Monday, March 31, 2008

Final Season at 'The House That Ruth Built' - 1010 WINS

Read original...

NEW YORK (AP) -- Barry Bonds stepped out of a white stretch limousine, strolled into Yankee Stadium for the first time and basically pooh-poohed the place.

Pretty much just another ballpark, he told most anyone who would listen.

1010 WINS Audio: Sonia Rincon Reports

That is, until he walked onto the field and took a look around. That's when the history hit him. Dressed in his San Francisco Giants uniform, he made a beeline to deep left-center field and asked a guard to open the gate that led to Monument Park.

"I want to see this," Bonds said.

The grumpy future home run king became an eager little boy during that visit six years ago, standing in line with fans to study Mickey Mantle's bronze likeness and Thurman Munson's plaque.

Yankee Stadium tends to have that effect on people.

"I still get chill bumps every time I'm there," newly elected Hall of Famer Rich Gossage said.

Too bad for the Goose, there isn't much time left.

Christened by Babe Ruth with a home run on opening day in 1923, the big house in the Bronx is set for its final season.

Next year, the New York Yankees will move across the street into a slightly smaller, $1.3 billion ballpark that includes nearly 50 luxury boxes and a martini bar. The new Yankee Stadium is built for the future _ there's even locker room space for female umpires, in case any ever get hired.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees will play with specially marked baseballs this year and to the pinstripers, the only fitting farewell would come in October. The park with the famous white facade, initial construction plans called it the "frieze," has hosted exactly 100 World Series games.

Don Zimmer sat in the dugout for his share. Always next to Joe Torre, ol' Popeye was a fixture until leaving because of a feud with bombastic owner George Steinbrenner.

"How big a thrill is it to walk in a stadium and never see an empty seat? That's thrilling," Zimmer said.

"I'd say a lot of things made Yankee Stadium, and Steinbrenner would be one of the big reasons," he added. "There were so many memories. One after another. One after another."

Be it Don Larsen pitching a perfect game, Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs or Mariano Rivera closing out one of the Yankees' 26 World Series championships, the stadium at 161st Street and River Avenue was often the site where sports and legend intersected.

Lou Gehrig calling himself the "luckiest man on the face of the earth." Johnny Unitas winning "the greatest game ever played." Knute Rockne urging Notre Dame to "win one for the Gipper." Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling in the most politically charged fight of their era.

Muhammad Ali and Jack Dempsey boxed there, Pele got his kicks, the 1972 Miami Dolphins won on their way to a perfect season. Nebraska took the first and only Gotham Bowl.

Off the field, equally important events. Two popes celebrated Mass, the Rev. Billy Graham greeted worshippers and Nelson Mandela spoke to thousands.

The Yankees will mark the long goodbye with commemorative baseballs for every home game. They feature a logo of the stadium's original entrance, and the Yankees will wear a patch with the same emblem on their left sleeves.

Over in Queens, the New York Mets will do a similar thing at Shea Stadium, which opened in 1964 and will close after this season.

The ready-made souvenirs will get put into play at Yankee Stadium on Monday against Toronto and be used through the finale Sept. 21 versus Baltimore. Tickets for that last game are selling for $15,000 and up on

New Yankees manager Joe Girardi is eager for the final opening day.

"I don't think you ever know how you're going to react," he said Friday. "I think I reacted a lot different when I walked out for the first time at Yankee Stadium than I thought I would. I think I was like, 'Wow, this really awesome.' As a Midwestern boy, not growing up in that area, you didn't really understand the greatness of it until you walk in there."

Properly, Major League Baseball will throw a party at the park with the All-Star game in July. And perhaps the last game won't be on grass at all, but ice instead. The NHL wants to play there outdoors on New Year's Day.

Yet baseball will forever be its unmistakable signature.

Late-inning comebacks. Wide-eyed rookies. Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York."

Roger Maris' 61st home run, Tom Seaver earning his 300th win on Phil Rizzuto Day. Casey Stengel's inside-the-park homer in the 1923 Series, the first one the Yankees won. The ball the Mick nearly hit completely out of the stadium, no one has ever done it, but outfielder Jesse Barfield once got upset and lobbed a ball onto the subway tracks.

"There are so many great things about Yankee Stadium. The history, the nostalgia," said David Cone, who pitched a perfect game on that mound. "To me, it was the fans. They anticipated the flow better than anyone. Runner on second base, no out, they're already anticipating moving him over."

To Yogi Berra, his teammates made the park special. Remember this: When he showed up as a stubby catcher in 1946, many of the monuments were still alive.

Joe DiMaggio owned center field back then, when the original markers were in play behind him. A couple of years later, the Babe leaned on a bat and, in a hushed voice, said so long to the House that Ruth Built. After that, Mantle came along.

At his museum in Montclair, N.J., Berra keeps six nicked-up seats, three pale green, three blue, from the stadium before it was remodeled in 1974-75.

"They're falling apart," the Hall of Famer said. "They're getting pretty old."

Fenway Park (1912) and Wrigley Field (1914) predate Yankee Stadium, which the Yanks built out of necessity.

They'd been at Hilltop Park, hence, the previous nickname of Highlanders, before moving into the Polo Grounds in 1913. John McGraw and the New York Giants got tired of sharing the park, especially after Ruth and the Yankees became more popular, and told them to leave.

With a capacity of more than 80,000 and outfield distances nearing 500 feet, Yankee Stadium was so colossal that some said it was the first arena in America specifically named a "stadium."

For many years, it was called "the Yankee Stadium." That's how it shows up in the 1928 silent film "Speedy," where Ruth plays himself and, in words printed on a panel, tells taxi driver Harold Lloyd to take him there in a hurry.

The Yankees shifted to Shea for two years in the mid-1970s while their stadium was remodeled. The monuments to Ruth, Gehrig and Miller Huggins and the flagpole were moved out of center field. The fences were shortened, the facade was redone and plastic seats replaced wooden ones.

Since then, the stadium has held up fairly well. The only glitch came in 1998 when a 500-pound steel beam fell from the underside of the upper deck into the mezzanine section. Fortunately, the accident occurred a few hours before game time and no one was injured.

Over the years, the playing surface has been lowered and moved around. No matter where Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle actually stood, Gossage will be sad to see the ballpark close.

"I just can't imagine not standing on that hallowed ground," he said.

A year in advance, the Yankees are planning to take much of their history with them.

The empty locker where Munson's catching gear hangs will certainly move into the new home clubhouse. And they surely want 90-something Bob Sheppard, who started the public-address duties in 1951 on the day Mantle made his debut, to man the microphone.

The city will decide what ultimately happens to the old stadium. There has been talk the upper deck and mezzanine will be demolished, and that the lower deck and field will be left intact for youth games.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller is disappointed that the wrecking ball is on its way. He pitched 3 2-3 scoreless innings in the 1939 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, then threw one of his three no-hitters at the park in 1946.

"I'll miss it. It's too bad that they're going to tear it down," he said. "In Europe, they take care of historical places, turn them into monuments. And here we bulldoze them to make room for something new. I'm not sure that's what you would call progress."

(TM & Copyright 2008 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO & EYE Logo TM & Copyright 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report. In the interest of timeliness, this story is fed directly from the newswire and may contain occasional typographical errors.)

Yankees Win...New Video by Ryan Parker..!

The Yankees Win..!

Singer/Songwriter Ryan Parker has a new song/video he created entitled "The Yankees Win."

Centerfield by John Fogarty...Scheduled Opening Day at Yankee Stadium Postponed by Rain

It's Major League Baseball's Opening Day...although the Yankees historical last Opening Day at the House That Ruth Built has been postponed by rain until tomorrow night...

Schools Caught in Albany Budget Fight by Joe Mahoney - NY Daily News

Read original...

The latest move in state budget gamesmanship would block Mayor Bloomberg from cutting public school costs - and result in the loss of 3,778 cops and 520 firefighters, a City Hall analysis shows.

In the city's budget request, Hizzoner asked all city agencies to shoulder the same rate of cuts - a burden the Assembly Democrats shifted to every outfit but schools.

