Tag Archives: Assemblymember Ed Braunstein

Flushing gay rights activist honored with street co-naming


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

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A local activist who paved the way for gay rights was honored along with her family with a street co-naming Saturday on the Flushing block where she lived and worked.

Standing in front of Jeanne Manford’s former home on 171st Street, politicians, including openly-gay Councilman Daniel Dromm, neighbors and members of the gay rights community, held a ceremony to unveil the new Jeanne, Jules and Morty Manford PFLAG Way street sign.

“I think it’s important for everybody to know the struggle that we’ve gone through, and how we got to where we are today, and it was because of people like Jeanne, Jules and Morty that we are where we are today,” Dromm said.

Photo courtesy of Councilman Daniel Dromm’s office

Manford founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 1972 and walked with her gay son, Morty, in the New York City Pride March at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder. The Manfords also took in young people who were thrown out of their homes for being gay.

Now PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members across the country that work toward improving the rights of gay people everywhere.

“We all do the work that we do because it’s right and it feels good and it’s just the right thing to do, but when Jeanne did it, it was so courageous,” said Dale Bernstein, president of PFLAG.

Manford, who died last year at the age of 92, was awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal for her achievements by President Barack Obama.

Jeanne’s daughter Suzanne Swan, who lives in California, attended the ceremony, where she recalled memories of her mother.

“She was just my mother,” she said. “She was just nice, sweet, quiet, and it’s just overwhelming for me to come here and hear the stories and see the people, it’s been fantastic.”

 

 

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111th Precinct bids adieu to beloved community affairs officer


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

For 10 years, Community Affairs Officer Gary Poggiali has watched 120 officers accept their “Cops of the Month” awards from the back of the room.

Now he has plenty of plaques to call his own.

Community leaders gave a final salute to the retiring, beloved cop with an armful of plaques and an earful of praises at a farewell party on December 3.

“Gary is one of the good guys,” said Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece. “He deals with us and all the issues in the community, and he does it with humor. He does it with pride, and he does it really well.”

Poggiali has served close to 20 years with the NYPD. After one year in the police academy, he spent five years with the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn, three working patrol for the 111th Precinct and then a decade in community affairs.

“I know this community better than the community I grew up in,” Poggiali said. “I’ve spent a lot of time here.

It’s just another page. My mother used to say, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’”

The precinct’s Community Council and a number of elected officials thanked him for his service, while poking jabs at him for “always eating.”

“No matter what, Gary was always there for us, always friendly, always went the extra mile to help our office out,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.

Community Council President Jack Fried credited the affable Poggiali for the success of the precinct’s annual National Night Out Against Crime.

“If it [weren’t] for Gary, they wouldn’t be half as big as they were,” Fried said. “Gary really put everything into it.”
Poggiali, 50, plans to move and work security jobs down south in March. The new father welcomed his son Ryan to the world about two months ago.

His last day with the NYPD is in mid-February.

“This was a big piece of my life,” Poggiali said.

“I’ll look back and tell my kids stories of how I ran the neighborhood, how I was the commanding officer,” he joked.

 

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Queens pols face Bronx rivals in first Battle of the Boroughs Bowl


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Politicians turned into playmakers for a special touch football game.

Queens and Bronx politicians faced off in the first ever Battle of the Boroughs Bowl at Monsignor McClancy High School in East Elmhurst Sunday.

The touch football event was organized to raise money by collecting donations, with all proceeds going to the United Service Organizations (USO) and the Wounded Warriors Project.

“At the heart, the core of this little fun outing that we are having, where hopefully no one will be hurt, is a really serious intent, and that intent is to help our veterans,” said Assemblymember Mike Benedetto, who is chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The lawmakers in attendance ranged from all levels of government, including City Comptroller John Liu, State Senator Mike Gianaris, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., Assemblymember Mike DenDekker and many more.

“Off the field and out of the office it’s good to have a personal relationship with your colleagues,” said DenDekker, who helped organize the event.

In addition to playing for a good cause, many of the politicians competed for city bragging rights.

“It’s friendly, it’s a fundraiser for our veterans, but its also serious business,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “We’re obviously competitive people, we are used to winning. And I am anxious to demonstrate to the people of my district that I can play football even though it’s been 20 years.”

In the end, Queens lost to the Bronx, 20-19.

 

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Law to alert community boards about contaminated site cleanups


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

The state is set to begin notifying community boards when cleanups of contaminated land are planned in their areas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a bill that would make the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) responsible for alerting community boards of brownfield site cleanups.

Quoting Public Law, the DEC defines a brownfield as “any real property, the redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a contaminant.” Brownfields can include industrial sites or abandoned gas stations with hazardous waste or petroleum.

