Saturday, May 31, 2008

BOARD 5: NO TO SCHOOL Urges Agency To Find Another Site; Votes On Park, Street Improvements by Robert Pozarycki - Times Newsweekly

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The rejection of plans for the construction of a new secondary school in Maspeth was the result of one of many votes taken by Community Board 5 during their May 14 meeting at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village.

Siding with the recommendation of its Zoning and Land Use Committee, the advisory body called for the disapproval of the School Construction Authority’s proposal to build a 1,650-seat school on the site of a former warehouse located at 57th Avenue and 74th Street.

In its resolution, board members charged that the school was too large for the area and too close to two other public schools attended by hundreds of school children. Even so, the advisory body suggested that the SCA and the Department of Education should consider an alternate site—the former home of St. Saviour’s Church on Rust Street near 57th Road—for construction of a high school locally zoned to allow students from Maspeth to attend.

The board also voted at last Wednesday’s meeting on a host of other topics in the area including the proposed renovation of a problematic Maspeth intersection, the rehabilitation of the Ridgewood Reservoir and an upcoming carnival at a Glendale shopping center.

Unfit for neighborhood

SCA officials attended Board 5’s Apr. 9 meeting the Land Use Committee’s May 6 session to inform the public of a plan to build a four-story school for children from grades six through 12 at the former site of a Restaurant Depot warehouse. The project is designed to alleviate overcrowding within School District 24 as well as at nearby high schools including Grover Cleveland and Newtown.

Schematics presented by the SCA during the Land Use Committee offered three preliminary designs for the school, which is expected to take up most of the 84,000 sq. ft. property. The design plan includes a cafeteria, library, a 550-seat auditorium and a 8,500 sq. ft. gymnasium.

Prior to the board’s vote, members of the public and the board sounded off on the project during the public forum. Among the speakers was board member Mary Anne Zero, who read a statement against the project on behalf of Maspeth Chamber of Commerce President James O’Kane.

“The chamber feels it would not be helpful to the businesses located in Maspeth along Grand Avenue,” according to O’Kane’s statement. “We feel that an additional school of this magnitude, added to the already school-saturated Maspeth business area, would only have a detrimental affect on our businesses.”

Board member and Maspeth resident Manny Caruana also decried the proposal, charging that the additional students the new school would bring would compound current quality-of-life problems allegedly caused by students of nearby schools after dismissal each day.

“This is a clear-cut case of overdevelopment, and it’s incredible that this particular overdevelopment is being pushed on us by the City of New York,” he said. “To my surprise, I find that [the school officials didn’t] consider the impact of something like this on the community. What they looked at was square footage and how many people could” they fit there.

Proponents of the school plan urged the board to work together with education advocates in the community to bring a new high school locally zoned for Maspeth students. Angela O’Hehir, president of the P.S. 58 Parent-Teacher Association, said that despite the board’s request, it is unlikely the SCA would consider another location in the Board 5 area for a new public high school.

“The School Construction Authority is not going to take a site anywhere else because the money [in the capital plan] is only good until June,” she said. “Let’s work together. It’s going up. Let’s just see what it is that we want, put our heads together and get this thing to work in our favor.”

Local parent Marge Kolb added that overcrowding at high schools in the surrounding area have resulted in some students attending sessions that start very early in the morning or during midday hours. The extra high school seats are needed in the years to come to accommodate students currently attending overcrowded elementary schools in the area, she added.

Board member Robert Cermeli agreed, observing that while the current project as designed seemed too large for the surrounding community, the community and SCA must work together to ensure that a new high school is somehow constructed.

“My instinct was to say, ‘We need a high school desperately,’” Cermeli said. “The community desperately needs a high school that they could relate to and can say is theirs. I think they can build this school on that site or even consider the other site. Look at it before the city makes a $75 million investment of your tax dollars.”

In the recommendation read by First Vice Chairperson Walter Sanchez and approved by the board, the advisory body stated that the SCA failed to provide answers regarding concerns regarding the size and bulk of the school as well as the projected enrollment. Additionally, it was noted, the SCA did not provide in its plans any faculty parking spaces or curbside drop-off areas where school buses or drivers can stop during arrival and dismissal.

Turn Reservoir to Park - Resolution Passed Unanimously by Board

Following a PowerPoint presentation featuring images of deteriorated venues within Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir, the advisory body approved a resolution drafted by the Parks Committee calling for improvements to both locations on the Brooklyn/Queens border.

Parks Committee Chairperson Steven Fiedler narrated the slideshow that provided board members and residents with a view of areas within both greenspaces that are in need of repair. Many of the multi-purpose athletic fields have little or no grass, while walkways have been observed with cracks and “desperately in need of repair.”

While funding has been allocated by the Parks Department and City Council Member Erik Martin Dilan to improve Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir, Fiedler indicated that the Parks Department is considering a plan to turn one of the reservoir’s basins—currently heavily forested and inhabited by various plant and animal life—into a new athletic area.

In its resolution, the board called for the preservation of nature that has grown in the former reservoir basins while also seeking improvements to existing athletic fields in Highland Park. The advisory body also called on the mayor, the City Council and the borough presidents of Brooklyn and Queens to annually allocate funding for continuous improvements at both locations.

Zoning Debate Heats Board 9 - Approval Is Sought For Business by Ralph Mancini - Times Newsweekly: Community Headlines

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A local property owner was faced with strong opposition in his appeal to seek a variance for the conversion of a three-story residence into an office building at the Tuesday, May 13 Community Board 9 meeting at the Fairfield Pavilion in South Richmond Hill.

Attorney Naresh Gehi appeared at the meeting with legal counsel Alfonso Duarte to rationalize his plans to board members.

The building, located at 101-17 Lefferts Blvd. in Richmond Hill, is, according to the proprietor, intended to be utilized as a dual-use location, serving as both his residence and personal workplace.

Board 9’s Land Use Chairperson Sylvia Hack announced that her committee was opposed to the request, due to the zoning violations involved with inserting a law practice into a block of homes where parking is at a premium.

Local attorney Naresh Gehi (standing with microphone) and his legal counsel Alfonso Duarte appear at last week’s Community Board 9 meeting to request a variance to turn a three-story home into an office building in an a residentially-zoned area of Richmond Hill.
(photo: Ralph Mancini)

“You shouldn’t have purchased a building in a residential neighborhood. You can’t change zoning on a hardship,” said Chairperson Andrea Crawford, in reference to Gehi’s expiring lease at his current office site.

Gehi argued that the building in question already has two businesses in its immediate vicinity, including Italian restaurant Villa Russo across the street.

In addition, he also pointed out that his property would be housing only one business—his own—in response to parking concerns.

