Tag Archives: America

LaGuardia Terminal B to get luxury upgrade


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

PAULINA TAM

LaGuardia Airport, which Vice President Joseph Biden famously likened to the “Third World,” is getting a makeover that will include luxury spots like Tumi and a Centurion Club for American Express customers.

New department boutiques, eating establishments and infrastructure improvements will be added into LaGuardia Airport’s old Terminal B by the end of the year, airport retail developer MarketPlace Development announced on Tuesday.

“The Food & Shops program at LGA has won some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, and our goal is to continue to provide travelers with an exceptional shopping and dining experience and up-to-date amenities as a new terminal is being built,” MarketPlace Development President Paul McGinn said.

The remodeling will provide improved accommodations for a new terminal scheduled for construction in 2015.

Some of the new department stores will include America!, Desigual, Eddie Bauer, Lacoste, L’Occitane, Lick, Ruby Blue and Tumi. Refurbished eateries include Bowery Bay Café, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Piccolo Mercato, Six Block Bakery, Sorrentine and Villa Italian Kitchen. Some of the enhanced conveniences include Bank of America ATMs, The Centurion Lounge for American Express card members, and escalator and restroom upgrades.

 

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Clean up of Newtown Creek investigated


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Indifference to filth and pollution for over a century has mutated Newtown Creek into more of a beast than a beauty.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, contaminants were spewed into Newtown Creek by more than 50 refineries that called the waterway home, including sawmills, lumber and coal yards, fertilizer and glue factories, petrochemical plants and oil refineries. The creek was also used by commercial vessels to transport oil, chemicals, fuel and other raw materials. During World War II, the channel was one of the busiest ports in the nation, and factories continue to operate on its banks to this day.

Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velázquez, Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan joined EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck on a boat tour of the Newtown Creek cleanup project on October 11. During the tour, the Queens leaders were taken to the key areas of pollution in the creek.

“For far too long, Newtown Creek has been a disgrace: a toxic dumping ground since the mid-1800s, a blight on our waterways, and the scene of perhaps the largest oil spill of all time – three times the size of the Exxon Valdez,” said Maloney, referencing the Greenpoint oil spill.

In addition to the damage done by industrial pollution, the city began dumping raw sewage into the water in 1856.

As a result of its history, which includes multiple spills, Newtown Creek is among the most polluted waterways in America.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that the channel was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, and since that time, several government-sponsored cleanups have occurred.

Newtown Creek, whose waters wash the shores of both Queens and Brooklyn, was designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September of last year.

The Superfund Program was established by Congress to locate, investigate and cleanup the most hazardous sites across the country. It also provides the EPA with the authority to coerce responsible parties to account for the damage they have done, either by cleaning up the site themselves or by reimbursing the government for all costs associated with the restoration.

This past July, following a year-long examination, the EPA entered into a consent order with six potentially responsible parties to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the creek’s cleanup. Field work for the investigation, which will determine the nature of the pollutants, evaluate any risks to human life or the environment and assess prospective cleanup methods, is scheduled to begin within the next month.

“Restoring the health of both sides of Newtown Creek will give residents of Queens and Brooklyn improved access to the waterfront and make our neighborhoods healthier places to live,” said Maloney.

The EPA will be holding a public information session at LaGuardia Community College, located at 31-10 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, on Thursday, October 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. to discuss the project.

The investigation could take as long seven years to complete, and the removal of contaminants from Newtown Creek could last an additional 10 years. A preliminary estimate by the EPA approximates the cleanup costs between $300 and $400 million.

The EPA has reported that potentially responsible parties include premier oil companies BP America, Exxon Mobil and Texaco, as well as the City of New York. These, as well as other responsible parties, will be paying for the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the near future.

During initial tests performed by the EPA, harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which easily evaporate into the air, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek.

“The more we find out about this polluted waterway, which affects two boroughs, the more we see the need to move the feasibility study along and remediation, in the form of a massive cleanup, to begin,” said Marshall.

Woodside mother and daughter granted stay


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Nadia Habib has been granted the greatest birthday gift of all – the gift of time.

