Friday, October 31, 2008

A Vote for Addabbo - El Diario La Prensa NY

Read original...

Addabbo Receives El Diario Endorsement

For too long, neighborhoods outside of our Manhattan-obsessed city have remained neglected. Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recognizes the need for quality transportation and schools that serve families in Queens. We believe his experience and prioritizing of issues that affect the borough’s older and emerging communities make him the right choice for representing District 15 in the New York State Senate.

Since 2002, Addabbo has served neighborhoods such as Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Rockaway Beach in the City Council. He is challenging 19-year incumbent, Republican State Senator Serphin R. Maltese.

Maltese’s district is 26 percent Latino, in a county with the largest diverse immigrant population in the nation. Yet Maltese’s positions on a number of issues do not reflect the needs of many of our working families. For example, he voted against a state bill that allowed immigrant students to pay the same rate of in-state college tuition as citizen residents. Maltese is one of the state senators who has stood in the way of comprehensive sex education for teenagers.

In an editorial board meeting with El Diario/La Prensa, Addabbo said that he has encouraged the civic participation of immigrants. He is committed to using state resources to help small business owners. He believes that the state legislature should move forward with paid family leave legislation. Addabbo also wants to promote more transparency in state government—he calls for the creation of a nonpartisan independent budget office.

As a Councilman, Addabbo worked for years to budget and introduce a ferry service route from the Rockaways, and to improve bus service. He promises to follow through on his commitments to Queens and to rally for a city that sends more money to Albany than it receives.

Brady Campaign Endorses Joe Addabbo for New York State Senate...

Dear New York Brady Campaign Member,

Next week, on Tuesday, November 4, you will go to the polls and make some important decisions about the future of public safety in New York. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence with its New York Million Mom March Chapters is pleased to endorse a number of candidates in New York who will fight to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

We’re very pleased that New York has strong supporters of common sense gun laws running for election. These candidates will be our partners in the fight for sensible gun laws to protect you, your family, and your community.

For full listing of Brady Campaign New York State Endorsements

Addabbo Canvassing and Rally - Saturday Nov 1st at Noon...

South Asians & West Indians




NOVEMBER 1St, 2008

12pm (NOON)

@ Law Offices of Albert Baldeo PC,

106-11 Liberty Avenue, Ozone Park, NY 11417


& other elected officials

5pm @




by having the highest voter turnout ever in our neighborhoods!
FOR MORE INFO CALL: 347-809-4441 Or: 347-393-7033 or email:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Sad Day for Richmond Hill - Nancy Cataldi Has Passed Away...

I received the following very sad information today, Richmond Hill Historical Society President, Nancy Cataldi has passed away...Final arrangements have been made at Kearns Funeral Home, see below...

Dear Friends,

We are very distressed to report that the Society's President, Nancy Cataldi, died unexpectedly yesterday at her home in Richmond Hill.

Our information is that she will be waked out of Kearns Funeral Home, 85-16 115th Street in Richmond Hill, but final arrangements have not yet been made. We will let you know as soon as we learn what those arrangements are.

Nancy's death leaves a terrible void in our community, our organization, and our personal lives, and we cannot imagine how that void will ever be filled.

The Richmond Hill Historical Society
86-22 109th Street
Richmond Hill, NY 11418

Funeral services for Nancy Cataldi:

The Family of Nancy Cataldi will receive friends at Leo F. Kearns Funeral Home, 85-66 115th Street, Richmond Hill (718-441-3300), on Wednesday and Thursday, November 5th - 6th, from 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM and from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

A Funeral Mass for Nancy will be held at The Church of the Holy Child Jesus, 111-11 86th Avenue, Richmond Hill (718-847-1860), on Friday, November 7th, at 10:00 AM. A private cremation will follow.

Donations in memory of Nancy may be made to Bobbi and the Stray's donation envelopes will also be available at the Funeral Home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Verify Your Voter Registration and Locate Your Polling Place Online...

You can verify your voter registration online at the NYS Voter Public Information website.

You simply have to complete an online form with your name, date of birth, county and zip code and you will receive your Voter District Information...Election District, County Legislative District, Senate District, Assembly District and Congressional District...You also can verify your political party affiliation and voter status...

You can also contact the League of Women Voters for information on Queens races and for additional information...

Use the New York City Board of Elections web site to find the location of your polling place by providing your address and borough...

Polls Open at 6 am and Close at 9 pm...Be sure to get out on Tuesday Nov. 4th and Vote...!!

Editorial - For New York State Senate -

NY Times Endorses Joe Addabbo and Jim Gennaro for State Senate
Read original...

One of the excuses New York’s legislators give for the abysmal way they operate is that the Assembly is run by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans. If one side wants X. The other wants Y. And Zero happens.

This year voters can take away that excuse since a Democrat is in the governor’s office and the Republicans hold the Senate by one seat. Real campaign finance reform and fixing the lobbying and ethics commission are a must. But the most important reform is to create a nonpartisan independent redistricting commission that would draw legislative districts fairly, rather than ensure the re-election of incumbents.

Reform will take real leadership, which neither Gov. David Paterson nor Sheldon Silver, the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, have shown in this area. But running in close downstate races this year are three Democrats who are committed to the kind of change that Albany needs, including a truly independent redistricting commission.

Third State Senate District on Long Island: Voters have a good choice in the Democratic challenger, Brian Foley, the town supervisor of Brookhaven. Mr. Foley has managed to restore the town’s good name after decades of rotten Republican rule. The incumbent, Caesar Trunzo, was elected in the Nixon era. His core argument for re-election has boiled down to his pride in being a major conduit for pork. Long ago, he became a living monument to the inertia in Albany. We endorse Brian Foley.

State Senate District 11 in Queens: Frank Padavan, a veteran Republican who has served in this district since 1972, has done some good in all those years. He has opposed gambling, for example, and human trafficking. But his views on women’s reproductive rights and immigration are backward, even dangerous. James Gennaro, a member of City Council, offers a passionate contrast, not only on those issues but on the environment. He has been fighting to protect New York City’s reservoirs. We endorse James Gennaro.

State Senate District 15 in Queens: Serphin Maltese, the incumbent Republican, is a well-established Albany hand who has routed plenty of money to his mostly Democratic district. After 20 years, however, it is time for someone like Joseph Addabbo to try his hand. Mr. Addabbo, a member of City Council, has said that if Democrats take over, they will not force the same Draconian rules on Republicans that now exist to punish Democrats. That is a good start. We endorse Mr. Addabbo.

TWU Endorses Joe Addabbo for New York State Senate...

Roger Toussaint, President of the TWU, Councilman Joe Addabbo, Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, and TWU supporters rally at the Fresh Pond Rd Bus Depot in Ridgewood.

The Transit Workers Union Local 100, and President Roger Toussaint made their official endorsement of Joe Addabbo for State Senate. The union boasts 38,000 active members, 1,700 of whom reside in the 15th senate district, in addition to 500 retirees.