All visiting clients, he continued, come to his practice by appointment only, which would, he claimed, make parking a non-issue.

The board shot back by indicating that the area was governed by different zoning laws when Villa Russo acquired their Lefferts Boulevard location.

To that end, board member Sam Esposito noted that restaurateur George Russo was required to build an on-premises parking lot to appease the community.

Furthermore, Gehi was informed that local zoning laws will reportedly only allow 500 square feet of a residence to be used for commercial purposes—not nearly enough room for the lawyer, who intends on adding offices to all three floors.

Board member Robert Mangieri unsuccessfully attempted to make a motion to table a vote on the matter and have the 81-year-old edifice surveyed because of the lack of time the Board had in commenting on the BSA application, which only allows 30 to 45 days for input.

First Vice President Ivan Mrakovcic said that making an exception in this case would just lead to many other spot zonings and would “erode the residential character of this portion of Lefferts Boulevard,” which is situated in an R5 zone.

By a tally of 20 to 13, the Board voted not to endorse the application.

Other land use issues

Hack also addressed problems with individuals planning to erect a 20-story building at the Pasta Lovers parking lot located at 123-32 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens.

Board members were apprised of the lack of permits for this project. Hack reported never seeing any paperwork on the undertaking on the Department of Buildings’ website.

Also mentioned was the addition of green spaces surrounding Congregation Adas Yereim at 123-32 Metropolitan Ave.

Candidates on parade

Candidates running for the vacant representing the 30th Council District were on hand to introduce themselves and their ideas to Board 9 and others in attendance.

State Sen. Serphin Maltese’s chief counsel, Anthony Como, was the first to take the floor, and told the audience how the winner of the upcoming race would need to focus on a variety of concerns, not just one main issue. Como went on to tell everyone how he intends to fight for the survival of senior homes in light of looming budget cuts.

Following Como was Charles Ober, first vice president of the Ridgewood Property Owners Civic Association, who presented himself as someone who’s qualified to work with budgets and payrolls. The Ridgewood local also told everyone about his past volunteer work and commitment to community programs and initiatives.

Former City Council Member Thomas Ognibene stated his case by touting his “hands-on experience” and “knowledge” that will help get results immediately. He highlighted his past accomplishments, in which he continually shifted the budget in order to meet community needs.

Candidate Elizabeth Crowley, on the other hand, focused on education. The Glendale resident voiced her desire for building more schools. In addition, she stated the need for a senior advocate to look out for numerous programs such as Meals-on-Wheels.

Attorney Joseph Suraci—who has reportedly failed to qualify for the ballot—also appeared, and made mention of pro-bono work he’s done through the years in order to help non-profit organizations qualify for funding. He further communicated his opposition toward overdevelopment.

Addabbo on police officers

City Council Member Joseph Addabbo weighs in on the declining number of police officers graduating annually from NYPD’s Police Academy. (photo: Ralph Mancini)

Increasing the salaries of New York City police officers ranked prominently among City Council Member Joseph Addabbo’s objectives as he prepares to huddle up with fellow Council members to agree upon a new city budget, due July 1.

“Let’s work with the PBA (Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association) to increase the pay of police officers,” he offered. “There’s no reason why the starting salary of a police officer should make them qualify for food stamps.”

Bumping up police salaries, added the City Council member, is the only way for the NYPD to retain their recruits and prevent them from applying for higher-paying jobs in Suffolk County.

Addabbo also commented on the plight of senior centers that may be seeing budget cuts soon come their way. Not only did he state the necessity in keeping these senior locations, but he also emphasized the importance of feeding seniors warm meals, instead of offering them the frozen variety.

Crime report

Police Officers Jeff Fisher and Christopher Gonzalez of the 102nd Precinct told of a stabbing occurring on the same day of the meeting at Richmond Hill High School. At press time, the alleged perpetrator is still at large, although he was reportedly witnessed committing the crime by numerous people.

Both officers conceded that crime is up throughout the city, due to a nationwide economic downturn.

Group home proposal

During her Health and Social Services Committee report, board member Evelyn Baron introduced Fatma Abboud and Jane Merolla of Eihab Human Services. Both representatives proposed the addition of a group home for the developmentally disabled located at 74-20 Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park.

Abboud told Board 9 that most of the adults that would be living in the dwelling are in their late 40s and 50s. They consist of sons and daughters of parents who can no longer take care of them anymore, she said.

Board 9 unanimously agreed to give their approval of drafting a letter of support for the group home.

Speed hump

Unanimous approval was also issued for the installation of a new speed hump on 78th Street between 88th Avenue and 88th Road in Woodhaven.

Liquor licenses

Votes were taken on two eating establishments seeking approval to serve alcohol.

No objections were made regarding the endorsement on the part of the Public Safety Committee to endorse the issuance of an on-premises liquor license to Ravo Restaurant & Bar Corp., at 77-01 101st Ave. in Ozone Park.

In the case of the second restaurant making its bid for a new beer and wine license, the Board voted against La Cabana Pizzeria, located at 91-60 87th St. in Woodhaven.

Public Safety Committee Chairperson James Coccovillo cited reports of loud noise and music emanating from the establishment, making it ill-suited to serve alcoholic beverages. Also mentioned was the fact that La Cabana never mailed in a questionnaire sent to them by Board 9.

Community Board 9 regularly meets on the second Tuesday of the month at a variety of locations within Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Woodhaven. For further information, call 1-718-286-2686.

WOE-HAVEN BOULEVARD Residents Sound Off On Roadway’s Congestion Issues At DOT Hearing story and photos by Robert Pozarycki - Times Newsweekly

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story and photos by Robert Pozarycki

Improving traffic flow and safety along Woodhaven Boulevard were the focus of a public hearing held by the city’s Department of Trans-portation on Monday, May 19 in Forest Hills, as community residents offer
ed their suggestions on where changes are needed along the roadway.

The session at the Forest Hills public library was the first of a series of public hearings regarding the Woodhaven Boulevard Congested Corridors Project launched by the DOT to formulate short- and long-term solutions to traffic control and safety issues along the roadway running between Elmhurst and Ozone Park.

Following a brief overview of the initiative from Queens Transportation Commissioner Maura McCarthy and other members of the DOT and the Urbitran design firm, attendees broke into three separate groups with transportation experts to brainstorm ideas on the most pressing problems faced by commuters each day and points along the thoroughfare where improvements are needed.

Among those in attendance were representatives of the MTA, which operates several local, express and limited bus lines that traverse the roadway, and members of Community Boards 5, 6, 9 and 10, sections of which encompass the study area.

