Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Frank Gulluscio Appears at Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation Candidates Night and 9/11 Memorial...

Gulluscio Address The Concerns and Local Problems Affecting Woodhaven

On September 22, Democratic Candidate Frank Gulluscio appeared at the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation Candidates Night and 9/11 memorial. At the memorial Frank discussed the need for constant vigilance saying, “The horror of 9/11 is something that remains with us daily. I will never forget how I felt when I saw the smoke rising out of the Twin Towers. Many of us know someone who was lost in that terrible tragedy and it is important that we honor their memory and their sacrifice every day not only 9/11.We must keep their memories close to our heart and maintain a constant vigilance so that such horrible atrocities are never repeated.”

After the 9/11 Memorial and the moment of silence, the event became a Candidates night. Each candidate was allowed to speak for 5 minutes and then was asked questions from the board. Frank spoke about some of his past accomplishments including keeping the Woodhaven Fire House Open, “When I heard that the City planned to close Engine 293 which serves the Woodhaven community I was outraged. Woodhaven needs a firehouse. There are numerous older buildings fashioned mainly of wood and it is vital that help is nearby if needed. Working with then Councilman Addabbo we made sure that Engine 293 was taken off the list of stations to be closed. We won the battle but the war continues, we need our next Councilman to continue to watch City Hall to ensure that Woodhaven keeps it fire house.”

Frank also spoke about some of his ideas for revitalizing the office and making it more accessible; “These days it is more common to find families with both parents working and often hours that are no longer 9-5. That is why in addition to a 24-7 hour hot-line I pledge that my District Office, at least two nights a week, will have longer hours and stay open later. Additionally, at least once a month, the Office will be open for a few hours on Saturday. Government and elected officials should be available around the clock not only from 9-5. The working mom or the young dad working two jobs should have the same opportunity as anyone else to interact with their elected officials.”

When Frank was asked about some his plans for Woodhaven he said “Woodhaven is a diverse and distinct community that needs a dedicated and committed Councilman. We need to ensure that local small business continue to come and set up shop and look into methods of prevention for quality of life crimes such as graffiti and noise pollution. Current studies being undertaken by the City, such as the Woodhaven Boulevard Traffic Study, will offer possible ideas to reduce congestion, ideas that I look forward to discussing to ensure they are right for this community.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daily Plant Newsletter: Young Gardeners of the Highland Park Children’s Garden and its Junior Garden Club Receive Awards at Queens Farm County Fair...

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For the second year in a row, the members of the Highland Park Children’s Garden and its Junior Garden Club entered their produce in the agricultural competition at the annual Queens Farm County Fair. Their eighteen entries included tomatoes, peppers, string beans, carrots, raspberries and flowers. To our delight, the Highland Park Children’s Garden received four awards; first place for the “other potted string beans” category, second place for their yellow cherry tomatoes, and third place for hot peppers. They also received honorable mention for a flower arrangement composed of flowers grown in the garden. The kids, who were treated to a field trip to the County Fair, were very excited to see the blue red, green and white ribbons.

The Highland Park Children’s garden is located on Jamaica Avenue and Ashford Street and is believed to be the oldest children’s garden in the United States. The garden was once part of the Johannes Schenck estate which included a Dutch – style farmhouse. In 1905, Parks purchased the Schenck estate and removed the farmhouse in 1940. The garden now serves as a community garden, providing local families a place to grow fresh organic produce. It also plays host to The Forest & Highland Park’s annual Garden Month event and Strawberry Festival.

The Junior Garden Club is a seasonal Saturday morning program, coordinated by Josephine Scalia, Landscape Projects and Environmental Education Coordinator for the Forest & Highland Park Administration and instructed by Nancy Moore. The Club, which is funded by the Independence Community Foundation, engages youth in the fundamentals of organic gardening through multi-disciplinary activities including writing, math, and science.

The Future of Our Parks - NYTimes Editorial

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Yosemite Falls

This week, PBS will broadcast Ken Burns’s new six-part series on the national parks, a chronicle of the rich 158-year history of what the series calls “America’s Best Idea” — setting aside remarkable places and landscapes for future generations to enjoy.

Mr. Burns’s documentary makes clear that no one should take that idea or the park system it created for granted. From the start, the project has been encumbered by political shortsightedness and inadequate financing, with the parks themselves constantly threatened by the encroachment of the world around them.

The parks’ future is the concern of a major new report from the National Parks Second Century Commission — an independent body organized and financed by the National Parks Conservation Association. It offers an unsparing look at the many problems that threaten the parks and sensible remedies for addressing them.

As permanent as the parks may look, their financing has always depended on the waxing and waning interests of various presidents and Congresses. Chronic operating deficits are one result. Right now the backlog of unmet maintenance and construction needs — repairs to crumbling bridges, roads, buildings, trails, sewer systems — exceeds $8 billion.

The Park Service’s annual budget of $2.4 billion is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the total federal budget, and more generous annual appropriations would certainly seem within reach. But the commission would also create a tax-exempt national parks endowment to attract private money and help free park budgets from the ebb and flow of Congressional outlays.

Making sure that the system lives up to its inherent promise involves more than money. Given new threats from global warming and invasive species, the commission wants the service to strengthen its scientific capabilities. It also urges the service to broaden its educational mission to reach more young people.

The report asks Congress to be alert to the possibility of new parks. But the emphasis, rightly, is on strengthening what we have. Parks like Yellowstone and Everglades National Park are part of larger ecosystems that Congress and state and local authorities must also protect from needless development.

In some ways, it’s a miracle that the park system is as resilient as it is. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said that he will take the commission’s recommendations seriously, and we hope President Obama will, too. The “best idea” needs to be protected and celebrated.

Gulluscio Offers Testimony At Gateway National Recreation Area

Frank Gulluscio Comments on Gateway’s New Management Plan

Howard Beach resident Frank Gulluscio, the Democratic candidate for the 32nd Council District, attended Gateway National Recreation Area’s meeting Sunday, September 27th at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Gulluscio, submitted comments to Gateway officials regarding their new Management Plan for the park, discussions by the National Park Service are currently underway.

Gateway has begun the process to scope, develop, and prepare a General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, which, according to the National Park Service, will be its “vision for the future.” Gateway’s first General Management Plan was completed 30 years ago in 1979, a few years after the park’s creation.

Some of Gulluscio’s comments focused on the three areas in Howard Beach that are part of Gateway: Charles Park, Hamilton Beach Park, and the Spring Creek area. Gulluscio conveyed to Gateway officials that the expectations area residents had of an increase in recreational opportunities have not yet been met.

Gulluscio said, “Over the past 30 years, since Gateway’s creation, we have seen little improvement within our parks that house our neighborhood recreation areas. Ballfields and tennis courts are in disrepair, erosion continues, and playground areas are not to the standard found in city-owned facilities in neighboring areas. Getting needed repairs fixed takes an inordinate amount of time in the view of community residents. Expectations of enhanced recreational opportunities for local residents in these local area parklands have not been met in over three decades. Spring Creek has essentially been left wild thereby providing no real increase in recreational opportunities for our people.” Gulluscio also indicated to Gateway officials that were present that if elected the Gateway areas in Broad Channel and the Rockaway peninsula would also be locations where he would seek improvements.

Gulluscio also referred Hamilton Beach Park as an “orphan” area where residents strongly believe their calls for improvements have been ignored by Gateway for years. This became evident at the meeting when Gulluscio was examining maps and drawings on display by Gateway, and there were no maps or drawings for Hamilton Beach Park. “That failure to include Hamilton Beach, spoke volumes to me,” Gulluscio said.

