Tag Archives: Campaign

Astoria couple starts nonprofit to bring together international LGBTQ human rights activists

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Hugo Fernandes

One Astoria-based nonprofit is looking to unite and provide support for LGBTQ human rights activists from around the world.

Husband and husband duo Evan Davidoff and Hugo Fernandes founded the organization the Global Partnership for Emerging Leaders (GPEL) earlier this year with the goal of helping empower emerging leaders within the LGBTQ global community.

The idea of the group was born after Davidoff, who has a background in nonprofit/fundraising and LGBTQ rights, attended numerous conferences which brought the LGBTQ community together and he wondered what happened to the connections made after the events were over.

“It’s this amazing thing, you have these three to four days where everyone is charged and all together but then after it’s like what’s next?” Davidoff said.

Evan Davidoff and Hugo Fernandes

Evan Davidoff and Hugo Fernandes

The Astoria resident always had the idea of forming the group as a passion project on the side but then decided to make it a reality after sitting down and speaking with his husband.

GPEL is based out of Astoria, which the couple has called home since 2008, and the couple plans to use the neighborhood as the location where LGTBQ activists from around the world will come together for the group’s first conference in July 2016.

Although the location of the conference is still being determined, the group would like participants to stay at hotels in either Astoria or Long Island City.

“I think there’s something nice to staying in the community and having the organization exist from here because from my viewpoint Astoria and Long Island City is right for startup culture,” Davidoff said. “Just for us in the eight years we’ve been here, Astoria and LIC have really changed and transformed and I think Astoria has always had this international fare. It’s something that stood out to me and I think that’s something that’s really novel of Astoria particularly and to me it would be interesting to be based here.”

Those who participate in the conference will be able to use the tools provided by GPEL and other LGBTQ activists to “use in the fight” back in their home countries. The group also plans to be a network where members can communicate and share experiences even after the conference is over.

To help with starting out, GPEL also began an Indiegogo online campaign with the goal of raising $2,000 which will go toward activities for the LGBTQ human rights activists and also help provide funds for participants making the trip to the city for next year’s conference.

An official launch party for GPEL, which has already created a leadership team in New York and is forming a team with members throughout the world, is expected to take place in September.

To donate to the campaign, click here. For more information on GPEL visit gpel.org or facebook.com/TheGPEL.

GPEL's Leadership Team

GPEL’s Leadership Team


Campaign started to bring new performance series to Sunnyside plaza

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Two groups are coming together to raise funds to bring a new performance series underneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside this summer.

The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District and the coalition ReCreate Queens, which aims to build more creative spaces in Sunnyside and Woodside, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Friday in hopes of bringing a new series to Bliss Plaza.

Bliss Plaza is a new pedestrian plaza that opened last October in Sunnyside underneath the elevated 7 subway line at the intersection of 40th Street and Queens Boulevard.

The campaign, which has a goal set at $5,000, will fund a new monthly performance series called “Third Thursdays in Bliss Plaza” scheduled to start in June and run through October. It will provide local professional musicians and performers a public venue, making the plaza home to free concerts and a new site for culture and performance.

“Now that we have this great public space in the neighborhood, it’s time to program it,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines. “Bringing arts programming to Bliss Plaza helps create a more dynamic place and generates foot traffic and activity in the neighborhood, which benefits businesses, residents and visitors alike.”

ReCreate Queens launched a public call at the beginning of the month for performing artists, and submissions are due Friday.

“As a coalition of neighbors and creative professionals who want to ensure that the arts thrive in the area, it’s critical to us to showcase local artists and make their work accessible for everyone,” said Nancy Kleaver, founding member of ReCreate Queens. “With support from the community we will be able to pay our artists what they deserve, create a professional, festive performance area, and establish an annual series that will grow over time.

The series received initial funding from the Queens Council on the Arts and the first $1,000 donated through the online campaign will be match by the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

To donate, click here.


Queens native starts campaign to fund Dennis Hopper’s final film

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of "The Last Film Festival"

One filmmaker is turning to Kickstarter and the Queens community she grew up in to help put the finishing touches on what will be known as the late Dennis Hopper’s last movie, filmed completely in the “World’s Borough.”

