Tag Archives: Board of Elections

Voters, pols say poll site mix-ups were rampant


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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A series of mix-ups, stemming from confusion from both voters and poll workers, plagued several election sites in the borough during last week’s primary, according to local elected officials.

Assemblymember Mike Miller — who bested his opponent, Etienne David Adorno, by a 71 to 29 percent margin — said he had to battle several slipups by poll site workers and the Board of Elections (BOE) last Thursday, September 13, before securing his win.

A major mishap, he said, occurred for the first four hours on election day, when a poll site inspector at P.S. 113 in Glendale shooed away Democratic voters, saying there was only a Republican and Independent primary in the 38th District.

“That was a major issue,” said Miller, who is now running unopposed in the upcoming November general election. “It could have cost both of us votes. It was a crazy day. We just wanted to get it taken care of.”

At least five different individuals looking to exercise their rights were also misled by poll workers at P.S. 239, the incumbent said. They were sent back and forth between the Ridgewood elementary school and Christ Tabernacle in Glendale, which is almost a mile away. A Woodhaven woman was also denied an affidavit ballot at P.S. 97, Miller said.

Several poll sites across the city changed after recent redistricting redrew the boundaries of election districts, said BOE spokesperson Valerie Vazquez. Alternative poll sites also needed to replace numerous locations throughout all five boroughs, including 51 in Queens, that were found not to be handicap accessible, she said.

But some mailers sent out by the BOE last month notifying voters they had new stations were given the incorrect address, officials said. Vasquez said the agency was under pressure to get the mailers out between August 1 and 5 and said some voting sites were incorrect as a result.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who also claimed victory in her district race, said her office fielded a mixture of complaints last Thursday, primarily stemming from people who were sent to the wrong polling place.

Board of Elections leaves Bengali off ballot


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Translators and appropriate documents will be at voting stations with large Bengali populations this November, a Board of Elections (BOE) official said, after it was announced the language would not be an option on this year’s ballots, much to the chagrin of officials and residents.

The BOE’s vendor, Election Systems & Software LLC (ES&S), had “significant technical difficulties” changing its voting system, said BOE spokesperson Valerie Vasquez. BOE staff met with ES&S and determined the changes — and the needed for state certification — would not be feasible by this November, she said. The vendor is continuing to work on making the changes ready for elections in 2013.

Ballots are required, under the federal Voting Rights Act, to have the native languages of an area’s population where five percent of eligible voters have below average English skills. Census data released last year showed an increasing number of Bengali residents in the borough and thus required by law to be used on ballots in select areas.

Other prominently spoken languages in the borough, including Spanish, Chinese and Korean, will not be affected by the difficulties, Vasques said.

Materials and personnel will be provided to Bengali-speaking voters, she said, to remedy the difficulties some may face when casting their ballots.

“The Board has taken important steps to address the language community’s needs until ballot placement can be achieved, and continues to reach out to community representatives through an established working group,” she said. “Steps planned include a translated candidate name list for use by voters, as well as a sample ballot poster for the November general election, together with translated posters, other written materials and signage.”

This is not enough to some, however, as politicians and community members spoke out soon after the announcement, demanding something be done to ensure the legal requirements are enacted.

“Data released a year ago told us what we already knew in our area of Queens County – that a significant segment of the population speaks Bengali (also known as Bangla), Punjabi, and Hindi,” Assemblymember David Weprin said. “It is not enough to provide interpreters or translated materials. Asian-Indians in Queens are covered under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act and anything less than full compliance is an injustice.”

Queens has a number of South Asian populations that will be affected by these changes, including Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Queens Village and Jackson Heights.

Vishnu Mahadeo, a Richmond Hill advocate originally from Guyana, said in the past the BOE had not taken responsibility to help Bengali voters.

Mahadeo, who heads the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council and is a coordinator with the BOE, said he has tried in the past to get interpreters hired for Bengali residents, predominately in South Ozone Park, and for Punjabi and Hindi residents in Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.

The problem Mahadeo says he’s run into, however, is a miscommunication between the BOE and the community. Many residents have been under the impression that citizenship is required to work for the BOE. All that is required, Mahadeo said, is proficiency in a language and permanent residency.