Gulluscio also called on Gateway to incorporate enhanced security into its plan for the next few decades. “Inadequate provision for the public safety is a far more serious concern for our local residents today than it was 15, 20, or 25 years ago,” Gulluscio relayed to Gateway officials, “much of the Gateway acreage in the Howard Beach community is located in the Spring Creek area. All of Howard Beach, Broad Channel, and much of the Rockaway peninsula lies under the flight paths of JFK Airport. We consider Gateway to be part of our city’s critical infrastructure and we are far from satisfied that the level of protection in the essentially wild acreage along our shoreline is sufficient. The Management Plan for Gateway must address that critical need.”

The process to develop this new General Management Plan is just in its beginning stages. A draft version should be circulated by the summer of 2011. Gulluscio called upon Gateway to develop better linkages as the process moves forward with local area groups both on the peninsula and in the mainland. Gulluscio also requested that Gateway present their General Management Plan before all New York City Community Boards so as to insure there is adequate local area input. Gulluscio pointed out that “while we understand that Gateway is part of the National Park system and much of its planning is aimed at serving a broad area and preserving open space in its natural state, the track record of Gateway in providing for the recreational needs and desires of the communities in which it sits have been far from acceptable” and more local viewpoints must be better incorporated into Gateway’s planning so that “their vision for the future of Gateway reflects the vision of areas residents.”

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Police Alleged Threats with a Meat Cleaver - The Queens Courier

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A man claims that he was threatened with a meat cleaver on September 12 following a dispute in an Ozone Park home.

The victim told police that the suspect, Sarabjeet Sandhu, 57, “held a meat cleaver in his hand, moved said meat cleaver in a chopping motion, and stated, . . . ‘I’m gonna chop your head off,” according to papers obtained from the district attorney’s office.

The victim managed to call 9-1-1 and Sandhu was arrested and charged with menacing in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and harassment in the second degree.

Prosecution Mocks Ex-cop's Claim He Accidentally Shot His Wife in the Head by Thomas Zambito - NY Daily News

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An ex-cop's testimony that he accidentally killed his fiancée while gunning for knife-wielding thugs drew mockery from the prosecution Friday.

Taking the stand in his defense, Harry Rupnarine claims he pulled a pistol when a man jumped out as he walked in Queens with Guiatree Hardat.

"I saw a second guy from the corner of my eye and I turned," Rupnarine testified. "When I turned the gun went off. ...I didn't see her. All I saw was these guys took off."

Prosecutor Jack Warsawsky heaped scorn on his account and suggested Rupnarine shot Hardat in the back of the head during an argument.

"You don't know how she wound up with a bullet hole in her head?" Warsawsky asked.

The prosecutor questioned whether Rupnarine, 39, was upset Hardat's parents complained he was too old for their 22-year-old daughter. "We didn't look at age," the fired transit cop replied, his voice breaking. "We loved each other. ...We had a lover's quarrel over the money for the wedding."

Warsawsky asked if Rupnarine shed a tear as paramedics tended to his dying lover on Atlantic Ave. in Woodhaven on May 10, 2007.

"I don't know," Rupnarine said. "I was in shock."

"Are you crying now or are you trying to cry?" the prosecutor asked.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Howard Beach Senior Housing to Open in 2012 by Stepehn Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens was selected to turn the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center of Howard Beach into affordable senior housing. (photo courtesy Catholic Charities)

Groundbreaking for the Howard Beach Senior Residence, at the site of the old Bernard Fineson Developmental Center at 155-55 Crossbay Blvd., is scheduled for late spring 2010, according to John Tynan, executive director of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.

The nonprofit organization, which presented its plans to Community Board 10 members last week, was selected last June to construct affordable senior housing at the site. The senior residence is expected to be completed in early 2012.

Tynan said he believes the project will help address the critical local need for affordable senior housing while reusing an important community asset. Since 1975, Bernard Fineson of Howard Beach provided care, education and training to adults and children with developmental disabilities and multiple handicapping conditions.

The new eco-green senior residence, which will occupy 111,000 square feet and sit on 3.4 acres, will both retain and expand upon the Fineson model by providing 81 units of affordable housing for seniors and individuals with developmental disabilities. The $26.6 million project will consist of 30 studio and 51 one-bedroom apartments, laundry facilities, a community space, resident lounges and offices. The main entrance will be upgraded and a second entrance will be added. Outside, the parking lot will accommodate 106 cars and the grounds will be landscaped with additional recreation areas and raised tenant gardens specifically designed for seniors. All tenants will be supported by Catholic Charities’ network of community and social services.

The apartments, which are expected to rent for between $700 and $800, are targeted toward seniors over the age of 60 and individuals with developmental disabilities and are designed to be affordable to those with incomes up to 80 percent of the area median income — about $40,000 for a couple. Fifty percent of the senior units will go to residents of C.B. 10.

The apartment application process will begin in late spring 2010 and will be coordinated with C.B. 10 in a community outreach program, Tynan said, adding, “Every senior in Community Board 10 should have plenty of notice and plenty of understanding to get their application in.”

Tynan emphasized that the community board and local elected officials will be kept appraised as the project moves along. “There will be no surprises.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) told board members he is very confident the community will benefit from a Catholic Charities project — that it will fit in with the community and create construction job when he said, “I’m very optimistic about what is the future of the Fineson Center site.”

10 Cherry Trees Downed: Vandals at Root of Growing Problem Around Queens by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Assn., left, and Dorothy Lewandowski, Queens Parks Commissioner, in Juniper Valley Park where young cherry trees were cut down by vandals. The circular brown spots are where the trees once stood. Pokress for News

Dozens have been destroyed in the past few months - their roots torn up, branches snapped and trunks hacked.

Most of the damage has taken place at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, which lost 10 young cherry trees and two oaks a little more than a week ago.

Parks Department officials said this is the worst case of arborcide in recent memory.

"It looked like carnage," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. The saplings had toppled over after being cut off at the base.

"It appears premeditated," she added. "They came in the park with a power saw."

A few days ago, someone ripped the limbs off several small trees at Lefferts Playground in South Ozone Park. The six plum and one redbud trees had been planted in 2003 as part of a 9/11 memorial site.

"There are a lot of disturbed people running around," said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Parks officials said more than 20 trees have been destroyed at Juniper Valley this year. Some were older trees but many were new plantings.

Parks officials and police are investigating, Lewandowski said. There are no suspects but community watchdog Holden said he had some ideas.

"There were a group of young people drinking in the park and they were chased out of here," he said. A short time later, several young trees were ripped from the ground, he said.

The incidents have dismayed locals, who use the 55-acre park like a community backyard. It is one of the most meticulously maintained parks in the borough.

"Everyone is talking about it," said Lewandowski, who lives in the area.

The Juniper Park Civic Association, along with City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and former Councilman Tom Ognibene have offered a $2,500 reward for information about the incidents.

Crowley and Ognibene are set to face off in next month's election for the Council seat.

The young trees cost about $1,000 apiece, Lewandowski said. She expects all of them to be replaced by next spring.

"This was planned to be a grove of cherry trees," she said. "We never even got to see them bloom."

Missed Opportunity at CEC 24 Debate by Denis Deck - Queens Chronicle

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Parents and community members in attendance at the Community Education Council 24 meeting at P.S. 49 in Middle Village on Tuesday came with questions and concerns, but didn’t get to see the education debate they hoped for.

