Monday, August 31, 2009

As Monserrate Trial Nears, Peralta Prepares To Press His Own Case - City Hall News

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Popular Assembly member makes moves toward succession race, possible primary challenge...

Assembly Member José Peralta may still be a member of the Legislature’s lower chamber, but in the eyes of his colleagues, he is well on his way to a promotion.

In the cloakrooms of Albany, at least, he has earned a new nickname: “Senator Peralta.”

That has become a running joke among Peralta’s allies in the Assembly, according to one person who has heard the phrase whispered in the corridors of the Capitol. Many there consider his ascension to the Senate a fait accompli.

Peralta is already preparing a run next year for the seat of State Sen. Hiram Monserrate, according to Democrats in Queens and Albany with knowledge of the matter. Monserrate has been charged with slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass, with his case scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 15. If convicted, Monserrate will automatically be removed from office.

Peralta, meanwhile, lies in wait. He is keeping his head down and his name out of the headlines, according to those close to him, but quietly putting the pieces together for a Senate campaign, should a jury find Monserrate guilty—or maybe even if not. He has discussed the idea with colleagues, and approached members of at least two organizations that would be influential in choosing a candidate to take Monserrate’s seat: the Working Families Party and SEIU 32 BJ.

“He and I have discussed that,” said Assembly Member Peter Rivera, a close friend and ally of Peralta’s. “He’d be the number-one candidate to replace Senator Monserrate, should Senator Monserrate become disabled because of any issues that happen in the very near future.”

If the seat did become open, Rivera, added, “I’d be an advocate for him to seriously consider moving to the Senate.”

Peralta has been encouraged by Democratic allies who remain angry at Monserrate for his role in instigating the Senate stalemate earlier this year, which threw the chamber into chaos and tarnished lawmakers across the state. Peralta has taken that anger as a sign that he can quietly begin assembling the support necessary to succeed Monserrate, even while Monserrate remains in office.

“There’s no question that he wants to do it,” said a Democratic staffer who works in Albany, and who has spoken with Peralta and has urged him to run for Monserrate’s seat.

The knottier question, Democrats said, was whether Peralta would challenge Monserrate should the senator survive his criminal trial and run for re-election next year. Many angry Democrats are searching for a credible challenger to Monserrate regardless of whether he is removed from office, but the organizations that influence and—more importantly—fund Democratic campaigns, such as labor unions, are less interested in seeing a battle royale.

“It’s not a question of, ‘Would he make a run if Hiram dropped out?’ If Hiram dropped out for one reason or another, he’s the guy,” said the staffer who has spoken with Peralta. “The only issue is whether or not Monserrate will still be there come next September.”

For the moment, the political players are taking a wait-and-see approach, as are most Queens Democrats. Even Monserrate’s former chief of staff and successor in the City Council, Julissa Ferreras, feels she must “stay on the fence,” according to one person close to her, in order to maintain her relationship with Peralta should he decide to run. Ferreras publicly expressed her disappointment with Monserrate for his temporary move to the Senate GOP conference, which instigated the Senate coup.

Both Monserrate and Peralta declined comment.

Queens Democrats say Monserrate remains popular in his core constituencies—among poor Latino voters, for example—but that there is considerable resentment in the parts of his district that he did not represent as a Council member, which do not know him as well.

“He’s king in Corona. He can do no wrong,” said one Queens Democratic staffer. “However, in Elmhurst … they’re holding his feet to the flames.”

That anger could be a springboard for Peralta, whose base is similar to Monserrate’s, but who remains widely respected within the political establishment.

“José is a consensus builder and knows how to work with people,” Rivera said. “Everybody looks at him as the leader of the Latino community, at least in Queens.”

Still, Rivera cautioned against predicting what might happen to Monserrate, who has routinely surprised Democratic leaders in the past.

“For anybody to assume that Monserrate is history,” Rivera said, “[that] would be making a bad assumption.”

ABOVE: Illustration by Aggie Kenny

Bolts from Above: Elevated Subway Tracks Dropping Parts on Jamaica Avenue by Lisa Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Maria Thompson of Woodhaven Development Corp, Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Council member Elizabeth Crowley address issues at elevated "J" train along Jamaica Ave. Anderson/News

Steel bolts from the structure have come loose and dropped to the ground, alarmed local leaders said.

"People walk into my office all the time with these bolts," said Maria Thompson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp., as a J train rumbled above her head.

Thompson gathered with a group of local officials this week and called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to dip into its capital funds and pay for an extensive rehabilitation of the elevated tracks, which currently carry the J and Z train lines.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she doesn't know how much a renovation would cost, but argued it's a more worthy project than the multibillion-dollar Second Ave. subway construction in Manhattan.

"They should fix what is currently being used before they start a new project," she said.

The long stretch of overhead tracks that runs through Jamaica, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven to the Brooklyn-Queens border is marred by peeling paint, rusted metal and cracked cement.

"This is what happens when you neglect steel for far too long," Crowley said.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said the MTA has done patchwork repairs on the tracks, but can't remember the last time it was painted.

"I'm pretty sure some of this is from when I was a kid," said Addabbo, who is 45. "We're long overdue for a major renovation."

In a statement, MTA officials said the proposed 2010-1014 capital plan has more than $500 million set aside for rehabilitation, painting and other enhancements.

They said repairs are planned for 7.3miles of elevated tracks along the Jamaica line, Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park viaducts, but did not provide specifics.

Thompson, who has been pushing to get the tracks a new paint job for almost 15 years, said the sad state of the train line is a sore subject for Jamaica Ave. merchants who are struggling to stay afloat.

"The storeowners try hard to keep their properties clean," she said. "This is very disheartening for them."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mid-Queens Leader - Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano - Disputes Race Claims - Michael Lanza - Queens Chronicle

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Outraged community leaders are firing back over comments made by former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, who said that racial and economic tensions were fueling controversy over plans to develop Ridgewood Reservoir.

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano (Photo - left) said Stern’s allegations just aren’t consistent with the facts — citing support for preservation at Brooklyn’s Community Board 5 and efforts by the Queens community to ensure that Highland Park gets a share of development funds to improve existing ballfields.

“We’re going to bat for them because we have an opportunity now — there’s money on the table. We’re saying, gee, put some of this money into Brooklyn,” Giordano said. “That’s the real story — the current condition of the ballfields at Highland Park, the people that use them and the fact that they’ve been treated by the Parks Department, in my opinion, as second or third rate citizens.”

Stern, the current New York Civic director, claimed middle-class Queens residents were organizing to fight efforts to replace the reservoir with ballfields — a plan favored by community groups representing the East New York section of Brooklyn — in a socioeconomic turf war.

“A lot of it is territorial: ‘This belongs to the uphill people, and the uphill people should decide how it’s used — not the downhill people,’” Stern said of the reservoir debate.“They’re organizing to keep them down at the bottom of the hill.”

