Sunday, May 31, 2009

F.Y.I. - Ozone (Park, Not Layer) - Question - - Michael Pollak

Read original...

Q. How did Ozone Park, Queens, get its name? One suggestion I heard is that it was the “O” zone as distinct from the “P” zone.

A. Ozone was no zone. The name sprang from the fancy of two 19th-century developers, Benjamin W. Hitchcock and Charles C. Denton, who bought farmland and created building lots after a railroad opened in 1880 from Long Island City to Howard Beach. They decided to call their development Ozone Park to promote the idea of cool, clean breezes blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. Fresh air is one of the meanings of ozone.

WFP And Queens Dems Go Separate Ways by Elizabeth Benjamin - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

Read original...

Of the 11 endorsements it has made in Queens City Council races, the Working Families Party in four cases backed Democratic candidates other than those being supported by the Queens Democratic Party.

That's more than in any other borough, although the labor-backed party is bucking the Democratic organizations elsewhere, too.

The Queens races in question are as follows:

- 20th CD (Liu): S.J. Jung, WFP; John Choe; Democrats.

- 25th CD: Danny Dromm, WFP; Councilwoman Helen Sears, Democrats.

- 26th CD (Gioia): Jimmy Van Bramer, WFP; Deirdre Feerick, Democrats.

- 29th CD (Katz): Lynn Schulman, WFP; Karen Koslowitz; Democrats.

In the 19th CD (Avella), the WFP has so far made no endorsement, while the Democrats are backing Jerry Iannece.

The WFP and the Democrats agreed in a number of other cases, including on Assemblyman Mark Weprin for the seat being vacated by his brother, Councilman David Weprin, who is running for comptroller; and Frank Gulluscio to make another run for the seat now held by Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich.

Thanks to a 2006 lawsuit in which Assemblyman Richard Brodsky successfully argued on behalf of the WFP that one political party should have the right to interfere in the primary of another, the WFP will be able to work on behalf of its candidates in the September elections - which, in New York, are generally the deciding factor.

WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor said it's unlikely the party will put much effort into the general elections if its candidates don't win in the primary. He noted that only Councilwoman Tish James has ever successfully won in a general election on the WFP line only against a Democratic candidate, adding:

"We haven’t decided yet what we’re doing in general elections, but the action in New York is in the first round. So you know, in terms of priorities, I guess we’d have to see how much energy the local activists have, and how close a given race is. But in general, it’s fair to say that’s not where our energies go."

Cantor said the WFP's aim is not to be at odds with the Democrats, with whom the minority party is usually closely allied. But he did see the WFP's willingness to buck the Democratic organization as "evidence - if any was needed - that we are quite independent, and you can see that up and down the ballot."

In Brooklyn, the WFP backed two candidates - Steve Levin and Maritza Davila - who are being supported by the borough's Democratic chairman, Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Also in Brooklyn, the WFP is supporting Jumaane Williams against Councilman Kendall Stewart and Mark Winston-Griffith against Councilman Al Vann.

The Brooklyn Democrats have issued endorsements in the citywide races (backing an all-Brooklyn slate of Comptroller Bill Thompson for mayor, Councilman Bill de Blasio for public advocate and Councilman David Yassky for comptroller), but didn't formally vote on a Council slate, I'm told.

UPDATE: Lopez called in to say that the party will be "defending and supporting petitions" for both Vann and Stewart and all other incumbents "with one exception" (Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who is being challenged by Davila).

The party hasn't yet endorsed anyone for the seat de Blasio is departing, but I would be surprised if the candidate of choice isn't Brad Lander, who got an early endorsement from the WFP, as did de Blasio.

Equal Marriage in NY - Attend Rally on May 31st at Athens Parks in Astoria...

All New York families deserve the protections of marriage. The couple featured here, Jeremiah and Karla, show the real people and loving relationships behind the fight for marriage fairness in New York State. Marriage...

Attend the rally in Athens Park in Astoria, Queens tonite night from 6:00-8:00.
Take the N/W train to 30th Avenue and join us (10 minutes from Manhattan). This rally will feature numerous elected officials - including Councilmembers Eric Goia, David Weprin, John Liu and, likely Peter Vallone.

Broadway and television performers at the rally have appeared in: Rent, Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Flower Drum Song, The King and I, Spelling Bee, Good Vibrations, and Mary Poppins, and on the television shows Guiding Light and Hi-5. Most importantly, the rally will feature real people of all ages, races, religions and sexual orientations.

Come show the world that Queens believes in Civil Rights and that marriage is a human right that should not be denied on the basis of sexual orientation.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wayne Barrett: Bloomie, Sonia, and Barry -- A Tale of Influence? - Village Voice - New York - Runnin' Scared -

Read original...

OK, say you're on an early May visit in the Oval Office with the new president. Say you didn't support the man in 2008, won't answer press questions about who you did vote for, and are reported to have quietly told Republican leaders back home that you backed John McCain. Say you're not a lawyer and your only appearances in court have occurred as a witness in sexual harassment cases.

The first thing you'd do when you get a private moment with the president as the two of you move toward the door after the meeting, at least if you're Mike Bloomberg, would be to tell Barack Obama, who happens to be a constitutional scholar, who he should appoint to the Supreme Court, right? Especially if you're chasing New York's vast, swing, Latino vote in the upcoming mayoral election and your candidate for the court, coincidentally, is Sonia Sotomayor.

What's the Spanish word for chutzpah?

To make sure everyone knows who to credit when the nomination actually occurs a few weeks later, you immediately rush to the city's Hispanic daily, El Diario, and tell them all about your Supremely Self-serving recommendation to the president. Not only does the paper run a
story then, but when Sotomayor is named by the president, you dip into your bottomless till and buy a full-page ad in yesterday's El Diario with a giant picture of Sotomayor and a small headshot of the beaming mayor, tying the package together.

The statement on Bloomberg's website yesterday that he "took the opportunity" to tell Obama that Sotomayor would be "an outstanding choice" left open the question of how the subject came up. I called Stu Loeser to ask him, just to make sure that Obama hadn't actually sought the mayor's views on a judge from his city. "As they walked out," said Loeser, the mayor and the president were exchanging how-you-doing chitchat and Bloomberg said, "I know this is your call to make," but "people whose legal opinion I greatly respect speak very highly of her." Isn't that hearsay?

Is there anything the mayor won't milk? Did he do half a week of photo ops on the Terrorist-Gang-That-Couldn't-Buy-A-Gun-That-Shot-Straight?

The mayor used to imply that he supported George Bush so he could talk to him about things that would be good for the city. Apparently he thinks Obama is such a chump he can get what he wants from him -- photo-ops, glomming on to a Supreme Court nominee -- without supporting him.

Working Families Party Endorsements: DA, Council, BP Endorsements - Daily Politics - NY Daily News

Read original...

The Working Families Party Coordinating Council is scheduled to meet tonight to consider endorsements in a number of key City Council races, as well as the Manhattan DA contest and two borough president races (Staten Island and Manhattan).

The council will be taking up the recommendations made by the screening committees that met on May 15. It requires a 2/3 vote to overturn a committee recommendation.

The full list of endorsements being considered this evening (provided by a plugged-in reader) appears after the jump. Some highlights:

- Richard Aborn for Manhattan DA. (This would be a coup for Aborn, who has been trying to cast himself as the most progressive candidate in the three-person race to fill the seat of retiring DA Robert Morgenthau - a strategy clearly intended to target the left-of-center types who tend to turn out in a Democratic primary).