Weprin, who pushed for multi-lingual ballots in the Legislature, expressed disappointment the language would not be available to Bengali-speaking voters.

“Our practice should be to provide ballots in the languages of the Asian Indian communities to encourage voter participation, not fall short of our promises to accommodate these populations,” Weprin said. “This is a very important election and voter suppression simply can not be tolerated in our Democracy.”

Bengali ballots should be released for elections, Weprin said, or other options needed to be taken.

“We must stay on top of this issue and demand this mandate be implemented,” he said. “Otherwise we will have to consider other options to ensure the Board of Elections complies with this law.”

Voters angry over poll site changes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Arthur DeLuca has been voting in the same poll site since 1950.

But when he received notification in the mail from the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) saying his poll location had been moved almost a mile further away, the 87-year-old Oakland Gardens senior said he initially lost all desire to exercise his rights.

“I voted all my life. I said I was just going to stop,” DeLuca said. “It’s not right.”

Several poll sites across the city have changed — including 51 in Queens — after recent redistricting redrew the physical boundaries of election districts, said BOE spokesperson Valerie Vazquez.

Alternative poll sites also needed to replace numerous locations throughout all five boroughs that were found not to be handicap accessible, Vazquez said.

“It really varies on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “We tried to make the changes as convenient as possible for voters.”

Assembly hopeful Nily Rozic, a 25th District candidate, said the modifications were “another example of BOE disenfranchising voters, especially the elderly.”

“In the very least, the community should be given the opportunity to comment in a public forum. Many voters will not be able to exercise their right to vote due to these changes,” she said.

Vazquez said it would not have been the city BOE’s responsibility to hold a public hearing or commenting period, adding that voters received notification in the mail if their voting location had changed.

“These are the lines that were given to us by the state,” she said. “From there, the way that the districts were drawn — that is how our election district lines have changed as well.”

DeLuca, who lives on 207th Street, said he has been casting his ballot at P.S. 162, located at 201-02 53rd Avenue, since he first started voting. His new site — the Marie Curie Middle School at 46-35 Oceania Street — will be a trek, said the elder who limits his driving.

“We’ve been living here for so long, voting in the same place. Suddenly they changed it. I don’t think they care about the elderly anymore. I don’t see how they could change it,” he said. “How could they do it?”

The BOE did not specify how many sites throughout the city have changed.

Voters unsure of where their poll sites are located can visit www.vote.nyc.ny.us.

Today is deadline to register to vote in September primary; online registration now available


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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With the state ranking near the bottom in voter registration, the governor announced a new initiative to allow online registration.

Residents can now log on to their computers to register to vote change their address or update party enrollment.

“We are knocking down longstanding barriers that have prevented many New Yorkers from participating in the democratic process, while creating a more streamlined and more efficient system that will save taxpayers’ money,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Less than 64 percent of eligible voters are registered, ranking New York 47th in the nation.

If you want to register electronically, you can now visit the Department of Motor Vehicle’s “MyDMV” web site.  You will also be able to register paper-free at local DMV offices.

According to the governor’s office, registration rates jumped from 28 to 53 percent among voters 18 to 24 after online registration was introduced.

The announcement comes as the deadline approaches to register for the September primary.

If you want to be able to vote in the state primary elections on September 13, your application must be postmarked no later than Friday, August 17 and received by August 24.

Online registration must be done ahead of today’s deadline, also.

Click here to find out if you’re registered to vote

You may also register in person at your local Board of Elections or any voter registration center, but must do so no later than Friday, August 17.

If you need to file a change of address, it must be received by August 24.

Board of Elections bounces hopefuls from ballot


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three northeast Queens assembly hopefuls had their election dreams squashed after the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) tossed them off the primary ballot.

Democrat John Scandalios, who was vying to replace Assemblymember Grace Meng in the Flushing-based 40th District, had an insufficient number of signatures and was bumped off the September 13 primary ballot, according to results of the BOE’s July 31 ballot challenge hearings.

