Thursday, September 30, 2010

Historians Lobby for State Signage to Recognize Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Woodhull by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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The cannon at Nathaniel Woodhull School (PS 35) in Hollis is the only marker of death of the Revolutionary War general Nathaniel Woodhull. Historians are lobbying for official state signage.

Exactly 234 years ago this month, a Revolutionary War general died from wounds incurred during a defiant showdown with the British - a gripping tale of patriotism that began in Queens.
But the spot where Nathaniel Woodhull was mortally wounded in 1776 does not bear tribute to the first high-ranking colonial officer to become a prisoner of war and die in enemy captivity.
"It needs to be preserved as a reminder of his sacrifice," said John Mauk Hilliard, president of the city chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. "We need these things to draw us together."
A few weeks ago, Daily News reader Lavington Charles suggested the spot where Woodhull was fatally injured - at 196th St. and Jamaica Ave. in Hollis - as part of the Queens Heritage Quest series.
Now in its fourth installment, the series profiles places that preservationists feel deserve recognition from Borough Hall - such as signage or historic trails linked by brochures or podcasts.
A state historical marker citing Woodhull's capture once stood at the corner. But the sign broke about a decade ago and has since been stored at the Queens Historical Society in Flushing.
Queens' new borough historian, Jack Eichenbaum, did not rule out his support for historical signage. But he also suggested an iPhone application to link notable Hollis sites or Queens places relating to the American Revolution.
Locals agreed on paying tribute to Woodhull.
"What happened to him is a lesson for every one of us," said Bob Singleton, president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. "That dream that Woodhull stood for is alive and well whenever I walk around Queens."
Woodhull, president of the Provincial Congress of New York, was assigned to steer cattle east to Long Island - and away from the British - when he stopped at a tavern in Queens on Aug. 28, 1776.
From there, the narrative gets sketchy.
Tradition describes a dramatic scene during which Woodhull encountered British forces and soon surrendered his sword. An officer then ordered Woodhull to proclaim, "God save the king."
"God save us all!" Woodhull responded. The officer, sometimes identified as Capt. James Baird, slashed Woodhull with a saber - delivering multiple blows that led to his death in captivity about a month later on Sept. 20.
But a different story emerged in 1951 when The New York Times ran a front-page article in which researcher W.H.W. Sabine doubted the compelling exchange.
Sabine cited a dusty scrapbook with Woodhull's own account of the capture - apparently given to a lieutenant who was with him in a prison camp when he died.
Woodhull supposedly said that he surrendered his sword to - and was then struck by - an American Tory, loyal to the British, named Capt. Oliver DeLancey.
Whether Woodhull was fatally struck while defending himself or after surrendering also became a point of contention. Experts even question his memorable quote.
Regardless of the circumstances, historians insist that Woodhull's death helped define a crucial period around the time of the famous Battle of Long Island.
His agonizing demise - and the apparent refusal by the British to allow medical care - reminded colonists of the brutality of their rivals.
"The fact that he died as a British prisoner, no matter how that happened, was an important one," said Brooklyn College Prof. Edwin Burrows, the author of the 2008 book "Forgotten Patriots," about early American POWs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Genting Ponies Up the Dough for Aqueduct Racino by Stephen Geffon - Leader-Observer

After almost ten years, the deal at Aqueduct Racetrack is finally completed...

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Aqueduct’s designated casino developer delivered the promised $380 million to the State Lottery Division last Friday. Governor David Paterson announced that on September 24 the State of New York received the $380 million upfront payment from Genting New York LLC to develop and operate a casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park.

"All along, I've said that securing this deal and moving ahead with the project at Aqueduct is critical for the future of New York," Paterson said. "The state, in partnership with Genting, has the opportunity to create jobs for the community and to revitalize this area. After almost a decade of delay, this project is finally becoming a reality and all New Yorkers will benefit."

According to Lottery Director Gordon Medenica, the project will primarily benefit the schoolchildren of New York since all of the Lottery's profits go to education funding.