Linda Yellen is one of the creative minds behind the comedy “The Last Film Festival,” which began filming in 2009 with a cast including Hopper, known for the classic film “Easy Rider,” Golden Globe-winner Jacqueline Bisset, JoBeth Williams, Chris Kattan, Donnell Rawlings, Katrina Bowden, Joseph Cross and Leelee Sobieski.

The film, written by Yellen and Michael Leeds, follows a Hollywood producer, played by Hopper, whose recent film was rejected by every film festival except a small town festival named the O’Hi Film Festival.

Although the movie surrounds a small town, it was actually filmed in Queens, some parts in Astoria and others in Forest Hills, the neighborhood Yellen grew up in.

“I loved growing up in Queens. It was so accessible to Manhattan but it also had the feeling of small town and community. It was always so friendly,” Yellen said. “It was a wonderful thing to sort of return home.”

The majority of the film was shot in Forest Hills, with scenes taking place at Forest Hills High School, where Yellen attended school. During the 2009 spring break, the actors were housed in the high school classrooms, which replaced the use of dressing rooms and trailers.

“There was always a great appreciation for the arts and culture in Forest Hills,” Yellen said. “I learned about the art of filming and directing in Forest Hills.”

The cast of "The Last Film Festival."

The cast of “The Last Film Festival.”

Although Yellen no longer lives in the borough, she said she is constantly traveling back to visit her mother, who still lives in the same building Yellen grew up in and who had a small part in the film as a “biker chick.”

During the filming, Yellen recalls walking the streets of Forest Hills during lunch with Hopper, who would take pictures of everywhere he went in the borough.

“A lot of those early experiences helped shape my identity and it gave a special pleasure to Dennis Hopper. He got to learn a lot about me as we took a lot of those walks,” Yellen said. “He loved [Queens].”

Tragedy then struck when, just a few scenes short of finishing the film, Hopper became ill and later died of cancer at the age of 74 in May of 2010.

“He was a picture of health and vitality and he just gives a multilevel comedic act [in the film],” Yellen said. “He had no idea he was sick; we had no idea he was sick.”

Hopper’s passing left a hole in the hearts of the cast and crew, and the film was set aside for a while until Yellen decided to pick it back up this year, which will mark the fifth anniversary of Hopper’s death.

However, in order to finish the film, Yellen made the decision to turn to Kickstarter, with a goal of $90,000, because she felt it was a way to get to the fans directly. The crowdfunding site also followed Hopper’s idea of “always looking for ways to go around the system.” As of March 25, $64,174 had been pledged.

The funds raised by the campaign will go toward all post-production aspects that are required to finish the film, including using movie clips to replace Hopper in scenes.

“This is a way of [the fans] saying we want this and we want to say we support this film and this comedy,” Yellen said. “This picture was made as a labor of love. Just the pleasure of doing good work and wanting it out there and wanting people to laugh a lot.”

The Kickstarter’s deadline is on April 9. To donate click here.


New citywide campaign calls for over $1B investment in libraries

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

A citywide campaign is looking to reach city leaders and call on them to invest in and fund public libraries.

The campaign “Invest in Libraries,” which was launched on Friday, is a partnership among library supporters, the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Library.

“Invest in Libraries” calls for a $65 million increase in operating expenses in this year’s budget in order to provide to the programs and services offered at the three library systems. It also calls for $1.1 billion in capital funding for critical renovations and maintenance.

Along with launching the campaign, a new report called “Long Overdue: NYC’s $1.1 Billion Library Fine,” was also released, sharing examples of branches that are in need of capital funding.

“Our city’s library branches are literally crumbling,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “This report highlights the tremendous need and maintenance crisis that is plaguing our city’s neighborhood library branches. Without increasing the operating and capital budgets for the city’s three library institutions, millions of New Yorkers will continue to lose access to the very resources and programs that are pulling them into the middle class. Now is the time to act.”

In the report it says the city’s libraries are facing a “maintenance crisis” with problems such as overcrowding, chronic water damage, broken elevators, heating and cooling problems, and other issues. In some cases, because of inadequate funding, some libraries have been forced to make temporary fixes such as painting over leaks instead of replacing declining roofs, the report said.

The campaign also launched the website investinlibraries.org where people can “take action” and stay updated.

