New Yorkers are starting to get acquainted with their new neighbor, former Tennessee Congressman and bank executive Harold Ford, Jr.
So who is the REAL Harold Ford, Jr.?
Well, for starters, hes a staunch opponent of abortion rights. He also disapproves of marriage equality for gay couples, opposes public safety laws to keep guns off the streets, and blames immigrants for Americas problems. Doesn't sound like much of a New Yorker, does he?
Of course, now that hes living in Manhattan instead of south of the Mason-Dixon line, Ford is remaking himself as a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control progressive. But unfortunately for Harold, this is the age of the internet, and you cant just walk away from your past statements. That's why we compiled this video of the REAL Harold Ford, Jr., to introduce New Yorkers to their latest carpetbagger.
Join us at http://bravenewfilms.org/ford/#Tell-Y...
Help in spreading the word. Share this video with every New Yorker you know!
Sunday, January 31, 2010
New Yorkers are starting to get acquainted with their new neighbor, former Tennessee Congressman and bank executive Harold Ford, Jr.
An Ozone Park resident allegedly tried to stroll past U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers at Kennedy International Airport with over 12 pounds of heroin sewn into his pants.
Heriberto Hidalgo Pulido was stopped by CBP officers on Jan. 11 for a routine baggage inspection after his arrival on a flight from Ecuador. Pulido’s checked bags contained five pairs of pants with unusually thick pockets and seams. A more intrusive inspection of the pants revealed a brown powdery substance concealed within the seams and pockets of the pants, which field tested positive for heroin.
The narcotics seized during this inspection carried a street value over $500,000, and its investigation is ongoing. If convicted, Pulido may face significant jail time.
As if the New York Racing Association didn’t have enough problems, now the group is facing fines of up to $37,500 a day for pollution violations, according to officials. The most egregious citation is for the dumping of horse manure, wastewater and other pollutants into Jamaica Bay.
NYRA has been cited with a total of 14 violations by the State Department of Environmental Conservation — nine violations at Belmont Park, three at Aqueduct Race Track and two more at Saratoga Race Course upstate, according to a Dec. 21 notice sent to the association. DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said the notice was for illegal discharges and not complying with the deadlines in their existing consent orders. It further stated that in order to resolve the matter, NYRA officials must attend a compliance conference.
According to DEC spokesperson Yancey Roy, the agency had preliminary discussions with officials at NYRA and its legal office is attempting to get the association to enter a consent agreement to settle the infractions.
NYRA declined to comment.
“I applaud the DEC for their diligence in protecting our natural resources,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park). “NYRA must comply with all state laws, as must every other business in New York State, and we will not allow them to continue with these heinous actions.”
NYRA already faces scrutiny by elected officials concerned about its financial and operating efficiency after the association announced that it may run out of funds by next summer.
In December, NYRA President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Hayward said the group may run out of money in June if the state doesn’t pick a bidder to construct and operate the Aqueduct video lottery terminals soon. NYRA is slated to get a negotiated percentage of the revenue from the 30-year Aqueduct VLT contract, Hayward said.
Another factor cited by Hayward for NYRA’s running out of cash was a 10 percent decline in wagering at Aqueduct this year. In addition, the bankrupt New York City Off Track Betting Corp. owes NYRA $18.7 million.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli subpoenaed records from NYRA last month after it denied his office access to them.
“Less than six months ago, NYRA said it was financially stable,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Now NYRA says without VLT money it may not be able to stay in operation until the Belmont Stakes. NYRA operates for the benefit of New York. Taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on, and we’re going to audit NYRA and find out.”
DiNapoli’s audit, which NYRA agreed to last week, will examine the millions of dollars in state payments made to the association over the past couple of years and monies owed to the state by NYRA.
“We are complying,” said NYRA spokesman Dan Silver. “Aside from that we have no further comment.”
The state Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations also want to have a look at NYRA’s records. Last week the committees’ chairmen sent a joint letter to NYRA requesting all its financial records, including cash statements, liabilities, debts and tax returns.
The letter stated that although the chairmen were encouraged by NYRA’s decision to share much of its financial information with and open its books to the comptroller, “much more disclosure is required to shed light on the ways in which tax dollars have been spent and to explain the causes of NYRA’s possible exhaustion of its funds.”
The letter also invited NYRA officials to testify at an upcoming joint committee public hearing on Feb. 3.
Silver said NYRA officials have received the letter and are reviewing it.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Man Shot, Two Hurt in Wild Melee Outside Queens Club Chemistry Lounge by Kate Nocera - NY Daily News
A wild melee near a Queens lounge early Friday left one man shot, two slashed and a fourth in custody, police said.
Police said the shooting victim was a 38-year-old bouncer who tried to break up a fight outside Chemistry Lounge, a nightclub on Liberty Ave. in Ozone Park.
Investigators said the gunman may have fired from a car and hit the bouncer by accident.
Cops made one arrest - Alberto Cabrera, 18 - who was nabbed at a nearby train station after the 1:50 a.m. incident. None of the injuries was life-threatening.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Howard Zinn (1922-2010): A Tribute to the Legendary Historian with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove - Democracy Now!
We pay tribute to the late historian, writer and activist Howard Zinn, who died suddenly on Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of eighty-seven. Howard Zinn’s classic work A People’s History of the United States changed the way we look at history in America. It has sold over a million copies and was recently made into a television special called The People Speak. We remember Howard Zinn in his own words, and we speak with those who knew him best: Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove.
Lack of Parking Spots Plague Austin St. Retail Stretch; Community Members Search for Solutions by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News
The Austin St. shopping district acts like a siren - with its enticing stores, restaurants and movie theaters luring visitors into frustrating hunts for parking spaces.
There's no municipal lot for refuge. Private parking garages charge an arm and a leg. And leaving a car in nearby Forest Hills Gardens without a permit earns a boot and a fine.
