Sunday, December 28, 2008

Special Election List Keeps Growing By Nicholas Briano - - The Wave

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If you live in the west end of Rockaway and plan to vote in the upcoming special election, there are at present at least five people from whom you can choose on the February ballot to fill the 32nd City Council District seat vacated by Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., and the list seems to be continually growing.

The city council seat represents the western end of Rockaway, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Woodhaven. It becomes open on January 1, the day that Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., the present councilman who defeated longtime State Senate Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese in November's general election, gets sworn into his new position.

Three of the five present candidates for the seat are Rockaway residents. Two are familiar in local politics, Democratic District Leaders Lew Simon and Geraldine Chapey, but the other is a bit of an unknown quantity to many, even in Rockaway.

This is something candidate Glenn DiResto, a retired NYPD lieutenant, hopes to change by the time local residents go to the polls.

DiResto, 38, retired from the NYPD in April and he says that he immediately began thinking about what it would be like to represent the residents of this district.

"This is a great opportunity to serve the community I was born and raised in as well as the surrounding neighborhoods," DiResto said.

The fact that DiResto has no political experience, he says, will actually help the community, because he will be more likely to listen and respond to their needs.

"My inspiration has always been the people who share the same vision as me," he continued. "The people want a politician that serves and listens to the people, without having to give political favors."

As Democratic District Leader since 1994, Lew Simon, on the other hand, is neither a new face in the crowd, nor inexperienced around local politics. Simon, who was also born and raised in Rockaway, feels the election will come down to name recognition. As Democratic District Leader for nearly 15 years, Simon believes that gives him a significant edge over the other candidates and makes him more ready to serve the public.

"People know that they can call me and that I am always there for them," Simon said. "I have great name recognition in the district."

Simon, just as confident about his chances as the others, says he would be proud to represent the district and expects to hit the ground running.

Simon ran for the same seat back in 2001, losing in the Democratic primary when he received 22 percent of the vote compared to Addabbo's 43 percent. Addabbo then won the general election.

In a special election, however, there are no primaries or party regulations. It is every candidate for him or herself, and the number of them has a tendency to grow quickly. The only Republican in the race, though, is Eric Ulrich. He is by far the youngest of the candidates at 23 and feels his age and lack of experience, much like DiResto, could actually turn out to be his greatest strength in the election.

"I feel confident about my chances because this had traditionally been a conservative district," he said. "And I'm the only Republican running."

Ulrich, from Ozone Park, is Republican District Leader. He states that his chances of winning increase as the number of Democratic candidates entering the race increases. That, he says, would split the Democrat vote and increase his chances of winning, even if he received a relatively small percentage of the total votes.

"People are looking for fresh faces in politics and fresh ideas are what the city council needs now," he said. "It is not about what you have done in the past but what you will do in the future for the district and the neighborhoods."

Unlike Ulrich, Howard Beach candidate, Frank Gulluscio, 60, has years of experience that he says warrants his election to the council seat. As a retired schoolteacher, he served as Addabbo's education director for several years before leaving to become the District Manager of Community Board 6.

The last of the candidates is another recognizable name to many, throughout the district. Rockaway's female Democratic District Leader, Geraldine Chapey, announced her candidacy this week, bringing the total number of candidates to five. Three are from Rockaway, which constitutes about half of the district's registered voters. Both Chapey and Gulluscio were unavailable for comment to The Wave.

Voter turnout, despite how many candidates enter the race, is often a major determinant of which candidate is elected, because the great majority of registered voters fail to come out to vote on the day of the special election.

The last special election held in June for the City Council's 30th District seat in Queens involved four candidates. Out of the 68,112 registered voters within that district, only 11 percent made their way to the polls.

Those numbers were similar to the vote in a February 2007 special election in Staten Island's 51st City Council District when six percent of more than 90,000 registered voters chose a new councilmember.

As of March of this year, the 32nd Council District registered 74,619 voters. Fifty-seven percent of the registered voters are Democrats, 20 percent are registered as Republicans, and nearly 20 percent are registered as having no party affiliation.

The number of people who turn out for their choice of candidate will have a significant role in determining the next city councilmember, especially if voter turnout follows tradition and remains low.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yo Mike Bloomberg Please Save the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Now by Dana Lee Cohen - YouTube

Here's a witty and informational YouTube video about Jamaica Bay by Dana Lee Cohen of Brooklyn, NY that I recommend watching and passing on to others...

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is one of the world's most important estuaries as well as a stop over for 300 different species of wildfowl as they migrate across the Americas. Yet as I perused Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC, supposedly a plan to make my hometown more viable through the future's tides and tribulations, I couldn't find the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, as if it did not exist! Nor did I hear mention of the seven city sewage plants along its lovely shores, nor how we need to reduce nitrogen in our treated sewage to reduce fishkill caused by de-oxygenation of Jamaica Bay's Wildlife Refuge secondary to the nitrogenous and Chlorine-rich under-treated 300 million gallons of sewage New York City releases on a good day, nor did I read of how successful ecological restoration efforts led by the National Park Service's George Frame have been, nor how important it is to fix the sinkholes in the Bay and research the pollutants. These were left off in favor of the dicussion of storm management systems which, while glorious, will not in and of themselves save our glorious bay, particularly given the onslaught of continued immigration into NYC in the next few years which will certainly increase the load on our sewage systems.

According to the Clean Water Act, the Bay must become swimable by 1992...oops, what happened? Permits to pollute our harbor illegally and leave it less than swimable and fishable have been given to the Department of Environmental Protection through 2017! What is needed is not the legal research Bloomberg suggests but the legal backbone to get on the Department of Environmental Protection to remind them that they are a not-for-profit agency subject to the law!

This film is a letter to Mayor Bloomberg to give him something to do besides tax and jail the poor and entertain the rich and militarize the cops. He should save Jamaica Bay and restore 50 acres of salt marshes each year through George Frame's tried and true methods, at the cost of 25 million dollars per year, and take it all out of the Department of Environmental Protection's HUGE budget until they start building green Guggenheims, or Living Machines, ideas which I have already testified about twice in the City Council, skyscrapers of bioremediation, or other reasonably priced and non gas-guzzling bioremediation efforts based on John Todd's work at the University of Vermont, so that our treated sewage, or black water, becomes aerated and healthful to the wildlife which proliferate and participate in New York City's self. This film takes you along into the adventure of activism and invites you to become part of the movement toward sustainability and freedom from bankers and fictionalists in government. We must call them on their crap. Mayor Mike is so fond of calling us on our crap, fictional arrests of innocent citizens, fictional fines, infringements on our freedom all over the place, like his veto on public gatherings at Central Park. I call his efforts to save Jamaica Bay weak, fictional, and complicit with the illegal deal-making in Washington so common that no one really remembers, it's, um, illegal. I remember and let's all remember, for our children's sake, for a beautiful city that deserves the real protection from storm swells that salt marshes provide, and for the infrastructure, schools, churches, apartments and lives that might be lost if we do not make a concerted effort to restore The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge today.

