Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Queens Reservoir To Undergo Recreational Makeover - NY1

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NY1 VIDEO: The Ridgewood reservoir is slated for some big changes meant to encourage residents to utilize the public space.

Willets Point United Hires NY State’s Top Eminent Domain Attorney

Fred Michael Rikon of the law firm Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon and Gottlieb, a nationally renowned expert in eminent domain law, to represent them during the upcoming eminent domain battle with the City of New York.

Michael Rikon has been practicing law in New York since being admitted to the State Bar in 1969. Before forming the firm of Goldstein, Goldstein & Rikon in 1994, Mr. Rikon had a successful private practice, founded in 1980, specializing in condemnation law, real estate and litigation in the Court of Claims. From 1973 to 1980, Mr. Rikon served as a law clerk to the Honorable Albert A. Blinder of the New York State Court of Claims. Mr. Rikon began his law career as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, a position he held from 1969 to 1973, where he was a senior trial attorney in the Condemnation Division.

Mr. Rikon also contributes to professional journals in subjects related to the practice of condemnation law. In 1973 and 1974, Mr. Rikon was a special consultant to the New York State Commission on Eminent Domain and assisted in drafting New York's Eminent Domain Procedure Law.

Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon & Gottlieb, P.C. is a law firm which limits its practice to condemnation law.

“With Mr. Rikon at the helm, we feel confident about our future. He is familiar with the continued neglect the city has forced upon the Willets Point businesses and residents. He is also familiar with the city’s unfair and illegal rush to use eminent domain.”

On June 3, 2009, the City of New York announced that it would begin condemnation proceedings against the remaining property owners at Willets Point, despite the fact that only 2 acquisition deals have been made since the November 13, 2008 City Council vote that approved the Willets Point redevelopment project. The City Council made it clear that eminent domain was only to be used as a last resort.

Earlier this year, the City’s Economic Development Corporation made phone calls to many of the businesses and told them that negotiations were on hold until next year. Then earlier this month, these same property owners were notified that they would soon receive letters announcing a public hearing about the use of eminent domain – a signal that the City plans to use eminent domain to take the rest of the properties.

“The City promised that eminent domain would only be used to take property from ‘1 or 2 hold outs’ – which is a far cry from the 59 landowners, or 80% of those who are left ,” said Jake Bono, Spokesperson for Willets Point United.

“Thankfully, we have Mr. Rikon, who will vigorously represent us on all matters until we achieve victory. This will protect future generations from being subject to abusive New York City eminent domain practices.”

For up to date information about the Willets Point fight, please visit their blog: http://www.willetspoint.org.

You may also follow them on Twitter: WilletsPtUnited

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fourty-year-old "Slant" Trains Have Been Put to Rest by Heather Haddon - Urbanite

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The last of "the slant" trains was retired Friday.
(Photo courtesy John Urbanski)

NYC Transit has retired another quirky subway oddity in their shrinking pool of vintage cars.

On Friday, the MTA put to rest its last operating R40 train, a model better known as “the slant” for its distinctive sloping front. The peculiar 15-degree slant was intended to look like the bullet trains of the future — back in 1968. The 200 trains ran on the lettered lines such as the A and F.

The trains suffered from numerous mechanical problems, including a lack of handholds between trains putting riders at risk with falling onto the tracks (yikes!).

Transit began taking the trains out of service last year as it has updated its fleet. A pair of R40s live on at the New York Transit Museum for those feeling nostalgic.

REAL CHANGE to Mayoral Dictatorship -- OR LET THE LAW SUNSET!

A rally on June 28, 2009 by members of the Parent Commission and their supporters to counter a rally planned by the Mayor Bloomberg and his allies to try to force the NY State Senate's hand to accept Mayoral control. Protesters were not allowed to attend or come within a certain distance of the school entrance.
from: http://gothamschools.org/2009/06/28/b...
The press event was held in a courtyard inside East Harlems PS 57. Audible throughout were shouts from two contingents of protesters kept outside the schoolhouse gates. Several dozen mayoral control critics railed against Bloomberg's school policies under the stony eye of a cadre of police officers. We didn't want this event to go unremarked, and we didn't, said Leonie Haimson, a member of the Parent Commission on School Governance, which is sending a group of parents to Albany tomorrow morning to lobby for changes to mayoral control in the senates deliberations. The mayor is using scare tactics to cram the Assembly bill down the senates throat, she said.A smaller number of mayoral control supporters was organized by the lobbying group Learn NY, but most declined to provide their names or why they thought the issue was important.
from: http://www.underassault.blogspot.com/

If Bloomberg's opinions are so popular with the city, why did he exit the back door and not face the protesters in the front of the school? The press conference was clandestine, spur-of-the-moment, and for invited guests only. That says it all. If New Yorkers go along with this stunt, they're not doing their homework on this guy and all his collaborators - which include the UFT/Unity management, the city council members who paved the way for a third term against the will of the people (in 2 referendums, no less), the governor, and whomever this billionaire mayor has paid off to smooth his way. How corrupt does it have to get before New Yorkers wake up and see his serving corporate interests and not

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Platform Death Still Under Investigation by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

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An unidentified man died on June 11 when he either fell or jumped from the J and Z train platform at the Woodhaven Blvd. Station at Jamaica Avenue, police said.

Police confirmed that witnesses said they saw the man jump to his death at around 6:05 p.m. The man was not carrying identification and police and medical examiners were still unsure of his name, age and place of residence at press time.

The case is still under investigation and the final cause of death is undetermined, according to a spokesperson for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

The incident marks the second time this month someone has either jumped or fallen from a local train station elevated platform. On June 8, a bank robber, attempting to evade police, leaped to his death from the A Train platform on Liberty Avenue.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rep Ed Towns’ Statement on the Passage of The American Clean Energy and Security Act

U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10)issued the following statement today, following the passage of H.R. 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212.

“I joined my colleagues today in passing sweeping reforms of America’s energy policy. The American Clean Energy and Security Act addresses serious environmental issues while encouraging responsible stewardship and management of our environmental resources. This legislation creates innovative industries and millions of new ‘green’ jobs, which are vital to improving New York City’s struggling economy. Above all, this legislation ensures that future generations will benefit from a cleaner, greener, and healthier environment.

Through the pioneering measures included in this bill, we create opportunities for clean energy technologies and energy efficiency standards that lessen our dependence on foreign oil and reposition America as a global innovation leader.

In the quest to adopt an energy plan for the 21st century, we cannot leave our most vulnerable communities behind. Minorities and low-income communities have carried the lions’ share of the burden during this economic crisis, and many of them are now suffering a 20% unemployment rate. That’s why I strongly supported adding a provision to this bill that will guarantee access to the green jobs market for local, low-income workers. This broadminded measure also provides underrepresented construction workers with access to employment opportunities on some of the varied construction projects that are planned in their communities.