Although Republican candidate for City Council District 30 Tom Ognibene and current Democratic incumbent Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) were both present, Crowley left after a brief statement to the crowd, citing she and Ognibene had another forum to attend in Woodhaven.

“Education has been a main focus since I took office,” Crowley said. “I hope to continue what I’ve started for the past nine months over the next four years.”

Ognibene opted to stay and field questions from the CEC board and the community.

CEC 24 president Nick Comianni requested that all questions be limited to the area of education. The primary concern on the minds of parents in attendance was the overcrowding of school classrooms. Strategy for reduction of class size was questioned by some who fear that programs like Gifted and Talented and Pre-K are being marginalized to make room for more standard classes, while others complained of uneconomical use of space in design for new schools like P.S. 7 in Elmhurst.

New school superintendent Madelene Tuab-Chan recognized “Space is of the essence. The only solution (for overcrowding) is re-zoning.” Crowley’s chief of staff, Lydon Sleeper, fielded questions on the councilwoman’s behalf. He agreed with Tuab-Chan, “We’ve worked closely with Beacon program parents. They know best. We’re seeing how zoning fits and making sure it’s fair to all areas.”

Ognibene’s stance is different. “The most important thing is finding areas to build new schools.” He referenced his past as the first councilman for the 30th District from 1991 to 2001, saying, “We didn’t rely on the SCA (School Construction Authority) to find areas for schools. We made contact with brokers and we’d find areas for schools.” He cited examples like P.S. 28 and the land acquisition for an addition to P.S. 87, although nearly 10 years later he says it is regrettable that construction still hasn’t begun.

Comianni offered an opportunity to Sleeper to speak about what Crowley’s office has done to find potential school sites recently. Sleeper started to mention that Grover Cleveland High School is being looked into but Comianni quickly interrupted him, “No, I found that, what have you found?”

“Nothing, yet, but we’re open to suggestions,” Sleeper replied.

While Crowley had proudly touted recent endorsements from organizations like the United Federation of Teachers and Council on Supervisors and Administrators in her statement earlier that evening, Ognibene had to defend his own endorsement of Mayor Bloomberg, whom he ran against in 2005.

“CECs have been at odds with the mayor,” David Quintana said, a Community Board 10 member who was in the audience. “Bloomberg has failed us and has lied to us. Why are you endorsing him?”

“He’s head and shoulders above his competition,” Ognibene said. “Overall he’s the best candidate for mayor.” He admits he’s had disagreements with Bloomberg but said that he also has a personal relationship with him and can easily address issues and concerns.

Bloomberg had Ognibene removed from the GOP ballot in his 2005 run for mayor due to an inadequate number of petition signatures. Ognibene had expected to get the Queens County Republican Party endorsement for that race and has gotten Bloomberg’s for this one.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson from Crowley’s office, Meredith Burnak, called the CEC ‘debate’ unorthodox and inappropriate. “This was Comianni using education for political ends and an abuse of power.” Burnak said that no other area council candidates have been asked by the CEC to hold a debate on education.

Crowley’s office wasn’t able to say with certainty when the next scheduled debate with Ognibene is, but promises there will be at least three more before the Nov. 3 elections.

Council Candidates Discuss Education Views by Conor Greene - Forum News

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The two candidates for the 30th District City Council seat – Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Crowley and Republican challenger Thomas Ognibene – discussed their views on education at a forum hosted by Community Education Council 24.

Residents in attendance on Tuesday night at PS 49 in Middle Village heard mostly about Ognibene’s views, as Crowley left early and missed the question-and-answer portion of the session. Instead, her chief of staff, Lydon Sleeper filled in for her to respond to questions on topics such as parental input and overcrowding.

Both candidates were first given a chance to introduce themselves and present their general stance on education. Crowley began by asserting that “there is no greater issue now facing the city” and touted her experience as a former educator and endorsements by the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors, which represents local principals.

“I have an investment like many parents here tonight” as the mother of two school-age children. She vowed to “make sure our children have the best tools” available and said education has been a “main focus” for her since taking office nine months ago. Of the $5 million she funded for local capital projects, a “large chunk” went towards schools. “I’m going to continue what I started,” she added.

Ognibene reminded the audience that he represented the district from 1991 to 2001, when he was forced from office due to term limits. “Not much seems to have changed” since he left office, as the community still “has to confront the same challenges” including overcrowding, which he said is “again a significant issue and really has to be addressed.”

The Middle Village Republican focused much of his comments on parental input, which was one of the major aspects of the recent debate over mayoral control. “The parents were supposed to have a lot more input into the educational process,” he said. “Parents don’t have that kind of input.”

He also recalled serving as principal for a day at PS 87 in 2001, shortly before leaving office. The school doesn’t have enough bathrooms or a proper gym and parents have been pleading with the city Department of Education for an expansion since the school expanded to a PS/IS facility nearly a decade ago. “It struck me as unusual,” said Ognibene, adding that he was “stunned” to learn the addition project never occurred.

“If I were councilman, that’s the first thing I would address because that’s really unfair to the children of PS 87,” he vowed. “I thought it was something we had accomplished” during the tenure of his predecessor, disgraced former Councilman Dennis Gallagher. By that point, Crowley (D-Middle Village) had left to go to other local meetings. Ognibene decided to stay to answer audience and board members’ questions, with Sleeper filling in for Crowley.

During the question-and-answer portion, the biggest difference that emerged between the candidates is their efforts to identify potential sites for new schools, which Ognibene said was a priority during his two terms in office. “The most important thing facing us then and facing us now is finding space to build new schools,” adding that he had staffers dedicated to searching the district for appropriate sites. “We didn’t rely on the SCA [School Construction Authority]. We were more aggressive.”

When Sleeper mentioned that a site near Grover Cleveland High School is being looked at as a potential school site, Council President Nick Comaianni interjected that it was actually him that had identified that site. He asked Sleeper, “What have you found?” to which the chief of staff responded, “None so far, but we’re open to suggestions.”

When asked about PS 87, Sleeper said Crowley “started fighting for PS 87 immediately” after taking office. “We understand how ignored that school has been,” adding that the council member wrote letters and had SCA officials tour the facilities with her. “We’re fighting very hard to make sure that expansion happens,” said Sleeper.

Throughout the evening, Ognibene stressed that he would have an advantage in terms of getting a response from city agencies due to his relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is supporting his campaign. Ozone Park resident David Quintana asked Ognibene why he is aligning himself with the mayor, who “has failed us over the past eight years.”

Ognibene responded that he feels Bloomberg is “head and shoulders” above his opponent, William Thompson. However, he stressed that he and the mayor have disagreed on many things, and he isn’t afraid to let the mayor know when that’s the case. “Once he’s elected there are going to be things I’ll be able to work with him on,” he said.

Finally, board member Brian Rafferty asked whether they feel Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has the best interests of District 24 in mind. Sleeper said he doesn’t know Crowley’s exact stance on this issue and declined to answer. Ognibene said he doesn’t think Klein is an “evil man” but said overall, “the answer is no.” While he doesn’t think that Klein should be fired, he added, “I believe I can get that message across” if elected.

On Wednesday, Ognibene criticized Crowley for leaving early and accused her of scheduling other meetings to avoid having to answer questions from board members and residents. “This is typical. She made the appointment to go to these other meetings after she had confirmed this educational panel, and that’s offensive to me,” said Ognibene. “To use a decent, non political organization such as the Sons of Italy as an excuse, that was very, very offensive.”