This film was produced, edited, directed, written and is starring Miss Dana Lee Cohen, with the assistance of Saiming Char. It is dedicated to George Frame and to Jesus the Christ Almighty. But a lot of it was improvisation. I really hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Weiner, Paterson, and Israel Visit Officials, Troops in Baghdad

Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens), along with Governor David Paterson, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) and members of the New York congressional delegation visited American troops and top officials in Baghdad on Sunday. The delegation shared meals with service men and women, toured American bases and met with U.S. and Iraqi officials during the trip.

Left to Right: Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Governor David Paterson (D-NY), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, the Commander of MNSTC-I (Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq). Photo credit: Office of Rep. Israel / Mike Ryan

Monday, December 22, 2008

BREAKING — Tape Shows Monserrate Pulling Girlfriend’s Hair: Sources by Stephen Stirling—

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Authorities have obtained video surveillance that allegedly shows embattled City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) pulling his girlfriend’s hair outside his apartment early Friday morning just hours before he was charged with assaulting her, sources told the TimesLedger.

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate is led into a police squad car after he was booked at the 105th Precinct on assault, criminal possession of a weapon and harassment charges Friday. Photo by Ellis Kaplan

Monserrate, who was elected to the state Senate in November, was arraigned on assault and criminal possession of a weapon charges Friday evening after authorities said he allegedly broke a drinking glass in his hand and stabbed his girlfriend, 30-year-old Karla Giraldo, in the face. The lacerations required 20 stitches to close, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney.

Monserrate pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment late Friday evening at Queens Criminal Court and released a statement proclaiming his innocence shortly thereafter.

“I have been charged with offenses that I did not commit and am not capable of committing,” he said. “As a son, a brother and a father, these accusations are offensive, and they are crushing on a personal level. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly look forward to all of the facts being brought to light during this legal process.”

But sources, who declined to be identified, said surveillance footage taken from Monserrate’s apartment building allegedly shows the senator-elect pulling his girlfriend’s hair outside the door of his apartment shortly before he took her to North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Authorities said Monserrate drove Giraldo, an entertainment writer for a Queens Spanish-language newspaper, to North Shore LIJ — located on the Nassau County border — shortly before 4 a.m. where she received treatment for two lacerations in the vicinity of her left eye.
A doctor at the hospital called police, as is required by state law if domestic violence is suspected, and Monserrate was arrested shortly before 5 a.m.

According to the criminal complaint, Giraldo allegedly told police that after an argument in his apartment between 1 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Monserrate broke a drinking glass in his hand and struck her in the face. Since Monserrate was released on $5,000 bail Friday, both he and Giraldo have stated publicly that the incident was an accident and there were no violent intentions on the part of the councilman.

If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Monserrate, who planned to give up his Council seat, ran unopposed for former state Sen. John Sabini’s seat in November. He gave a parting speech at City Hall last Thursday during his last day as a councilman and was lauded by his colleagues, including Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

During his political career, Monserrate has been an opponent of domestic violence. In 2006, the councilman secured $100,000 to create programs specifically designed to end domestic violence in Queens immigrant communities.

“Today we begin the countdown to the end of domestic violence in our families and communities,” Monserrate said while announcing the funding in November 2006.

He was scheduled to return to court on Jan. 16.

Reporters Nathan Duke, Anna Gustafson, Ivan Pereira and Jeremy Walsh contributed to this article.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2 Election Board Panelists May Have Broken Rules by Greg B. Smith - NY Daily News

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Board of elections commissioners are not supposed to run for office while they're on the board - but that didn't stop two of them from doing just that.

Commissioners Anthony Como and Jay Savino actively campaigned for office while raising money from board employees, a Daily News investigation found.

Commissioners oversee the voting process and could have enormous influence on election outcome. They certify results, approve hiring of poll workers and maintain ballot machines and certify petitions of candidates.

Como, a Queens Republican appointed commissioner in 2005, set up a campaign committee to run for a City Council seat on Jan. 16, records show.

On his committee authorization application, Como signed a sworn affidavit saying: "I am a candidate for election to the office as stated above."

Though still a commissioner, he immediately began raising a steady flow of small checks, usually $100 to $250, records show.

He also began spending what he raised, hiring campaign workers, renting a campaign headquarters in Ozone Park and sending out a mailing, records show.

He appeared at candidates' nights, sparring with rivals at a Glendale Property Owners Association event April 3.

Around that time, eight board employees made $100 to $250 donations totaling $1,000 to Como, records show. At the time, Como was one of 10 commissioners who vote on board employees' appointments, promotions and sick pay.

The law says no public servant "shall compel, induce or request any subordinate public servant to pay any political assessment, subscription or contribution."

A district leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Como sent out a letter seeking financial support for his Council campaign and that numerous Republican board employees got it.

John Ward, the $87,490-a-year finance officer for the board and a Queens Republican district leader, said he couldn't recall receiving such a letter.

Nonetheless, Ward wrote a $250 check to Como's Council campaign on March 31. He was vague when asked how he knew to write a check: "I think I heard he was having some sort of a meet-and-greet in his neighborhood. Not a fund-raiser or anything. Just some neighborhood people coming by. I knew him before he was a commissioner. I went by and wrote him a check."

Four other board employees - all Queens Republicans - wrote $100 checks to Como's campaign at the same time as Ward. None returned calls seeking comment.

A flyer obtained by The News invites people to a "Campaign Kickoff" at "Como For City Council Headquarters" in Glendale. It's dated March 29, while Como was still a commissioner.

Waste Report Identifies Queens Park by Michael Lanza - Queens Tribune

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A Queens park was singled out in a senate report on wasteful federal spending released last week.

Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Howard Beach, part of the Jamaica Bay Unit at the Gateway National Recreation Area, was prominently identified in U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Oklahoma) Worst Waste of the Year report.

The troubled park was singled out after $1 million in federal funds were granted this year to repair and maintain its ailing tennis courts and baseball field – the same grant it had received eight years earlier to little effect.

“While these examples of waste might seem insignificant when compared with the overall federal budget, the cost is sizeable when added together. And worse, many of these low priority projects are funded year after year, regardless of whether they achieve their intended effects or not,” the report said. “Such was the case with the Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in New York, which received $1 million in 2008 to repair tennis courts and to install Astroturf on a single baseball field. The same park received a $1 million grant in 2000 for similar upgrades, but the money was squandered, leaving the park in a state of disrepair and in need of more federal funds.”

The report alleged failures in park management and their “notorious inability” to perform routine maintenance at the site, leaving both the tennis courts and baseball field in disrepair.

Coburn, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, said the report is intended to illuminate “absurd federal spending from beltway bureaucrats and elected officials.”

