Tag Archives: Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo announces stricter DUI laws

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Stock image

Booze, cruise and lose. New York is cracking down on intoxicated drivers.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced an initiative to remove drivers with repeat alcohol or drug-related driving convictions from New York’s roads.

According to Cuomo, these more rigid regulations, enforced by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), will make the state among the toughest in the nation against drivers who persistently get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“We are saying ‘enough is enough’ to those who have chronically abused their driving privileges and threatened the safety of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” said Cuomo. “This comprehensive effort will make New York safer by keeping these drivers off our roadways.”

Every year, more than 300 people are killed and 6,000 injured on roads throughout the state as a result of drunk driving.

Over the past few years, the percentage of crashes resulting in an injury where the driver had three or more alcohol related convictions has increased, spiking from 22 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2010.

Current law dictates that individuals with multiple DUI offenses cannot permanently lose their licenses. Under New York State law, the only scenario where a license could be indefinitely removed is if they have two alcohol or drug related convictions stemming from crashes that resulted in physical injury or death.

Under the new regulations, the DMV will deny applications for reinstatement of a license if the applicant has five or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions during his or her lifetime or three or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions in the last 25 years as well as one other serious driving offense during that period. Serious driving offenses include a fatal crash, accumulating 20 or more violation points within the last 25 years, or having two or more driving convictions each worth five or more points.

Forest Hills attorney Rochelle Berliner, who represents individuals busted for drunk driving, said cases where clients have multiple DUIs are uncommon.

“It’s a tough state to have a DUI arrest,” said Berliner. “There’s not a lot of flexibility with the district attorney’s office and this is going to make it worse.”

According to Berliner, penalties for drinking and driving vary depending on the county in which the arrest occurs and the perpetrator’s blood alcohol level during the police-administered Breathalyzer exam.

In Queens, if a first-offending individual’s blood alcohol level is relatively close to .08 — the legal limit in New York State — they have an increased chance of getting the misdemeanor infraction of impaired. Logging a blood alcohol level over .18 is known as aggravated and results in harsher consequences.

Berliner said she understood why there are constant efforts to increase the severity of the penalty for drinking and driving. However, the attorney was not completely convinced that the law will keep people from operating a car while intoxicated.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect a huge number of people but it just keeps increasing the negative penalties for a person who gets caught driving under the influence,” said Berliner. “It’s better to get people the help they need before they get to that point.”

State forum helps build small business in Queens

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

Established and potential small business owners filled the auditorium of the Flushing Library with pens and paper in hand (and a few laptops), ready to jot down information on ways to help their small businesses.

Around 250 people attended the August 22 event, which was the last in a series of small business forums that have been held throughout the state since early April.

“This program is all about creating jobs because when small businesses do well, New York does well,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo when the initiative was announced. “It’s so important for us to get out of the office and go into communities to see how we can help anyone who wants to start, grow or improve a business and that’s what this program will do.”

At the forum, representatives from the New York Departments of State, Labor, Taxation and Finance as well as Empire State Development, the State Liquor Authority and the Workers Compensation Board each gave a short presentation. Afterwards, attendees were able to ask the speakers questions.

“What [attendees] should take away from this presentation tonight is that we have resources and services that are available to you free of charge,” said New York State Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights Alphonso David, who introduced the night’s speakers.

In addition to small business grants, programs and online resources, the forum also included important information on laws and taxes that could cost small business owners money or even shut down their businesses.

Though the information discussed is easily available online, for several reasons, people might not know about it because they have limited resources, don’t have time to look online or are recent immigrants and have language barriers, said David.

Home to a large number of small businesses and immigrants, Queens, particularly Flushing, was an appropriate place to end the state’s small businesses forums, he said.

“There’s a large group of people here in Queens that operate small businesses and may not be aware of the services that we have to offer.”

Marc Fox of Fresh Meadows attended the forum because he is considering opening a small business in Queens. After working in the music industry for years, he would like open a music center that has rehearsal space and a store and gives lessons.

He was particularly interested in learning more about grants that could help him start his business, but was disappointed.

“The free money doesn’t sound so free,” he said.

But Fox liked that there are programs in place to help people like him. Although the information can be found online, he said, it was much easier hearing it laid out all at once.

Information for NY state small business owners can be found at www.NYOpenforSmallBusiness.com or www.thenewny.com.


Pols ask for $500G for Senior Housing Development in Howard Beach

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Goldfeder

A senior housing development currently under construction needs more funding to fix its failing façade.

Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder recently sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him for an additional $500,000 from the Port Authority’s Regional Funds Account to repair the Senior Housing Development in Howard Beach.

The project, which is being developed by Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (CCPOP), the affordable housing development division of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ), has received millions in funding and grants, but the cost to fix the façade and rooftop parapet are much higher than originally anticipated.

“There was a lot of façade work that was done improperly in the original construction and they didn’t use the proper ties to place the brick structure,” said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, Vicar for Human Services for CCBQ. “This is such an important project and at this point we’re just hoping to ensure that the building we developed will be secure and water tight, so we do not run into problems in the future that will be much more costly.”

“Thanks to Monsignor LoPinto and the great team at Catholic Charities the budget for this project has been stretched thin but unexpected damage to the facade needs to be corrected immediately in order to ensure quality senior housing,” said Goldfeder.

Located at 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard, construction on the housing development began this January and is expected to finish at the end of 2014.

The structure was built in the 1960s as a hospital. Later it was used as the Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Senior Office and in the 1980s a one-story addition was constructed, making it four stories.

According to the CCBQ, the renovated building will feature easy access for seniors, beautified grounds, a community room and several green elements in the apartments, including Energy Star air conditioning units and appliances.

At least 80 percent of the 96 units will be studio or one-bedroom apartments for low-to-moderate income senior citizens over the age of 60. The remaining units will be one-to-two bedroom apartments reserved for individuals supported by the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Fifty percent of the senior apartments are earmarked for Community Board 10 residents, according to the board’s chair Elizabeth Braton.

“Additional funding is desirable because the building is going to serve a population that needs to be served,” she said. “I applaud this request.”

It’s natural that issues like the façade damage are going to pop up when working on an older building, Braton added, and if additional money is needed, then the state should certainly play a role, she said.

In December 2011 CCBQ secured $31 million in funding with a construction loan from JPMorgan Chase and federal and state low-income housing tax credit equity purchased by Morgan Stanley through syndicator Hudson Housing Capital.

Additionally, CCBQ received about $11 million in grant awards from the Housing Trust Fund Corporation, New York State Housing Finance Agency, City Housing Preservation and Development Agency, City Capital Funding, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and a HOME block grant, as well as $3.5 million in discretionary funding from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

When Governor David Paterson was in office, local elected officials sent him a letter requesting funds for soundproofing the building against nearby JFK airplane noise. But a decision about the request wasn’t reached before Paterson left office. The money is still available.

If granted, the $500,000 would go towards covering the façade repairs and soundproofing, said Goldfeder. He anticipates that they will need to request more money, possibly from other places, to help cover the project’s construction because of more unexpected costs.


Legislation tackles cyberbullying

| AMayo@queenscourier.com

As students, parents and educators gear up for the new school year, elected officials are tackling the growing problem of cyberbullying.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last month that is designed to shed light on the hazards of cyberbullying and require educators to respond to such attacks as soon as they happen.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo is applauding the move. He told The Courier that the new bill expands the definition of harassment to include cyberbullying – a form of online behavior that has become both prevalent and sometimes deadly.

“Bullying used to be a push or shove, taunting. Now it’s the push of a button,” Addabbo said. “With the click of a button, thousands, if not more, are notified of a particular nasty message.”

Even though the bill does not go into effect until July 2013, lawmakers and proponents of anti-cyberbullying will be visiting area schools this year to talk about the issue and how to address it.

“Now that the governor signed this piece of legislation we need to make sure that all schools are aware of this bill and it is implemented in a correct manner,” Addabbo said.

Jamie Isaacs, a 16-year-old girl from Long Island who had been bullied her whole life, and the president of the Jamie Isaacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying, will also be visiting schools in Queens to discuss the effects of cyberbullying.

Isaacs said she was bullied from the end of second grade until seventh grade, when she ultimately had to switch from public school to private school. She said a group of 22 students tormented her for years – physically assaulting her, destroying and stealing her property and calling her names. The harassment followed through to the Internet, where Isaacs had to change her screen name multiple times to avoid constant messages of hate.

“My parents were frequently going to the principal’s office and the school district office begging for them to do something and they refused,” Isaacs said. “District heads said, ‘They’re just being kids they’ll grow out of it.’ The school was completely negligent.”

Isaacs said she is glad to see the new law being passed because it forces educators to deal with cyberbullying.

Addabbo said that cyberbullying has become a growing issue thanks to the increase of accessibility to technology, and the results can sometimes be deadly.

He noted how research has revealed a link between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, as well as long-term consequences that include increased depression, substance use and occasionally suicide.