The Bloomberg administration is scrambling to kill the proposal, which City Hall officials described as a favor to the United Federation of Teachers, a major Democratic donor.

"Assuming all Department of Education cuts are eliminated, an additional across-the-board budget reduction of 4.6% will be necessary in order to generate $540 million" in savings for the 2009 fiscal year, a Bloomberg administration document sent to lawmakers says.

The Bloomberg team's analysis was exclusively obtained by the Daily News after it was circulated this week to lawmakers at the Capitol.

The analysis insists sparing the Education Department any cuts, while other agencies shouldered the burden, would force the elimination of 609 sanitation workers and reduce the frequency of trash collections.

That comes on top of the elimination of nearly 4,000 of New York's Finest and more the 500 of its Bravest.

An outraged Edward Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, lashed out at the Assembly for backing a proposal he said would lead to a public safety "disaster."

"The Police Department is already struggling to get people as it is," he said. "The people of New York ought to wake up and get on top of these politicians up in Albany."

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) defended the push to spare schools from Bloomberg's ax.

"The state Legislature has gone to the wall to increase education aid for the city. If the city is just going to take the state aid and decrease its own aid, that's not what was intended."

Lawmakers are expected to hammer out a finalized budget by Tuesday.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) had no comment.

There was also no comment from Gov. Paterson's office. Paterson's lawyer father, former Secretary of State Basil Paterson, has represented the UFT.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

NYPD: Armed Teenager Shot by Cops in Queens - 1010 WINS

Read original...

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- A teenager, allegedly armed with a loaded gun, has been shot by police in Queens.

The NYPD says uniformed officers approached four males at around 5:30 p.m. Friday at the corner of 75th street and 101st Avenue in Ozone Park.

One of them ran off, but was chased down a few blocks away.

Authorities say a police officer and a sergeant confronted the armed suspect and opened fire. He was shot in the hand, buttocks and leg and was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition.

Police say 18-year old Mikal Paden of Loring Avenue, Brooklyn, is charged with criminal use of a firearm. Cops say a loaded Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun was recovered at the scene (above photo of weapon provided by NYPD).

Man Clings to Life in Queens Gunplay by By Jonathan Lemire and Dorian Block -- NY Daily News

Man clings to life in Queens gunplay

A 21-year-old Queens man was fighting for his life early Saturday after he was shot in the chest in a deli, police said.

Jesus Navedo of Richmond Hill was at the store at 87-26 Jamaica Ave. shortly after 4 a.m. making a purchase, his friend who was waiting outside the store, told police.

The friend said he then heard a gunshot coming from inside and saw a man flee the store and run west on Jamaica Ave.

Navedo followed, running out of the store with blood gushing from a wound in his stomach.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found him lying on his back in the store in the arms of his friend, police said.

Navedo was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, officials said.

Investigators were not certain what prompted the shooting.

Council Race Officially a Crowd - Fourth and Most Recent Challenger Lists Zip Code for Glendale Among Key Issues by Phil Guie - Queens Ledger

Read original...

Last week, another City Council hopeful tossed his hat into the race for the 30th District seat: local activist Charles Ober.

The Ridgewood resident and officer of several civic organizations, including the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, the Ridgewood Democratic Club and the Queens Civic Congress, said his campaign would focus on preserving the area's quality of life.

Ober is one of several potential candidates seeking the seat of former councilmember Dennis Gallagher, who recently announced he would be resigning in April as part of a plea deal. Mayor Bloomberg will schedule the date of a special election to take place 45 to 60 days after his resignation.

Besides Ober, those eyeing the impending vacancy include activist Elizabeth Crowley, Board of Elections commissioner Anthony Como, and Thomas Ognibene, who previously held the 30th District seat. Ober said he was expecting to run in 2009, when Gallagher would have been term-limited out of office.

However, in a phone interview following the announcement of his candidacy, the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association vice-president clearly defined the differences between his resume and his competition.

Ober described Crowley, Como and Ognibene as having prior political backgrounds or career paths crossed with union groups, while his own experience came from serving as financial executive for a local building supply company, and volunteering with community-based organizations on issues including sanitation and graffiti.

"I have an extensive and deep civic background in these neighborhoods," he said. "I feel I know what [residents'] needs are, because I've been there as one of them."

However, Ober denied he was a political outsider, and said he has worked with elected officials numerous times as an officer of the Queens Civic Congress. Most recently, the group collaborated with City Council members to draft a graffiti nuisance abatement bill allowing graffiti to be cleaned off buildings without the owner having to sign a waiver.

"I have always seen myself as someone whom no one can say, 'He can't walk into every room,'" Ober said.

He also touted his experience with preservation, which he cited as a major issue currently facing western Queens. As president of the Ridgewood Democratic Club, Ober said he has been spearheading efforts to restore the organizations headquarters, a building dating back past the year 1917 and located on Putnam Avenue.

Ober, who has lived in Ridgewood over 27 years, said other key issues include the lack of capacity in sewer systems throughout Glendale and Middle Village, down-zonings, and securing a separate zip code for Glendale.

In the latter two cases, he said a lack of political leadership has hurt neighborhoods in recent years. "Ridgewood was downzoned many years ago, but it's almost too late in some areas [here]," he said. "There are monstrosities that have already gone up, so we've got to get this done right away."

Meanwhile, he showed strong support for securing a separate zip code for Glendale, which would eliminate mail-related confusion as well as make it easier for residents to eventually secure a Glendale post office. "There is a population there and it needs these services," Ober said.

The entire field of candidates, including Ober, Crowley, Como and Ognibene, will be appearing for "Candidates Night" at next week's Glendale Property Owners Association session, meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 3rd at 62-10 Myrtle Avenue in Glendale. Start time will be 7:30 p.m.

The Unseen Yankee Stadium | The New York Times

Audio Slide Show: The Hidden Yankee Stadium- Click Here
The House That Ruth Built is in its final season. A tour of its little-known quirks. Baseball Preview

Budget Focuses on New Taxes: State Negotiators Cast Wide Net of Increases to Give Education, Health Care Aid a Boost - Albany Times Union - McClatchy-

Read original...

State budget negotiators on Friday talked privately of raising taxes on cigarettes, insurers and bankers as lawmakers started working out ways to add hundreds of millions of dollars to education and health care spending.

Government sources said a plan to increase the excise tax on cigarettes by $1.25 per pack was gathering momentum. The idea has been studied for months, and has been pushed by anti-smoking groups that favor an increase of $1.50 per pack.

The proposed $1.25 increase could result in more than $200 million in revenues and would be on top of the current tax of $1.50 per pack, an official said.

Also in the mix was adding to the tax on insurance policies for medical coverage. The so-called covered lives assessment proposed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer would raise $190 million, but negotiators may approve only some of the increased taxation, one official said. The tax tends to get passed on to policyholders through premiums.

Also on the table were taxes on the banking industry, a credit card tax, extra funds from a tax amnesty program and closing the loophole that allows online retailers such as to avoid taxation, government sources said.

The vendors seeking to develop and run video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack will likely be expected to come up with a large upfront fee, perhaps as much as $250 million, according to sources briefed on the idea.

Legislative committees on Friday publicly discussed adding $400 million to education aid, which would result in about $1.8 billion more in school funding next year, and $235 million for health care, saving some cuts to providers, particularly nursing homes.

The flurry of work started after state leaders on Thursday agreed to a roughly $124 billion budget plan. Officials expect to complete negotiations by Sunday afternoon, although with the fiscal year starting on Tuesday, full approval will likely be a few days late, officials predicted.

Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird? - - Op-Ed by Bridget Stutchbury - New York Times

Read original...

THOUGH a consumer may not be able to tell the difference, a striking red and blue Thomas the Tank Engine made in Wisconsin is not the same as one manufactured in China — the paint on the Chinese twin may contain dangerous levels of lead. In the same way, a plump red tomato from Florida is often not the same as one grown in Mexico. The imported fruits and vegetables found in our shopping carts in winter and early spring are grown with types and amounts of pesticides that would often be illegal in the United States.

