Tag Archives: Christine Quinn

Still time — and space — for Universal Prekindergarten


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Parents looking to enroll their tiny tots in a free education program have until the end of the month to do so.

Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) programs throughout the five boroughs still have several thousand seats left to be filled, according to city leaders.

The program, hosted by a select group of local public schools and community-based organizations, offers at least two-and-a-half hours of educational services at no cost to city kids born in 2008. Eligible early childhood providers have until October 31 to submit applications to the State Education Department.

“It is never too early to think about college and career readiness,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, “and high-quality prekindergarten options set our children on that path.”

According to the city’s Department of Education, third grade students who had attended UPK were 28 percent more likely to score proficiently on the state’s English exam, and 54 percent more likely to make the grade on the state’s math exam, compared to peers who did not attend pre-k.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also touted the program’s success, saying toddlers who receive early education are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to drop out or repeat a grade.

“The most powerful thing we can do, as a city, to show our commitment to our children’s and the city’s future is make sure that every child who is eligible to attend universal pre-kindergarten programs enrolls,” she said.

The Flushing YMCA is among the scores of organizations that still have program vacancies. Officials say there are currently 12 spots open.

To find a UPK program that may still have availability for the 2012-2013 school year, call 3-1-1 or visit schools.nyc.gov/prek.

Council speaker addresses Community Board 13′s concerns


| AKurtz@queenscourier.com

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When City Council Speaker Christine Quinn visited with members of Community Board 13 last week, one issue came to the fore right away: safety.

“It has been a number one issue with regards to this board. We’ve had an increase in shootings. This board and this community feel that we need an additional precinct,” said Bryan J. Block, CB 13 chair.

Community members echoed his request, complaining that the current response time from officers of the local 105th Precinct is “atrocious.”

Lawrence McClean, district manager of CB 13, pointed out that the board, which includes more than 10 neighborhoods, spans 13 square miles and makes up 12 percent of the entire borough of Queens. Hence, he said, “the problem affecting police response time is the size of the district.”

In addition, McClean speculated that the slow response time of police officers in the area could be due to traffic buildup on the Cross Island Parkway.

Community members implored Quinn to support their request for an additional precinct because it would “help protect the community better.”

“In the scheme of the city’s capital budget, we could find money to build a new precinct,” Quinn said in reply. “However, the challenge is getting the officers to staff that precinct.”

She emphasized that there is a shortage of New York City police officers right now and said, “We are in a position, unfortunately, where we are at a much lower patrol strength than we were at our all time high right after the Safe Streets, Safe City program was put in place.”

But Deputy Inspector Joseph G. Courtesis, commanding officer of the 105th Precinct, told The Courier that, despite being the largest precinct, the 105’s response times are better than both the city and borough average, due in part to a satellite precinct.

“We do have a satellite precinct down that way,” he said. “The only difference is that there’s no administrative staff at the satellite. Officers do start and end their tours there. The community at the south end is definitely getting the same service that the north end does. We are the largest precinct, but our response times are better than the city and borough average, so the satellite is working.”

In addition to requesting another precinct, the members of CB 13 had other complaints. They voiced concerns over the threat food carts pose to small businesses in the area, complained about the presence of pawn shops and gaming cafes, and one official expressed her concern over the long hours bodegas stay open.

“I can’t see the reason for them [bodegas],” said Assemblymember Barbara Clark. “They’re the most awful looking businesses. They cause young people to congregate, and they also sell loose cigarettes.”

Quinn said that the council might be able to address these problems from the perspective of consumer affairs and zoning.

 

NYC voters less likely to elect atheist, born-again Christian as mayor


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Though most New York City voters do not consider religion a factor in choosing the next mayor, a Quinnipiac University poll released today found that New York City voters are less likely to elect an atheist or born-again Christian than a Muslim or a Mormon.

According to the results, 30 percent of city voters are less likely to vote for an atheist and 27 percent are less likely to elect a born-again Christian; they also said that they were 24 percent less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate and 19 percent less likely to choose a Muslim. But 61 percent of voters said that religious positions would not affect their vote.

The poll also asked voters about other characteristics outside of religion: 16 percent are less likely to vote for an overweight or obese person, 10 percent are less likely to vote for a gay or lesbian mayor and 1 percent said they are less likely to elect a woman.

