Tag Archives: assemblymember phil goldfeder

Star of Queens: Fran Goulston, founding member, co-chair, Lindenwood Alliance


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Fran Goulston

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Fran Goulston is a founding member and co-chair of the Lindenwood Alliance, a civic association that addresses problems in the community of Lindenwood.

BACKGROUND: Ultimately, what got Goulston involved in founding the Lindenwood Alliance was hearing about people having issues.

“I knew Joann Ariola and Christina Gold, and they were telling me about starting this group and I thought it was an important organization to join,” said Goulston.

GOALS:  Some of Goulston’s goals for the organization would be to help people in the community feel like they are heard.  “I believe the goal of the group is that if community members have a problem they can voice their [concerns, as] there are always delegates and police at our meetings listening in hopes of correcting any of the problems that arise.”

FAVORITE MEMORY:  One of the best things Goulston said she took away from being a part of this organization is getting to know the politicians “I really wasn’t into politics before becoming a part of the Lindenwood Alliance, and I really didn’t know much about politics either, and between Councilmember Eric Ulrich and Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, which I adore, it opened my eyes to different politicians and what they offer.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: According to Goulston the biggest challenge is getting more of the community involved.

-KATELYN DI SALVO

 

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New mural represents revitalization on Beach 129th Street


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

One Belle Harbor resident has helped her community paint a brighter future.

Local leaders unveiled a new mural on Beach 129th Street on Wednesday to signify the revitalization of the neighborhood nearly a year after Sandy, following the efforts of Colleen Brady, who lives in front of the artwork.

Brady rallied the community to create the mural during the summer on the commercial strip near Cronston Avenue, which replaced an older, smaller one.

“I’m a resident here, I work on the block and I just thought of what we could do to bring the art back, freshen it up,” Brady said.

This spring she got the idea and rushed to community leaders to get the ball rolling on refreshing the mural. Elected officials acknowledged her plan and quickly contacted New York City Small Business Services (SBS) for financing.

SBS Commissioner Robert Walsh, who secured funding, and elected officials saw the artwork as a symbol for the regrowth of businesses and the community.

“Sometimes you just need a good symbol,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder. “This mural is exactly that, this is a sign to people coming here that our shops are open for business, that Rockaway is going to be back again and that no storm is going to keep us down.”

Officials called local artist Geoff Rawling, who painted the original in 1996, to draw the new mural. Rawling kept the same message as the initial artwork “community minded merchants,” but expanded the mural to use the entire wall and drew a beach theme with surfboards and a child playing with seashells in the sand to represent the seaside neighborhood.

“The beauty of this is now is that it’s beautiful, but in the winter it’s going to make people feel better,” Rawling said.

The mural is also the first project that the new Beach 129th Street Merchants Association helped to get accomplished. The old mural helped businesses owners welcome people into area, but many believe the restored version will help to reenergize them for the future.

“Ten months after the storm there are still businesses that have not reopened,” Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said. “Some have, but businesses haven’t gotten back to where it was before. This lifts spirits.”

Before  photos courtesy of Colleen Brady

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After budget cuts, legislative package aims to help disabled


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

In the wake of a significant budget cut to programs for developmentally disabled people, lawmakers are seeking ways to provide such individuals with more security.

A budget amendment enacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo cut 4.5 percent of state funding for organizations that help disabled individuals live healthy and independent lifestyles. Now, advocates both in and outside of the governor’s administration are fighting for legislation intended to protect the quality of support and services for these individuals.

“This legislative package will work to help remove unnecessary and discriminatory barriers that prevent many people with disabilities from living well-deserved self-reliant lives,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee on Autism Retention.

One of several bills in the package is the People with Developmental Disabilities Restoration and Reinvestment Act of 2013. It would appropriate up to $90 million to fully restore state funding to services for people with developmental disabilities.

The bill would tap savings to implement an agenda focused on services for individuals, community integration and more. The legislature would make up for funds not covered by the savings through a contingency appropriation.

Another bill in the package would amend the state’s Human Rights Law to require state and local government facilities to remove barriers which limit access to transportation or government services and buildings.