In response, Crowley’s press secretary, Meredith Burak, said the CEC meeting was one of five stops the council member made that evening that had been scheduled for months. Instead, Burak argued that it was inappropriate for the CEC to even hold a candidates forum. “The bottom line is the forum never should have been held,” she said, adding that this is the only race the CEC is focusing on, even though that district includes parts of six separate council districts.

Burak accused Comaianni of having a “vendetta” against Crowley. “This was based solely on political purposes and had nothing to do with education. Politics should not be brought into the mix, and by bringing politics into this arena, Nick Comaianni is jeopardizing his position because he is abusing his power.”

Crowley expressed her concerns in a letter to the DOE. In response, a department official wrote, “Prompted by our inquiry, our legal office reviewed the matter and advises that holding such a candidates forum as part of CEC’s regularly scheduled calendar meeting is not an appropriate exercise of the CEC’s statutory powers and duties.”

Comaianni wasn’t available for comment on Wednesday morning. However, during the CEC meeting he alluded to the fact that the DOE didn’t want the forum to take place and said the board decided to go ahead with it anyway so that parents would have a chance to hear directly from the candidates on education issues.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Senator Joe Addabbo to Meet with Constituents at Neighborhood Libraries...

Senator Joe Addabbo will be meeting with constituents on three successive Saturday afternoons (11 am - 1 pm)...No Appointment Necessary

Maspeth Library - September 26th
Middle Village Library - October 3rd
North Forest Park Library - October 10th

For more info call 718-738-1111 (District Office)

Upcoming No-Cost Mammography in Woodhaven on October 17th...

A No-Cost Mammography Testing - Appointment Necessary

When: Saturday - October 17th, 2009
Where: Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Ambulance Corps
78-15 Jamaica Avenue - Woodhaven, NY 11421
Sponsored by: American Italian Cancer Foundation and
state Senator Joe Addabbo

For more information call: 800-453-8378 ext. 1

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bloomberg Boosts Ulrich From Fluke To The Man To Beat by Sal Gentile - City Hall News

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Six months ago, he was a fluke.

Then he became the mayor’s man.

Eric Ulrich, who won a special non-partisan election in February to fill the Council seat that covers Rockaway and parts of southeast Queens, was at first dismissed as a lightweight. As a 24-year-old Republican in a district where Democrats hold a three-to-one enrollment advantage, labor unions and Democratic bigwigs considered Ulrich one of their easier marks.

Then, in April, Ulrich made a tactical move that seems to have paid considerable dividends: He backed Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a third term before the rest of the Republican leadership. That decision won him the favor of Bloomberg’s deputies and support from the mayor’s formidable campaign operation.

That has put his opponent, Frank Gulluscio, at a sudden disadvantage, at least as Gulluscio’s supporters present things.

“He’s the underdog,” said State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who held the seat before Ulrich, of Gulluscio. “He understands that.”

Addabbo has been working the phones to shore up support for Gulluscio, who was his chief of staff for the last three years of his Council term. Addabbo hopes his ties to organized labor, from his days as the chair of the Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee, will help counteract the Bloomberg advantage.

So far, the effort has been slow-going.

Unions and the Working Families Party have directed their attention elsewhere in the city during this heated primary season, while Ulrich, with the help of Bloomberg and his millions, has been rooting himself in the district.

The two have opened a joint campaign office in Rockaway, which should help Ulrich gain a foothold in a part of the district where he is not as well-known. The district is bifurcated between “mainland” communities like Ozone Park and the Rockaways. Ulrich is from the former, whereas Gulluscio has been known across the district for years.

“They know me as Addabbo’s chief of staff,” Gulluscio said. “This is a blue collar district. The unions, the people that are living here, are middle class people. I’m middle class like them. They know that.”

Gulluscio and the Democrats may seek to paint Ulrich as out of touch with the middle class families that inhabit the detached homes and small-town neighborhoods of places like Howard Beach. But the mayor is popular with those same voters, Bloomberg’s aides argue, and once his campaign in the district is in full swing and voters are barraged by television ads, Ulrich will get a boost.

A poll conducted last year by Republicans in the overlapping Senate district, where Addabbo defeated Serphin Maltese, illustrated Bloomberg’s strength there, according to a person who has seen the results. In some portions of the area that overlap with the Council district, the mayor’s popularity reached highs of 80 percent.

Democrats in Queens dismiss the idea that Bloomberg will have coattails, pointing to the fact that most of the mayor’s support comes from Democrats who do not vote Republican down the line.

Even some Republicans discount the power of having Bloomberg at the top of the ticket.

“There’s no coattails effect. It’s a fallacy,” said one Queens GOP official. “It’s a mythology we resurrect every cycle.”

(Some Queens Republicans have grumbled about the mayor in the months since signing off on his quest to get the GOP line.)

The difference, Bloomberg’s aides argue, is what can be done with the Bloomberg campaign’s resources. If the mayor’s name on the top of the ballot is not enough to lift Ulrich over the tide of Democrats that will come to the polls, the get-out-the-vote operation targeting the district’s registered Republicans will. Blueprints for such a targeted election-day sweep are already in formation, according to Bloomberg campaign aides.

More than that, Bloomberg’s lieutenants have leaned on connections to other prominent officials on Ulrich’s behalf. Rep. Peter King, a galvanizing figure among conservatives, has traveled to the district to campaign with Ulrich. Former Mayor Ed Koch broke with Democrats to endorse him.

In addition to the political help, Ulrich has been able to rely on Bloomberg for assistance in governing, enabling the junior Council member to get more traction than he otherwise might in cutting through the city’s tangled bureaucracy for the benefit of his district.

“The mayor has helped me deliver, whether it be city resources or city agencies, to respond to constituent complaints,” Ulrich said.

Among the situations that this has helped him in, Ulrich said, was when he was wrestling with the Parks Department and its commissioner over assigning lifeguards to Rockaway Beach.

“I personally spoke to the mayor about this situation,” Ulrich said. “Three days later, I got a call from Adrian Benepe.”

That access to the highest reaches of the city’s hierarchy, surpassing even the leaders of the Council, is invaluable, Ulrich argued, and has helped him establish a relationship with constituents who may have originally been skeptical of him.

The mayor’s money, he added, has not hurt.

“We’re planning a fundraiser where the mayor will be a guest, and I’d be honored to have his support,” Ulrich said. “And if he had any friends that believe in him and like him that want to contribute to me, I’d gladly accept their contribution.”

ABOVE: (right) Eric Ulrich got a boost in his candidacy by uniting early with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (left) Frank Gulluscio was once considered a shoo-in for a Council seat in Queens. Now, thanks to the mayor, he is the underdog.

Brutal Forest Park Rape Shock by John Doyle - NY Daily News

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A woman was brutally raped and mugged at knife point near a Queens park this morning.

An unidentified thug approached a 29-year-old woman from behind at about 2:55 a.m. as she walked near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Park Lane South, just outside Forest Park.

The fiend put a knife to his victim’s neck, dragged her to some nearby woods and assaulted her, said cops.

After the attack, he grabbed a bag containing the woman’s bank card and ran off.

The victim called 911, and was treated at an area hospital. Except for the trauma of the attack, she was not physically hurt, cops said.

The suspect is identified as a black man, 6-foot-4, with a goatee and braided hair.

Happy Birthday to the Boss - Bruce Springsteen's 60th Bday...