- The party is considering backing five challengers to incumbents, including:

Danny Dromm against Councilwoman Helen Sears in the 25th CD, Maritza Davila against Councilwoman Diana Reyna in the 34th CD, Mark Winston-Griffith against Councilman Al Vann in the 36th CD, Jumaane Williams against Councilman Kendall Stewart in the 45th CD and Frank Gulluscio against Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich in the 32nd CD.

In the hotly-contested races for the few seats opening this fall, the party is considering:

- James Van Bramer for the 26th CD seat being vacated by Councilman/public advocate candidate Eric Gioia.

- Lynn Schulman for the 29th CD seat being vacated by Councilwoman/comptroller candidate Melinda Katz.

- Steve Levin for the 33rd CD seat being vacated by Councilman/comptroller candidate David Yassky.

- Assemblyman Mark Weprin for the 23rd CD seat being vacated by his brother, Councilman/comptroller candidate David Weprin.

- No endorsement in the case of two incumbents: Councilman Tom White (28th CD) and Councilman Miguel Martinez (10th CD).

It's so far unclear what the WFP is going to do in the 49th CD where Councilman Ken Mitchell is trying to defend the seat he narrowly won in a February special election. Debi Rose, who was backed by the party the last time around and came close to beating Mitchell, has said she's interested in running again.

WFP leaders will also be discussing the mayor's race this evening, but are not expected to make a decision about an endorsement for several weeks.

The party has already made a few early endorsements, including: Councilman John Liu for comptroller, Councilman Bill de Blasio for public advocate and Brad Lander for the seat de Blasio is vacating.

UPDATE: Another WFP endorsement: S.J. Jung for Liu's soon-to-be-empty seat.

Office District Incumbent County RECOMMENDATION

Manhattan DA (open) Manhattan Richard Aborn
City Council 25 Helen Sears Queens Danny Dromm
City Council 26 (open) Queens James Van Bramer
City Council 28 Thomas White Queens No Endorsement
City Council 29 (open) Queens Lynn Schulman
City Council 33 (Open) Brooklyn Steve Levin
City Council 34 Diana Reyna Brooklyn Maritza DaVilla
City Council 36 Al Vann Brooklyn Mark Winston-Griffith
City Council 9 Inez Dickens Manhattan Inez Dickens
City Council 10 Miguel Martinez Manhattan No Endorsement
City Council 45 Kendall Stewart Brooklyn Jumaane Williams
Borough President Scott Stringer Manhattan Scott Stringer
Borough President James Molinaro Staten Island John Luisi
City Council 2 Rosie Mendez Manhattan Rosie Mendez
City Council 4 Dan Garodnick Manhattan Dan Garodnick
City Council 5 Jessica Lappin Manhattan Jessica Lappin
City Council 6 Gale Brewer Manhattan Gale Brewer
City Council 7 Robert Jackson Manhattan Robert Jackson
City Council 8 Melissa Mark Viverito Manhattan Melissa Mark Viverito
City Council 11 Oliver Kopppell Bronx Oliver Koppell
City Council 15 Joel Rivera Bronx Joel Rivera
City Council 16 Helen Foster Bronx Helen D. Foster
City Council 18 Annabel Palma Bronx Annabel Palma
City Council 21 Julissa Ferreras Queens Julissa Ferreras
City Council 23 (open) Queens Mark Weprin
City Council 24 James Gennaro Queens James Gennaro
City Council 27 Leroy Comrie Queens Leroy Comrie
City Council 30 Elizabeth Crowley Queens Elizabeth Crowley
City Council 32 Eric Ulrich Queens Frank Gulluscio
City Council 35 Tish James Brooklyn Tish James
City Council 40 Mathieu Eugene Brooklyn Mathieu Eugene
City Council 42 Charles Braron Brooklyn Charles Barron

Weiner Decides to Stay Out of Mayoral Campaign by Michael Barbaro and David W. Chen -

Read original...

Representative Anthony D. Weiner, the one-time front-runner in the campaign for mayor who became a frustrated sideline player, has made it official: he is staying out of the race.

His decision all but ensures that the city’s comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., will not face a serious challenger in the Democratic primary. Mr. Weiner is expected to announce his plans at a news conference outside his parents’ home in Brooklyn on Wednesday, according to a person briefed on the matter.

In an Op-Ed page article to be published on Wednesday in The New York Times, Mr. Weiner suggests that his — or anyone’s — chances of beating Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has already spent $19 million on his re-election campaign, are slim.

“As a native of Brooklyn, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t savor a good scrap,” Mr. Weiner wrote. “But I’m disappointed because I’m increasingly convinced a substantive debate isn’t likely right now.”

Mr. Weiner, a six-term congressman, also said that with his party controlling both Congress and the White House, he could accomplish more by focusing on legislation in Washington than by waging a distracting and probably fruitless campaign for mayor in New York.

Mr. Weiner’s exit, first reported on Tuesday on the Web site, deprives the campaign of its most colorful and confrontational candidate. Mr. Weiner is known as a tireless political street fighter — and trash talker — who had outmaneuvered opponents in races for the City Council and Congress.

But, as his opinion piece in The Times made clear, even the relentlessly driven Mr. Weiner could not find a way to overcome Mr. Bloomberg’s advantages, especially his money.

A year ago, Mr. Weiner was perhaps the most high-profile mayoral candidate. In October, however, Mr. Bloomberg persuaded the City Council to revise the city’s term limits law and allow him to serve another four years, drastically altering Mr. Weiner’s calculus.

The congressman seemed not only vexed by the difficulty of fighting the incumbent, but personally stung and deflated by the turn of events, and he seemed to disappear from view for several months.

Mr. Weiner wrote that Mr. Bloomberg’s intention to spend more than $80 million on his campaign would allow the mayor to “swamp” an opponent.

“With spending like that, regular debates about real issues will probably take a back seat to advertising,” he wrote.

Running against Mr. Thompson, his Democratic rival, Mr. Weiner wrote, “would only drain the ability of the winner to compete in the general election.”

Mr. Weiner is among the few political figures in the city who seem to rattle the supremely confident Mr. Bloomberg, and appears almost to relish antagonizing the mayor. His exit, in some ways, is a victory for Bloomberg campaign aides, who sought to knock him out of the race.

Over the last few days, as his self-imposed deadline for deciding whether to enter the mayor’s race neared, Mr. Weiner huddled with his longtime advisors in Washington: Jim Margolis, a media strategist; Anson Kaye, a political strategist; Joel Benenson, a pollster; and Huma Abedin, Mr. Weiner’s companion, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The congressman hinted in his Op-ed article that personal considerations played a role in his decision, too. An unmarried workaholic who plays in midnight hockey games and attributes his slim physique to a nonstop metabolism, he implied that he was ready to settle down.

“I’d also like to build a family,” Mr. Weiner wrote in The Times.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Speakers Maul Mayoral Control by Ben Hogwood - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

At a meeting Thursday in Middle Village, JoAnn Berger, who has a child at P.S. 153 in Maspeth, said parents are given little consideration under the Department of Education’s current structure.

Should it stay or should it go?

According to most speakers at a town-hall style meeting held Thursday in Middle Village, mayoral control needs to be altered at the very least. Others said the best way to improve the school system would be to get rid of the man at the top — Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) held the meeting Thursday in the gymnasium of Our Lady of Hope to get input from the community on the policy, which gives City Hall control of the school system. Approved in 2002, the law will expire in June, and governance will revert to the old school board system, unless the state Legislature renews the measure, with or without amendment.

Most of those who spoke at least want changes in the legislation and some opposed it altogether.

“The type of complaint we get [from parents] is very simple,” said Frank Gulluscio, the district manager of Community Board 6, which includes Forest Hills and Rego Park. “They are talking about, ‘We want to be heard,’ and they just don’t want lip service that they are being heard.”

