Friday, April 30, 2010

Bloomberg Makes a Term-Limits Joke by Azi Paybarah - The New York Observer

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It's too bad the joke is on the citizens of New York City...

Michael Bloomberg's new deputy mayor, Steve Goldsmith, who is a former mayor himself, said he won't seek office again.

"I said that too," Bloombeg said, to much laughter.

Iconic Photo of the Fall of Saigon - 35 Years Ago Today...

35 years ago today the Vietnam War ended after the last Americans scrambled up to the rooftop of the US Embassy to get in the last chopper out of Saigon.

Hugh Van Es, a Dutch photojournalist who covered the Vietnam War and recorded the most famous image of the fall of Saigon in 1975 — a group of people scaling a ladder to a CIA helicopter on a rooftop.

h/t: Michael Moore

Senator Addabbo and Assemblyman Miller Team with AARP to Make Our Streets and Sidewalks Safer

Senator Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Mike Miller meet with AARP Safe Streets campaign official and volunteers, a nearby school's parent reps, along with older adults from nearby senior center at Thursday, April 29 press conference at Woodhaven Blvd. & 89th Ave. intersection. Senator Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Mike Miller show gathered press corps and Safe Streets campaign supporters from AARP and the Woodhaven community a listing of fatalities in the 15th Senate District of people over age 50. A Senate District 15 map showing dangerous crossings also was displayed at the press conference.

NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., announced today that he is joining the AARP in a campaign to survey crosswalks and intersections and take action to make our streets and sidewalks safer.

Senator Addabbo was joined by NYS Assemblyman Michael Miller, Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey, Forest Park Senior Center President Donna Caltabiano, representatives from local schools, and others, at the intersection of Woodhaven Blvd and 89th Avenue in Woodhaven.

This location was highlighted by Senator Addabbo because within a two-block radius there is the Forest Park Senior Center and PS 60 (pre-K through grade 5) with over 1200 students and PS 306 (pre-K through grade 2) with over 220 students. Both seniors and students have to cross 10 lanes of traffic to reach either schools or their senior center.

This effort is part of a broader statewide campaign, “Complete Streets Week: Making New York Walkable for All Generations,” which will survey hundreds of dangerous roads and intersections across the state. Several factors will be taken into account including if there are adequate traffic and crossing signals, if crosswalks are properly marked, and if there is enough time to cross the streets.

The results will be used to make improvements and develop legislation to ensure that streets are safe and accessible for individuals of all ages.

Senator Addabbo said, “This location highlights a dangerous intersection in the district. If a senior or student needs to cross Woodhaven Boulevard, they have to cross 10 lanes of traffic in a very short time. Additionally, the islands separating the lanes are very narrow, where there is no space for a wheelchair, walker or baby stroller to fit without putting a pedestrian at danger. I am proud to work with AARP to bring attention to this problem and to the need for Complete Streets in our neighborhood.”

“We need a Complete Streets policy that recognizes older residents to make our community safer, healthier, and a better place to live. Keeping the walkways free of cracks and potholes will prevent injuries. By increasing the amount of time you have to cross streets and decreasing speed limits at major intersections, we can dramatically reduce pedestrian fatalities. I have made our quality of life a top priority since taking office and will continue to fight for improvements. This plan is good for our seniors and good for our community,” said Assemblymember Miller.

Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey said, "For the last 20 years, accidents around both Woodhaven and Jamaica as well as the surrounding intersections have been a serious issue. Too often those accidents include fatalities and involve senior citizens. We need to take a serious look at these intersections and how we can improve them for the safety of everyone."

“Complete streets are vital for older residents to maintain an independent lifestyle,” said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. “That is why AARP has organized this statewide initiative to evaluate the most dangerous roads and intersections in New York so that we can help community members document the problems in their neighborhoods. Complete Streets legislation would help New Yorkers age in the setting of their choice because their community will be more livable and meet their growing needs.”

“Senior Centers are vital for the community and considered safe havens. We need to ensure that all seniors can safely reach their senior centers,” said Donna Caltabiano, the president of Forest Park Senior Center.

The neglect of pedestrian safety falls harder on older adults. According to the 2009 report, Dangerous by Design by Transportation for Americans, New York ranks 3rd in the nation for pedestrian fatalities for people age 65+. An AARP report finds that two in five Americans age 50 or over say their neighborhood sidewalks are inadequate, and nearly half cannot cross main roads close to their home safely, preventing many from walking, cycling, or taking the bus.

From 2006 thru 2008 there were 6,731 automobile accidents with 94 fatalities. In Senate District 15 alone, there were 15 fatalities, of which seven were individuals above 50.

By 2025, people age 65+ will comprise nearly 20 percent of the population. Yet two-thirds of transportation planners and engineers say they have yet to begin addressing older people in their street planning. Complete Streets policies direct transportation planners and engineers to design streets and roads with all people in mind including pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.

Complete Streets legislation has been introduced in the New York State Assembly and Senate by transportation and aging policy leaders in New York State. Senator Addabbo is a Co-Sponsor of this legislation. Complete Streets legislation will ensure that all new roads constructed have to provide the same consistent level of safe travel for all motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation users regardless of age or ability.

“We need this legislation to ensure that our streets that we construct in the future provide the same level of safety for all residents of New York State regardless of age. Our streets should not be ones that our seniors or any pedestrians are afraid to cross,” said Senator Addabbo.

Port Authority Chief: Tear Down Queens' LaGuardia Airport by Doug Feiden - NY Daily News

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Aerial view of LaGuardia Airport in Queens. Watts/News

Port Authority boss Chris Ward said Tuesday that LaGuardia Airport should be torn down - and then completely rebuilt as soon as money is available.

