Tag Archives: Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi

State comptroller finds irregularities with Samaritan Village


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Residents in Glendale now have more ammunition to strike back against the proposed homeless shelter.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found financial irregularities in an audit by the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), in which non-profit Samaritan Village is charging the state nearly $1 million for “unallowable, inappropriate, questionable or undocumented expenses.”

The mishandling of funds is significant because Samaritan Village is in negotiations with the city Department of Homeless Services to operate a 125-family transitional housing facility in Glendale with a five year, $27 million contract. However, the community has rallied against the proposal since it was submitted last year.

Samaritan Village provides residential, outpatient and treatment services in the city under a five-year, $73.3 million contract for OASAS. The agency reimburses Samaritan Village for the net costs it incurs to provide the services.

In response to the findings, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, asking to suspend contract negotiations for the non-profit with the city regarding the Glendale homeless shelter.

“These findings from the state’s top financial office deserve consideration from your administration when determining whether the city of New York should enter into a new extended contract with an organization that is currently being cited for potential operational deficiencies,” Hevesi’s letter said. “It is appropriate for the city of New York to suspend further consideration of new contracts with this entity until further investigation.”

 

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Glendale pols appeal to Mayor de Blasio over proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A new mayor, but the same old homeless shelter issue.

Representatives for Glendale penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the proposed homeless shelter on 78-16 Cooper Ave.

Assemblymembers Mike Miller and Andrew Hevesi, Congressmember Grace Meng and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley criticized the analysis by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in the letter and the agencies support for the shelter. The city is seeking a five-year $27 million contract with non-profit Samaritan Village, which would operate the facility.

“The reality is that the vast majority of the arguments made in the letter for building this facility were so generic and broad that they may be used to justify the building of transitional housing facilities anywhere in the City of New York,” the letter said.

Last year, Samaritan Village announced to Community Board 5 that it proposed the site for transitional housing for 125-families.

The letter by public officials points out that city shelter stay lengths have increased within the past year by 16 percent and it also highlights that the building is about 1.3 miles away from the nearest subway train and “not accessible to residents of the facility, who will need public transportation to commute to off-site linkage services, educational institutions, stores, and workplaces.”

The homeless shelter proposal is currently in its second phase of review, an environmental assessment. Some feel that the proposal could lose in that phase, because the building sits on contaminated ground.

The third and final review phase will be conducted in a financial analysis by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

 

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Environmental assessment to be done on proposed Glendale homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The fight over the unpopular Glendale homeless shelter is heading to round two.

An environmental assessment study will be done on the site for the second phase of review to decide whether to transform the vacant factory on 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a homeless shelter, after it recently received support from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

Some elected officials are confident they’ll have a chance for a knockout punch in this round.

“That’s another shot we have,” Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi said at a recent Community Board 5 meeting. “I believe from anecdotal evidence that the site may be contaminated. They are not allowed to build on a contaminated site.”

DHS penned a letter to the mayor’s office last week in support for nonprofit Samaritan Village’s proposal to transform the defunct factory into a shelter for 125 families, with a contract valued at $27 million.

Elected officials and Glendale residents attended a public hearing on Thursday in Manhattan to reiterate their opposition to the possible shelter, because of the contamination on the site and congestion to local schools, among other reasons.

“The building was never intended for residential use. Changing this site to a residential use would require intensive remediation and expansive renovations,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said at the hearing. “Think of how much further we could use $27 million. This money could be spent repairing buildings that already have the infrastructure in place, and money would likely still be left over for improvements in current shelters and providing job placement and permanent housing services.”

The homeless shelter was first suggested to the city by Samaritan Village in 2011. A formal proposal was sent to the DHS earlier this year.

If the proposal passes the environmental assessment round, then it will go to the Office of the City Comptroller for financial review for the third and final phase.

 

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Community leaders trash railroad garbage expansion plan


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Residents and community leaders are trashing a company’s plan to increase garbage export from Long Island through their neighborhoods.

One World Recycling, which processes garbage in Lindenhurst, Long Island that is hauled by New York and Atlantic Railway through tracks in Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale, has applied to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to nearly triple its output from 370 tons of garbage per day to 1,100 tons.

“We’re going to have garbage all day and all night, that’s how we see it,” said Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES). “We’re not happy about it.”

After One World applied, the community of Lindenhurst rejected the idea during a public hearing period that ended on August 16. But following procedure, the DEC has until 90 days after that date to review the application and make a decision.

With just about a month remaining until the deadline, community leaders in Queens are worried the DEC will make the wrong choice and plan to meet with agency officials to work towards a solution.

“The potential expansion of the One World Recycling Center in Lindenhurst raises numerous concerns,” said Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi. “I have signed onto a letter with my colleagues to the Department of Environmental Conservation urging them to deny this expansion, and I am having conversations with the DEC about this specific proposal.”

The trains wake up residents when they move through the night and some sit on tracks for hours with uncovered cars, which cause the stench of garbage to flow through the community, say locals.