Gulluscio, a former teacher, is also running for City Council in District 32, representing Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and other areas.

According to Dennis Walcott, the deputy mayor for education and community development, who attended the meeting, the DOE has been extremely effective in resolving parents’ issues. That has mainly been done by setting up parent coordinators, whose job responsibilities include acting as ombudsmen for parents with school-related concerns, maintaining contact with community organizations involved in school activities and creating a welcoming environment for parents.

But Joann Berger, who has a child at P.S. 153 in Maspeth, said parents get little or no response when they call. She doesn’t blame the coordinators; rather, she blames the structure of the system. The main problem, she said, is that all the power is centralized, and the people in that central office don’t know what is needed for each individual district.

“Everybody is waiting for an answer from somebody else,” she said.

Following up, Marge Kolb, the president of the President’s Council for School District 24, criticized the mayor and schools Chancellor Joel Klein for stripping power away from school superintendents.

The superintendents, Kolb said, are too often sent out of their districts, and as a result are out of touch with the area they are supposed to cover and are unable to accurately evaluate principal performance.

Like others, she said the Panel for Education Policy, the body responsible for approving measures put forward by the DOE, must be reorganized. The mayor appoints eight members to the panel, including the chancellor, who serves as the chairman. That gives him the clear majority of the 13-member board, whose other five members are appointed by each borough president. As a result, the board is widely considered little more than a rubber stamp for the mayor’s proposals.

Finally, Kolb criticized the level of education in the schools. While city students have improved in state standardized tests —something the mayor has latched onto as a reason for renewing mayoral control —Kolb said the increases are similar to those in the rest of the state.

“I don’t know where the mayor came up with the curriculum he purchased, but it wasn’t by talking to educators in my opinion,” she said.

The DOE, however, would likely disagree with that characterization. While the city is behind the rest of the state on standardized test scores, it is catching up. In 2006, the first year the state tested all grades between three and eight in English language arts, 57.6 percent of city students met or exceeded standards, compared to 67 percent of state students — a difference of 16.4 percent. In 2009, 68.8 percent of city students met or exceeding those standards, compared to 81.9 percent of state students —a difference of 13.1 percent.

Dianne Elmoznino, a math teacher at I.S. 93 in Ridgewood, was more critical of how the DOE picks school administrators. Rather than hiring educators, the DOE too often hires principals who have a background in management, she said.

Those leaders, she continued, are prone to run a school like a business, and as a result education suffers.

Robert Doocey, a member of the Juniper Park Civic Association’s executive board, said he flat-out opposes the current mayoral control policy, primarily because of the man in charge: the mayor.

Doocey said Bloomberg has shown a casual indifference to victims of the swine flu, children who had their bus service cut and elementary school students who have been left on buses at the end of the day or dropped off far from where they live. “There’s far too much power in the hands of one person. Far too much,” he said.

Bob Holden, the president of the JPCA, also directed much of his dissatisfaction with the school system at the mayor and Walcott.

“They just did, or do, as they please,” Holden said.

In particular, he criticized the DOE for its plans to build a 1,100-student high school in Maspeth, blocks away from two other schools. Despite heavy opposition from the community, as well as the district’s Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), the City Council approved the project. The School Construction Authority, the arm of the DOE which plans for school construction and expansion, purchased the site earlier this month for $16.25 million — more than the $15 million asking price. A spokesman for the DOE said the department could not comment on the negotiations or how the purchase price was determined for legal reasons.

The site, according to the SCA’s environmental impact statement, contains hazardous materials, including semi-volatile compounds, metals and petroleum-based materials. Those substances are associated with the historic presence of nearby vehicle service stations, dry cleaners, a salvage yard, industrial facilities and a former gas manufacturing facility. The SCA has plans to remediate the site, but a scientist working with the JPCA questions whether those efforts go far enough to make the area safe for students.

Crowley has requested the state Department of Environmental Conservation give a third party determination regarding the need for remediation.

Holden holds one party primarily responsible. “We need mayoral control? Baloney,” he said. “It’s a wonderful neighborhood to live in, but we keep getting dumped on by the City of New York.”

Tony Nunziato, another member of the JPCA executive board, was also critical of the mayor. “This is the second coming of Robert Moses,” he said. “New York is five boroughs and millions of people, not one person telling us what should be done.”

David Quintana, of Ozone Park, is totally opposed to mayoral control and wants to see the reinstatement of the local school board, “the most basic form of democracy we have,” he said.

Not everyone disapproved of mayoral control, though most who voiced support kept their statements short. Mario Henry, a retiree from the state Department of Labor, said one person has to be accountable for the system. “When 10 people are responsible, no one is responsible,” Henry said.

He added that if people aren’t happy with mayoral control, they should vote for somebody else.

Naming of Aqueduct Racino Operator Pushed Back by Paul Post - Thoroughbred Times

Read original...

The process of vetting Aqueduct gaming bidders is expected to delay the naming of an operator until after New York’s legislative session ends in late June, state officials said.

That could spell trouble for the New York Racing Association, which said it might run out of operating cash by late 2010 without an infusion of gaming revenue. NYRA President Charles Hayward will discuss this, the upcoming Saratoga Race Course meet, and related issues during an event hosted by Parting Glass Racing tonight in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Six firms are vying for the contract to run Aqueduct’s proposed racino with 4,500 video lottery terminals.

"All bidders will be vetted by the governor's office, the legislature, the New York Lottery, Empire State Development, Office of General Services, and the Division of the Budget," Morgan Hook, a spokesman for New York Governor David Paterson, said Wednesday. "This is a critical part of the process for selecting a bidder and will take multiple weeks."

"Nothing’s going to happen before the end of the legislative session on June 22," said Gary Pretlow (D-Yonkers), chairman of the Assembly Racing, Wagering, and Gaming Committee.

Pretlow made the prediction based on "history; experience with the way things go around here."

Racino construction is expected to take at least one year and probably longer, which means NYRA and other racing stakeholders, such as breeders and horsemen, will not receive a share of VLT revenues until late 2010, and that is if an operator is named this summer. If the selection process drags on, the racino will not open until 2011.

The decision requires three-way approval by the governor, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Pretlow said he expects Smith and Silver to confer with legislative members before making a decision.

"It’s going to be difficult to figure out which one is the best deal for the state," he said. "I hope they just don’t pick the one that offers the most money to the state. I have not seen any of the proposals yet."

Some parties, such as the group International Racing Management, want bidders to publicly present plans.

"Everyone deserves to hear what these companies would do to attract people back to racing," IRM President Pam Stokes Donehower said.

But Assembly member Audrey Pheffer (D-Queens) said bidders should first prove they have solid financial backing before getting the public excited with extravagant plans.

"The governor’s been burned already," she said.

Last October, Paterson named Delaware North Companies to run Aqueduct’s gaming facility. The organization pledged the state $370-million as an up-front payment, but later said it could not obtain financing by the March 31 deadline. Paterson reopened the bidding process and on May 8 Delaware North submitted new bids along with Penn National Gaming, The Peebles Corporation, SL Green Realty Corporation, Aqueduct Entertainment Group, and Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn.

Paul Post is a New York-based correspondent for THOROUGHBRED TIMES

Borough Dems Chalk Slate for Council Seats by Brendan Brosh - NY Daily News

Read original...

THE POLITICAL horse-trading may be done, but the election race is about to start in earnest for the borough's 14 City Council seats.

The Queens Democratic Party voted Tuesday to back a slate of citywide and local candidates, including every incumbent Council member running for their seats.