Mike Speller, president of Genting New York, said, "Genting is excited to have crossed the finish line and will now quickly get to work building a first-class casino that will not only showcase the best in gaming and entertainment, but will result in more than 2,000 jobs and significant recurring revenue for New York State."

Genting was recommended by the New York Lottery to Governor Paterson on August 3. Over the past six weeks, the recommendation has been affirmed by both the State Senate and Assembly and the contract with Genting has been approved by the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the State Comptroller.

Genting’s plans for the $1.3 billion Aqueduct project include 4,525 slot machines, several restaurants, a 34,000-square-foot meeting site for corporate and community events, a 2,100-space parking garage, a new pedestrian walkway from the adjacent subway stop. The firm is also proposing to build three hotels.

“And, of course, we will still have horse racing at Aqueduct,” said Speller.

Speller said that construction of the first phase of the project will begin once regulators complete a review to determine whether it is in compliance with the state Environmental Quality Review Act, a process that typically takes one to two months. Six months after construction begins Genting expects to have 1,600, out of the 4,525 video lottery terminals approved for the facility in operation, with the full casino opening one year after the project is started.

There are estimated to be 1,300 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs.The racino is projected to generate more than $650 million in gross gaming revenues per year. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is slated to get 7 percent of that revenue. Once operational, the VLT’s are expected to generate more than $1.5 million a day in tax revenue for the state.

Fight!!! by Mike Whittemore - Capitol Tonite...

Wow! Paladino to NYP's Dicker: "You send another goon to my daughter's house and I'll take you out!"...Paladino is NUTS..!!

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CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross just sent this explosive video shot with her cell phone outside the Business Council’s annual meeting in Bolton Landing tonight.

As Kaitlyn reported at the top of Capital Tonight, the exchange is between Carl Paladino and NY Post State Editor Fred Dicker, who nearly came to blows and had to be separated.

The candidate for governor and journalist are shown having a confrontation over Dicker allegedly sending a photographer to follow around the 10-year-old daughter Paladino fathered outside his marriage. The Buffalo businessman called Dicker a “stalking horse” for his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Andrew Cuomo.

Michael Caputo, Paladino’s campaign manager, tried to diffuse the situation with some levity, saying: “Fred, you’re out of line, you’re off the Christmas card list.” (That’s a reference to Caputo’s response to Joy Behar’s criticism of his candidate on “The View” earlier this week).

But then Caputo continued to lay into Dicker, accusing him of “working for Cuomo” and calling him a “terrible journalist.” Caputo also said Dicker would no longer be receiving any more communications from the Paladino campaign.

Before Paladino and Dicker were hauled off to their separate quarters, the Post Albany Bureau chief was pressing the candidate about an interview he gave to POLITICO, in which he accused Cuomo of being unfaithful to his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guilty Plea Expected by Ex-N.Y. Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi in Corruption Case by Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum -

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Alan G. Hevesi, the former state comptroller, is poised to plead guilty to a felony corruption charge after a lengthy investigation into his office’s rewarding of pension investment business to firms that provided financial benefits to Mr. Hevesi and his aides, people with knowledge of the case said on Tuesday.

Barring an 11th-hour change of heart, Mr. Hevesi would become the highest-ranking state official convicted in the case and one of the most likely to serve time in prison: in 2006, he pleaded guilty to a separate felony after admitting he had used state workers to chauffeur his ailing wife, but avoided jail time in that case after he agreed to resign.

The pension investigation, conducted by the office of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, is one of the longest running in Albany and came to symbolize the ethically troubled culture of the capital. It has focused on allegations that Mr. Hevesi’s friends, family and associates sold access to the state’s $125 billion pension fund, one of the world’s largest, to reward allies, pay back political favors and reap millions of dollars for themselves.

The deal comes as Mr. Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, is seeking to burnish his credentials as a reformer who can clean up state government, and his office has been in plea negotiations with Mr. Hevesi’s lawyer.

Mr. Hevesi, a Democrat, has long maintained that he did not know of the wrongdoing taking place among his subordinates, and he has not been formally implicated in the scandal.

