Tag Archives: Bill de Blasio

Mayoral administration removes Success Academy Jamaica proposal


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


One thousand children need to find somewhere else to go to school come September.

These students had applied to Success Academy Jamaica, a new charter school that had been slated to open this fall, but now Mayor Bill de Blasio has axed the plan.

Before former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term ended, he approved the co-location of Success Academy Jamaica with August Martin High School. The charter school would hold 200 kindergarten and first grade students and ultimately grow to a 500-student school, kindergarten through fourth grade.

But on Feb. 27, de Blasio withdrew this proposal, along with eight others citywide. Three Success Academy schools were canceled entirely. Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz led a rally Tuesday in Albany, flanked by thousands of students, teachers and charter school supporters, opposing de Blasio’s decision.

“The previous administration handed over these proposals, and we have had to review all of them under inflexible deadlines,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “As enrollment deadlines approach, we considered the thousands of families that could be affected. Under the circumstances we inherited, [we] believe this is the best approach.”

The Department of Education (DOE) said it does “not believe new elementary schools should be opened on high school campuses.”

“Overall, we have heard concerns from high school communities, as well as elementary level ones, about this practice. We believe high school campuses should serve high school students,” DOE officials said.

Without the school, local youth can attend nearby schools P.S. 233, P.S. 45 and P.S. 354.

“More than 1,000 families have applied so far for a seat at Success Academy Jamaica,” said Kerry Lyon, a spokesperson for the charter school. “We will continue fighting to open this school and give those parents the high quality education they are demanding for their kids.”

 

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Mayor, city hope to fix pothole problems brought on by heavy snow


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

A record-breaking winter has left city streets in disrepair, with new potholes popping up every day.

In less than seven weeks, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has filled 27,000 potholes in Queens and 113,131 citywide – the “most potholes ever filled at this point of the year in the history of New York City,” according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

To facilitate and accelerate the road repairs, the city has allocated an additional $7.3 million to the DOT.

De Blasio put on the neon DOT jacket and filled one hefty Maspeth pothole Thursday alongside DOT officials who detailed their new “comprehensive pothole and maintenance plan to make filling faster and more efficient.”

Starting this weekend, the DOT will begin repaving roads where “we need to go above and beyond,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

They have additionally adopted new “cutting edge materials” and plan to partner with local engineering schools, national experts and the Department of Sanitation.

“This winter has been a challenge so far,” Trottenberg said. “We are not resting easy. We know there is going to be a lot more to do.”

The mayor said heavy snow over the past two months has brought “unprecedented” wear and tear to streets. The record snowfall brought upon an “intensified use of snow plows,” a freeze-and-thaw cycle on the streets, as well as increased salt-distribution, all of which have contributed to a significant number of new potholes.

“Winter 2014 has literally made it into the record books. It is a book we would like to close as quickly as possible,” de Blasio said. “This reality has caused us to have a performance level from the DOT we have never seen before.”

Fifty crews are working to fill the potholes, which take just a few minutes to complete depending on the crater’s size. The DOT primarily uses 3-1-1 complaints to target and repair streets.

 

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Star of Queens: Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Following “too many” pedestrian deaths, Furlong and her group, Make Queens Safer, are trying to target reckless driving, one roadway at a time.

“Pedestrians sometimes don’t have the tools they need, they were never educated on the danger,” she said.

Her group is focusing on an education program, reaching out to everyone from the borough’s youth to local elected officials. The program includes a safe driver pledge for drivers to acknowledge patience and eliminate distraction while on the roads.

BACKGROUND

Furlong is a 10-year resident of Queens, currently living in Jackson Heights. She is an avid cycler and works as a tour guide for Bike the Big Apple, which provides bike tours through the five borough.

“As a cyclist, I’ve always been interested in safety. But when Laura [Newman, Make Queens Safer co-founder] posted a boy was killed by a drunk driver and put a call to action, I was 100 percent on board,” Furlong said. “We had to do something.”

FAVORITE MEMORY

“The best thing that’s come out of this is being able to support families who have suffered a lot,” Furlong said. “Mothers whose children were killed [by drivers], they have no place to go.”

After a vigil the group hosted for pedestrian victims, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Queens to announce his vision of zero pedestrian fatalities, appropriately titled Vision Zero.