In this case, the victims are North American songbirds. Bobolinks, called skunk blackbirds in some places, were once a common sight in the Eastern United States. In mating season, the male in his handsome tuxedo-like suit sings deliriously as he whirrs madly over the hayfields. Bobolink numbers have plummeted almost 50 percent in the last four decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

The birds are being poisoned on their wintering grounds by highly toxic pesticides. Rosalind Renfrew, a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, captured bobolinks feeding in rice fields in Bolivia and took samples of their blood to test for pesticide exposure. She found that about half of the birds had drastically reduced levels of cholinesterase, an enzyme that affects brain and nerve cells — a sign of exposure to toxic chemicals.

Since the 1980s, pesticide use has increased fivefold in Latin America as countries have expanded their production of nontraditional crops to fuel the demand for fresh produce during winter in North America and Europe. Rice farmers in the region use monocrotophos, methamidophos and carbofuran, all agricultural chemicals that are rated Class I toxins by the World Health Organization, are highly toxic to birds, and are either restricted or banned in the United States. In countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador, researchers have found that farmers spray their crops heavily and repeatedly with a chemical cocktail of dangerous pesticides.

In the mid-1990s, American biologists used satellite tracking to follow Swainson’s hawks to their wintering grounds in Argentina, where thousands of them were found dead from monocrotophos poisoning. Migratory songbirds like bobolinks, barn swallows and Eastern kingbirds are suffering mysterious population declines, and pesticides may well be to blame. A single application of a highly toxic pesticide to a field can kill seven to 25 songbirds per acre. About half the birds that researchers capture after such spraying are found to suffer from severely depressed neurological function.

Migratory birds, modern-day canaries in the coal mine, reveal an environmental problem hidden to consumers. Testing by the United States Food and Drug Administration shows that fruits and vegetables imported from Latin America are three times as likely to violate Environmental Protection Agency standards for pesticide residues as the same foods grown in the United States. Some but not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing or peeling produce, but tests by the Centers for Disease Control show that most Americans carry traces of pesticides in their blood. American consumers can discourage this poisoning by avoiding foods that are bad for the environment, bad for farmers in Latin America and, in the worst cases, bad for their own families.

What should you put on your bird-friendly grocery list? Organic coffee, for one thing. Most mass-produced coffee is grown in open fields heavily treated with fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. In contrast, traditional small coffee farmers grow their beans under a canopy of tropical trees, which provide shade and essential nitrogen, and fertilize their soil naturally with leaf litter. Their organic, fair-trade coffee is now available in many coffee shops and supermarkets, and it is recommended by the Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

Organic bananas should also be on your list. Bananas are typically grown with one of the highest pesticide loads of any tropical crop. Although bananas present little risk of pesticide ingestion to the consumer, the environment where they are grown is heavily contaminated.

When it comes to nontraditional Latin American crops like melons, green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers and strawberries, it can be difficult to find any that are organically grown. We should buy these foods only if they are not imported from Latin America.

Now that spring is here, we take it for granted that the birds’ cheerful songs will fill the air when our apple trees blossom. But each year, as we continue to demand out-of-season fruits and vegetables, we ensure that fewer and fewer songbirds will return.

Bridget Stutchbury, a professor of biology at York University in Toronto, is the author of “Silence of the Songbirds.”

Brooklyn Man Shot By Police For Having A Loaded Gun - NY1

Read original...

Watch video...

An 18-year-old Brooklyn man will be arraigned next week, after recovering from being shot Friday afternoon by police who say he had a gun.

Mikal Paden is charged with criminal use of a firearm, and is recovering from his injuries at Jamaica Hospital.

Police say he will be arraigned sometime next week.

Police say officers approached four men including Paden, whom they say was armed with a gun, at approximately 5:35 p.m. Friday near 75th Street and 101st Avenue in Ozone Park,

The officers ordered him to drop the gun, but according to police, he ran.

After chasing Paden, the officers fired several shots, hitting him in the hand, buttocks and leg.

Police say they recovered a loaded .40-caliber handgun at the scene.

Police Say Armed Teen Suspect Shot During Chase -

Read original...

NEW YORK (AP) — Police officers shot and wounded an armed teenager during a foot chase in Queens Friday night, authorities said.

Mikal Paden, 18, of Brooklyn was shot in the hand, the buttocks and the leg. The wounds were not expected to be life-threatening.

"When they brought him out in cuffs, he was looking like he was proud, like he was on TV or something," one witness to the chase, 14-year-old Franklin Valdez, told the Daily News.

Police said Paden was part of a group of young men who were confronted by officers at about 5:30 p.m. in the borough's Ozone Park section. Paden was being chased by a sergeant and an officer when he pulled a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson from his waistband, police said.

Both officers opened fire. Witnesses said Paden stumbled into an alley collapsed near someone's backyard pool before police handcuffed him.

The teen was charged with criminal use of a firearm.

Movie Ads 'Target' Real Sarah Marshalls by Jessica Durando - NY Daily News

Read original...

Sarah Marshall of Manhattan playfully scowls next to an ad poster for new film 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.'

One Sarah Marshall is signing autographs, another is hitting the gym.

A third got a phone call from an ex telling her: "I don't know who's doing this, but it's not me."

Huge ads dotted around the city, scrawled with messages like, "My mom always hated you Sarah Marshall," "I'm so over you Sarah Marshall" and "You DO look fat in those jeans Sarah Marshall" have real New Yorkers with the same name in a fluster.

"It's costing me a fortune," said stay-at-home mom Sara Marshall, 51, who has signed up for spin classes because of the signs telling her namesake she is not in shape.

"I have to worry about my hair and makeup everyday."

The posters, scrawled with the messages in thick black ink, are promoting a new movie from Universal called "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and they are popping up on billboards, above subway station entrances and on bus shelters everywhere.

"When you're walking down the street, it gets a little wearing even though you know it's not you and has nothing to do with you," said Sarah Marshall, 34, who lives in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan.

"You see . . . words like 'hate' and 'suck' with your name over and over again. It just doesn't feel pleasant inside."

Her mother, 70, who has the same name, says she cannot wait until the movie debuts and the signs are taken down.

"I'm very, very upset," the upper East Sider said.

"I'm an old person. It's today's lingo and today's jargon but it's a little rough for my taste."

But kids at Public School 60 in Woodhaven, Queens, think their fourth-grade teacher is the newest celebrity in town.

"Those billboards, they don't hurt my feelings, they don't make me uncomfortable," said Sarah Marshall, 27.

"My kids all want my autograph."

Bank Heist Garners $400G -by Lee Landor, Assistant Editor - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

The rancid smell of wet carpet greeted employees of Angel’s on the Bay Evaluation Center in Howard Beach Monday morning. Like their neighboring tenants, Sovereign Bank, the workers discovered water, debris and a large hole in the concrete wall separating the businesses.

A crew of three to four thieves left the mess after smashing its way into the bank’s vault over Easter weekend, making off with more than $100,000 in cash and approximately $300,000 in loot from customers’ safety deposit boxes.

“It seems like some more planning went into this than most (typical) burglaries,” said FBI spokesman Matthew Bertron.

There is also speculation about the similarities between this heist and those of certain movies, including “The Bank Job.”

Police believe the crooks used a secretly copied key to enter the evaluation center, located at 162-30 Cross Bay Blvd., where they drilled through a cement and steel wall and flooded a sink — possibly short-circuting the bank’s alarms — in order to cover up their tracks.

In the film, the robbers rented an office space two doors from a bank, dug a tunnel leading into the bank so they could gain entry from the inside.

In the Sovereign Bank heist, once the crooks were inside the bank, they broke through a second wall to reach the vault and 400 safety deposit boxes, about 25 percent of which were compromised, according to Sovereign Bank spokesman Michael Armstrong.

“To the best of our knowledge, there is no reason to believe there has been any impact on customer accounts at the branch,” he added. But there was concern about locating the safety deposit box owners and determining what and how much was stolen. Bank officials spent most of Tuesday doing outreach to customers, Armstrong said.

Carol Verdi, who manages the evaluation center for HeartShare Human Services of New York, cannot even begin to estimate how much damage the center incurred. It was grave enough that the FBI brought in special evidence recovery crews to collect forensic evidence jeopardized by the flooding.