In a borough dominated by Democrats, few candidates win without the party nod.

The party also hopes to knock out Eric Ulrich, the GOP's lone representative from Queens in the Council. It voted unanimously to endorse district leader Frank Gulluscio to run against Ulrich in the 32nd District.

"I'm glad the party came around, and now we can take back that seat," said Gulluscio, a former teacher and current Community Board 6 district manager.

The party voted to back incumbent Helen Sears for her Jackson Heights seat, despite a whisper campaign and published reports saying that county leaders were going to support Danny Dromm, the district leader.

"There was nearly unanimous support" for Sears, said Queens Democratic Party Executive Secretary Michael Reich. "If term limits had not changed, Danny would have been our candidate."

Lawyer and district leader Deirdre Feerick handily won the party nod for the 26th District over Jimmy Van Bramer, who works for the Queens Public Library.

In a puzzling move, district leader James Wu - a declared candidate for the seat being vacated by John Liu - voted to back John Choe, Liu's chief of staff, for the Flushing seat.

Wu is still planning to run for the seat, sources said, but didn't respond to a call for comment about his vote.

James Sanders Jr., who fell out of grace with party leaders in 2005, received the county endorsement in a crowded field of as many as a dozen competitors.

"Sanders has come a long way in the last year to repair his image in the district," Reich said.

James Gennaro, who voted to preserve term limits, is running for his seat and received party support.

Deputy borough president and former City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz got the party's endorsement in a crowded field for the Forest Hills seat.

Bayside civic leader Jerry Iannece received party backing over attorney Paul Vallone for 19th District.

Incumbent Tony Avella, who is running for mayor, is backing lawyer Steve Behar for the seat.

Assemblyman Mark Weprin received the nod for his older brother David's seat representing Queens Village and surrounding neighborhoods.

The party backed incumbent candidates Julissa Ferreras, Peter Vallone, Leroy Comrie, Thomas White and Elizabeth Crowley.

None of the openly gay candidates vying for county support received an endorsement.

Speaking to Reporters, Bloomberg Calls One a ‘Disgrace’ by Michael Barbaro- and YouTube Video by Azi Paybarah - NY Observer

Read original...

Michael Bloomberg discussing the economy and term limits, during a May 28, 2009 press conference in Queens. Azi Paybarah

Since announcing his third term bid, he has publicly scolded a blogger in a wheelchair for accidentally turning on a tape recorder during a news conference. He called a question about his spending “ridiculous.” And he labeled an inquiry about a political rival a “waste” of a question.

But on Thursday, he seemed to reach new heights of peevishness, calling a reporter who posed a question he did not like “a disgrace.”

At a news conference in Queens, Azi Paybarah, a reporter for The New York Observer, asked the mayor whether an improving economy would undercut his reasoning for seeking a third term. Mr. Bloomberg had argued, during the battle over term limits, that tough times required his steady hand and business background.

Yet at the Queens news conference, Mr. Bloomberg said he was “very optimistic” about New York’s economy. (Thus Mr. Paybarah’s question.)

Mr. Bloomberg cut off Mr. Paybarah midsentence, saying that “the rationale for extending term limits is, the City Council passed it, and the public’s going to have a chance on Nov. 3 to say what they want.”

“I don’t think we have to keep coming back to that,” he said, adding, “When you have a serious question about the economy, I’d be happy to answer it.”

With that, the mayor concluded the news conference, thanked the audience, stepped away from a microphone and looked directly at Mr. Paybarah. “You’re a disgrace,” he snarled, nearly under his breath, but just loud enough to be captured by reporters’ tape recorders.

After receiving inquires from reporters, a spokesman for the mayor, Stu Loeser said: “The mayor asked me to pass along his apologies to Azi for the comment after the press conference, which I did.”

Lew Simon Backs Out Of Council Race by Nicholas Briano - | Wave of Long Island

Read original...

Lew Simon, Rockaway Democratic District Leader and second place finisher in February's City Council special election, has decided not to run again in November's general election.

Simon, who said he would continue on to the general election after his loss to Republican Eric Ulrich, has decided not to challenge fellow Democrat and party favorite Frank Gulluscio in a Democratic primary.

Gulluscio, based in Howard Beach and former aide to past City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., was the favorite to win the special election to replace his former boss, but was knocked out of the race when his nominating petitions were challenged prior to the February 24 special election.

Simon, on the other hand, continued on and finished a strong second behind Ulrich and had every intention to challenge Gulluscio for a second chance at defeating Ulrich. Instead he has backed out and says he plans to support Gulluscio in hopes of unifying the Democratic party across the district.

"It is very mixed emotions. My dream was to be part of the City Council, but unfortunately due to financial restraints I will not be running," Simon said.

Those financial restraints, he says, made him wait until the last possible minute to decide on his candidacy, but added that he expects to play an important role in the election in adding supporters for Gulluscio. He says a lot of volunteers stepped up for another run, but he doesn't have enough financial support for a primary and election run.

"I am supporting Frank Gullsucio for party unity. I feel it is important to have a Democrat in the City Council," he said. "Forty-eight of 51 City Council members are Democrat and as a Democrat, you can bring more back to your community. I am confident he will do an outstanding job."

Simon decided to run against Addabbo in a City Council Democratic primary in 2001, but lost with 22 percent of the vote compared to Addabbo's 43 percent. Addabbo served for seven years prior to winning a state Senate seat in last November's general election. As a result he vacated his City Council seat for the last year of his term, opening the door again for Simon via last February's special election, but failed to defeat the 24-year-old Republican, Ulrich, losing by nearly 1,000 votes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flushing Drama Trumps Dem Choices by Vladic Ravich - Queens Tribune Blog

Read original...

James Wu and John Choe are both running for the 20th District

John Choe officially announced his candidacy for the 20th Council District on Monday and promptly won the endorsement of the Queens County Democratic Organization the next day.

The endorsement gave a boost to former Chief of Staff for Councilman John Liu – who currently holds the seat, but it was the most hotly contested of all the endorsements made that day. Choe faced a strong challenge from District Leader James Wu for the endorsement, but following the abstention votes by District Leaders Julia Harrison and Martha Flores Vasquez, Wu relinquished his votes to Choe “for the sake of party unity.”

“I’m totally happy with the situation,” said Wu. “Of course I would’ve liked the endorsement, but the will of the voters is more important.” Wu emphasized that he still supported John Liu for Comptroller, explaining that he understood why Liu would back one of his former staffers. “Having Liu running strong citywide will still help me on the ballot,” said Wu.

Wu said that while he could have tried to force a deadlock and move on to more rounds of voting, the two abstentions made it impossible for him to win, because even assuming he won the plurality of the votes, he would still lack a majority. So the choice became a stalemate from Liu’s district, which Wu said would look bad for everyone, or Wu would have to switch his votes to his opponent.

“I do think abstention is a huge cop out,” said Wu.

Vasquez said she and Harrison made a “mutual decision” to leave the decision to the voting community. Vasquez said she wanted a candidate to represent the whole district, “not just the Asian district.”

“In this district we go one of two ways: we want an Asian candidate or a qualified candidate. I think this is the year for a qualified candidate,” said Vasquez. She also said that Wu changed his vote out of “anger and retaliation.”

Harrison said she did not appreciate U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the county Democratic Chairman, dictating which candidate would be endorsed. “There is a united front in the community to not have someone shoved down our throats – let it be a free election and let the community decide for itself.”

She also said “I don’t know how John Choe can possibly win with three Korean people in the race.” She then said her sources tell her that Choe is “perceived as an advocate of a North Korean government […] The anxiety is very strong about John Choe proselytizing to the young people of immigrant parents selling them on the philosophy of the North Korean government.”