Woodhaven Boulevard—which runs between Queens Boulevard and Liberty Avenue—is one of 14 roadways across the five boroughs being studied by the DOT as part of the Citywide Congested Corridors project. According to the DOT, the project aims to formulate goals for “improving mobility, air quality, safety and the quality of life for all of the street’s users as described” in the city’s master plan for the year 2030, PlaNYC.

McCarthy informed the Times Newsweekly that the boulevard was chosen by the agency for the study at the request of Borough President Helen Marshall, who provided funding for the project. The agency also plans to study other roadways in the borough in future years, including Liberty Avenue between Woodhaven Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway; and Northern Boulevard between Queens Plaza and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

At the conclusion of the 18-month study in 2009, the commissioner indicated that the department will make a number of short-term improvements to the roadway based on its findings and recommendations. Additional funding would be sought for any large-scale changes that may be deemed necessary.

‘A critical corridor’

Community residents and activists attending Monday’s workshop at the Forest Hills public library on the Department of Transportation’s Woodhaven Boulevard Congested Corridors Project are shown scanning maps of the artery while pointing out to transportation experts and DOT employees troublespots where improvement is needed

During an overview of the goals of the boulevard project and statistics gathered from a preliminary study, Urbitran Senior Vice President Jerry Gluck presented some of the preliminary findings from the study of the roadway, which indicated a high rate of accidents at several locations as well as heavy volumes of traffic during rush hour periods.

In a three-year period between 2004 and 2006, Gluck reported, a total of 402 accidents occurred along the 3.2-mile roadway, the majority of which happened at major intersections. These crashes were reported to local police precincts and resulted in a fatality and/or damages exceeding $1,000 to one or more of the vehicles involved.

The number of accidents rose each year during the three-year study, from 109 in 2004 to 136 in 2005 and 157 in 2006.

Most of the incidents during the study period occurred at the intersection of Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard, where 72 were tallied. Close behind it were at Jamaica Avenue (70) and Queens Boulevard (69).

Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton questioned why the study excluded accident date regarding the boulevard’s intersections with Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue. Project manager Andrew Lenton pointed out that both crossroads were added to the study after it was commissioned, and a full analysis was not yet available.

The roadway has proven to be “a critical corridor” for a wide-range of traffic traveling between points in northern and southern Queens, Gluck stated. Woodhaven Boulevard serves as a local truck route and accommodates numerous bus lines including the local Q11, the limited Q53 and seven express routes.

Even so, traffic during peak periods moves at a reduced speed along the stretch, according to Gluck. The study indicated that the slowest traffic northbound can be experienced during morning rush hour periods; the average speed attained by drivers was 11.4 m.p.h., resulting in a 19 minute drive along the full length of Woodhaven Boulevard.

The slowest period for southbound traffic was during the evening rush, as drivers attained a top speed of 15.9 m.p.h., resulting in a 13 minute drive along the boulevard’s full length.

Calls for changes

During the brainstorming session, attendees were divided into three groups to review the boulevard’s existing conditions while recommending areas of the roadway that are in need of improvement. A DOT employee that sat in with each group read a list of top priorities that members believed should be addressed as part of the study.

Matthew Roe, whose group included members of Community Board 6, an MTA Bus Company representative and local residents, stated that members suggested that the location of bus stops near some major intersections often contributed to congestion. Additionally, “pedestrian mobility” at some locations—including the overpass above the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch in Glendale—is difficult due to a lack of a sidewalk on one side of the street.

Queens commissioner of the Department of Transportation Maura McCarthy (standing at right) is shown addressing attendees at the start of a public hearing on Monday, May 17 in Forest Hills regarding the Woodhaven Boulevard Congested Corridor Project.

Many of the drivers that use Woodhaven Boulevard during rush hour periods often commute to and from subway stations throughout Queens, according to the group’s list. It was noted that group members believed that many of these drivers would opt to leave their cars at home if another mode of public transportation was made available.

Other problems along the boulevard on the list included:

• Bus delays near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Hoffman Drive in Elmhurst due to the latter roadway’s use by drivers as an alternate route from Queens Boulevard.

• Increased use of Woodhaven Boulevard by truckers seeking to avoid the Van Wyck Expressway. Trucks making local deliveries are permitted to use the boulevard, but trucks traveling through the area are required by law to use the expressway.

• Limited connectivity between buses traveling north and south on Woodhaven Boulevard with buses traveling east and west along major arteries including Metropolitan, Myrtle, Jamaica and Atlantic avenues.

A table of Board 5 members, who were represented by the DOT’S Adam Zaranko, stated that one of the major problems drivers face on the boulevard is a lack of continuity in the road’s structure. Lanes in both directions are merged and divided at various points, causing confusion for drivers seeking to access local streets.

Group members also stated that pedestrians often face danger crossing at certain major intersections with short-timed traffic signals, including near the off ramp from the eastbound Long Island Expressway. They also stated that the boulevard’s dimensions also made it difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel along points throughout the corridor.

The third table of group members represented by the DOT’s William Vallejo, noted that the roadway’s grading and median structure posed the greatest difficulty to drivers. At points along the street, drivers can encounter narrow concrete medians as well as sharp turns and a “lack of connection” to and from the main and service roads through Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

Members also suggested that the timing of certain stoplights also posed a problem to pedestrians and bicyclists seeking to safely cross major intersections at a timely manner.

What’s next?

Monday’s session, as noted, was only the first in a series of public meetings and other outreach programs being undertaken by the DOT to solicit public comment regarding the Woodhaven Boulevard project. The suggestions offered by attendees will be incorporated into the ongoing study.

Gluck indicated that a second public meeting will be held in either September or October, during which the DOT will provide further analysis of the boulevard as well as the recommendations for changes made. The DOT’s recommendations for improvements to the boulevard will be made at a third public meeting toward the end of this year.

Additionally, he noted, the DOT will hold a community “walk/drive through” along the full length of the boulevard in mid-June in which transportation officials and experts will tour the roadway with local residents to get a broader picture of some of the problems faced.

Additional information on the project can be found online at Comments on the study can also be e-mailed to the DOT at congestedcorridors@dot.

New York City’s Very Best… « Evolution of a Photographer

Here's a blog entry I friend Sam happens to live on Highland Place...

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I challenge anyone to find an odder street name in all of NYC…

“So you live on Highland Place? I’m right around the corner on Force Tube Avenue.

Now don’t dismiss the validity of this Brooklyn street, however, as it actually marks the path of the once-active water pump, or “force tube”, that pumped water collected from Long Island into the Ridgewood Reservoir. And according to this site, force tubes are still designed and used today.

Check out more fascinating photos at "Evolution of a Photographer" blog...