“Our office is pretty much decimated,” Verdi said. Sitting in three inches of water, confidential files, toys, carpets, furniture and thousands of dollars worth of expensive psychological testing kits were destroyed.

“You know what the real sin here is?” she asked. “The whole history of the agency is destroyed.” Hundreds of pictures, slides, documents and other historical items, stored in Verdi’s office, were ruined. The sentimental value is especially painful for Verdi, who spent 26 years collecting and gathering mementos, now reduced to relics in trash bags.

The crew caused further destruction in the center’s conference room, which it sprayed with fire extinguishers, hoping the foam would conceal any traces they left behind.

With both the front and rear doors of the center open to air out the dank office, employees wearing masks and gloves began the arduous task of cleaning up and sorting through debris. Workers, hired by the bank and the building’s landlord, K & P Operating Corp., milled about with noisy tools used to soak up water and rip out carpets.

They also patched up the destroyed wall, located inside two adjoining closets, one of which held goods for the center’s May fund-raiser. Verdi said the thieves emptied the closets, dumping the contents into a hallway, removed the shelves and drilled through the wall.

Cops believe the thieves had sledgehammers, crowbars and heavy-duty drills, and spent about a day and a half pulling off the Hollywood-style heist. The center was closed for the holiday from March 19 until Monday, March 24 and the bank closed for the weekend at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

It is possible that the caper began as early as March 17, when one of the center’s window panels was punched out, according to published reports. Initally, cops credited St. Patrick’s Day vandals with the broken window, but now believe it was the crew of crooks that broke in to steal and copy the center’s key, which it later returned.

The center will remain closed indefinitely, causing a major setback for the agency, which performs between 12 and 15 evaluations each week. “We just can’t function without an office,” Verdi said.

Employees have had to cancel appointments or relocate students to the agency’s other locations. They are waiting for insurance workers to examine and evaluate the damage, which Verdi fears will include mold.

The bank was expected to reopen on March 26 and return to business as usual.

As part of the investigation, police are trying to determine whether there is a connection between this robbery and another that occurred Monday in Long Island City, where a crook stole $26,000 from Telemundial Inc, according to published reports. Cops arrested one suspect in that robbery.

The FBI-NYPD Joint Bank Robbery Task Force is still investigating.

Exclusive: Ex-Cop's Widow Speaks Out - 1010 WINS

Read original...

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The woman accused of killing her husband, a retired sergeant with the NYPD, says she tried to leave him a number of times but never went through with it because he said he would kill her and it would be "the perfect crime."

Barbara Sheehan spoke publicly for the first time about her tumultuous marriage. The 47-year-old mother of two grown children is charged with killing her husband, Raymond, in their Howard Beach, Queens home as he shaved February 18. She claims it was self defense.

1010 WINS EXCLUSIVE: Carol D'Auria Interviews Barbara Sheehan

Raymond Sheehan was a 20 year veteran of the NYPD.

"He worked in what was called the crime scene unit and he said he could commit the perfect crime and that's what he would do...that no one would ever find me," Barbara Sheehan said from the dining room of her home.

"I did try to leave a few times but he would threaten me, he would take his gun out. He would put his gun to my head...more than once, a loaded gun, too," Sheehan explained. "He threatened me and my family," she said.

The Sheehans were married for 24 years. She said after the birth of her second child her husband began to verbally abuse her. She said he called her "trailer park trash" and "stupid" because she never went to college. She claims that before long her husband began to physically abuse her and that the abuse got worse with each passing year.

Last summer, the couple vacationed in Jamaica and that's when he pulled her by the hair, then pushed her face into a concrete wall, according to Sheehan. She said she needed stitches to close the wound on her forehead and scalp and that her husband insisted she tell everyone that she fell. She claims that over the years her husband also broke her nose, broke one of her fingers and gave her several black eyes. One time, he threw a pot of spaghetti sauce at her, she said.

Sheehan claims that the violence began escalating even more last fall and continued through the holidays. In February, he wanted her to go to Florida with him and she refused. Sheehan says she was determined to stay home, but her husband wouldn't accept that. On the morning of Feb 18, she shot him and called the police.

Sheehan is out on $1 million bail.

Seminerio Still Going Strong After 30 Years in Assembly by Howard Koplowitz- Times Ledger

Read original...

More than 200 supporters marked state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio's (D-Richmond Hill) 30th anniversary as a legislator during a fund-raising dinner last week at La Bella Vita in Ozone Park.

"Nobody does it like I do," Seminerio said, sitting at a table with his family as patrons were served traditional Italian food at the $200-per-person event. "Look at that food. That's how I serve my constituents."

Seminerio, 73, said he was most proud of constituent service during his time serving Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Glendale, Ridgewood and Middle Village.

"The bottom line is I helped everybody who needed help," he said. "On a scale of one to 10, I was a good eight or nine. And I'm proud of that."

The assemblyman's son, John Seminerio, said his father's critics have called him a "Republican in Democratic clothing," but he contended that his father's ability to compromise has attributed to his success.

"When everybody's posturing about this and that, he has the ability to get stuff done," John Seminerio said. "Everybody forgets this, but about 15 years ago, he saved the firemen's pension fund. ...He stood behind the [police department] and the detective's endowment and got them bills that made it more attractive to go to work. That's what you're here for, you're here to get the people's business done. You're not here to posture."

He said his father's dedication to the community comes from his roots growing up in East New York, Brooklyn.

"Everything revolved around the neighborhood you came from," John Seminerio said. "That's his frame of reference. It's very local. People always respond to him in the district."

Asked whether his father was showing any signs of slowing down after his long tenure in the assembly, John Seminerio said, "He's very happy. He's given up cussing people in public, so yeah, I guess he's slowing down a bit."

But in addressing the crowd, Seminerio said he still plans to represent the district in Albany.

"I want to retire. My wife won't let me retire," he said. "So I'm gonna run one more time."

The candid legislator also crooned for the crowd, singing "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" and "My Way."

Simcha Waisman, who used to own a print shop on Jamaica Avenue, recalled the first time he met Seminerio 30 years ago when he was mounting his first campaign and had few campaign funds.

"One day, he came in and said to me, 'Sir, my name is Tony Seminerio. I'm running for Assembly and I need you to do all my printing. I don't know how much you charge, I don't know how much (money) I have, I don't know how much I owe you, but in the end, trust me, I won't owe you a penny.' I shook his hand and from there we became personal friends."

Bernadette Peters: Her Voice is Still, Oh, So Sweet by Elaine Guregian -

Read original...

Bernadette Peters: Her Voice is Still, Oh, So Sweet

Just-turned-60 singer Bernadette Peters brings her skilled musical crew to Cleveland on Friday

By Elaine Guregian
Beacon Journal arts and culture writer

Published on Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

Bernadette Peters is on the phone, and she sounds remarkably like herself.

Is it possible that the woman with the little-girl New Yorker voice straight out of a bygone era really sounds just like she did in movies like The Jerk or Pennies From Heaven?


Just as sweet, too.

The woman with the mane of corkscrew curls is coming to Cleveland on Friday night to sing at the Allen Theatre of Playhouse Square. The North Coast Men's Chorus, which is presenting Peters, will sing in the first half of the program. Peters will sing in the second half, accompanied by the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and her musical director, Marvin Laird, who might also accompany her on some solos.

The North Coast Men's Chorus calls itself Northeast Ohio's largest gay chorus, with about 100 singers. Gay men are a large part of Peters' fan base, as she well knows.

''They're just a very sensitive group of people, which I just find so heart-touching. We're all so careful about hiding our emotions. Gay people have to deal with what they're feeling and decide whether they're going to let it out or hold it in. It's so wonderful that it's becoming easier for them,'' Peters said. ''My main concern is for young people, because you get into all kinds of trouble when you have to hide who you are.''

Peters, who turned 60 last month, was born in Ozone Park, N.Y., and got an early start in show business. She told the audience of the CD Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall, which benefited the Gay Men's Health Crisis, that she was on tour, age 13, when she first met Laird, her current musical director and pianist. They met again later and began working as a team. Now they have been together ''for years and years,'' Peters said.