"We are proud to support Joseph Addabbo for Senate because we know he will be a fighter for the hard-working families of Queens. Joe has fought to improve transportation infrastructure, and always stood up for the working men and women who make our city run. New Yorkers need good jobs and real benefits, and Joe Addabbo will be the change in Albany we so desperately need,” said Roger Toussaint, President of TWU Local 100.

"With the advent of the economic crisis, we need to keep the cost of basic services low, and make sure that hard working New Yorkers have the resources they need to stay strong, and stay in New York. I have focused my attention on affordable healthcare, fair wages, and quality schools. Transportation is also an essential part of that equation which is why I have personally taken up the fight to prevent a fare hike. I know that when faced with a tough budget, you cut first before raising revenue from tax payers," added Joe Addabbo

In August, CM Addabbo created the Fight the Hike campaign in response to the MTA’s threat to raise fares. By September, the campaign had successfully registered 2,000 signatures, which the Councilman presented in person to the MTA.

As a member of the Transportation Committee of the New York City Council, the Councilman has a history of working together with the MTA. In addition, as the Chairman of the Civil Service & Labor committee Addabbo has always fought for workers and good jobs.

Joseph Addabbo, Serphin Maltese Duke it Out Over Voting Block by John Lauinger - NY Daily News

Read original...

As far as debates go, this was a bare-knuckle brawl the likes of which Queens voters haven't seen in recent memory.

Republican state Sen. Serphin Maltese faced off on Thursday with his Democratic challenger, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, at a forum hosted by a key immigrant voting block of South Asians and West Indians.

But in trying to woo the strategically crucial voters, many of whom said they felt ignored by government, Maltese talked himself into a vulnerable spot - and Addabbo pounded him.

After a spat over state education spending, they were asked what can be done to improve J and A subway stations.

Maltese said he has gotten a grant for almost $2 million to repair five Metropolitan Transportation Authority stations in the 15th Senate District, which runs from Maspeth to Howard Beach.

"Since I have seniority in the Senate, I am able to secure money for the district," said Maltese, whose reelection bid is one of a handful of races that could decide which party controls the Senate.

He had previously told Queens News that during his almost 20 years in the Senate, he has brought $34 million in member-item funding into his district.

Sitting feet away from Addabbo at the debate, Maltese called his opponent a "neophyte - someone who would not command the funds I do."

"You don't need seniority to deal with the MTA," Addabbo shot back.

Then, the two were asked how they could bring funding into the South Asian and West Indian communities in areas such as Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.

Maltese noted he has funded 235 neighborhood groups. But only one - the United Hindu Cultural Society in South Ozone Park - was from those ethnic groups, he acknowledged.

Maltese put the onus on the South Asian and West Indian communities, charging them with "not communicating your needs and your wants to me."

"I ask you, respectfully, tell me your needs," he said. "I want you to knock on my door. I want you to request funding - you deserve it."

Addabbo pounced.

"It's not going to take me 20 years to get funding into your community - that is an absolute disgrace," Addabbo thundered.

He glared at Maltese.

"You should know the groups in your community that need funding," Addabbo charged. "You have not funded United Hindu for seven years now."

Maltese responded by saying he has previously secured a $55 million grant to City University of New York's LaGuardia Community College.

He termed it CUNY's largest member initiative (with funding provided by an elected official) ever, at a school where, he noted, many of his younger constituents take classes.

Chuck Schumer Adds Weight to City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Bid in New York State Senate Duel by Meredith Kolodner - NY Daily News

Read original...

Senator Chuck Schumer and Councilman Joe Addabbo campaign at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach, Queens.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday endorsed City Councilman Joseph Addabbo in a crucial race that could tip the balance of power of the state Senate.

The Democratic Queens councilman is running against Republican Serphin Maltese, a 20-year incumbent, in a tight contest that could end GOP control of the Senate for the first time in 40 years. Recent polls have the two men tied at 42% each.

Related: Addabbo Pushing Bill to Fight Foreclosures

"For the Democratic Party both locally and nationally, the wind is at our backs and now is the time to usher in the change we want and need," said Schumer.

Maltese is considered vulnerable this year after winning the 2006 race by just 800 votes in the district, which snakes from Maspeth through Woodhaven to Howard Beach. He is backed by a wide array of unions and has been endorsed by Mayor Bloomberg.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Many Turned Away at Clinton Event - Packed Event Denies Students by Tina Grandinetti - - Baruch College CUNY

Read original...

On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 23, at the Queens College Student Union Building, hundreds of people lined up in the cold to see former President Bill Clinton speak at a pre-election event sponsored by New York State Rep. Anthony Weiner. The event, which was supposed to start at 7:30 p.m., drew a far larger audience than anticipated. The growing crowd disappointed many eager, and then angry, New Yorkers who were in the end told to go home.

As early as 2 p.m., people began lining up in the hopes of getting a seat in the auditorium. However, as the evening wore on and the line grew longer, people began to worry that they had been waiting for nothing. Indeed, by 8 p.m., when Clinton finally arrived in a motorcade, those in the lines outside had grown increasingly restless. Many of them had received postcards in the mail "personally" inviting them to the event, while others had been instructed to RSVP via e-mail to ensure a seat at the event. With over 1,000 people already in the auditorium, and hundreds still waiting to see if they would get in, many started to give up and go home.

Finally, at around 8:30 p.m., an hour after the event was planned to begin, police officials announced by megaphone that the room had reached capacity and the estimated 500 people still outside, including around 200 Queens College students, would have to go home. While most simply left, many were extremely angry, insisting that they had skipped work to attend the event and felt they had been mistreated.

One official, police officer Paz, said that while many people took their complaints up with police officers, "It's Secret Service who are turning people away. We can let all the people we want into the building, but Secret Service won't allow anyone else into the room where Clinton is speaking, not even me, and I've been working the crowd since the afternoon." According to Paz, "We let over 700 people in and still had to turn away hundreds. We didn't expect this many people to come." The huge attendance reflects a high-energy political season with many New Yorkers eager to hear Clinton's opinion on issues like the economy, Iraq and the democratic campaign this election season. "I guess we'll just have to watch it on television like everyone else," said Paz.

While some people were so disappointed that they shouted, "Vote for McCain," as they walked to their cars, others were still hopeful that they would get a glimpse of the former president. Bertha Cornejo, a longtime Queens resident, said that she had come to see Clinton. She insisted on waiting in the lobby of the Student Union Hall even after most of the crowd had given up. "Maybe he'll come down to say hello to the people who are waiting to see him," said Cornejo.

Police officials said that along with an unexpectedly large turnout, the problem was caused by miscommunication among the event planners who had not been consistent in their decision to let people in based on RSVPs or on a first come, first served basis.

Photo captions: Former President Bill Clinton addressed Queens College along with New York State Representative Anthony Weiner. Media Credit: Zach Stern

Pregnant Woman Stabbed to Death in South Ozone Park, Queens by Thalia Patillo (10/26/08) -

Read original...

Police are investigating the death of a 25-year-old woman with apparent stab wounds in South Ozone Park, Queens, Saturday.

Law enforcement officials say the woman was pregnant and was murdered on her due date.

The victim has been identified as Niasha Delain.