Giordano, offended by the claims, argued that advocates for the reservoir have a genuine interest in preserving the unique natural space.

“I’m certainly not organizing to do anything like that. We live at the bottom of the hill on the other side,” Giordano said. “All we’re doing is taking the opportunity to have a beautiful natural space that people can visit so we can promote the environment.”

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

During public hearings throughout the past year, the Parks Department presented three initial plans to develop the reservoir: 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 agency is currently drafting new development plans for the site after a public hearing tour earlier this year. The plans will be unveiled sometime this fall.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1,000 Job Seekers Flock to Atlas Park by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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About 1,000 job seekers waited in line at Atlas Park to speak with potential employers or drop off their resumes, in hopes of securing a job interview. (photo by Michael O’Kane)

And you thought your job search took you far.

Artravious Henley, 23, of Seattle Wash., came to the job fair at The Shops At Atlas Park in Glendale Friday with one mission: to get a job.

A recent graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle and an avid viewer of the Food Channel, Henley is working as a freelance wedding coordinator.

By the end of the day, the master chef was offered a plum job as a culinary arts teacher with Restaurant Opportunities of New York, one of 50 employers at the fair.

“I would never have found that company otherwise,” Henley said.

Henley wasn’t the only one looking for a quick hire at the fair. The event
attracted 1,000 people from Queens and beyond, though not everyone was fortunate enough to snag a job in one afternoon.

Jennifer, 21, from Jamaica, a pre-med student at St. John’s University, said she was seeking a part-time job that would fit into her college schedule. She met with both Jet Blue and Delta Airlines recruiters, who advised her that the company’s policy was to have applicants file their applications online.

Another job-seeker from Woodside, who declined to give her name, said she lost her job at a Manhattan publishing firm two months ago and was seeking administrative work. She didn’t find what she was looking for at the fair, but dropped off her resume with MetLife and Aflac in hopes of scoring an interview at a later date.

To help candidates succeed, fair organizers didn’t simply invite employers to pitch their tents around the park grounds. They created four workshops entitled Ace your Interview, Employment Search, Resume Building and Green Jobs Training, designed to motivate and train job seekers.

At 9 a.m., an hour before the fair began, there were about 100 people lined up and waiting in the 90-plus degree heat, according to state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., who sponsored the fair.

“I hope that people leave here with a sense of optimism that they have an opportunity for a job,” Addabbo said. Similar job fairs would be run periodically as the economy dictates, he added.

Joseph A. Galasso, senior vice president at SL Green Realty Corp., an employer at the fair and one of the bidders vying to resurrect Aqueduct Race Track, said more than 100 people had left resumes with him. He added that SL Green is always hiring and keeps resumes on file, and that if the company is chosen to run Aqueduct, it would spur the creation of almost 2,000 permanent jobs.

Companies participating at the job fair ran the gamut from nonprofits and state and federal government organizations to colleges and private employers. Among the fair’s participants were Catholic Charities, Mercy Home, U.S. Army, Navy and National Guard, Internal Revenue Service, New York City Commission on Human Rights, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Metropolitan Transit Authority, New York State Department of Civil Service, New York State Office of Court Administration, City University of New York, Kingsborough Community College, National Grid, Jet Blue and Delta Airlines, Pepsi Cola, Stop & Shop Supermarkets, Century 21-Fortune Realty, Aflac and the Queens Chronicle.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thompson 2009 Campaign Responds to Mike Bloomberg's Comments on Democratic Primary Debate

Mike Bloomberg’s claim that the Thompson campaign doesn’t exist is similar to his attitude towards 95% of New York City; they don’t exist to him.

Come November 3, 2009 Mike Bloomberg is going to learn that the Thompson campaign does exist when the millions of hardworking New Yorkers that he has dismissed for the past 8 years vote him out of city hall.

The fact of the matter is the majority of New Yorkers want a change at City Hall and we have one simple message for him: this is an election not a coronation and you can't buy what is not for sale.”

Today, Mike Bloomberg told the press that he didn’t watch last night’s debate, stating:

"I'm not running against anybody," Bloomberg told reporters. "I'm running on a record, and I'm trying to lay out the things that I would do if given another opportunity."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Reconstruction of Highland Park - Ridgewood Reservoir Site - Phase 1 Plans - NYC Parks & Recreation Dept.

Link to Picasa Photo Album

I Have No Opponents: Bloomberg - Sara Kugler | NBC New York

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just brought arrogance to a whole new level, some critics say.

The billionaire said today he's not really running against anyone in this year's mayoral election, and sought to cast his challengers as irrelevant.

The Republican-turned-independent portrayed his campaign for a third term as a lone effort to advertise his record since taking office in 2002.

"I'm not running against anybody,'' Bloomberg told reporters. "I'm running on a record, and I'm trying to lay out the things that I would do if given another opportunity.''

The mayor's multimillion-dollar campaign might not have gotten the message.

Through e-mails, television appearances and other means -- like showing up at an opponent's events -- the Bloomberg campaign regularly points out what it calls the "failures'' of William Thompson Jr., the Democratic front-runner. Last week, Bloomberg campaign officials called a news conference to talk solely about Thompson after a report on his management of the municipal pension system.

Thompson spokesman Mike Murphy asked, if Bloomberg isn't running against anyone, why is he spending so much money and "why does he have his hired guns lob baseless negative attacks at Bill on a daily basis?''

"This is an election, not a coronation,'' Murphy said.

The mayor spoke Thursday in response to questions about a Democratic primary debate on Wednesday night. Thompson and Democrat Tony Avella spent the better part of 90 minutes criticizing Bloomberg instead of engaging with each other.

The mayor did not participate in the debate because he is not facing a primary. The Democratic contest is Sept. 15, and the winner will run against Bloomberg in the November election.

Bloomberg said the Democrats "wasted an opportunity'' by attacking him instead of saying why they want to be mayor.

At least, he heard that's what they said.

He said he didn't watch the debate because he wasn't curious to hear what his potential challengers had to say, not even as a strategy to prepare for general election debates.

Democrats William Thompson Jr. and Tony Avella largely ignored each other throughout the debate, but they did argue once — about money, a hot topic in a race where the popular mayor is spending millions on his campaign. Thompson compared his campaign to President Barack Obama's grass-roots effort. Avella ridiculed the description because most of Thompson's donations are not from small donors.

The Democratic primary is Sept. 15.

"I'm not going to 'face' either of them,'' Bloomberg said of Thompson and Avella. "I'm going to answer the questions and say why I should deserve the opportunity to serve the public for four more years.''

Avella said Bloomberg was showing "arrogance.''

"It's up to the voters to decide who are the real candidates in this race and who is trying to buy their votes,'' Avella said in a statement.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Riptide Danger in the Rockaways by Carolina Leid -

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If you want to know what a rip current feels like ask Debbie Ryerson. She almost died in one last year.