“That was a memorable thing,” Furlong said. “Of all places, he chose Queens, recognizing that we have the highest pedestrian injury rate in the city.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE

For Furlong, the biggest challenge her group faces is getting people to change their consciousness about reckless driving, she said. They frequently stop drivers on the street to relay safe driving tips, and aren’t always warmly welcomed.

“But we need to establish a responsibility behind the wheel,” she said.

INSPIRATION

“I think inspiration comes from the people,” Furlong said, referring to parents, family members and friends who have lost loved ones due to reckless driving.

“They’re always available and working so hard with us. I want them to know, hopefully, we’ll change things,” she said.

 

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Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomes city to 2014 winter storm number six


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

Updated 9:15 p.m.

A state of emergency has been declared as the Nor’Easter storm targets the five boroughs.

“Welcome to winter storm number six of the last six weeks,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

De Blasio said the snow has come down “heavier and faster than the weather service had predicted last night.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Thursday morning “so that we can continue to effectively respond to the storm and aid communities in need.”

Cuomo said the state is adequately prepared with salt supplies, and said snow is expected to fall throughout the day at two to three inches per hour.

Ten to 14 inches are expected by tonight, de Blasio said, but could be affected by a mix of freezing rain and sleet.

The mayor continued to urge drivers to stay off the road, and said mass transit is the best option.

For the Friday morning rush hour, the MTA expects to run normal subway service, but some express service may run local because of track conditions, the transit agency said. Buses should run at 80 percent capacity.

The Long Island Rail Road plans to operate at 90 percent of its normal weekday schedule, and is canceling 14 morning rush hour trains.

The Department of Sanitation pre-treated roads and began salting roadways at 3 a.m. Thursday morning. “Extra efforts” were made to address tertiary roads as well, de Blasio said.

To track plowing progress, click here.

Alternate side parking regulations and garbage and recycling pick-up is suspended through Saturday. De Blasio said trash pick-up won’t be “in earnest” until Tuesday.

To check the city’s progress or sign up for regular alerts, click here.

With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

 

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EXCLUSIVE: No snow day forces Bayside HS kids to spend day in auditorium


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

MELISSA CHAN AND MAGGIE HAYES

A shortage of teachers at Bayside High School, after this year’s biggest snowstorm so far, forced students to spend the day in the gym and auditorium.

“We just wasted a whole day,” said senior Ibrahim A. “It’s pointless to be here when we’re not doing any work.”

After students reported to school Wednesday at 8 a.m., school officials found they didn’t have enough teachers to monitor all of the students, according to parents and students.

They were then told to call their parents to pick them right back up again.

“There had to be 35, 40 parents on line waiting to get their kids,” said Michele M. who grabbed her 15-year-old daughter around 11 a.m. “What was the point of opening up?”

Michele’s daughter and multiple students said at least 40 teachers were absent.

“More than half of my teachers didn’t even come, and more than half that did didn’t even get to teach,” said Jane, a freshman. “I just sat in the auditorium and watched Iron Man 2. I slept through most of it.”

Another freshman said he walked into school around noon and a dean told him to go home.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina made the call to keep schools open around 11:20 p.m. the night of the storm, Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who participated in the decision, said the National Weather Service “made clear that just as the snow had intensified earlier, it was slowing very noticeably around 10 p.m.”

“It was clear at that point we would have a much better situation by morning,” he said. “We knew we could do a good job overnight of clearing the streets.”

Despite de Blasio’s confidence, Ibrahim said there were barely any teachers and students at school the next day.

They were kept in the auditorium and “just walked out” before noon.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Mayor de Blasio announces paid sick leave expansion


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via witter/@NYCMayorsOffice

More New Yorkers could be protected from losing their jobs for taking a day off when they or their family members are ill.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced legislation Friday that will extend the right to paid sick leave to businesses with five or more employees, which expands on a law enacted by the City Council.

The announcement was made at Esmeralda’s Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a business that is part of a coalition supporting paid sick days.

Speaking at the announcement was the restaurant’s owner, who already provides her employees with paid sick leave and has seen its benefits, as well as Leonardo Hernando, a car wash worker from Queens.

Hernando, a father of four, has lived and worked in the U.S. for nine years and has never once had a job that provided paid sick days. He said he cannot take a day off because it will mean he won’t have enough money for his family.

With the new legislation, he will no longer be in that situation.

“Families will be more stable and secure, because they have paid sick leave coverage,” de Blasio said.