Experts wince, too.
"Oh, man, I've spent 25, 30 minutes looking for a parking place there," groaned AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair.
Civic leaders long have tried to address the scarcity of spaces near the Austin St. retail stretch - centered at 71st-Continental Ave., a block from the subway.
But the "Queens Parking Crunch" series is renewing calls for solutions so locals can awaken from their spot-search nightmare.
In interviews with Queens News, locals suggested everything from angled parking to making Austin St. one way to erecting a municipal lot close by.
But resolving the vehicular vexation first requires an understanding of why finding a spot in Forest Hills has become so difficult.
If motorists venture south into Forest Hills Gardens, it compounds their stress because only residents of the private enclave and visitors with passes can park there.
On the other hand, crossing Queens Blvd. leads to stretches of apartment buildings, houses and offices where the demand for parking outweighs the supply.
"It's a major concern in the district - very frustrating riding around the block looking for a spot," said Frank Gulluscio, manager of Community Board 6.
Chris Collett, who owned a collectibles business in the area from 1983 to 2002, recalled patrons constantly telling him, "I'd love to shop here, but. ..."
Their sentences invariably ended with parking gripes. "It has only gotten worse," said Collett, who serves on the community board. "There's no easy solution."
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz vowed to consider several potential solutions, some of which she explored during her first Council stint from 1991 to 2001.
She suggested weekend bus trips between Austin St. and the Borough Hall lot on Union Turnpike. "It would be good for business," she said - before adding that funding may be hard to obtain.
She pledged to "look into" Forest Hills Gardens allowing nonresidents to park there during the most popular shopping hours, but she added she was "not optimistic."
Koslowitz also said the city should mull buying property near Austin St., should it become available, and constructing a "small," one-level municipal lot.
In the meantime, some stores that belong to the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce offer patrons reduced parking rates at the Allied Austin lot by 70th Ave.
"We're trying to eliminate, also, employees and owners taking up spaces," said chamber President Leslie Brown. "It helps."
A Transportation Department spokesman would say only that the city is "happy to work with CB6, elected officials and other civic groups to address their concerns about parking in Forest Hills."
This is the second in a Queens News series highlighting neighborhoods and shopping districts where the parking shortage has become chronic and crippling. The goal is to find solutions -- simple or innovative. To suggest trouble spots or ideas, e-mail QueensNews@nydailynews.com with "Queens Parking Crunch" in the subject line.
New York Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders have tapped Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run a sprawling new video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct.
But the deal comes with some strings attached by the state legislature, including that AEG must raise its up-front franchise fee payment to the state from $200 million to $300 million to match the highest offer that had come from Penn National Gaming Inc. A series of other demands have also been imposed at the last minute Jan. 29 in order to gain legislative approval, including a serious vetting of all individuals tied to AEG before a contract will be awarded.
“After an extensive review of the five remaining bids to operate the video lottery terminals at Aqueduct racetrack, I have chosen and the (legislative) leaders have agreed upon the organization that best fulfills our selection criteria," Paterson said in a statement. "AEG has both the financial viability and ability to pay the required upfront licensing fee."
The bidding brings to an end, depending on AEG meeting the conditions before a final deal is signed, wrangling that has delayed construction of the Aqueduct casino since it was first approved in 2001.
All of the groups have valid proposals, but AEG presented a comprehensive bid that enjoys community support and also offers strong marketing appeal," Paterson said.
The deal required the sign-off by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson. Silver was said to have the most issues with AEG as an operator for the next three decades at the Queens facility. But Dan Weiller, a Silver spokesman, said several important conditions were placed on the selection.
Weiller said besides the up-front licensing fee being increased to $300 million, the winning bidder must also use the existing MGM Mirage casino footprint – from an earlier, failed process to get another VLT casino at the track – in order to piggyback onto previous environmental reviews awarded that project. That will quicken the construction time.
To satisfy concerns about some potential investors of AEG, the Assembly also inserted language to ensure that all investors at any level, partners, directors, managers, and contract-holders must obtain licenses from the state Lottery Division, which will require a round of background checks. Also, it prohibits a license to anyone who has been convicted of a series of major and minor crimes over the past 15 years, such as tax evasion or fraud, from getting a license to be involved in the venture.
Finally, Weiller said, any changes that have to be made to meet any conditions for a final contract with the state have to again be unanimously approved by the governor and the two legislative leaders.
One of the losing bidding groups was quick to criticize the choice. "We were extremely shocked and dismayed by the governor’s announcement given we offered over $100 million more to the state than AEG in our bid," Penn National Gaming Inc. said in a statement. "In addition, our proposal complies with the conditions outlined by the (Assembly) Speaker for the winning bidder.
"We remain committed to this project, and will await further details about the selection process before commenting further."
That PNGI talked of still remaining interested in the VLT casino highlighted some initial reactions by some other officials that the new conditions imposed on AEG might not be so easy to reach -- thereby giving the possibility the process could re-open.
Word of Paterson’s surprise movement to AEG was first reported by The Blood-Horse earlier Jan. 29. Behind closed doors, Paterson’s aides had been pushing for a partnership led by SL Green, a Manhattan developer, and Hard Rock Entertainment, the Seminole Indian company.
AEG since last year has been the choice of Senate President Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat whose political mentor, Rev. Floyd Flake, a prominent African American leader in New York City, has ties to the AEG bid. AEG includes The Navegante Group, a Las Vegas casino company; former MGM executive Larry Woolf; Turner Construction Co.; and a real estate group that has financial ties to a group founded by Flake.
Flake was most recently in the news suggesting he might support Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to run for governor against Paterson in what promises to be, if it happens, a divisive Democratic primary. Flake, however, did not close the door to supporting Paterson.