Council Vents Anger at Schools Chancellor by Jennifer Medina - New York Times Blog

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School budgets have not made for an easy time for Chancellor Joel I. Klein these days.

When he announced last week that dozens of city schools — including some of its best — would face spending cuts of more than 5 percent, Mr. Klein held lawmakers in Albany responsible. But at a City Council budget hearing today, as the chancellor continued to make the argument that the state was tying the city’s hands, council members reacted with the same skepticism as those in Albany have.

From Speaker Christine C. Quinn to Councilman G. Oliver Koppell of the Bronx, one after the other took turns at nearly scolding Mr. Klein, saying he needed to do more to fight Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on the spending cuts.

And there was plenty of confusion that quickly blossomed to outright anger from members, who did not seem to understand which of the many dollar figures being discussed was the exact amount that would be needed to restore all the cuts to individual schools.

Essentially, city officials say that if the state allows them to spend $63 million in state aid without any restrictions, roughly $99 million would be needed to prevent cuts from all schools in the city.

This, too, was an insufficient answer for Mr. Koppell. Claiming that in a budget of billions of dollars, that the city could not find another $63 million, he said. “I hate to say this, but I don’t believe you.” The councilman’s comment prompted a few loud cheers from the audience.

Green Brooklyn » Brooklyn Wilderness Lost Before It Has Been Found?

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Everyone knows the saying: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

Here’s another version: “If a wilderness in the city gets destroyed and nobody hears about it, does it matter?

In a city with a lack of green space, wilderness, and biodiversity such as New York City; it not only matters, but it is incredibly important that we preserve what little pockets of nature remain.

The NYT yesterday ran an op/ed piece about just such a threatened wilderness — the historic Ridgewood Reservoir on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

The article was co-authored by NYC comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a lawyer for the environmental organization Riverkeeper (which you may know from their work restoring the Hudson River and in advocating for the clean-up of the Newtown Creek/Greenpoint oil disaster).

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Rep. Anthony Weiner May Kiss But Won't Tell About Hillary Clinton Aide by Stephanie Gaskell and Corky Siemaszko - NY Daily News

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Anthony Weiner may be a lean, mean dating machine, but he's not real chatty about his love life, especially the hottie from Hillary Clinton's campaign.

A day after the bachelor congressman finally admitted he was dating Clinton's "body woman" aide, Huma Abedin, Weiner was eager to talk about national security, his mayoral ambitions - anything but his love life.

"I'd like to talk about it as little additionally as possible," Weiner said during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board Wednesday. It was a mild protest, delivered with a sheepish grin.

His admission dredged up old reports that Weiner, 43, dated several beauties over the years, including ABC reporter Gigi Stone, New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead and AOL cybermodel Alli Joseph.

A day after the bachelor congressman finally admitted he was dating Clinton's "body woman" aide, Huma Abedin, Weiner was eager to talk about national security, his mayoral ambitions - anything but his love life

"Soon there will be pictures of me emerging from behind a tree," Weiner joked about his no-longer-private personal life.

After all, a girlfriend who recently graced a Vogue photo spread is a nice catch for a skinny guy from Brooklyn, who was embarrassed in a 2001 Vanity Fair article that described him posing as an auto parts salesman while trying to hook up with a young Capitol Hill staffer at a Washington bar.

After all, a girlfriend who recently graced a Vogue photo spread is a nice catch for a skinny guy from Brooklyn.

Weiner turned serious when asked if he was taking a political risk dating Abedin, a Michigan-born Muslim who grew up in Saudi Arabia.

"I'm certain that the relationship was not the product of a political calculation," he said.

In the past, the Congressman has been linked to such hotties as cybermodel Alli Joseph...

Weiner quickly added that he remained a staunch critic of the Saudis and quipped, "Given how hard I've worked for Hillary, I think I might be ambassador to Saudi [Arabia] in the Obama administration."

Then realizing the gaffe, Weiner corrected himself and predicted Clinton - who he has campaigned for - would win the nomination over Barack Obama.

What does Clinton think of him romancing her right-hand woman?

"Haven't talked to her about it," Weiner replied.

Nor would Weiner say what his Jewish mom thinks of his stunning sweetheart. "It's not something I want to talk about," he said.

... an also impressive catch for someone friends describe as a 'baby-faced dork who was never all that smooth with women.'

A friend of the couple said Weiner and the 32-year-old Abedin are something special.

"They're just two people that you would never imagine together but they're perfect together," said the friend, who asked not to be named. "It lends credence to the old saying that opposites attract."

Another one of Weiner's beauties was former NY1 reporter (now with ABC) Gigi Stone (right, with Karen Rosenfeld on the left, and Heidi Snow).

There was no comment from Abedin, the daughter of an Indian expert on Islam and a Pakistani professor mother.

Weiner pals who have known him since he arrived in Washington a decade ago recall him as a "baby-faced dork who was never all that smooth with women."

They said he has been under "pressure" to settle down for some time.

"He is at that age when you decide if you want a wife or not," one friend said. "And with a Jewish mother, that was even more pressure."

With Kenneth R. Bazinet, Edgar Sandoval and Kirsten Danis

Costs and Delays Mount for Replacing Parks Around Yankee Stadium by Tomothy Williams -

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Anthony Santiago, left, and his twin brother, Christopher, playing in a temporary park at Jerome Avenue and East 161st Street.

The cost of replacing two popular parks where the new Yankee Stadium is being built has nearly doubled. At the same time, several of the eight new parks, which were supposed to be completed before the new stadium opens next spring, have been delayed by as much as two years, according to city documents.

The price of the new small parks — which are to replace tennis and basketball courts, a running track and baseball and soccer fields eliminated to make way for the new stadium — is now projected to be $174 million, almost one-seventh the cost of the $1.3 billion stadium itself. The original estimate had been $95.5 million. The increase comes amid skyrocketing costs for construction projects, both public and private, around the city.

The stadium is being financed by the Yankees with city subsidies, while the eight new parks for the South Bronx, which range in size from 0.24 acre to 8.9 acres, are being paid for by the city.

None of the replacement parks have been completed, and construction on several has not yet started; however, the parks department has built a temporary replacement park on a parking lot in the area, opened a ball field this spring at a school almost a mile to the east, and is building a sports field at a recreation center about a mile to the north.

The city was required to build the new parks after it selected the 28.4-acre Macombs Dam Park and a portion of the 18.5-acre John Mullaly Park as the site of the new stadium in 2005. State and federal law dictated that a similar amount of parkland nearby of equal or greater fair market value be built to replace the parks that would be lost.