Under the expanded legislation, about 500,000 more New Yorkers, 200,000 of whom do not currently have paid sick days, will now have the right to paid sick leave, according to de Blasio.

The City Council enacted the New York City Earned Sick Time Act on June 27 in a 47-4 vote, overriding then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the legislation.

According to that bill,  beginning in April, businesses with 20 or more employees will be required to give at least five paid sick days per worker each year. Starting in October 2015, businesses with 15 or more workers will have to do the same.

“While that legislation was a good start it was not nearly enough,” Mark-Viverito said.

The new legislation would take effect for all business with five or more employees starting this April. De Blasio said he believes the legislative process will move quickly so it can be enacted by that time.

The law also removes exemptions for the manufacturing sector, and adds grandparents, grandchildren and siblings to the definition of family members, and cut out legislative red tape that could have delayed paid sick leave.

 

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Mayor de Blasio welcomes thousands to Gracie Mansion


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Twitter/@NYCMayorsOffice

Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed thousands of New Yorkers to Gracie Mansion Sunday, giving them a tour of the historic building he called the “People’s House.”

“It’s been a pleasure sharing the inauguration with residents from all five boroughs,” the mayor said, “and I can’t think of a better way to end the week than by spending it with New Yorkers.”

Guests were greeted with tunes from Make Music New York — a nonprofit group, featuring Grammy-nominated opera singer Christopher Dylan Herbert — and the New York City Housing Authority Youth Chorus.

Tickets for the open house, distributed online, quickly sold out last week.

A long line wrapped around the future home of the de Blasios at the corner of 88th Street and East End Avenue beginning about noon, according to the NYC Mayor’s Office Twitter account.

 

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Mayor de Blasio shovels snow at Park Slope home


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@BilldeBlasio

Even the mayor of New York City shovels his own snow.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was hard at work outside of his Park Slope, Brooklyn home Friday morning shoveling snow from the sidewalk.

The newly-inaugurated mayor, tweeted a photo of himself shoveling, along with a message promoting the city’s PlowNYC feature, which posts online real-time updates of the Department of Sanitation’s snow clearance operations throughout the five boroughs.

In an interview with NY1 Friday morning, de Blasio gave some tips on how to shovel.

“Don’t lift with your back, lift with your knees,” he told NY1.

He also said his 16-year-old son Dante, who, as a junior at Brooklyn Technical High School, has the day off from school, would be helping with the snow clearing, NY1 reported.

A short time later that morning, the teen made an appearance in front of the media and shoveled and salted his home’s walkway.

At a press briefing on the storm Friday, the mayor said his son “was not an early riser,” but had now contributed to the clearing of the city’s sidewalks.


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De Blasio swears in Bill Bratton as NYPD Commissioner


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC Mayor's Office Flickr

The city’s Police Department has officially changed hands.

Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly administered the oath of office to Bratton, 66, at Police Headquarters Thursday afternoon after he was officially sworn in as NYPD Commissioner during a private ceremony at Police Headquarters just after midnight on Jan 1.

Speaking before administrating the oath, de Blasio declared that the City of New York was in good hands with Bratton, dubbing him “the greatest police leader anywhere in the land.”

“Bill Bratton at his essence is a progressive crime fighter,” the mayor said.

This is Bratton’s second time as the city’s top cop. He previously led the NYPD from 1994 to 1996 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Bratton replaces Raymond Kelly, who had been commissioner since 2002.

Bratton was also the Los Angeles Police Department’s chief from 2002 to 2009, and served as the Boston police commissioner before first coming to New York.

During his time with the NYPD, Bratton created tactics that are credited with cutting the steep crime rate in half, including COMPSTAT and real-time crime analysis.

“Who says you can’t come home again? And it is home and it’s great to be back,” Bratton said after taking Thursday’s oath.

Bratton promised under his watch policing in the city would be done constitutionally, respectively and with more collaboration.

He also vowed to bring more trust between New Yorkers and the NYPD, asking why in a city where the police have done so much to keep their citizens safe, “people don’t feel good about a [police] department.”

Bratton, who was long-rumored to be de Blasio’s pick along with NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks and First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro, was appointed by de Blasio on Dec. 5.

De Blasio ran for mayor on the promise to reform the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice, and again pledged to “reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy” in his inauguration speech Wednesday.

