Tag Archives: 2013

2013: The year in photos

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photos

As we bid adieu to 2013, The Queens Courier brings you a look at the year that was . . . from the selection of a new Pope to the downfall of our elected officials, to tragedy, controversy and everything in between. And as we look ahead to 2014, we wish our new legislators luck and the best year for our readers.


LIC crane collapses
Seven workers suffered minor injuries when a crane collapsed at a Long Island City building site at Center Boulevard and 46th Avenue on Jan. 9. Later that month, the Department of Buildings issued 12 violations to several parties involved in the collapse, including the crane’s operator, the contractor, the site safety manager and the property owner. (THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman)

School bus strike
On Jan. 16, drivers from Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union walked off the job, impacting 152,000 students, including 54,000 with disabilities. In an effort to cut costs, the city wanted to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years. The union was objecting to the lack of job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones. The school bus finally came to an end in mid February. (THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman)

Marshall’s final State of the Borough
In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, on Jan. 22, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy, honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm—Dylan Smith, the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico in December 2012. Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, also during the address called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

Obama OKs Sandy aid
Exactly three months to the day that Sandy hit, President Obama signed a $50.5 billion Sandy aid bill on Jan. 29. The Senate passed the legislation in a 62 to 36 vote, preceded by the House two weeks earlier. It was the final portion of an approximately $60 billion Sandy relief package. Earlier in the month, the president signed a $9.7 billion aid bill that temporarily increased the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for carrying out the National Flood Insurance Program. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)


Ed Koch dies
Ed Koch, the three-term New York City mayor known for his larger than life personality and penchant for the big and small screen, died on Feb. 1 after months of health complications. He was 88. Koch was first elected mayor in 1977 after serving in Congress since 1969 where he represented parts of the Bronx. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in 2010 that the 59th Street Bridge would be named after Koch. The change was met with criticism. (Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office Flickr/ Edward Reed)

Bloomberg’s last State of the City
Addressing a crowd at downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Feb. 14, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his final State of the City address, spent a full hour going over the achievements of his nearly 12 years at the helm of the City of New York, and promised to keep pushing forward during the last 320 days of his administration.(BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Ted Levin)

Mom of slain guardsman vows justice
A Queens grand jury concluded on Feb. 15 that there would be no criminal charges fi led in connection to the death of Army reservist Noel Polanco who was shot by a police officer on the Grand Central Parkway in October 2012. At the end of February, Polanco’s mother announced a $20 million notice of claim to file a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and the officer who shot her son. (Photo via Facebook)

Richards wins special election
A special election was held on Feb. 19 to fi ll the 31st District City Council seat left vacant by James Sanders after he was elected as State Senator in fall 2012. After a heated and crowded race, two candidates declared victory on election night — Donovan Richards and Pesach Osina. A week later, Sanders’ former chief-of- staff, Richards, came out on top, with a wide enough margin to eliminate a recount. (Photo courtesy of Donovan Richards)


New pope picked
The Papal Conclave elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first South American and Jesuit Pope, on March 13, after one of the shortest Conclaves in history. He selected the papal name Francis I. The decision came just a day after the voting began, following the official end of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign at the end of February. Pope Francis, 76, is the 266th Pope and the first non-European choice in over 1,000 years. (Photo courtesy The New York Daily News)

Wright named Mets captain
Third baseman David Wright was named the fourth captain in Mets history on March 21, joining the elite group with Mets legends Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and John Franco. Last December, the 31-year-old, who made his major league debut with the team in 2004, signed one of the largest contracts in Mets history: $138 million back-loaded over the next eight years. (Photo courtesy of New York Mets)

Rockaway residents take to City Hall
Scores traveled to the steps of City Hall on March 23 to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city to help Rockaway residents rebuild after Sandy. Shoulder-to-shoulder with elected officials and candidates for mayor and borough president, resident after resident told personal stories of their prolonged recovery and demanded a say in how the peninsula is rebuilt. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)