Some residents have been critical of the trade-off. While Macombs Dam and Mullaly Parks were almost contiguous stretches of grass and trees amid the concrete topography of the South Bronx, the replacement parks are small parcels scattered around the area. The sites include sports fields atop a planned stadium parking garage and a park along the Harlem River, which is on the opposite side of the Major Deegan Expressway.

Cost estimates for eight small parks around the new Yankee Stadium have almost doubled.

The parks department has predicted a net increase of 2.14 acres of parkland in the swap, to 24.56 acres from 22.42 acres. But that has failed to quell some local disappointment.

“We’ve lost our biggest park, and what we’ve been reduced to is this parking lot,” said Anita Antonetty, 51, a South Bronx resident, referring to the temporary park at Jerome Avenue and East 161st Street. “We lost hundreds of trees that were 80 years old, and now there’s this monstrosity of cement across the street from where people live.”

The parks department gave the $95.5 million cost estimate for the replacement parks as part of the city’s final environmental impact study for the stadium project in August 2006.

In March, Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, told the City Council parks committee that the figure had climbed to $190 million. Last week, Jama Adams, a department spokeswoman, put the cost estimate for the replacement parks at $174 million — about $16 million less than Mr. Benepe’s figure — but said that it might continue to grow. She said Mr. Benepe had spoken “off the top of his head.”

The estimated cost of the replacement parks now almost matches the amount the parks department has spent building and refurbishing parks and recreation centers throughout the Bronx over the past six years. Since 2002, the agency has spent $178 million on parks and recreation centers in the borough, according to department figures.

Parks officials said the cost of the replacement parks had risen because of a series of unforeseen circumstances, including the discovery of buried oil barrels beneath one of the future parks and construction costs that have been rising 1.5 percent each month.

“This increase to city funds covers conditions we have recently encountered that simply could not be anticipated beforehand,” the department said in a May 12 report provided to The New York Times.

As part of a further explanation, Ms. Adams wrote in an e-mail message that “construction costs have continued to increase at a rate beyond what we anticipated, we have added new aspects to our projects, and we have learned new things about the sites that have affected our design and infrastructure work.”

Ms. Adams added that the cost of building the stadium had also increased, by about 60 percent, although Yankees officials have said the stadium will be completed on time next spring, even if the replacement parks are delayed.

Mr. Benepe declined to be interviewed for this article. Ms. Adams said it was typical for costs to increase as projects proceed from the design stage.

The parks department attributed the delays of as long as two years for the replacement parks to “unforeseen site conditions and new design aspects.”

The delays mean the neighborhood will go at least five years without some of its sports fields: Stadium construction in Macombs Dam Park started in 2006, and the permanent replacement park will not be completed until 2011.

The Bronx borough president, Adolfo CarriĆ³n Jr., a supporter of the stadium project and the parks plan, said through a spokeswoman that he was briefed monthly by the parks department.

“As of today, the project remains on schedule,” the spokeswoman, Anne Fenton, said in an e-mail message last week. “We have made sure that the parks department is meeting on a regular basis with the community and addressing any concerns.”

But opponents of the stadium project said they are not surprised by the problems surrounding it.

“The real emphasis was on building a stadium for the Yankees, and the community and the parks were an inconvenient afterthought,” said Christian DiPalermo, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group. “The Yankees couldn’t miss a season, but it was O.K. for the community to miss five years of parkland and be shut out of a community benefits agreement.”

Under a community benefits program agreement between the Yankees and Bronx elected officials, intended to help mitigate the effects of the stadium construction, Bronx charities were to receive $800,000 annually once construction started. But only $11,500 of that money has been distributed so far, according to the group that administers the fund.

The temporary park at Jerome Avenue and 161st Street was meant to provide a measure of tranquillity and recreational space as the stadium construction opened last spring, but it was almost a year behind schedule, according to city documents. Now heavily used, it will be paved over for a stadium parking garage once the replacement parks are finished.

With the exception of Heritage Field, a park planned for the grounds of the existing Yankee Stadium, the city said in its 2006 environmental impact report that the replacement parks would be ready by next year.

“By 2009, all of the replacement parkland and recreational facilities would be constructed,” the report stated. Residents said parks officials told them at the time that the parks would be finished by April 2009, in time for opening day at the new stadium.

But the department now says that much of the work will not be finished until almost a year later, including a park that will house a permanent 400-meter running track, four basketball courts, a combination soccer and football field and eight handball courts.

Heritage Field, which will have three sports fields, has also been delayed nearly a year — from December 2010 to the fall of 2011. The park is expected to cost $50 million, a figure that includes the demolition of the existing Yankee Stadium, the parks department said.

Work on two other replacement parks — each smaller than a half-acre — which had been scheduled for completion by October 2007 will not begin until next month, the parks department said.

Another replacement park, a 5.8-acre parcel on the Harlem River waterfront that is expected to cost $56 million to build, was also scheduled to be finished by last October, but will not open until sometime in the winter of 2009, the department said.

Gay Dems' Pick in Queens Opposes Gay Marriage by Paul Schindler - GayCityNews

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In a meeting last week with the editorial board of the Queens Tribune, Elizabeth Crowley, a candidate for an open City Council seat who won the endorsement of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, stated her opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples. Crowley was joined at the editorial board meeting by the other three candidates in the race, including Charles Ober, an out gay Ridgewood civic activist who is the former board president of the Queens Pride House, the borough's LGBT community center. The election, which takes place on June 3, is a nonpartisan contest for the 30th District seat representing Ridgewood, Glendale, and Middle Village.

The gay club made its pick of Crowley despite the fact that she did not answer its candidate questionnaire, did not attend its endorsement meeting, and sent a representative who could not answer when asked her position on marriage equality or transgender rights. Asked about Crowley's statement to the Tribune, Larry Menzie, the club's communications chair, said, "It's surprising because she did send a representative to the club and she showed interest in getting our endorsement. I'm not going to try to minimize that." Menzie then added, "It doesn't make Charlie Ober any better of a candidate. We're not comfortable with Ober's relationship to our club."

Menzie and Daniel Dromm, a Democratic district leader who was a founder of the club, both earlier criticized Ober for his participation in a short-lived rival LGBT club in the borough. Dromm, who is running for the 25th District Council seat in Jackson Heights next year, acknowledged that the club pressed Ober on how supportive he had been of Dromm's work on behalf of the LGBT community, but argued that the questions posed a fair test of the 30th District candidate's own dedication to the borough's gay community.

A blog posting charged that Crowley's campaign had reneged on its promise to feature the Queens gay club's logo in its campaign literature. Dromm volleyed back on that charge, saying that ads Ober took out in Queens newspapers were "whitewashed" of any reference to the fact he is gay or enjoys the endorsement of the Stonewall Democrats of New York City.