“In the first half of Fiscal Year ’15, visitorship at Queens Library is up. Attendance at free library programs is up 6.7 percent over the past 6 months, and up 43 percent over the past five years. We now have the opportunity and ability to do better for the people of this city — as the economy grows, so should the investment in libraries,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, interim president and CEO of the Queens Library. “Together we can ensure all of our residents and communities grow and thrive.”


Online fundraisers set up to help Astoria roommates after fire destroys home

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Duncan Pflaster

In less than half an hour Andrew Rothkin, Kim Jones and Duncan Pflaster lost the place they have called home for more than five years after a fire ripped through their Astoria apartment early Wednesday afternoon.

Pflaster, an administrative assistant and also a playwright and photographer, said he received a call from Jones at around 1 p.m. Wednesday telling him he needed to come home because as she was out running errands their 35th Street apartment had been engulfed in flames.

Their roommate, Rothkin, had been home alone and his space heater caught on fire, Pflaster said. Rothkin was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with severe second- and third-degree burns and smoke inhalation, but was released Friday and will recuperate with his family in Baltimore.

According to the FDNY, a call for the fire was received at 10:48 a.m. and about 60 firefighters arrived at the two-story home with the fire at the rear of the first floor. The blaze was under control at 11:20 a.m. One firefighter sustained minor injuries.

“When I saw the mess, the state of everything, it was just this horrible sinking feeling. When I was allowed to go up and see, it was just terrible,” Pflaster said about what he saw once he got home.

According to Pflaster, the apartment is destroyed, and every window had to be broken by the FDNY. There are holes in the ceilings and walls, and Rothkin’s room was “gutted,” causing him to lose everything — even his cat, Pepper.

“I think I was in shock for a bit. A lot of it was strangely beautiful: holes in the ceiling give a lovely light,” Pflaster said. “There was a lot of just standing around not knowing how to even begin to clean up.”

Yet, even in these tough times a light has shone through the darkness for the three roommates from online fundraisers, started by friends, that have raised thousands in just one day.

Three separate accounts have been created on gofundme.com for Rothkin, Jones and Pflaster to help them recover from the fire and also raise enough money to sign a lease on a new apartment. In total the fundraisers have raised more than $25,000 since Friday.

“It is just wonderful. People have been so generous. People I haven’t seen in years, people I think didn’t really like me, everyone has done what they can,” Pflaster said. “It’s incredibly moving and I keep tearing up when I think of so many people who have helped out.”

Pflaster, who was able to recover some clothes and other items, is staying with friends in Astoria until he finds a new place. He also said he has had offers of furniture, clothes and gift cards.

When asked what he would tell all those who have been helping them out during this time, Pflater said, “Thank you so much. It’s been such a relief in this horrifying time. We all appreciate your support so much.”

To donate to the gofundme campaigns, visit www.gofundme.com/andrewrothkin, www.gofundme.com/jvt5oc or www.gofundme.com/jwpczs. A Facebook page has also been created for the friends.


LIC, Jackson Heights highlighted in new ‘See Your City’ campaign

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Poster courtesy of NYC & Company

Two western Queens neighborhoods are part of a new campaign encouraging New Yorkers to stretch their legs and explore their own backyards.

NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for New York City, has launched a new promotional campaign called “See Your City” to motivate residents to explore the diverse neighborhoods found in all five boroughs.

The three-month promotional campaign will showcase 10 neighborhoods throughout the city including Jackson Heights and Long Island City.

“For visitors, a trip to New York City is a vacation for a lifetime. For a lucky 8 million, it’s just a subway ride away,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. “We want to give New Yorkers a new perspective on the five boroughs. Start thinking of the more than 250 New York City neighborhoods as 250 opportunities to travel.”

Content featuring itinerary suggestions and video postcards will be included on NYC & Company’s website and five of the 10 neighborhoods, including Long Island City, will be promoted through custom illustrations inspired by vintage travel posters.

The LIC poster features an art piece at Socrates Sculpture Park overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

“With See Your City, we were challenged with the task of selling New York City to New Yorkers, and our goal was to create inspiration to convince New Yorkers to explore their own backyards,” said Emily Lessard, NYC & Company creative director.

The See Your City campaign will be promoted through bus shelters throughout the city, posts on NYC & Company’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, commercials running in city taxicabs, and through American Express’ digital channels.

Since Oct. 15, social media ambassadors have been promoting the program on Instagram through sharing images with the official hashtag #seeyourcity.