With this legislation, we move all of America in a new, green direction, and make worthwhile investments in America’s energy future.”

Best Old House Neighborhoods 2009: Editors' Picks - This Old House - Richmond Hill, Queens, New York

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Richmond Hill, Queens, New York

Photo: Ivan Mrakovcic

Richmond Hill is as peaceful and laid back as Manhattan is chaotic and fast paced. That's why it's hard to imagine these two places are less than a 45-minute subway ride from each other. Established in the mid-1800s as one of New York City's first planned communities, Richmond Hill was once home to thousands of Italian, Irish, and German immigrants looking to escape the crowded living conditions of the city. That escape was made all the more pleasant thanks to Forest Park—a 600-acre Frederick Law Olmsted urban retreat with horse trails, golf courses, and gardens—which borders the neighborhood.

The Houses:
The largest, most detailed homes are in North Richmond Hill, bordering the park, where many homes designed by famed New York City architect Henry Haugaard are located. His Queen Annes and Classical Revivals are known for their unique built-ins, enormous front porches, inlaid floors, and multicolored shingles. More modest Craftsmans and Victorians in the southern part of Richmond Hill start at about $250,000.

Why Buy Now?
New York real estate is as affordable as it's likely to get, especially in the outer boroughs. The Richmond Hill Historical Society is drawing more attention to the neighborhood by sponsoring regular house tours and educating New Yorkers on the area's unique history and architecture.

U.S. House Approves Funding for Gowanus Canal’s Sponge Park - Rep Nydia Velazquez

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $300,000 in federal resources for the development of a “Sponge Park” splanade along Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. The project, spearheaded by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, incorporates greenery to absorb and manage excess surface runoff and help improve the water quality of the Canal. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) applauded the effort for taking an innovative approach to improving the quality of life for neighbors of the Gowanus Canal.

“This project would create much-needed public space, while addressing ongoing environmental concerns. Cleaning-up the Gowanus Canal will never be effective if we don’t also come up with solutions like the Sponge Park that prevent future contamination,” Velázquez said.

In April 2008, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy unveiled its design plan for the Sponge Park. The proposal, created by dlandstudio in Brooklyn, includes a series of public waterfront spaces. The project uses two strategies to naturally improve the water quality of the Canal. First, vegetated swales will be built alongside the sidewalks and planted terraces will be incorporated to absorb storm water runoff. Second, specific plants will be chosen that can absorb and break down toxins, heavy metals and biological contaminants from sewage. Combined, these strategies will significantly decrease the amount of runoff entering the Canal and remediate contaminants already in the water.

“I am committed to securing federal resources for projects that make a real difference in the lives of working families. The residents of Brooklyn who live and work near the borders of the Gowanus Canal deserve better access to the waterfront and a place for outdoor recreation,” Velázquez said.

Over the past decade, Congresswoman Velázquez has worked to clean-up the canal and bring sustainable development to the area. She has secured more than $2 million in federal funding for the Gowanus Canal and Bay Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study to identify the best approach for restoring the canal. The study is being conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) to assess current environmental problems. Using data collected during this study to fully understand and evaluate the extent of contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently nominated the Gowanus Canal as a federal Superfund site. A public comment period on the nomination ends July 8, 2009.

“My top priority is protecting the health of the community and fostering local economic development through the remediation process. A complete clean-up of the Gowanus Canal will bring long-term benefits to this beautiful and vibrant Brooklyn neighborhood,” Velázquez said.

The funding for the Gowanus Canal Conservancy was included in the FY 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which was approved today. The resources will be allocated through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s STAG Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Project. The legislation now goes to the U.S. Senate for approval.

Noxema Commercial with Farrah and Joe Namath - Early 70's...

Ridgewood Reservoir Hearing in Oak Ridge by Michael Lanza - Queens Chronicle

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The final public hearing for plans to develop Ridgewood Reservoir has been scheduled for June 30 at Oak Ridge in Forest Park.

The Parks Department will present three development plans: preserving the site as a natural habitat; filling in the reservoir basins and replacing them with baseball and soccer fields; and a hybrid plan in which only one of three basins, the largest one, would be converted into a recreational sporting area.

The plans have been called into question in recent weeks after Parks officials cut funding for the project from $48.8 million to $19.8 million.

“If the reduction in funding is not restored or supplemented by another funding source, a new phasing strategy will be implemented,” Parks officials said in a statement.

Plans to raze the reservoir site and replace it with ballfields have sparked an ongoing battle between the city and preservationists.

Deactivated in 1989, the site has become a natural haven for plants, turtles, fish, frogs and more than 137 bird species — including eight rare species on the National Audubon Society’s “Watch List.”

Photo by Michael Lanza

City to Discuss Ridgewood Reservoir's Future by Conor Greene

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The future of Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park will be discussed on Tuesday, when the city Parks Department releases the results of input residents provided at three prior listening sessions.

Highland Park, which includes the 50-acre Ridgewood Reservoir, is one of eight large parks across the city that is being redesigned as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative. The property, which is on the Brooklyn-Queens border, supplied drinking water to city residents until the 1960s. Since, a natural habitat that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, including endangered species, has flourished. There is now debate as to whether the land should be developed for active recreation or preserved in its natural state.

Initially, $48.8 million was earmarked for Highland Park, but it was recently announced that the allocation has been reduced to $19.8 million due to the economic crisis. About $7.5 million already allocated to replace lighting and fencing around the reservoir’s three basins is not affected by the cuts. A contract was awarded to Manhattan-based landscape architect Mark K. Morrison Associates for that initial phase, which began several months ago. That portion of the project is expected to take a year- and-a-half to complete.

The landscape architect firm is now charged with creating three plans for the reservoir: one that preserves the site’s natural features, one that involves building athletic fields in the three basins and a compromise plan under which only the largest of the three basins is filled in for development of sports fields. It is not clear how the funding reduction will affect those plans, as Parks has said it is waiting until the budget is finalized until the plans are revised. In a statement, a spokesman said that the funding cut will be spread out over six years. “If the reduction in funding is not restored or supplemented by another funding source, a new phasing strategy will be implemented,” the spokesman said.

Over the past year, the Parks Department has held three listening sessions to gain public feedback on the future of the 50-acre property. During those meetings, many Queens residents pushed to have the reservoir preserved and argued that a portion of the funding should instead be used to fix up the existing ballfields in Highland Park, which are in poor condition. In April, Community Board 5 approved a resolution requesting that between $10 million and $15 million of the funding be used to accomplish that.