But last December, a California money manager, Elliott Broidy, admitted paying nearly $1 million in gifts in exchange for a $250 million investment from the pension fund. Mr. Broidy, according to the attorney general’s office, paid at least $75,000 to send a “very high-ranking” official in the comptroller’s office and the official’s relatives on five trips to Israel, including first-class airfare, luxury hotel accommodations and a security detail. The high-ranking official was Mr. Hevesi, people with knowledge of the investigation have said.

A guilty plea by Mr. Hevesi would not end the broader investigation. His former political consultant and confidant, Hank Morris, was indicted last year on 123 counts; he has denied wrongdoing and remains determined to fight the charges.

Also unresolved is the fate of Steven J. Rattner, the New York financier who led the Obama administration’s rescue of the auto industry. This year, the Quadrangle Group, the investment fund Mr. Rattner founded, paid $12 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to win pension fund business, and said it was publicly disavowing conduct engaged in by Mr. Rattner.

Bradley Simon, Mr. Hevesi’s lawyer, was traveling in Europe and declined to comment. Mr. Cuomo’s office had no immediate comment. People with knowledge of the matter said no plea agreement had been signed yet.

It remains unclear what specific offense Mr. Hevesi would plead guilty to, or what wrongdoing he would admit.

But it appears that it was the fate of Mr. Hevesi’s two sons, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and former State Senator Daniel Hevesi, that led him to accept the plea deal. Their role in the investigation, and potential prosecution, have been a part of discussions over the plea agreement, people with knowledge of the case said.

Documents in the case have suggested that Mr. Morris, Mr. Hevesi’s most trusted political adviser, was the architect of the corruption in the comptroller’s office and reaped millions of dollars by acting as a gatekeeper for private equity firms and hedge funds looking to do business with the pension fund.

But the activities of Mr. Hevesi’s sons have also drawn scrutiny: investigators have questioned why an obscure firm operated by Daniel Hevesi was paid more than $1 million in fees for deals with pension funds in New York City and New Mexico, and whether any legitimate work was done for the payments.

Andrew Hevesi had more limited exposure in the case: Prosecutors say the state’s former Liberal Party boss, Raymond B. Harding, maneuvered to force a vacancy in an Assembly seat in Queens so that Andrew Hevesi could assume the position. Mr. Harding pleaded guilty last year after accepting more than $800,000 for doing political favors, prosecutors said, including securing a private sector job for Andrew Hevesi’s Assembly predecessor, Michael Cohen.

Andrew Hevesi did not return calls Tuesday.

The investigation by Mr. Cuomo’s office, and a parallel inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission, led to a nationwide re-evaluation of public pension practices and the role of placement agents, the middlemen who brokered business for the investment firms from the comptroller’s office. Last year, the current comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, banned placement agents and other paid intermediaries from doing business with the state fund. The city comptroller, John C. Liu, has taken a less rigid approach; this year he ended a ban on placement agents put in place by his predecessor, but established other safeguards to curb abuses.

A number of other Hevesi lieutenants have been implicated in the investigation, which began in 2007 amid allegations that Mr. Hevesi’s former chief of staff, Jack Chartier, had obtained, among other things, a loan from Mr. Broidy for his friend, the actress Peggy Lipton from TV’s “Mod Squad.” Mr. Chartier has been cooperating with investigators, people with knowledge of the case have said.

In March, David J. Loglisci, the former chief investment officer in the comptroller’s office, pleaded guilty to securities fraud, saying he helped steer pension money to Mr. Hevesi’s political contributors and to companies that paid kickbacks to Mr. Morris.

The case has also entangled prominent New York figures and institutions. Last year, theCarlyle Group, the private equity firm that once employed the first President Bush, paid $20 million to settle charges related to the investigation.

The inquiry has also extended into Mr. DiNapoli’s office; a meeting between Mr. DiNapoli and a prominent Democratic fund-raiser and money manager has been the subject of scrutiny. Mr. DiNapoli has denied doing anything improper.