Choe brushed off the accusation as “crazy talk,” calling it “a desperate attempt by opponents to distract the electorate from the real issues.”

“Working families care about how they’re going to support their families, provide health care and a good education to their children. They care about maintaining the quality of life for their neighborhoods and to work with their neighbors to improve their community,” Choe said. “That’s what I’m running on and that’s what I’m qualified to help people as a candidate and elected official.”

Choe also noted the double standard for multiple Korean candidates: “When there are multiple white candidates no one says they are splitting the vote.”

The Queens County Democratic Organizations also endorsed Bill Thompson for Mayor, Eric Gioia for Public Advocate and John Liu for Comptroller. All the incumbents, including Helen Sears, received the party’s backing. The Democrats also endorsed Jerry Iannece for the 19th district; Deirdre Feerick for the 26th district; Frank Gulluscio for the 32nd district; and Karen Koslowitz for the 29th district.

Queens Democrats Nominate Gulluscio by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

In a landslide decision on Tuesday, the Queens County Democratic Party chose Democratic District Leader Frank Gulluscio to represent the Democratic party in November’s 32nd District City Council race against 24-year-old Republican incumbent Eric Ulrich.

The district encompasses the neighborhoods of Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Rockaway Beach.

Gulluscio, who serves as district manager of Community Board 6 and leader of the South Queens Democratic Party, shouldn’t have much trouble getting back in the swing of campaigning — his last run for office ended just three months ago.

The candidate found himself entangled in a political knot when he ran in last February’s special election to replace Joseph Addabbo Jr., who was elected to the state Senate. Despite having received endorsements from several prominent party members, including Addabbo, for whom he had worked as an aide, Gulluscio was knocked off the ballot for failing to obtain a sufficient number of signatures. One of his opponents, Rockaway Democratic District Leader Geraldine Chapey, who was present at Tuesday’s nomination, was accused of contributing to his fall — though Gulluscio doesn’t seem to harbor resentment.

“I’m ecstatic to receive the nomination from the Queens County Democratic Party,” Gulluscio said. “I’m looking forward to an issue-oriented race.”

At his first campaign fundraiser last month, Gulluscio vowed to run a personal, grassroots campaign.

“I pledge to work for the needs and the interests of all the residents in this district,” he said.

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, who came in second place in the special election, said difficult financial times kept him from running again, but that the party has unanimously put its weight behind Gulluscio.

“We all work in unity and support Frank,” Simon said.

At press time, Chapey had not returned phone calls.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Aqueduct Land Sale Creates Concerns for Ozone Park Infrastructure by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

Read original...

It sounds like a developer's dream: 325,000 square feet of vacant residential land near major highways in Queens is up for sale.

But people who have lived near the Aqueduct Racetrack are worried that the open space, which will go on the auction block June 10, will be replaced with rows of new housing - putting more stress on the local infrastructure in Ozone Park.

"It's the fear of the unknown," said state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). "You are talking about people who have lived there for decades."

The New York Racing Association is hoping the sale of land will help ease their bankruptcy woes.

Real estate auction house David R. Maltz & Co. will offer the property in several ways. Initially, all 64 tax lots will be offered in one package. Then it will be divvied up into 22 bundles and then individual lots. The properties will be sold to generate the highest bids, according to the company. A photo of the parcels is on the auction house firm's Web site:

The company is setting up a bidder seminar the week before the auction to explain the process, said Richard Maltz, vice president of the company's real estate auction division.

Some homeowners have expressed interest in buying property near their homes. Addabbo said he is hoping NYRA will give local residents special consideration.

New homes could worsen flooding problems, he said. It's unclear whether there's enough power to supply new residences.

"We have real concerns about this quiet little area that is going to be changed forever," Addabbo said.

Over the years, some residents have used the vacant land for parking. Many of them were told they would get first crack if the land became available, according to Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10.

John Ryan, NYRA senior vice president and chief administrative officer, said they are not allowed to give preference to any buyers, but provided residents with auction information.

Teacher Against Mayoral Control: All That Power Hasn't Made Things Better by Arthur Goldstein

Read original...

As a teacher in an A-rated school, I believe mayoral control has been an absolute disaster.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our federal and state governments have checks and balances so no one person has total control, which is a synonym for dictatorship.

City kids need reasonable class sizes and decent facilities. Under Mayor Bloomberg, class sizes just took their biggest leap in 10 years.

Some people say class size doesn't matter, but even the best teachers can give more attention to 20 kids than 34. The fewer kids I have, the more individual attention each one gets.

Under this mayor, charter schools get the best of everything, including small classes and new technology.

My high school was built to hold 1,800 but enrolls 4,450 students. My kids sit in a crumbling trailer, with no technology and often no heat in the winter. So much for efficiency.

The mayor says it's his way or "the bad old days." That's a false choice. We need a system that works better than what we have.

We need a chancellor who works for the kids, not the mayor. The chancellor needs to fight for what's best for kids whether or not the mayor agrees. He can't do that if the mayor can fire him for not following his orders.

A few years ago, the mayor fired two members of the Panel for Educational Policy who had the nerve to disagree with him.

Consequently, the PEP is a mayoral rubber stamp. No mayoral appointee dares to stand up for kids.

This mayor boasts about accountability. Teachers are accountable. Principals are accountable, but the only time the mayor is accountable is once every four years.

That's not enough, particularly for a man who is prepared to spend $100 million to buy reelection and who scoffed at the voters by changing the term limits law they twice affirmed.

Four more years of this system guarantees the privatization and destruction of public education in New York City. That's a prospect we should all oppose.

Arthur Goldstein teaches English as a Second Language at Francis Lewis High School in Queens

Op-Ed Contributor - Why I’m Not Running for Mayor by Rep Anthony Weiner -

Read original...

Congressman Anthony Weiner has called off his plans to run for Mayor of New York City. DelMundo for News

I WAS the kind of New York kid who played stickball in the street, made pocket change working at the local bagel store and handed out leaflets on Election Day. I loved New York. I couldn’t imagine why people would live anywhere else.

Other dreams came and went, but as I became more drawn to politics, my love for the city grew. And the idea that I might be one of the people who could help it maintain its diverse yet proudly local, strong-willed but fiercely tolerant personality seemed like a gift.

It’s for this reason that I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about whether I should run for mayor. While that’s been the question on my mind, a lot of people I have talked to have asked a different question: “How can you win?”

It’s easy to understand where they are coming from. All you need to do is see the avalanche of television ads for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose huge war chest and incumbency can be daunting. It’s also easy to understand the desire to focus on the horse race aspect of a campaign.

But for me, these have been side issues. What has animated me most during these past months is how much Washington has changed, and the potential for greater movement still. With a progressive sweep in all branches of the federal government, major economic reform, a new energy bill and an overhaul of health care ahead, this is a moment when ideas matter. I’ve had to evaluate what I could accomplish in Washington if I was in a heated campaign in New York City at the same time.

And the work in Washington isn’t easy right now. Although President Obama ran on a platform of reaching out to all sides, most Republicans haven’t reached back — not a single Republican representative, for example, voted for the economic stimulus package. It will take a lot of fighting to pass legislation that can help middle- and working-class people.

The discussion of how to have a new kind of politics has taken on a special significance for me as I’ve contemplated running for mayor of New York City. About two months ago I announced that I would postpone deciding whether to run. I believed the issues we were confronting in Congress were important and decisions about campaigns could wait.

But it’s also true that there is no escaping the reality that political campaigns have become longer and more negative, and often seem focused on style and non-issues instead of substance. The mayor is expected to spend $80 million of his own money in the race, more than 10 times what candidates who have not opted out of the city’s public campaign finance program, as Mr. Bloomberg has, can spend in a primary.