Police were called to the scene just after 7:30 p.m., after neighbors heard someone yelling for help.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the woman was found with multiple stab wounds, her fetus dead.

"She has her neck cut and has a laceration on her stomach," he said.

Brown says its too early to say exactly what led to the gruesome stabbing, but he says the woman moved into the aprtment about a week ago and was discovered dead by her mother and boyfriend.

Neighbors say the victim seemed happy and friendly. They say she was often seen at the minimart below her apartment.

There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing. ---


Aqueduct Casino Contract by Fred Mogul - WNYC - News

Read original...

October 24, 2008 — Plans for a casino at the Aqueduct Race Track have been held up for years, but this week state senate leaders allowed a contract to move forward with a Buffalo-based firm. Betty Braton, head of the Ozone Park community board, says community members played a key role in the agreement and that forming a community advisory group was a crucial step in getting local support.

Braton: It's been imperative and they have known it and they have worked very hard to insure that there is a role for the local community in whatever the future here is going to be.

The firm Delaware North pledged to invest $370 million in the complex - but will also be eligible for up to a $250 million in state assistance. The refurbished Aqueduct would feature 4,500 video slot machines and multiple restaurants. It could eventually include a hotel and conference center. Organizers said the expanded facilities would provide 800 permanent jobs, only a small percentage of them minimum-wage.

Casino Complex to Be Built at Aqueduct by Jeremy W. Peters -

Read original...

A developer’s rendering of the video-gambling and hotel complex at the Aqueduct racetrack. Plans are to open the casino in 2010.

After seven years of political wrangling and delay, a deal to build a casino at the Aqueduct racetrack is now in place.

Under a contract announced by the Paterson administration on Thursday, a Buffalo company will construct a complex featuring a 184,000-square-foot gambling floor and 4,500 video gambling terminals, multiple restaurants including one with a 600-seat buffet, at least 300 hotel rooms and a 60,000-square-foot conference center.

The Buffalo company, Delaware North, said it planned to start construction in early 2009 and finish the casino, its adjoining restaurants and the parking structure in about a year. The project will be completed in phases within five years, it said.

In its promotional material, Delaware North has boasted that the complex will be “all right in the heart of Queens,” a subway ride away on the A train. The track is in South Ozone Park just northwest of Kennedy Airport.

For the casino itself, gamblers should think more arcade than Atlantic City. There will be no blackjack tables with dealers, or roulette wheels. Instead the casino will have video-screen terminals that will accept money for virtual hands of poker and other games.

Delaware North operates a similar hybrid racetrack-casino — known as a racino — in Saratoga Springs. The company beat out two other bidders — the commercial real estate firm S L Green Realty, in partnership with Hard Rock Entertainment, and Capital Play, which had joined with Mohegan Sun.

State officials said Delaware North prevailed because it was offering more money in advance: $370 million for its license to operate the casino and entertainment complex.

“They offered the most money up front,” said John D. Sabini, chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. “And I think that’s important to the state because of the financial situation we’re in.”

In addition to the up-front payment, the state expects to reap more than $10.3 billion in revenue from the gambling terminals over the next 30 years.

Though the State Legislature has already trimmed more than $420 million in state spending this year, Gov. David A. Paterson said this month that the faltering economy had opened a new $1.2 billion hole in the budget.

After the Aqueduct negotiations hit a snag two weeks ago when Senate Republicans said they wanted more time to review the plan, Mr. Paterson and fellow Democrats accused Republicans of dragging their heels and delaying the start of a project that would create about 1,000 construction jobs at a time when employers in New York are shedding workers.

“This deal will provide a critical revenue stream — especially given the financial crisis that is battering our state and nation,” Mr. Paterson said in a statement,

The push to build a casino at Aqueduct began in 2001, when in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks the Legislature began passing laws that would allow for a major expansion of the state’s gambling industry.

In approving the deal, the state once again finds itself turning to gambling to strengthen its weakened cash flow. But with New Yorkers expected to spend less as the financial crisis expands, Delaware North’s president was asked on Thursday whether a casino could remain a steady source of state revenue during an economic downturn.

“Clearly the gaming business is not a recession-proof business,” the president, William J. Bissett, told reporters in a room overlooking the neatly groomed racetrack at Aqueduct.

“There is a large population that will have an easy means to get to this location to entertain themselves,” he said. “We take comfort that, even in a recession period, the fact that Aqueduct sits where it does in a huge metropolitan community buoys our confidence that we will be successful here.”

The project is expected to create about 2,000 jobs in Queens. About half those jobs would be permanent jobs at the casino complex once it is fully operating, and the rest would be construction jobs.

“The ultimate goal, of course, is not only to create revenue for the state but to create jobs,” said State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, a Republican from Queens. “So as far as economic development, I think you can put it in big letters: J-O-B-S.”

Mr. Maltese, who is locked in a competitive re-election battle that may decide which party controls the Senate next year, objected to the Delaware North proposal two weeks ago after Mr. Paterson and the Democratic-led Assembly signed off on it.

At the time, Mr. Maltese and other Senate Republicans said they were not convinced the plan included enough economic benefit for the Queens community. So the developers agreed to put more of their plans in writing, including the proposal for building the hotel and convention center and a community advisory board to inform Delaware North on their satisfaction with the development. In addition, the company agreed to open an office in the community that will make it more convenient for people to apply for a job.

Jonathan Starkey contributed reporting.

NYPD Daily Blotter - Queens October 28th - New York Post

Read original...

A female driver went on a tear in Woodhaven, twice ramming a parking agent and sparking a wild chase, officials said yesterday.

Andrea McMillan, of Springfield Gardens, allegedly slammed into the victim on Jamaica Avenue at 78th Street on Oct. 18 after she was given a ticket.

"Bitch, you want to see that again?" she allegedly yelled at her.

She then backed into the agent before taking off, blowing through four red lights and four stop signs, sources said.

The agent got into her car and tried to block the road with it, but McMillan drove up on the sidewalk and clipped her bumper, officials said.

McMillan was hit with a slew of charges, including aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, according to a spokesman for District Attorney Richard Brown.

The traffic agent suffered bruising to her leg.


A thug who threatened to slash a man on a Ridgewood street said he regretted not going through with it after he was busted, authorities said.

Jerry Williams, 46, approached the victim waving a knife on Bleecker Street near Woodward Avenue on Oct. 18, just before 1:30 p.m.

"I'm going to slash you," Williams allegedly taunted.

When he was picked up, the suspect, who was carrying a boxcutter, told investigators that he was sorry he didn't cut the victim, sources said.

"If I would have known that this was going to happen, I would have slashed him," he allegedly said.

The DA's spokesman said Williams was charged with menacing and possession of a weapon.

It's not clear how or if the suspect and victim know each other.


A dare blew up in a Queens teen's face when he was busted for trying to set off fireworks in Glendale, officials said.

Shiva Harry, 16, entered a house on 77th Avenue near 81st Street on Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. and attempted to light a firecracker, sources said. Authorities did not say who owned the house.