William Garifal Jr. — one of two Republican runners in the 25th Assembly race — and Lauren Whalen-Nelson, who had hoped to take on current Assemblymember Ed Braunstein in the 26th District, also got the boot due to lack of valid petitions.

Each contender had until July 12 to circulate at least 500 required designating petitions, according to the BOE.

Democrats Ron Kim, Ethel Chen, Myungsuk Lee, Yen Chou and Martha Flores-Vasquez and Republicans Phil Gim and Sunny Hahn will battle it out next month in the 40th District, as will Democrats Jerry Iannece and Nily Rozic in the 25th District. With Garifal’s expulsion, Republican candidate Abe Fuchs in the 25th District will sail through to November’s general election.

State Senator Tony Avella will also not see a challenger until November, when he will face off with Republican contender Joseph Concannon in the 11th District. But State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in the 16th District can expect a primary fight from Democratic opponent John Messer. Both had enough signatures to make it through until September, despite allegations from Messer’s camp saying Stavisky submitted fraudulent signatures. The winner will take on Republican candidate J.D. Kim.

Braunstein is looking at an uncontested re-election if the Queens County Republican Party declines to file an appeal on behalf of Whalen-Nelson. GOP chair Phil Ragusa said the County was considering the move but was not yet sure.

“We don’t want to disenfranchise the voters of the 26th Assembly district,” Ragusa said. “In an election, you should have both parties represented.”

Whalen-Nelson was seeking to run as a substitute for Tim Furey, a candidate who originally planned on taking on the incumbent but later declined the line, Ragusa said.

Furey, who had unsuccessfully tried to unseat Assemblymember David Weprin in the 24th District in 2010, was not the first this year to bow out of the 26th District race despite being backed by the Queens GOP.

The GOP originally pushed to pit Ralph Cefalo against Braunstein, but the Malba resident ultimately chose not to enter the race, citing personal matters, Ragusa said back in June.

But the County chair said declinations were nothing new.

“There’s a time to decline. This isn’t the first time this happened. It’s how Joe Crowley became the congressman. It’s done all the time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Scandalios lambasted the “forces against him” — opponent Yen Chou, the Queens County Democratic Party and the BOE — for throwing him off the ballot.

The former comic book store owner said the BOE gave him “false information” while he fought objections from the Queens Democrats and “corrupt data” by BOE clerks.

Scandalios can appear on the ballot in the general election if he runs on another line and gathers 1,500 signatures from within the district by August 26, according to the BOE.

“Eventually, I will be elected,” Scandalios said.

Race for Lancman’s seat heats up as he declines district leader nom


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A defeated congressional hopeful abandoned his run for re-election as party district leader, giving his county-backed opponent an uncontested free ride to the September election.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman filed declinations with the Board of Elections on July 16 to pull his candidacy in the Democratic Leadership 25th District Part A race as male district leader.

The move allows Queens County Democratic Party pick Yuen Yee Kui of Flushing to run without an opponent. By bowing out, Lancman — a decade-long district leader — will also avoid the second battle in a year with a county candidate.

Lancman defied the county in the 6th Congressional District when he chose to run against party-pick Assemblymember Grace Meng, who won with nearly 53 percent of the vote in the June 26 primary.

He pledged not to run for re-election in his current Assembly seat if his campaign fell short of Capitol Hill, but sources close to him could not specify his next plans. There is, however, speculation he may seek a run for City Council or borough president.

“Rory has other professional and political priorities right now other than running for re-election as a Democratic District Leader,” said Dominic Panakal, Lancman’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, the race to replace him is heating up as the two Democratic primary hopefuls battle it out over their campaign war chests.

Democrat Nily Rozic of Fresh Meadows, a first-time candidate, boasted she outraised her opponent Jerry Iannece, who is a county-backed Community Board 11 chair with an army of institutional support, with over $60,000 from more than 250 individual donors across the city.

But Iannece, who holds a war chest of a little over $53,000, said the bulk of Rozic’s funds came from family members at the 11th hour and residents who live outside of the district.

According to the state’s Board of Elections financial disclosure report, more than $17,000 came from contributors who appear to be Rozic’s family members. A large majority of donors, the report shows, also live in other districts around the borough, city and some out of state.