"I thought I was dead. I really thought it was going to take me out," she said. "Every time I would try to get up the tide would pull me back under."

So far this year six people drowned off the Rockaway coast because of strong rip currents.

That's compared to two drownings last year and one in 2007.


State Representative Anthony Weiner helped get funding for a four million dollar beach erosion study.

He wants the Army Corps of Engineers to expand that study to include a look at safety measures to prevent deadly rip tides.

"Maybe over the years there have been some channels that have been built that we never noticed before," Weiner said.

The study originally focused on adding groin fields. They're designed to trap and retain sand.

The plan is while engineers work on that, they'll also take a look at why this stretch has so many rip currents.

But state and local leaders say there will never be a total fix. That's something most swimmers respect.

"There's no solution. Mother Nature is Mother Nature. You can't stop her," Deirdre Cotto of Jersey City said.

The key is following the rules. When the lifeguards leave, get out of the water.

"I really think the currents are different at night. During the day you have to watch yourself too, but you have lifeguards," Sal Ferranti of Howard Beach said.

Debbie Ryerson always swam with lifeguards around, but after her scare she just watches from her beach chair.

"I won't go back in the water, and I love the water," she said.

Jamaica Oysters No Shell Game: Bay's Pollution Hinders Renewal by Lisa Colangelo - NY Daily News

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It's been a long time since oysters called Jamaica Bay home.

Pollution, overharvesting and other woes wiped out what was once a healthy population of the bivalves.

But a new study is showing that oysters may be able to return and even help clean up Jamaica Bay.

Researchers have been able to grow oysters in certain test areas. And now they are trying to find out if there is any natural oyster larvae flowing into the waterway.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens, Brooklyn) pointed out that tons of treated wastewater is dumped in the bay, making it tough for anything to survive.

"Oysters are a natural filter," Weiner said during a news conference at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field with researchers who are conducting the study. "This could help us deal with that problem. We don't want this waterway to go the way of the Gowanus Canal."

Prof. Jeffrey Levinton of SUNY Stony Brook, who is overseeing the study, said it's a good sign that he was able to grow oysters in parts of the bay.

Seafood lovers, however, shouldn't get their hopes up.

"We are not looking to restore them as a food source," said Barry Sullivan, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area. "But they are a really effective filter."

For the next few weeks, Levinton will check to see if any oyster larvae attach themselves to shells submerged in the water.

During the current phase of the study, which is being funded by the National Park Service and the Hudson River Foundation, several bags of shells were placed in different locations around the bay.

The hope is that oysters will be able to grow on their own. But that may be a long shot.

And if that fails, officials said, much more study will have to be done before any full-scale plan is developed to reintroduce oysters to the bay.

One fear is that bringing in nonnative oysters could hurt the bay's already ravaged ecosystem.

But Dan Mundy of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers fears officials are being too cautious.

"We wish we could bring in thousands of oyster shells, spread them around the bottom of the bay and bring in live seed oysters tomorrow," said Mundy. "Time is of the essence. We are losing acres of marsh and the water is declining."

He said bringing back oysters would boost other efforts to clean up the bay, which include restoring the marshes and upgrading wastewater treatment plants.

"There is no magic bullet," Mundy said. "We're trying everything."

Frank Gulluscio, City Council Candidate 32 CD

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo and Community Leaders, Demand State Legislature to Repair and Repaint J Train Eyesore

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, along with Senator Joseph Addabbo and Maria Thompson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and State Assembly candidate Mike Miller, today demanded the State Legislature approve the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget to repaint and rehabilitate the J-train which spans Jamaica Avenue in Queens.

The repainting and the rehabilitation of the J-train overpass should take priority over new MTA projects. Why is the MTA embarking on new capital projects when their existing structures are deteriorating?” questioned Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “For over twenty-five years, the J-train has been neglected and poorly maintained, impeding on the surrounding community’s safety and economic development.”

Jamaica Avenue is lined with businesses and we believe it is on the cusp of turning into a thriving economic engine for the borough of Queens,” continued Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “Unfortunately, the most prominent feature on Jamaica Ave is the rusty and deteriorating overhead J-line subway. Because the overpass has been neglected, the steel has corroded, causing structural damage on the stairways used by people everyday. The condition of the elevated train not only deters visitors but is, most importantly, an accident waiting to happen.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority included the rehabilitation of the structure and the repainting of the elevated J-train in their 2005-2009 capital plan. As the MTA concludes the 2005-2009 budget period, the needs of the J-train have yet to be addressed and plans have been pushed back to be included in the 2010-2014 proposed capital plan which is awaiting approval by the State Legislature.

For the last 15 years the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation has been pursuing the painting of the J-line elevator train in the Woodhaven business improvement district from Dexter Court to 100th Street,” said Maria Thompson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “We have been pursuing the MTA and our elected officials to assist us in getting the stations repaired and the elevated train painted because it’s in deplorable conditions.”

While I am pleased the MTA included the J-train community in the new capital plan, we should not have to wait any longer for the renovation to begin. We believe the there is no better time than now. Therefore, we urge you to immediately address the MTA capital plan upon resuming session so that Jamaica Avenue can receive its much needed repainting and rehabilitation,” concluded Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

Weeks after being sworn in, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley testified before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority urging them to address the safety concerns of the neglected J-train overpass.

Photo Credit: William Alatriste

Rep Joe Crowley Meets with Constituents on Healthcare - Congressman on Your Corner - August 17th...

Rep Joe Crowley (D-NY 7th) met with constituents in an informal setting to answer questions and talk about healthcare reform on August 17th outside the Dante's shopping center in Jackson Heights...

Photos courtesy of my friend Kate Ann of WQDIC and Peace Hugs and QuickTakes blogs...

Assemblywoman Pheffer Wants Everyone to Be Aware and Prepared for Disasters by Signing up for NY-Alert

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer (D-Queens) would like to encourage all residents to sign up for NY-Alert, a program that is part of New York State’s ongoing commitment to providing New Yorkers with information that keeps them aware of threats and emergency situations and instructs them how to respond accordingly.

Unexpected disasters can destroy communities and devastate families. Whether it’s a natural emergency like high winds, flooding or an ice storm, or it’s a man-made threat, the more information we have the better we can respond to emergencies,” said Pheffer.

Signing up for NY-Alert is free. By doing so, you will receive warnings and emergency information, including road closures, inclement weather events and terrorist alerts issued by New York State and local governments. Information can be sent to you via your cell phone, your home phone, e-mail and other technologies. You can list up to three phone numbers, two e-mail addresses and three cell phones to receive text messages. Receiving alerts through these modern, high-tech devices accelerates communication, which allows you to be aware of any perilous events that may be affecting your community in a faster and more convenient way.