Addabbo said the new bill should also make parents aware. He said there are different signs of behavior that parents should look out for, including physical abuse and mental abuse.

Maria Concolino, a Woodhaven resident who has children who go to a Jamaica public school, said students have become desensitized to the harsh realities of bullying, especially with the increase of bullying on the Internet.

“If they see someone killing someone on the Internet, then when they do something like bullying and calling them names they think, ‘Well, I’m not killing them,’ ” she said. “It’s making kids numb. They don’t have that line of reality. That line is very blurred.”


Today is deadline to register to vote in September primary; online registration now available

| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

With the state ranking near the bottom in voter registration, the governor announced a new initiative to allow online registration.

Residents can now log on to their computers to register to vote change their address or update party enrollment.

“We are knocking down longstanding barriers that have prevented many New Yorkers from participating in the democratic process, while creating a more streamlined and more efficient system that will save taxpayers’ money,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Less than 64 percent of eligible voters are registered, ranking New York 47th in the nation.

If you want to register electronically, you can now visit the Department of Motor Vehicle’s “MyDMV” web site.  You will also be able to register paper-free at local DMV offices.

According to the governor’s office, registration rates jumped from 28 to 53 percent among voters 18 to 24 after online registration was introduced.

The announcement comes as the deadline approaches to register for the September primary.

If you want to be able to vote in the state primary elections on September 13, your application must be postmarked no later than Friday, August 17 and received by August 24.

Online registration must be done ahead of today’s deadline, also.

Click here to find out if you’re registered to vote

You may also register in person at your local Board of Elections or any voter registration center, but must do so no later than Friday, August 17.

If you need to file a change of address, it must be received by August 24.

Op Ed: Human trafficking is not victimless

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


I introduced a bill last year, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law, prohibiting the distribution of obscene, business-card-sized ads for prostitutes.  These so-called “chica” cards, which have been handed out along Roosevelt Avenue and adjacent streets for many years, feature promises of “free delivery.”

After a press conference at which I unveiled my chica cards bill, the problem drew attention.  The cards were the subject of some jokes.

And it turned out that one of the cards we enlarged and displayed at the press conference pictured an international supermodel.

The harsh reality, however, is that there is absolutely nothing funny, or glamorous, about prostitution.

The fact is, many women from around the world and across the country are brought here — to New York, to Roosevelt Avenue — and are enslaved, forced to have sex with strangers for the profit of human traffickers and pimps.

We have to dispel the dangerous notion that prostitution is a victimless crime.

And we do that with information and by raising awareness.  Someone aware of the brutal truth is less likely to participate in the continued exploitation of these women.

And that’s the point of the public awareness campaign I am launching.  I put it together in conjunction with the mayor’s office and Restore NYC, a non-profit that provides aftercare services to sex-trafficking victims and operates a safe house in Queens.  The campaign consists of getting posters into storefront windows and informational, palm-sized pamphlets into people’s hands along Roosevelt Avenue and neighboring streets, areas where many of the women trafficked into New York are prostituted.

Again, someone who understands what these women are really going through is less likely to participate in their brutal exploitation.

As Faith Huckel, co-founder of Restore NYC observes, “sex trafficking is one of the most violent humanitarian issues of our day.  To call it anything less is to disregard the trauma, rape and abuse experienced on the part of the victim.”

Traffickers prey on the poor and vulnerable.  They use promises of a good job or a false marriage proposal to lure victims.  Other victims are kidnapped or sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands or boyfriends.  Many of these women are being abused and exploited in public and private locations in our very own communities, including Jackson Heights, Corona and Flushing.

We must seek justice for trafficked women.  To that end I have also I introduced a bill in the New York State Senate to reclassify sex trafficking as a violent felony and increase the minimum jail sentence to five years.  The minimum sentence currently is one to three years.

Classifying sex trafficking as a violent felony not only raises the minimum sentence for a first offense, it can put someone that commits multiple violent offenses away for life under the persistent violent offender law.

By raising awareness and imposing penalties commensurate with the brutality inherent in sex trafficking, I hope that we can put at least some traffickers and pimps out of business and keep them from destroying more lives.

Senator Peralta is the Ranking Democrat on the Labor Committee and also serves as a member of the Finance, Investigations and Insurance Committees.

Workers’ compensation rates reduced for first time since 2008

| Phertling@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that New York state employers will see a reduction in workers’ compensation premium rates for the first time in four years.

Policyholders will see a decrease of 1.2 percent, the first reduction since 2008.