“Money doesn’t win an election,” Iannece said. “I didn’t try to play games and show people I have support. At the end of the day, I’m going to have more than enough money to run. I’m more than where I thought I would be.”

A source close to Rozic’s campaign said it is not uncommon for large funds to come from contributors who live outside of the district and that funds from blood relatives hold the same amount in weight as those from outside the family.

“Bottom line is I outraised him,” Rozic said.

 

Queens politicians eyeing run for borough president


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

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Although Helen Marshall still has one year left on her third term as borough president, several big names are rumored to be eyeing a run for the job.

Councilmember Peter Vallone said that although he hasn’t made an official announcement yet, he’s seriously considering running for the borough presidency. Vallone, who currently represents Astoria, said he’s been traveling throughout Queens and getting a good reception from residents.

“I’m getting a great reception,” he said. “I am very pleased with the amount of support we’re finding.”

Vallone went on to say he would further his work in the city council if elected borough president.

“I’ve lived every day of my life in Queens,” he said, “and I’ve been fighting for Queens for the last 10 years.”

About $1 million has been raised for Vallone’s campaign, which he said is significantly higher than any other potential candidate.

While State Senator Jose Peralta’s office could not comment as to whether he is considering running, a committee has been formed called “Peralta 2013,” according to the State Board of Elections (BOE). The committee is active and is listed as a local committee for Queens County, said John Conklin, a representative from the BOE.

Another councilmember expected to run is Leroy Comrie, who currently represents the 27th District in the borough.

At deadline, Comrie was not available to discuss his interest in running for the spot. A campaign page on Facebook, however, was created in December 2011.

Others who have been rumored to run for BP were not able to confirm or deny a potential campaign.

Pols push for more languages on ballot


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Two elected officials and a coalition of South Asian community leaders pushed for the passage of a bill that would put Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi on ballots and election material in the borough.

The bill, co-sponsored by State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember David Weprin, would direct the county’s Board of Elections (BOE) to provide written language assistance in Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi on ballots, signs, voter mailings, employee and volunteer training material and information on the BOE’s web site.

The legislation, Weprin said, would increase voter turnout at the polls and voter access.

“The growing South Asian community in Queens is highly focused on civic engagement,” Stavisky said. “We must pass this bill to make life easier for people who are simply trying to exercise their rights.”

Democratic District Leader Albert Baldeo, who was defeated in a tight Senate race in 2006, said the lack of languages on the ballot negatively impacted his run.

Baldeo said he lost by a very small margin — some 387 votes — during his failed try at election in the 15th District because “the minority vote was suppressed.”

“There are many instances of people getting sent away from the polls, people who were actually discouraged from voting from poll site workers, because there was no assistance to speak to them in their language or in written materials,” said Baldeo.

While Weprin said the BOE had raised concerns over the print on the ballot getting too small, a spokesperson said the agency has not yet taken an official stance on the matter.

There is only one week left to get the green light for the bill since the legislative session is scheduled to end June 21.

6th District candidates start making the rounds


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three major democratic primary hopefuls — Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — recently spoke at the North East Flushing Civic Association's forum. Dr. Robert Mittman fights to remain on the ballot.

A dark horse candidate in the 6th District Congressional race was a long way from succumbing to the political slaughterhouse, but soon-to-be revealed results could mean a one-way ticket to the glue factory.

According to Dr. Robert Mittman — who is considered a longshot out of four democratic primary runners — the State Supreme Court has sent his signatures back to the Board of Elections (BOE) for a recount. A BOE representative said the board has not yet received word from the court and could not confirm.

A hearing  held by the board on May 1 determined Mittman had enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot, but the Bayside allergy specialist was taken to court by opponent Assemblymember Rory Lancman late last week.

According to Mittman, the two attorneys have been in the BOE for two days straight since May 8 going over his 1,200 signatures. Mittman said the two parties would hear results from the court on May 10, after The Courier went to press.