The DEC currently notifies adjacent property owners, nearby schools and local newspapers in the event of a cleanup. There is a 30-day public comment period after a cleanup request is made.

Under the new law, residents who attend their community board’s monthly meetings will be given more time to develop a comment before scheduled public hearings.

State Senator Tony Avella, who sponsored the bill, said the advanced warning is needed because significant environmental brownfield cleanup projects often lead to large developments that can affect locals.

“Community boards are our first line of defense in protecting our quality of life,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, who introduced the law.

The cleanup of the Waterpointe-Whitestone brownfield site sparked the legislation, lawmakers said. Community Board 7, which represents the area, said it was never informed of the initial cleanup application.

“Providing board members with information about brownfield sites will ensure that the community has eyes and ears on the ground to make certain that all remediation is done appropriately,” Braunstein said.

 

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Bayside Beacon program saved


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A beloved Bayside Beacon program has survived yet another year of budget cuts.

The City Council fully restored next year’s funding to the after-school enrichment program at M.S. 158 Marie Curie.

It was slated for closure, just as it was last year when the Department of Youth and Community Development tried to shut down seven Beacons across the city.

“Our after-school programs are vital community resources,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, “and now Bayside’s children will be able to continue to utilize these valuable services.”

Martenia Miller, site director of the school’s Beacon program, called it a “support system” that has worked for 20 years.

She added it is the only such program within Community Board 11.

More than 100 students take part in the enrichment program daily.

“These cuts would have been detrimental to the safety and well-being of the children in my district,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.

Beacon operates after school, on weekends, school holidays and throughout the summer. It provides help on homework along with leadership and skill growth for both youths and adults.

“We fought to ensure that our community was not short-changed,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “Together we will work to continue these invaluable services that every family deserves and make sure that our students’ education is always a priority.”

The Council maintained funding for the city’s 66 Beacon programs.

 

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MTA cancels plans to re-route northeast Queens buses


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Construction at Little Bay Park will no longer affect local bus routes, officials said.

The MTA had plans last month to re-route buses traveling from Fort Totten to Flushing for a year due to ongoing joint projects at the park.

Work from building a comfort station, expanding the parking lot and repaving the bus turnaround terminal at Little Bay Park prevented the Q13 and Q16 from making normal stops, the MTA said in a May 7 letter to elected officials.

The transit agency originally wanted to redirect the Q13 up 212th Street, passing local schools and homes before it gets back on track to Bell Boulevard, according to correspondence. It also proposed ending the Q16 at a new stop on Willets Point Boulevard.

“We did not want the buses going through residential areas,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. “It’s dangerous. It’s noisy. It’s not right.”

Braunstein said the MTA and local leaders were able to quickly come up with a less intrusive route.

The buses will instead enter and briefly drive through Fort Totten before leaving and continuing on normal routes. Regular stops will not be impacted, the MTA said.

“This way nobody is inconvenienced,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “This agreement proves that when people make a good faith effort to find solutions to difficult problems, exceptional things can happen.”

 

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Co-op tax relief bill passed by Legislature


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The State Legislature has passed a long-awaited tax relief bill for city co-op and condo owners, despite a cluster of lawmakers who voted against it.

The bill, approved by the State Senate and Assembly, includes raising a partial tax abatement from 17.5 percent to 25 percent and extending the J-51 program to June 30, 2015. 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, and the J-51 gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements.

“This is a major victory for the vast majority of co-op owners in northeast Queens, including thousands of senior citizens on fixed incomes,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.

But seven Democratic state senators and seven Democratic assemblymembers opposed the omnibus bill, which included a measure that gives tax abatements to 15 plots in midtown and downtown Manhattan being developed as luxury condominiums and office buildings.

“This bill only benefits the rich,” said State Senator Ruben Diaz of the Bronx. “It is a multimillion [dollar] program of rent exemptions and abatement for landlords who renovate their buildings.”

Diaz said he feared capital improvements under the J-51 program would lead to landlords raising rents on their tenants.

“To vote for this bill, we might be sending the message, an impure message, that we are only working for the landlords and against the tenants,” Diaz said.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said she voted in favor of the bill because of the vital abatements to city co-op and condo owners but believed the abatements to luxury developments were a “giveaway of city money.”

“The developers would be building this anyway. They don’t need the tax abatement,” she said. “We unfortunately can’t pick and choose the parts of the bill we want to vote for.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan said he was “outraged” the abatement extensions were put into a packaged bill and “rushed through the Rules Committee onto the Senate floor with only 30 minutes’ notice.”

“The bill subverted the normal committee process and required an ‘up or down’ vote, which was difficult as the bill contained some provisions that gave me and my Democratic colleagues pause,” he said.