Paterson is the state's first African-American governor, and there are signs that a number of key black Democrats are getting set to ask Paterson to step aside for a Cuomo run, possibly as soon as the weekend of Jan. 30. Paterson's poll numbers have been improving, though they are still in the political basement, and Cuomo has five times as much money in the campaign bank as the governor.
A Flake endorsement of Paterson could be used by allies of the governor to slow down Cuomo’s inroads with black Democratic leaders.
The matter is filled with fiscal and political implications. The state is facing a $7.4-billion budget deficit, and Paterson is threatening to halt payments to schools and other groups in late March if there is no budget deal.
The developments came a day after a group of Queens City Council members called on Paterson to select the Peebles/MGM Mirage bidding group.
"There are a myriad of reasons why we are recommending this bid; however, what stands out is their track record of quality development throughout the country, their focus on inclusion of minority and women-owned business in the development, and their commitment on providing stable economic opportunities for our community," wrote council member Leroy Comrie in a letter to Paterson and legislative leaders.
Paterson has been under mounting pressure to pick an Aqueduct operator. The state is losing $1 million a day for every day the casino’s planned 4,500 VLTs aren't operating.
The Aqueduct casino was first approved by the legislature and then-Gov. George Pataki in 2001. The casino’s proceeds will be shared between the operator, the state, the New York Racing Association, and for purses and breeding funds.
Former President Bill Clinton Endorses Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Her Likely Fight vs. Harold Ford by M Saul, D Saltonstall & C Katz - NY Daily News
Bubba's for Gilly.
Former President Bill Clinton endorsed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Thursday - a possible indication that the seat's former occupant, Hillary Clinton, approves too.
Bill Clinton's entrance would make him the newest big-name Democrat to throw his weight behind Gillibrand, who faces a possible primary from ex-Tennessee congressman Harold Ford.
It would also be "consistent with [Hillary Clinton's] role as a member of the Obama administration, which has strongly endorsed Sen. Gillibrand's candidacy," said Baruch College's David Birdsell. But she can't endorse a candidate as Secretary of State.
An aide said Gillibrand - who heartily backed Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid - "greatly appreciates President Clinton's support for her agenda fighting for core Democratic values."
The ex-commander in chief is focused on the Haiti crisis and hasn't yet scheduled any events with Gillibrand. But the Clinton seal of approval could still be a powerful tool for Gillibrand if Ford jumps into the race.
The endorsement is a bit of a blow for Ford, who like Clinton, once led the clubby Democratic Leadership Council.
The ex-President has long been a fan of the 39-year-old Ford, once calling him "the walking, living embodiment [of] where America ought to go in the 21st century."
Ford, for his part, suggested yesterday that Gillibrand may be going a little crackers.
After Ford dubbed Gillibrand a "parakeet" this week for parroting the Democratic Party line, she mockingly said on Twitter that if Ford were at the State of the Union address, he'd be sitting on the Republican side.
Ford, who toured a Westchester hospital and a Bronx pharmacy yesterday, said he hadn't seen Gillibrand's tweet, but "would imagine that some of the political pressure and things are probably getting to her and her team."
The blazing rhetoric - which is being lobbed before Ford has even declared he's a candidate - had state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs calling for a ceasefire on NY1 News.
"I don't like the name-calling. I don't think it's helpful," he said.
South Queens residents are being urged by their elected officials to stand up and be counted in the 2010 U.S. Census so the community can get its fair share of federal funds.
“The Census offers a critical snapshot of Queens and our communities,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park). “The federal government uses Census figures to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding, impacting everything from schools and hospitals to our roads.”
The 2010 Census will also determine Queens’ representation in the U.S. Congress and state Legislature for the next 10 years.
For every New Yorker counted in the 2000 Census, the federal government spends nearly $2,000 a year, providing the state with over $38.2 billion in federal program funding based on population, according to a statement released by the New York State Senate.
Unfortunately, it can be a challenge collecting data from all residents in south Queens.
“Many of the people living in our community have not been accurately counted in previous Census surveys,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “Such low, inaccurate Census counts in our borough in 2000 resulted in lower per capita funding, as compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn, for vital services affecting all our residents who depend on libraries, schools and hospitals.”
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) noted that south Queens would benefit greatly by increased participation in the Census because that would translate into increased federal funding for police, fire, education and other services for the community. “It would be a tremendous boost to this neighborhood in terms of the amount of money that we would be able to qualify for,” Ulrich said.
Community boards are also involved in the borough’s effort to increase participation in this year’s census.
“In 2000, only 54 percent of Queens residents returned their Census forms,” said Community Board 10 chairwoman Betty Braton. “The 2000 response rate in Community Board 10 was not as good as it should have been either. An undercount in the Census may not seem important to some, but it is very important as the data gathered very much factors into how more than $400 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and cities.”
CB 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey said she is looking forward to the Census due to the large influx of people into the community from various countries since 2000. “I certainly would encourage everybody to be counted in this census,” Carey said.
The 2010 Census form comprises 10 questions, which should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete, according to Census officials.
The questions ask a respondent’s name, age, ethnicity, relationship status and whether he or she owns or rents a home. Under federal law, the personal information collected by the Census Bureau is entirely confidential and cannot be shared with any federal, state or city agency.
Questionnaires are slated to be mailed beginning on March 1. Completed forms should be mailed back by April 1.
Between April and July, Census workers will be visiting households that did not mail back the forms. The following are recognition tips from the Better Business Bureau to assure the validity of a Census field representative in the event one knocks on your door:
The field worker must present an identification badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.He or she may also be carrying a bag with a Census Bureau logo.
The field representative will provide residents with supervisor contact information or the regional office phone number for verification, if asked.
The field representative will provide people with a letter from the Census Bureau director on official letterhead.
They will never ask for a Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number.Census workers also never solicit for donations and will never make contact by e-mail.