In addition, once you sign up for NY-Alert, you will also be able to customize locations, types of emergencies and the threat level, from minor to extreme, you would like to receive information about. Most alerts are issued by the county or city. Every emergency is different and alerts are tailored to meet the notification needs of each incident.

We all have a responsibility to keep our families and communities protected when alarming situations occur,” said Pheffer. “Emergency-response personnel are trained to respond quickly and effectively, but every community’s level of preparedness starts with individuals being aware and informed. NY-Alert helps serve that purpose. It is designed to expedite critical and lifesaving information in times of emergency, which can mean the difference between life and death.”

To sign up for NY-Alert, go to or call (888) 697-6972.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

TRAILER: Michael Moore's 'Capitalism: A Love Story'

'CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY' - In Theaters October 2nd

"It's a crime story. But it's also a war story about class warfare. And a vampire movie, with the upper 1 percent feeding off the rest of us. And, of course, it's also a love story. Only it's about an abusive relationship.

"It's not about an individual, like Roger Smith, or a corporation, or even an issue, like health care. This is the big enchilada. This is about the thing that dominates all our lives — the economy. I made this movie as if it was going to be the last movie I was allowed to make.

"It's a comedy." — Michael Moore

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Friday, August 21, 2009

AD38 Special Election is On - Again by Dan Jacoby - The Daily Gotham

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When Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio resigned in disgrace, the stage was set for a very interesting election to replace him, but all hopes for a true election were dashed today when Govenor Paterson issued a proclamation for a special election to be held on September 15.

Without that proclamation, there would have been a primary on Sept. 15, followed by a general election in November. Four Democrats, including Albert Baldeo, had petitioned to be on the ballot. For the special election, however, there is no primary, and the Democratic insiders can pick their nominee. That nominee will be Mike Miller, who also has the Conservative Party line. That's right - Conservative!

Baldeo has been a thorn in the side of the Queens County Democratic machine for a few years. In 2005, he ran for City Council in a race that included a claim (unverified) that he pulled a gun on an opponent's wife. In 2006, Baldeo ran for state Senate on the Democratic line (despite the opposition of the Democratic machine) and came within several hundred votes of knocking out Serph Maltese. In 2008, he ran again, going up against Joseph Addabbo, Jr. in a primary, until he was persuaded by, among others, now-Senate Democratic Caucus Chair John Sampson, to drop out; Addabbo won that election.

In theory, someone (such as Baldeo) could still petition to get on the ballot for the special election as an independent candidate. The problem is that Baldeo apparently moved into the district sometime between Sept. 15 and Nov. 3 of last year. That means he would have satisfied the one-year residency requirement for a general election, but won't for the special, and is therefore ineligible to run.

The winner in this mess is the Queens Democratic Party. They don't have to worry about Albert Baldeo upsetting their plans, at least this year.

The losers are: Sampson, Malcolm Smith and Rep. Greg Meeks, all of whom are supporting Baldeo; DC37, which endorsed Baldeo this week; Baldeo himself (at least for now); and the voters of the 38th AD, who won't get a real opportunity to cast a meaningful vote.

There is one more loser: David Paterson. Last Friday his office issued a proclamation for a special election, only to have him retract it a few hours later. Now he issues - or reissues - another proclamation? I'm still not sure who did what, and why it all got screwed up, but if Paterson can't make a decision, stick with it, and get his office to follow his lead, what chance does he have to resurrect his sagging popularity? In addition, Paterson has now pissed off the current Senate President Pro Tempore (Smith), the presumptive Senate President Pro Tempore for next year (Sampson), a Congressman (Meeks), and most likely many others.

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy year.

New York City Paid to Lobby Itself, Group Says by Ray Rivera -

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Gerald Antonacci, the leader of the Willets Point United community group, seeks an inquiry into the lobbying efforts of another group. John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times

In late 2006, as the Bloomberg administration girded for what promised to be a bruising rezoning fight over the Willets Point section of Queens, it enlisted the help of Claire Shulman, the former Queens borough president.

At a meeting in City Hall that December, Ms. Shulman and Daniel L. Doctoroff, then a deputy mayor, agreed to form a nonprofit group with city and private money. Its primary purpose, Ms. Shulman said, would be to lobby on behalf of the mayor’s plan to turn the long-neglected area near the New York Mets stadium into a thriving hub of shops, hotels, condominiums and a convention center.

The group, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, eventually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public and private money, and spent much of it to help push through the plan through the City Council.

It hired the Parkside Group, one of the city’s best-known lobbying firms. It brought in the Glover Park Group, the powerful political consulting firm, to bolster its media campaign. And Ms. Shulman, as the organization’s president, made countless personal appeals, promising to meet with every member of the City Council as it prepared to vote on the plan last fall.

“That was the whole idea,” Ms. Shulman said in an interview. “The idea I had with Dan Doctoroff was that we would help the city do what the mayor wanted, to clear Willets Point and develop it in the best interest of the city, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.” In other words, Ms. Shulman added, “We lobbied the city for the city.”

Local development corporations like Ms. Shulman’s have been around for decades. Ranging from tiny neighborhood groups to giant quasi-public agencies like the city’s Economic Development Corporation, these loosely regulated organizations are designed to encourage businesses and industry to invest in local areas.

But one thing they are not supposed to do is lobby.

State law says local development corporations are not permitted to “influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise.” Ms. Shulman’s group eventually reported spending $450,000, roughly half its total budget, on lobbying, city records show.

Half the group’s revenues came from the Economic Development Corporation, which is also barred from lobbying. The other half came from corporate sponsors, including the Mets organization, which has long eyed the property, and several developers and construction firms that are expected to vie for lucrative redevelopment contracts when the city puts out requests for proposals in coming months.

Last November, the City Council voted 42 to 2 in favor of the plan, which authorizes the city to use eminent domain to remove the various auto repair shops and salvage yards that occupy the 62-acre portion of Queens. A group of business owners is suing to stop the city.

The group, known as Willets Point United, has asked Andrew M. Cuomo, the state attorney general, to investigate the organization’s lobbying efforts.

“They knew what they were doing,” said Gerald Antonacci, the leader of Willets Point United and the president of Crown Container, one of the area’s more than 250 companies that will be required to move when construction begins. “This was all planned out. They knew she was hiring lobbyists. This wasn’t a mistake.”

The attorney general’s office is reviewing the complaint. In recent months, the office has been looking into lobbying by local development corporations, and has identified a “small but not insignificant set” of groups that appear to be improperly lobbying, said a person briefed on the attorney general’s initial review.

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg says that it never encouraged Ms. Shulman to lobby and that the $450,000 it gave to the group was not used for that purpose.

“The city regularly partners with local organizations that promote growth and economic development,” said David Lombino, a spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation. In the case of Ms. Shulman’s group, he added, “we are funding a scope of work that includes public outreach, organizing community support and proposing and advocating for area improvements.”