“It’s obvious they’re winning that war because this is a delay tactic,” Mittman said. “The purpose of this is to knock me off. This is a typical political maneuver, which is something I’m not used to. I’m a citizen who has the ideals of the community. But I accept it as it is. I don’t hold it against anybody.”

Mittman encouraged other citizens and non-career politicians to not be intimidated and consider running for office in the future.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “I think a lot of politicians have lost touch with what is really going on in the community.”

Meanwhile, the three other democratic primary hopefuls — Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — have been speaking at a series of civic meetings this week to introduce themselves and discuss local and national issues.

At a May 3 forum hosted by the North East Flushing Civic Association, Meng said she was running to address issues surrounding education and zoning, to fight for Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and to improve infrastructure.

Lancman emphasized his mission to “level the playing field for ordinary people” and said, if elected, he would be a “tough critic” on United Nations spending and would work to raise the minimum wage.

Crowley also said she would fight for Social Security and support seniors. She remained adamant on her stance on bringing U.S. troops home, even when an audience member said that ideal clashed with her views on protecting the city from terrorism threats.

A former democratic underdog, Ada Juan Sheng, was bumped off the ballot last week due to a lack of sufficient signatures and was taken to State Supreme Court by Meng. But the Briarwood television producer said she is now seeking sanctions against Meng, who she said has “dragged her reputation through the mud.”

The China Press, Sheng said, relied on court papers and reported that she was accused of fraud. Sheng said because she can’t sue Meng for defamation for allegations made in court papers, she is asking State Supreme Court Justice Jeremy Weinstein to impose sanctions, costs and attorney fees pursuant to court rules.

“[Meng] obviously felt the need to make outrageously false allegations of criminal wrongdoing against me. Many of these allegations constitute misdemeanors and possibly felonies,” Sheng said. “Had she merely alleged that my petition did not have enough valid signatures, I would have gracefully withdrawn.”

Meng’s campaign has garnered $500,000 in just a month-and-a-half. She was recently endorsed by Akhon Samoy, a Queens weekly Bengali language newspaper, while Lancman rolled in boosts from the New American Voters Association, DC 37, DC 1707 and CSEA.

Jeffrey Gottlieb bows out of 6th District Congressional race


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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The hotly-contested 6th Congressional District race that has featured allegations and pot shots has its first casualty.

Jeffrey Gottlieb denied the nomination on Wednesday, April 18 and transferred the signatures he received to Stephen Green, a Rosedale resident, the Board of Elections said.

The announcement comes just days after the candidates submitted their petitions to the Board of Elections, with Gottlieb being among six Democratic candidates who collected the necessary signatures.

From the get-go, Gottlieb’s run set-off a firestorm of accusations.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman accused the Board of Elections employee of being a “sham” candidate whose entrance into the race was solely to divide the Jewish vote.

At the time Gottlieb said he was prepared to run a spirited campaign despite the attacks, but a New York Post report regarding a prior charge of arson led to him bowing out.

The Post reported last week that Gottlieb was arrested on charges of arson in 1971 for setting fire to his apartment.  The charge was plea-bargained down to fourth-degree criminal mischief, the paper reported.

A source close to Gottlieb told the New York Times that the personal strain for the public disclosure caused the candidate to quit the campaign.

Gottlieb could not be reached for comment.

The primary election will be held on June 26.

Queens GOP big wig involved in ‘shakedown’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

A Board of Elections (BOE) employee trying to make a quick buck has instead found himself in hot water.

The BOE has suspended Stephen Graves – who is also a top official in the Queens Republican Party – after he was allegedly caught on tape soliciting a $25,000 “finder’s fee” from a company competing for a multi-million dollar contract in 2009.

According to published reports, Graves, who is the first vice chairman of the Queens GOP, requested money from Dominion Voting Systems – a Denver-based company – while it was contending against Nebraska’s Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) for a $65 million contract to sell the city its first electronic voting machines. The Department of Investigation (DOI) reportedly provided information to the BOE regarding Graves’ actions.

Both the BOE and DOI declined to comment, as the investigation is ongoing.

Graves allegedly wanted the fee in return for recommending a particular lobbyist to Dominion.

Dominion denied Graves’ request, however, and the contract went to ES&S.