The last two characteristics are particularly important since Christine Quinn is one of the top candidates in the 2013 New York City race for mayor. If she wins, Quinn will be the city’s first female mayor and the first openly gay one.

But those factors will have little effect on voters. The poll found that 29 percent of New York voters are planning on voting for her in the Democratic mayoral primaries. In second place was City Comptroller William Thompson with 10 percent and 9 percent of voters said they would elect city Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer received 4 percent and only 1 percent of city voters said they would cast their ballot for newspaper publisher Tom Allon.

Quinnipiac also polled city voters about the recent Chick-fil-A controversy. The majority of voters (74 percent) believe a “business owner’s controversial or unpopular opinions should not affect the ability to get government permits to do business,” and that “elected officials should not try to discourage people from patronizing such a business.”

 

Still divided over paid sick days act


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Christopher Brito

When Celina Alvarez began to suffer from a serious heart problem that caused her to faint at work in February, she needed to see a doctor.

She resisted, however, because she had no paid sick days from her job as a chef at Taqueria La Casa Del Idolo, a Mexican taco restaurant in Elmhurst. The immigrant and mother couldn’t afford lose her income.

After suffering pain for nearly a week she gave in and went to the hospital, but two weeks later when Alvarez returned to work she was no longer employed.

“I was a loyal and dedicated employee,” Alvarez said. “The hospital stay saved my life, but cost me my job.”

Alvarez, 48, and workers in similar situations are at the forefront of fighting for legislation to get paid sick days from employers.

In the latest battle, Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, advocates and low–wage workers joined Alvarez in front of the restaurant to rally support for a long-running bill that would require city employers give their staff paid sick leave time.

More than a million New York workers lack paid sick days, with many concentrated in food service, retail and health care, according to the NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign.

Originally introduced in 2009 by a Manhattan councilmember, the updated Paid Sick Days Act would require businesses with more than 20 employees give their staff nine paid sick days; companies with five to 20 workers would be required to grant five days annually. Small “mom and pop” businesses would only need to provide five unpaid, but job-protected, sick days.

Although the bill has 37 co-sponsors, Council Speaker Christine Quinn is against it, because of the status of the economy.

“This issue of paid sick leave, it’s a laudable goal,” Quinn said. “But in this economy if we do it right now in the way envisioned in the bill we’re going to put people out of business and we are going to lose jobs. This is not the right time to do it.”

Local store owners are also saying that while the bill may help workers, it would hurt businesses even more, because they can’t afford it.

“Employers here are competing for workers and tend to offer the very best salaries and benefits they can afford,” the Queens Chamber of Commerce said in a letter asking Quinn to oppose the bill. “Most NYC employers offer paid sick leave. Those that do not are concentrated in certain sectors that tend to have low profit margins and must hire replacement workers to cover absentees.”

But still, most say it’s the right thing to do.

“Nobody plans on getting sick,” said Amalia Cisneros, the owner of Centro Naturista Amalias, a small business in Elmhurst. “I always prefer to give my employees time to rest so they have energy to do their job well. This should be the law. It would help to prevent illness and our health comes first.”

The owner of Taqueria El Idolo was unavailable during the rally and repeated phone calls to the restaurant for comment went unanswered as of press time.

Doe Fund coming to Union Turnpike


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Fresh Meadows restaurant owner Ed Moore said the excessive litter and overflowing garbage cans along Union Turnpike were more than a mess — they were an embarrassment.

“It’s an eyesore, especially when St. John’s had their graduation, which was on Mother’s Day. There are 20,000 people coming to see their kids graduate from all over the country, and they’re going to come here and see this? That’s a reflection on us as New Yorkers,” said Moore, owner of the Sly Fox Inn.

Moore said the repulsive refuse problem along the area’s key commercial corridor was caused by too many fast food restaurants on the retail strip and not enough city sanitation pickup.

But residents and business owners can breathe easy after Councilmember James Gennaro allocated $30,000 to bring the Doe Fund to the garbage-strewn major street.

The Doe Fund employs homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals as part of a program fostering private employment and independent living, said Ray Damm, director of the fund’s community improvement project. Workers usually focus on litter removal from sidewalks and gutters.

“This is the great opportunity for people to build work experience while helping our neighborhood look its best,” Gennaro said.