The bill requires another Senate vote before Governor Andrew Cuomo can sign it into law.

Its assurances come after panic spread throughout co-op and condo communities at the end of June, when the Legislature adjourned session without extending the J-51 program and the expired abatement.

A pair of audits released last year by the city’s comptroller office found the Department of Finance 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.

 

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New flight patterns a failure: residents, pols


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

The trial period testing a new departure procedure at LaGuardia Airport has failed, said local leaders who recently rallied to put an end to the thundering turbulence tormenting residents in northeast Queens.

“New flight patterns cannot be instituted if they are so detrimental to the quality of life for residents,” said State Senator Tony Avella during an August 24 rally.

Residents from Bayside and downtown Flushing say they have been tortured since mid-June by the ear-splitting roar of low-flying airplanes they say soar past their homes by the minute each day from 6 a.m. to noon and then again from 6 p.m. to midnight.

They join a borough-wide chorus of homeowners who say they are blighted by the deafening noise caused by a nonstop rush of aircraft flights and a barrage of low flying planes.

A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the agency was evaluating a “NextGen” procedure for flights departing from Runway 13 at LaGuardia Airport.

“The FAA evaluation will identify the potential benefits and impacts of the NextGen procedure. It also will indicate if additional environmental analysis is necessary before the agency decides whether to permanently implement the procedure,” the spokesperson said.

In a June 22 letter sent to Avella, FAA officials said the procedure — which follows an existing departure path over Queens — is part of a six-month trial, although they would not specify how many months were left in the testing.

“It is outrageous that our community was not notified prior to the start of the FAA’s flight departure testing and that we have still not been informed of its end date,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. “It is clear […] that this testing has been a failure and we call on the FAA to conclude it as soon as possible.”

GOP pick backs out of race against Assemblymember Ed Braunstein


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Ralph Cefalo

A former GOP hopeful declined to make a run against current Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, despite being backed by the Queens County Republican Party.

Malba resident Ralph Cefalo was endorsed by the County to seek election in the 26th Assembly District, but the civic leader ultimately chose not to enter the race after citing personal matters, according to Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens County Republican Party.

“We approached him and he seemed like he wanted to do it, but he spoke with his family and he just wasn’t ready to do it,” Ragusa said.

The GOP pushed to pit Cefalo against Braunstein, saying his 35-year record of community service — including a long tenure leading the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance and volunteering with the Order of the Sons of Italy — would make him a good challenger.

According to reports, Cefalo turned down the run because recently-redrawn district lines would push him out of the district come next January. He also said the assembly seat is not one he initially sought to run for and felt it was too late to begin campaigning, reports said.

Attempts to reach Cefalo went unreturned as of press time.

No other candidates have announced their intent to run against Braunstein. However, republican Tim Furey is reportedly eyeing the seat.

Northeast Queens political races heat up


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Endorsements are rolling in for candidates making a run for district seats in northeast Queens.

The Queens County Republican Party unanimously endorsed Joseph Concannon for State Senate in the 11th District, where the Republican and retired city police officer from Bellerose will challenge incumbent State Senator Tony Avella for the seat.

In a statement, GOP Chair Phil Ragusa attacked Avella, saying the democrat “by every benchmark has simply failed the community” and “has not lived up to his campaign promises.”

GOP Law Chair Vince Tabone touted Concannon as a “brass tacks kind of guy with the common sense and the intelligence to fight for our community and make a difference in Albany.”

The Queens County Republican Party also endorsed civic leader Ralph Cefalo to run in the 26th Assembly District race, pitting the challenger against Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. According to the GOP, Cefalo — a Malba resident — has a 35-year record of community service, including a long tenure leading the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance and volunteering with the Order of the Sons of Italy.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also recently picked up support from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Communications Workers of America District 1 and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500. Earlier this month, the incumbent since 1999 gained the endorsement of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for her try at re-election in the newly-formed Asian-American majority 16th District.

Stavisky will face a Democratic primary battle against John Messer, an attorney from Oakland Gardens. The pair battled it out in a primary two years ago before Stavisky beat him out for the seat. If she prevails once more, she will then go up against Republican runner Jung Dong “J.D.” Kim — a Korean-American attorney from Flushing who is also the Queens County Republican Party’s pick.

 

Relief proposed for co-op owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

New legislation may lighten the load on co-op owners, while leaving their wallets heavy.

According to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, property owners can currently fight city tax assessments through a “certiorari” process, but they said it is often costly and incurs “excessive legal fees.”

“As a co-op shareholder, I understand this problem firsthand,” Stavisky said. “Inaccurate assessments and the high taxes they bring can cause serious problems for co-op boards and residents.”