The trains, which are owned by the state and licensed to New York and Atlantic, are outdated and discharge pollutants, according to area leaders. Earlier this year Hevesi, along with various elected officials, was able to get the state government to allocate nearly $3 million to retrofit a new engine for one of 11 locomotives, which will reduce the impact of gases in the community.

But the problem of garbage traveling through these communities has annoyed residents for years. It stems from the state increasing rail usage to cut down on truck transportation of garbage to relieve vehicle traffic and emissions.

“Everyone wants to get the trucks off the road, but it’s taking a problem from one area, mitigating it, and putting it in another area,” said Glendale resident Thomas Murawski. “You’re maybe solving part of the problem, but you’re not solving the whole problem.”

While they don’t want the One World expansion, CURES also wants the train cars covered to prevent the smell and hopes the state upgrades all the trains to new engines to cut down on pollutants.

“It’s not a matter of them being our enemies,” Parisen said. “If rail is the way of the future we want them to be responsible.”

Numerous emails and calls were made to One World Recycling but a company representative failed to reply.

 

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Glendale, Middle Village still dealing with train noise, pollution


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

After years of drawing attention to the issue, Glendale and Middle Village residents say they are still waiting on promises from public officials to fix trains that disturb and pollute their neighborhoods.

Residents say the trains loaded with garbage and construction debris wake people up on their way through Queens to a town upstate. They add that the railroad cars make screeching sounds and idle behind houses while the engines emit harmful gases from diesel fuels.

The MTA-owned trains are leased to companies including CSX and New York and Atlantic Railway.

At the end of March, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi was able to allocate $3 million from the state budget towards updating the engines. Retrofitting the trains in question, which were designed in accordance with 1970s standards, will significantly reduce the impact of gases in the community.

“We are still in the process of working with the MTA and we’ll see how that is going play out,” said Alex Schnell, chief of staff to the assemblymember.

Congressmember Grace Meng, who toured the Fresh Pond Rail Yard in Glendale in April to learn about the problem, wrote a letter to the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies concerning the federal budget. She asked for $30 million from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to retrofit old trains with the new engines.

“This level of funding would help alleviate the significant unmet demand and would assist in upgrading inefficiencies,” Meng said in the letter.

As of press time, Meng had not received a response.

For residents like Anthony Pedalino, elected officials’ actions to date have not been fast enough.

With the open car locomotives running below ground level, Pedalino and others suggested that a tunnel be built or adequate covers set up for the cars to stop the leak of foul smells.

“That protection is the least they can do,” Pedalino said.

He sends out emails to a number of public officials almost daily to remind them about the issue.

“I think locomotives with new engines are a big plus and will cut down on a significant amount of pollution. This is a wonderful start,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. “I can understand people being upset, even though that’s some good news.”

 

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New train engines to improve Queens air quality


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi's Office

Antiquated, high emission train engines have been a great concern for residents in the industrial areas of southwest Queens. But now, an upgrade is on the way.

Freight trains passing through areas of Community Board 5 and 9 have been running past residential homes for years, causing the track’s neighbors to question any potential health risks.

“This is a quality of life issue,” said Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES).

CURES has worked feverishly to ensure upgraded locomotive engines for the area, and through work with Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and a coalition of elected officials, managed to secure $3 million in this year’s legislative budget to upgrade engines.

“This is the first win in what will be an ongoing fight to protect the health of countless families in Queens,” Hevesi said.

“With New York State’s recognition that outdated trains can be severely damaging to communities they pass through, we have taken the first step toward fixing this problem.”

The funds will kick off a pilot project that will upgrade the first of a number of antiquated, high- emission trains.

The trains, owned and leased by the LIRR, are currently equipped with “archaic” 1970s engines, and operate throughout the city and Long Island, carrying waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches.

However, after the upgrade, there is expected to be an annual reduction in nitrogen oxide, a known byproduct of diesel engines, by up to 76 percent, or 120 tons of emission over 10 years, according to Hevesi’s office.

After years of work advocating for modernized engines, Parisen said that she and the other members of CURES are “ecstatic” simply because they no longer need to convince agencies and the government that the upgrade needed to be done.

“They all acknowledged that this needs to happen, now it’s just a matter of how we’re going to do it,” she said.

The allocated $3 million is going to the LIRR and the MTA, Parisen said, and they are going to upgrade however many trains they can with the amount.

“The locomotives now are doing the most damage to the most densely-populated areas,” she said. “We need to make sure the neighborhood gets the best locomotive possible.”

The coalition plans to continue petitioning the state until all necessary fleet upgrades have been completed, said Hevesi’s office.

 

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Beacon Program closure protest continues


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Community outcry at the possible closure of several Queens Community House Beacon Program centers is growing louder as more neighborhoods, faced with potentially losing their facilities, are speaking out.

“The state of the community’s outrage is an understatement,” said Marva Dudley, president of the advisory board at Parsons Beacon, a center facing possible closure. “It serves so many people and is essential to working parents. The community is devastated.”