An additional bill would establish an advocacy program to advise individuals about their rights and responsibilities. Other bills entail access to sign language interpreters, housing preferences for tenants with limited mobility, eliminating discriminatory practices and more.

“This legislative package will provide the necessary state funding to improve the behavior and growth of individuals with developmental disabilities,” Goldfeder said. “There has been significant progress in achieving mental and physical health parity in New York State.”

The Assembly and the Senate will vote on the package in the coming weeks.

 

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New policy forces mentally ill out of adult homes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Adult homes in Queens are now forced to evict hundreds of mentally ill residents and shut out new entrants under a new state policy.

Privately run adult homes in the state, including nine in Queens and nearly 50 in the city, will have to cut their mental health population down to 25 percent, according to regulation put in place by Governor Andrew Cuomo last month.

The homes have less than 120 days to move out residents into smaller supportive housing units where they will live on their own.

“Displacing these residents without the proper preparations for their new living will have an adverse effect on patient care and on the communities they will be living in,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder.

The new rule is expected to throw adult homes into financial turmoil, leaders in the field said.

“No assisted living facility with mentally ill populations can remain economically viable,” said Jeffrey Edelman of the New York State Center for Assisted Living. “If this radical social experiment to force the seriously mentally ill to live on their own fails, residents will never be able to return to their adult home because we will be out of business.”

Goldfeder said Queens adult homes, most of which are located in the Rockaways, are also the source of hundreds of local jobs.

“At the end of the day, we have to do what’s in the best interest of the patients and we have to think about the community at large,” he said.

Queens Adult Care Center, one of the borough’s affected adult homes, will have to boot 90 of its 300 mentally ill residents, according to chief administrator Leon Hofman. They would be without regular medication and constant supervision outside of their homes, he said.

“I’m concerned some of these people will not have a place to live or if they’ll make it,” Hofman said.

Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, said he fears some residents will end up freezing to death or wandering without supervision to nearby oceans.

“We didn’t agree with the policy,” he said. “It’s not fair to them, and the state will have to answer for that. I’m not sure they thought that through.”

Cuomo’s efforts come after a similar 2009 ruling by a Brooklyn federal judge who said large adult homes in the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

AFFECTED ADULT HOMES IN QUEENS:

  • Sanford Manor Home Care Agency in Flushing
  • Queens Adult Care Center in Elmhurst
  • Belle Harbor Manor
  • Long Island Living Center
  • New Haven Manor Home for Adults
  • Rockaway Manor Home for Adults
  • Seaview Manor Home for Adults
  • Wavecrest Home for Adults
  • Surfside Manor Home for Adults

 

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Film focuses on Rockaway recovery


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Dan Brown

In the months following Sandy, the Rockaway peninsula has yet to completely bounce back. A new documentary explains why, and where to go from here.

“We need to make people understand what works in Rockaway,” said John Cori, who is featured in the upcoming film, “John Cori Warned You.”

Cori stars with his partner and friend, Eddie Pastore, in a movie filmed by Rockaway resident Dan Brown.
Since Sandy tore through the peninsula, the three have been traveling around the borough, speaking with different people and also doing their own research as to what could help protect the beachfront town from future storms.

“[The documentary] raises two questions – how much damage could have been avoided, and how vulnerable are we to future storms,” explained Brown, who is co-producing and co-directing the movie with his wife, Patricia.

The film is shown through the viewpoint of Cori and Pastore, who are also both members of the Friends of Rockaway, and speak about the necessity of more rock jetties in the area. They claim there is a clear distinction in the amount of damage between the areas protected by rock jetties and the sections that are not.

“I feel that number one, our safety is jeopardized. Number two, I believe that the Rockaway people have the power to navigate which way Rockaway goes,” said Pastore.

Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder and City Councilmember Eric Ulrich are some of the elected officials that the men have interviewed, as well as several reporters and even a meteorologist who explained the “science of the storm.” Through these interviews, the crew hopes the audience will see how they themselves can work with the media and local officials to achieve a bigger goal — in this case, support from Congress and funds to protect their home.

“Sandy was our biggest advocate,” said Pastore. “There’s something broken here, and I really felt that we had to get up and say something.”

