Tag Archives: borough president melinda katz

City Planning holds public hearing on Astoria Cove


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

More affordable housing in the Astoria Cove project was once again front and center with critics, this time at a City Planning public hearing on the project.

Members of coalitions and residents testified on Wednesday that the 2.2 million-square-foot project should include at least 50 percent affordable housing, while developers are proposing just 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings.

“Soon they will take over the whole place and they will chase us out. Twenty percent of affordable housing is not enough for Queens,” a representative of New York Communities for Change testified at the meeting in Manhattan.

Jaron Benjamin, the executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, said it would hurt progress to cure the city’s housing crisis.

“If Astoria Cove becomes just another glitzy playground for the wealthy elite, it will be a huge step backward — the opposite of progress,” he said.

Howard Weiss of the law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which represents developers Alma Realty, defended the project, calling it “the crown jewel in the reclamation of the Queens waterfront.”

In their recommendations to deny the project, both Community Board 1 and Borough President Melinda Katz suggested that the developers increase the units for affordable housing.

The City Planning Commission queried about the breakdown of the mix of housing in the plan, but it could not be provided yet.

“In looking at this project over a 10-year phasing plan, one has to keep in mind that market conditions can change,” Weiss said. “At present, it’s really too early to determine what mix will be.”

The commission also asked about main concerns the community and Katz had, including building the new elementary school in an earlier phase, and transportation options.

Prior to the public hearing, Weiss said developers are making public transportation commitments to ease community traffic concerns for the incoming residents in the area, which Katz called “insufficient” in terms of transportation options.

The plans include adding a shuttle bus to and from nearby subway stations, and there will be a spot for a ferry terminal, in case the city decides to add ferry service to the area.

Astoria Cove is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

At the public hearing, residents and union members from 32BJ SEIU asked that local jobs be set aside for local workers.

The City Planning Commission will issue its recommendations after its 60-day review. The proposal will then go to the City Council for a vote.

Councilman Costa Constantinides said he may not support it.

“Both Community Board 1 and Borough President Katz have voted against the Astoria Cove development with recommendations,” he said. “If the development is not integrated into our neighborhood in a way that benefits the community, I will be unable to support it.”

 

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Katz denies appeals of sacked library trustees


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The six Queens Library trustees ousted by Borough President Melinda Katz have had their appeals for reinstatement shot down by Katz.

Douglas Grover, who represents the six trustees removed by Katz two weeks ago, said the trustees were notified by Katz’s office Tuesday evening of the rejection.

“After dismissing the Trustees, it’s hardly surprising that the Borough President rejected their appeal. It’s one more reason the Court must step in and halt the damage Ms. Katz has already done to the Library and the further damage that would surely follow,” Grover said.   “For more than a century the Library has provided excellent service to the community, free from political interference and favoritism. She wants to toss that aside, using an ill-conceived law that we believe is unconstitutional.

“The threat to the independence of the Queens Library should be of concern to every nonprofit group in New York and to every citizen.”

A voicemail left at Katz’s office Tuesday evening was not immediately returned.

Also on Tuesday, federal court Judge Roslynn Mauskopf denied a request by the sacked trustees for an immediate hearing on a temporary restraining order.

She wrote in her decision that the original suit, filed on Friday, was already granted an expedited schedule and that it made no mention of the appeals process.

“Plaintiffs have failed to provide any factual or legal basis from which the Court can glean the impact, if any, of those appeals on the instant application, including their critical impact on the analysis of imminent harm as plaintiffs now argue,” Mauskopf wrote.

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Borough president rejects Astoria Cove proposal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy STUDIO V Architecture


And that’s strike two for the massive Astoria Cove proposal.

Following a Community Board 1 ruling against it, Borough President Melinda Katz rejected the 1.76 million-square-foot mixed-use waterfront development on Thursday after a public hearing earlier in the month.

In her decision, Katz echoed the community’s concerns of traffic congestion that the project would cause and the impact of the already “insufficient” public transit. She urged developer Alma Realty to increase affordable housing units to 35 percent from the proposed 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings. Katz also suggested that a proposed 456-seat elementary school, which is expected to be built in the final phase of the project, be constructed earlier.

“The proposed redevelopment of the Astoria Cove site would revitalize an otherwise underutilized Queens waterfront,” Katz said in the recommendation. “However, in bringing hundreds of new residents into Astoria, the needs and concerns of the existing residents…. And the overall well being of the borough and New York City must also be addressed. At this time there are still outstanding issues with this project.”