Though Bratton promised to “heal the wounds” caused by stop-and-frisk at his appointment announcement, critics are concerned over de Blasio’s selection of a commissioner who they call the “widely-credited ‘architect’ of stop-and-frisk.”

New Yorkers Against Bratton, who made the statement, planned a protest Thursday outside of Police Headquarters, following de Blasio’s swearing-in of Bratton.

“We are committed to opposing Bratton’s return as NYPD Commissioner. We ask that the mayor remove Bratton immediately and work with the community in selecting a commissioner that will signify a break from the past-not a continuation of it,” the group said in an email announcing the protest.

-With additional reporting by Maggie Hayes

 

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De Blasio sworn in as 109th mayor of New York City


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Official Photos by New York City Mayor's Office

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The Bloomberg era has ended and the de Blasio administration has begun.

New York City’s 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn in during a ceremony at his Park Slope, Brooklyn home just after midnight Wednesday, followed by a formal inauguration on the steps of City Hall later that day.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officiated the New Year’s Eve oath of office, which was also attended by the mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

“From the beginning, this has been our family together reaching out to the people of this city to make a change that we all needed. I want to thank you for having brought us to this moment,” de Blasio said after taking the oath in front of his home.

“To everyone this is the beginning of a road we will travel together,” he added.

Former President Bill Clinton swore in de Blasio on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

De Blasio previously served as a regional director in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and managed Hillary Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Both endorsed de Blasio for mayor in the general election.

Before administering the oath, Clinton said it had been a “great joy” for his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and him to see de Blasio’s progress “because he has served with such passion and because he represents with his family the future of our city and the future of our country.”

Telling New Yorkers “our work begins today,” in his inauguration speech de Blasio pledged to expand the pay sick leave law, require big developers to build affordable housing, stem the tide of hospital closures, reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy and ask the wealthy to pay a little more in taxes to provide universal, full-day pre-k and after-school programs for middle schoolers.

“We won’t wait, we’’ll do it now,” he said.

“Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” he added.

A thousand tickets were reserved for the general public to attend the public swearing-in ceremony, with de Blasio pledging that it would be an “inauguration for all New Yorkers.”

Several dozen New Yorkers from across the city were additionally invited to join the mayor on stage. The group included a Queens engineer who emigrated from Bangladesh, according to de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio takes the subway with his family to his City Hall inauguration.

Queens resident and the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, read an original poem at the inauguration, which she dedicated to de Blasio.

Ramana, a first generation Indian-American, grew up in the borough and recently won the New York Knicks’ Poetry scholarship to St. John’s University, where she is a first-year student, according to the mayor.

Letitia James, who is succeeding de Blasio as public advocate was also sworn in at City Hall Wednesday. The councilmember is the first woman of color to hold citywide office. Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President since 2006, was sworn in as city comptroller, replacing John Liu.

 

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De Blasio to be sworn in at Brooklyn home in private ceremony


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Bill de Blasio will ring in the New Year in his Park Slope home by being officially sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City.

As is tradition, the swearing in will take place during an intimate ceremony just after midnight on Jan. 1. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will officiate,  de Blasio announced Monday night.

The private event will be attended by the incoming mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

The public can watch the event live online at NYC.gov, and photos will be posted to the Mayor’s Office Flickr page.

“We are excited to share this important moment with the people of New York,” said de Blasio. “From live-streaming the midnight swearing-in to reserving tickets for the general public to the ceremony at City Hall, Inauguration 2014 will be open and accessible to people from across the five boroughs.”

De Blasio will be sworn in later that day in a public ceremony at City Hall by former President Bill Clinton.

 

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De Blasio selects Carmen Farina as next schools chancellor


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter / @NYCTransition

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has named Carmen Farina, a veteran employee of the New York City public school system, as the next schools chancellor.

“We need someone who understands that the people who make the schools work and the parents who are the first and last educators of our children, that they must be treated like the stakeholders that they are,” de Blasio said at Monday’s announcement at Brooklyn’s William Alexander Middle School, the school his two children attended.

Calling Farina a “brilliant innovator” who “knows how to bring people together,” he said the selection was important not only because she is going to be the chancellor of the city school’s system, but because “she is also going to be the chancellor for my child,” referring to his son Dante, a  junior at Brooklyn Technical High School.