In a statement, Parks announced it is holding Tuesday’s session “to discuss community ideas and concerns for the Ridgewood Reservoir redevelopment. The meeting will summarize what we have learned at previous meetings from community input and discussion, and to relay the results of the paper surveys that have been distributed over the past weeks.”

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Park’s Oak Ridge office at Forest Park. Attendees can enter at Park Lane South and Forest Parkway or at Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive. For details call 311 and ask for the Forest Park Administrator’s Office.

Filling the Vacancy: Who Will Replace Seminerio? by Pat Adams - Forum News

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The vacancy created by the resignation of Tony Seminerio from his seat in the 38th Assembly District has left obvious concerns about who will fill the seat and answer the concerns of constituents in the district largely comprised of Richmond Hill and Glendale.

According to New York State law a vacancy in a state position filled through the election process which occurs before September 20th would normally be filled in the general election which follows the vacancy. Morgan Hook, a spokesperson for Governor Paterson, said that there has been no decision yet as to whether the governor will issue a proclamation ordering a special election as of yet.

“We are still checking with local government and the Board of Elections in an evaluation of the situation,” said Hook. “If the governor decides that the seat will be filled in a special election, once a proclamation is ordered, it [the special election] would have to be held no sooner that 30 days and no more than 40 days following the issuance of the proclamation.”

Donna Marie Catalbiano, executive director of the Forest Park Senior Citizens Center founded by Tony Seminerio is among those who will seek to replace him. “For thirty years Tony Seminerio did great things for the community. He was the founder of the Forest Park Senior Citizens Center and he continued to fund it for many years. He always did good things for the community and despite these allegations he will be missed as a friend to the community.

Catalbiano has recorded many civic and community credits in addition to her work over the last 14 years at the senior center. In 1985 she organized a group of parents to expand PS 64 and get a gymnasium and auditorium built at the school. The structures were officially added in 1990-1991. Catalbiano also found a way to open the senior center for one additional day a week at the same level of funding it was taking to open 3 days a week. “I think the community needs a person like me,” said Catalbiano. “Over the years I have many accomplishments.”

In preparation to make her run for the seat Catalbiano formed a committee several months ago. “We have not done any fundraising and actually kept the news pretty quiet out of respect for Tony Seminerio. Now, we’ll begin the campaign for the seat.” And Catalbiano says that she will seek the seat with the backing of the Queens County Republicans.

As for the seniors she may have to leave behind, Catalbiano says she will never abandon them. Joe Palladino, the president of the senior center says he has known her for over fourteen years. “I am the one who hired Donna,” Palladino says. “I’m like gum under her shoe and she’ll never get rid of me or any of us here. But,” he says, “When Donna goes to Albany, she’ll be even more of a help to us here and for many other seniors. She’s a hard worker and a fighter. The best thing about her—she’s honest and she doesn’t take any bull. We all need that.”

Other potential challengers for the seat include Nick Comaianni and Albert Baldeo. Comaianni is the president of District 24’s Community Education Council and a life-long resident of the 38th District. He has served as a member of Community Board 9 and Chairman of the Community Board’s Education Committee. Albert Baldeo is an attorney who has run against former senator Serf Maltese and who most recently bowed out of the Democratic primary race against now Senator Joe Addabbo.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gulluscio Eyes Second Shot at Young GOP Incumbent Ulrich by Howard Koplowitz - Queens Campaigner

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Eric Ulrich (l.) is hoping to defend his young incumbency against Democrat Frank Gulluscio (r.).

The widely anticipated contest between City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach) and Democratic District Leader Frank Gulluscio never came to fruition in the February special election to succeed state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), but the two will get another chance in November.

Petitions for Gulluscio, a former Addabbo aide and Community Board 6 district manager, were successfully challenged by special election candidate Geraldine Chapey, knocking Gulluscio off the February ballot.

The February special election was for the remaining year on Addabbo’s four-year Council term, while November’s contest will be for a new term.Ulrich, a Republican, and Gulluscio, a Democrat, are the only two candidates in the District 32 race, which covers Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and part of the Rockaways.

Both come into the race with big-name endorsements — Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch for Ulrich and the Queens Democratic Party for Gulluscio.

But both campaigns are strapped for cash, with Gulluscio having $15,482 in his campaign war chest and Ulrich only $400, according to the latest campaign finance filings May 15. Ulrich’s numbers do not include a few thousand dollars that were yet to be transferred from his special election campaign account.

Prior to being knocked off the special election ballot, Gulluscio, 60, said being on the Council would be a natural extension for him after working as an aide to Addabbo.

He contended he had more experience than the 24-year-old Ulrich, but it was unclear how effective that point would be after Ulrich has spent 10 months in the Council as of the November contest.

Ulrich touted his involvement in the community, including being the president of the Our Neighbors Civic Association in Ozone Park, and ran on a campaign of “fresh ideas.”

The councilman’s first sponsoring of legislation was a bill to require a 2/3 majority in the Council to raise taxes.

He defeated Republican Michael Ricatto, Chapey and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon in the special election.

None of the other special election contenders are declared candidates this time around.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coup!: The Musical...

In yet another sign of the sort of emotional damage that two weeks of ongoing political crisis can inflict on a journalist, Casey Seiler performs “Coup!,” a musical analysis of the current battle in the state Senate.

Accompaniment by the incomparable Gabe Stallman.

From WMHT’s “New York Now!” with Susan Arbetter.

Replacing Seminerio by Elizabeth Benjamin - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

Tony Seminerio Resigns from New York State Assembly; Said to be Copping a Plea...
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Here's a copy of the resignation letter tendered late last night by indicted now-former Assemblyman Tony Seminerio, bringing to an abrupt end his more than three decade-long career in public office.

The letter doesn't shed much light on why the Queens Democrat suddenly decided to step down, although speculation is that his decision was connected to the influence-peddling charges.

Mike Reich, executive secretary of the Queens Democratic Party, said he had not received any heads up from Seminerio, but nevertheless insisted that the resignation didn't take him entirely by surprise.

"I certainly didn't know what Tony's timetable was; he indicated he was going to fight this and said he was innocent. It would appear from his resignation that he's either going full force into his legal battle or he's going to take a plea...It looks to me like he's going to take a plea."

UPDATE: An anonymous law enforcement source told DN Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett that Seminerio is indeed expected to plead guilty to a fraud charge.

I asked Reich whether he had anyone in mind to run for Seminerio's seat. He said the district is "odd" with an "emerging new population" and "changing demographics," and thus without a clear frontrunner.

He also noted that Seminerio used to be a district leader, and thus was the person who would have been able to make a suggestion as to who might replace him.