THE COURIER/File photo

Astoria Cove is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories, and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

Community Board 1 voted against the proposal in June, and also suggested that the developer make some changes to their plan.

The board’s conditions included some of Katz’s recommendations, and also asked for an increase in parking spaces, commercial space set aside for recreational and medical facilities, and priority of construction and permanent jobs for local residents and youth.

The next step for the Astoria Cove proposal is a revision and vote by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday and then a vote by the City Council.

Councilman Costa Constantinides shares the concerns of the Borough President and the board, and said he may not back the project.

“Both Community Board 1 and Borough President Katz have voted against the Astoria Cove development with recommendations,” he said. “If the development is not integrated into our neighborhood in a way that benefits the community, I will be unable to support it.”

 

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$2.45M upgrade set for Flushing’s troubled Bowne Park


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


After years of issues with garbage, dead wildlife and a lack of maintenance in Bowne Park, the green space in Flushing is set to receive a $2.45 million facelift.

Councilman Paul Vallone, whose district oversees the park, allocated $1.45 million in discretionary funds to upgrade the water fountains and filtration system in the pond of the nearly 12-acre park.

Residents complained in the past of the grimy pond, in which dead turtles reportedly have been found. The funds will also go to restore the asphalt pathways and lawn areas.

Borough President Melinda Katz will allocate an additional $1 million from her budget to the park to upgrade the playground, installing new play equipment with safety surfaces and benches.

“$2.45 million dollars will go a long way to restoring the natural resources of our precious park for wildlife, residents and neighborhood children alike,” said Robert Hanophy Jr., president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association.

Bowne Park is named for Walter Bowne, a New York City mayor in the 19th century, whose house stood on the land until 1925 when a fire destroyed the residence, according to the Parks Department.

The park is usually teeming with wildlife, including turtles, squirrels and various species of birds. Besides the pond, the park features two bocce courts, a basketball court and a playground with a sprinkler.

The revitalization of the park comes after a major project last year, in which the existing bocce court was renovated and a second court was added at the total cost of about $500,000. In 1994 the park underwent an $800,000 renovation, funded out of the budget of then Borough President Claire Schulman.

“Bowne Park has become an essential symbol of the quiet residential homes that surround the park,” Vallone said. “We promised to preserve the quality of life we cherish here in our communities and preserving and improving Bowne Park for decades to come is a testament to that promise.”

 

 

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Street co-named for longtime Bayside school teacher


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Paul Vallone


Family, friends and former students of longtime P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi attended a street co-naming in her honor outside the Bayside school on Friday.

The new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place street sign was unveiled at 214th Lane behind the school. Cilmi, who died in 2011 after battling cancer for four years, taught at the school for about 25 years and was a teacher in city schools for about four decades.

During her time at P.S. 41 she was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden, was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA), and made various science presentations for children.

Photo courtesy Tom Cilmi

Cilmi lived in Flushing with her husband, Tom, and her son. Various elected officials, including Councilmember Paul Vallone, Borough President Melinda Katz and Congresswoman Grace Meng, were in attendance for the street co-naming ceremony.

“Mrs. Cilmi’s life was dedicated to teaching and showing her students that science was beyond the classroom,” Vallone said. “To co-name the street in front of the school where she spent over a decade is a fitting tribute to her career and tells the community Mrs. Cilmi will forever be in our hearts.”

 

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LIC Summit to highlight booming western Queens neighborhood


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo: Peter Aaron/Esto. Courtesy of Museum of Moving Image

The various traits that contribute to the boom of Long Island City will be the talk of a day-long conference dedicated to the western Queens neighborhood.

The Long Island City Partnership, along with co-hosts Modern Spaces and The Queens Courier, will showcase the first LIC Summit, called “LIC Now: Perspectives and Prospects.” The day-long event will take place on Tuesday, June 17, at the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave., starting at 8 a.m. and will be followed by a cocktail reception and networking at 4:30 p.m. at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“The summit is intended to really highlight the incredible authentic mixed-use community that is Long Island City and it is important not just locally but citywide and nationwide,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the LIC Partnership. “It’s also an opportunity to dive into the issues that are continuing challenges for the community and a moment to take stock on how we should plan for the future.”