That’s why the pair introduced legislation that, if passed, could see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. The law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding, officials said.

“Co-op shareholders deserve the right to have their day in court,” Stavisky said. “These bills will allow meritorious challenges and help ease the fear of inconsistent and inaccurate assessments. This legislation would encourage the city to be more careful when preparing projected assessments by having them pay 25 percent of the legal fees in a successful challenge. That change will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in New York’s co-ops.”

Taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners this year, according to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF). Last year, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent, and according to civic leaders in northeast Queens, some properties in the area — including Deepdale Gardens and Alley Pond — continue to suffer high double-digit spikes and some increases by more than 50 percent again this year.

“Many cooperatives and condominiums pay up to 35 percent of the savings gained through certiorari in fees to attorneys. There is no doubt that the fees are punitive in nature,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Certiorari filings not only appeal property valuations, they seek to correct assessment errors made by the city’s DOF. This legislation will level the playing field and ease what is already a heavy financial burden placed upon the shoulders of middle class residents living in cooperatives and condominiums.”

According to James Goldstick, managing agent for Bay Terrace Section 8, some co-ops will spend up to $35,000 in legal fees this year after shelling out close to $37,000 during last year’s tax certiorari settlements.

“It is outrageous that northeast Queens residents not only have been hit with monstrous assessment hikes during this difficult fiscal period, but that they also have to continue to bear the burden of inaccurate decisions made by the DOF,” Braunstein said.

The property tax increases are slated to take effect in July. Councilmember Dan Halloran called on the city to extend the March 1 deadline to contest valuations to March 15. However, DOF officials did not confirm whether or not the additional two weeks were granted.

 

The Courier plays Santa for South Queens Boys & Girls Club


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Melissa Chan.

The Queens Courier got a sneak peek of what Christmas morning would be like for the youngsters of the South Queens Boys & Girls Club (SQBGC).

On Thursday, December 15, Courier reporters — playing Santa and his Christmas elves — distributed hundreds of toys to the club’s underprivileged kids.

Founded in 1957, SQBGC strives to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem and developing values and skills during critical periods of growth. The group’s mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from at-risk and disadvantaged circumstances.

The Courier would like to thank the All-American Car Club and constituents of Assemblymember Ed Braunstein in District 26, who gave toys from their own toy drive.

Check back with queenscourier.com and see our December 22 issue for the full story.

Click here to view more photos.

 

Residents Gather to Mark Tenth Anniversary of 9/11


| jlyons@queenscourier.com

911-Memorial-4

North Shore Towers residents were joined by local elected officials and members of law enforcement as they marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Board President Bob Ricken began by acknowledging Towers residents Tom Lyons and Todd Heiman. Lyons responded to Ground Zero following the attacks while Heiman worked at the Staten Island recovery site.

“All of the events of September 11 will forever live in our memories. We will never forget the images of planes flying into the World Trade Center, or the smoke rising from the Pentagon,” Ricken said. “We’ll always admire the courage and compassion of the heroes who also entered the burning building to save the lives of our countrymen.”

Ricken also said that the day of remembrance requires reflection, as it is determined how best to honor those who sacrificed their lives.

“The highest honor we can pay to those we lost is to do what our adversaries fear the most – to stay true to who we are as Americans, renew our sense of common purpose and not let the act of a small band of murderers threaten and divide us,” he said. “On this day and the days to come we should choose to honor the fallen, protect our families, our way of life, and support the first responders and servicemen throughout the world.”

Following Ricken’s opening remarks, Sergeant Polly Jill MacAlpine of the NY Army National Guard sang the National Anthem. Rabbi Randy Sheinberg then gave an invocation, during which she noted that people all over were “coming together as a community in tribute to those whose lives were lost tragically 10 years ago and waving flags of patriotism, of pride and of hope in the future.”

Located elected officials Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein and Councilmember Mark Weprin were also on hand for the ceremony and gave remarks, talking about the importance of never forgetting and the way New Yorkers came together following the terrorist attack.
“New Yorkers are tough spirits and we love this city and we love this country,” Weprin said. “We are going to make a statement that you’re not going to scare us out and we’re going to stay united together.”

North Shore Towers General Manager Glen Kotowski, who worked at Ground Zero off and on following the attacks, also read a letter from Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent for the event. In addition to welcoming the 250 to 300 people in attendance, Bloomberg’s letter spoke of the opening of the World Trade Center Memorial and said that lower Manhattan is “more alive than ever.”

“In the days and weeks after the event, we vowed that we would never forget and that we would work together to create a brighter future,” Bloomberg wrote, adding that New York continues to keep that promise.
The event concluded with MacAlpine singing “God Bless America” as residents joined in.