The facility that whisks millions of travelers on their not-so-merry way is a chaotic and unwieldy mess that's not fit for the 21st century, Ward argued.

"LaGuardia should not be the gateway for domestic flights into New York City," Ward told a Crain's New York Business breakfast forum. "It should fundamentally be torn down and rebuilt again."

The stark comments from the PA's executive director seemed to startle business executives at the Grand Hyatt. Demolishing the 72-gate, 680-acre facility has never been publicly debated.

"LaGuardia was built over decades, and it's not the kind of integrated aviation facility that the 21st century really demands," he said.

"On top of that, we've layered in post-9/11 security, and because of that you have an experience for the air traveler which is unnecessarily chaotic and difficult to manage."

Like the subways, LaGuardia is part of most New Yorkers' DNA - even though it's an ugly, unmanageable horror show that conjures up the romance of aviation for almost no one.

Ward said the PA lacks the cash right now to dismantle the airport but disclosed that the agency has hired planning consultants to "reimagine" the modern, state-of-the-art launch pad that will one day take its place.

The total teardown wouldn't happen overnight, PA officials say: It would be phased in over time so operations could continue while airport demolition is underway.

"I think candidly, over time, building piece by piece, LaGuardia has to be completely redone," he said.

"It will improve aeronautical efficiency, get more flights in and out, improve gate utilization - and give the flying public a state of the art terminal that they really deserve."

Natural Gas Pipeline Foes Have New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Their Side by Daniel Edward Rosen - NY Daily News

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Rockaway residents are "breathing a sigh of relief," officials said Tuesday, after a key gatekeeper vowed to veto proposals for liquefied natural gas terminals off the Atlantic coast.

But the companies that want to build the terminals aren't sailing away just yet.

"This community really has a fear of this project. It does not serve a purpose for us or for the city," said Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14 in Far Rockaway.

He and other local officials hailed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's pledge last week to oppose LNG terminals near the shorelines of New Jersey and New York.

Christie, who along with Gov. Paterson, has veto power over such projects, said LNG terminals "are not the answer for New Jersey's needs."

"I remain unconvinced of the need and efficacy of these facilities, or their ability to lower prices," he said.

Christie's pledge renders such projects "dead on arrival," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn).

"Let's not waste our time - pull the plug now," Weiner said.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group, BlueOcean Energy and Excalibur Energy have been courting state officials in both states to build these terminals.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group wants to build a man-made island 15 miles off Rockaway. A terminal there could deliver up to 2billion cubic feet of gas per day through an underwater pipeline connected to the mainland in Nassau County, according to planners.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer said she wasn't sure why Gov. Paterson has not rejected the terminals himself.

"We thought it would be good if our governor took the initiative and said 'no' right away," said Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach).

But Joel Baskin, a spokesman for the administration, said the governor has been silent on the proposals because he has "yet to receive a proposal for any LNG terminal."

Gary Lewi, a spokesman for Atlantic Sea Island Group, said the company had not given Christie a detailed report on its terminal and hopes to do so "before there is a final decision on the project."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Senator Addabbo Brings Pearle Vision to Forest Park Senior Center to Provide Free Eye Exams to Woodhaven's Older Adults

Senator Addabbo with Woodhaven's older adults who turned out for free eye exams at their Forest Park Senior Center.

NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., brought his once-a-month series of free eye exams by Pearle Vision's Ozone Park staff to the Forest Park Senior Center, 89-02 91st Street, Woodhaven, 718-849-2222, on Thursday, April 22, from 11 AM - Noon.

Thirty older adults out of 40 attending Forest Park Senior Center that day took advantage of getting free vision screenings. Pearle Vision's professional staff included optometrist Dr. Jeanette Cooper, optician Bill Roussis and Pearle Vision-Ozone Park general manager Joanna Tonchuck. An auto refractor was used to determine range of vision/prescription and a CT machine detected warning signs of glaucoma.

Pearle Vision’s staff also cleaned and adjusted eyewear, gave out goody bags containing lens cleaners, cloths and cases for glasses and provided one pass with each screening result to have a free, comprehensive eye exam done at Pearle Vision's Ozone Park location, 102-22 Atlantic Avenue. Pearle's professionals also presented a 20-minute lecture and give out literature on the symptoms of chronic dry eyes, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic eye problems, followed by a Q&A with audience.

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and State Leaders Launch Campaign to End Government Use of Styrofoam...

Campaign Kicks off with Rally at Public School Featuring Parents, Students, and Piles of Styrofoam Trays and Cups Collected from Schools and Government Buildings

On Earth Day, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh launched a statewide campaign to end government use of Styrofoam. The campaign kicked off with an early morning rally at a Manhattan public school featuring parents, students, and piles of Styrofoam trays and cups collected from schools and government buildings.

As part of this campaign, de Blasio, Krueger, and Kavanagh are recruiting elected representatives to sign the Stop Polystyrene And Revitalize the Environment (SPARE) Pledge, which calls on leaders in State and City Government to eliminate use of Styrofoam food service products in office operations and at their events. The SPARE Pledge will build momentum for a state and city legislation to eliminate government use of Styrofoam

New York City and State government should be leading by example and ending their age old dependence on Styrofoam,” said Public advocate Bill de Blasio. “Everyday, our City’s schools alone discard 850,000 Styrofoam trays, doing tremendous damage to our environment. Hopefully by recruiting elected leaders to join our coalition and pushing legislation on the State and City levels we can make New York completely Styrofoam free.”