The LIC Summit will highlight Long Island City’s real estate market, infrastructure, arts, cultural, television and film community, industrial sector and expected future as a technology hub.

“Long Island City is experiencing an explosive change right now and is a huge economic driver for not only western Queens, but the city as a whole,” said Eric Benaim, CEO and president of Modern Spaces. “This summit was created to address the ongoing and emerging trends and needs of this transformative neighborhood.”

The keynote address will be delivered by the city’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, and other featured speakers include Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and many more.

“This is really meant to be a dialogue between the panelists with the audience. Everybody who is there is part of the content of the conference,” said Lusskin, who hopes the LIC Summit will become an annual event. “We really hope that we will have a really diverse and high quality audience that is both local constituents and citywide leaders.”

For more information and to register click here.

 

Below are the categories for the LIC Summit panels, which will each be moderated by experts and leaders in their industries.

Keynote Panel – LIC: Big City, Big Picture 9:15–10 a.m.

Services & Amenities: Current Successes, New Opportunities – 10:15-11 a.m.

Television & Film – 10:15-11 a.m.

Commercial & Industrial Real Estate
11:20 a.m.-noon

Keynote Speaker: Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen
1-1:45 p.m.

LIC as a Tech District – 2-2:45 p.m.

Residential Real Estate – 2-2:45 p.m.

Arts & Culture – 3-3:45 p.m.

 

 

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Community expresses concerns about Astoria Cove development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy STUDIO V Architecture

The process to bring an approximately 1.7-million-square-foot mixed-use development to the Astoria waterfront got off to a bumpy start as developers presented their proposal to the local community board.

Architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture presented the proposed development known as Astoria Cove to Community Board (CB) 1 Tuesday night as the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for the project.

“Today this waterfront is not accessible,” Valgora said. “It’s really not an amenity or asset for the community and we would like to tie that back in and create a wonderful extension to the community.”

The proposed Astoria Cove by developers Alma Realty is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building and 456-seat public elementary school.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, featuring a waterfront esplanade, children’s playground for various ages and streetscape design through the site.

“We think it’s just going to bring life and activity to this neighborhood,” Valgora said.

However the project was met with concerns from community board members who brought up issues of safety, handicap accessibility, affordable housing, parking, a medical center at the site, and construction and permanent jobs.

Along with the board members, more than 50 people signed up to speak on the project including members of Build Up NYC, an alliance of construction and building service workers. The alliance called on the community board to recommend Alma Realty ensure good and safe jobs with fair wages and benefits, protect workers and the community by removing asbestos and other toxins, create opportunities for local residents and much more.

“Alma Realty has an opportunity to create good, safe jobs with priority hiring for local residents and opportunities for local businesses,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of Build Up NYC. “But they haven’t made a commitment to do so. We need good jobs and affordable housing to keep the middle class strong.”

One of the main concerns shared by speakers was the number of affordable housing units at Astoria Cove. The site is expected to have 295 affordable housing units throughout the entire site, down from initially reported 340 units.

“We might be middle class but we’re not idiots and we can see the writing on the wall; we are not wanted at Astoria Cove,” said Astoria resident Tyler Ocon. “The community board is the first line of defense now against these underhanded tactics. Without the originally promised affordable housing units and a guarantee that these units will remain forever affordable, this project will be the first gust of wind that ships Astoria’s middle and working class up the East River.”

Howard Weiss, attorney for Alma Realty, said developers are in talks with the Department of City Planning to increase the number of units but will not have the number in time for the community board’s decision.

Residents also said they are concerned the development would increase rents, pushing out those currently living in the community.

On the other end, some speakers expressed excitement on the idea of the economic benefits and opportunities of the development. Both Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Brian McCabe, COO of New York Water Taxi, spoke on the possibility of a ferry terminal being located at the site.

After the last speaker took the podium, CB 1 Chair Vinicio Donato said the board’s land use committee would vote on the proposal the following week. If the board approves it, the proposal will head to the borough president and make its way to the City Council by the late fall.

“Remember, the key word is recommendation. We have no authority to force anyone to do anything,” Donato said.

 

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9th Annual Taste of LIC offers items from over 50 local restaurants


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Dominick Totino Photography

Foodies made their way to the Long Island City waterfront to a get a taste of what the popular western Queens neighborhood has to offer.

The Chocolate Factory Theater presented the Ninth Annual Taste of LIC, a community-wide festival highlighting Long Island City’s culinary and cultural accomplishments, Tuesday at Gantry Plaza State Park.