Crowley is the cousin of Congressman Joe Crowley, the head of the county Democratic Party, and a featured speaker at a political fundraiser for Dromm prior to the Queens LGBT Pride Parade on June 1. Joe Crowley is a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Queens Teacher Accused Of Raping Student - NY1: Queens

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A Queens high school teacher was arrested Thursday on charges of statutory rape, after officials say she had sex with a teenaged student.

Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon says Janmattie Singh, 22, is also facing charges of endangering the welfare of a child.

Singh is an English teacher at Richmond Hill High School. Investigators say she had sex with a 15-year-old male student, and two of his family members.

Officials say the encounter took place off school grounds -- at a location in Brooklyn.

"I was surprised. I mean especially in this school. I didn't expect that," said Richmond Hill High student Ariel Colon.

"It’s surprising, because we come here every day and normally things like this doesn't happen at Richmond Hill. It's just really surprising. I can't believe it," said Richmond Hill High student Nicole Morris.

The Department of Education says Singh has been on medical leave since November, and that her name has now been placed on the ineligible list -- meaning she can never work for the city again.

Broken Promises:The City’s Replacement Park Scheme For The New Yankee Stadium Project - NYC Parks

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Broken Promises:

The City’s Replacement Park Scheme For

The New Yankee Stadium Project

"Parks - Are we losing important green space including parks and playgrounds? NO. The new stadium project will actually create more acres of parkland than currently exist including a new six-acre park on the Harlem River, a track, tennis courts, racquetball courts, basketball courts, a soccer field and an ice skating rink."

Excerpt from a mailer paid for by the New York Yankees community relations department and sent to neighborhood residents in the Bronx during the "public review" period of the Yankee Stadium ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application to construct the new Yankee Stadium on public parkland.


In June 2005, without a single public hearing and over the course of just eight days, City and State elected officials alienated 25.3 acres of historic South Bronx parkland to allow the New York Yankees to build a new stadium. As part of this action, the Bloomberg and Pataki administrations and the Yankees organization repeatedly promised the community that not only would the parks be replaced but even more parkland would be provided in return. However, a close examination reveals that just 21.78 of the 25.3 acres are actually being replaced, resulting in a net loss of nearly 4 acres. Whenever this deficiently has been exposed, the City's Department of Parks and Recreation has constantly altered the numbers to create a false impression. Of the replacement park acreage the city now claims, 58% (12.5 acres) already existed as either mapped parkland or, in one case, as a school yard. Also lost is the long promised dedicated funding desperately needed to maintain the replacement parks. And that's only the beginning of the broken promises.

Various State and Federal laws pertaining to the alienation and conversion of municipal parkland to non-park uses require that new parkland acting as a replacement must be of equivalent or greater value. For a variety of reasons, the local community has long argued that the replacement parks fail to meet the criteria, and that they fail to provide a similar level of usefulness or location. The city has attempted to pass off a disparate collection of parcels as "replacements," including building replacement parkland on top of existing parkland. Many of these concerns can be summarized as follows:

  • The plan calls for replacing large linear parks that provided active recreation with smaller park features spread out in many areas and over wider distances – up to 1.4 miles away – some on top of parking garages.
  • More than half of the replacement parkland the City is relying on to meet its obligation has existed as mapped parkland that the public has used for decades.
  • Former park amenities such as a heavily used natural turf ballfield and an asphalt ballfield are not being replaced with similar active recreation facilities. In the case of the asphalt ballfield, the City has simply refused to acknowledge its recreational use.
  • Parkland acreage previously used for active recreation is being replaced, in part, by a concrete pedestrian walkway. Some of the replacement acreage is also passive park acreage from other projects that were either promised under other park plans or previously unrelated to the stadium project.
  • The replacement plan substitutes parkland that was free and open to the public with a significantly larger pay-to-play tennis concession – in a flood zone.

The replacement parkland plan also carries significant environmental and public health impacts. The project destroyed 70% of the community's mature trees, and aims to convert much of the previous parkland's natural features such as grass into artificial and impervious surfaces. The health benefits provided from the previous natural park features were numerous and critical to the well-being and safety of a community that suffers from the highest asthma rates in the country. As noted in the project's environmental impact statement (EIS), the health benefits from the replacement trees alone won't be realized for decades, if ever.

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Cemetery Cleanup Countdown by Julie Wiener - The New York Jewish Week

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I would urge interested parties and individuals, local neighborhood and civic associations to assist with this clean up...

Anyone interested please contact me as I have reached out to the appropriate parties in an effort to make this happen...

I'd like to note that I have lived in Ozone Park for over 40 years and this cemetery has been in disrepair, neglected and vandalized for longer than I care to remember...

The photos for this posting are from an EyeMaze blog post entitled "The Journey" (click on photos to enlarge)...

Congregation must restore decrepit burial ground by High Holidays or face renewed litigation; new nonprofit to oversee abandoned graveyards.

Can Bayside Cemetery, the long-neglected Jewish burial ground, turn itself around in time for the High Holy Days?

That’s what officials with Shaare Zedek, the Upper West Side congregation that owns the 35,000-plot Ozone Park, Queens cemetery, are hoping.

A class-action lawsuit against Shaare Zedek and the historic cemetery — in which plaintiffs accused them of, among other things, breach of contract and improperly diverting money from the cemetery perpetual care fund — has been administratively closed until Sept. 26. The recent “tolling agreement” between the plaintiffs and defendants is to give the defendants time to clean up the cemetery and develop a long-term plan for its ongoing maintenance.

Established in the 1840s, Bayside Cemetery is riddled with overgrown weeds, fallen branches, toppled-over gravestones and vandalized mausoleums. Indeed, many sections of the cemetery are so overgrown that they are completely inaccessible, and large swaths look more like a rainforest than a burial ground.

Five years ago a group of Mormon volunteers launched a major cleanup effort there, but the cemetery has since returned to its previous, unkempt state.

If the plaintiffs, who are descendants of people buried at Bayside Cemetery, remain dissatisfied with the cemetery’s condition at the end of the tolling period, they have the right to immediately resume the litigation with an expedited schedule, according to assurances given by Judge Raymond Dearie in a March 28 pre-motion conference. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York.

“Our hope is that we can make substantial progress toward cleaning this thing up,” Stephen Axinn, Shaare Zedek’s attorney, told The Jewish Week. In the next few months, Shaare Zedek will oversee a major cleanup effort of the cemetery, he said. Axinn said a “righteous individual” who has experience managing Jewish cemeteries, but asked not to be publicly identified for fear of becoming ensnared in the lawsuit, has volunteered his “manpower and expertise” to clean Bayside. A $140,000 grant from UJA-Federation will defray his expenses.