I am proud to be a part of this coalition of City and State Leaders that have banded together to end the use of Styrofoam in our offices and at all of our events," said Senator Krueger. "There is no reason that anyone should continue using a product that is so toxic to our environment when there are more environmentally sound alternatives available. Today, in honor of Earth Day, I pledge to help build our coalition of local and state leaders who will lead the way in ending the use of Styrofoam.”

"New Yorkers have a right to expect that their government officials will make sensible, environmentally responsible choices when buying products with taxpayer funds," said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh. “Unfortunately, the cups, plates, trays, and other food service items made of Styrofoam that we routinely see in the cafeterias of public hospitals, schools, and universities just don't meet this standard. A child might spend 5 minutes drinking from a Styrofoam cup before tossing it aside, but unfortunately that same cup might remain with us on this Earth 500 years from now. Today on Earth Day and in the coming year, let's finally agree to put an end to our misplaced reliance on Styrofoam."

The SPARE campaign is providing support for City legislation that Public Advocate de Blasio will be introducing which would prohibit city agencies and reasonable sectors of the food industry from using Styrofoam and also for state legislation, S2832-A/A428 (Krueger/Kavanagh), which will replace Styrofoam with recyclable and compostable products throughout government Statewide. The state legislation A428-A passed the Assembly on April 20th as part of the Earth Day package, and is currently progressing in the Senate.

Track Supervisor Who Died on Rockaway Shuttle Line Shouldn't Have Been Working in the Rain by Clare Trapasso and Pete Donohue - NY Daily News

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Family and friends of James Knell mourn the death of the track worker killed after slipping and falling on to a third rail while doing track work in East Rockaway, Queens. Marino for News

The track supervisor who tripped and fell to his death on a third rail Monday apparently shouldn't have been working in that morning's wet weather, union officials said.

NYC Transit safety regulations state workers shouldn't be near the electrified third rail if it is raining or the area is rain-slicked, as it was when track supervisor James Knell died along the Rockaway Shuttle line, according to Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen.

The scene on the tracks of the Beach 90th street Station where an MTA employee was electrocuted. Pictured here are ground clips attached to the uncovered section of the third rail.

The scene on the tracks of the Beach 90th street Station where an MTA employee was electrocuted. Pictured here are ground clips attached to the uncovered section of the third rail. Costanza for News

"How could this happen?" father-in-law Gregory Odette said. "They shouldn't have been working in the rain. I don't understand. Somebody made a mistake."

Track workers twice were pulled from tracks during heavy rainfall before the 4:30 a.m. tragedy, sources said.

It was unclear if the rain had completely stopped or if there was a light drizzle when Knell fell at about 4:30 a.m. NYC Transit declined to comment during an ongoing investigation.

Sources said track workers toiled on and off through rain during the overnight shift.

The power was turned off for the project but was restored so a test train could come through the area around Beach 90th St.

Knell was a track crew member before being promoted nine years ago to crew supervisor. He was represented by the Subway Surface Supervisors Association, which declined to comment on rules and regulations Tuesday.

"We're just concerned with the grief of the family right now. There will be another day for that, if necessary," association President Tony Gamma said, adding the tragedy does highlight "the everyday dangers of the job that our members do."

New York & Atlantic Railway to Spend $1 Million to Curb Train Emissions in Glendale by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Glendale residents living next to the Otto Road rail yards got some good news Tuesday when New York & Atlantic Railway announced it will spend $1 million to cut emissions on its 11-unit fleet.

Neighborhood and environmental activists have long complained about noise and pollution from diesel engines idling there.

Railway officials said the work, which will "lower its carbon footprint by 35%," should be completed by the end of the year.

Most of the funds will come from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant through its Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. The railway will kick in about 20% of the cost.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said the change will "dramatically reduce emissions and lower noise related to idling engines."

Railway officials said the trains will be retrofitted with devices that monitor the temperature of the water in the engines. They will also ensure the water is heated, reducing the need to keep the engines idling. Currently, they are kept running so their temperature does not drop below 38 degrees.

Residents of Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth - neighborhoods bisected by the railroad tracks - have said the CSX and New York & Atlantic Railway trains are a ongoing source of problems in their areas.

They formed a group called CURES - Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions - to address the issues.

Some Middle Village residents have said the noise and stench from trains carrying trash in the early morning hours make it impossible to get a good night's sleep.

And Glendale homeowners who live alongside New York & Atlantic's Otto Road facility said noise and pollution are a constant headache.

Railway officials said they have worked hard to improve air quality along its 269-mile freight route.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Mary Parisen, a founding member of CURES. "But we want them to address other issues, such as scheduling of these trains. People are hearing trains banging [from trains coupled] at all hours of the night."

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association and a member of CURES, hailed the latest effort, but noted it "doesn't solve the quality of life problems for people living near the tracks."

Charter Schools Face Pressure to Enroll Disabled Kids and ELS Students Under Newly Proposed State Legislation -

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Charter schools that don't enroll as many kids with disabilities or limited English as do traditional public schools would be shut down under a bill introduced by a top Democrat in the state Senate, The Post has learned.

State Senate Conference leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) has quietly introduced legislation that would revoke the state license of charter schools that don't meet a quota for enrolling special-needs kids over two consecutive years.

"A charter school must enroll the same or a greater percentage of students with disabilities and limited-English-proficient students when compared to the enrollment figures for such students in the school district in which the charter school is located," the bill states.

The bill -- which mirrors recommendations made by the United Federation of Teachers in January -- also has the backing of Assemblyman Alan Masiel (D-Brooklyn) and 19 other Assembly Democrats.