FOR MORE PHOTOS CLICK HERE

This year’s celebration featured food and beverage tastings from 50 restaurants and auction and raffle prizes courtesy of 100 local Long Island City businesses. The event also featured a special performance by over 30 Sunnyside/Woodside Girl Scouts choreographed by Madeline Best.


Executive Director of The Chocolate Factory Theater Sheila Lewandowski and Borough President Melinda Katz

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer served as Master of Ceremonies and “chocolate lover honored guests” included Borough President Melinda Katz, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

All of the event’s proceeds go toward The Chocolate Factory’s 2014-2015 season of dance, theater, music and multimedia performances.

 

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12th Annual Top Women in Business Awards draws nearly 1,000


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Allen Ngai

This year The Queens Courier’s 12th Annual Top Women in Business Awards & Networking event at Terrace on the Park broke records as close to 1,000 people came out to celebrate the accomplishments of the leading women of the Queens business world.

The Tuesday night celebration opened up with an expo and cocktail hour. During this time guests were able to mingle, network and exchange business information with leaders from all different fields.

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT HERE

Although the night highlighted the work of over 30 women, one man stood out from the crowd. Greg Kelly, co-anchor of Fox 5 “Good Day New York,” was honored as “Man of the Year” for his countless years of success in journalism.

Honored with the award for “Woman of the Year,” Borough President Melinda Katz, who is the third woman to fill the borough president’s seat in Queens, congratulated the rest of the honorees for everything they do and accomplish.


Man of the Year and Fox TV host Greg Kelly with Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President (Photo by Mike DiBartolomeo)

“If you look around this room you see women who run hospitals, you see women who run colleges, you see women that help thousands of people every single day as part of their nonprofits,” Katz said. “To honor them today is only an extremely small thing that we can do for these great, outstanding women.”

All the honorees of the night received their awards from Kelly and Ms. New York United States 2013 Stephanie Jill Chernick.


Greg Kelly with Stephanie Jill Chernick, Ms.New York United States 2013 (Photo by Mike DiBartolomeo)

This year, The Courier bestowed other special honors, including “Lifetime Achievement” to Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur, Dean/Medical Director, Elmhurst Hospital; and “Leadership in Education” to Dr. Sharon DeVivo, President-Elect, Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology.

The 12th Annual Top Women in Business Awards also presented “Hall of Fame” awards to Domenique Camacho Moran, Partner, Farrel Fritz, P.C.; Annete Vallone-Rocchio, President, Landrum School of Performing Arts and Precious Moments Nursery School & Day Care Center; Stefanie F. Handsman, First Senior Vice President, Head of Treasure Services, Bank Leumi; Linda Spiegel, Director of Public Affairs and Marketing, Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center/CenterLight Health System; and Maureen Buglino, Vice President for Community and Emergency Medicine, New York Hospital Queens.

“I feel very honored to be recognized as a woman in business,” said “Hall of Fame” honoree Vallone-Rocchio, who started her business at 18 years old. “This event is a great opportunity to network and mingle with other like-minded women.”

Honoree Marsha Goldberg, principal of P.S. 46, was honored for her 12 years of dedication to the Bayside school and her overall 42 years of work in the public education system. Under her guidance, P.S. 46 has been recognized as one of New York City’s best schools as it consistently received an overall “A” rating on the Department of Education Progress Report.

“I am so honored to have been chosen,” Goldberg said. “I don’t think of myself as a business woman, I think of myself as an educator. I see it as a labor of love. I think it is great that women are being recognized as leaders.”

During the network portion of the night, the expo also featured various vendors and businesses which sold products and shared information on their services.

“It has been a great opportunity so far, we’re really excited to be here,” said Olivier Guerin, Manhasset Branch Manager for Charles Schwab, which provides full-service  brokerage service for investing in various instruments, helping all clients reach a financial goal. Every May Schwab focuses the spotlight on Financial Life Planning for Women, with special workshops at different retail branches.