The singer brings her own rhythm section (bass, drums and piano) along for concerts like the one in Cleveland. She brings her own lighting and sound technicians, too.

The North Coast Men's Chorus has already endeared itself to Peters by arranging to have the Cleveland Animal Protective League bring in dogs in need of adoptive homes to the Allen Theatre's lobby. When the animal-loving singer/actress found out about the plan, during this phone call, she gasped in delight.

''Maybe they'll have a little one I can bring onstage at the end of the show. I did that once and, of course, the puppy got adopted right away,'' Peters said.

Ten years ago, just after starring on Broadway as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, Peters and her friend Mary Tyler Moore founded a project called Broadway Barks, to place dogs in New York City who needed homes. It holds annual adopt-a-thons in Shubert Alley, between 44th and 45th streets between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in New York's theater district. The event has grown to the point that more than 20 animal shelters attend. Broadway celebrities present the animals for adoption.

Children's book

Besides doing concerts, Peters is most occupied this year with promoting a children's book she wrote to help shelter animals. On the advice of her editor, she also wrote a song that will be included as a CD with the book, to be published by Blue Apple Press. Peters imagined writing a lullaby that the little girl in the story sings to a dog called Kramer, who gets adopted. (Peters herself has an adopted dog named Kramer, named after the Seinfeld character, she said, ''because he slid into the room and his hair was crazy.'')

Writing a song intimidated Peters at first.

''I thought, I'm not going to write it, because I have too much respect for composers,'' she said.

But on a plane ride home from an engagement, a song came into her head, music and lyrics at the same time.

''I turned to my assistant, who was next to me, and said, 'Listen to this!' She said, 'Did you just write that?' I said yes, and I (won't) remember it — that's why I'm singing it to you!' '' Peters' voice rises and her New York accent becomes more pronounced as she gets more excited, reliving the story.

Peters went home and sang the song into a tape recorder so it wouldn't get away. The finished product was arranged by Laird. They'll perform it at the Cleveland concert.

There's a comfort level in working with a pro who has also worked with stars like Cher and Diana Ross, Peters said. ''The thing is, he's a beautiful pianist and accompanist, so I can just sit and do piano vocals with him. And he understands my breathing when he conducts the orchestra. So I always take him with me. You definitely need to have someone who understands what you do,'' she said.

Also on the show, Peters will sing standards like Rodgers and Hammerstein's One Enchanted Evening as well as Fever (made famous by Peggy Lee) and the American folk song Shenandoah. She'll also perform When You Wish Upon a Star, which she sang in honor of Walt Disney at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

Speaking of wishes, Peters is happy with how her own life has gone, she said. She grew up in a protective family, with strong values. Fear of getting into trouble helped her grow up right, she jokes. She got through the wild 1960s unscathed by drugs, since she was never interested in them.

''It was never my thing to feel free that way. I was never attracted to it. I was very lucky,'' Peters said.

Success has come in many forms, from Tony Awards for Song and Dance and for Annie Get Your Gun and multiple Tony nominations, including one for her role of Dot, the romantic interest of painter Georges Seurat in the Broadway musical Sunday in the Park With George, a 1984 musical shown on PBS in 1986.

Just the night before this interview, Stephen Sondheim took Peters to see the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park With George, which he had created with James Lapine, who wrote the book.

''I always loved my experience and I always knew I was blessed to be in that show, but I always wondered, what was the audience experiencing? Because they would come back in tears. So I finally could be on that end of it,'' Peters said.

Sitting with the composer, Peters said, the songs struck her just as when she had sung them more than 20 years ago.

Sondheim always works out the intention of the song when he writes it, Peters said. For example, in the musical Sweeney Todd, now a movie, when Mrs. Lovett sings the song The Worst Pies in London, she's killing a cockroach or bug on the beat. And you've got to do it on the beat, or you won't catch up.

In addition to her work with Broadway Barks, Peters is doing a benefit for a group called Standing Tall, a school for severely challenged children who need assistance with basic functions such as walking and speaking. Friends of Peters and her late husband, Michael Wittenberg, founded the school.

Anything on her wish list? The idea of doing a play appeals to Peters, but she's happy to let things just keep developing naturally, as they always have for her. Being involved in worthwhile causes and doing what she does best are what keep this versatile performer going.

Elaine Guregian can be reached at 330-996-3574 or

Mendez- Santiago Outlines Senior Centers Plans by Richard Gentilviso - Queens Gazette

Read original...

Mendez-Santiago envisions "centers of wellness and vitality" for seniors in the future. He also wants to offer choices between hot meals and frozen meals, or vegetarian and diabetic meals if needed...

City Department for the Aging Commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago denied that the city is planning to close senior centers. "I just want you to understand that we have everything on the table," he told the Queens Borough Cabinet. He asked for support to modernize the department at the March cabinet meeting.

Mendez-Santiago said the City Council and the mayor will continue to negotiate until the final budget is adopted in June. "I'm limited by budget," he admitted. DFTA has an annual budget of $94 million to run 326 senior centers in the city.

Mendez-Santiago envisions "centers of wellness and vitality" for seniors in the future. He also wants to offer choices between hot meals and frozen meals, or vegetarian and diabetic meals if needed, a program DFTA currently operates in The Bronx.

But amid news Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered more budget cuts of 3 percent beginning July 1 on top of previously ordered cuts of about 7 percent, Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, asked about the reductions.

Mendez-Santiago said DFTA was immediately cut 3 percent, or $3.5 million that will be absorbed internally and not affect senior centers. On July 1, another 3 percent cut of $5.5 million is scheduled. He was not yet aware of the new 3 percent cut at the time.

"Should we have less senior centers that are stronger and better?" he asked, indicating that fewer centers, each having a larger operating budget, could offer more services.

"With all due respect, are you saying you're closing senior centers?" asked Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6 and an announced candidate for City Council.

"That's not what I said," replied Mendez-Santiago.

"The word is out to the senior population," Gulluscio said, "They're all concerned about closing, it's a real concern."

Bloomberg will end his tenure as mayor of New York on Jan. 1, 2010, but the year 2030 seems to keep cropping up. Last year, in PlaNYC, the Mayor set specific goals for housing, environment and transportation by 2030.

Mendez-Santiago is also focused on 2030.

He told Borough President Helen Marshall that the number of older New Yorkers (age 60 and over) will almost double (46 percent) over the next 25 years, rising from 1.3 million to 1.84 million in 2030 and making them the fastest growing demographic.

He also reported that by 2030, "diversity of older New Yorkers will change dramatically in terms of race/ethnicity, education, financial status, country of birth/cultural heritage, consumer preferences, sexual orientation and disability".

"I've been a social worker, working with older adults for more than 30 years," Mendez-Santiago said. "A 70-year-old today is much different. They are more active and vibrant. Growth in the city's elderly is going to challenge us if we don't amend our programs."

Historically, DFTA has used the number of meals served to measure senior center utilization. DFTA has also defined senior centers operating at less than 90 percent capacity as being "underutilized".

In fiscal year 2007, 44 percent of DFTA-funded senior centers were underutilized, and 95 percent of those were determined to be "chronically underutilized", meaning that they have been underutilized for the past three to five years. One million meals go unserved annually due to underutilized centers.

"Clearly, something is not working," said Mendez-Santiago.

"Why can't we fix the centers [we have]," Marshall retorted.

Bones Matched to Woodhaven Woman Who Disappeared by Jeremy Walsh - Times Ledger

Read original...

The family of a slain Woodhaven woman lashed out at police and social services for their response to her disappearance, alleging a disparity between the treatment of white and Latino missing persons.

Reyna Isabel De Los Santos, who would have been 43 this year, was reported missing after a June 19 fight with her husband, Edwin Fuentes, who is now facing charges for abusing Reyna's 18-year-old autistic son.

A suitcase full of bones found in Forest Park March 4 was positively identified as her remains, police said.

"We are dealing with a racist and double-standard system," said community activist Enrique Lugo at a news conference Friday at the office of Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst). "When a white woman goes missing, they let the dogs out, they call in the helicopters, but from day one, they said [Reyna] went off with someone else."