But charter advocates slammed the Sampson quota bill as impractical and punitive. They noted that many of the traditional public schools also enroll a small number of special-needs students -- but only charters are singled out for closure.

"It would punish the kids who are learning in charter schools. What would that accomplish?" said New York City Charter School Center director James Merriman.

Under current law, charters select their students via lottery and are required to make good-faith efforts to recruit special-needs students.

State test results show that charter schools generally outperform traditional public schools on English and math exams.

Unions claim charter schools score higher because they serve far fewer special-needs students -- though a recent Stanford University study found that the city's charter students still score better in an "apples to apples" comparison.

About 4 percent of charter students are English-language learners, compared with 14 percent in traditional schools, UFT officials said.

And less than 12 percent of charter kids are special-education students, compared with 17 percent in traditional public schools, the Department of Education said.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wetlands Designation Right for Ridge Reservoir - Queens Ledger

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We welcome the news that the state is considering protecting the Ridgewood Reservoir with a wetlands designation. It would be the right thing to do, for several reasons.

First, the reservoir- with its beautiful, lake-like second basin and winding pathways- is a gem of a natural habitat the likes of which can never be replaced. The site is home to over 100 species of birds, other animals and a rich variety of flora. It is a community resource, and by any measure more-than-deserving of environmental oversight and protection.

The issue of preservation hits roundly on the second- and perhaps most important- reason why the state plan makes sense. If the DEC classifies the site as a state-regulated wetlands, that could impede the city from pursuing a misguided redevelopment plan for the site, one that has been soundly rejected by the community board and neighborhood preservationists alike.

To be fair, the city isn't planning to raze the reservoir and replace it with high-rise apartment buildings or a large mall. But the city's vision for the reservoir- the final version of which has not been chosen, or made public- suggests a keen desire to build ball fields on the reservoir's third basin.

This makes no sense. It would disrupt the site's fragile ecosystem, and does not take into account Highland Park, which is adjacent to the reservoir and has plenty of recreational areas of its own. If the city, in these tough fiscal times, is committed to spending millions of dollars on a parks project on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, why not invest the money in improving Highland Park and leave the reservoir alone?

In that scenario, the entire site could be converted into a nature preserve with educational facilities, as many wish. The Bloomberg Administration, though, is not known for backing development compromises when it could instead spend more money, and build new projects.

So unless the state steps in, its very likely the city will proceed with its plans, regardless of any opposition to them. It is still unclear how a wetlands designation would impact the city's plans. And of course the DEC might decide not to follow through with the wetlands designation after all.

But if it does, that might be enough to protect the reservoir for generations of Queens and Brooklyn residents. And we might get an improved Highland Park in the bargain. How about that?

NYCLU Urges Parks Department: Withdraw Proposed Restrictions on Art Vendors by Leslie Koch -

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The Parks Department should withdraw its proposal to limit expressive matter vendors in city parks, said the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) on Friday.

The NYCLU, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending civil liberties and civil rights, criticized the Parks Department for its “lack of transparency” in a letter addressed to Alessandro G. Olivieri, the Parks Department’s legal counsel.

Hundreds of street artists protested the Parks Department's plan to restrict the number and location of expressive matter vendors in Manhattan parks, on Friday April 23, 2010. (Photo: Lauren Hillary)

The Parks Department proposal would eliminate roughly 75% of the vendors selling fine art and other expressive materials in four popular Manhattan parks.

Expressive matter vendors would compete for just 18 spots in Union Square, 9 in Battery Park, 5 in Central Park South and 5 on the High Line.

“So severe a reduction in the number of expressive opportunities will be treated with considerable skepticism by the vendors and by a fair-minded public.

"To overcome such skepticism, the Parks Department will need to come forward with powerful evidence and persuasive data to demonstrate the reasonableness of this measure. It has not done so, to date,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg in the letter.

Street artists strongly oppose the Parks Department proposal and believe it violates their First Amendment rights.

As a result of successful lawsuits, vendors can legally sell expressive materials-- including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, books and writings-- in New York City's public parks and streets without obtaining vending permits.

“The Parks Department should make every effort to accommodate our city’s artists, poets and authors. It must withdraw its proposal until it can publicly demonstrate it is meeting its First Amendment obligations,” said Eisenberg in a press release accompanying the letter.

The NYCLU’s letter details three legal concerns with the Parks Department proposal.

First, the NYCLU claims that the Parks Department "has failed utterly” to provide data to the public that quantifies the number of expressive matter vendors and competing users at the desired sites.

Second, the NYCLU questions the fairness of allocating a limited number of spots on a “first come, first served” basis.

“Such a system presents the risk that a few vendors or their agents will muscle their way into the most desirable locations and will otherwise obtain more than their fair share of sites for more than their fair share of time."

Third, the NYCLU urges the Parks Department to consider the differences between the affected parks—Union Square, Central Park, Battery Park, and the High Line—when allocating vendor locations.

“Union Square Park is different in style and aesthetic from the southern perimeter of Central Park. On the fringe of Greenwich Village, Union Square Park can tolerate a level of disorder and energy that might be undesirable on Fifty-Ninth Street.”

On Friday, hundreds of street artists protested at the site of the Parks Department's public hearing on the proposed restrictions.

As of press time, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has not announced whether he will enact the proposal, either as written or with changes.

The Parks Department has not issued a press release about the proposal or the public hearing.

>>Click here to view the NYCLU’s letter to the Parks Department [PDF] and press release.

US Unemployed Blogsite: Kirsten Gillibrand Supports Tier 5 Unemployment Extensions

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At around 5:15 EST (yesterday) on a live video Facebook session with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a number of unemployed persons began voicing their concerns about the need for a Tier 5 Unemployment.