Andrew Brent, a Bloomberg spokesman, pointed to a letter Mr. Doctoroff sent Ms. Shulman three weeks after their first meeting. It outlined the goals of her group, including conducting and leading “outreach, public relations and marketing efforts” to support the proposed redevelopment in Willets Point, but it never mentioned lobbying elected officials.

Mr. Doctoroff, who left the administration at the end of 2007 to run the mayor’s financial news and data company, Bloomberg L.P., did not respond to requests for comment made through the company and the mayor’s office.

Ms. Shulman, borough president from 1986 to 2001, provides a starkly different account. “We hired lobbyists from the time we began, because we were told it was something we were supposed to be doing,” she said.

Ms. Shulman, an 83-year-old veteran of Queens politics, seemed a natural ally for the city. After retiring from office, she remained well regarded in the community and continued to serve on various boards. And she had long had her sights on Willets Point.

As borough president in the early 1990s, Ms. Shulman rejected as shortsighted a city economic development study that said development would flourish on its own if the city provided sewers and basic services to the area.

Instead, she proposed her own plan, which included a pavilion for international trade.

But like various redevelopment plans dating back to the era of Robert Moses, who unsuccessfully sought to turn the area into a park and parking lot for the 1964 World’s Fair, her vision went unrealized.

Her lobbying for this latest plan became an issue this year when the city clerk’s office, which regulates lobbyists, fined her group a record $59,090 for failing to register her activities with its office. But the issue of whether the group should have been lobbying at all went unaddressed.

Even now, Ms. Shulman is not sure her group did anything wrong.

In its 2007 federal tax returns, the group claimed it had spent no money on lobbying. The group has hired a lawyer to help it comply with all laws and regulations.

The border between what is legally acceptable advocacy of a position and what is illegally trying to influence legislation is often blurry. But critics of the Bloomberg administration’s aggressive and varied development ambitions say these neighborhood groups are increasingly crossing the line.

In a recent example, the Coney Island Development Corporation, essentially a subsidiary of the Economic Development Corporation, hired three buses to carry people to a hearing last month on the mayor’s proposal to revitalize 19 blocks of the Coney Island amusement district. Officials say the buses were open to those who favored or opposed the plan, but council members say it was clear that most riders were supporters.

“I don’t ever remember L.D.C.’s lobbying council members or elected officials the way they have been to promote Bloomberg projects,” said Councilman Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat who is chairman of the Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises and who is a candidate for mayor.

The Coney Island group also paid more than $182,000 to Yoswein New York, another of the city’s major lobbying firms, to help promote its efforts to help the mayor gain public approval for his redevelopment plan, records show. “We do public relations as well, and for this client we were hired to do marketing and public relations,” said Jamie Van Bramer, who handled the account for Yoswein. “We did no lobbying on this one at all.”

Likewise, the Glover Park Group, which received at least $30,000 from the Flushing Willets Point organization, said it focused on “press relations,” not lobbying. Harry Giannoulis, president of the Parkside Group, which lobbying records show got $125,000, said Ms. Shulman hired it to lobby, among other duties.

“We didn’t want to do anything improper,” Ms. Shulman said. “We have been working very hard to try to do something that is in the best interest of the city, and we did what we thought was correct.”

Como Still No-Go On Commissioner Appointment by Chris Bragg and Sal Gentile - City Hall News

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NYCHA post fails to materialize for former Council member, despite promises

Back when Mayor Michael Bloomberg was meeting with Republican county leaders about running on the GOP ballot line in November, his administration offered Anthony Como, the former Council member and favorite of the Queens County Republican Party, a job in his administration as a commissioner with the New York City Housing Authority.

Yet five months later, Como has yet to assume the job or collect a paycheck. And some members of the Queens GOP, the county organization which had been the most skeptical of the mayor’s entreaties, are now seething that Bloomberg is once again not living up to promises made to them.

I don’t think it was ever a sincere offer,” said one Queens Republican. “They’ll keep him dangling until the campaign season is over, so he doesn’t become an enemy. But that job is never materializing.”

Two sources in the Queens GOP who have spoken with Como say a lengthy vetting process has held up his appointment. They say they doubt whether he will ever actually be appointed to the coveted $172,311 a year post.

Reached by phone, Como disputed that anything irregular was occurring. He said he was confident his appointment was still on track, and that he was still in regular contact with top staffers in both the Bloomberg administration and the Bloomberg campaign.

We’re still going back and forth,” Como said. “Nobody has said anything about me being turned down.”

Como accepted the job just weeks after the Queens GOP endorsed Bloomberg to run on the Republican line this November. One source said Bloomberg aides delayed the appointment process after news of Como’s hiring became public in May, in order to avoid the appearance of a quid pro quo.

At the time of the hiring, some saw the appointment as part of a deal worked out between the Queens GOP, Bloomberg and Tom Ognibene. Ognibene abandoned a potential run for mayor—easing Bloomberg’s efforts to win the Republican line—and is now running for the Council seat once held by Como.

(Ognibene held the seat himself until term limits forced him out in 2001; it was then held by Dennis Gallagher until he resigned as part of a plea deal on rape charges; Como won the seat in a June 2008 special election, but lost to Elizabeth Crowley in their rematch last November.)

One Queens GOP source also noted that the appointment was in the works long before the Queens GOP endorsed Bloomberg, as Como said he first discussed the possibility of taking a job in the Bloomberg administration with Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey after losing the seat last year.

Another reason for the delay seems to be that the Department of Investigations, which performs routine background checks on administration appointees, has been looking into several zoning violations committed by Como when he was renovating his home in Middle Village.

Administration officials questioned Como about the violations in an interview earlier this year, which has made him nervous that he may not get the job, according to another person who has spoken with him. They added that the final decision about Como’s appointment will likely come some time after Labor Day.

Some in NYCHA are apparently unaware that Como was actually still under consideration for the job. When contacted, NYCHA spokesman Howard Marder said he believed it had only been speculation in the first place that Como had been offered the commissioner post.

That was just a rumor—and it’s not true,” Marder said.

When informed that the Department of Investigations had been looking into Como’s background and that he actually had been offered and accepted the job, Marder referred questions about Como to the Bloomberg administration's press office, which did not respond the inquiries about Como.

The Bloomberg campaign also did respond to a request for comment.

Como’s vetting process has already taken longer than that of current NYCHA commissioner Margarita López, which took only three months. López had several potentially more serious issues in her background stemming from her time on the City Council, including her role in procuring a $630,000 grant for a controversial Church of Scientology project.

But if Queens Republicans continue to despair that there remain too few party members in the administration, the delay in Como’s appointment has been cheered by at least one group that has often tangled with the administration: tenant activists.

I think Como would be a disastrous choice for rent regulation,” said Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, adding that, as a NYCHA commissioner, Como would wield outsize influence at an agency “where three people make all the decisions.”