For some time, it has been clear that Mr. Hevesi was the ultimate target of the investigation. This year, after Mr. Loglisci pleaded guilty, he said in court that senior officials in the comptroller’s office had instructed him to clear investment decisions with Mr. Morris, an alarming admission since Mr. Morris was Mr. Hevesi’s outside political consultant.

At the time, Mr. Cuomo declined to discuss whether Mr. Hevesi was one of the senior officials, but said: “This is the chief investment officer. He did report directly to the comptroller, at that time Mr. Hevesi.”

Danny Hakim reported from Albany and William K. Rashbaum from New York.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Liberation of Liberty Avenue by Tonia N. Cimino - The Queens Courier

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Margaret Finnerty of the Richmond Hill South Civic Association and City Councilmember Eric Ulrich test out the power washer after announcing an expanded graffiti removal program.

Liberty Avenue will soon be liberated from graffiti, thanks to City Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

On Tuesday, September 21, he announced the continuation and expansion of his comprehensive graffiti removal program in District 32. The joint effort with the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation has already cleaned up hundreds of properties, and this year is being expanded to include regular maintenance of Liberty Avenue and second floor locations.

“We are well on our way towards eliminating graffiti vandalism in our community,” said Ulrich. “With the addition of Liberty Avenue to the program, we are making these eyesores a thing of the past.”

Bruce Pienkny of CitySolve, Maria Thomson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp, Margaret Finnerty of the Richmond Hill South Civic Association and area business owners and residents joined the Councilmember along Liberty Avenue to kick off the effort.

Last year the program focused on 101st Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard. This year, it has been expanded to also include an initial cleanup and monthly maintenance of Liberty Avenue from 75th Street to Lefferts Boulevard.

“It’s the monthly maintenance that ultimately keeps the problem under control,” said Pienkny. “We clean it up, and then maintain, maintain, maintain.”

Residents can still call the Councilmember’s graffiti removal hotline at 718-738-1429 to report any locations within the 32nd District that are in need of cleanup.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Senator Joe Addabbo's Glendale Re-Election Campaign HQ Now Open...

The Addabbo for State Senate campaign held a celebration and rally on Saturday for the opening of its new Glendale campaign headquarters at 65-17 Myrtle Avenue.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. joined Assemblyman Mike Miller, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, community leaders, supporters and neighbors from throughout the 15th State Senate District at the opening celebration.

Two groups from the Working Family Party went out canvassing in the area after the rally...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Documentary Filmmakers Put 'The Vanishing City' and New York's Urban Renewal in Spotlight by Joe Neumaier - NY Daily News


Global trends in major cities around the world have changed rapidly in the last several decades. As cities become more interconnected, and less dependent on localized economic models, domestic issues of increased class inequality and sustainability have emerged as central components to city planning debates. These trends are perhaps best exemplified in the city of New York.
Told through the eyes of tenants, city planners, business owners, scholars, and politicians, The Vanishing City exposes the real politic behind the alarming disappearance of New York’s beloved neighborhoods, the truth about its finance-dominated economy, and the myth of “inevitable change.” Artfully documented through interviews, hearings, demonstrations, and archival footage, the film takes a sober look at the city’s “luxury” policies and high-end development, the power role of the elite, and accusations of corruption surrounding land use and rezoning. The film also links New York trends to other global cities where multinational corporations continue to victimize the middle and working classes. 

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Signs of urban renewal are everywhere in New York. Yet in "The Vanishing City," a gripping new documentary, filmmakers Fiore DeRosa and Jen Senko reveal ominous trends that could forever change the city's neighborhoods and communities, and not for the better.

The film, which screened earlier this week at the Harlem International Film Festival, will be shown Saturday, Sept. 25, at 10 p.m. in Brooklyn at The Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.) as part of the Williamsburg Film Festival, which ends Sunday Sept. 26.
"At first, we wanted to document the changes in the city, coming at it really from a nostalgic point of view," says Senko. "But the more questions we asked, the film became more of a journalistic expose, a detective story.
"Essentially, we found that the city was using taxpayers' money to more and more finance luxury housing, pushing out people and businesses that had been there for generations. These developers got huge subsidies and tax breaks, while taxes on small landlords and co-ops were going up nearly 40 percent.

