth By-pass Project, I urge the federal government to immediately fund the construction of a new Grand Avenue Bridge that will meet the increasing needs of the 21st Century. A new Grand Avenue Bridge will ease traffic congestion, improve the flow of motorists, make the street safer, decrease harmful emissions and improve the quality of life for the constitutes of my district and the people of New York City.

The necessity of the Maspeth By-pass Project is clear. The immediate community and New York City as whole will substantially benefit from this plan. As the City Councilmember for District 30, I wholeheartedly support the Maspeth By-Pass Project.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Crowley

New York City Council Member, District 30

250 Broadway, Suite 1847

New York City, NY 10007

Rep. Weiner Calls for Delay in National Switch to Digital TV Signal

Weiner Calls for Delay in National Switch to Digital TV Signal Millions Nationwide and 300,000 in City Not Ready for Digital TV Switch $650 Million in Stimulus Funds to Help Consumers Buy Converters

New York City – With less than a month until the national switch from an analog to digital television, Representative Anthony Weiner (D – Brooklyn and Queens), a member of the House Commerce Communications, Technology, and the Internet Subcommittee, today called for extending the transition date to June 15, 2009 due to the large number of Americans who are still unprepared.

Weiner released new data today showing that more than 300,000 New Yorkers who have applied for federal funds to purchase digital converter boxes for their televisions still have not used those resources. More than 2 million people nationwide are waiting for federal funds.

Highlights of the Problem with the National Switch to Digital Television

§ Approximately 1,040,000 households in New York requested federal funds to purchase converters
§ At least 319,245 New Yorkers, or 32%, who have received funds still have not used them to buy converters
§ 2 million people nationwide have applied, but are still waiting, for federal funds
§ 375,000 New Yorkers have used federal funds to buy converters
§ Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers have expired funds, but many owners do not realize

Weiner announced that Congress is working to extend the conversion date by 115 days (to June 15, 2009) due to the large number of Americans who are still unprepared. The stimulus package also includes $650 million to help subsidize the purchase of the converter boxes, which are needed to allow an older, analog TV to receive a digital signal.

In order to modernize its broadcast system, the government is requiring all television signals to switch from analog, as received by TVs with “rabbit ears”, to digital. Individuals who fail to convert will not be able to access the digital transmissions, including emergency government announcements, on analog televisions – creating a major public safety problem.

The government is offering $40 coupons to subsidize the purchase of the technology. Many seniors and low-income people may still face problems accessing and installing the new technology. Converters cost between from $45 – $75.

Rep. Weiner said, “A major change is coming to the way we provide New Yorkers with emergency information. We want everyone to be prepared. New Yorkers need to know that coupons cover this change, and the feds need to fund the program.”

Call for Urgent Action Against Overdevelopment by Albert Baldeo...

Over-development has radically altered the traditional appearance and character of our neighborhoods. Illegal construction, non-compliance with zoning rules, and poor quality construction-this scourge is compounded with our failure to landmark historic buildings.

The results are increased population density, overloading community resources, congestion, pollution, parking and mass transit service problems. Schools are overcrowded and public utilities and services are overburdened, including sewer systems and garbage removal. The beauty of our tranquil neighborhoods is being destroyed. This epidemic has reached such proportions that there are few issues that cry out for governmental action more than over-development in Queens.

The issues are encapsulated in this larger question: “How can we enforce and promulgate laws relating to zoning infractions, illegal conversions, McMansions, lack of land marking of historic districts, concreting over lawns, out-of-character structures, permanent fencing, tear-downs and self-certification by engineers and architects?”

Abuse after abuse, eye sore after eye sore, buildings of this nature crop up block after block, like a cancer destroying our communities. Some have been completed, and others have been absolutely abandoned, presenting additional security and sanitation problems of their own.

Down zoning, the solution to the problem, curbs over-development and stops out-of-character development in Queens' residential neighborhoods. Changes in zoning regulations will align new construction with the character of the borough's neighborhoods and will ensure that communities can gracefully accommodate new development.

City Planning, in consultation with the Queens Borough President's Zoning Task Force, is supposedly conducting neighborhood zoning studies throughout the borough of Queens with the goal of preventing further over-development in each neighborhood. But why, after four years, we are still waiting for City action? Do we have to wait until the monstrosities completely overwhelm our neighborhoods? Why has it been stalled by the Department of City Planning over the last several years?

We must get the rezoning process moving again, as real estate investors continue to break ground on large-scale construction projects, putting up condominiums and four and five-story buildings with increasing frequency.

Clearly, City Planning and the Department of Buildings have dropped the ball. The City needs to complete the Down zoning Phase II process, and add personnel who are better trained, properly inspect violation complaints and respond quickly and efficiently.

Historic landmarks must also be preserved. The City must carry out the mandate of its residents. Enough is enough!

Rep. Weiner and Interior Secretary Salazar Tour Lady Liberty's Crown...