Lugo and City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) blasted police for investigating the case as a voluntary missing person situation based on statements from Fuentes.

"The police kept saying she left, and we said, 'No way,' " Lugo said. "They based the investigation on what her husband - now an alleged suspect - said," he said.

Monserrate said police in the 102nd Precinct had questioned Fuentes about his wife's murder.

Police defended their handling of the case.

"Contrary to those groundless assertions, detectives seriously investigated the reported disappearance ... from the outset," said Paul Browne, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of public information.

Detectives checked shelters for the homeless and battered women, and interviewed two independent witnesses who said they saw De Los Santos several weeks after her disappearance, Browne said.

Fuentes has not been charged with the murder of his wife. But he is in police custody after being arrested last week on charges of assault and endangering an incompetent person, the Queens district attorney's office said. According to a criminal complaint filed by the DA, Fuentes hit his autistic 18-year-old stepson over the head with a broom handle on March 10. Fuentes was arraigned March 14 and his next court date is March 28. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

De Los Santos' family said she had a troubled marriage with Fuentes and the couple fought frequently.

The family found out about the bones when the Daily News published a small article saying the remains might belong to a "missing mother," Lugo said. He said it was only after a Monserrate held a news conference March 11 at City Hall that the NYPD assigned a Spanish-speaking detective to De Los Santos' case.

Police did not deny Lugo's claim, but Browne said it did not affect the investigation.

"Language was not an issue," he said.

Reyna's family does not want Reyna's two children to remain with Fuentes' family. In August, Marisol and Reyna's cousin, Milagros Panteleon, filed a petition to gain custody of the children. The case was still pending when De Los Santos' remains were identified.

Now Ariel is 18, and the city's Adult Protective Services has placed him in the care of De Los Santos' family, Monserrate's office said. The family is redoubling its efforts to get the city Administration for Children's Services to remove De Los Santos' 9-year-old daughter, Tais Fuentes, from her father's care.

They filed a petition in family court Monday morning, Monserrate said.

The nonprofit New York Families for Autistic Children has set up a special fund to assist the victim's relatives with autistic care and funeral expenses. Those wishing to donate can call Nicole Flores at 718-641-3441 x. 104.

Breezy Point Man To Run For Pheffer's State Seat by Matt Hampton, Editor - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

A Breezy Point resident and former Wall Street maven will attempt to give Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer a run for her money in the 23rd Assembly District this fall.

Gerald Sullivan, a 41-year-old Queens Republican, who currently works for a Connecticut investment manager, announced his candidacy.

Sullivan, the son of a New York City police officer, said he is running in an effort to get the state government more in tune with the needs of the people in south Queens.

“People get lost in the political process,” he said. “I just think we need a stronger voice for the working class in this community.”

His biggest concerns are making sure the community sees an increase in services for children and the elderly, something he feels has been lacking for many people in the southern part of the borough, especially in the Rockaways where he resides.

In Sullivan’s view, the current slate of largely Democratic politicians have failed his native district and Queens as a whole, by making promises without following through on them.

“A lot of my decision (to run for office) is based on the failures of the current politicians.” He pointed at a perceived unwillingness of Democratic party members to differ from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and said he was afraid of the consequences if Democrats take control of both state legislative houses in the fall.

Sullivan has the support of the Queens County Republican Party, according to Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, who said that the most important support for the candidate comes from Republicans in the community.

“I know he has the full support of his district leaders,” Tabone said. “They have been rebuilding the party in that area very aggressively.”

Sullivan will be facing off against incumbent Democrat Audrey Pheffer, who is an established candidate with a strong base of support after 20 years of service in the Assembly. She has filed with the campaign finance board to run for borough president. Tabone acknowledged that Sullivan would be in for a fight, but said the Republican certainly had a fair amount of ammunition in his quiver.

“I think when it comes down to the record, he’ll be able to show significant distinctions between her rhetoric and her record,” he said.

Even Without Spitzer, Democrats Are Resolved to Challenge Senate Seats by Trymaine Lee - New York Times

Read original...

Soon after word came down that Eliot Spitzer would resign as governor, Democratic strategists made a mad scramble to track down as many of their State Senate candidates as possible.

The party stood just one seat from controlling the Senate. But Mr. Spitzer, the Democrats’ strongest fund-raiser, was gone in disgrace amid revelations that he patronized a prostitution ring. One by one the strategists got in touch with candidates who had agreed to run in November and asked: Are you still with us?

The overwhelming answer, the strategists said, was yes. Indeed, many of those candidates said they felt they were better off without Mr. Spitzer, the self-proclaimed “steamroller” whose bullying political style might have alienated and angered voters.

His replacement, David A. Paterson, has been praised by members of both parties as a conciliator with a self-deprecating sense of humor. He and Mr. Spitzer are as different in tactics as in tone.

“You step back and you evaluate the situation, and in my conversations with constituents, it seems to be a benefit to me,” said Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., a New York City councilman who plans to challenge Serphin R. Maltese, the Republican incumbent, in the 15th Senate District in Queens. “Many people were at odds with Spitzer and his policies. They now want to give Paterson a fair chance.”

Republicans said Democrats would be unwise to believe that Mr. Spitzer’s departure would help them in the election, suggesting that they intended to tie Mr. Spitzer — both his scandals and his combative persona — to Democratic candidates this fall.

“We’ll leave it to them to see how they are going to separate themselves from the previous governor,” said John McArdle, a spokesman for Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader. “We think the people will feel as they did with the governor, that they were let down and deceived. And we’ll let those Democrats that owe their seats to him, who got their financial backing from him, explain to their constituents why it is the way it is.”

What remains unclear is whether Governor Paterson, who spent many years in the virtually powerless Senate Democratic minority and who recently revealed that he had been unfaithful to his wife and might have used campaign funds for hotel stays with his paramours, can raise money as effectively as Mr. Spitzer. One of Mr. Spitzer’s biggest strengths and most noteworthy accomplishments as governor was his success in resurrecting the state party by imploring his wealthy friends and generous donors to pour millions into the party’s campaign accounts, leveling the playing field with the Senate Republicans and their wily leader, Mr. Bruno.

Mr. Spitzer made this fund-raising a priority, a former adviser said, equal to raising money for his own campaign account, and was committed to upending the Republicans, who have controlled the Senate for more than 40 years. Moreover, Mr. Spitzer had honed his fund-raising skills during eight years as the state attorney general, including three years as a prospective candidate for governor.

Mr. Paterson, by contrast, has never had to undertake a statewide fund-raising effort.

Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science and a dean at the State University of New York at New Paltz, said it was foolish to assert that the Democrats were in a better position without Mr. Spitzer.

“That really is an absurd point,” Mr. Benjamin said. “We’ve had Democratic governors for several decades that haven’t supported the Senate minority in becoming the majority. Now, they had a governor who had been committed to that and put his best people on the line to raise money, not just money, but the right kind of people to raise the money.”

Weeks before Mr. Spitzer resigned, the Senate Democrats won a hard-fought victory in a special election in the north country that cost them nearly $2 million. Strategists and party leaders singled out a handful of other Republican-held seats that they saw as vulnerable and were harnessing momentum, using the victory as a rallying cry.

A vast majority of those funds were raised by Mr. Spitzer with his downstate allies through the State Democratic Party, which he controlled as governor.

“Clearly, Spitzer was very aggressive about raising money, and so in terms of the fund-raising for the state party, those are big shoes to fill,” said Russ Haven, a lawyer with the New York Public Interest Research Group, which monitors government.

But Governor Paterson’s awkward start is not likely to affect his ability to raise money, Mr. Haven said. “The special interests that underwrite the lion’s share of campaigns really only care about who has the power and that they can continue to have access,” he said. Mr. Haven noted Mr. Bruno’s ability to raise a tremendous amount of money for the Senate Republicans while he has been under federal investigation.

“Even with his lowest approval ratings Spitzer was raising tons of money,” Mr. Haven said. “It just shows that when you are governor you have tremendous levers to push. And you’re still the dominant player in the budget.”

Doug Forand, the Senate Democrats’ top strategist, called the Spitzer sex scandal “a huge diversion,” but one that “has had no impact” in terms of derailing other campaigns.