FBI arrests two Queens lawmakers
State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Dan Halloran were among six officials arrested by the FBI for conspiring to rig the mayoral election. Smith, a registered Democrat, allegedly bribed county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican. He needed consent from three of the city’s five Republican Party county chairmen. Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county leaders and negotiating payoffs, allegedly pocketing $21,000 in the process. Vincent Tabone, then-vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, and Joseph Savino, then-chair of the Bronx County GOP — who later pleaded guilty — were allegedly part of the conspiracy scheme, officials said. Smith, Halloran and Tabone pleaded not guilty and are still locked in legal battles. (File photos) 

Teacher charged with raping ex-student
Daniel Reilly, a sixth grade English teacher at I.S. 237, was charged with felony second-degree rape for having sex multiple times with a 14-year-old girl he used to teach. The 36-year-old married father from Forest Hills pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in prison and 10 years’ probation. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Queens Courier takes top press honors
The Queens Courier won the New York Press Association’s Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence for the second year in a row. The team of reporters also placed fi rst for Best In-Depth Reporting and second for Best Spot News Coverage for their coverage of Sandy. Writers Terence Cullen, Maggie Hayes and Alexa Altman were each given individual accolades. (THE COURIER/File photo)


Ex-legislator sentenced to prison
Former State Senator Shirley Huntley was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for embezzling $88,000. Days before she was sentenced, a federal judge unsealed a document revealing she wiretapped several city and state legislators. She lost her Senate seat to James Sanders in a primary election last year. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)


Teen shot to death on city bus
D’aja “Asia” Robinson, 14, was shot in the head and killed on a Q6 bus in what community leaders called a “senseless act of violence.” She was on her way home from a birthday party when a shooter allegedly fired multiple times into the bus from the sidewalk near Sutphin Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard. (Left photo courtesy of Facebook/Right photo THE COURIER/By Maggie Hayes)

Weiner enters mayor’s race
After resigning from Congress in June 2011 because of a Twitter sext scandal, Anthony Weiner entered the race for mayor. Though he led early polls, Weiner lost favorability with voters after another sexting scandal surfaced. He ended up placing fifth in the Democratic primary election with five percent of the votes. “We had the best ideas,” Weiner said in his concession speech. “Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger.” (File photo)

Queens kid crowned National Spelling Bee champ
Teen whiz Arvind Mahankali won this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30. By accurately spelling “knaidel,” the 13-year-old from Bayside beat 281 contestants and took home more than $30,000 in cash and prizes. It was Mahankali’s fourth and fi nal try at the prestigious, televised contest. The eighth grader at M.S. 74 placed third at the last two Bees. (Photo by Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)


New amusement park opens
Fantasy Forest, the borough’s newest amusement park, opened in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It has five rides, including the iconic Flushing Meadows Carousel and the borough’s only roller coaster, which was christened the Corona Cobra Coaster. (Photo courtesy of NY Carousel)

LIC Flea & Food launches
After much anticipation, LIC Flea & Food opened in June. Showcasing some of the city’s fi nest artists and vendors, the brand new market ran every weekend this summer at 5-25 46th Avenue (the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue) in Long Island City. LIC Flea & Food Indoor Holiday Market went on to open indoors in December.


Retired firefighter rescues toddler on Independence Day
Retired firefighter John Manzione saved a toddler from drowning in Maspeth, preventing an Independence Day tragedy. Manzione, a Maspeth native, sprang into action after hearing screams for help from neighbors. He found the two-year-old boy motionless and initiated CPR until EMS services arrived and put the child on an oxygen machine to help him breath.