The rate reduction is a result of efforts by the governor’s administration over the past 18 months to modernize, improve efficiency and decrease waste in the workers’ compensation system.

“For years, the workers’ compensation system has been too costly for businesses and ineffective for injured workers,” said Cuomo. “With the new measures implemented by the state, and our continued work together with the business and labor communities, we will remain on track to create a system that works better for both employers and employees.”

Originally, the New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board recommended a cost increase in their annual loss cost filing. However, after reviewing all the filings and written submissions, the board determined to cut costs.

Benjamin M. Lawsky, superintendent of financial services, believes Cuomo is leading New York in the right direction for all businesses, both large and small, throughout the state.

“This is the right decision on rates at the right time,” said Lawsky.

Cuomo also announced that the last measures of the 2007 Workers’ Compensation Reform Law, which secured necessary benefit increases for injured workers and cost reductions for businesses, have now been fully implemented by the state. The Workers’ Compensation Board will now focus on creating a new set of guidelines to help modernize its systems with technology and to continue reducing waste and abuse in the system.

“The cost of workers’ compensation coverage remains a significant competitiveness issue for New York State business,” said Heather Briccetti, CEO of the New York State Business Council. “We look forward to working with the administration and other stakeholders on next steps in improving the system.”


Cuomo announces crackdown on designer drugs

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the governor's office

New regulations will help crack down on the rapidly expanding synthetic drug industry, the governor announced on Tuesday.

“The actions we are announcing today attack the problem by helping our law enforcement officers enforce the rules, expanding the list of banned substances used to manufacture bath salts and imposing tougher penalties so those who sell these drugs are held accountable,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The state’s Department of Health expanded its list of prohibited drugs and chemicals to include dozens of more substances used to make synthetic drugs. Penalties were also stiffened allowing store owner selling the substances to be charged with possession of an illicit substance and face time behind bars.

Distributors of the drug were skirting laws by tweaking the drug’s ingredients to avoid substances banned by the state’s controlled substances laws.

These “designer drugs” include bath salts and synthetic marijuana sold under names such as White Lightning, Tranquility, Zoom and Blaze.

In June and July, there were 120 emergency room visits as a result of bath salts after just 39 all of 2011, the governor said. More than 300 calls were made to the state’s Poison Control Center in the year’s first six months after only 20 in 2010, the center said.

A hot line was also set up for residents to report establishments selling the illegal substances.

Stiffer federal laws were put into place recently, but the governor said local law enforcement officials for will be able to pursue perpetrators under state laws for the first time.


Teens to need parental consent for body piercings

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Bayside teen Elana Campane is considering getting her belly button pierced. She hasn’t told her parents yet, and she’s not sure that they will approve of a piercing that’s not in her ears.

For now, the 17-year-old doesn’t need their permission, but she will in a few months when New York becomes the 32nd state to make it illegal for minors to get a body piercing without parental consent.

Luckily, said Campane, she will turn 18 at the end of December.

The new law, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed on Tuesday, July 31, requires anyone under 18 years old to obtain written consent by a parent or guardian before getting a piercing on any part of the body except for the ear.

“Body piercings can pose a significant health risk if not cared for properly,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who co-sponsored the bill. “This will now ensure that parents are aware of their son or daughter’s intent to receive a body piercing which will hopefully prevent complications such as allergic reactions, skin infections or scarring.”

According to the governor’s office, about 20 percent of all body piercings result in infection.

After reading an article about the risks of body piercing, Simanowitz discovered that although it is illegal to tattoo anyone under 18 without parental permission, there was no minimum age requirement for body piercings.

“My children’s school can’t give my 14-year-old a Tylenol without permission, but he can walk into a store and get a body piercing,” said Simanowitz.

A minor will assess the risk of a body piercing differently than an adult, he added.

Piercing studios will need to check the identification of those suspected of being underage, and the owner or body piercing specialist must be present when a parental consent form is signed. The state health department will oversee the new law.

But it’s already common practice for some body piercing places to card potential minors and require signed consent, said Juan Orellana, co-owner of Skin Konviction, a tattoo and body piercing studio in Flushing.

“We’d rather not take any chances,” he said.

Severe storms to strike city this evening; isolated tornadoes possible

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Isolated tornadoes are possible as part of the severe storms that are expected to hit the city this evening.

Powerful thunderstorms are forecasted to reach the city between 5 and 6 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

The storm’s  strong winds, heavy rain, large hail and threats of tornadoes prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to activate the state’s Emergency Operations Center today.