With spending like that, regular debates about real issues will probably take a back seat to advertising. As a native of Brooklyn, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t savor a good scrap. But I’m disappointed because I’m increasingly convinced a substantive debate simply isn’t likely right now.

The sad truth for a political candidate without deep pockets is that while money isn’t the only thing, it does matter. Campaign finance laws are vital, not just to keep special interests from dominating campaigns, but also because in this case they could help prevent vast disparities in spending.

The other truth is that the Supreme Court decision in 1976 in Buckley v. Valeo, which allows candidates to spend however much they want on their own races, makes it possible for billionaires to swamp middle-class candidates. In this case, a sports analogy is apt: If one football team has 110 players on the field, the team with 11 has a hard time getting through the blocking and tackling on the crowded turf.

The personal choice for me is whether to run for mayor this year. I’ve taken stock of my life, my work in Washington and decided that now is not the right time to run. I believe I have a contribution to make in Congress fighting for New Yorkers. (I’d also like to build a family.)

I have respect for the leading Democratic candidate in the mayor’s race, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a respect that only reinforces my conclusion that running in the primary against him in September would only drain the ability of the winner to compete in the general election.

I want the city to be a success. I don’t agree with Mayor Bloomberg on everything — for example, I disagree strongly with his effort to overturn the term limits law without a vote by New Yorkers. But I think the mayor has tried to be innovative in some areas, and he has avoided the divisive racial politics that can cripple our city. So I will continue to work with Mayor Bloomberg whenever I can, and disagree forcefully when I believe his policies leave the middle class and working class behind.

For my supporters — and for most New Yorkers — politics isn’t about tactics, it’s about making their lives better. I’m convinced this is an important time for our city and our country, with millions of people in economic peril but with real opportunities for progress in Congress. I plan to be part of that discussion.

Anthony Weiner is a member of the House of Representatives from Queens and Brooklyn.

Somebody Got Murdered: Shooting Death in Woodhaven By Graham Rayman - New York - Runnin' Scared - Village Voice

Read original...

Shortly before 2 a.m. this morning, police found a man shot several times outside 94-30 86th Road in the Woodhaven section of Queens, just south of Forest Park. (We could only get within a block with Google Streetview -- the address is a little east of this frame.) The police identified the victim this afternoon as Justin Rivera, 27, of 86th Road. He was killed a few steps from his front door. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead at 2:20 a.m.

Know anything about this crime or the victim? Drop us a line at

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rep Weiner Will Not Run for Mayor by Edward-Isaac Dovere- City Hall News

Update: I received the following quote from Rep Weiner's office...

"This report did not come from our campaign. Anthony has said he is making up his mind. The campaign will announce a decision when Anthony is ready to."
--Attributed to Marie Ternes, Spokesperson for Anthony Weiner.
Read original...

One-time Frontrunner to Skip Race Against Bloomberg...

Confirming suspicions that have circulated since he informed supporters in April that he would be suspending his campaign, Rep. Anthony Weiner is ending his mayoral aspirations for 2009, according to a source with knowledge of the decision. He will not seek the Democratic nomination for the fall.

Indications began circulating among his circle of advisors and supporters last week, with final word coming on Memorial Day. He plans to inform his finance committee with a conference call late Tuesday night. A press conference to elaborate is planned for Wednesday morning outside of his parents' Brooklyn home.

Weiner's decision comes after weeks of preparing to exit the race and after a packed, campaign-esque schedule on Memorial Day that included honoring a 92-year-old veteran and marching in three parades. Waiting to take his spot in the last, the Little Neck-Douglaston parade, Weiner waved off calls from the crowd urging him to run. And indeed, though people along the route had been showered in Bloomberg for Mayor stickers and brochures and several campaign volunteers were handing out material for Comptroller Bill Thompson, Weiner marched under two simple signs—one his standard “Meet Congressman Anthony Weiner,” and another “Congressman Anthony Weiner salutes our veterans.”

The only mention of campaigning was when he saw two small black and brown daschunds in the crowd.

“Are those weiner dogs?” he said, excitedly coming over to the curb to greet the animals he called “the official dogs of the Weiner campaign.”

But shortly after another potentially perfect campaign moment—joining in to shove the light blue antique car carrying Queens Borough President Helen Marshall out of its stall—Weiner left the festivities behind. Ignoring a woman waving him in to the St. Anastasia’s Roman Catholic School parking lot where all the candidates who had marched were gathering to address the assembled troops and civilians, Weiner greeted a few soldiers at the end of the parade and walked to a waiting car. The aides piled their signs in the trunk, he sat down, and he was gone.

Weiner’s exit leaves just Thompson and Council Member Tony Avella on the Democratic side, competing for the nomination to face Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Speaking Monday before the decision went public, Thompson said he believed that Weiner would have a major impact on the race, had he decided to run.

“Obviously, it’s a huge difference whether you have a primary—a primary with Anthony in it—as opposed to primary with just myself and Tony Avella,” Thompson said.

He acknowledged the logic that a more hotly contested primary might hone him as a candidate going into November and give him more free attention in the media.

“You can look at it that way. That gets everything in order, that your field and messaging are all done early,” he said, though offering the competing argument: “there’s also, do you expend resources? And against Mike Bloomberg, resources are everything.”

Rep Weiner on the Nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court

NEWS: Weiner on the Nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court

After urging President Obama to nominate the first ever American of Hispanic descent to the Supreme Court, Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on the nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor:

“Another New York woman on the Supreme Court would be truly historic. President Obama has seized a golden opportunity to add both talent and diversity to the highest court in the land. Judge Sotomayor’s intellect, pragmatism and ability to understand the plight of everyday Americans will serve our nation well.”

Photo caption: Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor smiles as President Barack Obama applauds, Tuesday, May 26, 2009,in the East Room Ceremony of the White House in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Fiscal Crisis Guts City Park Plans by Rich Calder - New York Post

Read original...

There's not enough green in the city's budget to fund New York's biggest park projects, the Post has learned.

Only two years ago, Mayor Bloomberg was hailed as a city green space champion after announcing a $386 million plan with fancy renderings to redo eight downtrodden parks through his sweeping PlaNYC initiative.

But with the city in fiscal crisis, the mayor's new spending plan cuts funding in half for five of them.

Projects to revive Manhattan's Fort Washington Park, Dreier-Offerman Park in Brooklyn, Soundview Park in the Bronx and Highland and Rockaway parks in Queens have been gutted from a combined $206 million in 2007 to $102.9 million, city documents show.

At Dreier-Offerman near Coney Island, a $40 million plan to reclaim the park from the homeless and junkies by adding new athletic fields and restoring wetlands was cut to $19 million.

Fort Washington Park in Washington Heights saw a similar $40 million project slashed to $21.5 million while a $50 million plan to restore Ridgewood Reservoir and bring new athletic fields to Highland Park fell to $19.8 million.

In fact, the Parks Department's five-year capital plan for projects through fiscal 2013 was cut by $338 million -- or 14 percent -- compared to mayor's preliminary budget in January, the city's Independent Budget Office says.

And the city is in danger of becoming even less green.

The revised $2.3 billion capital plan, part of the executive budget the City Council will vote on next month, sets aside $456.2 million for projects for the fiscal year starting July 1. But a May 19 City Council study predicts "it is unlikely that without significant staff increases, the Parks Department will be able to complete anywhere near [its] goal."

A Parks official speaking on condition of anonymity said it's more likely some seasonal workers would be laid off, adding anticipated budget gaps could also be resolved by delaying or cutting spending on other park projects.