Photo: Fox 5 News

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Real Hero: Quick-thinking Teen Rachel Guzy Pulled Bus Brake After Driver Dropped Dead BY Henrick Karoliszyn, Edgar Sandoval and Rich Schapiro - NYDN

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Camp counselor Rachel Guzy, 16, saved 9 kids after their bus driver had a heart attack and died while driving.
A quick-thinking 16-year-old girl - who doesn't even know how to drive - was hailed as a hero on Wednesday for saving a bus full of kids after the driver dropped dead behind the wheel.

"If not for Rachel, we could have been dead or at the hospital," Artemis Sacramone, 12, a camper at the Magic Carpet Day Camp, said Wednesday, a day after camp counselor Rachel Guzy's heroic act.

"You can only hope a counselor acts like she did," said Brett Tawil, owner of the Bayside, Queens, camp. "In the tragedy, we have a hero."

Rachel sprang into action after driver Ramon Fernandez collapsed and tumbled out of the bus as it roared toward an Elmhurst intersection Tuesday afternoon. Aboard the bus were nine children, ages 7 to 14, and Rachel, who doesn't even have a learner's permit.

Rachel quickly bounded into the driver's seat and pulled the emergency brake, slowing the vehicle before it crashed into a minivan.

No one was seriously hurt in the accident.

Fernandez was later pronounced dead, apparently from a heart attack.

Artemis was among a slew of campers, staffers and even the bus driver's relatives who hailed Rachel as a hero - but the quick-thinking teen from Astoria wasn't having any of it.

"I just did what I had to do," Rachel said Wednesday. "Everything went through my mind. I worried about the kids. I worried about the driver. I knew I had to react."

The trouble started just before 4:30 p.m. when Fernandez complained of being hot and stopped the bus outside a bodega, so Rachel could get him some water.

The campers had spent the afternoon bowling in Flushing and were on their way home.

After Rachel returned with the water, Fernandez continued along his route with the bus' doors open.

He was talking with Rachel when he suddenly collapsed as the bus approached the intersection of Hampton St. and Elmhurst Ave.

"Out of nowhere, there was a car coming and he just kept driving," said Rachel, a first-year counselor.

"He was slouched over. I thought he was picking something up, but then, next thing is, he rolls off the bus."

Several frightened campers began shrieking. Rachel didn't hesitate.

"I just jumped into the driver's seat, and the first thing I did was press down on the brake as hard as I could," Rachel said. "Then I pulled the emergency brake.

"I was a nervous wreck. I was shaking and I was crying. I couldn't breathe. It was the scariest thing I've ever had to do in my life."

Rachel, a junior at Bryant High School in Long Island City, said she had a sense of what to do because she had spent time messing "around with everything on the bus. I never knew it would pay off. I guess it pays to be curious."

Camper Nicole Doyle, 11, said Rachel's flash of courage didn't surprise her.

"She really cares about the kids," Nicole said. "The kids were her main concern. They always are."

As the campers and staff celebrated Rachel's heroism, Fernandez's relatives mourned the sudden loss of a man they described as a devoted dad and fierce protector of kids.

"He loved those children and would have done everything he could to make sure they were safe," Fernandez's sister Guillermina Rosa said before praising Rachel.

"She was a very brave young woman - to be only 16 and think to pull the brakes."

Fernandez, a married father from Valley Stream, L.I., with two adult children, had been a school bus driver for 15 years, relatives said

Fernandez's niece said Rachel's actions added a silver lining to the tragedy.

"This is a tragedy for us, but she just came through," Keila Fernandez said. "He did what he could. Until his last moment, he tried to stop the bus - but his heart took him away."

Bidders Anxious For Racino Action by Dave Lucas- WAMC Public Radio...

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Bidders for the rights to build and operate a racino at Aqueduct Racetrack have increased money they're prepared to offer state... Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

The Paterson Administration has been accepting bids on an Aqueduct Racino that would house 4500 video lottery terminals, making the Queens Raceway the home of the largest slot parlor in the world. The state hopes it can make $1 million a day in revenue once the Aqueduct racino opens.

The on again off again racino project has been stymied by the economy: bidders have already amended financial aspects of their proposals and final amendments are due Wednesday. Buffalo-based Delaware North had secured the rights to build and develop the racino but backed away in March, unable to come up with enough cash for the upfront fee. Competitors have announced aggressive plans to get the project underway: SL Green's plan calls for a huge food court, a Hard Rock memorabilia bar, retail outlets and other amenities. Aqueduct Entertainment Group has promised the state $151 Million upfront - AEG spokesman Larry Roman says his company is "shovel ready" - AEG is dangling another $100 million before the state IF it will allow 10-thousand VLTS on the premises.

A spokesman for Governor David Paterson's office returned a request for comment by email, stating each bidder was met with individually during the last week of July, and all bids are under review. Once those final reviews are complete, that info will be sent to the governor and leaders for a final decision.

Crain's New York identified the top three bidders: according to the website SL Green bid $250 million, the Aqueduct Entertainment Group bid $151 million and casino mogul Steven Wynn bid $75 million.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Queens Dems Pick Miller in Controversial Race to Replace Seminerio by Howard Koplowitz - Queens Campaigner

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After a false start, a special election to replace disgraced former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) is back on, and the Queens Democratic Party was quick to announce its pick to run on the party’s line.

Michael Reich, executive secretary for the Queens Democratic Party, said the organization chose to endorse Community Board 5 member and Glendale resident Michael Miller for the seat, up for grabs in a Sept. 15 special election — the same day borough voters will cast ballots in primaries.

Seminerio resigned from his seat in June after pleading guilty to corruption charges in Manhattan federal court. An indictment charged him with setting up a fake consulting company he used to take in more than $1 million in illegal payments.

Earlier this month, Gov. David Paterson sent out a news release announcing a special election, but recalled the announcement just hours later, attributing the gaffe to an error in his office, according to Paterson spokeswoman Marissa Shorenstein.

Paterson announced the special election again — this time no error — Friday.

“Although there were concerns raised about [the first] announcement, after a comprehensive review of the issues at stake, I have determined that a special election on Primary Day is the most cost-effective, expeditious way to ensure that the people of the 38th District are appropriately represented in the Assembly,” the governor said in a statement. “I urge all eligible voters to go to the polls Sept. 15 to elect their next Assembly member.”

When voters do go to the polls, they will see Miller’s name on the Democratic line after the party and district leaders in the 38th District selected him Monday.

“I’m honored to receive the support of the Queens Democratic Party for my candidacy for the 38th Assembly” district, Miller said in a voicemail message.

“I’m running for the state Assembly to strengthen our neighborhoods — from improving our schools to continuing my efforts to protect our families,” he said. “I will work hard every day to earn the trust of the people of our communities and to make them proud.”

The Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement of Miller was a blow to Ozone Park attorney Albert Baldeo, who led a six-candidate field in fund-raising before the special election was called.