This year’s honorees were: Sharon DeVivo President, Vaughn College; Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur, Dean/Medical Director, Elmhurst Hospital; Gina Battagliola, Project Manager, JFK International Air Terminal; Kimberly Benn, Advertising Account Executive, DeSales Media Group; Clara Berg, Service Specialist, YAI Services; Marizen Bernales, RN/CEO, Atlantic Dialysis; Dr. Sabra Brock, Interim Dean, Touro Grad School of Business; Tracy Capune, Vice President, Kaufman Astoria Studios; Laurie Dorf, Assistant Vice Principal& ED, Queens College; Rosa A. Figueroa, Director of Small Business Development, LaGuardia Community College; Marsha Goldberg, Principal, Public School 46; Eve Cho Guillergan, Attorney, Eve Guillergan PLLC; Pam Horowitz, Director of Home Care, Parker Jewish Institute; Kimberly Kuchera, CEO, KJR Aviation; Missy Lawrence, Vice President Marketing, Resorts World Casino; Nora Constance Marino, Esq.,Queens County Commission, NYC Taxi& Limousine Commission and TV Legal Commentator; MaryAnn McAleer, Director of Development, Queens Centers for Progress; Janine Michel, Executive Director, Christ the King Continuing Education; Carole Nussbaum, Principal, Public School 203, Erica Oleske, Development Officer, Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn & Queens; Luisa Otero, Life Coach/Author, No Nonsense Coaching; Stephanie Ovadia, Attorney/Radio Host; Heather Palmer, 2nd Vice President, Queens County Savings Bank; Michelle Rosa Patruno, Regional Sales Manager/Senior Loans Specialist, Vanguard Funding; Sarah BJ Song, Chairman of Korean, American Family Services; Donna Tucker, Chief of Staff, Regional Alliance; Tiki Vanderbilt, Partner, NY Life Insurance Company; Denise Ward, College Interim Vice President & Executive Director, Queensborough Community; Carrie White, Classified Sales Manager, Desales Media Group; Mary Zias, Store Manager, TD Bank; Maureen Buglino, R.N. Vice President for Community Medicine & Emergency Medicine, New York Presbyterian; Stefanie Handsman, Head of Treasury Services Division, Bank Leumi; Dominique Camacho Moran, Attorney Labor and Practice, Farrell and Fritz; Linda Spiegel, Director of Public Affairs and Marketing, Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; Annette Vallone, Owner and Director, Landrum School of Performing Arts and Precious Moments Nursery School & Day Care Center.

This year’s sponsors included Atlantic Dialysis, Center For Wealth Preservation, Citibank, Cord Meyer Development/Bay Terrace Shopping Center, Dale Carnegie, Delta Air Lines, New York Daily News, DeSales Media Group/The Tablet, Elmhurst Hospital Center, Flushing Bank, Kaufman Astoria Studios, New York Life, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care & Rehabilitation, Queens County Savings Bank, TD Bank, Terrace on the Park, Touro College, Vanguard Funding, and Vaughn College.

The evening’s celebration also raised $3,5000, with all proceeds going to charity.

 

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Queens, Bronx borough presidents make edible wager on Subway Series


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

The stakes are going to be deliciously high when the New York Mets and New York Yankees take the field during this year’s Subway Series.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. are wagering an assortment of foods, each from their respective boroughs, based on the results of the four-game series taking place from Monday, May 12 through Thursday, May 15, the two announced Sunday.

If the Mets win more games than the Yankees, then Diaz will send Katz a sample tray of empanadas from Babalu on East Tremont Road and a dozen cannolis from Egidio Pastry Shop, located in Belmont, the Bronx’s Little Italy.

But if the Yankees win, Katz will send Diaz a tray of sandwiches from Leo’s Latticini, also known as Mama’s of Corona. For dessert, Katz will also send pastries from the Omonia Café in Astoria.

“Queens offers an incredibly diverse array of cuisine and has some of the best restaurants in the city, so Borough President Diaz is in for a real treat if the Yankees manage to win the series,” Katz said. “But I fully expect the Mets will win and that I will be enjoying some delicious food from the Bronx.”

Both stakes will be paid out if the two New York baseball teams split the four game series 2-2.

“We have great culinary options in The Bronx, so a Mets victory would certainly be a treat for Borough President Katz,” Diaz said. “But the Yankees are the greatest franchise in baseball history, and I’m sure their decades of dominance will continue through this week.”

 

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Officials announce events to mark World’s Fair anniversary


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The “world’s borough” is ready for its six-month-long anniversary party.

Officials unveiled a long lineup of Queens events and cultural exhibits Friday to celebrate the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the 1964 and 1939 World’s Fairs held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Festivities begin in April and include 50-cent rides on the historic carousel and a rare tour of the iconic New York State Pavilion.