Jen Senko and Fiore Derosa, directors of the new documentary called Vanishing City, pose outside of Katz's Deli on Houston Street. Rosier/News

"The result is changing the whole culture of Manhattan, and the film took on that focus."
"In short, New York is losing communities, a vital part of what makes it special," add DeRosa. "People and families who've lived here for 20 or 30 years -- and small mom-and pop-stores that had existed for decades -- face steep hikes in rent. The small businesses can't afford to stay here, and middle-class people are getting priced out."
The directors have experienced several sides of New York since each moved here separately from New Jersey in the late 1970s and early '80s. DeRosa has supported himself as a construction worker while pursuing acting and directing in off-Broadway theater; Senko has worked as a presentation artist with financial companies. "The Vanishing City," exec-produced by Oscar-winner Ericka Hampson and narrated by actress Kathryn Erbe ("Law & Order; Criminal Intent"), reflects a love of the entire city and their mutual concern about local government's unspoken policy of what the film terms "luxurification."
"If you have these types of high-rent-only structures and pricey commercial locations that only flagship stores can occupy, you don't get to know your neighbors, and you don't have small businesses that have a stake in your community," says DeRosa. "We're not against development – a healthy city evolves, of course. What we're against is using taxpayer dollars to only subsidize luxury housing, and the rezoning of neighborhoods."
The prospect of rezoning, the pair say, afflicts every neighborhood, in every borough.
"The Lower East Side and Williamsburg are really under threat from rezoning," says Senko. "And developers are really trying to focus on Chinatown -- people often talk about the ‘malling' of the city, and if it continues to happen there, it could be revamped and there may be a handful of small shops, but it won't be Chinatown."
There is, however, one upside to the changes shown in "The Vanishing City": The potential for communities and neighborhoods to unite in ways they haven't done in decades.
"In the movie, you see communities getting together, calling on the Bloomberg administration to rezone things so they won't get pushed out. That's an ongoing phenomenon," says Senko. "People are coming together to bring changes to their neighborhoods, and fighting for things like height caps on new buildings on the Lower East Side and in the East Village. Certain buildings are even being landmarked before developers can get hip to the real estate."
"The Harlem Tenants Association has fought back and got some concessions," adds DeRosa. "Greenwich Village has fought back successfully, and the West Village, too. They have no protections there, and they're trying to get landmark status for certain areas. The area around the Bowery has been really fighting hard as well."
"A lot of damage has been done, but we can regroup, and stop it from getting worse," says Senko. "And maybe we can turn it around. I love this city. I'm not going to give up on New York."

Friday, September 24, 2010

City Took Money for Nothing as it Got Aid to Cut Class Sizes, OK'ed Packing More Students Together by Juan Gonzalez - NY Daily News