The official also said the city has a "bad" habit of commissioning renderings for park projects "it knows it'll never be able to fully fund" just to grab a quick headline "and boost the mayor's popularity."

Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson said it sometimes pays for the city to develop project designs before securing full funding so construction can smoothly start "when additional funds are available." He also said the administration "remains committed to its historic investments in the park system," which included a record $552 million in capital project spending last fiscal year.

The mayor through PlaNYC also pledged to convert 290 schoolyards into community parks so every New Yorker would be within a 10-minute walk of a playground by 2030. But this plan was also hit hard by cuts, the council study says.

Of the 221 yet to be built, funding has been slashed by $13.3 million, from $77.2 million to $63.9 million.

Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group New York City Park Advocates called the department's capital program a "disaster, especially PlaNYC." He said the city continues "to make promises it knows it can't deliver on some projects while spending like drunken sailors on others."

Among the non-PlaNYC projects hit hard by the fiscal cuts are a few in Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn that were promised to residents by city officials to help push through a controversial rezoning plan in 2005 which brought high-rise housing to the waterfront.

Funding for the planned $30 million Bushwick Inlet Park on the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border has been pushed back to at least 2013, leaving it in jeopardy, the council study says. Another project to build a soccer field on Commercial Street in Greenpoint has seen funding gutted from $14 million to $1 million.

In all capital funding for Williamsburg-Greenpoint projects has been cut to $112.1 million, down from $169.1 million in January, officials said.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bicycle Still Beats Subway & Taxi in Queens-to-Midtown Rush-Hour Race by Chloe Rosenberg and Sarah Armaghan - NY Daily News

Read original...

And they're off! Competitors take off for the Transportation Alternatives' annual commuter race. DelMundo for News

For the fifth year in a row, cycling ruled the road in Transportation Alternatives' annual commuter race Thursday, with a biker beating a straphanger and a cabbie.

It took librarian Rachel Myers 20 minutes and 15 seconds to pedal 4.2 miles from Sunnyside, Queens, to Columbus Circle during the morning rush.

"Woo hoo!" the 29-year-old Brooklynite shouted, pumping her fist in the air. "Just goes to show that bikes rule this city!"

Subway rider Dan Hendrick - who hopped the No. 7 in Sunnyside and transferred to the No. 1 at Times Square - arrived 15 minutes later.

Hendrick, 38, usually rides the rails to work at the New York League of Conservation Voters, but he may be switching to pedal power.

"Twenty minutes saved is a lot in the morning," he said. "I could really use that time to get a latte or something."

A yellow cab rolled up to the finish line 27 minutes after Myers, costing passenger Willie Thompson $30 and precious commuting time.

"I always thought [cabs] were the fastest," said Thompson, 30, a nonprofit e-marketer from Flatbush, Brooklyn.

"But it was so slow, it was brutal. I'm exhausted from sitting so long!"

The bike, of course, is also the most environmentally friendly option with no carbon emissions, compared with 2pounds for the subway and 6pounds for the cab.

Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives reminded commuters that with more than 600 miles of bike paths in the city, cycling is more efficient than ever.

"I think there's no commodity more important to New Yorkers than their time," said Norvell. "And clearly, if you've got somewhere to be in a hurry, riding a bike is the way to go."

Cross Bay Bridge Ramps to Reopen May 22nd - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

Newly reconstructed ramps to and from the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in Rockaway will reopen to motorists on May 22, just in time for Memorial Day weekend and the kick-off of beach season.

“We promise to try and complete the ramp reconstruction work before this important weekend,” said Adrian Moshe, facility engineer for both the Cross Bay and Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial bridges. “We are pleased to turn over these like-new ramps to our customers.”

The northbound ramp off the bridge has been closed since December 2008, and the southbound ramp off the bridge has been closed since February of this year. During these periods, vehicles and buses were required to use detour routes. Buses will return to their original routes beginning Saturday, May 23.

While major work on all bridge ramps has concluded, there may be instances of isolated daily closures until the entire project comes to an end in 2010. This access is timely, since traffic increases considerably in the summer months.

Rehabilitation work on the roadway deck, ramps and pedestrian path, which re-opened last October, is part of MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ overall $56.9 million four-year deck reconstruction of the 38-year-old bridge that will continue through spring 2010.

Three decades of wear and tear in the salt water environment of Jamaica Bay made the work necessary. El Sol Contracting and Construction Corp. of Maspeth is the contractor for the job.

“This major project will improve the riding surface and generally upgrade the bridge for our customers,” said John Ryder, general manager for the agency’s two Rockaway crossings. “We thank everyone — customers and local residents — for their patience as the work has progressed.”

Setting the Stage for Conservation by Willow Belden - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

New York City used to have over 300,000 acres of wetlands; today, less than one-tenth remain, due to development projects that have taken place over the past 150 years. Various federal and state laws regulate development in wetland areas, but there are gaps in the rules, which means many of the city’s marshy areas fall through the cracks.

To try to close the regulatory loopholes, the City Council recently passed a bill requiring that the city identify and document all remaining wetlands and develop a comprehensive conservation strategy for them. The goal is to prevent further net loss of wetlands in the city.

The bill passed unanimously in the council, and the mayor is expected to sign the legislation on Tuesday.

You might think the bill isn’t proposing anything that new. After all, don’t we already know where the city’s wetlands are?

“No, we don’t,” said Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee and author of the bill. “We know generally where they are, but generally knowing where they are is different than making a precise inventory and doing a detailed delineation of them.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation inventoried and mapped the city’s tidal wetlands in 1975 and did the same for freshwater wetlands twice in the 1980s. But that was the last comprehensive documentation, and in 30-some years, the size and quantity of wetlands can change significantly.

Documentation is the first step in developing a conservation program for wetlands, according to Dan Montella, chief of the wetlands protection team for the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2.

“You can’t protect them if you don’t know where they are,” Montella said.

Documenting wetlands isn’t as easy as it sounds, though — in part because you don’t always know a wetland when you see one.

Wetlands are transition areas between water and land — places with enough surface or groundwater, enough of the time, to support vegetation that is “adapted for life in saturated soil conditions,” according to the bill.

“You know when you’re in a wetland if you’re up to your ankles in water,” Montella said, “but the boundaries can be difficult to discern,” especially since water levels typically fluctuate depending on the season.

Aerial photography and satellite imaging are often the first steps in identifying wetlands, but to determine exactly where the marshes begin and end, it’s necessary to examine soil characteristics and plant and animal life, Montella explained.

Documentation of the wetlands is to be completed by September 2010, according to the bill. After that, a conservation strategy can be developed.

Various federal regulations already govern wetlands. Most notably the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into “navigable waters” and prohibits dredging and filling without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Anyone who wants to fill a wetland has to show why they have to fill that wetland,” Montella said. “It can’t just be because it’s convenient.”

Those who fill in wetlands also have to mitigate the impact of the development, for example by creating or restoring wetlands elsewhere.

But the Clean Water Act doesn’t apply to all the city’s wetlands, because many aren’t considered “Waters of the United States.” For instance, small, isolated freshwater wetlands, such as the ones found in many of the city’s parks, aren’t generally considered WOTUS, Montella said. During the Bush administration, the scope of what qualifies as a federally protected wetland became even narrower, according to DEC Regional Spokesman Arturo Garcia-Costas.

State regulations pick up some of the slack left by federal law, but again there are loopholes. Most notably, the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act of 1975 doesn’t apply to wetlands smaller than 12.4 acres or to unmapped wetlands.

