Tag Archives: Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz

Children rally to save Pomonok after-school program from shutting down


| sarahyu@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Sarah Yu

Children, parents and politicians rallied recently against the closing of after-school programs at the Pomonok Center at the Queens Community House.

The center offers a free after-school program for children from grades kindergarten to sixth that includes homework help, arts and crafts, fitness, character development and team-building games.

“I worry that without such a program in Pomonok, our youth will begin to fall behind academically and socially, which is something we as a community simply cannot afford,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz.

The Pomonok Center is funded by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development’s Out-of-School Time Program, which had its funding cut in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget.

“I call on the city to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our children and young families,” Simanowitz said.

According to Sheena Sukhraj, the youth services director for the Pomonok Center, they are currently collecting petitions and sending it out to the mayor and local officials.

“I think it’s a shame because the majority of our children come from Pomonok Houses which is a low- income housing development, so we know that the parents can’t afford after-school programming,” she said.

They only have six more weeks to fight to keep the after school programs running at the Pomonok Center.

“I’m very devastated because it is right now the only option that I have for child care for my son,” Kimberlee Farrell, a parent and educator said.

Farrell added that she’s always looking for options so that she is ready to face what might happen if their protests aren’t heard.

“I’m touched,” she said. “It takes major issues to bring it out in these communities, but you see from these children, six and seven years old, up to the adults — 50s, 60s 70-year old grandparents — all rallying together for what is right.”

‘Offensive’ billboard taken down


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

A shot at advertising for one vodka company didn’t go down as smoothly as planned.

A Willets Point billboard — declared offensive by local leaders — read “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing.” The provocative message, officials feared, could potentially reverse efforts and resources put into developing the area into a residential, retail center for families.

The sign hung above 127th Place and Northern Boulevard, overlooking Citi Field, before local leaders said they pushed to have manufacturers take it down.

“The offensive nature of this ad in such close proximity to a family destination like Citi Field was highly inappropriate,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who worked alongside Senator Toby Ann Stavisky to have the billboard removed. “Keeping such content out of the view of young children should be a priority.”

Stavisky and Simanowitz said they wrote to James Dale, CEO of Panache Beverages — which manufacturers the promoted Wodka Vodka brand — to urge the company to consider removing their ad.

Soon after, they said the company complied, and the sign came down on Monday, March 12.

“I’m glad the vodka company agreed to remove the billboard. We took particular exception with placing such a distasteful and disturbing advertisement in a neighborhood we have worked so hard to rehabilitate,” Stavisky said.

However, according to a marketing executive for Wodka Vodka, the company took down the slogan simply and only because “the campaign ran its course.”

“Contrary to apparent memos that have been circulating in the community, we did not take the billboard down because of supposed community uproar, letters or other pressures,” said Brian Gordon, CEO of Engine Shop, the marketing agency that handles Wodka Vodka. “We’ve always stood by the campaign.”

Gordon cited data that shows “at least 80 to 90 percent of people actually look at the billboard favorably.”

“There are much more serious issues going on. Community leaders should focus on jobs, the economy, crime and so on, rather than a billboard that was obviously created to be humorous,” he said.

But Stavisky said the issue is not “a silly distraction.” The sobering truth, she said, is that it “sends a message that denigrating women is acceptable, or worse, fashionable.”

Gordon said the company plans to put up new billboards next week. While he said he did not yet know the location, “there will be at least one site in Queens,” he said.

This is not the first time Panache Beverages has been slammed for its unfavorable marketing campaigns. Last November, a Manhattan-placed advertisement read “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing,” which incensed the Anti-Defamation League and was ordered to be taken down.

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.”

Thanking the men and women in blue


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz

102nd Precinct

Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill East, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and the Northern part of Ozone Park

Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz and the Richmond Hill Block Association’s Simcha Waisman delivered Thanksgiving dinner to officers at the 102nd Precinct, including Executive Officer Captain Martin Briffa on Thanksgiving Day.