According to a representative from the office of Councilmember James F. Gennaro, The New York City Youth Alliance, a group of non-profits, compiled a list of 16 Beacon Programs potentially facing closure. Eight of these programs are located in Queens.

“We know these proposed cuts often occur as the city finalizes its budget, but Beacons are a vital part of this community and must be preserved,” said Gennaro. “If we stand up now, we send a message that we are paying attention, and we take the first step to ensuring the funding continues. And that means all these great kids keep getting the tutoring and supervision they need to succeed.”

Queens Community House is a network of social service providers, assisting nearly 30,000 people borough-wide with benefits such as tutoring and athletics, as well as classes for General Education Diploma (GED) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

The Beacon Program, a subset of Queens Community House, is a “youth-development center,” providing year-round, complementary services, specializing in young people ages six to 21 and focusing on leadership and skill growth.

On Tuesday, February 13, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, expressing his opposition the potential termination of a Beacon Program located at J.H.S 190.

According to a representative from the mayor’s office, the possible closure of services such as the Beacon Program is attributable to “painful funding decisions.”

“We are committed to providing the quality programming on which so many rely, and will work within our means to continue to provide them,” said the representative, who alleged that the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) will eliminate seven Beacon programs in the interest of saving approximately $2.1 million in the 2013 Fiscal Year.

DYCD has undergone measures to investigate the effectiveness of at-risk centers, analyzing population and socioeconomic data. This process has not yet been completed.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and locals plead for Beacon program


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

COURIER/Photos

In danger of shutting its doors, a Forest Hills Beacon Program’s last hope may be a plea from a local politician.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg objecting to the possible closure of the Queens Community House Beacon Program, currently housed in J.H.S. 190.

Queens Community House is a network of social service providers, assisting nearly 30,000 people borough-wide with benefits such as tutoring and athletics, as well as classes for General Education Diploma (GED) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

The Beacon Program, a subset of Queens Community House, is a “youth-development center,” providing year-round, complementary services, specializing in young people ages six to 21 and focusing on leadership and skill growth.

According to a representative from Hevesi’s office, funding for the Beacon Program is allocated in the mayor’s budget for a fiscal year (FY). The Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190 has funding through June 30, 2012, according to the representative.

However, if no funds are appropriated by July 1 (the start of the 2012-2013 FY), the J.H.S. 190 program will most likely face termination.
The representative was unsure as to where the original recommendation for closure began.

According to Patrick Pinchinat, director of Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190, the center is at risk because it resides in a “low-needs zone,” – an area with a relatively low poverty rate and average socioeconomic standing. Pinchinat alleged that 16 Beacons are in danger, including centers in Bayside and Flushing.
Pinchinat said that since the J.H.S. 190 branch was included under a list of potentially closing centers, community advocacy for the Beacon Program has skyrocketed.
“There have been a lot of efforts around [keeping this center open],” said Pinchinat. “[The center] is something that’s really needed in the community. It’s a safe haven we have constructed with activities for young people. We further education. Not only are we after school programs, but we are other services too.”

The J.H.S. 190 program, which opened in 1998, services youth from Long Island City, Jamaica, Rosedale and Woodside, particularly catering to children of minority groups.

“[The Beacon Program] is a reflection of what New York City is: a snapshot of ethnicities and culture,” said Pinchinat. “We’re going to fight because it’s a worthy cause and something the community wants us to do.”

The mayor’s office could not be reached as of press time.

Photo courtesy of Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190

Children who participate in the Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190 are in danger of losing their facility because of lack of funding.

Deal to halt train noise, pollution in Middle Village


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Local leaders and politicians have moved a noisy and odorous train hookup further from Middle Village houses, though community concerns remain.

Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblymembers Andrew Hevesi and Mike Miller and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley were able to successfully negotiate terms with CSX Freight and NY & Atlantic Railroad to move the trains further from residential areas, a plan that has now been implemented.

The trains were previously left idling while their brakes were pressurized at the intersection of 69th Place and Juniper Boulevard South directly behind a residential area, causing considerable noise pollution as well as emitting fumes from garbage on board.

Though local officials hailed this first step as a move in the right direction, discussions with the train company are not over.

“I appreciate that CSX and NY & Atlantic are addressing the quality of life concerns of the people who live near the railroad,” said Crowley. “It is important to know that this is just a first step and that we have many more expectations for the Railroad companies to meet.”

Officials are still exploring further ways to remedy the quality of life issues that residents may still face — including more noise and odor.

“There’s been an improvement,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, since the train hookup has been moved. “There’s still a problem with trains switching and idling for long periods of time. They only moved it 400 feet, so it’s still affecting people, though it’s a little better now.”

The primary hookup is now located several hundred feet southwest of 69th Street near All Faiths Cemetery – moving the noise and fumes further from the residential community.

A secondary hookup, utilized only when the trains are operated when trains are operating at maximum capacity, is located 450 feet back from the current site.

“It’s a great first step in a long process. This move should help address some of the quality of life concerns faced by those living in the surrounding community,” said Miller.