Bruce Springsteen live at Hammersmith Odeon, 1975

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Assemblywoman Pheffer Announces the New York Census Complete Count Grant Program

Assemblywoman Pheffer (D-Queens) is pleased to announce that preparations are underway for the 2010 Census. In addition, the NYS Department of State has announced that they are seeking applicants for the New York Census Complete Count Grant Program.

“The census offers a critical snapshot of Queens and our communities,” said Pheffer. “The federal government uses census figures to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding, impacting everything from schools and hospitals to our roads.”

The Census Bureau estimates that millions of Americans were not counted in the 2000 Census. The New York undercount rate is estimated to be 1.09 percent – or over 209,000 New Yorkers – which results in millions of dollars lost in federal funding. The 2000 Census results suggest that many Hispanic, African American, and Asian American communities were undercounted, which is very troubling for a state as diverse as New York. Studies also suggest that people with low income, people with limited education, the unemployed, immigrants, migrant workers, female-headed households, young children, people with limited English skills, homeless people, renters, and individuals living in mobile homes, multi-unit residences, gated communities, and hidden housing units are likely to be “hard to count.”

The 2009-10 New York State Budget included an appropriation of $2 million to allow the Department of State to fund activities to help assure that all New Yorkers are counted in the 2010 Census.

The purpose of this grant program is to fund activities by local and tribal governments, as well as statewide, regional, local and community organizations, intended to promote participation in the 2010 Census among demographic groups and in geographic areas that are at high risk of being undercounted. Awards will fall into two categories: (1) Outreach and Mobilization Activities, and (2) Media Campaign.

Successful applicants will identify specific strategies targeted at hard-to-count and low response rate populations for promoting awareness of the Census, improving Census questionnaire mail back rates, and encouraging cooperation with Census takers, and will execute those strategies prior to June 1, 2010. Eligible applicants include local and tribal governments, as well as statewide, regional, local and community not-for-profit organizations. Businesses and other for‐profit‐entities are not eligible.

The Department encourages joint applications by collaborating organizations. In these cases, a lead applicant should submit one application representing the proposed activities of all eligible co-applicants.

“It is vital that we ensure that all New Yorkers are counted,” said Pheffer. “I applaud the Department of State for initiating this program so that we can work to ensure that New York not only receives the funding it is entitled, but also so that we can ensure accurate political representation.”

For further information regarding the New York Census Complete Count Grant Program, please visit the website at The deadline for applications is October 16, 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from Will Ferrell and others...

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from FOD Team, Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Thomas Lennon, Donald Faison, Linda Cardellini, Masi Oka, Ben Garant, Jordana Spiro, lauren, Drew, and chad_carter - Video:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Queens Chronicle - Star Cops Arrest Alleged Car Thief by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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106th Precinct Officers Thomas Underwood, second from left, and Mario Giordano, not in picture, were honored with the 106th Precinct’s Cop of the Month award for August 2009. At the ceremony are Captain Craig Adelman, left, Deputy Inspector Joseph Courtesis and 106th Precinct Community Council President Frank Dardani.

On Thursday, Aug. 13 at 1 a.m., a community resident left her keys in the ignition while filling up her car at the Sunoco Service Station on Crossbay Blvd. and Pitkin Avenue in Ozone Park. As her attention was diverted, a man jumped in the car and took off. Determined to get her car back, she flagged a taxicab and instructed the driver to follow her car. The resident called 911 from her cell phone and directed police to the chase. Officers from the 106th Precinct caught up with the alleged car thief near the Queens-Brooklyn border, where they were joined by police from the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn.

When the alleged car thief started driving in an erratic manner, possibly endangering other drivers and pedestrians, a police supervisor from the 75th called off the pursuit. However, Officers Thomas Underwood and Mario Giordano continued to canvass the area. A short while later, they spotted the stolen vehicle parked with its lights off and the suspect inside.

With the assistance of 75th Precinct officers, who blocked the vehicle, Underwood and Giordano arrested the suspected car thief. The apprehension went so smoothly that the suspect commented, “Where did you guys come from?” police said.

According to Deputy Inspector Joseph Courtesis, the 106th Precinct’s commanding officer, the suspect had 24 prior arrests.

He commended Underwood and Giordano for their good work at last week’s 106th Precinct’s Community Council meeting, presenting them with the Cop of the Month award for August.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Briarwood Community Association Meeting - September 17th - Bill Thompson Visits...

Briarwood Community Association members with Comptroller and Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson

President’s Report: Our Latest Quarrel With the Department of Buildings

The BCA, together with civic organizations throughout the City have long identified the Department of Buildings (DOB)to be dysfunctional (perhaps by their choice). But more, one could not be remiss in stating that the Bloomberg administration lies unashamedly in the same bed with the city’s rapacious developers and contractors. The long list of actions, inactions and procedures by the (DOB provides inarguable evidence of an administration policy to encourage and make it easier for developers to circumvent and violate existing code in order to maximize their benefit at the expense of our stable communities. How well we have seen this at work in Briarwood.

Starting Monday, July 13th, the DOB initiated a new procedure and began to post plans for pending work permits on its website so that the public can identify problems with planned projects and file complaints in a timely fashion. Sounds good? Read on.

Look at how the rule works. It confers on the public a 45-day statute of limitations after which the Buildings Department will issue a work permit and leave the developer home free. This latest City Hall scam is to remove from the public its right to challenge at any time, and to demand an official examination, inspection and resolution of building construction by the Buildings Department with respect to established zoning regulations and Building Code requirements. Members of the public, few with any architectural or planning expertise, now face a new requirement to hunt around the DOB’s website to identify pending projects and file a complaint. All this must be done within only 45 days. And if DOB’s finding fails to adequately address a complaint, recourse then involves an appeals process that culminates with the City's Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). Appeals to the BSA likely require members of the public and civic associations to incur legal expense they do not face under the prior rules.

The likelihood of successful complaints surviving DOB's appeals process is just about nil. Just ask any citizen who has spent time with the DOB or the Board of Standards and Appeals.

The new procedures make filing a challenge more onerous than the current 311 complaint procedure and removes any possibility of filing an anonymous challenge. These outrageous procedures represent nothing more than a continuation of the imperiousness and arrogance that this administration shows with regard to the ability of the public to influence development in our neighborhoods.

This new process flies in the face of reality and basically drafts the public to act as more than eyes and ears to report possible violations and illegal conditions. The rules unrealistically and most inappropriately require the general public to essentially act as building plan examiners and building code inspectors. In truth, members of the public rarely become aware of projects until they see shovels in the ground and construction underway. This occurs long after DOB issues its permit approvals and the new 45-day opportunity to complain has elapsed. The current process allowing architects and engineers to self-certify their own projects is more-than-ever an open invitation for inappropriate development to rise beneath the public’s radar.

Leaders of the more than 110 civic organizations that make up the Queens Civic Congress agree they will not be able to catch plans from property owners before DOB certifies projects and contractors begin their work. These civic leaders express concern at how they and their communities will cope with DOB’s notorious practice of allowing applicants to self-certify plans for projects as legal and conforming with all city regulations.

The rule, left standing, immunizes corrupt practices and makes impossibly difficult the public’s right to address illegal conduct whenever and wherever found. It violates every citizen’s fundamental right, the right of concerned community members and Community Boards, to challenge illegal practices at any time.