A few names that have come up in conversation with people familiar with the district (there are both Democrats and Republicans in this list):

Former City Council and state Senate candidate Al Baldeo (I'm not sure if he meets the one-year residency requirement); Community Board 9's Nick Comaianni; Seminerio's son, who ran for City Council in 2001 and was briefly mentioned as a candidate for former Councilman Dennis Gallagher's seat (now held by Democratic Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley); Donna Marie Caltabiano, director of the Forest Park Senior Center; and - here's a wild card - Matt Gorton, an aide to Mayor Bloomberg.

On the Democratic side, here's what one Queens insider had to say:

"No natural pick. I'm sure Al Baldeo will want it but he's probably not County's first pick. Liz Crowley should take it but she's standing for re-election at the same time, presumably, that the Assembly seat will be filled so I doubt she switches at this point."

"It's a bit of a free-for-all."

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Official White House Flickr Photostream

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President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leave the Oval Office after a meeting on June 22, 2009. Secretary Clinton broke her elbow last week and had surgery on Friday. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Charity Creating Senior Apts.at Fineson Center by Clare Trapasso - NY Daily News

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HELP IS on the way for financially strapped seniors.

The state has tapped Catholic Charities to transform a former Howard Beach hospital into affordable housing for the elderly.

The charity expects to create about 100 studio and one-bedroom apartments at the Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Senior Office site at 155-55 Cross Bay Blvd. The complex - to be called the Howard Beach Apartments - is slated to be ready by summer 2012.

"There is a desperate need here in Brooklyn and Queens for affordable senior housing," said Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, vicar for human services at the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. "Many seniors living on limited incomes are struggling between paying their rent, putting food on their tables and their medical expenses. It's very difficult."

A branch of Catholic Charities would create about 80 apartments for seniors 60 and older capable of living on their own. Another 20 units would be set aside for mentally and physically disabled elderly residents.

Seniors with incomes of up to $43,000 a year can apply for the apartments through a lottery, state officials said.

No medical care will be given at the site, but staff will provide services such as dietary advice and help scheduling doctor appointments.

"Senior buildings are meant for people who are able to live independently," LoPinto said. "However, if they are in need of services, we would assist them."

About 40 apartments would be reserved for seniors who live within the boundaries of Community Board 10.

That was music to the ears of board Chairwoman Betty Braton, who said the senior population is growing in her district.

"If you're going to build something in a community, it should certainly serve that community," Braton said. "Many senior citizens live on fixed incomes and cannot afford today's market rents."

The project has generated strong community support. But it has also stirred some concern.

Ike Albala, director of the city-funded Howard Beach Senior Center, is worried about plans to create a new senior center at the complex. "I'm concerned about the possible overlap between the two facilities," Albala said.

But he does support creating housing for seniors.

"We do hear, 'Gee, it's a struggle to maintain my apartment,'" Albala said. "So if there is more affordable housing, that's a plus."

Late Nite Calls by Mating Mockingbirds Has Carroll Gardens Flapping Mad by Ben Chapman - NY Daily News

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And you thought your neighbors were loud.

New Yorkers are being kept up all night by an influx of sex-crazed mockingbirds looking for hanky-panky just outside their windows.

Tormented residents complain the ear-splitting love songs are as annoying as car alarms.

"It's loud and shrill and grating," fumed John DiMartino, 37, an engineer from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

DiMartino had to buy earplugs to drown out the late-night love songs that started outside his apartment about three weeks ago. "It was making it hard for us to sleep."

Bird experts said the city's mockingbird population has exploded since the species first appeared here in the 1960s.

The numbers dipped over the last few years, but the population climbed about 10% in 2008 over 2007, according to a winter census conducted by volunteers with the National Audubon Society.

Male mockingbirds show off for females by imitating the sounds they hear - such as the whistles of other birds and even honking and traffic noise.

Eric Moore of Staten Island said he wishes the bawdy birds that squawk outside his St. George apartment every night would just get a room.

"I can't open the windows," said Moore, 42, a 3-D animator. "It's a hassle."

Christopher Layer said a mockingbird outside his Greenwich Village loft sounds like a Lexus that's about to be stolen.

"The bird has an amazing ability to imitate car alarms," said Layer, 40, a musician who plays the bagpipes in Shakespeare in the Park's "Twelfth Night." "He starts every night about 2 a.m."

Sometimes the birds attack.

"The mockingbird is very territorial and protective of their young," said Peter Dorosh, 48, a forestry technician at Prospect Park and president of the Brooklyn Bird Club. "It will harass any intruders on its breeding territory."

Bronx professional dog walker Carolyn Guarriello, 42, said she's been afraid of the birds ever since she was attacked by one on 236th St. in Riverdale a year ago. "I was traumatized," she said. "I'm thinking of the movie 'The Birds,' where they peck people's eye's out."

After a quiet winter, Guarriello is starting to see the birds return. "They're probably nesting here now," she said.

Not everyone is annoyed by the singing.

Queens bird watcher Arie Gilbert, 47, said he enjoys hearing the lusty love songs, even in the middle of the night.

"Sometimes you can be really surprised by the songs mockingbirds sing," said Gilbert. "It's wonderful to hear the sound of nature. It's just a happy sound."

Mayor Bloomberg Swats Away Geese Protests by Erin Einhorn - NY Daily News

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Canada geese soar through the sky along with a jet. Sumlin/AP

As President Obama takes heat from insect-rights activists for swatting a fly during an interview, Mayor Bloomberg says he can sympathize.

"I had pickets outside my house for geese last night," Bloomberg said of protesters angry that the city is gathering up to 2,000 geese near airports and gassing them.

"We are sending some of these geese for a well-deserved rest up in the sky, wherever geese go," Bloomberg said. "They're a danger to human beings flying, and we're doing what's appropriate."

The city announced the "removal" of the geese after migrating birds stopped both engines on US Airways Flight 1549, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River.

Wildlife experts told the city that killing was the only effective way to control the problem.

As for Obama, Bloomberg says the President is a hero.

"I'm sure what the President thought about was that particular fly might be spreading something like the H1N1 flu, and he was going to risk his own life with his hands - bare hands - without Purell, and he protected the public by hitting that fly and we owe him a great debt of gratitude," Bloomberg said.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

“Celebrate the Joy of Fatherhood”: Statement from Edolphus “Ed” Towns on Father’s Day

U.S. Representative Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10) released the following statement on Father’s Day 2009:

"Father’s Day is a reminder of the blessings of fatherhood and the joy that being a father brings to our lives. As the father of two, I take tremendous pride in my children and their many accomplishments. Today is also a day to say 'thank you' for all the support, love and encouragement that fathers give us. I wish all the fathers in Brooklyn a very Happy Father's Day, and encourage all of us to spend time today giving thanks for the many gifts of family."