“As we look back on federal spending for 2008, American taxpayers will laugh, and then cry at how their elected officials spent their hard-earned dollars. Not even these tough economic times have dulled Congress’ ability to find new and creative ways to waste taxpayer dollars,” he said.

The report identified more than $1.3 billion earmarked on alleged wasteful spending this year.

“The waste highlighted in this report is only a fraction of the more than $385 billion the federal government throws away every year through waste, fraud and duplication,” Coburn said. “The story the American people already understand is that Congress’ inability to make common sense decisions about spending priorities is putting our children’s future at risk. Until Congress abandons the short-term parochialism that gives us Lobster Cams and inflatable alligators, we will never get a handle on the major economic challenges facing this country.”

Park representatives did not respond to calls for comment.

GOP Takes Whack at Denying Dem Seat by Fredric U Dicker and Brendan Scott - New York Post

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Senate Republicans vowed yesterday to try to block the seating of Queens Democratic Senator-elect Hiram Monserrate next month in the wake of his shocking arrest on a charge of first-degree assault.

"The arrest means he doesn't sit," insisted Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who, like City Councilman Monserrate, is an ex-city cop.

"I don't think anyone who has a pending felony assault against them should be seated. He shouldn't be seated with the body until he's found guilty or not guilty, and if he's found guilty, he shouldn't be seated," Golden added.

Republicans narrowly lost control of the Senate in last month's elections for the first time since 1965.

Keeping Monserrate, 41, out of the Senate could help Republicans in their ongoing effort to keep control by winning the votes of the "Gang of Three" renegade Democrats.

John McArdle, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), said, "Our lawyers are looking at all the options."

It wasn't clear, however, if Senate rules and state law would allow the Legislature's upper house to block the seating of an elected member.

The state Constitution appears to give the Senate and the Assembly the right to expel members once they are sworn into office - but not to refuse to seat those who are newly elected and have yet to take office, legislative experts said.

State law does say that any lawmaker convicted of a felony is immediately removed from office.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), said Monserrate faced "very serious charges that will be addressed by the proper authorities."

Election results gave the Democrats a 32-30 seat edge over Republicans.

Queens City Councilman Hiram Monserrate Arrested on Domestic Assault Charge by E Benjamin,W Cruz and A Lisberg, K Angelova and C Boyle - NY Daily News

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Hot-tempered city councilman Hiram Monserrate was accused of slashing his girlfriend's face with broken glass Friday, leaving her with 20 stitches and a black eye.

Photo: City Councilman Hiram Monserrate walks out of Queens Court after posting bail Friday. He was arrested on charges of assaulting his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo (below) with a shard of glass. Pace for News

Wearing black Adidas sweatpants, a Mets cap and a black wool jacket, the 41-year-old ex-cop from Elmhurst, Queens, looked weary as he stood before Judge Toko Sarita at his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court.

He did not speak during the brief hearing and was released on $2,500 cash bail after his lawyer, James Cullen, entered a not guilty plea.

Monserrate was charged with assault and weapons possession for allegedly attacking his girlfriend during a "boisterous argument," Queens District Attorney Scott Kessler said.

The city councilman claimed the injuries were accidental. "I brought her a glass of water, I leaned over and tripped," according to a statement read in court.

Kessler said Monserrate's girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, 29, first told hospital staff he broke a glass in his hand during a heated argument and stabbed her in the face with the shards. She later changed her story and said it was an accident.

"She doesn't want him to go to jail," Kessler said, adding that police found blood-soaked towels and broken glass in Monserrate's apartment. "She doesn't want protection."

But Sarita told Monserrate he cannot contact her and must stay at least 100 yards away.

Monserrate was elected to the state Senate last month and is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 1. He would automatically lose his seat if convicted of a felony.

Monserrate and Giraldo spent Thursday night with Caroline Kennedy and other luminaries at the Queens Museum of Art for the Queens Democratic Party's holiday dinner.

They argued afterward, possibly because a guest at the party confused Giraldo with another of Monserrate's girlfriends, one law enforcement source said.

The fight turned violent in Monserrate's Elmhurst condo about 1 a.m., when he broke a drinking glass in his right hand and struck her - almost taking out her left eye, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Photo: Karla Giraldo, with her face covered, is rushed into a waiting car by a Queens DA outside the courthouse. DeCrescenzo for News

Monserrate lives a few blocks from the trauma room at the city-run Elmhurst Hospital Center. But sources said he drove Giraldo 14 miles to Long Island Jewish Medical Center on the Nassau County line for treatment - and tried to get her to concoct an innocent explanation on the way.

A doctor interviewed Giraldo privately, then summoned the NYPD at 4:50 a.m., police sources said. Officers arrested Monserrate at the hospital.

The arrest meant Monserrate couldn't make his own holiday party at a substance abuse treatment center in Corona last night.

Prosecutors had been probing Monserrate's connections to a now-defunct nonprofit organization called Libre.

Any political consequences may fall into a gray area, though. Council Speaker Christine Quinn referred his case to the Council's Ethics Committee. It is unclear whether it would take action once he leaves for Albany.

The Senate may not take up an ethics case for something he did before taking office. Smith ducked questions about it.

Mayor Bloomberg and Quinn also declined to comment on the arrest, though Quinn said anyone charged with domestic violence should be prosecuted "regardless of any position that individual might hold."

Monserrate was elected to the Council in 2001 and served on its Public Safety Committee. He attended his last Council meeting on Thursday, where he and other departing members were honored by their colleagues. He was elected to the Senate last month after he won the backing of Queens Democrats over previous Sen. John Sabini, who pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was later picked to run the state racing and wagering board.

Teen Killed in Queens Wreck by Edgar Sandoval and Jonathan Lemire - NY Daily News

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A 20-year-old man was arrested after his speeding car flipped over on a Queens highway Monday, killing his friend in the passenger seat, police said.

Armish Singh "reeked of alcohol" and refused to take a Breathalyzer test after he was freed from the wrecked car that claimed the life of his pal 17-year-old Tariq Aslan, police sources said.

Singh was behind the wheel of a 2005 Nissan Altima heading east on Grand Central Parkway when he lost control at 1:30a.m., police said.

Spinning out of control, the car flipped over, and Aslan, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the Altima, police said.

Alsan, who lived in Queens Village, was killed instantly. Singh, who lives in Ozone Park, was not thrown from the car and only suffered minor injuries.

He was arrested at the grisly scene and would not cooperate with investigators, police said.

He was charged with criminally negligent homicide Monday, and law enforcement sources said additional drunken-driving charges may be added when Singh is arraigned.

Charges Upgraded for 4 Drivers in LIE Racing Case by John Valenti --

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Charges against four drivers police said were racing at more than 100 mph on the Long Island Expressway in October have been upgraded from misdemeanors to felonies, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Monday.