“It’s a sad day for democracy in our district that the vote was taken away from the voters,” Baldeo said.

Baldeo repeatedly told TimesLedger Newspapers he expected to be the party’s choice because of his loyalty to the organization and his help in getting some of their candidates elected.

Last year, Baldeo bowed out of a primary race in favor of then-City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who went on to defeat then-state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) in November.

In 2006, Baldeo came within 800 votes of defeating Maltese in a close election that shocked the borough’s political establishment.

Samaroo Sues Paterson to Stop Special Election for Queens Seat by Ray Edroso - - Runnin' Scared Blog...

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The special assembly election Governor Paterson announced, then rescinded, in Queens is on again -- at least for the moment.

"Although there were concerns raised about last week's announcement," says the Governor, "after a comprehensive review of the issues at stake, I have determined that a Special Election on Primary Day is the most cost-effective, expeditious way to ensure that the people of the 38th District are appropriately represented in the Assembly."

Would-be candidate Farouk Samaroo (pictured) claims disenfranchisement and is suing, requesting "injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order" on behalf of himself and several other office-seekers who had petitioned for the primary ballot and now have to start all over again for the special election.

Samaroo wants Paterson's proclamation declared "unconstitutional and therefore null, void and of no legal effect." He also mentions in his filing that he "is an Indian-American person, and as such is a member of a protected class under the Voting Rights Act."

Samaroo was profiled last month by the Queens Gazette, which reported that he had served as an intern to Congressman Floyd Flake at age 12, fought in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, and was "both promoted and fired -- in the same week -- by disgraced Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin. "

The race is to replace Anthony Seminerio, who resigned in disgrace earlier this year.

Watch Sicko - A Michael Moore Documentary on Healthcare...

Click here to Watch Sicko...
A must watch film to understand the health-care reform debate..

is a documentary film by Michael Moore. The film investigates the American health care system in 2007, focusing on its health insurance and pharmaceutical industry. The film compares the for-profit, non-universal U.S. system with the non-profit universal health care systems of Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Cuba.

According to the movie Sicko, almost fifty million Americans are uninsured and those who are covered with insurance are often victims of insurance company fraud and red tape. Interviews are conducted with people who thought they had adequate coverage but were denied care, as well as former employees of insurance companies who describe cost-cutting initiatives that encourage bonuses for insurance company physicians to deny medical treatments for policy holders.

In this documentary, the director / writer Michael Moore exposes the dysfunctional North American health care system, oriented to huge profits and not for their mission of saving lives. Further, Moore shows the corruption in the political system, with members of government and congress “bought” by the corporations and the situation of the average American citizens.

Watch Sicko online...

Rep Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9th) Silences Joe Scarborough on Healthcare Reform - Medicare for All...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hospital Boss Sues Over 'Bribe' Try - by Melissa Klein - New York Post

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The president of a defunct Queens hospital who refused to pay bogus consulting fees to disgraced former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio is suing him and a rival hospital president who did pay the lawmaker.

Dr. Robert Aquino, who ran Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, slapped Seminerio and David Rosen, president of Jamaica Hospital, with a $100 million suit Friday in Manhattan federal court.

Seminerio pleaded guilty in June, admitting that he lobbied the state on behalf of Jamaica while keeping secret that he was paid a consulting fee.

The state closed Parkway in November.

Dave's Double Cross: Gov. Paterson Flip-Flops Again on Assembly Primary in 38th AD - NY Daily News Editorial...

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Gov. Paterson has reversed a reversal and ended up betraying the voters of a Queens Assembly District. In a sneaky move late Friday afternoon, he canceled the September primary for the open 38th District seat - all but handing victory to the Queens Democratic machine. Get ready for a handpicked assemblyman

Dave, this is the second time you've canceled the primary. The first order you thankfully rescinded. We doubt you'll flop back, but we live in hope.

Dems Pick Miller In 38th AD by Elizabeth Benjamin - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

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As expected, the Queens Democrats have tapped Mike Miller as their candidate to run in the Sept. 15 special election for the seat vacated by scandal-scarred former Assemblyman Tony Seminerio.

The decision was made by three of the four district leaders in the 38th AD. Seminerio, who remains a district leader despite the fact that he pleaded guilty to, and is awaiting sentencing for, influence-peddling, did not show up at the party HQ to vote.

The decision on Miller, a Community Board 5 member who has never held elected office, was not unanimous.

He got two votes, while Nick Comaianni, a member of Community Board 9 and Community Education Council of District 24 president, received one.

A Queens tipster says the vote was 2-1 for Comianni a few weeks ago. No word on who flipped.

Queens Democratic Party Executive Secretary Michael Reich confirmed Miller's selection and the fact that Seminerio was a no-show. ("We weren't surprised," Reich said of the erstwhile lawmaker's absence in selecting his potential successor).

Miller has been cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party (they formally nominated him last Friday after Gov. David Paterson changed his mind and re-issued a proclamation for the 38th AD special election).

Seminerio regularly ran with the Conservative line - and sometimes the GOP line, too. But the demographic of the district has been changing, with a lot of minorities moving in (it was only 42 percent white after the 2000 Census), supplanting the right-leaning, Caucasian conservative Democrats.

I asked Reich if he's worried Miller's cross-endorsement could hurt him since the special election is being held concurrent with the primary, which tends to draw hard-core Democrats. That would be a big problem for Miller if the WFP, which hasn't picked a candidate yet, decides to nominate someone to his left.

"It's going to be up to us to put the Democratic candidate forward," Reich said. "I believe we can do that. Mike is a guy who has been active in the community for a long time. Honestly, he has not been that active in Democratic politics, but he's a life-long Democrat and he demonstrated to us that he has a great deal of community support."

"...We're trying to add something new and different to the mix here. We're looking to build the party and Mike will help us do that. I don't know what the Working Families Party will do. I hope they'll support our candidate, but we haven't spoken to them as of yet."

It's worth noting that the labor-backed party and its allies have bucked the Queens Democrats in several Council races this year. On the 38th AD question, WFP spokesman Dan Levitan was non-committal, saying only:

"WFP members will look at all the candidates in the race and endorse the one who will best represent working people in Queens."

Of course, letting the 38th AD contest go forward as a regular election was a dangerous proposition, too, because there's not much of a mayor's race to pull voters and the one person who will be spending a lot on GOTV is a certain billionaire whose name will appear on the GOP line.

(Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who wants to keep the seat in Democratic hands, was worried about this, and pushed Paterson to reinstate the special election he had called off).

Meanwhile, one of the three other Democrats who petitioned their way onto the ballot and are now being denied a run by Paterson's special election decision - is filing a federal lawsuit against the governor this afternoon.

No word yet on what Albert Baldeo is going to do.