The allocations also include an additional “green function,” the councilmember said, which allows workers to mulch and maintain sidewalk tree pits and collect used cooking oil from two local restaurants for recycling into biodiesel.

“We’re helping people who are looking for work. It’s such a great example of what New York City is about — focusing on local and helping people who need a little extra help. To me, it’s so symbolic of what has made this city great,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Doe Fund services will cover the commercial district between 188th Street and Utopia Parkway, Gennaro said. The area will be cleaned three times a week in addition to already established city sanitation services.

“There will never be litter on the streets of Union ever again,” Gennaro said.

New programs to provide more job training for growing tech industry


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy William Alatriste

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, together with the City University of New York (CUNY), the Coalition for Queens and tech industry leaders announced two initiatives to help train more New Yorkers for jobs in the city’s growing technology sector.

One of these initiatives will provide for more tech educational opportunities in Queens. Coalition for Queens, a non-profit that focuses on fostering the technical system in the borough, CUNY, Skillshare, and other leaders in the tech field will provide classes in areas such as computer programming, digital marketing and entrepreneurship at CUNY campuses in the boroughs.

The other initiative, open to current computer science and engineering students at CUNY, is an Advanced Software Development program. It will launch this fall, with 20 students. Every student who completes the program will receive a paid apprenticeship with a New York City tech firm. The Queens classes will also launch in the fall, and the Coalition for Queens will have a full list of classes on its site soon.

The City Council has allocated approximately $101,000 for the CUNY Advanced Software Development Program and $65,000 for Coalition for Queens.

“[These programs] bring employers and academia together to ensure that our schools are preparing students for employment in the tech sector upon graduation,” said Quinn

Currently there are 1,700 digital firms in the city, 932 of which are hiring. Unemployment in the city is 9.6 percent, and there are few other industries where half of the companies are still hiring.

But these jobs require specific training and skills. The two programs will not only help close that skills gap and improve unemployment numbers, but will also help ensure continued growth of the tech sector in New York City, she said. In the last four years, more than 500 tech firms have opened in the city.

One applied science campus, Technion-Cornell, should open by 2017 on Roosevelt Island, and will start offering off-campus classes this fall. It’s estimated that 30,000 to 120,000 tech jobs will grow out of the Cornell campus in the future and much of this will be in Queens, said Coalition for Queens founder, Jukay Hsu.

One of his non-profit’s partners in the initiative is Queens College, which educates more computer scientists than any other school in the metropolitan area. The initiative will provide even more opportunities for high-quality tech education in the borough. “We believe that anyone can gain the skills required to work in the new tech community,” he said.

By offering tech classes through CUNY, more New Yorkers will be able to work in the sector, especially those who can’t afford Cornell, said Quinn.

“We want to make sure those folks have exactly, even if not a better chance, of being leaders in the tech field as anybody else. What’s the answer to that — CUNY,” she said.

Budget bias


| letters@queenscourier.com

Once again, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has removed the veil of her Manhattan liberal independent reformer image to reveal that she is a seasoned Democratic party machine leader. She follows in the fine tradition of her predecessors, former Council Speakers Gifford Miller, Peter Vallone and the late Tom Cuite of Brooklyn.

In January 2010, Quinn announced her appointments of various Council committee chairpersons. Councilmembers loyal to their respective county organizations (the ones that endorsed her candidacy for speaker) were rewarded with salary increases known as lulus ranging from $4,000 to $28,000 to chair Council committees. These were raised again in January 2011 and 2012. The average salary for a New Yorker is $41,000 per year. A councilmember’s base salary is $112,500 plus bonuses, for a part-time job.

Under Quinn’s reign, it continues to be the usual political quid pro quo with councilmembers. Vote as instructed by the speaker and members will continue to receive the perks of office. These include salary bonuses for chairing Council committees, extra cash for local district offices, staff and mailings, along with your share of several hundred million dollars available for funding local neighborhood pork-barrel projects to grease the wheels of re-election.

There are clear consequences when you vote against the wishes of Quinn and speak your mind on behalf of constituents, taxpayers and common sense as Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley has on numerous occasions. Quinn sent a clear message to Crowley when discretionary spending for her district was cut from $660,000 to $378,321 in the recently adopted 2012 municipal budget.

The five county Democratic political bosses don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, gay or straight, man or woman — just play ball like Quinn and you’re welcome to the smoke-filled clubhouse back rooms!