“John Cori Warned You” is set to come out in March. Free viewings will be organized throughout the city.

Dan Brown, pictured here in his home office, is directing and producing an upcoming documentary about the Rockaways post-Sandy. (THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes)

 

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Revive railway


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Have you tried lately to commute to south Queens via public transportation? There is a phrase to describe it: nearly impossible.

With gas prices still hovering near the $4 a gallon mark, politicians and civic leaders may have a solution.

We support the proposal by Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder to reinstate the Rockaway line of the LIRR.

With or without a convention center at Aqueduct, the move just makes sense.

Resorts World Casino is a hit in the area, bringing with it jobs, visitors and money. So why not make it easier for people to get there?

And with the Rockaways experiencing a renaissance of sorts, why not make it faster and easier for Queens residents to enjoy all the area has to offer, including the beaches.

And let’s not forget the fact that actually reviving the rail line will itself be a source of revenue for the borough, even the city.

Plus, people commuting via LIRR is more Earth friendly than having all those cars on the road.

So where’s the downside?

We say the MTA should really reconsider the Rockaway line, for the benefit of all.

Fowl Strikes Cause Foul Feelings


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Recent collisions between birds and airplanes departing city airports could give a much-needed “all clear” for negotiations between the Port Authority and wildlife conservation groups.

While recent uproar mainly surrounds possible runway expansion plans at JFK, in-flight crashes with birds came under scrutiny when a Los Angeles-bound flight was quickly grounded after a bird was sucked into its engine shortly after taking off on Thursday, April 19.

Tarmac expansion came under fire when the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey announced its proposal to extend the airport’s runway, expected to cover a significant portion of the Jamaica Bay area, in February, 2011. The 400-acre area of land, including wetlands and shoreline, was designated as a wildlife refuge, park and recreation area by the National Parks System in 1972.

Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder believes conservationists attempting to protect the birds and those trying to ensure the safety of plane passengers need to collaborate.

While preserving Jamaica Bay has long since been a priority on Goldfeder’s platform, he proclaims he is not for working against the airports, adding that there is always a balance to be found.

Goldfeder also noted that many people believe the birds striking the planes are not the same birds nesting in the Jamaica Bay area.

A source close to the situation suggested increasing traffic out of the city’s other airports, LaGuardia and Newark, is a better solution than filling in Jamaica Bay.

Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority, claimed that the agency’s wildlife control protocol is above and beyond Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, insisting they are among the industry’s most effective.

“Our wildlife biologists and staff efforts to minimize threats to aircraft include reducing nesting areas, removing standing water and eliminating food sources,” said Coleman. “We also use pyrotechnics to disperse birds. We believe those efforts are effective since the number of incidents at JFK resulting in aircraft damage has remained about the same since 2008.”

Dan Mundy, president and founder of Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers, believes the recent increase in collisions Mundy mentioned the famed incident of US Airways Flight 1549, when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River after striking a flock of Canadian geese in January of 2009. Mundy alleged that high-flying fowl cause more severe problems than those closer to the ground, adding that groups of migrating birds can be dangerous to planes, as with Flight 1549.

According to published reports, Sullenberger opposes the mayor’s plan to put a trash station near LaGuardia Airport — a decision that will inevitably bring more birds to the area.

Acknowledging that the Port Authority takes measures to scare away birds, such as simulated gunshots and preying falcons, Mundy wondered why plane manufacturers have yet to design a system to prevent birds from being sucked into engines.

Mundy added that bird strikes are not just a problem with airplanes. Several tall buildings, including the Empire State Building, have caused the demise of birds killed by flying directly into the glass windows.

Water rate hike would soak residents


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Politicians and residents are worried that another year of swelling water bills will leave denizens drowning.

For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents will be paying more for their water bill if the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rate increase is adopted.

Assemblymember David Weprin called the hikes “déjà vu all over again,” comparing them to an additional property tax.

“Our proposed seven percent rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and shows that DEP is doing everything in our power to try and keep rates in check while still delivering a product that city residents can take pride in every time they turn on the tap,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Though any rate increase is difficult in these economic conditions, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

The seven percent hike will add more than $60 per year to the average one-family home’s water bill.