The size threshhold is “kind of ridiculous, because there are so many wetlands that are just under that acreage,” said Doug Adamo, chief of natural resources at the Gateway National Recreation Area, which encompasses the wetlands in Jamaica Bay.

At the local level, the city launched the Waterfront Revitalization Program in 2002, which seeks to prevent the net loss of wetlands. The city has also designated several areas — including Jamaica Bay — as “Special Natural Waterfront Areas,” which are recognized as having special natural habitat features “that should be considered in connection with any waterfront activity.”

But according to a report issued by PlaNYC, the oversight of wetlands mitigation is uneven, so the city’s standards do little to close the gaps in state and federal regulations.

The goal of the legislation by the City Council is to reverse that problem by creating a city conservation strategy, to be completed in 2012.

“What we really need is a local regulatory program to complement the federal and state plans and also in some cases to strengthen them,” Gennaro said.

Some progress has already been made. A comprehensive Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection bill was passed several years ago, setting restrictions for activities in the bay’s watershed area, which includes the bay, the wetlands and the drylands above the bay.

In addition, the City Council passed a bill requiring that public wetlands — those owned by city agencies — be inventoried. An effort is also underway to transfer most city-owned wetlands to the Parks Department for protection. Of the wetlands that have been transferred so far, 90 percent are in Queens.

So why are wetlands so important?

“Ecologically speaking, they’re the most precious lands that we have,” Gennaro said. “But back when we didn’t know any better, we filled them in.”

Two key functions of wetlands are water purification and flood control. Wetlands filter out pollutants, thus leaving the water cleaner as it flows from upland areas into estuaries and the ocean. They also help curb flooding by absorbing excess rainwater, and they control shore erosion and promote aquatic biodiversity. Finally, there’s the aesthetic factor; wetlands are often visually attractive and provide locations for birdwatching and other recreational activities.

Conservation of wetlands doesn’t mean they will never be developed, Gennaro said; it just means it will be more difficult to fill the areas, and it means more attention will be directed toward mitigation.

Boro Residents Protest Planned $17M Library Cuts by Anna Gustafson -

Read original...

More than 100 borough residents rally against proposed cuts to the Queens Library in Flushing Monday. Photo by Anna Gustafson

More than 100 Queens residents and legislators protested Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to cut $17 million in city funding for the Queens Library at a rally Monday afternoon, saying the move would force all borough library branches to shut their doors on weekends and cut back weekday hours.

“With these cuts, every community library would have to close Saturdays and Sundays,” Borough President Helen Marshall said at the rally outside Flushing Library Monday. “These are the days people can go to the library, when they’re not working. Sixteen libraries will go from being open five days to two days. There will be deep reductions in books purchased.”

Marshall was joined by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village), Queens Civic Congress President Cory Bearak, Queens Library Director Tom Galante, library activist and Community Board 8 member Patricia Dolan and about 100 area residents for the rally that is one of several events the library is holding to launch criticism at the mayor’s proposal.

The elimination of $17 million in funding for Queens Library could force the country’s busiest library system to reduce its workforce by 31 percent and sustain major service cuts, according to James Van Bramer, Queens Library’s chief external affairs officer.

Thousands of borough residents have raised concerns about the cut, and Galante said 85,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the funding to be restored. Galante said library officials plan on delivering the petition to the City Council in a few weeks.

The Council would have to approve the mayor’s proposed budget cuts before they would be implemented.

“I’m here to say no more cuts,” Crowley said to a crowd that frequently broke into chants of “Save our library.”

“People are out of work, and the first place people turn to when they’re out of work is the library,” Crowley added.

Van Bramer said the library has seen about 50,000 people turn to it for rÉsumÉ and job help in the past year.

“We must have libraries open because more people use the libraries when the economy is not good,” said Ethel Chen, president of the Friends of the Flushing Library.

Chen has helped to collect 10,000 signatures in support of Queens Library in the past couple of months.

“We wouldn’t have anywhere to go after school,” said Flushing resident Madison Freeman, a 10−year−old student from PS 20. “If you don’t want to go to the park, you can come here and learn. It would be really sad if we didn’t have it.”

Marc LaVorgna, a Bloomberg spokesman, said in a previous interview with TimesLedger Newspapers that the city is “still maintaining strong support for the library system, but no entity is immune from having to find ways to be more efficient.”

JFK Has Most Bird Strikes, FAA Reports by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether Canada geese, pictured here, are to blame for the majority of bird strikes. (photo by Ray G. Foster)

The full extent to which birds collide with airplanes had been unknown to the general public — until last week.

After initial reluctance, the Federal Aviation Administration released a comprehensive report on the dangerous bird problem at the nation's airports, an account that resulted in Kennedy International Airport scoring headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The FAA report, which tracked the period between January 1990 and November 2008, found that, since 1990, Kennedy has led the nation with 1,811 reported bird strikes. By comparison, LaGuardia had 954 avian collisions. The report only captured about 20 percent of all wildlife strikes and included the cost of repairs to the planes from the bird strikes — estimated to be more than $267 million.

And, at the heart of the controversy, one bird species seems to be garnering the nation’s attention: Canada geese.

JFK, the nation’s sixth busiest airport, is located near the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 9,000-acre stretch of small islands and marshes that is home to 330 bird species. The Wildlife Refuge is also a veritable breeding ground for gulls and geese which, along with mourning doves, comprise the majority of birds that hit planes, according to the FAA.

While the National Transportation Safety Board has not completed its investigation, authorities believe that a flock of Canada geese were sucked into the two jet engines of US Airways Flight 1549 shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport on January 15. The bird strike caused the plane’s engines to immediately shut down, forcing the pilot to land in the Hudson River.

At a news conference last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the federal government should “create a new program that would devote millions of dollars to wildlife mitigation focusing on reducing bird strikes at the New York City airports and airports around the country.” Schumer also announced this week he will introduce new legislation requiring the FAA to make bird strike data mandatory.

Doug Adamo, spokesman for Gateway National Recreation Area’s Jamaica Bay Region, said officials are not currently performing habitat management to enhance bird habitats or nesting sites in the area to attract birds.

But officials at Kennedy seem to be taking matters into their own hands. This year, the airport expects to install the Avian Radar System, manufactured by Accipiter, which tracks birds’ course, speed and altitude within six miles and 3,000 feet of the airport.

City Council Transportation Committee Chairman John Liu (D-Flushing) said that although he does not plan to hold any hearings to look at bird strikes, he will work closely with federal authorities to find strategies to solve the problem and will consider everything from “more sophisticated electronic deterrence” to the “scarecrow” effect.

The scarecrow method is exactly what it sounds like — the use of falcons to scare birds out of a plane’s flight path, an environmentally friendly form of bird control known as a type of falconry.

“It’s something we have to look at, obviously,” Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), a member of the Transportation Committee, said. Falconry is still a viable alternative option, he said.

The Port Authority currently has a five-year, $3 million contract with Falcon Environmental Services, Inc. to perform falconry at Kennedy Airport.

While Kennedy has been using falcons for decades to frighten gulls from its flight paths, they are not currently used at LaGuardia, Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco said.

Falconry wouldn’t work at LaGuardia, he said, because it is “effective against gulls, not geese.” Gulls are the primary birds at issue at Kennedy, but not at LaGuardia, where geese pose the main threat, DiFulco said.

However, veteran falconer Andrew Barnes of Falcon Environmental Services disagreed.

“It is the best tool we have available to us,” Barnes said.

Regardless of the method ultimately chosen to combat bird strikes, Queens officials agree: something has to be done to prevent another destructive accident.

“Active bird management and habitat alternation methods must be enhanced to ensure the safety and well being of air passengers,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park).