Attempts to reach Graves were unsuccessful, but reports claimed he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights while being questioned by DOI.

Dominion officials reportedly filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and submitted their recorded conversations with Graves. The matter has now been brought to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, according to the accounts.

Attempts to reach Dominion went unreturned as of press time.

Graves, who also was the GOP candidate for Congress against Gary Ackerman in 2004, has reportedly been a systems analyst at the BOE since 2007.

Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican GOP, would not comment on the charges, but called Graves “absolutely honest” in his work.

“His work was always exemplary for the Queens County Republican Party,” Ragusa said.

Republican Councilmember Eric Ulrich admitted he was not surprised by the news, and expressed disapproval of both Graves’ actions and Ragusa’s stance.

“I was appalled, but not shocked, by the revelations about Queens GOP Vice-Chair Stephen Graves and his shameful attempt to ‘shakedown’ a vendor trying to sell the city new voting machines,” Ulrich said. “For Phil Ragusa, as head of the county organization, to defend Graves as ‘honest’ even after Graves refused to cooperate fully with the DOI is a slap in the face to the rank and file members of the Republican Party.”

[UPDATE] Election Day 2011


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown casts his vote this Election Day

[UPDATE]

Only 83 voters have visited the polls at Benjamin Cardozo High School since they opened this morning at 6 a.m, according to poll worker Michele Miller.

The Bayside area high school is open for those wanting to vote for six Supreme Court judges and the District Attorney. There are six candidates under each party for Supreme Court judge and Richard A. Brown is running unopposed for District Attorney.

 

It’s Election Day and Queens voters have three races on the ballot.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown is running for a record sixth consecutive term as county prosecutor. Brown, who will be 79 less than one week after Election Day, is running unopposed with endorsements from his own Democratic Party, as well as Republicans and Conservatives.

Also on the ballot this year, candidate Ruben Wills, a Democrat, is running unchallenged to fill the 28th District City Council seat. Rounding out the election, Queens will fill six state Supreme Court justice seats.

Candidates for State Supreme Court come from across the city. Five of the Democratic candidates are sitting Civil Court judges including Janice A. Taylor of Jamaica; Allan Weiss of Forest Hills; Rudolph E. Greco Jr. of Jackson Heights; Vincent J. Dufficy of Breezy Point and Ira H. Margulis of Oakland Gardens. The sixth Democrat in the race, Pam B. Jackson of Jamaica, is currently a Housing Court judge.

Candidates on the Republican and Conservative side of the ballot include Robert V. Beltrani of Jackson Heights; Gabriel Tapalaga of Middle Village; Joseph F. Kasper of Ozone Park; Kate Christoforatos of the Bronx; Milton Florez of Oakland Gardens; and John f. Casey of Flushing.

Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and information on voting can be found by visiting the Board of Elections web site at www.vote.nyc.us or by calling 866-VOTE-NYC (866-868-3692).

Woodside issues discussed at town hall


| nkarimi@queenscourier.com

Assemblymember Michael DenDekker explained the different issues that New York faces during a Woodside Town Hall meeting on October 26.
“Our everyday problems mean absolutely nothing to legislators that represent Rochester, Buffalo, Tonawanda and Niagara. We talk about parking, sanitation, noise and train issues, while their issues are jobs, agriculture and property taxes,” said DenDekker.
Earlier this year, DenDekker passed a bill regarding unused paper ballots. Under federal law, all paper ballots have to be kept in storage for at least two years. The Board of Elections (BOE) has to print 110 percent of voter enrollment in the district, when only six percent of voters usually show up, he noted.
“The BOE of Queens actually approached me and said, ‘If we have to keep on retaining all these unused ballots, then we’ll have to rent out warehouse space for the papers,’” DenDekker said.
The bill basically states that if a ballot has not been touched or marked by a voter, then it shouldn’t be considered a ballot. After the election, the unused ballots will be certified through the BOE and then be demolished, said DenDekker.
He also has another bill that would make all municipalities in the state – including New York City – pay $100 to motorists who are wrongly ticketed.
Senator Michael Gianaris mentioned the number of recent groping incidents, which have escalated citywide. Young men on bicycles ride around and inappropriately grab and touch women in the neighborhood.
“One thing that we’re all concerned about is that these gropers could be tomorrow’s rapists or even someone worse,” said Gianaris.
Legislation that Gianaris introduced about a month ago deals with making the groping of a child a felony requiring mandatory jail time, since it’s currently a misdemeanor.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer then discussed the anti-graffiti hotline and program, which runs for $30,000 a year through the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce.
“Mike mentioned the groper incidents and a couple did happen in Woodside; on 55th Street and around 39th Avenue, which is why we’re having a self-defense class for young women at P.S. 11 on November 6 from 2 to 4 p.m.,” said Van Bramer.
He also allocated $125,000 for the Woodside Library to create a new teen reading room and announced P.S. 152 as the citywide champions for ballroom dancing.
Van Bramer also discussed how the city raised $42 million through the Department of Health (DOH) this past year.
“We want small businesses to make money because they are the hearts and souls of the neighborhood,” said Van Bramer.