“Both [fairs] were seminal events that had wide impacts locally, nationally and internationally,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “As borough president, there isn’t anybody I speak to about the World’s Fair that doesn’t have a story about it.”

An official opening ceremony will take place at the Pavilion April 22. Visitors will be given a rare chance to slap on hard hats and tour the fair icon.

Revelers in the borough can also visit the park, near the Unisphere, May 18 for a full day of festivities and the Queens Museum for a peek into Andy Warhol’s controversial project, which was painted over before the 1964 fair’s opening day.

“With these anniversary events, we will take a look back at the fairs and a look forward to the future of Flushing Meadows – the world’s park and Queens’ backyard,” said Liam Kavanagh, the Parks Department’s first deputy commissioner.

For a full list of borough-wide events, click here.

 

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Elmhurst Hospital celebrates opening of new Women’s Pavilion


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Elmhurst Hospital Center has opened the doors to more health care access for the women of Queens.

The hospital celebrated the grand opening of its new 17,370-square-foot outpatient healthcare facility, the Women’s Pavilion.

The $16.3 million Women’s Pavilion, located adjacent to the hospital’s main building at 78-20 41st Ave., is expected to expand the access to prenatal and complete obstetrical services for the women in the borough.

“I’m extremely thankful to call this hospital our own in our borough,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “A women’s health care pavilion is sorely needed in this borough, we need to make sure that women are comfortable going in for health care, asking any questions they possibly have.”

The site, which is expected to start accepting patient June 1, will bring 15 percent greater capacity in patient volume and allow 5 percent annual growth in service capacity over a 5-year period, according to Chris Constantino, senior vice president of the Health and Hospital Corporation Queens Health Network.

“What this pavilion means for the women of New York City and the women of this district is priceless,” said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras. “This space here is allowing for a safe haven, just the same type of safe haven we want to give our children.”

Some of the women’s health services offered include walk-in pregnancy testing, prenatal care, HIV counseling and testing, genetic counseling, high-risk pregnancy and postpartum services.

The new two-story facility features 18 exam rooms and two reception areas. There will also be space offered for childbirth, breastfeeding, nutrition and diabetes education classes.

“This is just another step in the journey to excellence,” former Councilwoman Helen Sears said.

 

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Queens Library earns national awards while facing public scrutiny


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Federal inquiries into the Queens Library and its CEO may be buzzing in the news, but the organization is making a case for why residents can still have a good read. 

The Library has received national recognitions recently for architecture and modern digital services.

The new $17.1 million Glen Oaks branch was named the 2013 Building of the Year by American-Architects.com, beating out structures from 50 other states because of its design and eco-friendly features.

The Queens Library, which services more than 866,000 active members, also received the American Library Association/Information Today, Inc. “Library of the Future” award for creating a customized interface and a management system so that Google tablets, which can be borrowed on library cards, are useful with or without Wi-Fi access.

The tablet’s interface is pre-loaded with helpful information on a range of topics, including children’s resources, immigration information, job search, language services and library courses. The award will be presented during the Library Association’s annual conference in June.

“Year after year, Queens Library is recognized nationally and globally as a leader in innovative library programs, services and spaces,” a spokesperson for the Library said. “The goal is always to find better ways to serve the community with lifelong learning opportunities from state-of-the-art libraries.”

Besides the honors, the Queens Library is gearing up to launch a new mobile app that will allow users to download free digital materials from their devices. The app will be available on both iOS and Android platforms. Also, the Library has been chosen as one of six organizations statewide to pilot online high school equivalency exams for adults.

Lately, complaints against the Library from elected officials have increased after new reports revealed President and CEO Thomas Galante’s nearly $392,000 salary, while many workers have been let go in recent years. Galante also spent nearly $140,000 to renovate his office, reports said.

FBI and Department of Investigation agents recently appeared at the Library to issue subpoenas for information, according to reports.

Library Board members The Courier contacted didn’t respond for comment.

“We have been requested to provide documents,” Library spokesperson Joanne King said. “Because of the inquiry, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on matters that are the subject of inquiry.”

The Library has hired an outside consultant, Hay Group, to study Galante’s salary and perks included, such as a reported $37,000 sports car and $2 million severance package.

Galante currently makes the most money of the city’s three library systems’ leaders, according to SeeThroughNY, which list how tax dollars are spent.