One of the cars involved, a 2001 BMW, had a license plate that read: "HEYOFFCR."

The incident took place at about 1:30 a.m. Oct. 1 and involved six cars, according to Nassau police. The chase began near Exit 48 on the Nassau-Suffolk border and ended near Exit 37 in Roslyn, where police managed to stop four of the cars.

Two others fled.

The arrested drivers, identified by police as Anil Isaac, 22, of Richmond Hill; Rajesh Prashaud, 21, of South Ozone Park, and brothers Ziad Mohamed, 21, and Riad Mohamed, 19, of South Ozone Park, had the charges against them upgraded in an indictment returned by a Nassau grand jury yesterday.

Anil Isaac was arrested for reckless endangerment, speeding in excess of 100 mph and failing to comply with an officer's attempts to stop and pull him over on Oct. 1 at 2:00 a.m in Roslyn on the Long Island Expressway, police said. Issac, 22, was operating a 2001 BMW with a vanity license plate "HEYOFFCR." In addition to numerous vehicle and traffic law violations, he was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment 2nd degree, reckless driving, unlawful fleeing a police officer and illegal speed contest. His vehicle was impounded at the scene, and he was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead. (NCPD / October 1, 2008)

Rajesh Prashaud was arrested for reckless endangerment, speeding in excess of 100 mph and failing to comply with an officer's attempts to stop and pull him over on Oct. 1, 2008 at 2:00 a.m. in Roslyn on the Long Island Expressway, police said. Prashaud, 21, was operating a 2004 Infiniti. In addition to numerous vehicle and traffic law violations, he was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment 2nd degree, reckless driving, unlawful fleeing a police officer and illegal speed contest. His vehicle was impounded at the scene, and he was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead. (NCPD / October 1, 2008)

Ziad Mohamed was arrested for reckless endangerment, speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour failing to comply with the Officer's attempts to stop and pull him over on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 2:00 AM in Roslyn on the Long Island Expressway. Mohamed, 21, was operating a 2004 Nissan. In addition to numerous vehicle and traffic law violations, he was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment 2nd degree, reckless driving, unlawful fleeing a police officer and Illegal speed contest. His vehicle was impounded at the scene, and he was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead. (PDCN / October 1, 2008)

Riad Mohamed was arrested for reckless endangerment, speeding in excess of 100 mph and failing to comply with an officer's attempts to stop and pull him over on Oct. 1 at 2:00 a.m. in Roslyn on the Long Island Expressway, police said. Mohamed, 19, was operating a 2006 Mazda. In addition to numerous vehicle and traffic law violations, he was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment 2nd degree, reckless driving, unlawful fleeing a police officer and illegal speed contest. His vehicle was impounded at the scene, and he was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead. (NCPD / October 1, 2008)

According to Rice, the four now face charges of first-degree and second-degree reckless endangerment, as well as third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer and what were described as "numerous traffic and equipment violations." Each of the four now faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted.

"Driving like this on the Long Island Expressway is essentially vehicular Russian roulette," Rice said in a statement. "When you drive like this, at some point someone is going to get killed, and it's usually an innocent driver just going to work or out to dinner."

Rice noted that in addition to driving at "a high rate of speed," the defendants were observed "weaving in and out of lanes and creating a dangerous situation for other motorists."

The attorney for Riad and Ziad Mohamed, James Kousouros of Kew Gardens, said to be convicted in felony reckless endangerment cases, defendants must be found to have exhibited "depraved indifference" to human life.

"It is our position that the conduct that is being alleged in this case does not by any standard rise to the standards of reckless endangerment in the first degree," Kousouros said. Speeding, even at 100 mph, he said, "has been repeatedly found not to satisfy that extreme burden, and we believe we will be victorious on this issue."

He said all the defendants are college graduates from good families. "They are all good kids," he said.

Prashaud's attorney, Anthony Martone of Kew Gardens, said he was "very confident" Prashaud would be exonerated.

In addition to the BMW, the cars involved were a 2006 Mazda RX8, a 2004 Nissan, a 2004 Infiniti.

The four defendants are free on bail. They are scheduled to be back in court on Jan. 16.

Isaac's attorney, Edward Gallison, could not be reached for comment.

Staff writer Carl MacGowan contributed to this story.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Indy Candidate Says Addabbo Seat Within Reach by Noah Rosenberg - The Queens Courier

Great photo with the beer in your hand, Sam

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Sam Di Bernardo may be the oldest of the contenders for Joe Addabbo's 32nd Council District seat, but he hopes to attract young voters via online instruments like YouTube and Facebook.

Sam Di Bernardo, 74, has Facebook and YouTube pages and is currently repairing around 40 computers that he will give to friends or donate to schools.

While he embraces new media and technology, however, the Independent 32nd Council District candidate - Di Bernardo says he has been running under the radar of main-party politics since March 2008 - has endured his fair share of old-fashioned, political intimidation.

When the South Ozone Park and Howard Beach native took his co-op board to court - the management was "horrendous" and "autocratic," he said - his car was keyed and egged and its tires were slashed. But he was victorious, nonetheless.

Di Bernardo, a former teacher and real estate executive, feels eerily similar about his ongoing fight for Senator-elect Joe Addabbo's Council seat, which will become vacant in early January 2009.

"I am the underdog and I have an uphill fight and I know it," said Di Bernardo, who met his campaign manager, a politically savvy college student, on the street and offered him the job on the spot. Di Bernardo emphasized that his status as an Independent, despite calls from local Republicans to join their ranks, translates into a huge disadvantage in terms of finances and support for his bid. "But if I can get my message out, I can stand a very good chance," he said.

Di Bernardo's message, which he passionately repeats over and over again, sounds a little something like this: "Education, education, education!"

Of course, as a one-time computer lab teacher, who is currently searching for a part-time teaching position, Di Bernardo is a big advocate of technology in the classroom.

"Teachers fear technology," he said. "They're afraid that the kids know more than they do and the kids do!"

Di Bernardo says other top priorities are safety and public services for senior citizens and a more honest mortgage and housing industry.

With political aspirations and campaign experience dating back more than 30 years - Di Bernardo opposed the late Joseph Addabbo, Sr. in the Congressmember's 1976 reelection bid, only to have his petition for candidacy wrongly invalidated, he said - Di Bernardo is well aware of the fact that he is the oldest of the five candidates vying for a Council seat in the 32nd CD's special election, likely to be held in February.

"I think age is positive," he said. "I run into the City Council as a rich, rich man - maybe not in terms of wealth, but in terms of education, ideas and experience."

"I want an honest chance to be on the ballot," Di Bernardo added. "Let the people choose."

Bowling Alley Artifacts Planned for 2009 Exhibit by Ben Hogwood - Queens Chronicle

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Woodhaven Lanes may be gone, but it is far from forgotten.