The Census Bureau is hiring individuals for a wide range of positions, including Census takers, crew leaders and Census clerks. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and pass a written test. For more information, applicants can call (866) 861-2010 or (347) 967-4020 from Monday to Friday between 5 and 9 p.m., or on weekends between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
When you go to the polls for the September primaries the old Shoup 3.2 mechanical voting machine, used in city polling places for about half a century, will be gone, replaced by Elections Systems & Software’s DS200 Scanner and the AutoMark Ballot Marking Device.
ES&S will provide 5,000 to 7,000 voting machines to the city under a $50 million contract.
The City Board of Elections made its selection after reviewing several options and holding public hearings.
“This change is part of the City of New York’s compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, which mandated, among other requirements, the replacement of lever machines and implementation of voting systems with a permanent paper record,” the BOE said in a statement.
The ES&S DS200 scanner is a portable electronic voting system that uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally the results. It allows for paper ballots to be immediately tabulated at the poll site and notifies voters of any errors, allowing them to immediately correct mistakes.
HAVA was passed after the disputed 2000 presidential election, in which poll workers from the two parties could not agree on which ballots should count and which should not.
The ES&S AutoMARK is a ballot marking device which allows any voter, including those with disabilities, to mark a paper ballot privately and independently by using either its touch screen, Braille-enhanced keypad, rocker paddle or sip and puff device, which registers a vote by detecting whether a voter is sucking in or breathing out. Voters may view the ballot on an adjustable screen or may listen to an audio ballot over headphones.
According to the city BOE, the DS200 complies with New York State Election Law, State BOE regulations, and the federal Elections Assistance Commission 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.
Elected officials in south Queens weighed in on the new technology.
“I look forward to and welcome the new voting machines in New York City, and I am hopeful that they will be a great improvement over the machines of years past,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park). “However, it is vital we ensure that poll workers are knowledgeable about these new machines since they will be the ones who are instructing voters.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., (D-Howard Beach), who is chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, said in a statement, “These machines have been tested harder and subjected to more requirements than any system in the nation, and the voters of the State of New York should feel confident that they will produce accurate and reliable results.”
Addabbo continued, “The testimony and reports we received, and the audits of the results produced by the machines, revealed that they accurately recorded and reported ballot selections made by voters. The optical scan technology they use also preserves voters ballots, commonly referred to as a ‘paper trail,’ ensuring the ability to conduct an accurate recount as necessary.”
However, according to published reports, some election experts remain concerned about the possibility of accidental “overvotes,” when, for instance, someone fills in ovals for two candidates rather than one, which is something that the levers machines do not allow. Some are also concerned that the design of the paper ballots might be too confusing or hard to read and that poll workers may not understand how the machine works and that the vote-counting function can be manipulated.
One citizens’ group, the Election Transparency Coalition, is preparing to file a lawsuit against the state to halt the transition to the new machines.
For more information on the new voting system, call 866-VOTE-NYC (868-3692) or visit the board’s website at vote.nyc.ny.us.
Photo caption: The new ES&S DS200 scanner, which debuts in September 2010, uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally results. PHOTO COURTESY NYC BOARD OF ELECTIONS
What appears to be a pattern of robberies involving livery and yellow cabs in South Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park has police keeping an eye out for at least two perpetrators.
The latest such incident occurred on Jan. 6 at 5:30 a.m. at 134th Street and Van Siclen Avenue, where a medallion taxi driver was robbed of cash by two black males. Deputy Inspector Joseph Courtesis, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, said that five minutes later in the same area a second taxicab driver was also robbed.
“These guys are kind of dangerous. They’re violent,” Courtesis said.
Courtesis told members of the 106th Precinct Community Council at their meeting last week that police are starting to develop a pattern in connection with the taxi robberies and will deploy resources to the relevant locations. The perpetrators appear to be driving around and looking for taxicabs or livery cars that have pulled over in the middle of the block waiting for a call, then walking over and attempting to steal the car, Courtesis said.
He added that police have three cases in which livery cars have been stolen in such a manner and one case in which the culprits attempted to steal a cab.
According to police, the livery car thefts occurred on Dec. 22 at 4 p.m. at 120th Avenue and the Van Wyck Expressway in South Ozone Park; Dec. 31 at 1:30 p.m. in front of 116-28 128th St., South Ozone Park; Jan.1 at 8 p.m. in front of 104-75 128th St. in South Richmond Hill; and at 9 p.m. on the same day at 109th Avenue and 134th Street in South Ozone Park.
In a second emerging pattern, the suspects allegedly robbed two cab drivers, Courtesis said. Police have only a partial description of the suspects’ getaway car, which is reported to be silver. Witnesses were unable to give police the license plate number.
The crimes are being investigated in coordination with the 113th Precinct in Jamaica, which has a similar pattern. The case has been referred to the Queens Borough Robbery Squad for investigation.
Courtesis said he is going around to all the taxi stands in his precinct, alerting the drivers to the robberies and asking them to report to police any suspicious individuals that they see.
In the bordering 103rd Precinct detectives are looking for suspects wanted in connection with the robbery of four livery car drivers. On Dec. 27 at 1:48 a.m. a driver was held up by two males with a stun gun in front of 177-18 106th Ave. in Jamaica. Four days later, a second driver was robbed at the same location by a black male in his 30s with a knife who fled with his money. On Jan. 3 at 10 p.m. a cab driver was held up at knife-point by a black man in his 20s in front of 177-20 106th Ave. The suspect in that robbery was caught by a surveillance camera inside the cab. On Jan. 4 at 11 p.m. a black man in his 20s attempted to rob a cab driver with a knife. The driver was able to get away from the perpetrator.
Anyone with information in regards to the crimes is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-(800) 577-TIPS (8477) or text information to 274637 (CRIMES), followed by TIP577.
The New York Racing Association has been cited for pollution violations – including dumping manure from Belmont Park raceway into Jamaica Bay.