The process for posting plans on line continues to omit zoning calculations and analyses from the plans on DOB’s website. This short-circuits any effective use of the new complaint process. Absent zoning analysis, the public remains unable to determine if, in fact, a project conforms with zoning or building regulations and if an objection is warranted.

Perhaps City Hall wanted this all along. Maybe they seek to disguise this over-development tool as they continue to scheme how to remake sound and stable communities. They thwart and play cute with zonings and text changes our civic organizations advocate, and allow many essential landmarking opportunities to fall prey to inappropriate and unnecessary development.

In an opening response, we participated along with civic leaders, members of the Queens Civic Congress in a protest rally in front of the DOB headquarters on July 10th. Together we intend to do all that is possible to have the agency withdraw this latest act of contempt for Joe Citizen.

Seymour Schwartz

Woodhaven Residents Block Association Meeting - September 15th...

The Woodhaven Residents Block Association September meeting was held at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Ambulance Corps headquarters on Jamaica Avenue on September 15th...

Newly elected New York State Assembly member Michael Miller (photo above) was congratulated and spoke briefly to the Association members...

Among the visitors to the meeting were Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-38th AD), City Councilman Eric Ulrich, City Council candidate Frank Gulluscio, Albert Baldeo, Farouk Samaroo and City Council candidate Tom Ognibene...and representatives from state Sentor Joe Addabbo's office and Kate Mooney of City Council member Elizabeth Crowley's office...

Woodhaven Residents Block Association Executive Board with from left to right - Farouk Samaroon, Frank Gulluscio, CM Eric Ulrich, Tom Ognibene, AM Michael Miller and Albert Baldeo

Bloomberg Mailer Attacks Thompson with Fuzzy Facts by Adam Lisberg - NY Daily News

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Mayor Bloomberg mailed out his first attack on Controller William Thompson last week, a comparison of their education records headlined "On Education: The Choice is Clear."

But it's not clear - because Bloomberg can't back up everything he claims.

The mailer stacks four facts about Bloomberg's record as mayor against Thompson's time as president of the old Board of Education.

Not a surprise: Team Bloomberg has tried to make the phrase "Board of Education" a synonym for bad old New York, when crime was up, streets were dirty and kids didn't learn.

Except they can't support their most shocking claim about Thompson's tenure - "School Violence Soared."

A tiny footnote cites the Daily News of Sept. 18, 1995. A check of the archive reveals an editorial that claimed "Violence in the schools has soared" - but it doesn't cite statistics, and doesn't mention Thompson.

That's because Thompson didn't become board president until the following summer.

It's a funny error to make on a mailer emblazoned with the phrase, "Why is Bill Thompson distorting Mike Bloomberg's education record?"

The next item claims dropout rates rose four percentage points in Thompson's time, compared with falling 6.5 points under Bloomberg. It cites the same Department of Education report for both figures.

Yet a close reading of that report shows it also assumes Thompson was president when the class of 1996 graduated - which he wasn't. Ironically, if the report had cited his real tenure, the numbers would have been worse - a 4.5-point rise.

It's a strange lapse for the data-obsessed mayor, who relies on reams of statistics to judge how his administration is doing.

Perhaps the campaign is making him sloppy: When News reporter Erin Einhorn caught him this month inaccurately claiming to have equalized school funding for whites and minorities, a deputy mayor had to walk it back.

Statistics alone can be misleading, too: Dropout rates began rising during Thompson's time because the Board of Education began demanding higher performance.

When dropout rates were released in 2000, The News wrote: "Parents and advocates said the push for higher standards - from high-stakes tests to tougher promotion and graduation policies - is forcing struggling students out of the system without an adequate safety net in place."

Education statistics are notoriously malleable, and Team Thompson has argued that Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have cooked the books.

Expect to be buried under an avalanche of education statistics for the next six weeks. Bloomberg will point to better performance, helped by money and control that Thompson never had.

Thompson will say the mayor has turned schools into testing mills that ignore arts and music - though in his first TV ad, he never mentions his time as board president.

Which argument wins the election?

When the Quinnipiac Poll asked New Yorkers in July, 56% said Bloomberg's school stewardship has been a success.

But it may end up less about numbers and more about impressions. Lots of New Yorkers are going to see Bloomberg's expensive mailers between now and Nov. 3 - and almost none of them are likely to check his footnotes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

'A Look At Jamaica Bay' Now Open - Photographs by Don Riepe - Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center - September through November 2009

Click on image to enlarge...

Photographs by Don Riepe are on display at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center in a show titled "A Look at Jamaica Bay."

This naturalist and amateur photographer says he finds beauty in both large and small aspects of the bay, in addition to giving the bay a serious glance and a gaze that captures a bit of humor. In some photographs, the urban is juxtaposed against the scenery of Jamaica Bay. Overall, the photographs catch the nature of Jamaica Bay.

The exhibit is free and open from September through November 2009.

Call the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at 718-318-4340 for more information.

Photo by Don Riepe

Assemblywoman Pheffer Encourages Children To Return Their Completed Summer Reading Challenge Forms

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer (D-Queens) is encouraging all children who completed the Summer Reading Challenge during their summer vacation to drop off their completed forms so that they may receive their certificates.

“This Challenge offered children the opportunity to continue reading and learning, even though school was out for the summer,” said Pheffer.

To encourage children to continue reading during the summer, Assemblywoman Pheffer offers her annual Summer Reading Challenge. Those interested receive a brochure with a calendar and a box for each day in July and August. When there are 40 or more days marked off with 15 minutes or more of reading on each day, your child earns a New York State Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate. Along with the calendar, the brochure contains a list of suggested reading material for each stage of childhood to assist in your choice of books.

“Reading is an important tool for success, and the students who participate in this challenge demonstrate that they are committed to making education a priority,” said Pheffer.

You may stop by either of Assemblywoman Pheffer’s district offices at 90-16 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach, or 108-14 Crossbay Boulevard, Ozone Park to drop off your completed forms, or to receive a new copy if needed.

NYS Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Audrey I. Pheffer Applauds T-Mobile’s Decision to Abandon Paper Billing Charge

Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Audrey I. Pheffer (D-Queens) today commended T-Mobile for its decision to not go forward with a planned policy change that would have required customers who receive a paper bill to pay a fee of $1.50 per month. The “Paper Bill Charge,” announced last month, generated numerous complaints and inquiries from customers.

Upon learning of the new fee from a constituent, Pheffer immediately contacted T-Mobile to express her concerns with the policy. Pheffer noted that paper billing charges unfairly impact consumers that do not have Internet access in their homes, as well as those that are uncomfortable using the Internet, including many senior citizens and those concerned about personal privacy. Pheffer further noted that paper billing charges disproportionately affect low-income consumers, who are less likely to have access to the Internet.

“Many consumers, including many senior citizens and those concerned about privacy, are uncomfortable using the Internet,” said Pheffer (D-Queens). “These consumers should not be forced to bear the burden of an additional monthly charge in order to receive a paper bill. Businesses need to look at other ways to achieve the environmental goal of reduced paper use, such as incentive-based programs, that do not penalize consumers.”

Pheffer noted that other wireless telephone service providers, including Verizon and Sprint, have encouraged their customers to choose paperless billing by providing incentives to those that sign up for this eco-friendly option, and she encourages T-Mobile and other businesses to consider implementing similar policies.

Assemblywoman Pheffer Announces Extension of Evidentiary Period for the Renewal of the Queens County Real Estate Cease & Desist Program

Assemblywoman Audrey I Pheffer (D-Queens) is pleased that New York Secretary of State Lorraine Corres-Vasques has extended the time period to provide evidence for the need to continue the Cease and Desist Program.