The Queens Historical Society is planning an exhibit that focuses on losing history in Queens and will feature the bowling alley, which closed in May. Marisa Berman, the executive director of the society in Flushing, said the exhibit is still in the works, but it is expected to go up in the spring.

Jim Santora, the long-time president of the Ball and Chain bowling league which previously played at the alley, tried relentlessly to save the business. Now he is trying to gather memorabilia so others can see the memories he was surrounded with for years.
Queens is losing landmarks that may not be considered historical in the eyes of the city, but really are to local neighborhoods, Santora said. “One thing I learned trying to save Woodhaven lanes ... is how important the old bowling establishments are to a community,” he said.
For example, Gerard Montuori, known to his extended bowling family as “Mr. G.,” met his wife at the alley. After their wedding ceremony almost 15 years ago, the two went to Woodhaven lanes to have their pictures taken in tux and gown.
And when Santora’s father died earlier this year, it was his bowling buddies who helped him deal with the loss and who came out to the funeral.
Rumors of the lane’s closing first circulated over a year ago, when word got out that Brunswick Bowling, which had leased the site for most of Woodhaven’s nearly 50-year existence, was renegotiating.
When Brunswick decided not to renew, locals pegged their hope on John LaSpina, a bowling alley owner interested in the site. However, Parkway Management Corp., the property owners, eventually rejected the bid.
The last hope was lost when the city denied a request to designate the building as historic. Santora knew it was a longshot: the building wasn’t very old and, at least on the outside, wasn’t historically significant.
Now Santora is looking for items from the alley that can be put on display. He has a few of his own to offer. During its final days, Santora looked around the alley for something that still said “Woodhaven Lanes.” Most items had been marked with “Brunswick” instead.
At first, he couldn’t locate anything but the sign outside on the structure, which was much too big to keep as a souvenir.
Then he noticed, on the machine that pushes balls back to bowlers, a plate that bore the original logo. He looked at others and managed to find four of these. Santora secured them from management, keeping two for himself and giving two to friends.
He is hoping to find some bowling shirts and awards from the alley, as well as memorabilia from the protests to keep it open.
“It was a place where you go and, like the old song, everybody knows your name, knows your history. Sometimes they know it better than you,” he said.
To lend memorabilia to the exhibit, email Santora at

A Hawk and Its Prey Visit Harlem by Anemona Hartocollis - City Room Blog -

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“Is that a hawk?” my husband called from the kitchen of our Harlem brownstone the other morning, as I ran to the third-floor window to see.

From my study window, I was about even with a magnificent white and caramel-feathered bird wearing fuzzy pantaloons and perched on a high branch of our towering 100-year-old tulip tree, leafless in the winter. The presumed hawk was ripping beak-fulls of red meat out of what appeared to be a pigeon swooning across the branch, belly up, its little claws sticking straight out like a corpse in the morgue.

Animal visits occasionally make headlines in New York City. A few years ago, a clucking chicken appeared in the Queens backyard of a colleague, William Grimes. More recently, chickens have appeared on 125th Street. But this was not a chicken, it was a hawk.

We live in Hamilton Heights, the West 140s, not too far from Central Park in one direction and the Hudson River and New Jersey in the other, but hardly Hawk Central. Sometimes we get police helicopters buzzing overhead, often I hear a distinctive cheeping and run to the window to see blue jays and cardinals, other times the air vibrates with a popular Dominican ballad. We have squirrels, of course, and a diminishing number of predatory feral cats, sadly because they kept the block rat-free. Of course, the feral cats are declining at Kennedy Airport, too, but more intentionally.

But this week, here was a hawk — filling an ecological niche left by the cats, maybe? — among the small cliffs of red-brick brownstone rear walls, chimneys and urban vegetation, not an ordinary accompaniment to our morning coffee. Hawks have their following in New York, most recently drawing an audience at Riverside Park.

Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon, said that red-tailed hawks are on the upswing in the city, partly because they adapt well to the savanna conditions and because people don’t kill them so much anymore.

Mr. Phillips said:

It wasn’t that long ago that there were bounties on hawks and people killed them just because they were afraid of them. They didn’t like them. They thought they were going to eat their chickens — not that a red-tail hawk wouldn’t eat a chicken.

He added that he had heard such complaints from the Prospect Park Zoo.

Bird watchers have tracked up to eight pairs nesting in the city, Mr. Phillips said. There was a nest on Shepard Hall at City College, just a few blocks from my house, but this year, Bruce Yolton, a hawk watcher, reported no sign of nesting there. So my hawk might be the City College hawk, or maybe not.

Pigeons are a favorite food, Mr. Phillips said, though they carry a disease, frounce, that has killed several chicks. Squirrels and rats are good too, and Audbon is planning a spring project to teach building owners to use rat poisons that are safe for birds. A hawk once picked up a small dog in Bryant Park, he said, but generally speaking, pets are not in danger, since dogs and cats are also predators.

As I watched, the hawk remained calm, alternately ripping, swallowing, then showing me its profile, fixing me with its sharp eye. If it could spot a rat or a pigeon from the sky, I was pretty sure it could see me behind the glass. But it didn’t mind. My husband thought the sacrificial pigeon was being eaten alive. I think that was just a breeze ruffing its pigeon feathers. (Among the other sad endings that pigeons face: pigeon-napping.)

I was flattered that the hawk liked our tree, awed by its savagery.

After maybe 10 minutes, it opened its surprisingly large wings and flew away in the direction of the Hudson River, gripping what was left of the pigeon in its talons. A gift for its mate?

I’m waiting for the hawk to come back, but after five days, it hasn’t returned. (The chicken disappeared from Mr. Grimes’s backyard, too.)

Where did it come from? Where did it go?

Pale Male, if that was you, forget that snooty co-op on Fifth Avenue. You and Lola could find happiness in Harlem.

Lover of Backyard Pigeons Is Dealt a Setback in Court by Cara Buckley -

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A man whose devout feeding of pigeons in his Queens backyard resulted in fines was told by a State Supreme Court judge on Thursday that he had failed to abide by all the proper legal avenues before filing a lawsuit against the city.

The Queens man, Cecil Pitts, who has been feeding pigeons for 50 of his 66 years, was cited by the health department last year for causing a nuisance because his daily feedings caused excessive waste. He was also cited for failing to show proof that one of his dogs had been vaccinated for rabies.

One of Mr. Pitts’s neighbors had complained about the birds, calling 311 to report an “unsanitary pigeon condition” at Mr. Pitts’s modest three-story home in South Ozone Park.

After learning that he faced $500 in fines, Mr. Pitts, who lives on $450 a month from Social Security, decided that his only option was to sue the city. Unable to afford a lawyer, he represented himself, and claimed that the health inspector trespassed without a court document, gave no warning of the inspection and overstated the number of pigeons that were there (the inspector put the bird count at 150 that day). He wanted the city to pay him $1,000 in damages and to have the fines waived.