Belmont was also cited for pumping wastewater and other pollutants into the bay.
State records show 14 citations that could cost the cash-strapped racing operator hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Nine of the violations involve Belmont; two are at Saratoga, and another at Aqueduct in Queens.
The costly violations come as NYRA officials say they may need a $30 million state bailout if a plan to install video slot machines at Aqueduct is not approved soon.
NYRA declined to comment on the citations.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
You have to admit that Mayor Bloomberg is consistent, he's as rude and arrogant to 12 year old New York City public school students as he is to their parents and the voters of New York City...A group of students received a lesson in government responsiveness today Mayor Bloomberg whisked by them on the steps of City Hall while they protested a plan to relocate their school, the DN's Kate Lucadamo reports.
Despite their cries, Bloomberg didn’t stop. His bodyguards surrounded him so the Clinton School for Writers and Artists students couldn’t hand him a letter, parents said.
Undeterred, members of the group chased him and yelled, but he quickly got in his car and disappeared.
“When I saw him pass by I thought he might stop,” said 12-year-old Miranda Rowe who was holding a letter. “I didn’t think he would just not accept it.”
“I was surprised he didn’t do anything, that he just walked away,” she said. “I thought they’d actually listen because we took the time to come out here and protest.”
Miranda’s mother said she was “shocked.”
A spokesman for the mayor confirmed the incident, saying: “The Mayor did not stop. Some of the students ran towards the car on his way out.”
Rep Weiner: “Obama Makes the Pivot” and Interview with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann after the State of the Union Address
Sounds Rallying Cry to Focus on Jobs, Middle-Class, Equality, Security and Yes, Health Care Reform
Representative Anthony Weiner (D - Brooklyn and Queens) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address:
“Tonight, President Obama managed to hold fast to his principles on his issue agenda and his call for change. He put Republicans back on defense; either to do what is right or to be seen as the obstructionists they have been too often.”
“Obama made the pivot. He sounded the rallying cry to focus on jobs, middle-class, equality, security, and yes, health care reform.”
“The President is right that we need to pass health care reform. There are a lot of ideas that people supported: the public option, the Medicare buy-in, coverage for preexisting conditions, and closing the “donut hole.” I think there’s time to put together an approach that can reduce health care costs and cover more Americans. I’m committed to fighting for it.”
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Born and raised in Ridgewood, Widerka, a retired dispatcher for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, has seen the reservoir go through various phases throughout the years, and would like to see the reservoir stay as close to its natural state as possible.
“It’s an oasis in the middle of the city,” said Widerka, 66. “You’re transported from the hum-drum into a different world.”
Widerka is not alone. Community leaders and residents on both sides of the Queens and Brooklyn border are at odds with the Parks Department over proposed renovation at the Ridgewood Reservoir and the attached Highland Park. Both sides are open to making the reservoir more accessible to the public via passive improvements, such as adding walkways, repairing broken lamp posts and fences, and fixing staircases. However, there is disagreement as to what to do with the basins surrounding the natural spring, and how to remedy the run-down ball fields in the park.
The Ridgewood Reservoir consists of three basins enclosed by a perimeter of chain-link fencing. Basin 2 holds the actual reservoir, a self-sustaining natural spring. Basins 1 and 3 are filled with a variety of plants and trees and flowers, giving them a jungle-like appearance.
The reservoir has seen a bit of wear and tear over the years. Fences, stonework, dirt pathways, and even the remnants of an old automobile have long been overtaken by decades of untamed trees and plants. The result is a natural habitat and ecosystem for a variety of plant and animal life, such as fungi, Italian Wall lizards and turtles. According to Steve Fiedler, parks committee chairperson for Community Board 5 of Queens, the reservoir is also an east coast flyby for migrating birds and has over 100 species, 15 of which are on the endangered list.
The educational value is of interest to communities throughout the New York City boroughs. Darryl Towns, Assembly-member for the 54th Assembly District of Brooklyn, is open to the passive improvements that will make the reservoir more accessible to the public. He sees the reservoir as a “nature sanctuary” that can give residents and students a chance to see what New York City was like before it was all asphalt and concrete. He believes that opening the reservoir to the public would be a great opportunity to “understand how ecology or natural ecology can exist within an urban setting.”
In addition to being a nature sanctuary, the reservoir also has a great deal of history attached to it. It is a pre-Civil War construction, and much of the stonework and fences were built by master craftsmen. The Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War was fought within a mile of the area. Attached to the reservoir is the Cypress Hills National Cemetery, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It holds veterans from the American Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War.
Local members of the community, such as Widerka, see this historical value. He thinks the old pump and gate houses should be renovated into educational centers.
“It’s a unique location that can’t be duplicated,” said Widerka. “It’s an opportunity that’s staring us in the face.”
Contributing Reporter Cristina Merrill has worked for the Queens Chronicle and is currently attending Columbia J-School
In Washington, hundreds of people protested outside the Chamber of Commerce to send a message that we can't let corporate lobbyists win - we must finish health care reform right and we must finish it now.Watch:
We need to hold events like this all over the country if we're going to get the job done. We'll be mobilizing across the country in the coming weeks, and we want to know if you can join us.
More details are coming soon, but we need to start organizing now!
Candidacy is back-up plan for former Council member still waiting on NYCHA job
Anthony Como is still waiting to hear on the job he says was promised to him to be a commissioner for the New York City Housing Authority. But if that does not work, State Sen. Joe Addabbo could have something to worry about.
“I think my wife would kill me [if I passed on the NYCHA job]” Como said. “I’m upset. I’m hoping it comes through sooner rather than later. As long as I can stay in government, that’s what I’m looking for. Whether it’s the city level somewhere in the administration, or on the state level in the State Senate, I don’t know.”