In addition, Axinn said, Shaare Zedek is working with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and other Jewish federation agencies to establish a nonprofit organization called the Community Association for Jewish At-Risk Cemeteries (CAJAC) that will raise funds for and assume responsibility for maintaining Bayside and other neglected Jewish cemeteries.

CAJAC was on the verge of hiring an executive director last fall, Axinn said, but its progress has been stymied by the class-action lawsuit filed in September, which apparently caused several interested job candidates to “shy away.”

In an e-mail statement, David Pollock, associate executive director of the JCRC, echoed Axinn’s assertion that the lawsuit had slowed momentum on CAJAC and the cemetery cleanup, saying, “the litigation had a chilling effect.”

“The current agreement gives the parties an opportunity to recreate the previous momentum. It will be a difficult challenge but everyone will do their best.”

Shaare Zedek has long contended that it lacks the resources to care for Bayside and that, because the majority of its plots were sold to now-defunct Jewish burial societies rather than congregants, responsibility for its care lies with the larger Jewish community, not the shul.

John Lucker, one of the plaintiffs, and the grandson of two people buried at Bayside, said he hopes Shaare Zedek and Bayside use the legal reprieve “to perform not just a onetime temporary Band-Aid fix to the problem.”

In addition to developing a long-term, viable plan for maintaining the cemetery, it is essential, said Lucker, “that the synagogue and the cemetery restore and create a financial endowment trust necessary to fulfill their perpetual care obligations.”

“Time will tell what the synagogue and cemetery are able to accomplish during this brief pause,” he said.

Woodhaven Celebrates Memorial Day by Yaldaz Sadakova - The Queens Courier

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Casey Rios still has flashbacks from when he served near Saigon, in Vietnam, between 1967 and 1969. Sometimes he will be driving and he will suddenly start thinking about the many dead bodies he saw while serving as a gunner. “I stopped watching war movies. They bring back a lot of memories,” Rios, 65, said.

Yet, on Thursday, May 22, Rios joined about two dozen people at the Woodhaven Monument, at Jackson Avenue and Forest Parkway, to pay homage to the country’s troops. Rios joins his neighborhood celebration every year. “I enjoy doing this,” he said.

Other Vietnam and World War II veterans from Woodhaven also came to the commemoration and listened to local politicians.

“It is so important that we acknowledge those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Councilmember Joseph Addabbo. “The ground we stand on right now was protected by the veterans of today.”

“This weekend . . . please say a prayer, put up a flag, light a candle. Some people’s children are still overseas,” urged Anthony Como, from the office of State Senator Serphin Maltese.

Maria Thomson, Executive Director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, organized the service. She’s been doing so since 1981, partly because she has two brothers and a brother-in-law who are veterans. “It’s like having history in the family. But they don’t talk too much about it. It’s very emotional,” Thomson explained.

Addabbo Offers Aid For Earthquake Victims - Queens Chronicle

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City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. announced that he has arranged a plan to aid the victims of China’s recent earthquake where the death toll has risen above 50,000. Howard Beach business owner Danny Chan, who owns Danny’s Szechuan Garden, located at 164-14 Cross Bay Blvd., will join Addabbo’s efforts.

Chan will donate half of the total receipts from lunch and dinners at his restaurant on two consecutive Thursdays, June 5 and 12, through the American Red Cross.

"Once again, Danny Chan has offered to help those in need,” Addabbo said. “I thank and commend him for his generosity and good community character.” The councilman noted that Chan assisted in a similar way to send funds to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The 7.9 quake hit China on May 12 and reduced schools, factories, homes, hospitals and other buildings to rubble. The extent of the earthquake damage has yet to be measured, as aid from around the world is being sent to the ravaged areas. China officials have said that more than 220,000 people were being treated for injuries sustained as a result of the earthquake.

For information, call Addabbo’s office at (718) 738-1111.

NY Times Endorsement in 30th CD Race - Charles Ober for City Council - Editorial -

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There will be a special election on Tuesday in the 30th City Council District in Queens, which includes Ridgewood, Middle Village and Glendale. The seat became vacant after the resignation of City Councilman Dennis Gallagher, who admitted to sexually abusing a woman in his district office. Voters in this election, to fill the seat for the rest of the year, should seize the chance to force some much-needed change.

The ballot, on which the candidates will be listed without party affiliation, is crowded with the old way of doing business. Thomas Ognibene, a conservative Republican and former councilman, wants to retake the seat. He held it until he hit the term limit and stepped aside for Mr. Gallagher, who was Mr. Ognibene’s chief of staff. Mr. Ognibene is too tied to clubhouse politics, as is another Republican, Anthony Como, an aide to State Senator Serphin Maltese and a former assistant district attorney. His command of the issues is unimpressive.

Elizabeth Crowley, one of two Democrats, has the same problem, having built her candidacy not on talent or experience but on party machinery. She is the cousin of Representative Joseph Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party leader, and has raised the most money. Ms. Crowley, whose parents represented the area on the Council, is short on substance on issues like budget reform and education. She also ran afoul of campaign finance laws when she ran against Mr. Gallagher in 2001.

The other Democrat in the race is Charles Ober, a financial executive and community activist. The fact that Mr. Ober is openly gay has drawn attention because of the district’s conservative leanings. But more important are his deep roots in the community and the years he has spent engaging his neighbors on problems like prostitution and graffiti. His energy and civic engagement would be a valuable addition in the City Council.

District 30 deserves a serious-minded, independent legislator who will put the needs of constituents first. That’s why we endorse Charles Ober for City Council.

‘Operation Clean Bay’ Aims To End Vessel Abandonment by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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The National Park Service has teamed up with a number of agencies to form a task force and launch “Operation Clean Bay.” (Photo by Don Riepe)

Rangers and staff of the Gateway National Recreation Area have launched “Operation Clean Bay” in an effort to address the issue of abandoned boats in Jamaica Bay.

The program aims to stop illegal dumping and end the practice of leaving unwanted or retired boats in the national preserve. This will be accomplished through fines and by spreading awareness, according to Gateway spokesman John Daskalakis.

“This is a positive thing for everyone,” he said, noting that in the short time since launching the program, they’re already “seeing a noticeable improvement.”

Gateway is working with a task force — comprised of the National Park Service and U.S. Coast Guard, the NYPD, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city Department of Environmental Protection — to investigate the ownership of derelict boats.

Those who are found to have deliberately abandoned their vessels — a violation of city, state and federal law — are subject to significant penalties up to $25,000 and imprisonment.

Using traceable information, the taskforce has identified 18 of the 60 or so deserted boats around Jamaica Bay. This combined effort — the first of its kind — is proving to be successful, according to Daskalakis, as boats and barges are being removed and problems are getting resolved.