Reservoir Walk Yields Forgotten History by Jennifer MacGregor - Queens Chronicle

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The Rubble Bridge at Ridgewood Reservoir is the largest of its kind in North America. (photo by Jennifer MacGregor)

Highland Park is in disrepair and grass covers crumbled paths in areas that were thriving in the early part of the 20th century. The park is just a ghost of the beauty and culture it hosted a few generations ago.

Residents now walk dogs without leashes in the patchy grass of the promenade that used to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the city and a top destination for photographers.

The reservoir on the site seems largely forgotten, or largely unknown, by area residents. Hiding just behind the Jackie Robinson Parkway is a thriving wetland that hosts upwards of 147 species of birds. Some are listed on New York State’s threatened species list; others are migratory birds that nest in the marshy areas of the reservoir before continuing on their way to Central and South America.

Ridgewood Reservoir was acquired by the Parks Department in 2002 after a long decline in use. The reservoir had been providing water to Brooklyn only in emergency situations for many years. The system, built in the late 19th century, was obsolete by 1977. Two of the three reservoir basins were drained in 1989, and since then a young forest has emerged over the stone masonry laid by hand in the 1850s.

Members of the Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance are hoping the $19.2 million allocated by the city for the park and reservoir goes to maintaining the park and creating an educational nature preserve, not plowing the reservoir and creating baseball fields, as some would want.

Charles Monaco, a lifelong resident of the area and member of the alliance, led a tour of the location on Saturday, emphasizing its historical and environmental significance to New York City.

“The environmental resources here are unequaled for urban and natural systems studies,” Monaco said.

The alliance unilaterally agrees that baseball fields should not be built in the basins of the reservoir. Fields are currently available in the southwest corner of the park, but are not properly maintained.

Another issue that faces the park is the overabundance of non-native invasive plant species that have overrun the native ones because of the lack of maintenance, said Rob Jett, also a member of the alliance and a birdwatcher for 15 years.

“When you start to look at birds, you start to learn about the environment,” Jett said, noting that he has not seen birds nest in the trees that are not native to this area of the country, or this continent.

The tour passed by bittersweet vines, invasive plants that have overrun much
of the park. The vines were creeping over the side of the Rubble Bridge that straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border of the park.

The bridge is constructed of stones that were left by the receding glacier as it passed through the area during the end of the last ice age. Monaco said that it’s the largest bridge of its type in North America.

On the other side of the bridge, Jett pointed out a kettle pond, something he called a 30,000-year-old environmental artifact that should be protected by state and federal law. To most park goers, the area must appear as just another bunch of trees and brush that have become overgrown. The pond is actually fed by glacial water that was deposited underground all those millennia ago.

Monaco said the park has lost eight structures over the years, including the garden fountain, a bandshell, rustic lookouts and most recently a bathroom in the 1990s. He attributes the losses to budget cuts and the unwillingness of some politicians to invest in the park that straddles the two boroughs.

On a recent walk through the park, Jett counted the light posts that line the bike path through it and the reservoir, and found that 52 don’t work. Of these, most of the broken lights appear vandalized. Some are missing the lighting fixture altogether.

Part of the bike path that is visible from the Jackie Robinson Parkway was the site of early gunshots of the American Revolution in the Battle of Brooklyn, led by George Washington. Monaco said with disdain that there are no markings or plaques to commemorate one of the most important events in American history that occurred within the park’s boundaries.

Bandit Slips Teller Note Get Cash At Glendale Bank by Robert Pozarycki - www.timesnewsweekly.com - Times Newsweekly

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Takes Off With A Grand Of Dough

Armed with a note, a crook managed to withdraw cash from a Glendale bank during a heist on Tuesday morning, June 2, according to police.

Police guard the Capital One bank located at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard in Glendale on Tuesday morning, June 2 shortly after a robber swiped an undetermined amount of cash from the branch. (photo: Joseph Epstein)

Reportedly, the robbery occurred at the Capital One Bank branch located at 83-24 Woodhaven Blvd. near Myrtle Avenue.

Law enforcement sources said the suspect—described as a 35- year-old African-American male standing between 6' and 6'2" tall and weighing 225 pounds who was wearing a blight blue shirt, blue jeans and mirrored sunglasses— walked into the branch at around 9:05 a.m. and handed a note demanding money to the teller.

Police later determined that the suspect displayed no weapons during the theft.

Moments later, authorities noted, the employee handed the bandit more than $1,000 in cash. The suspect reportedly took the money and fled from the scene on foot northbound on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Officers from the 104th Precinct responded to the scene. No injuries were reported.

Police units conducted a search of the surrounding area for the suspect. No immediate arrests were made despite their efforts.

The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the NYPD Major Case Squad and the Joint Bank Robbery Task Force, police said.

Anyone with any information regarding the heist that could prove helpful is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS. Information may also be sent to Crime Stoppers by text message to 274637 (followed by the code TIP577) or online at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

All calls and messages will be kept confidential.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Breaking News (Literally): Hillary Clinton Falls, Shatters Right Elbow | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times

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Being a New York woman in the Obama administration seems like a dangerous thing to be these days.

First, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor broke her ankle in a fall en route to Washington from New York.

Now, former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who's already safely traveled thousands of miles around the world as President Obama's secretary of State, tripped and fell near the White House on Wednesday, breaking her right elbow. (See right elbow above.)

The 61-year-old former first lady was en route to a meeting there and was treated and released from George Washington University Hospital.

According to a brief midnight announcement from an aide, Clinton will undergo surgery next week to repair the damage. So much for handshaking for a while. Sotomayor is making her way around Capitol Hill to Senate interviews on crutches.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Reservoir Budget Cut in Half by Parks Dept. by Michael Lanza - Queens Chronicle

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Parks Department cuts more than half from Ridgewood Reservoir’s development funds. (photo by Michal Lanza)

The Parks Department announced plans to slash development funds for Ridgewood Reservoir in its revised capital budget.

Parks officials want to cut rehabilitation funds for Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park by more than half — from $48.8 million to $19.8 million. Approximately $7.7 million already allocated during phase one to restore lights and fencing around the reservoir will not be influenced by the cuts.

“If the reduction in funding is not restored or supplemented by another funding source, a new phasing strategy will be implemented,” Park officials said in a statement. “We will implement immediate improvements to address deficiencies in lighting and public safety around the perimeter of the Ridgewood Reservoir. We will then continue to work with the community in designing future improvements.”

Phase one work began in April, under the supervision of Mark K. Morrison Associates, an award winning Manhattan based landscape architecture firm. The company was also contracted to produce the three development plans for public presentations.