“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by seven percent, then we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a sparsely-attended public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.

Goldfeder authored a bill to cap annual water rate increases at four percent a year for cities with populations over 1 million.

A Weprin-sponsored bill, also in the Assembly, would limit increases to no more than five percent annually, or the rate of inflation.

A DEP representative at the hearing said that capping increases was not an option because of the many costs that are beyond the agency’s control.

The DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the agency to perform projects despite receiving no funds.

This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.

Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood in 2005, was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.

“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”

In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.

The seven-member water board, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will vote on the increase on Friday, May 4. If approved, it will go into effect on July 1.

“There has to come a time where even a city agency or a board of mayoral appointees says ‘I think we’ve pushed out citizens a little too far,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran.  “Maybe it’s time to give them a break for a change.”

No wait for rebate on Cross Bay Bridge


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Rockaway residents roving across the Cross Bay Bridge will now be reimbursed for their travels from April 1 and on, according to the MTA.

The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge Residency Rebate Program recently passed the state budget, said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. But while the discount program was expected to go into immediate effect once the budget was signed at the end of March, residents were told they may not see benefits until July 1 at the latest.

An MTA spokesperson said the money first has to be transferred from the state to the MTA before it goes from the MTA to Bridges and Tunnels, and all E-Z Pass tags have to be reprogrammed, which the representative said may take a couple of months in total.

Now — after persistent urging by Goldfeder and local leaders, including a petition containing 2,000 signatures in support of the toll’s elimination — the MTA said customers will receive credit for tolls incurred on the bridge retroactive to April 1 until back office operations are completed. According to the MTA, the rebate program will be fully operational by mid-summer, but residents will not be responsible for fees acquired right away.

“In this economy, every dollar counts,” Goldfeder said. “Hardworking families should not be burdened with this unfair fee for one day longer than they have to and now we will finally get the relief we so desperately need and deserve.”

The rebate plan is only valid at the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for passenger vehicles using an E-ZPass, who are enrolled in the Rockaway Resident Program and who live in zip codes 11691, 11692, 11693, 11694, 11695 and 11697. It does not apply to commercial trucks, motorcycles, taxis, buses or limousines, according to the MTA.

With an E-Z Pass, Rockaway residents currently pay $1.19 each time they drive along the Cross Bay Bridge for up to two trips a day. While additional crossings are free afterwards, local elected officials and residents have long deemed the toll a problem.

The toll — the only intra-borough one in the city — was free for residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways for 12 years, but was reinstated by the MTA in 2010.

The rebate, local leaders said, would stimulate more activity and revenue between Rockaway and Broad Channel businesses, while saving residents between $800 and $1,500 a year.

“There was never a good reason to impose this financial hardship on residents of our borough who travel from their homes on the peninsula to anywhere else in Queens, sometimes several times a day,” said Senator Joseph Addabbo. “It was long perceived by resident drivers and affected small businesses as a ‘fine’ for living on the peninsula.”

Peninsula Hospital set to close on Monday according to report


| mchan@queenscourier.com

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

According to published reports, Peninsula Hospital will shut its doors for good on Monday, April 9.

Hospital officials did not yet confirm, and local leaders could not verify the rumored sudden termination.

Peninsula has already submitted a closure plan to the state Department of Health (DOH), which as of April 3 was still under review, according to spokesperson Jeffrey Hammond.

While trustee Lori Lapin Jones determined on March 26 to shut down operations at the hospital, Hammond said there was no time frame yet as to when the hospital will close.

The community has held nightly rallies in protest of the hospital trustee and the DOH’s decision to close the hospital. According to Democratic Assembly District Leader Lew Simon, they plan to soon lead a mass demonstration outside the DOH’s headquarters in Manhattan.

Members of 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have also been spreading the word through their Facebook page, “Peninsula Hospital & Our 1199 Coverage Save Our Hospital.” The site reported several interested parties are looking to purchase the hospital.

The foundering Far Rockaway facility was pinned for critical deficiencies and failed state health inspections on February 23, which forced the hospital to temporarily halt its emergency care services and stop admitting new patients. Peninsula also laid off more than 240 employees last month.