This was the answer from Kirsten Gillibrand:

Please excuse the video quality. It was a record from a ustream Facebook session and may not be the greatest in video quality. The Senator does state that she supports a Tier 5 Unemployment but offers no details as to when the extension may happen.

Please trust, the issue of when was pressed. The collective online participating crowd kept pressuring the Senator for answers of when. Comments from other participants stated replies such as: "the Senator supports the extension, why are you so concerned?" or "you need to ask NY State Legislature about that issue" or my favorite, "Are all of these people being paid to lobby for a Tier 5?"...

No one is getting paid here. It is only the collective efforts of those who can participate in these events raising awareness and asking the questions that so many are desperately seeking the answer. Hopefully, Senator Gillibrand takes this dire need of urgency seriously as HR 4213 is being debated in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Walmart is Trying to Follow in the Footsteps of Home Furnishings Giant Ikea by Opening a New Location in Brooklyn - WPIX

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Walmart is trying to follow in the footsteps of home furnishings giant Ikea by opening a new location in Brooklyn.

The proposed site is reportedly the Gateway II shopping center near Jamaica Bay in East New York.

The Jamaica Bay site is being presented as one of several possible sites, but community groups aren't waiting until Walmart's selection becomes official to mount their protests.

Local labor groups such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, are accusing Walmart of dirty dealing, saying that they have refused to incorporate local political and labor leaders in the planning process.

They also cite the potential impact that the new Walmart could have on local businesses and the community.

"The loss of small businesses, the trading off of jobs from existing retailers in Gateway One, increased traffic from cars coming into the area from all around the surrounding area, more pollution etc.," said President of UFCW Local 1500 spokesperson Patrick Purcell, "the list goes on and on."

However, Walmart says that the potential East New York location would benefit local communities by providing jobs and affordable groceries.

This isn't the first time that Walmart has attempted to open an NYC location -- plans to open outlets in Staten Island and Queens crumbled after protests from labor and community groups, with then-Walmart CEO Lee Scott reportedly calling the plans not 'worth the effort.'

Department of Education Taps New Deputy Commissioner to Deal with Public by Meredith Kolodner - NY Daily News

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The Department of Education is discovering its warm and fuzzy side.

Chancellor Joel Klein has tapped a veteran deputy chancellor as the new "chief of community engagement" - an apparent response to critics who say the department ignores parents.

Santiago Taveras, who was the deputy chancellor of teaching, will continue to earn $199,000 a year in the new post.

Waves of angry parents have emerged in recent hearings about the city's plans to close schools and squeeze new ones into the same buildings as existing schools.

Last month, a judge upheld a suit that charged the city violated public notification procedures when it tried to shutter 19 poorly performing schools.

"It's an area we can do better in," department spokesman David Cantor said yesterday.

The job is part of a reshuffling of top DOE officials that will cost close to $500,000.

Sharon Greenberger leave her post as president of School Construction Authority to take over as COO. Her new salary has not been determined but will be at least $193,000.

Former principal Marc Sternberg is being hired at $192,000 as one of eight deputy chancellors, up from three.

Three of the other new deputies will get raises totaling $84,000 for their new titles.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew slammed the department for hiking costs. "The chancellor keeps talking about teacher layoffs as he's hiring more people," he said. "It just makes no sense."

Cantor replied, "This is not a cost-saving exercise, but we will definitely be looking for savings as we implement the changes."

Officials have not ruled out layoffs among lower-level administrative staffers.

Walmart Eying Brooklyn Shopping Center for First New York City Location by Erin Durkin - NY Daily News

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"Walmart exploits workers ... and we want no part of that," said one Brooklyn politician. Beck/Getty

Walmart is eying a proposed Brooklyn shopping center for its first New York City location, Crain's New York reported.

The retail giant is scoping out the Gateway II shopping center near Jamaica Bay. Even though the proposal isn't official yet, community groups already are planning protests.

Walmart is reportedly also checking out other unidentified sites in the city.

Earlier efforts for outlets in Staten Island and Queens were scuttled by protests from labor and community groups, prompting then-Walmart CEO Lee Scott to declare that opening in the city wasn't "worth the effort."

Now, New York is back on the big-box chain's radar.

"We know that New Yorkers want to shop and work at Walmart, and as a result, we continue to evaluate potential opportunities here," Walmart exec Steven Restivo told Crain's. "New Yorkers want quality jobs and affordable groceries, and it remains our goal to be part of the solution."

The plans of developer RelatedCos. for the 630,000-square-foot Gateway II center, near Starrett City, were approved by the City Council, meaning Walmart could move in without the Council's signoff.

Opponents already are gearing up for a fight.

"They'll have the battle of their lives," said City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). "Walmart exploits workers ... and we want no part of that."

Supermarket lobbyist Richard Lipsky said the developer could face a lawsuit because environmental studies didn't consider the amount of traffic a store like Walmart would generate.

Transit Worker Dies After Being Electrocuted by Third Rail on Queens Elevated Track by Pete Donohue, Barry Paddock and Corky Siemaszko - NY Daily News

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A veteran transit worker was electrocuted Monday when he slipped and fell on the third rail on a rain-soaked stretch of elevated tracks in Queens.

The sudden death of 45-year-old James Knell, broke the heart of his high school sweetheart, Jackie, whom he married two years ago after being apart for decades.

"He was my soulmate," she said through tears as she left her parents' home in Flushing last night.

"She wanted to have a child with Jim," said Jackie's weeping father, Gregory Odette, 61. "They were hoping."