First-ever MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field
The Mets hosted the first-ever MLB All-Star game at Citi Field on July 16. Mets third baseman and captain David Wright started for the National League and phenom pitcher Matt Harvey was the starting pitcher in his first appearance at the Mid-summer Classic. The last time the Mets hosted the All-Star game was in 1964, the first season for Shea Stadium. Ron Hunt was the only Mets player to start that game. (Left photoTHE COURIER/By Liam La Guerre/Right photo courtesy of the New York Mets)


Pregnant woman killed in Kissena Park by felled tree
Ying Yi Li-Dikov, 30, who was six months pregnant with a baby girl, was sitting on a bench in Kissena Park on Aug. 4 when a 50-foot oak tree snapped eight feet from the ground and struck her from behind, killing her, city officials said. Following her death her family planned to sue the city over the incident. There was also a push to investigate park trees and to review all tree management procedures. Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, and State Senator Tony Avella suggested the city should suspend its Million Tree Program and use the funds for tree maintenance. (THE COURIER/File photo)

Reduction of city restaurants fines
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a deal to reduce restaurant fines on Aug. 18. The City Council and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the joint agreement will reduce fines generated by violations of the city’s inspection system by $10 million per year. Approximately 60 percent of violations will be set to a minimum $200 fine, including low-level violations, which was an average of $295. Fines for the two highest levels of critical violations will be reduced from $349 and $420 to $300 and $350, respectively. (THE COURIER/Photo by Johann Hamilton)

Famed designer Charles Pollock dies in fatal fire
Famed designer Charles Pollock died in a house fire in Jamaica on Aug. 20. Pollock, 83, of Charles Pollock Designs, created one of the best-selling office chairs in history, the Pollock Executive Chair. Pollock graduated from the Pratt Institute, which he attended on a full scholarship. He was featured in publications such as The New York Times for his designs, and his work appeared in various museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and the Louvre in France. (THE COURIER/File photo)

First lady highlights US Open kick-off
First lady Michelle Obama headlined a star-studded 18th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on Aug. 24 to kick off the US Open. Obama was joined on stage by tennis royalty, including this year’s women’s champion, Serena Williams, and men’s winner, Rafael Nadal. The two-week tournament generated an overall economic impact of approximately $720 million for the city, according to the United States Tennis Association, and more than 713,000 fans attended the event. (Photo by Dominick Totino)


Forest Park rape suspect tied to additional attacks
In early September police tied a suspect to six sexual attacks that took place in and around Forest Park dating back to March 2011, including one on August 26, 2013, when a man tasered and pushed a 69-year-old woman to the ground before raping her. Police describe the perpetrator as white, 30 to 40 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches, with light brown hair. Since the attacks, Assemblymember Mike Miller and Senator Joe Addabbo allocated $250,000 for more than a dozen cameras inside the park and received permission from the NYPD to have the devices installed. (Photo courtesy of NYPD)


Back to school
Amid colocations, overcrowding and new schools opening up, Queens kids went back to school. Holding hands with their parents and carrying their backpacks, the children showed nothing but smiles after their first day back to learning. (THE COURIER/File photos)

Queens native goes on D.C. shooting spree
Former Flushing resident Aaron Alexis, 34, went on a shooting rampage on Sept. 16, killing a dozen people at a Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. At least 13 people were confirmed dead, including Alexis, and at least 14 were injured. (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

Fresh Meadows man shoots two
Fresh Meadows resident Sang Ho Kim, 63, shot two employees, killing one, in Savenergy, an energy efficiency company in East Garden City, then fled. His body was found a week later in the Hudson River with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth. A heart condition also contributed to his drowning, police said. (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County Police Department)


Avonte Oquendo goes missing 
Avonte Oquendo, 14, went missing Oct. 4 and has still not been found. He was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park autistic teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school. There is a $95,000 reward to find him. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)

City Council votes on developments
The City Council voted to approve three major development projects in the borough. The first was the $3 billion Willets Point project, making way for a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center near Citi Field. Then it approved the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to turn the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz into two apartment towers in larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules. The final approval went to the $1 billion Hallets Point Project, bringing thousands of residential apartments, retail space and parkland to the Astoria waterfront. (Rendering courtesy NYCEDC)