“New Yorkers should be especially aware of the weather conditions when making their travel plans today and monitor local news reports and weather alerts throughout the day,” Cuomo said.

Residents face lightning, winds nearing 60 mph, hail up to one inch in diameter and one to two inches of rain per hour, according to the NWS.

The NWS issued a special weather statement that expires at midnight.


Con Ed, union reach deal, end lock out

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Thunderstorms threatening New York City helped Con Edison and its workers strike a tentative deal ending a month long lock out.

After a temporary deal was struck earlier in the day to send some workers back to the job, Con Ed, Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a tentative agreement on a new four-year deal.

“We would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his support and guidance in helping Con Edison and the leadership of UWUA Local 1-2 reach a tentative agreement that is fair and equitable for our employees and customers,” Con Ed said in a statement.  “We look forward to our union employees returning to work. We appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in the talks to reach this agreement.”

All electrical operations workers are to head to work immediately, the union’s website said, with all other employees to return for their next regular shift.

Electric operations workers were to return to work to assist with potential power restoration resulting from approaching storms before the deal was reached.

“Our people are certainly not going to let down New York City if there is an emergency,” said John Melia, spokesperson for Local 1-2.

But now any problems that arise during the potentially dangerous storms will have a fully staffed Con Ed to handle them.

Approximately 8,500 workers have been locked out since the beginning of July. Over that time, 5,000 management personnel have maintained the system.


Update: Cuomo signs bill banning tanning for children under 17

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Queens teenagers who want glowing, bronze skin may soon have no choice but to burn at the beach.

The New York State Senate and Assembly recently passed legislation to outlaw the use of indoor tanning parlors for teens 16 and under, to help protect the kids from the dangers of skin cancer from ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitting devices.

The bills were delivered to Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 6, and became law on July 16 with his signature.  The law takes effect in 30 days.

“Exposure to UV radiation can be extremely harmful, particularly for younger people, and this new law will help protect teenagers from the heightened risk of skin cancer that can come from using indoor tanning devices,” Cuomo said. “This legislation recognizes that many tanning salons are small businesses facing economic challenges, however, protecting our children must always be our first priority. I thank Senator Fuschillo and Assemblymember Weisenberg for their hard work on this legislation.”

“Research has shown that indoor UV tanning can significantly increase the chances of developing skin cancer and that the rays produced by indoor tanning machines are far more intense than those produced by the sun,” said Senator Charles Fuschillo, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “This legislation would help protect children from something that could cause them serious harm later in life.”

The bills, S2917 and S3083, strengthen the state’s current law, which prohibits tanning for kids under the age of 14 and allows teens between ages 14 through 17 to receive indoor treatment with parental consent.

The law would also require 17 year olds to show parental consent to tanning salons.

Indoor tanning before age 30 increases a person’s chances of getting cancer by 75 percent, according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

UV emitting tanning devices are classified by the IARC in the highest level of cancer risk, placing them in the same category as asbestos and cigarette smoke.

“Melanoma as you may already know is the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer,” said Dr. Carol Huang, a dermatologist at Queens Crossing Dermatology in Flushing. “If detected early, it can be effectively treated, but if discovered late, it can metastasize. A ban on teenage tanning would be beneficial to their health.”

Local officials are also behind the bill, praising its foresight.

“The law will attempt to reduce total lifetime exposure to concentrated UV light and cut associated risks,” said Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, who sits on the Health Committee and supported the measure.

The original draft of the bill was intended to outlaw tanning for all teens under 18, but was altered to accommodate small business.

“Small salons thought if we went up to 18 it would be detrimental to business,” a representative of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said. “We view this change as a reasonable compromise.”

However, tanning companies aren’t buying lawmakers’ approach to sizzle their business. The Indoor Tanning Association is rallying support to shut the proposed changes down, as well as others like it around the nation.

“I don’t see why it’s so necessary, we are regulated already,” said Vanessa Staffa, director of operations in Queens for Beach Bum Tanning — a popular chain that owns six locations in the borough. “There are still going to be people going to the beach or online and purchasing home units, irresponsibly, because there will be nobody to regulate them.”

James Oliver, CEO of Beach Bum Tanning, added that indoor tanning should be a personal or at least parental decision and not taken away from the government.

But a local teen disagreed.

“It’s fair,” said Whitestone resident Taylor Lamacchia. “Sixteen-year-olds don’t know what’s best for them. If their friends are tanning they will also tan.