But Justice Charles J. Markey of State Supreme Court in Queens denied Mr. Pitts’s claim, saying that he had not filed an appeal with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before suing the city.

In February of this year, Judge Markey froze the late fees and penalties on the fines that Mr. Pitts owed, but lifted that stay on Thursday.

Mr. Pitts did not answer calls to his home.

The State of the Oceans - The True Cost of a Shrimp Dinner! - YouTube -

The State of the Oceans - CSPAN - Running Time: 10:57

Rep Anthony Weiner (New York's 9th District) Calls for Suspension of Bail for Bernard Madoff - Anthony Weiner - New York's 9th District

I couldn't agree more, this guy should be behind bars...

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Representative Anthony D. Weiner (D – Brooklyn and Queens), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, today called for the suspension of bail for Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi scheme leader who fleeced $50 billion from investors in New York and across the globe. Weiner released the following statement:

"Bernard Madoff should not be free on bail. If there was ever an example of someone who was a flight risk, someone who might have $20 million in a shoe box under his bed, that's Bernard Madoff. He has lived the last ten years of his life in a scheme of deception, and should not be trusted – even with all of the ankle bracelets in the world – outside of a jail cell."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Queens Councilman Is Charged With Assault by Ray Rivera and Sewell Chan- City Room Blog -

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City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat who was elected to the State Senate last month, was arrested and charged with assault early Friday morning in connection with an injury to his girlfriend, law enforcement officials said.

Hiram Monserrate was elected to the City Council in 2001 and to the State Senate last month. (Photo: Uli Seit for The New York Times)

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s top spokesman, said that Mr. Monserrate had been arrested and charged with assault in the first degree.

Officials said that Mr. Monserrate, 41, had taken his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, 30, to Long Island Jewish Medical Center with what appeared to be a serious injury in or around her left eye.

Ms. Giraldo told hospital staff members that it was Mr. Monserrate who had assaulted her, officials said. It appeared that she had been punched and slashed in or around her left eye with a shard of glass, and officials said it took 20 to 40 stitches to close the wound. A doctor at the hospital, which straddles the border between Queens and Nassau County, called the police at 4:50 a.m.

New York City police detectives arrived at the hospital, arrested Mr. Monserrate and took him to a Queens precinct house for questioning. The episode occurred in Mr. Monserrate’s apartment, at 37-20 83rd Street in Jackson Heights, officials said.

Officials said that when the police arrived at the hospital, Ms. Giraldo said that she did not want Mr. Monserrate to be arrested. But under New York law, such arrests are mandatory in domestic violence cases, even if the victim does not want the case to be pursued.

Michael Nieves, a spokesman for Mr. Monserrate, declined to comment on the case, saying he needed to learn more about the situation.

Another spokesman, Wayne Mahlke, said: “We’re not making any statement right now. We will be doing one shortly.”

Mr. Monserrate — a former marine and a former police officer, who served 12 years with the New York City Police Department — was less than two weeks away from resigning his seat on the City Council, where he has served since 2002, to join the State Senate.

Indeed, Thursday was a big day for the councilman. Mr. Monserrate gave a departing speech on the floor of the City Council, where his colleagues praised his service. And on Thursday evening, he attended a holiday party held by the Queens County Democrats.

The arrest startled officials on the Council. “Yesterday was a happy day for Hiram and people were happy for him, so this would be really weird,” Councilman John C. Liu, a fellow Democrat from Queens, said on Friday morning.

The City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, said in a news conference on Friday:

I have heard of the allegations against Councilman Monserrate. You can imagagine they are deeply, deeply troubling allegations. Of course, they’re allegations. Councilmember Monserrate, just like any individual in the city or anywhere else, is innocent until proven guilty, and I’m glad that the N.Y.P.D. is taking up these charges and is going to pursue them quickly and thoroughly.

That said, the charges which relate to domestic violence speak to the problem of domestic violence in our city. And domestic violence is really a cancer in our city and it is just outrageous and unacceptable. When that crime is perpetrated the individual who commits it needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law regardless of any position that individual might hold.

Mr. Monserrate became the first Latino to be elected from Queens when he won his Council seat in 2001. In 2003, days after a Brooklyn councilman was assassinated at City Hall, a campaign volunteer for a rival candidate running against Mr. Monserrate was charged with threatening to shoot Mr. Monserrate and two of his aides because he thought they were engaged in dirty campaign tricks. The volunteer, Julio Abreu, had accused the aides of pulling down posters for the rival candidate, Luis Jimenez, and harassing his workers.

In 2006, Mr. Monserrate unsuccessfully challenged an incumbent state senator, John D. Sabini, in a hard-fought Democratic primary. In 2007, Mr. Sabini was arrested in Albany for driving while intoxicated. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and paid a $300 fine. But the arrest helped to cost him the support of party leaders in Queens, who shifted their support to Mr. Monserrate.

In May, The Times reported that the authorities were investigating whether a Queens social service agency that received city money through Mr. Monserrate’s efforts also helped politically with his campaign for the State Senate. The Queens district attorney’s office and the city’s Department of Investigation are looking into allegations that more than two dozen workers for the nonprofit agency, Libre, collected signatures to help Mr. Monserrate get on the ballot in 2006.

Mr. Monserrate has directed more than $2.7 million in Council discretionary and capital funds to the group. He said that he was unaware of any investigation and knew nothing about any efforts by Libre to collect signatures for his nominating petitions. (In October, The Times reported that Libre could not produce paperwork to show how it spent nearly $250,000 in city money that the councilman had directed to it in recent years.)

In June, Gov. David A. Paterson announced that he would nominate Mr. Sabini to be chairman of the State Racing and Wagering Board, sparing the party from another bitter primary. Mr. Monserrate won the Democratic nomination for Mr. Sabini’s Senate seat in an uncontested primary in September, and sailed to election in November.

After the election, in which Democrats won control of the chamber for the first time in decades, Mr. Monserrate was part of a so-called Gang of Four that balked at electing Malcolm A. Smith, the Senate Democratic leader, as majority leader. Mr. Monserrate eventually backed down and threw his support to Mr. Smith, who is also from Queens, but the future leadership of the Senate remains in turmoil.

Al Baker, Michael Barbaro and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

Queens City Councilman Hiram Monserrate Arrested on Domestic Assault Charge by Elizabeth Benjamin, Alison Gendar and Adam Lisberg - NY Daily News

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Outgoing City Councilman Hiram Monserrate was arrested early Friday after allegedly whacking his girlfriend over the head with a beer bottle, a police source said.

Monserrate and the unidentified victim arrived at Long Island Jewish Hospital about 4:30 a.m. Sources told the Daily News the woman had severe cuts to her face that required several stitches to close.

Cops later questioned the Queens lawmaker and charged him with assault.