For more information and to check out the featured neighborhoods, visit www.nycgo.com/seeyourcity.


John Liu’s ex-campaign workers sentenced to prison

| mchan@queenscourier.com

City Comptroller John Liu painted the Thursday sentencing and overall investigation of his two former campaign workers as a “set up a weak man and a wonderful young woman.”

His ex-campaign treasurer and fundraiser will serve time in prison for less than a year for funneling illegal contributions in a straw donor scheme during his bid for mayor.

Jia “Jenny” Hou, 26, was sentenced to 10 months in prison on October 10 for attempting to commit wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing justice.

The former campaign treasurer from Flushing will also be under supervision for three years.

Another aide, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, will serve four months in prison and three years under supervision for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and attempting to commit wire fraud.

The 47-year-old of New Jersey was a fundraiser and contribution bundler for Liu.

“For reasons I may never fully understand, the U.S. Attorney’s Office set out to destroy me with what has been described as an extraordinarily intrusive and exhaustive investigation,” Liu said in a statement. “Failing to find that I had done anything wrong, they proceeded to set up a weak man and a wonderful young woman.”

The comptroller, who lost his Democratic primary for mayor in September, said Hou did not deserve the “ordeal and injustice she has been put through.”

He said she was “a good person and exceptional individual” when she was found guilty in May.

Federal officials said Hou and Pan evaded Campaign Finance Board restrictions that limit donor contributions to citywide candidates to $4,950.

The pair used straw donors, prosecutors said, or individuals who illegally make political contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.

Hou was caught offering to reimburse an individual for donations well-above the allowed amount during a series of instant messages on July 14, court records show.

Prosecutors said she also instructed campaign volunteers on how to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors on the contribution forms in order to make it appear official.

Hou also failed to give up documents with identities of several campaign contributors in response to subpoenas and lied about producing them, according to court records.

Pan was caught funneling $16,000 in campaign contributions by an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a businessperson interested in supporting the comptroller, records show.

Liu was not accused of any wrongdoing. However, the trial kept Liu’s campaign from receiving public matching funds that could have doubled his war chest. 

“I am very sad but even more angry at what has occurred,” Liu said after the sentencing of his former aides.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office was wrong and should not be proud of its conduct.”


Flushing Democrat Paul Graziano officially starts District 19 campaign

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Graziano

A Flushing urban planner officially joined District 19’s City Council race while another candidate bowed out.

Democrat Paul Graziano kicked off his campaign on March 25 at Bowne Park to unseat Republican incumbent Councilmember Dan Halloran.

“My campaign is very simple. Protect your neighborhood. Do no harm,” said Graziano, a lifelong North Flushing resident. “It’s hard for me to think about theoretical and esoteric problems when we’ve got problems at hand in the community.”

The 41-year-old community activist was surrounded by family, friends and dozens of civic leaders Sunday when he announced his plans to preserve the neighborhood from overdevelopment, protect city parkland and ensure a better education system citywide.

Graziano also called for a “reconstituted” Board of Education with more borough subdivisions. He said the move would allow local school districts to operate independently and give communities a voice in the city’s decision-making process.

“It’s really important to make sure that we have an agenda that focuses on the needs of this community as well as, really, things that are crossing the entire city in importance,” Graziano said. “When we’re in a situation where I think every neighborhood feels embattled by the kinds of things that are happening, we have to stand up and do something about it.”

The Council hopeful faces a Democratic primary with former Assemblymember John Duane, Austin Shafran — the former vice president of public affairs for Empire State Development under Governor Andrew Cuomo — and attorney Paul Vallone, who is the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein dropped out of the race Sunday, citing “one of the most difficult years” of his life after his mother passed away last December.

“My mom was an amazing woman who wanted me to continue fighting for the issues I care about. However, after consulting with my friends and family, I have decided to suspend my campaign,” Silverstein said. “This campaign might be ending, but I am not going away. I will continue to advocate for the issues that are important to me.”

Silverstein had long set his sights on the seat, registering his campaign committee last May.

The Democratic primary winner will square off in November with Halloran, who was elected to the Council in 2009.



Queens Morning Roundup

| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high near 75. Southwest wind 10 to 20 mph. Possible afternoon showers. Saturday night: Partly cloudy, with a low of 48. Northwest wind 10 to 15 mph.