“This is such a privilege to be able to come back to a system that has so much work that has to done, but to doing it from stance of a progressive agenda,” Farina said.

Farina, 70, has more than four decades of experience working in the city’s school system, serving as a teacher at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a principal at P.S. 6 on the Upper East Side, and a superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15. She last worked for the Department of Education as a deputy chancellor before retiring in 2006.

Taking lessons from her own experiences as a student in the city’s school system, Farina promised to make parents real partners in their children’s education and prioritize college and career readiness.

Farina’s name had been floated around for weeks as one of the top contenders for the job, though she was initially hesitant to come out of retirement.

She will replace current Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who is stepping down Tuesday. He has held the position since April 2011.

De Blasio has promised departures from certain education policies of the Bloomberg administration. He proposed to charge rent to charter schools that use space in city school buildings, eliminate letter grades on school progress reports and reduce the focus on high-stake testing

Farina has been a longtime trusted friend and advisor to de Blasio, whom she met while he was a school board member in District 15. She shares his views on testing and will assist in his push for universal pre-k and expansion of after-school programs for middle schoolers.

Among challenges Farina will face as chancellor of the country’s largest public school system is a contract negotiation with the United Federation of Teachers.

 

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Bill de Blasio to be sworn in as mayor by former President Bill Clinton


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

FILE PHOTO

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will be sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City by former President Bill Clinton, de Blasio announced Saturday.

“I was honored to serve in President Clinton’s Administration and on Secretary Clinton’s campaign for U.S. Senate, and I am honored again that they will both join our celebration for all of New York City,” de Blasio said. “Wednesday’s ceremony will be an event for every New Yorker from all five boroughs, and Chirlane and I couldn’t be more excited to have President Clinton and Secretary Clinton stand with us.”

De Blasio previously served as Regional Director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration as well as campaign manager for Secretary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign.

On Jan. 1, Clinton will swear in the incoming mayor on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The bible is on loan from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Lissette Ortiz, a senior at Medgar Evers College, will introduce Clinton. Ortiz moved to the United States when she was 15 from the Dominican Republic. She now lives in the Bronx and plans to pursue a career in public administration.


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De Blasio’s daughter admits to issues with substance abuse, depression


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via YouTube

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s daughter Chiara admitted in a video posted Tuesday to substance abuse and years of battling depression.

In the five-minute YouTube clip, the 19-year-old college student said she had clinical depression for her entire adolescence, and alcohol and drugs helped her deal with those issues.

“It made it easier, like the more I drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people that I wouldn’t have,” she said.

“It didn’t start out as a like a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me.”

She said she thought her problems would go away in college, but admitted to drinking and smoking weed while there.

A therapist helped her by referring to her an outpatient treatment center in New York City.

Now sober, Chiara said she wanted to share her personal story in the hopes of helping others.

“As parents, our instinct has been to protect our daughter and privately help her through a deeply personal struggle. But not only has Chiara committed to her own health, she is also committed to helping young people everywhere who face similar challenges,” the mayor-elect and his wife said in an emailed statement that linked to the video.

“Her courage to speak out demonstrates a wisdom and maturity far beyond her 19 years, and we are grateful every day for her commitment to lifting up those who need to know that they are not alone.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Sun and clouds mixed. High near 40. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday night: Snow ending this evening followed by clearing late. Low 24. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 50%. Snow accumulations less than one inch.

Bus rides for NYC schoolchildren to continue after winter break

City education officials have good news for 40,000 students and their families who didn’t know how the kids were going to get to class after the winter break: They’re getting a ride on a yellow school bus, just like before. Read more: New York Daily News

De Blasio names 2 women to top administration jobs

New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has appointed a Goldman Sachs executive as the deputy mayor of housing and economic development. Read more: AP

New York extends health care signup deadline to Tuesday

New Yorkers whose health insurance policies were cancelled because of federal health care reform are now getting a one-day extension to pick a replacement plan in order to avoid a lapse in coverage on Jan. 1. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Shoppers hit stores in last-minute Christmas rush

The Christmas shopping rush is shifting into high gear, with big stores across the Tri-state keeping their doors open all day and into the night, hoping to give those last-minute shoppers some extra time. Read more: ABC New York

Radio legend Stan Brooks dies

The legendary New York City radio reporter Stan Brooks has died, according to his station, 1010 WINS. He was 86. Read more: Fox New York