When cops collared Harry, he allegedly said, "We were there because the other kid dared me to set off the fireworks. I gave the fireworks to the kid that was with me and he took off."

Harry was charged with reckless endangerment and trespassing.


Maltese’s Lawyer Faces Kid Porn Rap by Jeremy Walsh -

Read original...

A part−time legal counsel for state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale) was arrested last week on suspicion of possessing child pornography, the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District said.

Robert Groezinger, 53, of Patterson, N.Y., was fired by Maltese’s office shortly after the arrest was made public. He was arraigned Oct. 15 in White Plains federal court on charges of possessing and receiving child pornography, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He was released on $100,000 bond.

A hearing was set for Nov. 12. If convicted, Groezinger faces between five and 20 years in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Maltese’s spokeswoman, Victoria Vattimo, said the senator acted quickly and had no prior knowledge of Groezinger’s alleged conduct.

“He was terminated immediately,” she said. “The senator doesn’t tolerate this at all. He has a strong record against sex offenders.”

The Queens senator is known for taking a tough stance on pedophilia.

In 2006, Maltese introduced legislation that would strengthen the statute against sex offenders who use the Internet to communicate with children, after an ex−lawyer, arrested on suspicion of propositioning a Westchester County police officer posing online as a 14−year−old boy, argued that it is not illegal to seduce minors verbally via e−mail.

Maltese also contributed at least $6,000 in member item funding between 2005 and 2007 to a Long Island−based nonprofit to fight the distribution of pornography over the Internet, state Senate records show.

Groezinger allegedly accessed child pornography via the Internet between December 2007 and January 2008, according to the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney.

Allegedly operating with the username “,” he frequented a chatroom where a California resident distributed the images to other users, the complaint said.

After tracing the username back to Groezinger, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents conducted a search of his Patterson home, seizing a laptop that contained more than 40 images of child pornography, the complaint said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

South Queens Democratic Club Dinner Honors Local Leaders at Russo's on the Bay - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

Five community leaders were honored Monday night (October 20th) at the 42nd annual South Queens Democratic Club Dinner Dance. Elected officials joined the celebration.

From left: Congressman Anthony Weiner, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Honorees Pamela Bauman, Andrew Bauman, John Engler, Anthony Battaglia and Peter Marino, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., District Leader Frank Gulluscio, Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton and Congressman Gregory Meeks.

Battaglia, left, with Gulluscio and Braton.
Gulluscio presents plaques to the Baumans.

Grand Fix for One of Oldest 1939 World's Fair Relic by John Lauinger - NY Daily News

Read original...

The boathouse at Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, one of two remaining buildings from the 1939 World's Fair, is set to receive $6.5 million in renovations. Bates for News

When people think of relics from the World's Fairs of 1939 and 1964, the iconic Unisphere and picturesque New York State Pavilion usually come to mind.

Few, if any, would think of the brick boathouse on Meadow Lake, though it is one of only two surviving structures from the 1939 fair.

The boathouse still shelters vessels that ply the murky lake, but it is otherwise nearly forgotten. Years of abandonment and neglect have tarnished any traces of World's Fair grandeur.

After years of planning, the city Parks Department expects to begin a $6.5 million restoration of the historic boathouse early next year.

Giving the dilapidated structure a much-needed makeover will allow the boathouse to anchor a revitalization of the southern portion of the sprawling Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.

"This will allow the boathouse to go toward better use," she said, noting the project will give the building a new roof and windows and restore its facade. "This is the beginning of some restoration of the whole area around Meadow Lake."

Greg Godfrey, president of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World's Fair Association, applauded the effort.

"It is a welcome sign that they are going to spend the money to fix it up and use it as a showcase," he said. "In today's condition, it is pretty bad."

The restoration has received funding from Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

It will add bathrooms to the boathouse, sparing visitors from having to use portable toilets.

The boathouse is shared by three boating groups - The American Small Craft Association, Row New York and the outfit that runs the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival.

Lewandowski said the project will also completely rebuild and extend the boathouse's deteriorating docks and make the facility handicapped accessible.

TASCA, a local sailing club and school, rescued the boathouse from abandonment several years ago, turning it into a no-frills base for its small fleet of 14-foot sailboats.

"It was full of squirrels," recalled Richard Hellenbrecht, 61, of Bellerose, a sailing instructor for the group. He said the club uses a wood-burning stove to heat the boathouse in winter months.

In addition to the boathouse restoration, Lewandowski said, an upcoming project will restore habitat along Meadow Lake and its sister lake to the south, Willow Lake, both of which were created for the 1939 Worlds' Fair.

Another project will provide new entryways for the southern portion of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Why Vote? - Youth Vote Project...

Dominick Carter of NY1 Inside City Hall interviewed four of the teen aged students behind this motivational video...Youth Vote Project...

Rep Anthony Weiner Brings Bill Clinton to Queens College

Click Image to Watch Slideshow at Picasa...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Tribute to Paul Wellstone on the 6th Anniversary of His Tragic Death...

I had the good fortune of meeting and speaking to Senator Wellstone on three or four occasions back when I lived in Minnesota at the State Fair and other events...he was always very approachable and willing to listen and tell you what was on his mind...America lost one of it's great Senators when we lost Paul and Sheila...

A tribute to the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) from Senate Democrats on the 5th anniversary of his death.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Will Ferrell As Bush Endorsing McCain/Palin - SNL

Saturday Night Live Special - Thursday October 23rd, 2008...

The End of America by Naomi Wolf

“My sense of alarm comes from the clear lessons from history that, once certain checks and balances are destroyed, and once certain institutions have been intimidated, the pressures that can turn an open society into a closed one turn into direct assaults; at that point events tend to occur very rapidly, and a point comes at which there is no easy turning back to the way it used to be.”

Naomi Wolf,
The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot - Check It Out..!

Home Page is committed to stopping Mayor Bloomberg from serving a third term as Mayor of New York. We take no position on the merits of his tenure as Mayor, we simply believe that for him, the City Council and the rest of the city officials who have served two four-year terms, it's over. The vote of the City Council on October 23, 2008 denied the will of the people who voted twice by public referendum to have term limits. The City Council's vote was against public policy because the City Council members who would be term-limited out of office, voted selfishly to extend their terms thus self-dealing when they could have avoided such conflict of interest earlier in their terms by appointing a commission and having a special election or referendum.

Our volunteer base is growing daily as citizens have found a voice and renewed sense of hope.

You too can make a difference. Sign up for the newsletter and join the fight for good government.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ron Howard's Call For Obama With Andy Griffith And Henry Winkler - Huffington Post

Read original...

Ron Howard is the latest star to voice his support for Obama, and he did it alongside his old costars Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler in a video for Funny or Die. Watch him strip down, trim his nose hair and don an Opie wig for a black and white call to action before fast-forwarding to "Happy Days."

Ozone Park Home Damaged In Blaze | | Times Newsweekly

Read original...