Banksy comes to Queens
The ghost-like and notorious British graffiti artist, only known by the name Banksy, hit the streets to tag his way around the Big Apple in October. In a unique show titled “Better Out Than In,” he went around each day of the month and left his pieces for people to find. Banksy made his first stop in Queens on Oct. 14 in Woodside, his second trip was near an auto mechanic shop in Willets Point. On Halloween, Banksy bid farewell to New York City in Long Island City. Banksy posted on his website “And that’s it. Thanks for your patience. It’s been fun. Save 5Pointz. Bye.” (Photo Courtesy Kenny Mendoza)

Queens Museum expansion opening
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and offi cials cut the ribbon on the $68 million Queens Museum expansion project on Oct. 30. The Queens Museum, formerly known as the Queens Museum of Art and located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, doubled its size to 105,000 square feet. Since reopening to the public on Nov. 9, the museum now features new galleries, classrooms, a new wing with nine artist studios and a sky-lit atrium. Queens Museum will also have its own 5,000-square-foot public library in 2015, making room for about 14,000 books. Its expansion was designed by Grimshaw and largely funded by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Bloomberg, the state and City Council.(THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)


General election
The 2013 general election brought in a slew of freshman legislators. Melinda Katz won the general election and will be the 19th Queens Borough President, replacing term-limited Helen Marshall. Later in the year, Katz appointed longtime Councilmember Leroy Comrie as her Deputy Borough President, who was also term-limited out of his 27th district City Council seat. Union leader Daneek Miller was elected as his successor. Elsewhere in the borough, Councilmember Eric Ulrich was re-elected to represent the 32nd district. Paul Vallone was chosen for the 19th district to replace disgraced Councilmember Dan Halloran, who was arrested in April on corruption charges and didn’t seek re-election, and Costa Constantinides will take office in District 22, where previously Vallones had reigned for decades. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

Typhoon hits locally
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, destroying islands in the eastern Philippines and claiming the lives of thousands of people. Following the storm, which was one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, members of the Queens Filipino community scrambled to get in touch with loved ones at home while organizing donations in the borough. (Photo courtesy of NASA NOAA)


5Pointz whitewashed
After a long fight to save 5Pointz, Long Island City’s graffiti mecca, years of art was whitewashed overnight. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action, to the shock and dismay of hundreds of local artists and fans. Rallies were held throughout November to save the site, including a gathering just three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building with its art be landmarked. (THE COURIER/File photos)


City gets first outdoor studio
Kaufman Astoria Studios celebrated the grand opening of its outdoor film set, the first of its kind in New York City, and a brand new gated entrance on December 3. The brand new outdoor lot, on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues, is expected to bring in more movie and TV productions because it would allow outdoor shoots, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)


Great light fight
The brightest house in Whitestone outshone others nationally when it won ABC channel’s Christmas decorating competition, “The Great Light Fight,” on December 9. The Lynch family decorated their house with 300,000 lights and more than 100 animatronics. Kevin Lynch worked from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. for 20 days to create the most elaborate, festive display and the family won $50,000, beating stiff competition from homes in California, Virginia and Georgia. (THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan)

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives 
The Food Network’s hit show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, made a stop in Astoria to feature Queens Comfort. The show’s host, Guy Fieri, visited the 30th Avenue spot in early December. Owner Donnie D’Alessio said he had to shut down the restaurant, prepare eight dishes and remake some of the food several times over, but it was well worth it. (Photo courtesy of Donnie D’Alessio/Queens Comfort)

Francis Lewis JROTC program sends two more students to West Point

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The country’s largest Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program will send two more cadets to West Point.

Aaron Lin, 19, and Brian Nepogoda, 17, have been accepted to the U.S. Military Academy.

The JROTC program at their high school, Francis Lewis, has sent more than 20 cadets to West Point since 2003. Five of Francis Lewis’ JROTC alumni graduated from the prestigious military academy last year.