Como said he was offered the $172,311-a-year commissionership last spring by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign around the same time Bloomberg sought support for his mayoral campaign from a recalcitrant Queens Republican Party.
Como said the last time he was in contact with the Bloomberg administration about the NYCHA job was in late November or early December, and was told the Department of Investigation inquiry was still ongoing into several zoning violations Como committed while renovating his Middle Village home in 2007.
One local GOP operative said that Como appeared unlikely to get the position at this point. The operative said tensions between the Bloomberg campaign and the Queens Republican Party, which on several occasions bashed the mayor after giving Bloomberg their Wilson-Pakula endorsement, were a factor in Como likely not getting the position.
Addabbo unseated State Sen. Serf Maltese by 15 points in 2008 and, although the GOP is desperate to regain the seat, it could be an uphill climb. Council Member Eric Ulrich, a rising star in the Republican Party who holds Addabbo’s former Council seat, was the top choice to run for the seat, but appears to be taking a pass.
“I have no intention of running,” Ulrich said.
Maltese was also initially approached about running for his old seat by the Queens Republican leadership. He declined.
Como served for a decade as Maltese’s Senate office counsel, and the two recently met with Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos to discuss Como’s candidacy. Como would also have the backing of Queens Republican Party chair Phil Ragusa if he ran.
If Como does run for the Senate, he could be slowed by a civil war within the Queens GOP. Como is aligned with the faction of the Queens GOP led by Ragusa, while a sizable minority of the party is aligned with a dissident faction led by brothers Bart and John Haggerty.
Members of the Haggerty faction have suggested that Como is not really interested in the seat, but is floating his name in order to angle for the Bloomberg administration job.
One member of the Haggerty faction noted that Como had not yet reached out to dissident members who hold a number of district leader spots in the Senate district, or the elected officials in the area who are part of that faction, including Ulrich and former Council Minority Leader Tom Ognibene.
Ognibene is setting up a screening committee for the Senate seat around mid-February and said he hopes Como agrees to be screened. Other possible candidates include Gabriel Tapalaga, president of the Middle Village Republican Club and 2008 Assembly candidate Anthony Nunziato, a district leader who is part of the Haggerty faction. Ognibene said he is not interested in running.
Ognibene said he likely would support Como if he does reach out to the dissident faction of the party. Otherwise, Ognibene said he feared that the inter-party warfare could lead to divisive Republican primaries.
“These people have taken credit for electing a number of officials that they have nothing to do with, including Eric Ulrich’s election,” Ognibene said, referring to the Ragusa faction. “Instead of healing the wounds between the existing factions, they continue to act in a foolish manner—and will continue to see challenges to the candidates they select for public office.”
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Last night on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert named former Tennessee congressman and likely New York Senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr. his 'Alpha Dog of The Week,' saying Ford 'has the musky sack to change not only his address but also his political views.'
Citing his changing positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, Colbert complimented Ford on performing his political transformation on the biggest stage possible:
A lot of politicians flip-flop on the issues. What really puts Harold Ford at the head of the butt-sniffing chain is that he's not pulling this reversal in Clustermunch, Iowa... He's doing this in New York City, media capital of the world, where they keep all those little bits of tape that have recordings of what you said and did. Hell, there's a whole newspaper page dedicated to everything famous people do. Get a little huffy with the maître d' at Per Se tonight and by this time tomorrow they're picking bits of you out of Cindy Adams' stool!
Colbert concluded, "So, for lifting your leg on New Yorkers and telling us it's just egg cream, you sir, are my Alpha Dog of The Week."
Leonie Haimson: Police Surveillance of Parents Protesting Bloomberg's Privatization of the Public Schools - The Huffington Post
Members of the NYPD survey and photograph a group of protesters from the roof of the Rudolf Steiner School, next door to Mayor Bloomberg's residence.
On Thursday, January 21, hundreds of parents, students and teachers protested on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, across the street from where Mayor Bloomberg lives, chanting and holding signs against his proposals to force mass closings of public schools and their takeover by charter schools.
With the help of famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, members of this group had earlier sued in federal court to gain the right to protest directly in front of Bloomberg's mansion, on the north side of E. 79 Street.
Though Judge Alvin Hellerstein had concurred that they had such a right, at the last minute the city appealed, and on the morning of the protest, the Federal Circuit Court reversed his decision, forcing us to protest across the street.
So here we were, on the south side of E. 79 Street, adults, youth and children, of all races and ethnicities, peacefully exercising our constitutional right under the First Amendment, urging the mayor to halt his policies, which many of us believe are undermining the strength and stability of our public school system.
Meanwhile, a reporter from the Village Voice named Steven Thrasher caught on videotape members of the Police Department taking photographs , from the roof and inside of a private school, directly adjacent to the mayor's house. Check out this chilling video.
In 1985, the federal court ruled that it is illegal for the New York City police to take photos of protesters, unless they have cause to believe that a crime may be committed.
The city signed a consent agreement that year, restricting police surveillance according to rules called the Handschu agreement. In the case of this peaceful protest, there was no such cause and these actions of the police were clearly meant to intimidate us, and/or violate our civil rights.
The police responded to inquiries from the press yesterday, by claiming that they were taking pictures for "for crowd control planning purposes," which, on the face of it, is absurd.
This sort of intimidation and surveillance does not occur in a vacuum. In 2007, it was revealed that officials from the city's Department of Education had assigned an employee to tape Diane Ravitch, one of the administration's most articulate critics, and was keeping a dossier on her. They even persuaded Kathy Wylde, head of the NYC Partnership, the city's Chamber of Commerce, to publish an op-ed in the NY Post, personally attacking her.
Subsequently, it was revealed that DOE officials also had assigned several employees to closely monitor list servs and blogs where parents, teachers and advocates discussed and criticized their educational policies.