Monserrate was lauded by colleagues just yesterday - his last day serving on the City Council. He's off to Albany after winning an uncontested race for the state senate seat held by former Sen. John Sabini.

The arrest puts Monserrate on an unfamiliar side of the law. He retired from the NYPD in 2000 after a 12-year stint. He's a founding member of the Latino Officers Association and served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union while still on the police force.

Monserrate has recently drawn scrutiny for a nonprofit called Libre to which he has directed more than $400,000 in city funds that is run by some of its closest aides and has done political work for him.

Big Bird Count in Queens Dec. 20 - Queens Chronicle

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In a tradition that dates back to 1900, every year fans of our feathered friends conduct the Christmas Bird Count for the Audubon Society — an event billed as “citizen science in action.”

In Queens, the count will be held Dec. 20. Anyone who’s interested in participating should email Bob Dieterich at, visit or call the city Audubon Society at (212) 691-7483.

The count began as an anti-hunting measure. It was conducted for the first time on Christmas Day in 1900 as an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which people divided themselves into groups and then went out and shot as many birds as they could. The group with the most dead birds won.

Frank Chapman, a famed ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History and the editor of Bird-Lore recognized that bird populations could not withstand wanton over-hunting and proposed counting them on Christmas instead of killing them.

The idea caught on, and now the event is an early winter avian census conducted in 19 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Volunteers count every bird they see or hear within a designated area during a single day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Police Officer Seen on Tape Shoving a Bicyclist Is Indicted by John Eligon and Colin Moynihan -

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A police officer who was videotaped knocking a man off his bicycle in July during a monthly cycling event in New York City has been indicted, the officer’s lawyer said on Monday.

The officer, Patrick Pogan, has been instructed to report to State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday for the unsealing of the indictment, said the lawyer, Stuart London. Mr. London said he did not know what the charges would be.

But people with direct knowledge of the case said they believed that prosecutors were seeking felony charges of filing false records in connection with the police report that Officer Pogan filed after arresting the bicyclist, Christopher Long. Officer Pogan also could be charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.

“My client denies any wrongdoing in this matter,” Mr. London said in an interview on Monday. “I would have people withhold judgment until all the evidence comes out about the bicyclist’s actions prior to my client taking action.”

Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case.

David Rankin, a lawyer for Mr. Long, said the indictment was “some good vindication for his client.”

“I’m very pleased with the district attorney’s office taking this matter as seriously as it has,” he added. “What this really shows is that once you’ve committed some type of bad act, going ahead and lying on a charging document to cover it up is not something that’s going to be tolerated by the district attorney’s office.”

The bike incident, which gained widespread attention after someone captured it on videotape and put it on YouTube, occurred on July 25 during a monthly event known as Critical Mass, in which hundreds of cyclists ride their bikes through the city to advocate nonpolluting forms of transportation.

While Mr. Long, 29, was riding through Times Square, Officer Pogan lowered his shoulder and shoved him off his bike as Mr. Long tried to steer out of the way, the video shows.

Officer Pogan arrested Mr. Long and charged him with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. In his police report, Officer Pogan wrote that Mr. Long was obstructing vehicular traffic as he rode southbound on Seventh Avenue. After instructing Mr. Long to stop, Officer Pogan wrote, Mr. Long rammed him with his bicycle, causing the officer to fall to the ground and receive cuts on his forearms. Mr. Long then resisted arrest, Officer Pogan wrote.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office dropped the charges against Mr. Long in September, citing a lack of evidence.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said that if Officer Pogan were arrested, he would be suspended without pay. Mr. Browne declined further comment on the matter.

Tensions between Critical Mass riders and the police have long existed.

Shortly before the Republican National Convention in 2004, a large number of officers arrested more than 250 riders on charges that included parading without a permit. In 2006, a state judge turned down a request by the city to forbid Time’s Up, an environmental group that promotes the monthly rides, to take part in them, to gather at Union Square Park beforehand and to mention the rides on its Web site.

In a statement, Time’s Up applauded the indictment.

“We hope that higher-ups at the N.Y.P.D. will now discontinue their pattern of using excessive force and dangerous tactics against cyclists, and instead work with cyclists to make the ride safe and encourage nonpolluting transportation,” the statement said.

Film "Amexicano" by Queens Natives Continues to Develop a Following by Guest Contributor Kelly Kilpatrick

This posting is the first article contributed to me by Kelly Kilpatrick. I'm looking forward to many more contributions from Kelly in the future...

Last year, a refreshing film about immigration issues premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Amexicano is a story about a Queens native, Bruno (writer and actor Carmine Famiglietti), who is down on his luck and behind on his rent. A friend finds work for Bruno doing construction and remodeling, and this will involve hiring on illegal immigrants.

Bruno is set in his ways and doesn’t want to help out any illegals, so he’s hesitant to take on the job. The first guy he hires on is stereotypically lazy, only reinforcing Bruno’s opinions of Mexican immigrants. It is only when he meets Ignacio (played by Raul Castillo), does he begin to learn that many immigrants are just looking for the American dream like so many others who came before them.

This great film was released in New York earlier this fall to good reviews from the Times. Now the film is being taken to smaller Hispanic markets where the subject matter is even more relevant.

Amexicano opened in Edinburg, Texas, on December 5 where writer and actor Carmine Famiglietti, as well as actors Raul Castillo and Jennifer Pena were on-hand to answer questions from audience members in the small south Texas city. People turned out in such great numbers that the film, which was supposed to close on December 11, was kept on for an additional week.

Carmine Famiglietti and director Matthew Bonifacio are both natives of Queens, and much of the film was shot on location in Queens and Deming, New Mexico. Famiglietti is looking for more markets to show his film, which is a wonderful story of friendship and compassion regardless of what language you speak or where you come from.

If you weren’t able to catch the movie when it was showing here in New York, have no fear: a DVD release of Amexicano should be expected sometime in the first quarter of 2009.


This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of student college reviews. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mike Hit On Tolls by Sally Goldenberg - New York Post

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Comptroller Bill Thompson yesterday blasted Mayor Bloomberg for ducking the politically sensitive issue of tolling the free East River bridges.

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg should not be given an E-ZPass on this issue. The mayor needs to lead on this issue and not hide," said Thompson, a Democrat who plans to challenge Bloomberg for mayor.

Thompson went on to criticize the MTA's proposal to toll the Brooklyn (pictured), Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges as a way to help plug its projected $1.2 billion budget hole.

"Placing tolls along these bridges penalizes people for living in The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn boroughs, especially those who don't have the best access to subway and bus transportation," he fumed at a press conference at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bloomberg has not taken a position on the toll plan, which was endorsed Thursday by a commission charged with devising a plan to solve the MTA's budget crisis. He did, however, stand with Gov. Paterson and former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch when they presented the proposal Thursday.

