Tag Archives: Assemblymember William Scarborough

Council hopefuls get ready to fill Comrie seat


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sondra Peeden/Manuel Caughman/Facebook

The race to replace Councilmember Leroy Comrie for District 27 already has multiple contenders who are raring to address community issues.

Manuel Caughman, community liaison for Assemblymember William Scarborough; Bryan Block, Community Board 13 chair; Joan Flowers, local attorney; Sondra Peeden, a political consultant; and Daneek Miller, a community and labor activist, have all filed their names with the Board of Elections.

“I believe that as large a city as New York is, we can still get to a place where we have a sense of community, where people are willing to reach out and help each other and extend themselves on behalf of their neighbor,” Peeden said.

Peeden and her fellow candidates are focused on a variety of issues, namely education, foreclosures and crime.

“I want to work with young people [to] make sure they’re safe, and not perpetuating the things they can do when they’re misled or don’t have guidance in their life,” Miller said.

Caughman believes controlling gun violence is a goal to pursue and said he wants to work with police to development technologies needed to combat crime.

When it comes to education, Peeden sees the need to take schools out of mayoral control and bring it back to the community. Similarly, Caughman thinks more parental input is necessary.

Miller, if elected, hopes to look deep into school policies so they can continue to meet Department of Education (DOE) standards and avoid threats of closure.

Late last year, Comrie met with Miller about being his successor. After some thought, Miller said he took him up on his suggestion.

“[I feel] it’s a necessity to have a voice for the working people,” said Miller, who is currently the president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056. “If you have a record of bringing people together, folks gravitate towards that.”

The primary election is slated for June or September.

Block and Flowers did not return calls for comment as of press time.

 

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Leaders want Southeast Queens flooding fixed


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY LIAM LA GUERRE

As Sandy barreled down on the East Coast last year, there was one thing on Helene Martello’s mind.

“Where am I going to move my car?’” she asked.

It wasn’t the first time she feared flooding.

After returning to her Hollis home from a party in 2008, Martello was surprised to find her car submerged in a flood with water reaching as high as the dashboard. “I was upset because you didn’t even think another flood would happen,” Martello, 61, said. “We’ve had sewers put in. They told us everything was going to be okay, and it wasn’t.”

In the latest community effort to get the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to solve flooding in Southeast Queens, nearly a dozen Queens leaders, led by Assemblymember William Scarborough, met with residents at York College on Thursday, February 28 to explain the importance of action before the Bloomberg administration passes its budget.

At the meeting, Scarborough revealed new legislation he penned to force the city to take financial responsibility for partly causing the flooding issue in Queens. He introduced a lawyer who will attempt to file a consolidated suit against the city, combining as many residents’ evidence of property damage they can find.

“We’re looking to get money damages for their ongoing damage of having cellars and basements that are inundated with water and have to be pumped out regularly,” said attorney Mark Seitelman.

The DEP has invested more than $1.5 billion into developing the area’s sewer system, and has about 200 projects in place for the next 10 years that are worth another billion, according to an agency spokesperson. Late last year the agency began a new pilot plan to insert three basins throughout areas in Jamaica that would collect and pump out millions of gallons of water each day.

It helped, but not enough, residents said. They want some former wells reopened, but the DEP refused to do that until 2018 when the city plans to temporarily close and repair the Delaware Aqueduct, an upstate resource where the city gets half its water.

The DEP is not responsible for the underground water, but elements like rain or snow can cause floods, a DEP representative said. The agency is testing the wells and the quality of water for functionality and at this moment is not sure if they are usable.

 

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Candidates vie for Sanders’ City Council seat in special election


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Candidates 15th district

A vacant seat has been left in the 31st Council District by James Sanders’ ascent to the State Senate, and more than one candidate hopes to slide into the spot.

A special election is set to be held on February 19 for the coveted Council seat, covering parts of Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale. The race has attracted several different candidates thus far, many of whom have hit the campaign trail running.

Sanders’ former chief-of-staff, Donovan Richards, is considered the front runner, according to multiple media reports. Richards has received endorsements from not only his former boss, but also from the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and the Working Families Party. He worked in the City Council for ten years under Sanders (pictured right), and is now looking to acquire his own seat.

In order to be eligible to run, all candidates must file with the Board of Elections (BOE) by January 15.

Valerie Vazquez, a BOE spokesperson, said that as of press time, Allan Jennings, a former City Councilmember, and Selvena Brooks, who has worked in the State Senate, have filed to run.

Brooks filed her candidacy under the party name “Rebuild Now,” referencing not only rebuilding post-Sandy, but also rebuilding the education system, local economy and neighborhoods.

Marie Adam-Ovide, the district manager of Community Board 8, has been expected to announce her candidacy, as is Earnest Flowers, former chief-of-staff of Assemblymember William Scarborough. Flowers boasts a reputation of making his promises a reality, and having “quantifiable work.”

“The reason why we don’t get a lot of things done is because no one puts anything down on paper, so no one can be held accountable,” said Flowers. “Everything I do is transparent.”

Flowers recently held a fundraising event for his campaign in his home, where he spoke to a crowd of roughly 60 about his passion for the community.

Many others are rumored to join the race, and will face each other on Thursday, February 7 at the 31st District Candidates’ Night. Members of the community will join the candidates in Laurelton at St. Luke’s

Cathedral where they will be given the opportunity to ask the Council hopefuls questions regarding their positions.

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Facing cuts, seniors rally for Friendship Center


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Friendship Center

Outraged senior residents rallied to protect their center from what they call a city attack on the young and the elderly.

The Friendship Center of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA) is facing about $400,000 in cuts from the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene as part of the city’s budget for the 2013 Fiscal Year, which, if not restored, will phase out programs for members — many of whom are mentally and physically weak.