(From left to right: Interior Secretary Salazar, Rep. Weiner, and Rep. Sires)

Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens), newly minted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Senator Menendez (D-NJ), and Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) visited the Statue of Liberty's crown Friday. Rep. Weiner has led the fight to re-open Lady Liberty's crown, urging Interior Secretary Salazar to provide public access to the crown, which has been closed since the 9/11 attacks.

112th Precinct Community Council Vial of Life Program

Heidi Harrison Chain, President of the 112th precinct community council and Captain Tamola, Commanding Officer of the 112th precinct are urging your participation in our Vial of Life Program. I am thrilled that we are able to provide this life saving program for you. Each year at the beginning of the year we once again offer this program to you. IF you have completed the forms last year it gives you a chance to update your records.

This vital program enables emergency responders who respond to a house or apartment to have the medical and personal information about an individual who is unable to provide this information to them. We will give you the forms and we will give you the magnets.

The information forms are for you to complete and then keep in your house in your refrigerator. The Vial of Life magnets and forms will be available at our January 21st council meetings.

Captain Tamola and the officers of the 112th precinct are participating in this program The officers when they respond to a situation in an apartment or home know to be on the look out for our Vial of Life magnets when they respond and someone is unable to speak.

The Vial of Life magnet should be placed on the refrigerator door or on the telephone in the kitchen. A responding officer seeing the magnet will know to look inside the refrigerator on the left side for the plastic bag containing the individual’s important medical information in the event that the individual is unable to tell the officer. This information can save time and enable the emergency responders to know if the individual has are any existing medical conditions, is taking prescriptions, the name of the individual’s doctor and also family contact numbers. Emergency responders will be able to use this information to help save the person who is sick.

We are also suggesting that once you complete the information form that you make a copy with your information and include it in your “go bag” to be taken with you in the event of an emergency. It is always helpful for this critical information to be available should it be needed. For those of you who completed this form years ago- please update your information so that it is current.

The information form is for you and your family members to complete. The information that is included on the form includes your name , the language you speak, your birthday, your medial insurance company and policy number, your doctor’s name and phone number, our emergency contacts and then your medical history. We also suggest that you include a copy of your Photo id card for identification. The information sheet should also include the location of your prescriptions in your house.

If anyone is unable to come to our January meeting - but wants to participate in this life saving vial of life program --- email your address - to council112@yahoo.com and I will mail the vial of life package to you.


Heidi Harrison Chain, President, 112th Precinct Community Council

Family Injured In Woodhaven (Ozone Park) Fire - NY1

I was awaken this morning by the sound of helicopters hovering overhead some time just after 5am...I went outside to see what was happening and saw no less than 7 news helicopters above my house and scattered across the skies above the surrounding few blocks...Contrary to NY1's story below this fire occurred in Ozone Park directly across the street from the addition to Elizabeth Blackwell MS 210...The house is only about 40 years old...When I left fire marshalls were already investigating the home to determine the cause of the fire...I overheard some media people who spoke of hearing an FDNY chief referring to the fire as a "fatal house fire", but they could not obtain any official statement from the FDNY personnel still on site....

Read original and watch video...

NY1 Screenshot photo

Several members of a Queens family have been hospitalized after a fast-moving fire tore through their Woodhaven (Ozone Park) home early this morning.

Click on photo to enlarge...

Flames broke out around 5 a.m. at a three-story house near the intersection of 93rd Street and 97th Avenue.

Click on photo to enlarge...

A mother, two children, and a grandmother sustained serious injuries in the fire. Emergency workers say the victims were overcome by heavy smoke.

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Neighbors say they are lucky the flames did not spread beyond the single home.

Click on photo to enlarge....

"Very friendly people, very wonderful people, you know, when I found out it was them, it's sad," said one neighbor. "Although it's unfortunate, the fortunate situation is that none of the other houses went on fire."

Click on photo to enlarge...

Officials say the fire started on the second floor.

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The cause is under investigation.

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Photos by: David M. Quintana

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bruno Defiant, Denies Charges of Corruption - The Buffalo News

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A defiant Joseph Bruno, who was New York's top Republican as the State Senate majority leader, was arraigned this afternoon on federal public corruption charges.

"The state of New York and its citizens have an intangible right to the honest services of defendant Joseph L. Bruno," the eight-count indictment read.

If convicted, Bruno faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine on each count.

But following his arraignment, Bruno lashed out at prosecutors and said they were using a double standard, ignoring crimes of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

"For over three years, I have been a target of a get Joe Bruno campaign. whether by former Gov. Spitzer or a politicized U.S. Attorney's Office and an overzealous FBI. I have with their effort had every relationship of my life probed, poked and looked over." Bruno said he did nothing wrong, nothing illegal and accused the prosecutors of a "sleight of hand."

"They cannot find one example of criminal activity or illegal intent," he said.