Knell, who dated his future wife when they were teenagers in Flushing, doted on her 10-year-old twins and often took them fishing on his boat, Odette said.

And, in a cruel twist, Knell was filling in for another worker when he died, Odette said.

"He shouldn't have been out there working in the rain like that," he said.

Knell was the first city transit worker killed on the job since 2007, when the deaths of Daniel Boggs and Marvin Franklin prompted the agency to enact new safety regulations and procedures.

Transit and union officials said Knell died about 4:30 a.m. as he was wrapping up a track replacement project on the A line near the Beach 90th St. station in Rockaway Beach.

The power had just been restored so subway service could resume for the rush hour, but a protective board had not yet been placed over the third rail on that stretch, officials said.

Knell was retrieving a bucket of spikes that had been left on the tracks when he slipped, possibly on loose gravel on the concrete walkway beside the track.

"I was about 100 feet from him. I saw him walking by," a grieving subway worker said. "The next thing I know, I heard he fell and was electrocuted."

Over at Metropolitan Transportation Authority headquarters, a somber NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast said, "We lost one of our own this morning.... This is the first fatality in three years. It's never easy to have an employee fatality, but we did have one today."

While it appeared that Knell's death was a tragic accident, Prendergast said an investigation was underway to "both determine a cause and to ensure we prevent a recurrence."

Union officials blasted NYC Transit for making the men toil on the tracks during a downpour.

"Working in the rain around a live third rail is inherently dangerous, it shouldn't happen," Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. "A man is not going home to his family."

Knell, of East Rockaway, L.I., worked for the agency for 13 years and had been a supervisor for the past nine.

"It's ironic as we remember Boggs' and Franklin's third year of their tragedy, we lose another worker on the tracks," said Paulie Navarro of Transport Workers Union Local 100. "It's a sad day in the track department again."

Odette said Knell's death was the tragic end to a love story that began after both divorced.

"Jackie would say to me, 'I really love him,' and I would tell her, 'Let him know,'" he said, choking back tears. "You'd see them walking down the street holding hands."

New York Harbor Muck Used to Restore Jamaica Bay by Sam Roberts -

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Shewen Bian, of the Army Corps of Engineers, at the restoration project site at Elders Point West, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, in Jamaica Bay. Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

For generations, the islands of Jamaica Bay, the 26-square-mile natural sanctuary off the Brooklyn and Queens shoreline that is home to hundreds of species of migratory birds and marine life, have been disappearing, victims of environmental neglect.

A combination of factors, including development encroaching into the bay and erosion caused by the dumping of contaminants, led to the shrinking of the bay’s salt marsh islands to 800 acres, from more than 16,000 acres a century ago. At the rate they are being lost, about 33 acres annually, they could vanish entirely in two decades.

But now the bay’s fortunes are rebounding, thanks to the leftovers from a giant project taking place in New York Harbor that most people never see and probably know nothing about.

For more than a decade, workers using giant digging machines have scooped up enormous mounds of rock, clay, sand and silt from the waters around New York to deepen the shipping channels to accommodate giant cargo vessels that will navigate the widened Panama Canal starting in the middle of the decade.

Mr. Bian near a ship that is dredging New York Harbor to deepen the shipping channels. Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The dredging has produced millions of cubic yards of muck.

“What do you do with all that stuff?” said Col. John R. BoulĂ© II, commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging. “Some of it we’re using to restore the islands in Jamaica Bay.” Recalling the lush “Mannahatta” that Henry Hudson encountered when he sailed into New York Harbor 400 years ago, Colonel BoulĂ© added: “We want to put a little more of 1609 back into 2010.”

The Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service are the primary partners in a collaboration of city, state and federal environmental, parks and port agencies and private partners to revitalize what is known as the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, focusing primarily on Upper and Lower New York Bay. Eventually, oyster beds will be restored to serve as living water filters, and shellfish may someday be harvested commercially again.

Jamaica Bay is part of the park service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, which spans the harbor and will be expanded by hundreds of acres when the city’s former Fountain and Pennsylvania Avenue landfills in Brooklyn, recently forested with 35,000 trees, are incorporated as parkland in a few years.

Jamaica Bay, a wildlife refuge in the national park system, boasts a 9,000-acre expanse filled with birds, horseshoe crabs, diamondback turtles and many other fauna. “Jamaica Bay is in many ways the lungs of the estuary,” said Maria Burks, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor.

For about a century or so, those lungs were periodically clogged with one contaminant or another, from the carcasses of dray animals (hence the bay came to be known as Dead Horse Bay), garbage and occasional victims of murder and drowning.

The bay was destined more than once to become a major seaport, from the late 19th century through the 1940s. In 1910, with the state deepening the barge canal linking upstate to the Great Lakes and with New York City still the nation’s leading manufacturing center, financing was approved to transform Jamaica Bay into what was described as “the world’s chief harbor.” It would be fringed by 1,000-foot-long docks, terminals and railroads and protected by the natural barrier of Rockaway Beach.

The Army Corps was enlisted to deepen channels, using the dredged material to fill in the shallows and enlarge the bay’s islands for maritime development.

Delays spared the bay from becoming a major seaport, but the subsequent development of Floyd Bennett Field (which itself required 14 million cubic feet of fill), John F. Kennedy International Airport, Cross Bay Boulevard and several residential developments gobbled up wetlands and salt marshes.

Nitrogen from waste treatment plants, leaching contaminants from surrounding landfills, runoff from the Belt Parkway and airplane fuel threatened the remaining natural resources — including the 330 bird and 80 fish species that Barry Sullivan, general superintendent of Gateway for the National Park Service, said have been logged in the area.