“In some ways it definitely does help,” Mr. Forand said of Mr. Spitzer’s departure. The battles under Mr. Spitzer, he said, “had become so personal.” And the public began associating the administration with the unpopular proposal to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and with the scandal in which Mr. Spitzer used state troopers to trail Mr. Bruno.

“I think Governor Paterson’s style is going to be very different,” Mr. Forand said. “He’s not going to be in your face. He’s not going to be out there more or less taunting the other side. While he has always maintained a collegial relationship with Bruno and members of the Republican Party, he stole four seats away from them.”

As the Senate minority leader before becoming lieutenant governor, Mr. Paterson laid out a blueprint for a plan for Democrats to take over the Senate by 2010, and the party gained four seats during his tenure.

In the past, Republicans could bankroll a couple of really important races to make it too costly for Democrats to compete, political strategists said. But as in the case of the upset victory in the north country where registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by the thousands, Mr. Spitzer showed that with the right amount of money the state Democratic Party could make a formidable play for even the toughest seats, let alone those that were loosely held.

“I happen to be one of the people that are happier with David Paterson,” said Richard Dollinger, a former state senator who has been tapped to challenge Joseph E. Robach, a Republican incumbent in the 56th Senate District, which includes Rochester.

“He is a substantial asset to my campaign; both from the standpoint of fund-raising and helping to get my message out to the voters.”

Australian Group Renews Bid for New York VLTs by Paul Post - Thoroughbred Times

Read original...

With New York State’s 2008 budget deadline looming, the group International Racing Management has repeated its call for Capital Play Inc. to get the contract to run Aqueduct Racetrack’s gaming facility.

Aqueduct is slated to get 4,500 video lottery terminals that are expected to generate $451-million in annual gross revenues.

The state’s budget deadline is April 1 and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said Thursday that staff would work through the weekend to reach that goal. For the Thoroughbred racing industry, the fate of downstate New York gaming is one of the most important aspects of budget negotiations.

A Senate budget bill and the executive budget proposed by former Governor Eliot Spitzer both call for gaming at Belmont Park, in addition to Aqueduct. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) says VLTs should be restricted to Aqueduct only.

International Racing Management, whose stated mission is to attract new owners to the industry, shares a similar view. It contends that VLTs would detract from Belmont’s historic character.

In an open letter to new Governor David Paterson, IRM President Pamela Stokes Donehower on Thursday, urged the state to let Capital Play Inc. develop Aqueduct as a destination resort with hotels, restaurants, shopping and high-end entertainment, in addition to gaming.

“Aqueduct’s location, adjacent to JFK Airport, provides a unique opportunity to shine the light on live Thoroughbred racing, which Capital Play and its international partnership consortium [including Australia’s Victoria Racing Club] have pledged to do,” she said. “Capital Play’s commitment to put racing first and to partner with [the New York Racing Association] and horsemen from around the globe, provides new opportunities for focused efforts to ensure that New York racing will continue to be appreciated—and wagered on—as the best in the world.”

Capital Play is allied with Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun, one of the country’s most successful gaming operations.

“Capital Play’s offering presents a marvelous opportunity for us all to work together to create not only a 'waiting room for JFK,' but an entertainment destination for the entire metropolitan area that will exponentially increase revenue streams for our state and municipalities,” Donehower said.

In February, when legislation allowing for NYRA’s new 25-year franchise was approved, state leaders said Aqueduct’s gaming operator would be named within 30 days. That decision, however, has been sidetracked by Spitzer’s resignation in the wake of a shocking sex scandal, and the more high-priority state budget process.

Bruno and some leading trainers, such as Gary Contessa, want gaming at both downstate tracks. Revenues from both sites is needed to keep New York competitive with other states, they argue.

Bruno has said that Capital Play and New York-based SL Green Realty Trust, a real estate investment company, are the only two groups under consideration for the Aqueduct gaming contract. Last fall, however, six groups submitted bids.

Paterson’s office has declined comment about the number or identity of groups still seeking the contract, drawing sharp criticism about a perceived lack of transparency in the selection process.

“Contents of the bid have never been disclosed,” said Bennett Liebman, head of Albany Law School’s Racing and Wagering Law Program. “Nobody even knows who’s bidding any more. We don’t know because transparency has been absent.”

Paul Post is a New York-based Thoroughbred Times correspondent

Victims Recount Terrifying Queens Home Invasion by Scott Weinberger -

Read original..

Watch video...

Shaken Woman Says She Was Told, 'If You Don't Cooperate, I'm Going To Kill You'

NYPD Investigating Possible Links To 2 Other Violent Robberies

NEW YORK (CBS) ― Two Queens communities are living in fear after three violent crimes following a terrifying attack on a family in their home.

On Friday, police in Forest Hills and Ozone Park were searching for two masked gunmen who are considered dangerous.

Still shaken and too afraid to show her face, a Queens mother described to CBS 2 HD how she and four others were bound and gagged by two armed men who stormed into their home, looking for cash.

The woman said she was told, "If you don't cooperate, I'm going to kill you."

It was just after 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon what the men, both wearing masks, grabbed the mother of three as she stepped out of an elevator.

"(They) put the gun to my head, they taped my mouth up twice and they brought me to the apartment," the woman said.

Just on the other side of the door was the victim's sister.

"When the door opened up I noticed my sister standing there with duct tape around her mouth and head, and a gun pointed towards her head," the sister said.

The seconds felt like hours as both women were forced into a back bedroom.

"Get on the floor. Get on the floor. Get on your stomach. Put your hands behind you back," were the orders the woman said she and her sister received from the gunmen.

Then, the assailants forced the two other family members into the back bedroom.

"They said, 'Do not look at me. Do not turn your head.' I just kind of closed my eyes and started praying to God," the sister said.

One of the gunmen then said, "Shut up, shut up. If you keep making any noise I'm going to shoot you."

As one of the suspects searched the apartment for money and jewelry a knock came on the door, and, unluckily, a furniture delivery man became the fifth victim.

After 15 harrowing minutes, the suspects fled.

Police believe the same two suspects began that crime spree over the weekend, also here on 62nd Drive, which is the location of Thursday night's home invasion. In the earlier crime sources say the two suspects approached people as they were exiting their vehicle, forced them at gunpoint into the lobby of a building and robbed them.

Sources say a similar street robbery occurred late Thursday night in Ozone Park. The suspect had the same description. Now police want to know if all three are linked.

Police say the gunmen were able to get away with money and jewelry during Thursday's home invasion. It's unclear what was taken in the other two incidents.

Letter to the Editor - Keeping Money For Our Kids - Queens Ledger

Read original...

Queens Chronicle - Protested Budget Cuts

March 23, 2008

Dear Editor,

Last Wednesday (March 19th) I attended a rally at City Hall in the pouring rain to demand an end to Mayor Bloomberg's proposed cuts to the public school budgets.

I think it was telling that on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War that students, parents, teachers, administrators, city council members and concerned citizens were protesting budget cuts to our children's educations.

By most accounts this war is costing our country over $1 billion dollars a week and I have read that when all is said and done the US Treasury will be out between $1.5 to 2 trillion dollars. Thats not to mention the tragic loss of life to our brave military heroes, the NY Times having just reporting that the 4,000th death occurred over the Easter weekend and over 30,000 soldiers have been irreparably injured and maimed.

What does it say of us as a society when we can find the cash for a preemptive, illegal and immoral war based upon lies told by President George W. Bush and his Administration against a sovereign nation that posed absolutely no threat to America, but we cannot fully fund a sound basic education for our children..?

These cuts come at a time when equity seemed to be in sight for New York City's public school students - through the court-ordered increase in funding by the protracted 12 year litigation by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) law suit against former Governor Pataki; which he endlessly fought to the detriment of NYC schools - that our Mayor and his Chancellor would slap the children and parents of the City in the face by proposing these draconian budget cuts.

I am pleased to report that most of the Queens members of the City Council were present at the rally. I was especially pleased to see my City Councilman, Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., was present and standing strong with the parents and students of his district. The Council members stated that they would not pass the Mayor's budget unless these funding cuts were reinstated into the Mayor's budget proposal. I applaud their statements and their resolve, now it's up to us to hold them to their words and their rhetoric.