According to Assemblywoman Pheffer, for many years, the Cease and Desist Program has prevented unscrupulous real estate brokers from soliciting Queen’s homeowners to sell their homes. Through the program, residents would add their names to a “Do Not Contact” list that remained in place for five years. Residents on the list could not be contacted by any means, including phone, mail or in person, by brokers seeking to encourage the sale of their homes. Brokers who violate the list are subject to fines and/or license suspension by the Secretary of State. Without the Cease and Desist program homeowners could be swamped by eager brokers looking to find new markets and increase their customer base.

The program expired on August 1st because the Secretary of State did not find sufficient evidence of improper solicitations by brokers. According to a letter received from Secretary Kathleen McCoy, Acting Director of the Department of State, “The Department of State did receive evidence of intense and repeated solicitation in certain communities of Queens County. Having met the evidentiary standard required by statute, the Secretary of State will be able to promulgate a cease and desist zone for these communities. However, the Department did not obtain such evidence for all areas of Queens County that were covered under the now expired cease and desist rule.”

“We are victims of success,” said Pheffer. “Most brokers have gotten the message over the years, rather than face heavy fines they greatly reduced solicitation of Queen’s homeowners.” “Now we are in danger of many brokers returning to the pressure tactics of the past, which will create a climate of fear and destabilization of our neighborhoods.”

The Assemblywoman had urged the Secretary of State to reevaluate her position last month and is pleased that Secretary Corres-Vasques has done so. The Secretary recently notified Assemblywoman Pheffer that the Department will continue to review evidence of improper solicitations through October 31st. “I urge all residents to contact my office and the Secretary of State directly to confirm any history of solicitation over the last five years,” said Pheffer. “It is vital that the program be reinstated as quickly as possible for the stability of our community.”

Any residents who have any history of solicitation may contact Secretary of State Lorraine Corres-Vasques, Department of State, 123 Williams Street, New York, NY 10038.

Assemblywoman Pheffer Announces “New Yorkers for Better Neighborhoods” Grants from Citizens Committee for New York City

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer (D-Queens) is pleased to announce that Citizens Committee for New York City has informed her of grants that are available for local volunteer community groups and public school-based student groups working to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods and schools across the city.

Through New Yorkers for Better Neighborhoods, Citizens Committee offers grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 to grassroots community groups in economically under-resourced neighborhoods to work on community improvement projects that bring neighborhoods together.

“With this grant program, Citizens Committee is offering our community organizations a wonderful opportunity to bring many of their innovative community improvement project ideas to fruition. I encourage anyone interested to take full advantage of this great opportunity,” said Pheffer.

The application deadline for the Fall 2009 grants is September 30th and for the Spring 2010 grants the deadline is March 14, 2010. For further information regarding how to apply, contact Citizens Committee for New York City at their website,, or call 212-989-0909.

Assemblywoman Pheffer Announces 2010 Legislative Internships

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer (D-Queens) is pleased to report that the New York State Assembly is offering two internship programs to eligible college and graduate students for the upcoming 2010 Legislative Session.

The Assembly Session Internship offers up to 150 college students a chance to participate in state government and legislative process through a well-structured practical learning experience. Most colleges grant Session Interns a full semester of credit, as recommended by the Regents National Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction. The Assembly Intern Committee awards a $4,140 stipend to each Session Intern to help defray the cost of relocating to Albany from January 4th through May 12th, 2010. Applicants for this program must be matriculated in a college degree program as juniors or seniors. They must be NYS residents or attend a college in NYS. Applicants may be from any major and should have a strong interest in state government and the legislative process. All applicants must demonstrate academic ability, intellectual curiosity and receive the positive recommendation of their campus liaison. Students of all majors may apply.

The 2010 Graduate Internship provides full-time research or policy analysis positions with Assembly leaders, committees and research staffs. The position offers an $11,500 stipend for working in Albany from January 4th through June 23rd, 2009. Applicants for the Internship must be matriculated in or have recently completed a graduate degree program. They must be NYS residents or attend a university in New York. Applicants should have excellent research skills and a strong interest in state government and the legislative process. Students of all majors may apply.

“These internships are a wonderful opportunity for students who are interested in government to experience first-hand the inner-workings of the New York State Assembly and to see what really goes into forming the policies that govern our great state,” said Pheffer.

Persons interested in applying for either of these 2010 Internships should meet with their on-campus Liaison, who should have application forms and necessary instructions. If you do not know who your on-campus liaison is, or in the event they do not have the appropriate application material, you may call the Assembly Intern Committee at (518) 455-4704 for further assistance.

All applications must be forwarded to the Assembly Intern Committee with a postmark no later than October 30, 2009.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My School is Bursting with Students, and Tweed is to Blame - Op/Ed by Arthur Goldstein - NY Daily News

This op/ed by a friend appeared in the NY Daily News...

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As an ESL teacher, I face challenges very different from those of my colleagues. For example, while some teachers are at their wits' end trying to get kids to quiet down, I might be begging newcomers to speak audibly - or making them repeat things 20 times until they can be heard.

But that's not always the case. For example, a few years back, I had half a dozen kids from the Dominican Republic who loved to speak. But they wanted to speak Spanish, and in my English classes, we speak only English.

It was hard to blame them. On the other side of our sheetrock wall was a Spanish teacher partial to choral repetition. Every time I reminded my kids of our English-only rule, we'd hear 34 voices chant in unison, "Como esta usted, Senor Mendez?" They thought it was the funniest thing in the world.

The half-rooms were designed to alleviate overcrowding. After we created them, the Education Department sent us hundreds of extra kids.

I've since been exiled to the trailers. Technically they're "transportables," but ours haven't gone anywhere since they arrived years ago. Our first trailers gave us four additional classrooms, designed to alleviate overcrowding.

After we got the trailers, the department sent us hundreds of extra kids. Our second bunch gave us four more classrooms, and the department sent us hundreds more extra kids. Our last principal declined further trailers. In fact, he had an athletic field built around them, precluding further construction in the trailer park. The department sent us hundreds of extra kids anyway.

We improvised new rooms. Some resembled bowling alleys. A colleague, the day before his retirement, brought a bowling ball and rolled it from one end of the room to the other. The department sent us hundreds of extra kids.

Space became truly scarce. I was assigned to a room the size of a small studio apartment. A dance class practiced outside, forcing us to close the door. Having no windows, the 17 students and I made the daily choice between air and quiet.

This year, to alleviate the overcrowding, we extended our class day to 13 periods. The department still sent us hundreds of extra kids. Our building, initially designed for 1,800 students, broke 4,700 this year.

Returning teachers struggle to handle up to 45 students at a time, leading to momentous battles over precious chairs. Students and teachers tear furiously down the hallways, shoving each other out of the way to make classes on time by any means necessary. A colleague of mine found herself teaching a gym class of 156 kids. By the time the period was over, she hadn't finished taking attendance. They've since added another teacher, and six kids, so she's now down to 81.

In the trailers, the floors are polished for the first time. But with swine flu looming large, the sinks barely work and there's not a bottle of Purell to be found anywhere.

To us, the experts at Tweed are like doctors who diagnose a disease, then inject the patient with more toxins just to make certain they're right. No one can criticize their diagnostic skills. But if anyone's due a malpractice suit, it's the Department of Education.