“Since the middle of the last century, we lost more than half of the salt marsh, which is critical for development of all of those species,” he said. “The wetlands are the nurseries of the ocean.”

Conservation efforts were begun in earnest by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in the late 1930s and accelerated when Congress created Gateway National Park in 1972 after lobbying by the administration of Mayor John V. Lindsay.

But Emily Lloyd, a former environmental protection commissioner for the city, said that while public agencies and some private volunteers were committed to improving conditions, “the bay lacked a real constituency.” She enlisted the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy to help advocate for Jamaica Bay’s health. (The conservancy’s chairwoman, Marian S. Heiskell, was instrumental in establishing Gateway.)

As a result, instead of filling in the bay to build docks and warehouses, the Army Corps is using sand to restore an almost pristine grassy natural habitat with a bucolic vista framed by the Manhattan skyline less than 10 miles to the northwest.

The dredged material is used to restore the wetlands at Elders Point West. Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Elders Point, an island south of the Brooklyn-Queens border, is among the most ambitious restoration projects under way. About 42 acres of wetlands have already been restored on Elders Point East. About 200,000 cubic yards of dredge material has been used to restore 34 acres of salt marsh on Elders Point West, which is expected to be completed later this year.

Another 250,000 cubic yards will be transformed into 50 acres of marsh at Yellow Bar Hassock. By the time the dredging project is finished in 2014 about 42 million cubic yards of material from the Ambrose Channel, Kill Van Kull and the Bay Ridge Channel will have been blasted, excavated and removed by barge to deepen shipping channels to 50 feet. Most of the muck has been dumped in the ocean, while some is being used for other projects in the New York area. Jamaica Bay has become an early beneficiary of the dredging project.

“We’ve been working on this for the last decade,” said Daniel T. Falt, the manager of the Jamaica Bay restoration project for the Army Corps. “We’re excited to finally see something in the ground.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

German Town Boasts Blue Stork -

A blue stork is proving to be a tourist attraction in a German village, puzzled bird watchers are unsure how it got its distinctive colour.

Blue Stork Finds True Love in Spite of Curious Color : TreeHugger

Spring always portends the return of storks to the large nests which top chimneys and towers across the German landscape. But this year in Biegen, about an hour east of Berlin, residents were astonished when one stork returned with bright blue feathers! The stork's colorful plumes have incited many theories and a great deal of concern. In particular, would the blue bird be accepted by a mate?

Now, only days after the blue stork's first appearance in Biegen, residents and spectators are greatly relieved to watch as the strange stork has been joined in the traditional mating rituals by a female of the normal black-and-white variety. Clad in such bright blue finery, the stork's unusual mating dance transforms into a surrealistic interpretation of artificial and natural.

With resolution in the stork's love life, the original riddle returns: how did this stork turn blue?

Attempts were made to get a feather from the stork or its nest, for chemical analysis which might help explain the source of the blue color. But conservation organizations intervened to stop the activity which might have scared off any potential mate.

So curious crowds are left to speculate. Theories circulating in German newspapers include:

  • Did the stork fall into some paint while seeking food in a garbage dump?
  • Did someone paint it, or shoot at it with a paint gun?
  • Could coloring in its food cause blue feathers?
  • Did the stork spend time in the dye works at Maghreb, while flying through Morocco on its migrations?
  • Could it be due to mutations?

Ornithological expert Michael Kaatz has calmed German bird-lovers by reassuring us that the blue color will fade and finally disappear within two years, as the stork naturally loses and replaces its feathers. But we have found no such assurances regarding any effects a chemical dyestuff might have on the bird's health as it preens its feathers. Just one more reason substitution of safer chemicals is always a good idea.

Ridgewood Democratic Club April Meeting...

Regular Membership Meeting

Friday, April 30, 2010 - 7:45 pm

Candidates Night

Invited speakers

Democrat Representatives

Running in the September Primary Election

Board of Directors Meeting at 6:45 pm

Bring your friends and neighbors.

As always, refreshments will be served.

RDC, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, New York 11385

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winners of Photo Contest Winners

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Find more photos like this on

This dreamy portrait of a preening Great Egret, by Donna Teubert, is one of the 10 winners. Visit the website for more information about the contest, and to see a slideshow of the winners on the home page.

Congratulations to Donna and the rest of the winners! As noted over at We Love Birds, the voting was very close. That’s a reflection of the overall quality of photos as well as the remarkable ability that so many kinds of birds have to inspire us to say “Wow.” That said, there are a few familiar faces in the Winners Circle, including a few Great Blue Herons, a couple of bluebirds, the hard-to-ignore Northern Cardinal, and a lovely Wood Duck caught in a stream of reflections. Head over and see for yourself! And thanks for sharing the planet with us.

(Image: Great Egret by Donna Teubert/We Love Birds photo contest winner)

Seized Bikes Are Waiting For You at 7th Precinct by John Del Signore- Gothamist

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An NYPD truck delicately carts away an explosive arsenal of bombs sinisterly disguised as bicycles; photograph by Martha Cooper

With the NYPD press office continuing to stonewall us on the matter of the bikes confiscated along Obama's motorcade route yesterday, we made some calls to the local precincts. A cop at the 9th Precinct told us that all the seized bikes were taken to the 7th Precinct. When we called over there, an unidentified officer told us to call the 9th Precinct, ha ha. But after putting us on hold, we were able to confirm that all the seized bikes were in fact taken to the 7th Precinct.