Notably absence from the rally was Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr - a possible Queens Borough President candidate in 2009. I suppose he felt that attending a rally on behalf of our children's educations amounted to additional homework for him which we all know he has repeatedly spoken out against – it was a major disappointment.

Another person absent from the rally was Chancellor Joel Klein. It would seem to me that he should be fighting the budget cuts tooth and nail, scrambling to secure every last dollar for our schools. I believe he should have been on the front lines and forcefully speaking out against these cuts.

But I imagine he knows that his salary will be the one budget line that doesn't get cut. We all have to tighten our belts in tough times, of course, except the Chancellor. Thats why I believe the Chancellor should not be beholden to the Mayor but to some outside democratic body, such as the City Council or a board overseen by the Public Advocate, empaneled by parents, educators and other major stakeholders.

The proposed mayoral budget does not take any money from the Chancellors public relations apparatus either. The media relation department at Tweed is second only to the City Hall press corps, with over 15 positions with salaries of over $150,000. Their primary function is to “spin” the public into believing that the Chancellor is doing a good job and to further Mayor Bloomberg's political agenda, enhance his national image and further his political clout paving the way for future political office.

Tell me how many times have you heard that Mayor Bloomberg is the Education Mayor? Now, tell me how many times you have heard that from a parent, an educator or any other major stakeholder for our children, probably none. I suspect you have been taken in by Tweed spin machine just as the Mayor and Chancellor have planned, with our tax dollars.

I feel that the top down bureaucracy at Tweed should be cut to the bare bones before any budget cuts are passed on to the school class rooms, but this is not what happens in the Bloom/Klein era of public education.

To summarize, the CFE lawsuit made a $7 Billion commitment to new school funding to be phased in over the next four years, along with strong accountability measures and a public review process to ensure the the money is well spent and is not wasted. NYC's share of the new funding was committed at $3.2 Billion from the State and $2.2 Billion from the City budget – which was agreed to by the Mayor and the City Council.

Now the Governor and the Mayor have proposed cutting funding from their commitments, passed into law to fairly fund our schools. The State has proposed a $193 Million cut to NYC schools. Our Education Mayor has already enacted $180 Million cut (school budgets were cut 1.7% across the City last month) and he has now proposed an additional cut of $324 million next year. The combined cuts to NYC education funding will be almost ¾ of a billion dollars (less than the cost of one week of the Iraq war).

I ask that you join me and the thousands of others who rallied at City Hall to demand a full restoration of educational funding by the State and the City. It is time for the Governor and the Mayor to obey the law, our children have waited long enough..!


David M. Quintana
Ozone Park, NY

Traffic Plan Deadline Nears as Debates Rage by Stephen Stirling - Times Ledger

Times Ledger - Traffic plan deadline nears as debates rage

With just days remaining before a federal deadline to approve Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, much of the legislative discussion out of both Albany and City Hall swirled around the controversial traffic proposal this week.

If congestion pricing, which would charge cars $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, is not approved by both the city and state legislatures by March 31, the city will become ineligible for more than $350 million in federal funding earmarked for city transit improvements.

The plan, introduced by Bloomberg nearly a year ago, has been widely unpopular among Queens politicians, many of whom argue that the $8 charge is an unfair tax on middle-class residents in the borough who are currently underserved by mass transit.

But the plan picked up a key supporter last week in newly sworn-in Gov. David Patterson, who introduced legislation approved Friday by the New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission, which calls for the implementation of a congestion pricing pilot plan.

"Congestion pricing addresses two urgent concerns of the residents of New York City and its suburbs: the need to reduce congestion on our streets and roads, and thereby reduce pollution and global warming, and the need to raise significant revenue for mass transit improvements," Paterson said.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Saratoga Springs) introduced the legislation in the state Senate Monday, an action that drew praise from Bloomberg.

"Together with the governor, we will continue to work to address the concerns of our partners in the state Legislature and the City Council - including concerns about the impact on lower-income drivers and making sure we receive revenue from commuters who use Port Authority crossings," Bloomberg said. "This is another step in the right direction."

City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke in support of congestion pricing at the final City Council public hearing on the topic at City Hall Monday. Sadik-Khan emphasized the need for the city and state to pass the bill so the city could receive $354 million from the U.S. Transportation Department, which she said would go toward short-term transit improvements across the city designed to accommodate the additional onslaught of commuters on the city's mass transit system once congestion pricing was implemented.

The planned short-term improvements include the creation of seven new bus routes in Queens and additional buses on 13 existing bus routes headed toward Manhattan.

"The choice is clear: We can accept increasing congestion and the damage it will inflict on our economy and quality of life, and begin to fall back in the worldwide competition for global leadership," Sadik-Khan said. "Or we can act to reshape our transportation network and ensure that New York maintains its position as the world's premier city."

City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), however, blasted the plan, questioning Sadik-Khan on where the $120 million needed to implement the infrastructure for congestion pricing would come from if all of the federal funding went to transit improvements.

"The city would pay for it up front and be repaid through the income generated from congestion pricing," Sadik-Khan said.

"So essentially we're getting $354 million just to get permission to tax ourselves," Katz shot back.

Queens City Councilmen David Weprin (D-Hollis), Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Leroy Comrie (D-Jamaica) also detailed their reservations on the plan at the hearing, held by the City Council's State and Federal Legislation Committee.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), one of just two Queens Council members - the other being Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) - to publicly support the plan, said congestion pricing will benefit the city, but only if the city's transit system is improved swiftly and money generated from the plan is quickly used toward further improvements.

"This is crunch time," he said. "I would suggest that you stick to your time lines."

Study to Eye Development of Newtown by Nathan Duke - Times Ledger

Read original...

The state has awarded three not-for-profit groups a $625,000 grant that would fund a study of contaminated sites along Newtown Creek to determine whether they could be remediated to allow for the creation of new manufacturers along the waterway's Queens and Brooklyn shores.

New York's State Department will grant $625,454 to Tarrytown-based environmental advocacy group Riverkeeper, the Newtown Creek Alliance and the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center for planning a redevelopment analysis of the creek, which separates western Queens and Brooklyn, said Paul Parkhill, spokesman for the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. The grant will be awarded under the state's Brownfields Opportunity Area, a state planning program that funds community studies of areas with brownfield contamination, he said.

"This grant will allow neighborhood groups who know the area best to proactively plan for the future," City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) said. "For far too long, Newtown Creek has been the overlooked dumping ground of New York City."

Brownfields are abandoned industrial or commercial sites where construction is prevented by environmental contamination.

A massive oil spill, believed to have started in the creek between 50 and 100 years ago was discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter patrol in 1978 along the bank of the creek where Standard Oil once operated a massive oil refinery.

Previous studies by Riverkeeper and the state's Environmental Conservation Department found that 17 million gallons of oil have seeped into the waterway, but a 2007 study by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found that the spill may be as large as 30 million gallons, making it the largest underground oil spill in United States history.

Basil Seggos, Riverkeeper's chief investigator, said the new grant will help to build a more environmentally safe community along the polluted creek.

"[It] will enable residents and businesses to chart a course for a cleaner waterway, new parks, expanded economic opportunities and the cleanup of toxic sites," he said. "A bright future for this once-forgotten waterway is within reach."

Parkhill said the grant would allow the groups to identify sites along the creek where remediation could allow for non-polluting manufacturers, such as woodworkers or arts-related companies, to locate.

Standard Oil's descendant, ExxonMobil, entered into two consent orders in 1990 with the DEC to clean up the waterway. Exxon announced last fall that it would apply for a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit that would limit the amount of water and pollutants that can be discharged during the company's recovery efforts at the creek. The move followed a lawsuit filed in early 2007 by Riverkeeper, which accused Exxon of dumping untreated water back into the creek without proper permits.

Riverkeeper, residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and a number of Queens and Brooklyn elected officials, including Gioia and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, have filed suit against the oil giant for its role in the spill. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has also announced his intent to file suit against Exxon.