Larry Penner

 

Balanced budget saves child care, libraries and fire companies


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the mayor's office

Without raising the tax bar, education, child care, libraries and other city services will be spared – despite original concerns of heavy cuts – in the 2013 Fiscal Year budget, city officials announced Monday, June 25 attributing the balanced budget to several cost-saving methods.

“When times were better, the city set aside surplus revenue — and when the first storm clouds gathered in 2007, we began cutting budgets,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “These actions — and our work over the past decade to diversify the economy and make it less reliant on Wall Street — have allowed us avoid the severe service cuts that many other cities are facing.”

About $150 million will be added from the mayor’s May Executive Budget, which proposed a large child care cut, to the Administration for Children’s Services Child Care Program and the Department of Youth and Community Development Out-of-School Time program, ensuring child care stays well-funded in the City.

The funding is a major accomplishment for child care, said Gregory Brender, policy advisor for United Neighborhood Houses.

“It’s a big victory for child care,” he said. “Losing spots was terrifying to parents around the city.”

In addition, roughly 1,000 teachers will be added, it was announced, and several hundred teacher’s aide jobs will be spared.

Because of about $90 million going toward the library system, more than 600 Queens Library jobs will be saved, according to a statement from the Library. There will also be no cuts to hours, but there will be limited reductions to services, said Joanne King, Queens Library associate director of communications.

“Our advocates in City Hall have kept libraries a priority through the last several budgets,” she said. “We know the people of Queens will be very appreciative.”

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, said the twenty fire houses saved from elimination was a relief to New Yorkers and they would continue to keep the city safe.

“We can all rest assured knowing that the people of the city of New York will be safe,” Crowley said. “Closing even one fire company would have reduced response times and people’s lives would have hung in the balance. So for me today it’s gratifying to know that’s one less worry.”

Although the budget is balanced and ahead of the June 30 deadline, the Mayor’s office acknowledged there will be a $2.5 billion budget gap for the 2014 fiscal year.

“We face a significant challenge again next year, but given the effective and fiscally responsible partnership we’ve had with the Council – and the leadership we know we can rely on from Speaker Christine Quinn – I’m confident we’ll meet any challenges that arise,” Bloomberg said.

Additional reporting by Billy Rennison

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Laughing at Fidel: NY fest stars ‘defect’ — as in their film

They sure took their roles to heart. Two Cuban actors who were supposed to be on their way to the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York — for a screening of their flick about teens defecting from Cuba to the United States — mysteriously disappeared in Miami last week and may now seek asylum themselves. “To be sincere, I think they’re going to stay’’ in the United States, admitted the pair’s “Una Noche’’ co-star Dariel Arrechada, 20, to the Huffington Post. Read More: New York Post

Sick sex ‘drive’ — Trapped prostitutes shuttled to tricks by 6 cabbies: DA

A father and son from Queens ran a lucrative — and cruel — brothel on wheels for two decades, using six livery drivers to deliver hookers to hotels and apartments, Manhattan prosecutors said in announcing the ring’s breakup yesterday. In a sick twist, the dad, Vincent George Sr., 55, not only taught Vincent Jr., 33, how to pimp, but may at one point have either employed his own daughter as a hooker or pawned her off on yet another pimp, prosecutors said, declining to elaborate. Read More: New York Post

Poll Finds Quinn Is Clear Leader In 2013 Mayoral Democratic Field

Christine Quinn, it seems, is breaking away from the pack. According to the newest NY1/Marist College poll, if the Democratic primary were held today, the City Council speaker would win 32 percent of the vote. That is 10 points better than she did in the last NY1/Marist poll in September and 20 points ahead of her nearest rival, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson. Read More: NY1

 

MTA Alter 21 City Bus Routes To Match Riders’ Demands

On Monday the MTA announced that as part of its ongoing review of ridership it was reducing service on 15 routes, while six routes will get increased service. Changes range from half a minute to 10 minutes. The authority says these changes are cost-neutral. Read More: NY1

 