“Tell him [Mayor Michael Bloomberg] if he’s closing these centers like he’s closing the schools, he’s doing the wrong thing,” said Reverend Charles Norris at the rally on May 24. “He’s killing us from the top and he’s killing us from the bottom.”

With public officials in attendance, members carried home-made signs and chanted, “Hell no, we won’t go” as Norris — the former pastor of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica — continued his tirade.

“He flies around in his own personal helicopter and lands it at the heliport that’s closed and not supposed to be used, but since he’s the mayor he thinks he can use it and he’s above the law,” Norris said.

“We must tell that lousy mayor that he can go in his pocket and find $400,000 and give to the center to keep it open.”

The Friendship Center, which is one of three centers within the JSPOA organization, services between 65 and 75 challenged seniors with daily programs ranging from arts & crafts and Wii exercise to music and board games, keeping members active and healthy. The center also provides transportation, meals and a place for locals to socialize.

“I’ve been here for three years,” said Harold Williams, a member of the JSPOA Friendship Center. “You could see some [members] come in sad, but they leave happy. If they take our [center] away many of these people will be lost.”

Last year the center also faced cuts, but funds were restored through support from the community and public officials, who said it is one of the few free sites in southeast Queens.

“We need to stand together, we need to say ‘no you cannot do this to this community,’” Assemblymember William Scarborough said, promising to fight for the center. “If you’re closing this, tell us where we are going to go.”

Friendship Center representatives urged supporters to send letters to the mayor’s office and contact local officials to compel Bloomberg to restore the funding.

“Four hundred thousand dollars is a lot to us,” said Beverly Collier, executive director of the JSPOA. “But in terms of city funding it’s a drop in the bucket.”

One resident just issued a warning to the city and the mayor.

“They forgot they’re going to be old one day,” 80 year-old Helen Mattis said. “And they don’t know what shape they’re going to be in.”

 

New high school in Jamaica has high hopes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan.

During its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences High School celebrated the start of a successful — and first — school year.

“It seems that we’re going to be having a lot of ‘firsts’ here at Jamaica Gateway,” said Gail Robergeau, the school’s community associate. “We’re here and we’re small, but we’re growing. We look forward to doing great things.”

In September, the school became the newest and fifth addition to the Jamaica High School campus building, located at 167-01 Gothic Drive.

Since then, Principal Caren Birchwood-Taylor said the school’s current 224 students received their first marking period report cards, and the majority of them passed with flying colors.

“The first marking period was encouraging,” she said. “But there is need for improvement, especially for those who did not pass all their classes, so we are really focusing on them right now. The first few months have been hectic, but I feel energized, too, because I’ve seen so many successes.”

Assemblymember William Scarborough — the keynote speaker and self-described “product of Queens” — joined a small group of students, parents and school officials to help cut the ribbon on Thursday, November 17.

“We all have a role to play. We are all striving for the best education for our children. I’m happy to be at such a site where such a focus is put on science and math because we know those are the areas that will be highly needed in the future,” he said.

According to school officials, Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences is targeted at students seeking to explore the sciences and mathematics, especially those interested in medicine and its related fields. Through mandatory internships and community service, Jamaica Gateway students have a leg up over competition, officials say.

The school is also one of seven schools in Queens that’s part of the Gateway Institute for Pre-College Education — a nationally recognized leader in preparing low-income and minority high school students for college and the pursuit of health and science-related careers.

“These kids are looking at us to pave the way for them. They’re smart, they’re eager. They’re good kids. They come up to me and they tell me they want internships at hospitals, they want to volunteer and they want to be surgeons,” Robergeau said.

Southeast Queens residents deal with flooding, sewage


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Thousands of residents in southeast Queens are sinking deeper into the sewage that now engulfs their homes.

Mold spores and flooding have become and remain a constant problem for homeowners after the city took over the area’s water supply in 1996.

“It smells terrible. You see feces in the water and black stuff. It’s just terrible,” said Lurline Williams, 73, of Jamaica.

Williams said she uses five pumps a day to try and alleviate the flooding, but “the water never goes away,” she said.

Prior to 1996, the southeast Queens community received water from the Jamaica Water Supply Company, according to Assemblymember William Scarborough. The private company pumped, purified and distributed water from 68 wells.

When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) took over, it stopped draining and pumping water out of the ground, making the water level rise higher than certain basements in the area, he said.

“These are people’s homes that are being ruined,” Scarborough said. “They’re spending a lot of money year after year for water pumps and they still can’t make their basements fully dry. Their floors and furniture in their basement are ruined. Some of them can’t even go into their basements anymore.”

Williams, a homeowner in Jamaica for 43 years, said that despite extreme damages, she still has to go down to her basement frequently to use her washer and dryer.

“I feel terrible. It’s heart breaking,” she said. “I just pray to God that something or someone will step up and go on and help us with the problem we’ve been having.”

The DEP has invested nearly $242 million since 2002 to build out the storm sewer system and reduce surface flooding in the southeast Queens area, said spokesperson Farrell Sklerov. The department also plans to invest $124 million in sewers over the next five years to help reduce further flooding.

Aside from that, the DEP has no plans to permanently pump out the groundwater due to a “prohibitively costly and extremely energy intensive process that would have to be paid for by increased water rates.”

City Councilmember Leroy Comrie told The Courier that the issue needs to be addressed immediately.

“I’m not happy that the DEP has not really dealt with the issue. It came up in meetings that they’ve kind of given up on a groundwater solution,” he said. “They don’t want to answer any questions or deal with it. It’s creating a major problem for the community.”

Scarborough also expressed concerns for the health of the residents.

“People are working hard to keep these properties nice and — to no fault of their own — their property is being damaged and their health is being threatened because of constant exposure,” he said. “That is unacceptable. People are suffering.”