The mayor has consistently attempted to shut out the voices of parents and the community from having any say when it comes to how our children are educated. He has eliminated the powers of community school boards, and the ability of school leadership teams, made of half parents and school staff, to have a say in budgets at the school level. Just last week, he blocked a bill that, while raising the cap on charter schools, would give parents input into where they are sited.
Currently, he is undermining the success of our district public schools by inserting charter schools within their buildings, forcing them to give up their precious classroom space, intervention rooms, and even libraries. Meanwhile, the charter schools enroll far fewer poor, special education, and immigrant children than the communities in which they are located, and are allowed to cap class sizes at lower levels.
Unfortunately, the mayor holds a monopoly of power and is trying to ram this hostile takeover of our public schools through. He controls the majority of members of the Panel for Educational Policy, where these proposals will be voted upon on Tuesday. The only option of parents at this point is to try to make our views known as forcefully as possible, and this is what we were trying to do, in our demonstration across the street from the mayor's house on Thursday.
Here is what Diane Ravitch wrote, after Wylde's attack, and the revelation that the DOE had kept a file on her:
"The public schools need involvement by parents and local communities. They need a lively and open public forum in which decisions can be debated before they are finalized. The public should have a voice in what happens to the children of the community. This I promise: I will continue to analyze the facts and the evidence to the best of my ability, without fear or favor. I will not be intimidated."
Neither will we.
It takes Balls to get things done, and passing American health care reform is going to take lots of Balls.
A Liam Show/Drama34 production. Starring Matt Corboy, Kenn Michael, David Fickas, Pam Cook, William Harris, Mickey Meyer, Brice Beckham, Ilana Sullivan, Liam Sullivan, Ross Bautsch, Stephanie Barnes, and Devin Kelley. director of photography Kenn Michael. music by Dan Wistrom and Toby Semain. written by Liam Sullivan, edited by Liam Sullivan and Brice Beckham, directed by Liam Sullivan and David Fickas.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Property taxes are collected every year to pay for social services such as schools, fire departments, and police departments. A property owner’s tax bill is determined by two major components: the property's taxable assessment and the tax rates of the area in which the property is located.
“Property taxes can confuse a lot of people,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller. “We want to make sure that people understand the process and get an accurate assessment of their homes. There are exemptions for households enrolled in the STAR program and senior or disabled citizens. Stop by to make sure you’re not paying too much.”
For more information about this event, please contact Assemblyman Miller’s office at (718) 805-0950. To learn more about the property tax assessment, visit www.orps.state.ny.us/index.cfm.
Event Name: Property Tax Forum
Event Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Event Time: 8 PM
Event Location: Richmond Hill Block Association One Stop
110-08 Jamaica Avenue, Richmond Hill, NY 11418
This event will be open to the press and public.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Source Says Andrew Cuomo Will Announce Plans to Run for New York Governor in March by Joanna Malloy with Kenneth Lovett - NY Daily News
Andrew Cuomo is ready to run for governor.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger declined comment, but a source close to Cuomo told The News, "He will make an announcement at the end of March. And what he will say is that he intends to run for governor. ... He thinks there are a lot of problems in the state and he thinks he can help solve them."
That source is not alone. On Wednesday, a day after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, Stuart Applebaum of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union urged Cuomo to run, saying Paterson "is not the strongest candidate."
Upstate party chief Larry Bulman went further, saying, "Let's not run a third-string quarterback if there is a first-string quarterback in the game. We should be talking to Andrew Cuomo."
"I'm focused on being attorney general," said Cuomo.
Though he's played coy on his intentions, the 52-year-old Cuomo - the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo - has been laying the groundwork for months. He's crisscrossed the state over the past year, meeting Democratic leaders from Buffalo to Brooklyn and attending fund-raisers - for himself and many others.
There was no clearer sign of Cuomo's strategy than at Paterson's recent State of the State Address, where Cuomo appeared buoyant, confident and self-assured as poll-challenged Paterson tried to sell his plans.
Baruch College public affairs professor Doug Muzzio said Cuomo "is playing it smart" by waiting to announce his intentions. Muzzio said that gives him two more months to garner favorable publicity as attorney general while ducking upcoming contentious budget talks, which must be concluded by April 1.
"Assuming he's going to run, why announce now?" Muzzio asked. "He becomes a target. This makes perfect political and strategic sense."
Insiders say Cuomo began seriously training his sights on the governor's chair after Spitzer resigned in March 2008 amid a hooker scandal.
As lieutenant governor, Paterson took over but, after the briefest of honeymoons, he stumbled badly and his ratings plunged. Paterson soon lost the confidence of many Democrats - including President Obama - and Cuomo emerged as the overwhelming choice.
In the latest polls, Cuomo has a 64% job approval rating compared with Paterson's 31%. Cuomo also has $16 million in his war chest, while the governor has just $3 million.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Former deputy borough president plans to take on traffic, health care issues
Sitting in her new 17th-floor office overlooking an expansive view that includes Citi Field and the Manhattan skyline, City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) joked it will be easy for her to conduct her own Queens Boulevard traffic study.
“It’s right there,” Koslowitz said Monday. “I can see all the people who are trying to cross. I can see everything.”
Koslowitz, who officially took office Jan. 1, hopes she will be able to see everything her constituents need and that the view from her Forest Hills office on Queens Boulevard will be a metaphor for a tenure in Council marked by efforts to address a wide range of issues from education to health care. She replaces former Forest Hills Councilwoman Melinda Katz.
The Democratic councilwoman, who represents Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and parts of Richmond Hill, Maspeth and Elmhurst, already knows her territory well. Koslowitz represented District 29 for 11 years until 2001, when she was forced out of office by term limits. She then worked in the borough president’s office, first as the borough vice president and then as the president of community boards at Queens Borough Hall.
Emphasizing her desire to relay parents’ needs to the city, Koslowitz said she first plans to organize an advisory council that would include all the presidents of school parents’ associations.