“I really, honestly can’t even describe my feelings. It’s an extreme honor,” Lin said. “It was my goal since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. It’s my highest personal achievement.”

Lin, a former cadet captain from Flushing, recently completed a one year preparatory program at Marion Military Institute after graduating from high school.

He said his “extreme patriotism” for his country and his Chinese-American pride pushed him to start a life of service.

“Since I’m here, I might as well fight for everyone who lives here,” he said. “I want to show that Chinese-Americans are not any less than anyone else. We’re just as strong. We can become great officers and leaders. I wanted to make my family proud.”

Nepogoda, a senior from Bellerose, said he was inspired to continue in the footsteps of his veteran grandfathers.

“They used to tell me stories about their service, stories about honor and how they were heroes. That really inspired me,” he said.

Nepogoda, a cadet first sergeant, is currently third in charge of a company of 200 students. He was also part of a Francis Lewis team that won first place in a recent Fort Dix competition that tested their mental and physical abilities.

“He gives 200 percent,” said coach and retired Master Sgt. Peter Rompf. “I’m proud. They were both good role models for the team.”

The pair leaves for six weeks of basic training in July before they begin their academic year. They will spend five years in active duty and four years in the reserves after graduating in 2017.

“I’ve wanted to go to West Point since about eighth grade,” Nepogoda said. “When I got accepted, I just couldn’t help but think how weird it is how quickly dreams can come true.”



Marshall gives final State of the Borough address

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy — honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm.

“Let’s reflect together now,” she said on Tuesday, January 22, “on the devastation Sandy caused. The relief, from across the street and across the country, and the rebuilding, now underway, inspired by hope and the promise of tomorrow.”

Marshall honored the memory of Dylan Smith — the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico last month — for his heroic efforts to help neighbors during the storm. With Smith’s parents in attendance, Marshall announced her office would give a $10,000 grant to the Swim Strong Foundation, which teaches a healthy lifestyle through swimming, in Smith’s memory.

Swim Strong founder Shawn Slevin said the grant in Smith’s name would continue to help the program, which has taught more than 2,000 people water safety and granted nearly 700 scholarships.

“This will mean so much for our scholarship funds,” Slevin said. “The borough president and her staff have always been very supportive of us.”

Michael McDonald, who helped rescue Belle Harbor residents alongside Smith, recalled the late surfer was modest to the attention he received after the storm. Before the audience at Queens College’s Colden Theater, McDonald gave a heartfelt recollection of the late October night and referred to Smith as “a guardian angel in a wetsuit.”

“The idea that his name will be mentioned in what he loved to do, which was not only swim and surf, but look out for the safety of others [is wonderful],” he said.

Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. Marshall applauded the anti-gun work of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and announced she plans to sponsor a gun buy back program sometime this spring.

“While Thanksgiving was muted by Sandy and the holiday season was saddened by the horrific violence in Newtown, let’s all agree that 2013 must be a year of hope,” Marshall said. “Our hope for getting guns off the street is gaining momentum. Here in our city, we have a long-standing and tireless leader in this effort: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have seen the lowest number of murders in the past 40 years.”



Post: Doe Fund founder to announce GOP mayoral run Thursday

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

George McDonald, an advocate for the homeless, is gearing up to run for mayor as a Republican, the New York Post is reporting.

McDonald, who according to The Post paid himself nearly $500,000 in 2011, is joining what is shaping out to be an unexpected Republican primary for City Hall. He is expected to make his formal announcement at Grand Central Terminal this Thursday.

Former MTA Chair Joseph Lhota is expected to make his official bid later this month, after stepping down on December 31 to explore a run for mayor. Lhota served as a budget director and deputy mayor during the Giuliani Administration. He is expected to have the full backing of “America’s Mayor.”

McDonald heads The Doe Fund, established in 1985 to help homeless men and women get back to work and on their feet.