If your bike was one of those confiscated, you can go retrieve it on Monday before 12 p.m. at the 7th Precinct. We were told that bike owners can appear as early as 4 a.m., and that there is "a special way" of determining that each bike is returned to its lawful owner. Cyclists will be asked to describe their bikes, but the cop who spoke with us said you should also bring a photo of you with the bike.

When asked if any signs were put up in advance to notify bike owners, the officer said, "No, they just did this because the president was coming and they didn't want anything on the sidewalks. You're not supposed to lock you bike to signposts anyway, they have those new bike racks you're supposed to use." Of course, in many parts of NYC, the number of bike racks can't meet demand, and cyclists have no choice but to lock to signposts.

On a related note, next month is Bike Month in NYC, and Transportation Alternatives will be kicking things off with a party at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Saturday, May 1st from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. During the festivities, the NYPD will be on hand to etch ID codes on your bike, making it easier to reclaim it next time they steal it from you.

Related articles and information:

Born To Lose by Mark Fiore -

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Born To Lose

As Congress debates financial-reform legislation, political cartoonist Mark Fiore offers his wry take on how the big banks manage to win by losing.

For more of Mark's cartoons, which recently won this year's Pulitzer prize for editorial cartooning, click here.

CURES - Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions Earth Day Event at Mafera Park...

CURES (Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solitions) Earth Day Event included a march from Middle Village to 69th St. and Otto in Glendale to Mafera Park. After the march there was a press conference with local elected officials, Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Assemblyman Michael Miller, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and community leaders. The electeds and and civic association leaders spoke about solid waste legislation that closes loopholes in state environmental law, education and outreach followed by a public lands cleanup in Mafera Park.

CURES Mission Statement

Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions -- CURES -- is a coalition of 13 civic associations from Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Glendale, Elmhurst, Woodside, Forest Hills, and Woodhaven -- all communities along the local railroad corridor. CURES believes that increased railroad traffic is coming as both a cost-saving and environmentally sound measure.

However, our organization is dedicated to ensuring that this increase in railroad traffic does not come at a cost of increased environmental burdens for our communities. Our communities already are suffering from noise, the stench of garbage left sitting on sidings for long periods of time, health-threatening diesel emissions from outdated locomotives, and security threats from easy access to rail yards that store dangerous cargo, such as liquefied petroleum gas.

Therefore, we pledge to work with federal, state, and local agencies, our elected officials, and the railroads themselves to lobby for funding to retrofit old diesel locomotives to reduce their polluting emissions and cut back on idling; to ensure that the rail yards themselves are free of hazards and threats to neighborhood health and security; and that the railroads are proactively utilizing cleaner technologies and new controls in an efficient and responsible manner for the good of their own businesses as well as the health and welfare of our neighborhoods and NYC.

CURES Members - February 2010

Citizens for a Better Ridgewood - COMET - Farmers Oval Civic Association – Forest Hills Cooperatives

Glendale Civic Association - Glendale Clean & Green – Glendale Property Owners Association

Juniper Park Civic Association - Liberty Park Home Owners – Maspeth/Middle Village Task Force

Maspeth West End Civic Association - New Ivanhoe Civic Association – Ridgewood Property Owners Association

Tea Baggers - Getting a Handjob Will Clean Your Garage - Real Time with Bill Maher

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rep Weiner on Gov. Christie’s Statement on Natural Gas Terminal:

NEWS: Weiner on Gov. Christie’s Statement on Natural Gas Terminal: “Since This Means the Project Is Effectively Dead, Let’s Not Waste Our Time – Pull the Plug Now”

Since This Means the Project Is Effectively Dead, Let’s Not Waste Our Time – Pull the Plug Now”

Today, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his opposition to offshore natural gas terminals, effectively vetoing a proposed 53-acre development off the coast of Rockaway, Rep. Anthony Weiner (DQueens and Brooklyn) called for an end to the project.

Governor Christie has signaled his opposition to this plan. Since this means the project is effectively dead, let’s not waste our timepull the plug now,” Weiner said.There’s no need to squander resources reviewing a proposal that is now dead on arrival.”

Rep Towns and Rep Weiner Lead Effort to Rehab Busy Park - Ideas Invited to Reopen Canarsie Pier Attraction...

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In what will be the first step towards transforming the historic Canarsie Pier, Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY-10 -Brooklyn), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–NY9-Queens and Brooklyn) and Dave Taft, Coordinator of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the National Park Service, announced a plan to revitalize the Brooklyn landmark by attracting vendors to propose plans for the site’s use.

At the urging of both Towns and Weiner, NPS recently released a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) for applicants to submit plans for the creation of a new restaurant. The current dilapidated building, formerly a restaurant called Abbracciamento on the Pier, has been unused since 2002.

Earlier this month, National Parks Service formally announced it would host an open house in May for interested vendors, who will be touring the building as part of the process for revitalizing the 5,500-square foot space.

This is an important first step in ensuring that Canarsie Pier becomes the cultural and recreational hub it once was,” Weiner said. “Rep. Towns and NPS have been crucial in moving this project forward, and I look forward to working with them to ensure that the pier is transformed into a destination spot for all New Yorkers. Brooklyn residents have been waiting far too long for this.”

The development of Canarsie Pier is an important component in the revitalization of Brooklyn,” Towns said. “As a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and the largest urban park in the country, this site is both significant as community recreational area, as well as a symbol of the nation’s attitude towards national parks. I am looking forward to continued progress in Canarsie Pier’s development.”

Originally built in the 1920s, Canarsie Pier was intended as a commercial pier but has mainly been used as a recreational fishing location since it opened. NPS acquired the pier in 1973 as part of the creation of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and the facility was a full-service restaurant from 1976 until 2002. The RFEI process is the first step in reopening this building to the public.