He noted that the U.S. Attorney did not charge Spitzer for either his "flagrant abuse of gubernatorial powers" by using state troopers in a smear campaign or for his association with a call girl ring. Prosecutors, though, say Bruno received $3.2 million from five entities between 1993 and 2006, which improperly exploited his official position and concealed conflicts of interest.

Bruno was charged with a "scheme to defraud" the government of the right "to his honest services" by brokering deals with at least five individuals or entities that paid him money while they had business before the Legislature or state, said Acting United States Attorney Andrew T. Baxter of the Northern District of New York.

Specifically, Bruno received $2 million in payments from two financial services companies that related to labor union pension benefit funds that invested with the firms "ostensibly as a result of referrals by Bruno."

Andrew T. Baxter of the Northern District of New York said he plans no criminal actions against any of individuals or companies named in the indictment, saying there was no evidence of any bribes or other wrongdoing.

Bruno got another $1.2 million in consulting fees by three individuals and related entities, some that benefited from Bruno's official acts. Baxter said Bruno did not perform "legitimate services" commensurate with the large fees he received.

"As Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno had a fiduciary relationship with the State of New York and its citizens requiring disinterested decision making and candid disclosure of the potential motivation behind his official acts," Baxter said this afternoon after Bruno's court appearance.

Baxter said Bruno failed to publicly disclose the existence of the relationships and resulting conflicts of interests.

"While New York state legislators are part-time officials permitted to pursue other employment or business activities, the indictment alleges that Bruno improperly exploited his official position and concealed conflicts of interests," Baxter said.

"Mr. Bruno exploited his office by concealing the nature and source of substantial payments that he received from parties that benefited from his official actions and the resulting conflicts of interests," the prosecutor said.

Bruno's response: "They are inventing a crime to get me," he said. He added that he looks forward to the truth at trial. Bruno pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.

Bruno, who retired from the Legislature in July after more than a dozen years leading the Senate, was charged by the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York.

Bruno revealed more than a year ago that his private business dealings had been under investigation by the FBI for months. He has insisted that he did nothing wrong. Bruno represented his Troy-area district for 32 years.

Interview with Austin Shafran on THE PEREZ NOTES at 6PM on January 28th

On Wednesday, January 28th Roberto Perez will be interviewing Austin Shafran. Austin formerly worked for Political Consultant Hank Sheinkopf and is currently the spokesperson for the New York State Senate and Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.


To listen to the interview go to www.lagcc.cuny.edu/webradio. THE PEREZ NOTES airs every Wednesday from 6-8PM so spread the news and tell a friend.

Join Senator Joe Addabbo In An Inaugural Celebration - Saturday, January 31st at Noon...

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Inaugural Celebration for Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

When: Saturday, January 31st at Noon
Where: PS 60 - 91-02 88th Avenue Woodhaven NY 11421

To RSVP please call 212-370-0700

Sunday, January 25, 2009

12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count Coming Up Feb. 13-16!

Contacts:
Pat Leonard Cornell Lab of Ornithology
(607) 254-2137 - pel27@cornell.edu
Delta Willis - Audubon
(212) 979-3197 - dwillis@audubon.org



For Immediate Release

JOIN THE GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT

Count for Fun, Count for the Future


February 13-16, 2009

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New York, NY and Ithaca, NY­-Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009.

A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

“Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” said Audubon Education Vice-President, Judy Braus.

Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.

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“The GBBC has become a vital link in the arsenal of continent wide bird-monitoring projects,” said Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick. “With more than a decade of data now in hand, the GBBC has documented striking changes in late-winter bird distributions.”

Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at citizenscience@audubon.org or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by support from Wild Birds Unlimited.
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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a nonprofit membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. www.birds.cornell.edu

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. www.audubon.org

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Birds in Art/Art in Birds Challenge

Ithaca, NY--People of all ages are invited to go outside and look for Birds in Art/Art in Birds for a contest sponsored by the Celebrate Urban Birds project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Celebrate Urban Birds is a free, year-round citizen-science project focused on birds in neighborhood settings.

For the Birds in Art/Art in Birds challenge you can take photos, do some painting, write a story, create a sculpture. What do you see in a bird that is beautiful, stirring, or inspirational? It could be a broken-down nest in winter, a song recording, video of a bird perching on your window, something that makes you stop, look twice, laugh, cry.

Prizes include bird sound recordings, books, gift certificates, "green" products, and more. We’ll send the first 50 entrants a copy of our "Doves and Pigeons" poster by Julie Zickefoose. Selected images will be posted on the Celebrate Urban Birds website.

How to enter:

1. Email your photo, art, or video entry to urbanbirds@cornell.edu. Links are acceptable for videos.
2. Write "Art in Birds/Birds in Art contest" in the subject line.
3. Include your name and mailing address
4. Tell us why you submitted your entry to the Art in Birds/Birds in Art contest.

Deadline for entries is February 28, 2009

Visit the Celebrate Urban Birds web site for more information.