No injuries were reported following a one-alarm fire which broke out inside this two-story home in Ozone Park on Sunday night, Oct. 12. Fire Department sources said the incident occurred at around 7:30 p.m. inside the residence on 114th Place near Sutter Avenue. Members of Engine companies 285, 302, 308 and 331; Ladder companies 142, 155 and 173; Squad Company 270; Rescue 4 and Battalions 39 and 51—under the direction of Division 13— responded to the scene with officers from the 106th Precinct and EMS units. The blaze was brought under control at around 8 p.m., said an FDNY spokesperson. (photo: Allen Epstein)

CUNY School of Law Students To Prevent Voter Interference on Election Day Throughout New York City; Focus on Queens - The CUNY News Wire

Read original...

More than 75 trained CUNY School of Law students will fan out at polling spots across New York City on Election Day to protect voters’ rights and to ensure that there is no interference as voters cast ballots.

The students will be placed throughout the city by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF); the Voting Rights Department of that organization has trained the students in federal and New York State voting rights laws, as well as the skills of poll monitoring.

“As immigrant communities in New York begin to realize their political power and organize themselves to increase their civic participation, it is crucial that voter suppression and intimidation not thwart their momentum or their belief in the promise of America,” said Ali Najmi, 24, a third-year CUNY Law student who is helping to organize the efforts.

Added Bright Limm, 28, a second-year student who is president of the CUNY Law Student Government: “Today many people fear that our voting rights are easily subject to violation. For communities that historically have been disenfranchised - in particular, immigrants, people of color, and the poor - the presence of poll monitors is not only valuable but absolutely crucial.”

CUNY Law at the Forefront

Limm, who also is helping to organize the polling effort, added, “Law schools and other legal institutions should be at the forefront of protecting voters’ rights. By mobilizing at polling sites on Election Day, CUNY Law students are taking the initiative, and we ask that other law schools join us in this effort to protect the democratic process.”

Unlike candidates’ representatives, CUNY Law students will be stationed inside polling sites to enhance access to voting and to prevent the use of unlawful practices, such as demanding proof of citizenship, turning people away without photo identification when it is not required, or restricting access to language interpreters.

Past Polling Problems

According to AALDEF, such practices occurred in recent elections. For instance, in New York, identification is not required to vote except for a limited group of first-time voters. But, according to AALDEF, during the 2004 Presidential Elections, 23% of Asian American voters surveyed were asked to show ID, 69% of whom were not required to do so.

About half of the CUNY Law students plan to volunteer in the areas of Richmond Hill and Ozone Park in Queens, predominantly South-Asian and Indo-Caribbean areas. The other students will be placed by AALDEF in locations such as Flushing, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst in Queens; Midwood, Kensington and Coney Island in Brooklyn; and Chinatown in Manhattan.

The students have selected these areas, not only because of the national election, but also because of the unusually high turnout that is expected. “These efforts are posed to be very fruitful,” said Najmi, who is a Pakistani-American and a chief organizer of the CUNY Law project.

Work Reinforces Mission

The students’ work reinforces the CUNY Law mission, said Dean Michelle J. Anderson. “Our students’ commitment to protect the democratic process on Election Day expresses the core of our public interest mission. Students are, in a very real way, practicing law in the service of human needs,” she said.

Many CUNY Law students groups have come together to support this effort, including the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, the South Asian Law Students Association, National Lawyers Guild, Latin American Law Students Association, Muslim Law Students Association, Organization of Women Law Students, Third World Orientation, Black Law Students Association, and Student Government.


CUNY School of Law is the premier public interest law school in the country. It trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and disempowered and to make a difference in their communities. The school has been praised in a study by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, “Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law,” for being one of the few law schools in the country to prepare students for practice through instruction in theory, skills, and ethics. The school is based in Flushing, Queens, New York.

Emily Sachar
Director of Communications
718-340-4530, office
718-644-5789, cell

Student Polling Coordinators:
Ali Najmi

Bright Limm

New York City Becomes Ninth City To Join Bird Treaty - : New York City Deparment of Parks & Recreation - Press Releases

Read original...

New York City became the ninth city in the nation this week to sign an Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds. The Treaty, a partnership among The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), New York City Parks and Recreation, Audubon New York and New York City Audubon, is a commitment to restore, conserve and protect valuable bird habitat within New York City’s urban environment and to develop an informed public through education and training programs.

Backed by a $65,000 challenge grant from the Service, the Urban Conservation Treaty will support initiatives throughout New York City. Partnering organizations will match the grant money with funding and “in-kind” contributions of goods and services, with a total contribution of more than $450,000.

For the vast majority of urban and suburban residents, birds represent their most frequent contact with wildlife,” said Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, who took part in the signing ceremony. “New York City, which lies along the Atlantic Flyway, is an essential urban sanctuary for migrating birds. We are pleased to work with New York City and other partners to support bird habitat conservation.”

“This partnership is not only good for birds – it is also good for the citizens of New York City,” said Marvin Moriarty, Northeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wildlife watching contributes significantly to people's enjoyment of the outdoors, and is a major contributor to state and national economies. In fact, in 2006, nearly 71 million Americans spent more than $45 billion observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife.”

Ponds, lakes, native trees, and other plant life in city parks can provide important resting and breeding grounds for thousands of migrating birds that fly through New York and other cities every spring and fall. With nearly 53,000 acres of open space and parkland, New York City has much to offer to migrating birds on the Atlantic coast.

As part of the Treaty commitment, partners will work together to improve New York City’s bird habitat by increasing stewardship, providing restoration of key areas and ensuring proper monitoring in all New York City natural areas, including the City’s Important Bird Areas, Forever Wild sites, and other critical habitats.

Birds are an aesthetic, cultural, scientific and economic resource to the Nation. Through this agreement, partners will work with New York City to heighten public awareness of birds and the importance of open space to bird conservation through public programs and events, including education programs for school children and citizen scientists. The City will also increase and improve protected natural areas, restore and protect existing nesting areas such as North Brother Island and the Rockaway Beach Endangered Species Nesting Area, and develop a green-collar workforce through the GreenApple Corps program.

"I am honored to join with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aid in its efforts to protect migratory birds," said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "New York City's parks are a crucial stopover for migratory birds and that is why it is critical that our parks provide a hospitable environment to these important members of our ecosystem. Today's agreement is a testament to the high quality of natural areas in New York City parks, thanks to ongoing support from scientists, activists, local elected officials, community members, and public-private partnerships."

The Urban Conservation Treaty Program started in 1999, when New Orleans became the first Urban Conservation Treaty. Other Treaty cities are Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., St. Louis, Nashville and Anchorage.

About NYC Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation is the steward of more than 29,000 acres of land — 14 percent of New York City — including more than 4,000 individual properties ranging from Yankee Stadium and Central Park to community gardens and Greenstreets. We operate more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds; we manage five major stadia, 550 tennis courts, 54 public pools, 51 recreational facilities, 15 nature centers, 13 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches; we care for 1,200 monuments and 22 historic house museums; we look after 600,000 street trees, and two million more in parks. We are New York City’s principal provider of athletic facilities. We are home to free concerts, world-class sports events, and cultural festivals.