Unarmed Guardsman shot by NYPD wanted to be a cop: mother

The unarmed Army National Guardsman who was pulled over on a Queens road and fatally shot by a cop yesterday wanted to become a police officer. “That was his dream,” Noel Polanco’s mother Cecilia told The Post today. Palanco’s 15-year-old sister Amanda Reyes said Polanco always wanted to help people. Read More: NY Post

Queens community taking stand against Neo-Nazi group

A Queens community is taking a stand against a hate group looking to move into their neighborhood. Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn announced in late September that they would be opening up a headquarters in New York. Officials say there are reports of Golden Dawn activity as well as sighting of their literature around Astoria. Read More: NY1

Court supports Queens woman’s right to die

The state’s highest court has sided with a terminally ill Queens woman waging a legal battle with her parents over her decision to be taken off life support. A brain-stem tumor has paralyzed 28-year-old Grace Sung Eun Lee from the neck down, and she depends on a tube to eat and one to breathe. The court’s decision Friday clears the way for Lee to chose to end her life. Read More: NBC NY

Drop in jobless figure gives jolt to race for president

The jobless rate abruptly dropped in September to its lowest level since the month President Obama took office, indicating a steadier recovery than previously thought and delivering another jolt to the presidential campaign. Read More: NY Times

CC Sabathia, Yankees open ALDS Sunday against Baltimore Orioles and Camden Yards

BRING ON THE BIRDS. The Yankees can finally begin preparing for their American League division series after the Orioles dispatched the Rangers in the AL’s  first ever wild-card game Friday night. After holding off the surging Orioles for the AL East title over the final month, the Yankees must now travel to Baltimore for the first two games of the best-of-five first round. Read More: Daily News



Second Liu campaign worker busted

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Another worker on City Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign has been arrested on fraud charges.

Jia “Jenny” Hou — a 25-year-old campaign treasurer for the comptroller — was busted for illegally funneling campaign funds for the comptroller’s unofficial 2013 try for mayoral candidacy, feds said.

According to restrictions laid out by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB), campaign donors are only allowed to contribute up to $4,950 to citywide candidates. Prosecutors said Hou conspired to evade the limit by engaging in a fraudulent scheme that involved the use of “straw donors” — or individuals who unlawfully make political contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.

Hou, a Queens resident, is also charged with obstructing the government’s investigation. According to court records, she failed to produce “facially inculpatory documents” in response to subpoenas, while allegedly lying about producing complete documents and failing to disclose the identities of several campaign contributors.

“New York’s campaign finance laws are not optional. They ensure that all candidates operate on a level playing field and that everyone plays by the rules,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Today, we allege that Jia Hou, a campaign treasurer, was a central figure in a coordinated scheme to break the city’s campaign finance laws. Unlawful campaign conduct will not be tolerated.”

Hou was allegedly caught offering to reimburse an individual for donations well-above the allotted NYCCFB amount during a series of instant messages on July 14, and she also allegedly instructed campaign volunteers on how to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors on contribution forms in order to make it appear official.

Last November, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan — Liu’s campaign fund-raiser — was arrested on similar conspiracy and wire fraud charges. According to court records, he allegedly funneled $16,000 in campaign contributions and was caught red handed by an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a businessperson interested in supporting the comptroller.

Meanwhile, Liu — a Flushing Democrat — has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has since returned nearly $50,000 collected in contributions, said a campaign spokesperson.

“I am stunned by this news about Jenny Hou,” Liu said. “These accusations against her are uncharacteristic and unexpected. Jenny is a smart, hardworking person who I hope will be treated fairly.”

Hou is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of attempting to commit wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted, she could face up to 60 years in prison.

According to Martin Adelman, her attorney, Hou plans on pleading not guilty to the charges.

“She’s an idealistic young person, and working for John Liu’s campaign was a way to realize that idealism,” Adelman said. “She has tremendous respect for him.”