Queens GOP leadership in question


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With the Queens political world already rattled, a storm has begun brewing on the horizon of the borough’s Republican Party.

Two organizational meetings were held on September 28, during which two different men claim to have been elected Queens County Republican GOP leader.

According to Robert Hornak, spokesperson for the Queens Republican Party, current chair Phil Ragusa was re-elected, receiving the support of every voter who attended his meeting – amounting to 62 percent of the total voting strength.
Former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene also claims he was elected at a meeting called by Bart Haggerty, who works for Councilmember Eric Ulrich, which was held on the same date and time as Ragusa’s gathering.

Hornak says that GOP Chair Ed Cox called to congratulate Ragusa on September 29, although Ognibene claims he received a similar phone call from Cox.

“Obviously this is an internal political dispute,” said Ognibene. “I believe I am the one that has been elected, and we submitted our certification of the election to the Board of Elections.”

The GOP leader is chosen by county committee members – elected officials in local parties – who frequently have state committee members hold proxy votes for them. In the September 13 Primary, the two party factions battled for a number of state committee member positions.

There were recent published reports that Ognibene would oppose Ragusa for GOP leader, although Hornak does not believe the challenge to be a legitimate one.

“We knew we were going to win, so they held another meeting to pretend they wouldn’t lose,” said Hornak. “They held a competing meeting without authorization. Bart Haggerty sent out a fraudulent notice saying he was the chair and called a meeting. Only the official chairman can call a meeting. This is all just nonsense to confuse people because they have lost.”

Ragusa’s campaign filed a restraining order that demanded the cancellation of the opposing meeting – a demand Haggerty and Ognibene ignored.

“They tried to take us to court today and tried to stop our meeting last night and couldn’t,” Ognibene said. “I guess we will just have to proceed and I’m sure there may be legal challenges. We were in court on September 29 and we will have to go to court on October 4.”

Ognibene says he is proceeding as if he was elected and will perform all the requirements of the GOP leader until a resolution is reached. He believes that Ragusa has been ineffective and has not done enough to advance the success of the borough’s Republican Party.

“Dealing with Mr. Ragusa is impossible,” said Ognibene. “They haven’t done anything and they haven’t supported any candidates. They are into self-aggrandizement instead of helping the Republican Party. He has done nothing to move the Republican Party forward. We have done it ourselves in southwest Queens.”

Ragusa says his opponent’s accusations are unjustified and unsupported, and that Ognibene’s interest in the position is for his own personal gain.

“We’ve run Bob Turner, Jane Deacy and even Ognibene himself,” said Ragusa. “Everyone that ran with the Republican designation ran because of us. In my four-and-a-half years we’ve run more candidates than they did in the last 10 years. We have done everything a party is supposed to do. I think these are blind accusations. I haven’t seen Mr. Ognibene at a county event since I’ve been chairman. He doesn’t do anything to support the county. I think he spends most of his time on a golf course.”

If the current hearing does not settle the dispute between the party’s two factions, Ragusa says his campaign will file a separate action to invalidate Ognebene’s filing with the Board of Elections.