About U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

CONTACT: Phil Abramson / Cristina DeLuca 212-360-1311

New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg by Jason L. Riley -

New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg -

"Next to the assumption of power is the responsibility of relinquishing it."
-- Benjamin Disraeli

Citing the financial crisis, twice-elected New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to scrap the city's term-limit law. He's asking the city council to pass a bill that would allow him to seek four more years in office.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. AP Photo

Obviously the mayor believes that he's indispensable to Gotham's well-being, which will come as no surprise to any journalist who's met with him. What's passing strange is that so much of the local press seems to share the mayor's inflated view of himself.

The city's two major tabloids, the New York Post and the Daily News, both ran editorials under the headline "Run, Mike, Run" that called for changing the rules so that Mr. Bloomberg could stand for re-election next year. And the New York Times complained that the term-limits law "is particularly unappealing now because . . . it would deny New Yorkers -- at a time when the city's economy is under great stress -- the right to decide for themselves whether an effective and popular mayor should stay in office."

The paper took the opposite view seven years ago, when there was talk of extending the second term of Mr. Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, in the wake of 9/11. "To suggest that the city would be incapable of getting along without Mr. Giuliani . . . undermines New York's sense of self-sufficiency," said the Gray Lady. "While Mr. Giuliani has been a great leader during this crisis, the truth is that no one is indispensable."

How Times change.

With a job-approval rating around 70%, Mr. Bloomberg is almost certain to win a third term if allowed to run again. He's continued Mr. Giuliani's policing policies and kept crime down. The mayor also deserves praise for his aggressive pro-development policies, such as rezoning large swaths of the city where industry is not coming back. Mr. Bloomberg, a nominal Republican who switched parties to run for office, made education the centerpiece of his first campaign, and he's made good on a promise to implement reform. Merit-pay pilot programs have been introduced, the number of charter schools has expanded, and student test scores have improved modestly.

But the argument for extending the two-term limit for Mr. Bloomberg -- a self-made billionaire who got his start on Wall Street -- is that the city needs someone with his financial acumen to help weather the fallout from the banking crisis. The biggest problem with that argument is that Mr. Bloomberg hasn't been very adept at managing the city's finances, even though he's had record revenues to work with.

Between 2000 and 2007, New York's tax receipts grew by 41% after inflation. "That's something that's never happened or come close to happening in the city's modern history," says Nicole Gelinas, who follows municipal finance at the Manhattan Institute. This windfall had everything to do with the Wall Street bull market, and everyone knew that the rate of growth was unsustainable. Instead of using the flush-year surpluses to put New York's fiscal house in order, however, Mr. Bloomberg mostly squandered them.

The four big costs to New York's budget are Medicaid, pensions, debt and health care for public employees. Since the mayor took office seven years ago, those costs are up 57% after inflation. His handling of the city's debt is particularly disappointing, if not irresponsible, since debt-service payments are legal obligations that can't be suspended during economic slowdowns.

Since 1990, debt per person in New York is up by 185%, exceeding inflation by 118 percentage points and exceeding tax revenue growth by 27 percentage points. By most measures, New York has higher per-capita debt (about $7,000) than any other city in the nation. And while the problem obviously predates the current mayor, the future burden has worsened substantially on his watch.

Instead of cutting other parts of the budget and using the city's swollen coffers to service debt and pay for capital projects out of operating spending, Mr. Bloomberg chose to increase borrowing. Between 2000 and 2007, debt grew by 5.7% annually and will continue to grow by 5.9% annually over the next four years. By increasing the city's debt obligations while doing nothing to decrease the city's overdependence on income tax revenue from Wall Street wages and bonuses, Mr. Bloomberg has exacerbated a bad situation.

The mayor's spending record isn't much better. Between 1975, when New York faced its last fiscal crisis, and the Giuliani era, city spending rose by just 9% after adjusting for inflation and population growth. Mr. Bloomberg's 2008 budget is nearly 50% larger than the one he inherited from Mr. Giuliani in 2001. That far outpaces inflation, which rose 21% over the same period. Nor has the mayor shown any sustained interest in working with the state to reform a Medicaid system that costs the city $6 billion per year and is rife with waste and abuse. New York state's per-capita Medicaid spending is easily the highest in the U.S.

Another popular argument for keeping Mr. Bloomberg in City Hall is that his potential successors -- New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, City Controller William Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- are the political equivalent of the Three Stooges. It's true that the city could do worse than Michael Bloomberg. But it's also true that mayoral term limits were approved by New Yorkers twice in referendums in the 1990s, and not by small margins.

There is something deeply undemocratic about legislatively overturning the will of the people without giving voters a say in the matter. And there's something deeply disturbing about a local press corps that lets the political class get away with it.

Mr. Riley is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Council Votes, 29 to 22, to Extend Term Limits By Sewell Chan and Jonathan P. Hicks- City Room Blog -

Read original...

“This is a defining moment, a game-changing moment,” Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn said as she voted no on the bill to extend term limits. (Photos: James Estrin/The New York Times)

After a spirited, emotional and at times raucous debate, the City Council voted, 29 to 22, on Thursday afternoon to extend term limits, allow Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to seek re-election next year and undo the result of two voter referendums that had imposed a limit of two four-year terms. (Please refresh this post for latest updates.)

The vote was a major victory for Mayor Bloomberg — a billionaire and lifelong Democrat who was elected mayor as a Republican in 2001, won re-election in 2005 and decided just weeks ago that he wished to seek a third term in 2009 — and for the Council’s speaker, Christine C. Quinn, but the intense acrimony surrounding the decision could come at great cost.

After Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who presides over the Council, announced the final result, the balcony erupted in shouts of “The city’s for sale!” and “Shame on you!”

Earlier, at 3:22 p.m. the Council rejected, 28 to 22, a key amendment that would have called for a public referendum on term limits by summoning a Charter Revision Commission, which would schedule a special election. One member, James Sanders Jr. of Queens, abstained on the amendment. (See the end of this article for the full roll call.)

As Ms. Gotbaum announced the final vote count on the amendment, groans erupted from the balcony, which was packed with members of the public opposed to extending term limits without a public vote. The Council immediately turned its attention to the main bill, which would extend the limit to three terms from two.

Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, who supported the amendment, warned his colleagues that the Council’s legitimacy would be forever tarnished.

“The people of the city will long remember what we have done here today, and the people will be unforgiving,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We are stealing like a thief in the night their right to shape our democracy.”

Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn, one of the members who introduced the amendment, announced that despite its defeat, he would vote for the underlying bill. He said that term limits were bad public policy and that a limit of 12 years, instead of 8, would help strengthen future lawmakers in the face of strong mayors.

Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn adamantly disagreed. “The city of New York has never, ever in the history of our nation postponed a transfer of power, regardless of the circumstances,” she said, quoting an editorial from The New York Times in 2001, when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sought to extend his term by three months in the aftermath of 9/11.

“My constituency wants the opportunity to vote for this,” and if they do not have that opportunity, “they want me to vote no,” Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan said.

Councilman Tony Avella of Queens called the term limits bill “an absolute disgrace,” and warned sternly, “You’re not conning anybody. The public of this city knows that the fix was in from the beginning.”