Liu’s campaign treasurer busted in ‘straw donor’ scheme

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu’s campaign treasurer busted in ‘straw donor’ scheme: feds

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu’s campaign treasurer was busted today on charges she helped funnel illegal political donations into the Queens Democrat’s war chest. Jia “Jenny” Hou conspired to help wealthy Liu backers evade a $4,950 limit on individual contributions by using “straw donors” to pass along their money, according to the feds. Hou, 25, was allegedly caught offering to reimburse a crooked donation during a series of computer “instant messages” on July 14, and allegedly instructed campaign volunteers on how to make the contributions look legit. Read More: New York Post


Third student dies from Ohio high school shooting

The death toll rose to three Tuesday in the shooting rampage in an Ohio high school cafeteria as schoolmates and townspeople grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the teenage gunman off. The teenager under arrest in Monday’s attack, T.J. Lane, faced an afternoon hearing in juvenile court. Shaken residents offered condolences and prayers to the families of those killed and wounded at 1,100-student Chardon High School in suburban Cleveland. All three of the dead were students. Read More: New York Post


Waitress claims veteran NYPD detective took advantage of her at Washington Heights restaurant

A waitress says her boss gave her $200 to party with some cops, protested when one put the moves on her in a back room, and then got her underwear back the next day. The 36-year-old woman, whose allegations prompted the NYPD to assign four cops to desk duty, thinks a veteran detective took advantage of her at the Washington Heights restaurant where she worked. But she admits she can’t remember it – because she blacked out. Read More: Daily News


Manningham ups odds to ’50-50′ he stays with Giants

Mario Manningham last week, back home in Ohio, was quoted in the Youngstown News that he believes there’s a 75 percent chance he will leave the Giants in free agency and sign elsewhere. Tuesday morning, he refuted that claim. “I didn’t say that,’’ Manningham said on WFAN. “You know how rumors get spread, I didn’t say anything like that.’’ Manningham then increased the odds of him staying with the Giants. Read More: New York Post


Ex-Girl Scout finance director gets 3 to 9 years for swiping $310K

The former finance director for the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York was sentenced today to three to nine years behind bars after she failed to return a large chunk of the $310,000 she allegedly embezzled over the course of two years. “I apologize for the situation,” said Yaasmin Hooey, 35, during her sentencing hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court. Prosecutors said Hooey stole the money by cashing or depositing into her personal bank account a series of 65 checks written off the Girl Scouts’ payroll account. Read More: New York Post


Names Of NYPD First Responders Added To Cancer Study

The names of tens of thousands of New York City POlice Department uniformed officers and civilian members who worked at the World Trade Center are now at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Mayor Michael Bloomberg handed over the names of 39,921 people, along with their job title, age, race, and gender on Monday. This comes after the city initially refused to turn over the information, because of privacy concerns. Mount Sinai is treating the first responders. Read More: NY1

Mourners Gather At Fallen NYPD Officer’s Funeral

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mourners Gather At Fallen NYPD Officer’s Funeral

Family, friends, and fellow officers will gather on Long Island today to say a final goodbye to a city police officer who was gunned down last week in Brooklyn. The funeral for Officer Peter Figoski will take place at 11 a.m. at the Parish of St. Joseph Church in Babylon. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among the hundreds who paid their respects on the second day of Figoski’s wake yesterday. Police say Figoski, 47, was shot in the face by Lamont Pride, 27, during a botched robbery last Monday morning in Cypress Hills. Pride is charged with first and second degree murder in Figoski’s death. Read More: NY1


Kim Jong Ils death rocks North Korea, gives region jitters

It was the scenario strategists from Beijing to Washington fretted over: Kim Jong Il’s sudden death befalls North Korea, before the isolated regime completed a power transfer to his young son and rejoined disarmament talks with the US. With news of Kim’s death Monday, the impoverished country with a nuclear program plunged further into uncertainty, raising risks for the region. Read More: New York Post


Roughin’ it to roofin’ it

Sheryl-Ann Peters’ occupation was never televised. But unlike Occupy Wall Street protesters — who recently seized a vacant East New York home and moved in a homeless family — her housing takeover was entirely legal. Peters became a first-time homeowner last month thanks to an affordable-housing program for neighborhoods hardest hit by the housing crisis. The city bought the vacant, foreclosed, three-bedroom in St. Albans, Queens in August 2010 for $266,833 under a federal housing program. It added $177,190 worth of renovations, bringing the total worth to $444,023. Read More: Daily News