Officials said they would not revise the three plans, which were presented during public hearings, until the budget is finalized.

The plans included preserving the site as a natural habitat, filling in the reservoir basins and replacing them with baseball and soccer fields and a hybrid plan where only one of three basins, the largest one, would be converted into a recreational sporting area.

The cut was a mixed blessing for those who opposed razing the reservoir to create ballfields, casting doubt on the most expensive of the propositions.

Four out of five groups of attendees polled during a Queens listening session last month supported plans to convert the area into a nature preserve, according to Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano.

Giordano is pressing parks officials to use funds allocated to the reservoir to repair six ailing baseball fields at nearby Highland Park. The remaining money would fund the removal of invasive plants species, improvements to pathways, and the creation of an education center at the reservoir’s pump house.

“Why put ballfields in what is really a natural habitat when you can reconstruct ball fields that already exist,” Giordano said. “You have fields there now, why invade the natural habitat before you figure out how you can improve the fields that already exist? And by improving the fields that already exist, they would potentially have a much better place to play ball much sooner.”

But Parks officials have argued that Highland Park’s fields are simply too crowded.

“Frequent use of existing ballfields indicates a need and demand for field space, which also does not account for the hours of pickup games that are allowed when the fields are not permitted,” a Parks Department spokesperson said in a statement. “As with all of these projects, we hold listening sessions with community residents to incorporate their input and understand the need to balance interests of preservation and recreation at the Ridgewood Reservoir.

The reservoir’s declining condition became the center of a battle between preservationists and developers in recent years.

City Comptroller Bill Thompson shot down proposals by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to convert the reservoir into a sports field last June, citing the ecological importance of the space.

“This plan flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s widely hailed environmental blueprint, which bemoans the loss of the city’s natural areas,” Thompson wrote, protesting the plan. “The Parks Department’s own scientific consultants have warned against disturbing the reservoir, an area they call ‘highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region.

A final public hearing is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

The reservoir, located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, was created in 1848 to provide drinking water to Brooklyn. But it was converted to a back-up in 1959 and finally taken off-line in 1989. The site is now a natural haven for plants, turtles, fish, frogs and more than 137 bird species -- including eight rare species on the National Audubon Society’s “Watch List.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hope or Failure? (www.dccc.org/hope)

On Election Night, Barack Obama asked us to hope, but Republicans hope we fail. Tell the GOP that you stand with President Obama. Sign a Hope Card today at http://www.dccc.org/hope

Little Progress on Forest Park Greenhouse Renovation...

There has been little visible progress on the Forest Park greenhouses - nearly one year - since the glass has been removed. This seems to be quite normal for the Parks Department under Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. See photos below taken July 16th, 2009. One would think a building over one hundred years old would treated with more care.

Click on photos to enlarge them...

Previous coverage: Lost in the Ozone...: The Secret Gardeners of Queens by Lisa J. Colangelo - NY Daily News

Quotation from Daily News article 20 May 2008:

This summer, the greenhouse will get its first major overhaul since the facility was built almost 100 years ago. Several of the buildings were designed by greenhouse experts Lord and Burnham.

The renovations will allow gardeners to better control the environment inside the buildings, allowing them to grow more flowers and plants. A classroom space will be added for educational programs.

"The Forest Park Greenhouse represents more than a century of botanical knowledge and education, right in the heart of Queens," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Photos by Manny

Five Available Seats Make Queens' November City Council Race Brisk by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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With five City Council seats up for grabs in Queens, Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a busy election season.

In addition, Democrats are hoping to keep eight incumbent Council members in their seats - and knock out the lone GOP freshman.

But many more hopefuls are moving ahead with their campaigns, even if it means a bruising primary battle against party-backed candidates.

Candidates who want to receive public funds were required to file with the Campaign Finance Board last week.

Some of the most crowded fields of candidates can be found in the races for seats now held by Council members Melinda Katz, Tony Avella and John Liu, where at least six Democrats are vying for each seat.

Liu and Katz are running for controller, while Avella is making a long-shot bid for mayor.

Queens Democratic Party Executive Secretary Michael Reich said he is confident ex-Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz will be able to regain the District 29 seat she held for almost 10 years.

He also thinks Democratic candidate Frank Gulluscio will be able to defeat Republican newcomer Eric Ulrich, who won in a special election for the seat formerly held by State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat.

"He got in on a fluke," Reich said of Ulrich. "Frank has tremendous experience in the community."

But Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa disagreed and said he also expects former Councilman Thomas Ognibene to beat out Democratic Council member Elizabeth Crowley, who was elected last fall to his former seat - a one-time GOP stronghold.

"He's been there before; people know who he is," said Ragusa.

Reich pointed out Ognibene has been out of office for eight years.

"People are going to ask him, 'What have you done for me lately'" Reich said.

The herd of candidates, however, will most certainly be culled during the petitioning process.

Candidates are gathering signatures to secure a place on the ballot. But party-backed lawyers routinely pore over those signatures in search of irregularities that can keep candidates off the ballot.


Sports Store Taken In by Topless Shoplifter - TransWorldNews

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Employees of a sporting goods store in Howard Beach, New York learn the hard way to beware of customers bearing breasts.

SportsDepot, a sporting goods store located in Howard Beach, NY became the victims of a curvaceous crook who used full frontal nudity to distract store employees from her shoplifting accomplice. SportDepot does most of its football, baseball and sporting goods business online, but still maintains healthy customer traffic in its flagship NY store. On June 15, the thieves, both female, entered the store, and at first aroused no suspicion. A different type of arousal was soon to follow. One of the women, an attractive, shapely young blond, picked out a number of tops and asked if she could try them on. When told that there was no changing room, the woman said that she needed to be certain that they fit properly before making a purchase and that the lack of a dressing room was not a problem. She proceeded to remove her top in full view of store employees and patrons alike. Her lack of undergarments made this already incredible act all the more shocking.

“We all realized this women was a knockout the second she came through the door, but we never dreamed we’d get to see just how perfect she really was,” admits one employee who chooses to remain anonymous.

“We were speechless. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her. She tried on seven or eight different tops. Even the female customers had a hard time looking away. She looked great in everything, but in the end she said that nothing was exactly what she was looking for. Of course we tried to convince her to try on a few more things, but she declined.”

It wasn’t until about fifteen minutes after the women left that they realized the naked truth. While they were busy paying their undivided attention to the bare chested beauty, her partner in crime was busy stealing several hundred dollars worth of sporting goods and sportswear. “She took lots of clothing, mostly shirts, shorts, pants and jackets. But she also made off with some baseball gloves and football accessories,” the employee added. When asked how they felt after they realized what had happened the employee replied, “How do you think we feel? We feel like boobs.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mostly Cheers at Auction for Aqueduct Race Track Land by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Land sold near the Aqueduct race track will benefit the New York Racing Association. Smith for News

But how much money the auction raked in is still not clear.