The Daily News reported in August that McDonald was entertaining the idea of the run – but little came from the news. He’ll also join potentials like John Catsimatidis, a grocery chain store owner, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión as the best Republican candidate.

Whoever wins the race could face one of several Democrats vying for City Hall. This includes City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; Comptroller John Lui; and former Comptroller and 2009 mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

Despite an overwhelmingly Democratic City Council, the Republicans have virtually held the Mayor’s Office for 20 years. Giuliani won in 1993 and 1997; Mayor Michael Bloomberg won as a Republican in 2001 and 2005 before running as an independent in 2009.

Comptroller Liu delivers State of the City

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Raising the minimum wage, providing free college tuition and ending corporate welfare were among the myriad of topics touched on during Comptroller John Liu’s State of the City speech last week.

After a pre-speech show featuring a children’s choir, interpretive dancers and violinists, the presumptive mayoral hopeful delivered his second State of the City speech this year which focused heavily on ways to aid the city’s working and middle classes to a packed room at John Jay College on Thursday, December 20.

“If we are serious about narrowing the wealth gap we need to have the courage to pay all people a livable minimum wage,” Liu said.

The comptroller said due to the city’s high cost of living, the effective minimum wage in the five boroughs was less than $4, the lowest in the country. Liu called for the current $7.25 an hour rate to be raised over five years to $11.50.

Ensuring more residents graduate from high school and college is one way for more residents to earn a decent living, the comptroller said.

Currently, four out of five high school students in the city do not graduate from college, according to the comptroller. Skyrocketing tuition costs is one reason behind the high number of students without a bachelor’s degree. Liu suggested offering the top 10 percent of students at public schools free tuition at any CUNY school.

“The offer of free tuition would help motivate students and elevate CUNY, one of our city’s most valuable gems, to the level of a competitive prize,” said Liu. “It would also be a lifesaver for many working families who are struggling to send their kids to college.”

Madison Square Garden also found itself in Liu’s crosshairs during the talk.

“Why has Madison Square Garden been awarded a $15 million a year real-property tax exemption?” Liu asked.

Eliminating tax breaks and corporate welfare handed out to big companies would raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the city, Liu said. More than $250 million was handed out last year to a handful “of lucky and well-connected businesses,” he said.

While big businesses enjoy tax breaks, many smaller businesses struggle under the weight of taxes and fines. Liu unveiled a series of proposals to reduce taxes and fines by $500 million for small businesses. Fines doubled over the past decade, Liu said.

“While fines are sometimes a necessary evil to protect public safety and health, they should not be used just to generate revenue for the city,” he said.

Quinn leads crowded field for 2013 mayoral nod; More than a third of voters still undecided

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Council Speaker Christine Quinn remained at the head of the field in the 2013 mayoral race, though her once wide margin has shrunk.

NY1-Marist Poll released a poll surveying registered city voters on next year’s race for mayor with Quinn coming out on top with the support of 23 percent of Democrats. She was followed by former Comptroller Bill Thompson with 15 percent, Comptroller John Liu at 9 percent and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio with 8 percent.

With any primary at least eight months away, 37 percent of Democratic voters remain undecided.

“There’s still a long way to go before Democrats go to the polls,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The amount of undecided voters actually increased from the last poll in April, when under 30 percent of voters were unsure. Quinn’s lead also shrunk over the past six months. In April, she held a 20 point lead over Thompson.

Manhattan Media CEO Tom Allon received 2 percent in the poll, double his support from the first poll, though he no longer is a registered Democrat. The poll was conducted before Allon switched parties to run in a less-crowded Republican field.

Forty-six percent of voters in the city do not want another possible Republican candidate — Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — to run.

Despite rumors of former Congressmember Anthony Weiner considering a 2013 run, 58 percent of voters said they do not want him to enter the race. Weiner fared better than actor Alec Baldwin, who two-thirds of New Yorkers do not want to see run.