Anthony Marx, the current CEO of the New York Public Library (NYPL), which has branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, made $250,000 last year.

The previous CEO of the NYPL, Paul Le Clerc, made $711,114 in 2011. Linda Johnson, the CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, made $250,000 in 2013 as well.

Borough President Melinda Katz recently penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, asking him to suspend the ability of the Library to spend any funds on renovations until the issues are resolved.

“The Queens Library system is a first-rate institution that provides invaluable educational and cultural opportunities for the residents of this borough,” Katz said in the letter. “However, there is a troubling lack of oversight and understanding of the allocation of taxpayer funding.”

 

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Queens World Film Festival celebrates opening night


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Action! The 4th Annual Queens World Film Festival has begun.

The festival, which brings international and local filmmakers to the borough to screen their works, celebrated its opening night on Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured three films from the United States and one from Kosovo, ranging from animation to short narratives.

FOR MORE OPENING NIGHT PHOTOS CLICK HERE

Borough President Melinda Katz, one of the night’s speakers, said that the festival was not only a great project for all the filmmakers and volunteers involved, but also for helping brand the borough of Queens.

“We are the most diverse place on the entire planet. We are extremely excited by this,” Katz said. “We are telling the international audience that we are here, we are strong. Diversity is the greatest asset that we can give the entire world here in the borough of Queens and this film festival proves it every day that we are having it.”

Organizers Katha and Don Cato, who were introduced by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, welcomed the audience and shared what they’ve done in the 365 days since last year’s festival. They then went on to describe what the next five days would bring for the borough.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and one we are very happy to share it with everyone,” Katha said.

Don encouraged the audience members to go see all the films over the next few days.

“What I want you to experience is the unique opportunity that all of these films have and let them just wash over you,” he said. “Let them inform you, experience them, open yourselves up to them and enjoy them for what they are.”

Before the first block of films was shown, the festival honored Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image, as one of the 2014 Spirit of Queens Honorees for his leadership.

“Something wonderful is happening here,” Goodman said. “New York City is becoming decentralized. Manhattan is a borough, Queens is a borough. They’re all boroughs and there’s no inner or outer. I like to think about it as Manhattan being the shining surface of the city and Queens being the substance.”

Independent filmmaker Hal Hartley was also recognized as a Spirit of Queens Honoree. Before accepting his award, the crowd got a taste of his eight minute short narrative from 1994 called “Opera No. 1.”

The night ended with a party at Studio Square just a couple blocks away from the museum.

Throughout the six-day festival, which goes until March 10, a total of 127 films including short and feature narratives, LGBT pieces, documentaries and animation will be divided into subject blocks and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre and The Nesva Hotel in Long Island City, and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights. During the festival there will be 16 films screened from Queens filmmakers.

The festival will also screen the world premiere of the director’s cut of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” on Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at P.S. 69.

Films will also be given awards on the final night of the festival.

For a full schedule of the festival visit here. Tickets for the festival are $10 for regular admission and $6 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets visit here.

 

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BP Katz talks branding Queens at LIC Partnership breakfast


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City welcomed Borough President Melinda Katz with open arms—and coffee.

The Long Island City Partnership held a breakfast at the CUNY School of Law for Katz on Feb.27 to welcome her to the thriving western Queens community.

“She is no stranger to any of us in this room, nor to this community. She has been and really is Queens,” Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said as he introduced Katz. “For the next eight years, Borough President Katz is going to make sure there is a vision and the know-how to get that vision accomplished.”

During the breakfast, the borough president spoke about future plans for Long Island City and the overall borough — highlighting the importance of branding the area, cultural institutions, marketing and tourism.

“We’re nothing like the other boroughs, we are our own borough,” Katz said. “We may want to make the rest of the borough like Long Island City, maybe, but we’re not going to make it the new Brooklyn, we stand on our own.”

Katz said she is working with Van Bramer to come up with an overall plan for Long Island City, including bringing small start-up tech industries and improving the transportation system.

“Cultural institutions will brand this borough, not only the restaurants and the shopping,” she said. “Folks need to know that if they come to the City of New York and they have not visited the borough of Queens, they have not seen New York City.”

In her plan she also hopes to work with hotels in Manhattan in order for visitors to be given a script of different events happening in Queens. The borough president also plans on creating a cultural guide to give out during the 1964 World’s Fair 50-year commemoration.

“I am excited about the future here,” she said.

 

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