He added, “You should all be voted out of office for voting for this. Vote this down!”

Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. of Brooklyn urged his colleagues to extend term limits, citing the economic crisis. He paraphrased Abraham Lincoln, who ran for re-election in 1864 during the Civil War, as saying, “When crossing a river you don’t swap horses halfway.”

Councilman Lewis A. Fidler of Brooklyn said he would vote to extend term limits because he had always believed they were a bad idea. “I’m pleased that the billionaires have finally come around to my point of view,” he said to laughter, adding that he did not care about any of the three billionaires who have inserted themselves into the debate: Mayor Bloomberg, Ronald S. Lauder and Tom Golisano.

Councilman G. Oliver Koppell of the Bronx said the Council was acting within its full authority to amend the City Charter, which was amended in 1993 by a voter initiative that imposed a two-term limit.

“The charter can be amended in different ways for different things,” Mr. Koppell said. “We’re acting within the rules.”

Councilman John C. Liu of Queens denounced what he called the “arrogance” of Mayor Bloomberg, who promised Mr. Lauder that he would convene a Charter Revision Commission in 2010 to revisit the issue of term limits. Such a commission should be convened next year instead, he said.

Councilman Eric N. Gioia of Queens urged his colleagues to preserve the existing term limits, saying, “It’s no wonder that people no longer trust politics or politicians.”

Councilman Alan J. Gerson of Manhattan, one of the three authors of the amendment, drew hisses from the balcony when he announced he would support the underlying bill:

The possibility of a referendum is now impossible — unfortunately, in my opinion. We are therefore left with two stark alternatives: either we decide not to extend term limits, or we decide to extend term limits. The same democratic principles which led me to support a referendum compels me, under this choice before us, to vote yes on this bill.

While a public vote would have been preferable, Mr. Gerson said, “it would set a terrible precedent to raise a referendum result to the level of absolute constitutional principle.” He said New Yorkers deserved to have “a debate” about the merits of continuity in leadership.

As the final roll call got underway at 4 p.m., Councilman Charles Barron, a firebrand on the Council, attacked Mr. Recchia by name, saying, “We’ve got to prioritize the will of the people over the fish of your aquarium,” a reference to the New York Aquarium, which is in Mr. Recchia’s southern Brooklyn district and has received city financing. Mr. Barron told Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr., who earlier had quoted Thomas Jefferson. “If you’re gong to quote somebody, don’t quote Jefferson, a slave-holding pedophile,” Mr. Barron thundered.

Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn denounced the effort to change term limits without a public referendum.

Mr. Barron concluded, “Even though the mayor will win today, he is the big loser, because he lost democracy, he lost the favor of the people.”

Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer of Manhattan said she was in an “ethical bind” and said she felt she was open to “accusations of hypocrisy.” She decided to vote no on extending term limits.

“This is a defining moment, a game-changing moment, that marks not the end of a process, but the beginning of a process,” Ms. James said as she cast her dissenting vote.

“If my constituents are not satisfied with the work I’ve done on the City Council, they will vote me out,” Councilman Miguel Martinez of Manhattan said as he voted yes.

“Yes, we will!” came a cry from the balcony, as Ms. Gotbaum banged for gavel, calling for order.

Similarly, as Councilman James Vacca of the Bronx announced that he was voting yes, a voice from the balcony cried out, “Sell-out!”

Councilman Thomas White Jr. of Queens was in an unusual position: He was forced out by term limits after the 2001 elections but came back to the Council after defeating his successor, Allan W. Jennings Jr., who was censured by the Council for sexually harassing subordinates.

Mr. Yassky tried to preserve his image as a reformer. “I don’t think that the throw-the-bums-out policy that is embodied in term limits and in Ron Lauder’s campaign to maintain it is reform,” Mr. Yassky said before voting yes.

Councilman James S. Oddo, the leader of the three-member Republican minority on the 51-member Council, said jokingly that he was hesitant about giving a speech because “I’ve had enough YouTube exposure for two lifetimes.” (A video of Mr. Oddo cursing loudly at a Borat-style prankster was widely circulated on YouTube.)

Mr. Oddo warned, “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” He voted no.

The Council meeting began at 2:22 p.m., nearly an hour late, and began with a speech from the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn.

“This is a difficult vote in very difficult times,” she said. Reiterating arguments she made hours earlier, at a news conference, Ms. Quinn argued that continuity of leadership was essential, saying the city faces its gravest crisis since the Depression.

She added:

Make no mistake: I believe that our great city will get through these challenges and emerge stronger than ever before. I also believe that in challenging times like these, the voters should have the choice — the choice to continue their current leadership. They should have the right to vote for the current mayor, or a new one, for their current City Council member, or a new one. That is exactly what is at stake today.

When Ms. Quinn said it was “ludicrous” for critics to suggest the bill was the product of a “back-room deal,” a chorus of boos and jeers erupted from the balcony. Ms. Quinn said the bill had been the subject of vigorous discussion, including “two, well-attended public hearings, 20 hours of public hearings and a vigorous debate.”

“Support for this bill is broad and deep,” she said, citing union officials and former elected officials like Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Mayor Edward I. Koch.

“From Floyd Flake to Felix Rohatyn, the brightest minds with the deepest understanding of the crisis this impact could have in our neighborhoods have come forward in support of extending term limits from two terms to three,” she said.

In one year, she said, “voters will have the right to re-elect us, or defeat us, in the voting booth.”

“The debate today is an important one, but ultimately it is a debate about process,” she said, adding, “By passing this bill, we are increasing voter choice.”

She added, “None of us are arrogant enough to believe we are indispensable. But we are confident enough and secure enough in our ability to help this city we love that we are willing to stand before voters on Election Day and ask them to re-elect us.”

Ms. Quinn tried to preempt criticism that the bill represents “a deal between billionaires, with no one else having a say,” by arguing that she and other supporters of the bill are far from billionaires.

Mr. Yassky, of Brooklyn, spoke next. He rose and proposed an amendment that would require a public referendum on term limits, by convening a Charter Revision Commission. He said the commission could call a special election on term limits for early next year.

Mr. Yassky said he opposed term limits but that the Council’s legitimacy as a democratic body was at stake. “Voters have approved term limits twice, including once when they specifically chose to keep the two-term limit rather than go to three terms. For us to reject those votes and those voters will, without question, make New Yorkers more cynical about politics,” he said.

Mr. Yassky cited a Quinnipiac University poll showing that 89 percent of voters supported a referendum. “That should tell you that a referendum is the right way to go,” he said, to scattered applause from the balcony.

“The only serious objection I have heard to a referendum is that it might lose,” he said. Mr. Yassky said that with an “extraordinarily popular mayor,” newspaper editorial pages and lawmakers on its side, a measure to extend term limits would pass a popular vote.

Mr. de Blasio agreed. “By voting yes on the amendment, we are saying to the people of New York City that we respect what they require of us as public servants,” he said.

Councilman Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat, assailed Ms. Quinn’s logic. “If we are talking about a direct democracy, where the people rule, and a representative democracy, where those who represent the people come to vote — if you do this, you’re undermining the very people who vote you in to represent them, because their voices were already heard,” he said.