Some of the lots, which were offered both as bundles and individual parcels, went for as much as $460,000. Others were snatched up for $32,000, officials said yesterday.

"All the properties were sold, subject to approval by NYRA" said Richard Maltz, vice president at David R. Maltz and Co., the real estate auction house contracted by the association. "NYRA was extremely happy with the outcome."

He declined to say how much money was raised overall.

NYRA emerged from bankruptcy last year with a new contract to operate the state's three race tracks: Aqueduct, Saratoga and Belmont Park. It still owes money to the Internal Revenue Service.

A plan to place video lottery terminals at Aqueduct to help cash flow fell apart this year. Seven companies have recently bid again for that contract.

The auction, which took place Wednesday afternoon at the race track, was filled with developers as well as residents who have lived next to the vacant land for years.

At one point during the auction, a 45,000-square-foot parcel was offered for $200,000.

"What's that? $5 a square foot?" Maltz asked one of his assistants. "That's the cheapest property I have sold in a long time."

Carlos and Grace Benitez were among the lucky ones. They successfully bid on a 48-by-125-foot lot next to their home for $120,000.

"We've been taking care of that property for years," said Carlos Benitez, 59. "I've been mowing it and we planted shrubs."

He and his neighbor, who bid on the adjoining lot, are thinking of fencing off the area for their pets.

"It's not going to be developed any more than it is now," he said.

"I'm going to dance tonight," said a relieved Grace Benitez.

It's likely that some of the larger lots were snapped up by developers. The current zoning allows for two-family homes there.

Rosemary and Frank DeBartolo were disappointed they couldn't buy a portion of the 6,000-square-foot lot next to the home they have lived in since 1964.

That lot, offered as one parcel, went for $250,000 during the first round of bidding.

"I mowed the grass. I fenced it in so no one would dump there," said Frank DeBartolo, 75.

"There are a lot of older people who have lived here a long time who couldn't get the land next to their homes. The whole process wasn't fair," DeBartolo said.


Proposal to Use Rockaway Landfill for Solar Power by Noah Rosenberg - The Queens Courier

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Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, of the Rockaways, was watching President Barack Obama discuss the need for alternative energy when, Gaska said, “a light bulb – no pun intended – [went] off in my head.”

In a place like the Rockaways, surrounded by water on three sides, residents are “very sensitive to the environment,” Gaska explained. So, Gaska said he was not the least bit surprised by the lack of community opposition to his proposal to turn the closed Edgemere Landfill – which he calls “a huge mound” with no current “sensible use” – into a solar panel field.

“It’s an area that’s not being used at all,” said Gaska, who sits on the Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA) community business advisory board and has vocalized his idea to the authority’s CEO, Kevin Law. “I know there’s federal money out there to do this.”

The landfill, in use between 1967 and 1991, sits on 158 acres, 118 of which are still monitored by the New York City Department of Sanitation, along the shores of Jamaica Bay near JFK Airport. The property is ostensibly waiting for some sort of intervention, in Gaska’s opinion.

“The only thing it does now is it breeds mosquitoes and makes life miserable for a lot of our residents,” said Gaska, who also wants to turn part of the property into a public park.

In a written response to Gaska, Law expressed interest in the proposal. In fact, LIPA has a “very aggressive” solar rebate program for consumers and recently selected two private companies to generate solar power back to the grid in Long Island, LIPA’s vice president of environmental affairs, Michael Deering, said.

Nonetheless, Law emphasized to Gaska the “numerous technical, engineering, fiscal, ownership and public policy matters” that must be considered with such an undertaking.

“What we have suggested to Jonathan is to try to get a meeting together, sort of a multi-jurisdictional meeting in the community to talk about the landfill,” Deering said.

“Solar and wind do come at a premium,” though, Deering warned, noting that alternative energy sources are more costly in the short-term.

For the time being, Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer, whose district includes the Edgemere Landfill, is the lone elected official to have come out in favor of the project.

“It would be an excellent opportunity and it would also be educational. People would see it being used,” said Pheffer, who sits on LIPA’s advisory board alongside Gaska.

Gaska noted that the first of the project’s hurdles is support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, from whom he is awaiting a response.

In a statement, the Parks Department said it “has not received any proposals for solar panels at Edgemere Landfill, but it is open to looking at green technology at this future park.” The agency is currently looking into the possibility of offering tours of Edgemere, much like those offered at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Gaska said of his proposal. “There’s no downside that we know of, but that has not stopped government from killing a project.”

He admitted that while the proposal is in keeping with the Bloomberg Administration’s emphasis on environmental sustainability – “You cannot get any greener than this” – the idea is bound to confront some opposition.

“Look,” Gaska said, “this is the City of New York, there’s always somebody against something.”

Jet Noise to Drop During JFK Runway Revamp: Port Authority by Howard Koplowitz - YourNabe.com

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Jim Stevens of the Port Authority goes over the plan to repave a runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport with Community Board 10. Photo by Howard Koplowitz

Community Board 10 was updated on plans to reconstruct the largest runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport at its monthly meeting last week, which a representative from the Port Authority said would result in Howard Beach and Ozone Park residents experiencing less airport noise during part of the project.

Jim Stevens of the Port Authority said the runway — 32 left, 13 right — was last upgraded in 1993. He said the airport’s runways are generally repaved every 10 to 12 years.

In the past, Stevens said, JFK’s runways were repaved with asphalt, but the one targeted for the project will be done with concrete, adding a 40−year lifecycle to the runway.

The project is expected to cost between $300 million and $400 million, Stevens said, and is scheduled to start in March 2010 and finish by early 2011.

During construction, the runway will be closed for 100 days, Stevens said, during which time Ozone Park and Howard Beach residents will experience “virtually no airport activity.”

Stevens said whichever contractor wins the bid for the project, it will have 120 days to finish the repaving or face fines. Conversely, bonuses will be awarded if the work is completed earlier than expected.

“We’re very serious about ensuring our contractor does the right thing,” Stevens said. “It’s something that we have invested a tremendous amount of time on to make sure we get it right.”

The 14,572−foot runway will be widened from 150 feet to 200 feet, Stevens said, so it can accommodate larger aircraft in the pipeline, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747−300.

When asked by a CB 10 member if the project would alleviate traffic congestion at JFK, Stevens said “from an infrastructure standpoint, absolutely it will,” but said that depends on air traffic controllers.