"As everyone knows, the mayor came up with a plan to get the money we need to fix our subways last year. He's working cooperatively with Gov. Paterson now to find a solution that avoids massive subway fare increases," Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said.

He was referring to Bloomberg's failed bid to institute congestion pricing earlier this year, which Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) derailed in Albany.

Silver supports Ravitch's toll plan but has said the state may not have the authority to enact it; the city's lawyers say the plan would need state approval.

Thompson also reiterated his call for the state Legislature to increase weight-based vehicle-registration fees for drivers in the MTA region, which includes the city and seven surrounding counties.

He estimated that increasing the registration charge by $100 for cars weighing 2,300 pounds or less and 9 cents for every additional pound would generate more than $1 billion annually.

Parks Dept's Hidden-Tix Trick on Luxe Mets Box by David Seifman - New York Post

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THE city's luxury box at Shea Stadium was used almost entirely over the last four years by employees of the Parks Department - which oversees the ballpark - while other city agencies were largely shut out.

Documents obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Law show Parks workers were allocated 78 percent of the 324 Mets' home games from 2005 to 2008 in the 15-seat box.

The Mayor's Office and its subsidiaries grabbed 12 percent.

The rest of city government struck out with a meager 10 percent.

Mayoral aides have defended their hard-nosed negotiations in 2006 to secure luxury boxes valued at between $250,000 to $500,000 for the city in the new Met and Yankee stadiums, claiming they're needed to reward municipal workers.

But insiders say many agencies weren't aware free baseball tickets could be had for the asking.

"If people asked, they got them, but you had to know to ask," a source said.

The 10,549 employees of the Correction Department didn't get a single ticket. Neither did the 6,985 at the Administration for Children's Services. The NYPD got to use the luxury box on one measly occasion, when the Mets faced the San Diego Padres on July 21, 2005.

The most eagerly sought tickets - the annual hometown Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees - always ended up in the hands of either Parks or the Mayor's Office.

Officials say the ticket policy was overhauled last season, with a lottery established to level the playing field.

Residents, Pols Protest ;Unfair and Unjust; Cross Bay Bridge Toll by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, a handful of politicians and hundreds of Broad Channel and Rockaway residents are demanding the removal of the only intra-borough toll in the city.

Photo caption: Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., C.B. 14 Chairwoman Dolores Orr and District Leader Frank Gulluscio. Photo: Lee Landor

The toll plaza that sits at the northern end of the Cross Bay Bridge has been the cause of much contention between the two communities and the city for decades.

Residents began protesting the toll in 1974 and finally won in 1998 when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city-owned bridge, agreed to implement a rebate program.

With the program, Broad Channel and Rockaway drivers with E-ZPasses are charged $1.03 (discounted from $2.50 for non-residents) each time they cross the bridge, and the money is returned to them in a rebate.

Now that the MTA is facing a serious fiscal crisis in its 2009 budget, it is contemplating abrogating the rebate program, which would save the agency $3.6 million a year.

Just the utterance of the MTA’s proposal sent Broad Channel and Rockaway drivers scrambling to the offices of their elected officials and local leaders, who organized a protest on Tuesday.

Joining Marshall in her call to remove the toll were Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., several district leaders and a number of community board members.

According to Marshall, the toll will “hamper the ongoing economic development of the entire Rockaway Peninsula. It will make the current housing boom less attractive to prospective buyers.”

The toll will also discourage Rockaway residents from driving into the rest of the borough to shop, according to Pheffer. Why would they pay a toll to get to Queens Center Mall, for example, when they could drive into Five Towns in Nassau County for free?

Pheffer called on the MTA to “eliminate the toll. It’s wrong. It’s unfair and unjust.”

Addabbo expressed concern about what the MTA would do with the $3.6 million it would save by ending the rebate program. “How many of us are really certain that the MTA can handle money?” he asked.

It’s time the agency learned that it cannot fix its financial problems on the backs of its customers, Addabbo added. He suggested that before it does anything, the MTA should look in the mirror, recognize the place from which its fiscal troubles stem and revamp its entire financial department.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said there is no question that the Cross Bay Bridge toll should not even exist. But since it does, the least the MTA can do is continue the rebate program.

Broad Channel residents send their children to school in the Rockaways, Gaska noted. It’s where they go for grocery and other shopping, to eat out, to see movies, to visit the post office and even to get gas.

Should they need to visit their local precinct, which is located on the peninsula, or pick up their kids from school or send certified mail, Broad Channel residents, who share a ZIP code with a Rockaway neighborhood, would have to pay a toll. Likewise, Rockaway residents who want to get to any other part of the borough have to pay a toll.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Marshall said. “Does the MTA charge Manhattan residents a toll to travel into Midtown or SoHo?”

Lifelong Rockaway resident Glenn DiResto, a candidate in the 32nd Council District special election, summed up the problem with the toll: it’s divisive. “The toll isolates the whole community,” he said.

Rockaway resident Dan Tubridy echoed the sentiment, saying, “This toll is a wall. It’s a wall that ... separates the city of New York.” It is time, he said, to “tear that wall down.”

In addition to the protest, the community held a demonstration Wednesday, sending six busloads of residents to speak out at an MTA meeting in Manhattan.

'Saturday Night Live' Mocks Governor Paterson's Blindness, Past Drug Use by Stephanie Gaskell - NY Daily News

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Saturday Night Live pushed the envelope last night with a drop-dead impression of Gov. Paterson that mocked his blindness and past drug use.

The skit features SNL castmember Fred Armisen as Paterson during a segment on "Weekend Update."

Like disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Paterson must appoint someone to the senate seat being vacated by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Blagojevich was arrested last week for trying to sell the seat left open by President-elect Barack Obama.

Armisen, as Paterson, says he has three criteria: economic experience, upstate influence and someone with a disability who is completely unprepared for the job - just like him.

"I want to choose a senator not from the glitzy coke parties of Manhattan but rather from the shabbier coke circles of upstate new york," he said. "I'm tired of all these fancy, two-eyed smart alecs from the big city running the whole show."

"It's time we get someone from Utica, Syracuse or Schnectady - towns where people have something a little off about him. I mean, they don't have to be blind," he said. "I just need someone with like a gamey arm or maybe the giant gums with the tiny teeth. Let's get one of those in the Senate."

The fake Paterson points out that he only became governor because of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's prostition scandal.

"Whoever is appointed senator must - like me - be caught totally off guard and be comically unprepared to take office," he said. "Come on, I'm a blind man who loves cocaine who was suddenly appointed governor of New York. My life is an actual plot from a Richard Pryor movie."

Paterson also holds up a chart illustrating job losses in the state - but holds it upside down.

Later, he wanders in from of the camera during SNL cast member Amy Poehler's announcement that she is leaving the show.

"Governor, you're in our shot," she said.

The governor's office is expected to release a statement reacting to the skit later today.