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Education Commissioner David Steiner quietly gave the city an OK to increase class sizes.
Back in 2007, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer achieved a historic multibillion-dollar increase in state aid to New York City schools.
The centerpiece of the Spitzer plan, known as the Contract for Excellence, required our city's school system to use much of that additional money to reduce class size in all grades by 2012.
But earlier this year, state Education Commissioner David Steiner quietly gave Schools Chancellor Joel Klein permission to change the city's "class-size reduction plan" - and actually increase class size.
In a Feb. 23 letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Daily News, Steiner wrote: "Staff has completed the review of your proposed 2009-2010 School Year Contract for Excellence Contract and Class Size Reduction Plan, and they advise me that the current economic climate necessitates changes to your Class Size Reduction Plan."
Steiner not only approved the city's freezing of its class-size reduction plan last year, he gave Klein the green light to increase class size this year if state aid was reduced. His letter required only that the average number of students in 75 of the city lowest-performing schools be expanded "by no more than 50 percent of the Citywide average increase."
The commissioner's decision has never been publicly announced, even though the 2007 legislation and his agency's regulations require that proposed amendments to the Contract for Excellence be publicly posted by a school district within 48 hours of submission.
Even some members of the state Board of Regents were surprised to learn of Steiner's action.
"I am very disappointed that the state is not doing its part to ensure that the [city] Department of Education complies with its original contract," said Betty Rosa, a state regent from the Bronx.
"The public has been excluded from this process as it unfolded," said Geri Palast, director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the nonprofit group that spearheaded decades of court challenges against Albany's unequal school- funding formula.
Palast noted that the 2007 state law stipulated that the city's Contract for Excellence "be developed through a public process, in consultation with parents ... teachers, administrators."
State and city education officials defended the need to adjust their plans given the tough financial times.
"This is not a waiver but rather a proactive step to make sure our five-year class-size reduction plan reflects fiscal realities and targets schools that need the most help," said Education Department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld.
The state cut $500 million in funding from the city schools this year, Zarin-Rosenfeld noted, and the system is facing a "a similarly bleak financial picture next year."
But parent advocates note that even when times were good in 2007 and 2008, the department failed to reduce class size.
In kindergarten to third grades, for example, average class size last year was 22.1 - higher than the 21 average that existed in 2006.
In the fourth to eighth grades, average class size was 25.8 last year, also higher than in 2006.
Numbers are not yet available for this school year.
These increases occurred despite the Education Department having received $2.1 billion in additional cash from the state under the Contract for Excellence since 2007.
"In the spirit of the [Contract for Excellence] legislation, we are making certain that class-size increases, should economic conditions warrant them, will have the least impact on children in the lowest-performing schools," said state Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman (Movie Trailer) - Grassroots Education Movement (GEMNYC)...

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Parents and teachers on the front lines fighting for Real Education Reform.

A group of parents and educators with Grassroots Education Movement (GEMNYC) are responding to the "Waiting for Superman" film with a film of their own. They are the real reformers. As one patent activist says, "Are you waiting for Superman? YOU are the Real Heroes." This is the trailer. The film is expected to be released in late October.

For more info visit:

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

Grassroots Education Movement (GEMNYC)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

St. Albans VA Hospital - Save this VA Hospital from Demolition - Watch the Video and Sign the Petition..!


Please help save St Albans VA Hospital in Queens, NY for our Vets. Sign Petition...

"Protect Saint Albans" is a coalition of individuals/organizations who have joined forces to stop the development of non-veterans housing on the VA's St. Albans Primary and Extended Care Campus (St. Albans VA Campus).

Recently, much of St. Albans was successfully "downzoned" in a larger St. Albans - Hollis rezoning effort led by New York City's Department of City Planning. (Click here for a link to the rezoning document.)
That downzoning effort was undertaken to discourage population growth in two neighborhoods whose infrastructure -- schools, parks, utilities, transportation, and otherwise -- is already overburdened.

Supporting the development of non-veterans housing on the VA's St. Albans campus would only work against the gains made by the neighborhood's recent downzoning.
Our Mission
The mission of "Protect Saint Albans", is to stop the development of non-veterans housing on the VA's St. Albans campus.

"Protect Saint Albans" would prefer that any acreage deemed not necessary to meet the ongoing needs of veterans, be permanently converted back to park land. Prior to construction of The Naval Hospital in 1950, the grounds were occupied by the St. Albans Golf Club and Community Center.

While attending the Queens Civic Congress at the Al Oerter Sports Center, Addisleigh Park Civic Association President Renee Hill spoke passionately about this important issue for veterans and the community at large. 

She and her group, the United Coalition for Veterans and Community RIghts (UCVCR) are planning to continue their hard-fought fight for the veterans at the St. Albans facility and we hope anyone who can help will do so.

Click on image to enlarge...

The demolition of our St. Albans VA Hospital is NOT a done deal. We Can STOP this EUL process NOW. Call your Congressional representative NOW regarding this Private Developer grabbing VA land through the VA's EUL program.