In other business, the board voted to send a letter to the city Department of Transportation acknowledging CB 10 did not receive “clear support” from 118th Street residents on whether the agency should construct a speed hump on the block. But the board said the DOT should revisit the issue if more residents indicate their approval of the plan.

CB 10 held a public hearing at its monthly meeting last Thursday, where only one resident of the block showed up. He said he supported the speed hump.

“We have had a large number of accidents there,” Dashnarajh Manoo said. “There’s a lot of speeding along there.”

CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said 45 letters were sent out about the speed hump, but that she only received eight responses. Two were opposed.

Donna Gilmartin, another CB 10 member, said she was “just not comfortable with that amount of people as a response.”

Member Peter Granickas agreed.

“There doesn’t seem to be enough interest in the project,” he said. “I don’t see how we can say ‘yes’ with that little amount of people.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Bowne House Funds on Hold by John Lauinger - NY Daily News

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Photo by WallyG on Flickr

THE BULK of the funding for the long-overdue restoration of the historic Bowne House in Flushing remains in place, but a portion will be held back until 2013, city officials said last week.

The Colonial-era relic - one of the city's oldest homes and an important symbol of religious freedom - has been surrounded by controversy amid a series of anonymous e-mails lambasting the city for yanking the funds.

The city is in the process of acquiring the house from the Bowne House Historical Society.

The $628,000 that City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) allocated for the restoration has been pulled by the city, the Parks Department confirmed to Queens News.

That money won't be available until 2013, but department officials appeared to quash fears that the restoration project was doomed.

"We currently have $1.7 million available for the restoration of the roof, siding, windows and doors, as well as structural stabilization of the house," Parks said in a statement.

The Historic House Trust of New York City, a nonprofit preservation group that works with Parks, issued a similar statement.

The Bowne House, where John Bowne defied Dutch Colonial law and allowed members of the outlawed Quaker faith to meet, will become the Trust's 23rd site once the handover is complete.

The historical society's board of trustees signed over the home to the city in March, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

All that remains is for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to sign off on the transfer.

"Capital restoration work can begin after the transfer," the Parks Department said in its statement, without providing a timeline.

The funding scuttlebutt prompted some preservationists and a state lawmaker to charge that the pullback would jeopardize the continued existence of the home, whose roof is covered by little more than a tarp.

"Bowne House is in desperate need of the funds to continue with the building repairs," state Sen. Frank Padavan wrote to Mayor Bloomberg on May 18. Padavan has allocated $100,000 to build a visitor center at the site.

Members of the Bowne House board learned of the funding issue in an e-mail that Mikel Travisano, an architectural conservator with the Trust, sent to some members on March 24, shortly after the board signed away the property, a source said.

That e-mail, obtained by Queens News, included a message that could prove ominous for the project's future.

"Because of current and continuing budget problems, future changes to the Parks budget will be funding cuts rather than moving funds to a future fiscal year," Travisano wrote.

"Sorry for the bad news," he concluded.


Neverland Comes to St Mary Gate of Heaven - Queens Chronicle

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A cast of talented students from Saint Mary Gate of Heaven delighted an audience of all ages on May 15 and 16 with a classic story chockful of magic, luck and pixie dust, of course.

The staging of Peter Pan, the tale about a happy-go-lucky boy who refuses to grow up, was made possible thanks to the support of the show’s Producer Frank Gulluscio, Executive Director Gina Scollo, Creative Director Vinny Napolitano and Choreographer Melissa Planty.

The production starred Justin Vega as Peter Pan and Emily Vazquez as Wendy Darling, his level-headed and mature best friend.

(photos by Theodore Parisienne)

North Channel Lot: Who's Responsible? by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

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Though it isn’t illegal to fish off the coast of the North Channel parking lot, inexperienced fishermen are warned to avoid wading into the waters, which are known to produce strong currents. (photo by Lisa Fogarty)

The changing weather may mean more time spent by the pool or frequent trips to Rockaway Beach, but for many Howard Beach residents bordering the Addabbo Bridge, it also unearths a host of familiar issues.

Each year, it’s the same old story: parking problems along 164th and 165th avenues, illegal garbage dumping both inside and along the perimeters of the community and safety concerns resulting from a lack of park security on the large patch of beach and concrete across the bridge known as the North Channel parking lot, residents said.

“People park across the street from us to go walk through the trails because it shortens their walk to the water,” said Pat Toscano, who lives along 164th Avenue. “They have picnics and leave their garbage all over the place and their vans and cars are sometimes still there at 9 or 10 p.m. We never know who is parked outside our house.”

Though recent accounts have focused on animal sacrifices that had reportedly taken place on the shore, many residents have temporarily looked past the religious practice to search for answers to an even more pressing question: exactly who is going to take responsibility for the area’s problems?

Eight years ago, Toscano and his neighbor asked Gateway National Park Service, which owns the lot, to take measures to curb the number of people loitering in front of their homes after hours. Parks Service responded by erecting gates and “No Entry” signs in front of the Jamaica Bay wildlife refuge, an effort Toscano said helped to an extent, but was in no way an antidote to the problem.

“It’s federal property, but it’s not being patrolled properly,” he said. “I try to look out for it as much as I can, but at this point I’m a little peeved that the federal government has done very little to patrol it.”

Dorothy McCloskey, president of Friends of Charles Park Committee, said Gateway needs to designate a park ranger to the area.

“There are no garbage cans down there and people barbecue and fish all night and day,” she said. “Why is it you can’t step onto Fort Tilden or Breezy Point without a permit, but it’s okay to run rampant in Howard Beach?”

Democratic District Leader Frank Gulluscio, who is running for City Council next fall, said trash build-up and loitering is only part of the problem. Recreational fishing, though not illegal, is unsupervised, he said. Some fishermen wade out into the bay unaware of its reputation for having perilous underwater currents.

“Forget about the legality of fishing for a moment,” he said. “It’s dangerous to go out in the water. Gateway doesn’t have a patrol in the area.”

Pete McCarthy, acting superintendent of Jamaica Bay, said the organization is ramping up its efforts to maintain the North Channel parking lot. A few weeks ago, staff members and a park ranger began patrolling the area on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, picking up garbage and ensuring visitors clean up after themselves, he said. When asked about the fact that, just this past Saturday, the lot’s beach was ridden with litter, McCarthy said he would address the issue.

Parks Service also plans to start closing the lot between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., an experiment McCarthy said improved the conditions at Brooklyn’s Canarsie Pier by 75 percent. On the issue of fishing, although Gateway is ultimately responsible for any injuries incurred while wading out into the water to surf fish, McCarthy said in his 11 years at the department, he has never confronted this problem.

“Most people who wade know what they’re doing and are prepared,” he said. “It’s part of the recreational experience.”