One such situation is nearing completion: two barges are in the process of being removed from the bay by the DEC and the company found responsible for dumping the vessels near Broad Channel in September. One barge partially sank and pushed up against developing salt marshes on the east side of Barbados Basin and the other is fully submerged.

Gateway hopes to deter people from dumping vessels, garbage and other waste materials into the bay, as it poses significant environmental threats. According to preservationist Don Riepe, who founded the Jamaica Bay Guardian, derelict boats carrying oil, grease and debris impede wetland growth and can pose risks to human health. Additionally, their unsightliness destroys Jamaica Bay’s aesthetic appeal.

“Jamaica Bay is a very special place to all of us,” Riepe said, adding that he and his supporters intend to protect it. “We’re all looking, so people should beware: if they’re trying to dump things ... they’re going to get caught.”

It is easier and cheaper to dump a boat than to pay someone to remove and properly discard it, Daskalakis noted. This is why it is necessary to show owners that dumping is not without costly ramifications, both financial and environmental. Gateway is placing emphasis on educating owners about the environmental damage caused by dumping and about the legal ways they can discard vessels and waste.

The task force uses global position system readings to locate derelict vessels in the bay, but is encouraging visitors to report illegal dumping activity by calling (718) 338-3718.

Patrols To Catch Poachers, Protect Crabs In The Bay by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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The decline of the horseshoe crab population in Jamaica Bay, which results from over-harvesting, is taking a toll on the population of migratory bird species. (Photo by Don Riepe)

Forget the American Museum of Natural History — for a glimpse of some “living dinosaurs,” area residents can visit Jamaica Bay and catch a glimpse of the prehistoric horseshoe crab, which will come ashore to lay eggs in the coming weeks.

But time may be running out, since the horseshoe crab population is rapidly dwindling. Heavy harvesting has led to the decline of the species across the entire Northeast coast, according to Broad Channel resident Don Riepe, president of the American Littoral Society’s Northeast chapter.

Concerned about the effects of the decline — including the endangerment of 11 species of migratory birds, one of which has declined about 80 percent in the last decade — U.S. Park Police have increased their presence around parts of the bay known to host large numbers of crabs and, in turn, poachers.

The federal officers added patrols at key nesting sites during high-tide periods when the crabs head to shore to lay eggs. They include the North Channel Bridge, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center and Plumb Beach in Brooklyn.

Riepe is happy to see that the issue is being addressed and that the National Park Service, which oversees Jamaica Bay, is attempting to enforce regulations regarding poaching of the protected species.

But, he believes more can be done: “I would prefer to see the (park’s resource staff) out (patrolling) ... because they know the resources. The park police are not as attuned to knowing where to go, when to go.” The overall shortage of resource rangers at Jamaica Bay is of serious concern to Riepe.

“A lot of this is educational,” he noted, which requires response from those who have the appropriate knowledge. The park service should invest in increasing staff and placing on-site personnel throughout the bay to expand educational outreach programs and maintain the safety of various protected resources, Riepe added.

Horseshoe crabs — which date back more than 400 million years in the fossil records — are harvested primarily for use as bait, according to Riepe: poachers use the female crabs to lure squid and eels. But the crabs also have great medical value, as their copper-based blood is used to test for pathogens (bacteria) in human blood serum and vaccines.

More importantly, however, the harmless horseshoe crab is an important part of the ecological food chain of many of the bird and fish species living in coastal estuaries. The Littoral Society has employed volunteer educational programs from the refuge center aimed at teaching visitors the ecological value of the horseshoe crabs. Last weekend, Riepe took a group of about 70 visitors on a walk-through tour of the area around the refuge center where they observed and learned about the species.

Riepe is now trying to put together some baseline data to determine the population of horseshoe crabs in Jamaica Bay. He’s taken frequent walks along the nesting areas around the high-tide periods and charted his observations; on Memorial Day, he counted more than 990 horseshoe crabs on a small section of beach near West Pond — one of the largest crab landings he’s seen in a while.

Although he doesn’t believe there is excessive harvesting in Jamaica Bay, Riepe wants the National Park Service to further step up enforcement and crack down on poachers. The park service banned horseshoe crab harvesting throughout the entire bay last year, but it is still legal in New York State.

After lobbying from the Littoral Society, New Jersey Gov. John Corzine recently signed legislation placing a moratorium on horseshoe crab harvesting. This would be an ideal accomplishment for Jamaica Bay, but Riepe is currently focused on gathering and analyzing data and continuing educational outreach.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Email Sent to Blog - Charles Ober’s Signature is a Record of Accomplishments Not Just Election Time Puffing by Edward Kampermann

As the special election in the 30th Council District enters the home stretch, each candidate has had an opportunity to market themselves with glossy handouts, appearances at senior centers, at so called debates, including the NY1 Dominic Carter Show “Inside City Hall”, a resume` that includes their education and civic accomplishments and their background. Although I am not a blogger myself, I have read many of the comments posted on blogs by anonymous writers, many who are more venomous than accurate. However, the competent bloggers often link you to newspaper stories or court records to substantiate their claims or accusations. After perusing what the candidates have put in print and listing to what they say and how they say it, I have come to the conclusion that the most sincere and honest candidate is Charles Ober. Charles is not a party candidate and he is the only one that does not have a questionable political past. He is the only one with an outstanding civic record, Incidentally, civics are made up of Volunteers; they are not paid for a no-show job nor are they like past elected officials who only operated with the taxpayers money.

Take the time this weekend to read and re-read all that the candidates have mailed out and you will agree with me that Charles Ober has the fortitude, the sincerity, the past accomplishments, and the devotion to our community to be elected to represent us in the NYC Council District 30. Charles Ober was endorsed by the very Honorable Councilman Tony Avella and named by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez as a delegate to The Democratic National Convention. Now! do your part, get out and vote for Charles Ober.

Edward Kampermann
Middle Village, NY

State Lawmakers Consider Putting Off High-Profile Issues - NY1: Politics

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After a rather tumultuous year in Albany, state lawmakers are considering putting off any remaining thorny issues until the fall.

With one month left in the current legislative session, Governor David Paterson held his last in a series of closed-door meetings with legislative conferences yesterday.

A number of high-profile issues remain on the table, including awarding a franchise to run video slot machines at Aqueduct racetrack and hammering out Brownfield legislation to clean up polluted industrial sites.

Lawmakers during this session have dealt with the unexpected resignation of Governor Eliot Spitzer and the high-profile debate over congestion pricing. They also face elections this fall.

Critics say weariness is no excuse for putting negotiations on the back burner.