The 20-year-old Woodside resident and her mother, Nazmin, were facing deportation to Bangladesh on September 29, one day before Nadia’s birthday, but the pair was granted a last-minute reprieve, allowing them to remain in the country – for now.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) temporarily prevented the deportation after meeting with the family for over an hour. The mother and daughter were placed under an order of supervision, which meant they were forced to surrender their passports, were not allowed leave the state and had to regularly report to ICE until a final decision was made.

“I wanted to stay strong for my family.” said Nadia, who has described this year as the hardest of her life. “I knew I couldn’t break down. It’s scary, because I can’t get my driver’s license and I can’t work. I’m stuck in a bubble. All I can do is focus on school, so if they take that away from me I don’t know what I would do.”

Dozens gathered outside the meeting during a rally organized by the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an undocumented youth-led organization that works on improving access to education and creating equal opportunities for immigrant youth. The group has come to the aid of Nadia and Nazmin by collecting over 6,000 signed petitions and providing the family with an attorney at no cost.

One day after the reprieve, on Nadia’s 20th birthday, the Habib family finally received news they could celebrate. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Director Christopher Shannan granted Nadia and Nazmin a stay of removal, allowing them to remain in the country for 12 months and cancelling the order of supervision.

“There is a huge sense of relief that I am able to stay for now,” Nadia said. “This is the biggest present I could have gotten – to be able to continue living my life the way I have been living it.”

Despite the positive development, the Habib’s attorney, Aygul Charles, warns that the battle against deportation is far from complete.

“The stay of removal is not a permanent relief and there still remain many hurdles to overcome before they can say they are permanent U.S. residents,” said Charles. “There is still a big chance that Nadia and her mother will be deemed deportable after the expiration of the stay of removal. Also, the stay of removal can be lifted by ICE at any moment.”

Nadia, who is majoring in psychology at Stony Brook University, arrived in America with her mother when she was just 20 months old, making New York the only home she has ever known. Deportation would tear her away from her father, who holds a Green Card, and three younger siblings, all born in the U.S.

“I was too scared about my daughter and my wife,” said Jawad Habib, Nadia’s father. “I cannot explain how scared I was on September 29. I have never broken a law here and have always paid my taxes. My daughter should be allowed to be here and study here. Her life here is bright. We don’t have anything in Bangladesh. If they are sent to Bangladesh, my life will break down.”

Nadia and her mother entered the country with a three-month tourist visa and applied for political asylum once the visa expired. On the day of their asylum hearing, Nazmin became severely ill and was taken to the emergency room. According to Nadia, their lawyer was supposed to attend the hearing in their stead, but did not. Nazmin’s doctor sent an explanatory letter to the court, but due to a clerical error regarding the doctor’s medical license number, the judge was unable to verify the letter’s authenticity and denied asylum.

In the decade since their hearing, the Habib family has awaited the fateful letter that spelled the end to their American Dream. On September 16, the notification arrived, informing Nadia and her mother that they had to report to 26 Federal Plaza to be deported on September 29 with no more than one suitcase each to hold their possessions – 50 pounds of space to pack a life in. If the pair is ultimately deported to Bangladesh, they will face a similar situation one year from now.

President Barack Obama took a step towards easing the minds of all undocumented residents on August 18, when the White House announced a policy shift that will focus federal resources on deporting convicted criminals and those who pose a threat to public or national safety. The change spares undocumented students and other law-abiding immigrants facing deportation by allowing them to apply for work permits.

Nadia hopes for a day when the Dream Act will pass, and undocumented residents will no longer live in fear and be subjected to discrimination. She also urges immigrants to unite and make their voices heard.

“You don’t know what to do when you are undocumented,” she said. “You are treated like you are not human; like you are an animal who is not supposed to be here. The government should see every case as a person; a human being with a life and a family. There is no such thing as illegal. We are all human. Everyone who qualifies for the Dream Act should speak up. I feel like the more out there you are, the safer you are. I want everyone who is undocumented to stay strong and keep their hopes up.”