Whoever takes over the office will be following a mayor 12 percent of voters will believe will be remembered one of the city’s best mayors. Forty-three percent of voters believe Mayor Michael Bloomberg will leave a positive legacy and 8 percent think he’ll be considered one of the city’s worst mayors.

MTA to hike fares in ’13, ’15 & ’17

| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

City straphangers are getting a brief reprieve from a 2013 fare hike, but will soon be paying more at both the turnstile and MetroCard machine.

The MTA approved a preliminary budget including a bump in 2013 fares, followed by further increases in 2015 and 2017. A $1 “green fee” will also be added to newly purchased MetroCards. Tolls and commuter line fares will rise as well.

Fares were originally intended to be boosted beginning in January, but will be held off until March.

The biennial increases will net the agency $450 million next year and an additional $500 million in 2015.

Details on the hikes have not been released and will be made available later this year ahead of November’s public hearings.

“They should not increase the prices,” said Nesto Murdolk, 40, of Bayside. “There’s no way people can afford it.”

New Yorkers are frustrated at being “fed a steady diet of fare increases without corresponding improvements in service,” said Ya-Ting Liu, the transportation advocate for Transportation Alternatives at a June 25 MTA hearing.

Fares have been raised three times since 2007.

Other residents see the need for an increase to cover the MTA’s deep debts.

“I think it is necessary because of the running deficit,” said Bayside resident Fred Z., 71. “We’re going to have to increase taxes or get money from the fares.”

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said there is a fine line between the agency’s financial woes and providing a service, though he says that the MTA is not to blame.

“We think that the state doesn’t fund transit well enough,” he said. “There should be more support, rather than getting it all from the riding public.”

The MetroCard surcharge will produce about $20 million for the MTA — $18 million from the fee and $2 million in savings through printing fewer cards.

It is not known when a proposed $1 surcharge for new MetroCards will go into effect, though it will likely be enacted along with the March fare hike.

“My feeling is that people should be reusing their cards and part of it is a monetary benefit to the riding public,” Russianoff said.

Many cards are tossed aside with money amounting to less than one fare remaining. The MTA projects that $56.2 million will remain on MetroCards at the close of 2012. The number includes money on cards thrown away, lost or yet to be used.

— Additional reporting by Greg Giaconelli

New York’s first full gaming legislature passed

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

Full casino gaming could be in the cards for NYS, as the first round of legislation, in favor of expanding the state’s regulations, was passed by both houses.

Senator Joseph Addabbo, a member of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, released a statement following the announcement of the legislature’s passing. Although Addabbo was absent for this process on protest, he supported the passage of New York State Gaming legislation.

“It is a step closer to having our residents vote on a referendum that could bring full gaming to the state,” said Addabbo. “It is a step closer for my constituents to have thousands of additional job opportunities at Resorts World. It is a step closer for our local communities, businesses, along with city and state governments to realize a greater potential for revenue growth.”

While Addabbo applauds this move forward, he advises that future maneuvers be done cautiously, utilizing community participation.

“I am an advocate for community input on these issues and feel most people would want their voices heard before any plans are implemented,” said Addabbo. “I look forward to working for my constituents and hearing their concerns on this issue.”

Stefan Friedman, a spokesperson from Resorts World Casino, says the passing of this legislature is a “significant step” towards full commercial gaming.

According to Friedman, laws to legalize full gaming have gone through the first round of negotiations several times in the past, but were halted before completely approved. Friedman claimed that in order for it to become legalized, two separate legislatures need to be approved – the second of which will not be decided on until 2013.

Friedman said Resorts World is eager to expand its operations if enhanced gaming is allowed. He estimates the expansion will create hundreds of additional jobs and garner millions in additional revenue – funds that are currently being spent out of state in nearby spots like Atlantic City, New Jersey where table gaming is available.

According to Friedman, between $3.1 billion to $5 billion leaves the state every year for entertainment and gaming in cites outside NYS.