Mr. Barron, a fiery critic of Ms. Quinn and Mr. Bloomberg, added, “The bottom line: Mayor Bloomberg has not been the best person to run this city. It was under this watch we got into this economic mess. He came in worth $5 billion. He’s now worth $20 billion. And he comes to this Council wanting to cut the budget.”

Mr. Barron noted that voters in Venezuela in 2007 rejected a proposal by President Hugo Chavez that would have allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely. “Mayor Bloomberg, be like Hugo, and let the people decide,” Mr. Barron said.

“I personally am against term limits, but I am against a process that doesn’t go back to the voters,” said Councilman David I. Weprin of Queens.

Councilman Alan J. Gerson of Manhattan said, “We are left with selecting among alternatives which each have significant flaws,” and called it “a difficult, wrenching decision.” He noted that the amendment was structured so that if a special election could not be held early enough for next year’s election cycle, the Council could revisit the issue.

Councilman Lewis A. Fidler, a Brooklyn Democrat, called the amendment “a cure that’s worse than the disease.” Because of the need for a Justice Department voting rights review and the time to convene a Charter Revision Commission, Mr. Fidler said, there was little realistic chance that a special election could be held before nominating petitions will be circulated in June for the November 2009 election.

Council members Letitia James and Vincent J. Gentile of Brooklyn argued that extending term limits would damage the body’s legitimacy. “From the very beginning, the process has been the problem,” Mr. Gentile said. “The amendment will let the public know that their voices are being heard as clearly as ever.”

Councilman Robert Jackson of Manhattan said he had always been an implacable opponent of term limits. “Let’s have a backbone,” he said, saying his colleagues had been elected to represent their constituents.

Councilman Anthony Como of Queens said it would cost $15 million to hold a special election “and we know what the answer is going to be.” Mr. Como urged his colleagues to vote no on both the amendment and the underlying bill.

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan disagreed. “It doesn’t matter if the cost is $5 million, $15 million or $15 billion,” she said. “The people have a right to vote.” Council members Annabel Palma of the Bronx and Vincent M. Ignizio of Staten Island said they agreed.

Councilman John C. Liu, of Queens, said he opposed term limits, but argued that to abolish them without a popular vote would foster cynicism. “Term limits were not enacted in New York City as the result of a rich man’s ad campaign, as has been suggested, but were born out of a deep cynicism for politics, for elected officials, not only here in New York City, but all across America,” he said.

Councilman Tony Avella of Queens gave a stirring speech:

The people voted twice for term limits. Their message could not have been clearer. for this body to overturn that without going back to the people is undemocratic and disgraceful. There is no excuse for this. Pass the amendment. Put it back to the people. Anything less than that just goes to the heart of what people say about politicians. Do you want to be remembered as the politicians who voted to ignore the will of the people?

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilman Eric N. Gioia both said the amendment would give people a voice.

Earlier, as members took their red leather seats, throngs of journalists were assembled on both sides of the Council’s dais. The Council’s sergeants-at-arms restricted access to the main floor of the chamber to lawmakers, their staffs and the press; ordinary members of the public were directed to the balcony, which was standing-room-only.

But many people who tried to enter the chamber were turned away by the Council’s sergeant at arms staff.

One was Gene Russianoff, the senior attorney with the New York Public Interest Research Group, a government watchdog group that has been opposed to the mayor’s effort to extend term limits. He made several attempts to plead with the Council’s doorkeepers to get access and was rebuffed each time. Finally, he said, he threw himself on the mercy of one of the Council staff members whom he had known for some time.

In the end, he was able to get a seat in the balcony. “I was able to get in because of the relationship I have with some people on the staff here,” Mr. Russianoff said. “But the average New Yorker would not have fared as well as I did. That’s a problem for the average New Yorker who wants to participate in the process.”

Dan Cantor, the executive director of the Working Families Party, was not fortunate. He got as far as the hallway outside of the Council Chamber but was told that he couldn’t enter the large meeting room.

“It’s outrageous that they are keeping people out of the meeting,” said Mr. Cantor, whose organization has also been a leading opponent to the Council extending term limits.

“They know that this meeting would draw a lot of interest from the public,” Mr. Cantor said. “And they should have made some provisions to accommodate the public.”

Delaware North Wins Rights to Develop Aqueduct Casino - The Buffalo News

At last a deal on the VLT's at Aqueduct Racetrack...!!

Read original...

Delaware North, a privately held Buffalo company, will get the rights to develop and run the only legal casino in New York City, after the Republican-led Senate today gave its blessing to the deal.

The company will build and run a casino with 4,500 slot machines at Aqueduct Racetrack, a contract that will add 1,200 jobs in Queens and another 50 at its Buffalo headquarters. For the state, it will mean upwards of $1 million in annual slot machine revenue sharing when the casino is completed in about 15 months.

A stalemate at the Capitol was broken today when Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he was backing the Delaware North bid following support from a key Queens Senate Republican, Serphin Maltese, who represents the track. Maltese had raised objections about the Delaware North bid because it was not sweeping enough in its plans to make the casino a destination-type resort.

"Delaware North responded to the concerns voiced by Queens community residents and has provided more detailed information and a commitment to develop the area surrounding the track to ensure that Aqueduct becomes a destination venue with quality retail, business, hotel, conference and entertainment facilities," Maltese said in a statement. "With this commitment in hand, the Senate will agree to the selection of Delaware North so this important project can go forward."

Gov. David A. Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently approved the Delaware North bid. But backing by Skelos was needed, and Skelos aides today said he now agrees with the Buffalo firm's selection.

The matter had become an issue in State Senate races in the Buffalo area, with Democratic candidates saying Skelos was using Delaware North as a pawn in his attempt to help Maltese's re-election efforts.

Racetracks were approved for casinos just weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks as a way to bring revenues to the state. Delaware North runs three racetrack casinos in the state -- at Hamburg, Saratoga Springs and its own facility, Finger Lakes Racetrack. But the Aqueduct deal, given its prime location, is a major corporate boost for the company.

A couple weeks ago, Skelos said that Delaware North's plan "does not include an economic development proposal that would be a greater benefit in the long run." Skelos then met with company executives in Buffalo and urged them to work with community and political leaders in Queens to soothe any concerns about the company's bid.

Delaware North has since talked of being more receptive to a broader development plan for the site -- discussions that could pose legal problems if the two other bidders for the project try to assert that plans for the deal changed after the deadline.

While its overall development plans were far less ambitious in terms of amenities and other related projects at the track, Delaware North offered the most -- $370 million -- in the way of upfront payment to the state in return for the operating rights.

New York City developer SL Green and its partners, led by Hard Rock Entertainment, offered $250 million, while Capital Play, whose partners include Mohegan Sun casino, offered the state $100 million.

Delaware North's competitors had said they would generate far more money over the long term to the state than the Buffalo company and have offered plans to bring more vitality to the neighboring community.

The casino at Aqueduct, which is run by the New York Racing Association, will cost more than $250 million to build.