Lamacchia, 18, who has been tanning frequently since she was 16 to improve her appearance, added, “Parents want to be their children’s friends so they take them tanning at a young age to help them fit in, but they are truly putting their children at risk.”

Stabbed MTA officer John Barnett released from hospital

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Mike Stavisky

MTA officer John Barnett, who fended off an attacker that stabbed him in the eye, was released from the hospital last night.

Despite an injury that could potentially take sight from one of his eyes, Barnett was able to fire four shots into his attacker, who police say assailed the veteran transit cop for no reason, at the Jamaica LIRR station.

Barnett, who has served the MTA for almost 13 years, was attacked by a knife-weilding Edgar Owens on Wednesday, July 4 when Owens confronted the officer, and proceeded to stab him in the eye. After repeated warnings, the officer shot at Owens four times — hitting him thrice, MTA officials said.

Both were brought to Jamaica Hospital, where Owens was later pronounced dead, officials said.

Barnett was released last night, though no prognosis was made on his eye’s recovery.

Had the stabbing been one inch deeper, it would have made contact with Barnett’s brain, an MTA spokesperson.

Service was not interrupted during the investigation, except for some temporarily-blocked staircases.

MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota rushed to Jamaica Hospital after hearing about the altercation, according to an MTA release.

Lhota said that hopes were high for Barnett and commended him for his bravery.

“The entire MTA family is praying for Officer Barnett to make a full recovery,” Lhota said. “He did exactly what we expect of all of our officers: In a split second, confronted with a violent individual who posed a threat to everyone around him, he took action without regard to his personal safety. We are all in awe of his bravery.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo also called Barnett and likewise recognized his heroics in the statement.

“Today we are reminded once again of the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in law enforcement, and the many dangers that accompany the important job of keeping our state’s residents safe,” Cuomo said. “We applaud Officer Barnett’s bravery and pray for a full recovery.”

Barnett served one year with the NYPD before moving over to the MTA in 1999, according to the MTA. He has also served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as an officer in the Naval Reserves.

‘Landmark’ tax relief on the way for co-op and condo owners

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Co-op and condo owners left in the lurch after state lawmakers originally closed the year’s session without passing key pieces of legislation will not be forsaken for long, officials pledged.

The Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo have reached an agreement on “landmark” tax relief legislation that will be signed into law later this year when legislators return to Albany, according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“In the short term, the city has issued tax bills for the current fiscal year based on the current tax abatement rates,” Silver said. “When the legislation is signed into law as promised by the governor, we anticipate that the new lower rates will be effective retroactive to July 1.”

Co-op and condo community leaders said the state Legislature left them “high and dry” last week after lawmakers adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program and its tax abatement program. A bill that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations was also not addressed by the end of the session, they said.

The J-51 program gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, and the abatement reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one-, two- and three-family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to an additional $1,200 a year in maintenance costs without the abatement. Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc., also counted his potential losses, saying his community would lose out on about $1 million.

But local elected officials said co-op owners need not worry about tax increases in the near future. The abatement, which expired June 30, will be continued until the State Legislature reconvenes later this year to pass a new plan, they said.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said it was “highly likely” the legislature would also pass his bill, which would increase abatements for middle class co-op owners from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and over 28 percent in three years.

“Co-op owners should be encouraged that relief is right around the corner,” Braunstein said.

Meanwhile, co-op and condo community leaders said they remain hopeful for a more permanent, long-term fix on annual valuation spikes.

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits released this year by the city comptroller’s office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in fiscal year 2011-12.

Still, a proposed “8/30” valuation cap — which would have limited property tax increases to 8 percent per year or 30 percent over five years — was not passed, and Friedrich said he does not expect a solution to be reached for another year.

“I am optimistic, but actions do speak louder than words,” he said.

Senator Peralta says Willets Point perfect for convention center

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Courting of Willets Point as a potential site for what could be the nation’s largest convention center – and a major booster for New York City’s economy – has begun, with an open letter from State Senator Jose Peralta to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In the letter, Peralta notes that he supported the governor’s original announcement in January to build a convention center at Aqueduct.

He goes on to say that although it was unfortunate that current talks have fallen through, there are still options in north Queens.

“Fortunately, there is another viable venue in Queens that, I hope you will agree, has numerous significant advantages over other locations reportedly under consideration elsewhere in the city,” he writes. “That site is Willets Point.”

Peralta says the area that is currently the Iron Triangle would be ideal as it is close to Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“I hope you will give Willets Point the serious consideration its many advantages warrant and look forward to a meaningful discussion of the site’s merits,” Peralta writes.