The Republicans are expected to Donna Marie Caltabiano, who also filed petitions and got on the ballot, to run.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Queens City Council Candidate Ruben Wills Throws Punch at Rival in Board of Elections Office by Brendan Brosh

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A Queens City Council candidate took the brawl for City Hall literally on Friday, throwing a punch at a rival in a wild argument over election rules, witnesses said.

The brouhaha broke out at the borough's Board of Elections office, witnesses said.

Ruben Wills - who's running for the 28th Council District seat - took a swing at former City Councilman Allan Jennings, but missed and socked an aide, Jennings said.

Wills, 38, is challenging Jennings' petitions to get on the ballot for the upcoming Democratic primary in September.

"He leaped up and came after me," said Jennings, 42, who held the seat from 2001 to 2005. "He wanted a signature off, and I disagreed."

Jennings campaign worker Frank Perero said he was sitting in front of a computer when Wills' fist hit him and knocked him to the ground.

"All of a sudden, Mr. Wills pops with an angry look on his face, and I find myself on the floor," said Perero. "My back is killing me."

Wills, who told the Daily News he is withdrawing his petition challenge, accused Perero of "buffoonery to act like he was assaulted."

He also accused Jennings of "using the F-word used for homosexuals. He used it 10 or 11 times. He kept going with it."

Wills and Jennings are running against incumbent Thomas White for the seat that represents Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Jamaica and Rochdale Village.

A Board of Elections employee restrained Wills, who then left the building. Cops found him in a nearby store, Jennings said. He was not arrested.

"I can confirm that an incident happened," said Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez-Rivera. "A police report was filed."

Wills - who used to work for state Sen. Shirley Huntley - tried to run for Congress against Rep. Gregory Meeks in 2008, but was kicked off the ballot.

He vowed at the time to march on Washington if he was not allowed back in the race.

Wills also had a number of judgments and liens against him for not paying child support, taxes or his student loans, public records show.

Jennings is no stranger to controversy either.

The erratic former councilman made national news when he threw a metal object at a reporter on live TV.

Jennings also placed ads in Chinese language newspapers proclaiming his love for a folk dancer he was dating and his dislike for his wife.

He was accused of threatening a fellow Council member with biblical verses and used Council envelopes to promote his real estate business.

He was also censured in December 2005 for making sexual advances toward two female staffers and forcing them to remain quiet.

The women, who sued in federal court, received a $300,000 settlement from the city.

In 2005, Albert Baldeo, a candidate for the same Council seat was accused of aiming a gun at rival Robert Mahadeo and demanding that he drop out of the race. The charges were later dropped.

"We should be getting away from this type of politics," said Lynn Nunes, who is also running for the seat. "People need to be focusing on issues in the community."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Michael Cohen Floats Stock Tax in City Council Bid by Michael Lanza - Queens Chronicle

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Former Assemblyman Mike Cohen is hoping a big picture approach will put him over the top in his bid to fill the 29th Council District seat.

That’s why the Democratic contender is proposing a citywide issue at the center of his campaign. Cohen wants the city to reinstate a long forgotten tax on stock transactions to help fill looming holes in the city’s budget.

Cohen said reinstating the tax could add as much as $10 billion annually into state and city coffers.

“The tax is actually still being collected and being instantly rebated,” Cohen said. “So we know how much money is being collected.”

He deflected critics who claim the tax would spur an exodus by already ailing Wall Street firms.

“A million dollar trade under this proposal — the cost would be 50 bucks. In London, the cost would be $5,000. In Hong Kong, it would be $8,000. In Singapore, it would be $11,000,” he said. “This is as close to negligible as you can get.”

While Cohen is focusing much of his energy selling the stock tax issue — it doesn’t mean he’s not paying attention to local issues as well.

Cohen would fight to bring Doe Fund workers to help with sanitation services on busy streets including Metropolitan Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Grand Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.“The sanitation services in these areas is just not up to snuff,” he said.

Cohen wants to add speed photo radar systems that would automatically ticket speeding drivers on dangerous streets like Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard.

He would fight for communities to have a greater say in development issues, adding that many neighborhoods were unprepared for growth in the short term. He also would work to give parents the opportunity to send their kids to school locally and would push for subsidies to bring hospitals back to the area.

Cohen, whose resignation from the Assembly for a cozy six-figure job at insurance giant HIP opened the way for Andrew Hevesi to take the seat, continued to deny questions of foul play in the ongoing pension fund scandal. The move was cited in an investigation into disgraced former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who allegedly set up the switch in exchange for pension fund favors.

Cohen said he was unaware of any ulterior motives in the arrangement, and had taken the job because a family health crisis was impeding his ability to serve.

The candidate has not been named as a suspect in the investigation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Join City Council candidate Frank Gulluscio for an End of Summer BBQ - September 2nd 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm - Ozone Howard Little League Fields

Click on image to enlarge

Who: Frank Gulluscio for City Council
What: End of Summer BBQ - RAIN or SHINE
Where: Ozone Howard Little League Field
(Centerville Street and Bristol Avenue)
When: Wednesday - September 2, 2009
Time: 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Much Confusion Over Setting Date For 38th AD Special Election by John Toscano - | Queens Gazette

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No new date for a special election to fill the seat vacated by Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio has been announced by Governor David Paterson. Paterson announced a date for an election last Friday, but then canceled it some four hours later.

Reports that the governor's bizarre actions were sparked by two Queens lawmakers, Congressmember Gregory Meeks (D- Southeast Queens) and state Senator Malcolm Smith (D- Jamaica) have been circulating since the announcement was rescinded.

Meeks and Smith reportedly were acting on behalf of Albert Baldeo, an Ozone Park attorney who wants to run for the seat vacated by Seminerio, but as of now would not qualify to run because he does not live within the district's boundaries.

Baldeo presently resides in Ozone Park. The 38th AD includes areas of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Glendale.

On August 7, the governor had set September 15 as the day for the special election. Primary elections will be held throughout the city on that date, which had already been set by the Board of Elections more than a month ago when nominating petitions began to be circulated by anyone seeking to run in the primaries.

Baldeo and three other persons submitted petitions to run for the 38th AD seat to the Board of Elections. The other three seeking to run for the seat are listed in the board's records as Nick Comaianni of Woodhaven; Michael G. Miller of Glendale, and Farouk Samaron of Richmond Hill.

One of those three reportedly has the backing of the Queens Democratic Party. However, calls to party headquarters in Forest Hills were not returned so the party's designee could not be confirmed.

However, the Queens organization, headed by Congressmember Joseph Crowley, reportedly wants to go ahead with the election on September 15. Meeks and Smith's opposition led to the governor canceling the special election for that day.

Jumping into the act, the Queens Republican Party said through a spokesman that it is "reviewing our legal options" to go into court and compel the governor to enforce the September 15 date he originally set for the special election because the GOP may want to put up a candidate to run for the seat.

The Queens Democrats might also go to court to get a ruling saying the governor can't change the date since he officially set it.