“I’d like to bring the advisory council’s ideas to the [city] Department of Education,” said Koslowitz, who pointed out that parents have addressed such frustrations as overcrowded schools to the councilwoman.
Koslowitz has repeatedly complained that Forest Hills High School is too crowded and noted the school is bursting at the seams with about 4,000 students. It was built to hold some 2,700 pupils. She said the incoming Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills, slated to open next fall, will help to decrease classroom size at Forest Hills HS.
Health care also needs to be addressed in the borough, Koslowitz said. The borough has lost about 600 hospital beds over the past year with the closing of Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica.
“I’d love to see a hospital where Parkway is,” Koslowitz said. “If we can’t have that, I’d love to see a medical facility for the people.”
The councilwoman again condemned an idea to bring a detention center to the Parkway Hospital site.
“That was a scare tactic on the part of the hospital,” she said.
A court-appointed receiver for Medical Capital Holdings, a defunct investment firm that originally issued Parkway’s mortgage, filed an Oct. 15 deposition that said he might be forced to turn the building into a detention center if it did not reopen as a hospital.
Senior issues, traffic alleviation and working with the Bukharian community also top Koslowitz’s ever-growing to-do list. She is hoping to see senior housing with medical facilities in her area and said she will work to scrap the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to drop Access-A-Ride users at bus stops instead of their ultimate destinations.
Koslowitz is hoping to study traffic on Queens and Woodhaven boulevards as well as at truck traffic in areas like Grand Avenue in Maspeth.
She has already launched efforts to work with the Bukharian community, including her former rival for the Council, Albert Cohen, and Koslowitz will be honored at a dinner sponsored by many of her Bukharian constituents this week.
Police Officer Dominick DeStefano was honored last week with the 106th Precinct’s Cop of the Month award for December in recognition of his excellent police work by Deputy Inspector Joseph Courtesis, the commanding officer, and 106th Precinct Community Council President Frank Dardani.
Prior to the incident for which DeStefano was honored, the precinct had experienced six gunpoint robberies that were similar in nature, according to Courtesis. In each case, the perpetrator approached the victims and asked them for the time. At that point, he produced a silver firearm and robbed them.
In one incident, a female victim refused to give up her property and the perpetrator fired his gun in her direction and fled, Courtesis said. She was not hit and no bullets were recovered by police. In another robbery, Courtesis said the suspect took a purple cell phone from a 14-year-old girl.
On Dec. 19 at 2 a.m. DeStefano was flagged down by a resident at the corner of Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill. The resident told the officer that an individual had just pointed a gun at him. The victim rode with police while they canvassed the area. Five minutes later, the victim noticed the suspect walking down the street. Upon seeing the officers, the perpetrator fled, but was apprehended by DeStefano after a short foot pursuit and taken to the precinct, Courtesis said.
Officers located the silver handgun in the grass where the suspect had stopped. He was also found to have a purple cell phone in his possession.
Police suspected that the alleged perpetrator was involved in other robberies too. When the suspect was put into lineups he was picked out as the perpetrator in five of the six cases, including by the victim whom he allegedly shot at, according to the deputy inspector.
Courtesis added that the silver firearm turned out to be a starters’ pistol incapable of firing a projectile, which is why police did not find any ballistic evidence at the scene.
Two separate incidents that resulted in death were reported on Tuesday, Jan. 19 in the 106th and 102nd Precincts.
At approximately 3:55 p.m., police from the 106th Precinct responded to a report of an unconscious male found inside of Spring Creek Park, located at 92nd Street and 165th Avenue in Howard Beach. Upon arrival, the remains of a badly decomposed, unidentified male was recovered.
The results of an autopsy performed Wednesday afternoon came out inconclusive, according to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner. At this time, the male’s name, age, race and cause of death are not known. The investigation is ongoing.
On Tuesday at 11:30 p.m., police from the 102nd Precinct responded to a report of a male stabbed inside of an apartment building on 123rd Street in Richmond Hill. Upon arrival, they found a 28-year-old Hispanic male with one stab wound to his chest. The victim, whose name has not yet been released, was transported to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Police confirmed Wednesday that a suspect is in custody in connection with the stabbing.
Friday, January 22, 2010
City, Environmental Protection Agency Make Deal to Test Schools for PCB Toxin by Bill Egbert - NY Daily News
Locally, MS 210 in Ozone Park is on the list of affected school sites...Read original...
The city has agreed to test schools for PCBs and, if needed, come up with a plan to protect kids from exposure after a Daily News probe found the toxin in the window caulking of several schools.
The settlement between the city Education Department and the federal Environmental Protection Agency heads off a parents' lawsuit for now - and puts the schools under tougher federal scrutiny.
The deal dictates a million-dollar pilot study of five schools that could lead to much more testing.
"The program outlined in this agreement, along with general EPA guidance on managing the issue, will serve as a model for school systems across the country," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck.
Because PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were routinely added to caulking before the chemicals were outlawed in 1977, buildings nationwide constructed before then are at risk for serious PCB contamination.
The city had been in talks with the EPA since April 2008, when a News investigation found high concentrations of toxic PCBs in the caulking of several school buildings, in violation of federal law.
The Education Department expects the pilot study to cost about $1 million.
The EPA consent decree spares the city from having to pay millions of dollars in fines and also heads off a suit filed last year on behalf of Naomi Gonzalez, a Bronx mom of two, by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
"This doesn't get us all the way there," said Gonzalez, a teacher's aide, "but it's a real step in the right direction."
Following The News' probe, the city began testing old window caulking for PCBs - revealing contamination in 85 more buildings. The city has argued that left untouched, the caulking is safe.
The agreement, reached Tuesday, does not require the city to test all schools or to remove all PCB caulking it finds, but the EPA will monitor the city's actions.