Goldstein is a teacher and union chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

Tom White Leads Race by Six Votes Over Lynn Nunes in 28th City Council District by Ivan Pereira -

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Council Incumbent Faces Stiff Challenge from Upstart Lynn Nunes

Councilman Thomas White beat Lynn Nunes in Tuesday’s primary by six votes, but the challenger said he is not conceding until final results are in. Photo by Christina Santucci/file

With City Councilman Thomas White (D-South Ozone Park) holding a razor thin lead of only six votes in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, his main challenger said he will continue to fight for a chance to be the leader of the 28th Council district.

The incumbent, who was running for his second term, beat out second place candidate, Lynn Nunes, with a total of 1,849 votes, or 31.85 percent, according to preliminary results from the city Board of Elections. Nunes, a small business owner from Richmond hill, received 1,843 votes, or 31.75 percent, the Board said.

Nunes said he would wait until all votes were counted and would not concede.

“We’re still have to go to the absentee. It’s six votes. We’re going to see what happens once we count the absentee,” Nunes said following the results Tuesday night.

White could not be reached for comment by press time late Tuesday night. The one-term councilman served as the councilman for the district from 1994-2002 and was term limited out but retook the seat from his successor, Allen Jennings, during the 2005 Democratic primary.

Other challengers who vied for White’s seat included community activist Stephen Jones, Ruben Wills, a former chief of staff for state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), and Jennings.

Jennings received 16.22 percent of the vote, with 942 people voting for him, followed by Wills who had 9.08 percent of the vote with 527 votes, Hogan received 379 votes, which was 6.53 percent of the total, followed by Jones. who received 4.57 percent of the vote, with 265 people voting for him.

None of the other candidates could be reached for comment as of Tuesday night.

The primary did not bring out a large number of southeast Queens voters, but those who turned out said they wanted to have their voice heard in the Council, mayoral, public advocate and comptroller races.

Although White may have won the election for a second term, several voters said they chose his opponents because the incumbent haddone little for the community during the last four years.

“Every once in a while, you need a change in blood,” said Henry Lyons, who said he did not vote for White.

Fat Cats Turn Park-Keeper Groups Into Their 'Shady' Money Trees by James Fanelli - NY Post

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New York has handed control of most of the city's parks to private conservancies, which have cleaned up the spaces - and provided lucrative paydays to those who run them.

Green acres is the place to be.

Nonprofit park "conservancies" have raised $90 million to spruce up the city's natural spaces -- and in the process have sown a cottage industry of murky relationships, potential conflicts of interest and fat, six-figure salaries for its executives.

A Post investigation found:

* Madison Square Park Conservancy co-founder Debbie Landau pulls down $185,000 annually running the 6.2-acre Flatiron District park. Her sister Maggie is on the payroll, too, as the $114,962 director of events.

* Danny Meyer, a co-founder of the Madison Square Park conservancy and board member, got an inside track to land the $5 million food concession there. And his outside eateries raked in more than $60,000 last year hosting conservancy events.

* Bryant Park Corp.'s Daniel Biederman, whose group tends the 6-acre Midtown park, earns $229,000 while holding down at least two other plum full-time jobs.

* Randall's Island Sports Foundation head Aimee Boden collects two paychecks for the same job, overseeing the upkeep of the 480-acre East River park. She is paid $55,196 by the city Parks Department as an administrator and $94,469 by the conservancy -- an arrangement two comptroller audits have cited as a conflict of interest.

* Central Park Conservancy President Douglas Blonsky is the biggest earner, raking in almost $400,000 in 2008 in pay and benefits. His group raised $70 million the previous year for the upkeep of the 843-acre park.

More than a dozen conservancies exist around the city, all with a mission to provide additional -- or in some cases, the only -- upkeep of a park. They raise the majority of their funds through private donations but also pull down taxpayer-funded grants.

City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe has extolled the benefits of these public-private partnerships. He says the conservancies can raise private dollars for a park, and, in turn, the city can put more money into poorer parks that don't have conservancies.

"It's a very good deal for the city," Benepe said.

But critics argue the arrangements allow the Parks Department to skirt its responsibility of maintaining public spaces. They also complain that conservancies are given unchecked autonomy over parks and gain an inside track on profitable city concessions.

"These parks have become the conservancies' own private fiefdoms," said Geoffrey Croft, president of watchdog group NYC Park Advocates. "There is no transparency. There is no consistency."

Indeed, the wildly varying salaries of conservancy executives raise a red flag for critics like Croft.

Madison Square Park Conservancy spokesman Joe DePlasco defended co-founder Landau and its salaries, explaining they are privately funded.

"Under Debbie Landau's leadership, Madison Square Park has become one of the most important cultural and public spaces in the city," DePlasco said.

"She's raised every penny spent there, from maintenance and capital improvements to public art installations, concerts and readings."

The organization raised $3.1 million last year. DePlasco added that its board determines the salary of Landau's sister.

The conservancy was founded in 2002. The park's popularity grew in 2003, when Meyer opened his burger stand, Shake Shack, there. The conservancy beat out two other bidders for a city contract for the concession. The contract was sublicensed to Meyer.

It has proven to be highly profitable. In fiscal year 2009, the city got $220,256 of Shack Shack's $4.9 million revenue.

Meyer pays the conservancy 8 percent of Shake Shack's revenue. From that cut, the conservancy gives 4.5 percent of all the eatery's revenue to the city.

In 2008, Meyer paid the conservancy about $348,000. But the conservancy paid his restaurants Tabla and Eleven Madison Park $64,000 for hosting fund-raising events.

"He is not making money," said DePlasco, because "he actually closes the restaurants for fund-raisers."

Meanwhile, Bryant Park Corp. President Biederman defended his multiple salaries -- he gets $229,000 a year from the park group and another $229,000 annually from the 34th Street Partnership, a Midtown business improvement district that, with the city's backing, collects fees from local businesses for the upkeep of public space.

In tax filings, Biederman claimed he spends 40 hours per week working each job.

He also finds the time to run a consulting firm, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, which boasts scores of clients.

One client, the Chelsea Improvement Company, a collection of businesses at Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District, paid his firm $290,000 for an 18-month period for him to run its nonprofit operation, according its 2007 tax filings.

Biederman declined to say how much the Chelsea Improvement Company currently pays him or how much he has received from other clients.

The triple-play got him into hot water in 1998 with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. At the time, Biederman was running the Grand Central Partnership, another Midtown improvement district, on top of his jobs at the Bryant Park Corp. and the 34th Street Partnership.

Giuliani lambasted him for amassing a mini-empire and forced Biederman to resign from the Grand Central district.

When asked how he could perform so many jobs at once, Biederman told The Post he has the support of the board members for each organization he runs.

"We don't think we're overextended," he said. "The quality of the programs speak for themselves."

The two salaries Boden collects at the Parks Department and as head of the Randall's Island Sports Foundation were cited in a 2000 audit.

Then-state Comptroller Carl McCall raised concerns that Boden and other employees were being paid twice for the same work.

"We did not agree with their finding that this was a conflict," Parks Department Chief of Staff Jane Rudolph Woods said.

While the Parks Department doesn't oversee conservancies, Commissioner Benepe sits on their boards as an ex officio member. Benepe supported the salaries of all the conservancy heads.

He said the conservancies are private initiatives and don't require any government oversight.

"There is a mistake in the notion that there is a long line of candidates who want to take an active role in maintaining public parks," Benepe said.

"It's not the city's place to meddle. That would be the quickest way to kill the entrepreneurial spirit of these organizations."