Tag Archives: Assemblymember Grace Meng

New elevators coming to Flushing LIRR


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

The Flushing Long Island Rail Road Station is getting a major “up”grade.

Legislators and transit officials announced plans to install elevators at the station, a major development for the transportation hub.

“As Flushing continues to grow, our infrastructure must grow to match,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky at the press conference on March 2. “These desperately-needed improvements will allow people to travel more easily to and from Flushing and supports the economic expansion that is occurring here.”

Officials expect to award a design contract for the elevator this year, with designs to be completed in 2013 and construction expected to start later that same year. The new project will include the installation of two elevators, one for the eastbound and one for the westbound platform, with elevator machine rooms and entry vestibules. There will also be upgrades to the station’s electrical services, including the replacement of platform lighting, as well as new station signage, warning strips and security cameras.

According to LIRR, the station serves over 2,000 customers on an average weekday so these changes are long overdue. The platform as it is currently constituted dates back to the 1980s and these improvements will bring the station in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Assemblymember Grace Meng, who represents the immediate area, said that the station cannot support the needs of the community as it stands today. Meng recalled a friend having to take a bus east to a more accessible station and then travel back west to get to work in Manhattan.

“Flushing’s LIRR station has long been unable to meet the basic needs of our community,” she said. “The installation of elevators on both platforms will be a great service to those residents who are physically unable to access the LIRR currently.”

LIRR president Helena Williams said that community input had a lot to do with the decision to move forward with these upgrades.

“We’ve been working closely with the community and local elected officials on this project, which we hope will attract additional ridership to the LIRR from the very vibrant and growing Flushing community,” said Williams, adding that the upgrades will come at a cost of $8.5 million in MTA/LIRR capital plan funds.

Down the Drain? Flushing High School fights to remain


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

After more than 100 years of reading, writing and arithmetic, Flushing High School now faces its toughest test of all.

Legislators and education advocates gathered in front of the school to protest a possible Turnaround, which would effectively eliminate Flushing High School as it is currently constituted.

“Over the past few years, Flushing High School has improved,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky at the protest on February 24. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but closing the school and replacing the principal and staff with multiple layers of educational bureaucracy is not the solution.”

Stavisky, who worked as a substitute teacher at the school before her election to the State Senate, was joined by Assemblymember Grace Meng and Councilmember Peter Koo, as well as representatives for the school, the United Federal of Teachers (UFT) and the NAACP.

The protest was sparked after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to replace about half of the teaching staff at the 33 city schools, including eight in Queens, identified as struggling by the state. These 33 schools are in a federal improvement program because of low test scores and graduation rates.

A spokesperson representing UFT president Michael Mulgrew said that Bloomberg’s push for Turnaround stems from a disagreement between the mayor and the teacher organization.

“We are here today in support of not only Flushing High School, but all the schools the mayor is holding hostage,” Mulgrew’s spokesperson said. “It is time the mayor put our children and our school’s first, and end the political grandstanding that has now gone on for far too long.”

Flushing High School, and the other 32 schools listed for closure, had recently received the OK from the Department of Education (DOE) to implement reform models aimed at reversing troubling trends. According to the president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Ernest Logan, the DOE isn’t giving these reforms the time to take hold and make a difference.

“All of these schools, including Flushing, had rather recently embarked on new reform models with the blessing of the NYC DOE,” said Logan. “For the DOE to now abruptly reject those schools’ efforts, without examination of their progress, is arbitrary, capricious and insensitive to children and families.”

DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas said that Flushing High School received a “D” on its most recent progress report, with an “F” on the student performance section. He also said that graduation rates at schools serving similar populations are significantly higher than at Flushing.

“We understand the passionate feelings these issues evoke on all sides, but these proposals represent an opportunity to provide our families with new, high-quality schools that will do better by students, and ultimately that has to be our priority,” said Thomas.

Thomas also said that the DOE cannot afford to let underperforming schools linger while a teacher evaluation deal is hammered out and implemented. He said the turnaround plan keeps the best parts of the existing school, including its highest quality faculty, while creating a new program, new school culture and a different and better environment for students.

 

Assemblymember Grace Meng introduced to Knicks star Jeremy Lin


| smosco@queenscourier.com

lin w

Photo Courtesy Assemblymember Grace Meng

Assemblymember Grace Meng and her husband, Dr. Wayne Kye (right), posed with Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks after a game at Madison Square Garden.

Waste transfer station meets with opposition


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

College Point the city's solid waste  - 01

A local advocacy group is hoping the city trashes its plans for a waste transfer station near LaGuardia Airport – which it says attracts flying objects other than planes.

The members of Friends of LaGuardia Airport believe the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which is currently under construction in College Point and expected to be completed in 2013, will increase the likelihood of midair collisions between airplanes and birds.

“The main issue is that it is a hazard to aviation because it is a bird magnet. January 15 is the anniversary of the miracle on the Hudson,” said group president Ken Paskar, referencing the emergency landing by US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger in the Hudson River after his plane was struck by a flock of birds. “I believe that these are miracles, and we can’t expect every single incident to be a miracle. If this station is built, I believe it is a question of when, and not if, there will be a bird strike.”

According to a report commissioned by Friends of LaGuardia, the station, which is roughly 100 feet high, would also make it impossible for the airport to implement a low visibility precision instrument approach procedure (IAP), which aids pilots during inclement weather landings. Economist David Berkey, who conducted the study, says LaGuardia currently reroutes planes away from its main runway in low-visibility weather, increasing the number of delayed and cancelled flights.

“If they build this transfer station, the airport cannot use IAP, and in inclement weather, they will continue to reroute planes from their main runway,” said Berkey, who claims he used highly reliable data from airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the study. “This is costing between $74 million and $183 million a year in cancellations and delays. Right now, because they don’t have IAP, they are also delaying half a million to a million people a year – and this will only get worse with the station.”

Due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Friends of LaGuardia, the FAA deferred comment to the United States Justice Department, which declined comment.

Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says the installation if IAP at LaGuardia was deemed impossible – regardless of the station’s construction – due to the “many technical and physical obstacles at the airport.” Bird collisions are also not considered a serious threat, according to Wood.

“Experts at the FAA have studied bird patterns thoroughly and believe that this transfer station will absolutely not increase the risk of bird strikes,” said the spokesperson. “Anyone who says otherwise is scaring people for no good reason. Building this transfer station will allow us to achieve the important goals of our waste management plan – making it cleaner and greener by taking trucks off the street.”

Despite the assurances of the FAA and due to concern for their constituents’ safety, Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Michael Simanowitz recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the construction of transfer stations near airports in New York City. Senator Toby Ann Stavisky plans to introduce the bill in the Senate as well, according to Meng.

“It is not fair to Queens to have the station placed so closely to the airport and so close to where people live,” said Meng. “People are scared of another accident like what happened with Captain Sullenberger.”

Beyond increased difficulties and dangers to aviation, Paskar believes the station will also create foul living conditions for College Point residents.

“A lot of the garbage in the borough will be brought to this station to be transported out of Queens,” he said. “So the people of Flushing and College Point will now have to bear the burden of approximately 3,000 tons of garbage a day from throughout Queens in their community. Hundreds of garbage trucks will be coming to this transfer station and destroying the neighborhood’s transportation infrastructure as well.”