FDNY: Five Firefighters Injured In Brooklyn Brownstone Fire

Five city firefighters were hospitalized Monday while fighting a two-alarm fire in brooklyn. The New York City Fire Department says crews responded to a three-story brownstone located at 1102 Prospect Place in Crown Heights just after 9 a.m. Two firefighters were taken to Cornell Burn Center, one of whom suffered burns over 40 percent of his body. Three others were also injured. No civilians were hurt. The fire was under control in about an hour. Read More: NY1


Sources: Cornell Wins Bid For Roosevelt Island Tech Campus

Cornell University is about to become the winner of a competition to build a new science and engineering campus in the city, sources tell NY1. An official announcement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected later today. The city has offered free land on Roosevelt Island and up to $100 million worth of infrastructure. In a major sign of strength, the Cornell bid received a $350 million anonymous donation to help build the campus. Stanford University — another top contender — announced Friday it was pulling its bid. Columbia and NYU were also in the running. Read More: NY1


Brooklyn Man Awaits Arraignment For Burning Woman Alive

A Brooklyn man is expected to be arraigned today on charges he killed a woman by setting her on fire in her apartment building elevator. Jerome Issac, 47, is charged with murder and arson. Police say he turned himself in yesterday reeking of gasoline and saying he set a fire. Investigators believe he waited for Deloris Gillespie, 73, on the fifth floor of her building in Prospect Heights Saturday afternoon. Police say Isaac is the man seen in surveillance photos. When the elevator doors opened, they say Isaac sprayed Gillespie with a liquid accelerant, and kept spraying after she crouched down. They say he lit a Molotov cocktail and set Gillespie on fire, then tossed the flaming bottle in the elevator and kept spraying the victim. Read More: NY1


Haggerty sent to prison for 1 and 1/3 years for Bloomberg campaign cash theft

Disgraced political consultant John Haggerty — described by his own lawyer as broke, divorced and dishonored — was sentenced this morning to serve at least one and one-third years — and as much as four years — in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Mayor Bloomberg. The sentence was handed down by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel, and immediately enacted, with Haggerty being cuffed and led away to a back holding cell for processing. The sentence covers Haggerty’s October conviction for money laundering and second degree grand larceny. Read More: New York Post

Politics Aside: Is it time for Liu to step down?

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

As more information continues to spill out about the scandal surrounding John Liu’s fundraising practices, both in his 2009 campaign for comptroller and his current effort to run for mayor, it is becoming clear that his ability to effectively do his job is in serious jeopardy.  That would be the case for anyone in this circumstance, but for Liu, who has never taken his job as defender of the public purse seriously, and instead has only been an advocate for the interests of Big Labor, it is time to resign.

It started last month with a New York Times investigation into some of Liu’s donors, many of whom turned out to either not exist or claim to have never contributed to him. Liu has also neglected to report bundlers – supporters who collect donations on behalf of the campaign from their friends and associates – as is required by law.

These would be serious allegations against any candidate. However, with New York City’s extremely generous program of matching funds, with six dollars of taxpayer money given to candidates for every dollar they raise (the match caps at the first $175 from each donor), this is a much bigger problem, with the implication that Liu’s campaign conspired to commit fraud in order to steal from the taxpayers.

Worse still, many of the irregularities the Times exposed are with Chinese companies from Queens, some who are city contractors where the comptroller has oversight on their agreements. In fact, many of the details surrounding these donations appear shady, from business addresses that don’t exist to contributors who admit their boss made the contributions on their behalf at a company fundraising event for Liu. In most cases, the amounts given were $800 per person.

There appear to be too many cases where the fact patterns are the same for this to be a coincidence or for it all to be the doings of these individual business owners. Short of someone discovering a “how-to” manual for campaign finance evasion, it seems clear that the campaign was complicit in these activities. At the very least, major alarm bells should have gone off with campaign fundraisers (were they truly unaware) that something irregular was going on and an internal investigation should be held before accepting these bogus contributions.

Now one bundler has been arrested, another is being closely scrutinized, and ties to already jailed finance cheat Norman Hsu have been uncovered. But not only is Liu not showing any shame, he claims to be still running for mayor, in spite of these transgressions. He clearly thinks his close relationship with Big Labor bosses, who pumped over $180,000 into his 2009 campaign, will bail him out. If the current investigation into Liu doesn’t sink his mayoral ambitions, let’s hope the people of the city of New York will.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. 

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.