Man in critical condition after being slammed by hit-run driver in Woodhaven

A 50-YEAR-OLD man was in critical condition Monday night after a hit-and-run driver plowed into him as he crossed a busy Queens intersection, police said. The victim was unconscious when emergency crews found him in the roadway at Jamaica Ave. and Woodhaven Blvd. just before 7 p.m., fire officials said. “He was walking in the middle of the street,” said Tiffany Robinson, 22, who said the man did not have the right of way as he crossed the boulevard. “He went 15 feet in the air, flipped — his sneakers went in different directions.” Read More: Daily News

 

Making room for another civic group in Queens

Queens has so many neighborhoods and civic groups that they often double up on each other. So does the borough really need one more? Paul Gagliardotto, a 26-year-old sanitation worker from Glendale, thinks so. Gagliardotto recently formed the Forest Park Civic Association of Queens in an effort to unite the various neighborhoods surrounding the 543-acre green oasis. “We all have this wonderful park in common, yet district lines use this area in central west Queens as a dividing point,” he said. “What we will strive to do is create one voice for these areas.” Read More: Daily News

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

Whitney Houston’s death was ‘complicated by chronic cocaine use and heart disease,’ coroner’s office says

Whitney Houston was a chronic cocaine user who had the drug in her system when she drowned in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub, confirming that her long battle with drug addiction caused her demise, officials said Thursday. An autopsy report on the superstar singer released by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said she had mixed illegal and prescription drugs before she was found lifeless in the tub. The official cause of death was accidental drowning “and effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use,” the coroner’s office said. Read More: Daily News

Cheating Manhattan corporate lawyer exposed after ‘assault’ on gal pal

A married Manhattan corporate lawyer’s double life came crashing down after he was arrested for smacking his mistress in the face and threatening to kill her, according to court papers. Steven Guynn, who has handled billion-dollar deals involving big-bucks clients around the world, allegedly punched gal pal Jeannette Schaefer after flying into a rage over breakfast last week in the tony New Canaan, Conn., home he shares with his wife. Read More: New York Post

 

Despite differences, devout Tebow and X-rated Ryan share passion for winning

There has never been a pairing of head coach and quarterback like this, not even Weeb Ewbank and Broadway Joe Namath, not even Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw, not even Walt Michaels and Doug Flutie with the USFL Generals. Read More: New York Post

 

Kim Kardashian flour-bombed at LA promo event for perfume line

Kim Kardashian was flour-bombed in Los Angeles on Thursday night as she attended a promotion for her new perfume — with alarmed staff calling in the fire department to investigate. The reality starlet was walking the red carpet at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, promoting the scent True Reflection, when she was showered in a white powder. Read More: New York Post

 

Labor-loving Quinn will pass wage bill

A pro-union bill that would boost salaries for thousands of privately hired workers to minimum rates set by the city is slated to pass the City Council next week as Speaker Christine Quinn courts organized labor for her likely 2013 mayoral bid, The Post has learned. Quinn told her Democratic members in a closed-door meeting this week she plans to move the controversial “prevailing wage” legislation at the council meeting on Wednesday, sources said. Read More: New York Post

Early-morning fire damages Manhattan home; one firefighter injured

Dozens of city firefighters spent the early morning battling a Manhattan house fire. The fire started at about 3 a.m., along West 217th Street in Inwood. Police at the scene said the house was burning blue when they arrived — and it took firefighters nearly two hours to get the fire under control. One firefighter was injured from a fall, and his condition is unknown. But officials at the scene said no one in the house was injured. Read More: New York Post

 

2 bodies found on eastern Long Island, 1 in area where corpse discovered last month

Two bodies have been discovered within 24 hours on eastern Long Island, including a woman’s corpse found dumped in a wooded area where a body turned up last month. Suffolk County cops said they have no evidence linking the victims to the 10 bodies that have been found since December 2010 in Gilgo Beach, a suspected dumping ground of a serial killer. A jogger found a female corpse about 4 p.m. Wednesday in Manorville Hills County Park. Read More: Daily News
Staten Island stabbing suspect to be arraigned today on murder charges

The man suspected of fatally stabbing a Staten Island groom-to-be at his engagement party will be arraigned today on charges of murder and weapons possession, authorities said. Redinel Dervishaj, 35, allegedly plunged a butcher’s knife into the chest of bricklayer Anthony Lacertosa, 27, during an early-morning melee last Saturday in front of the Espana Restaurant. Dervishaj was nabbed Tuesday hiding out at his aunt’s home in Illinois, police said. He waived extradition and was returned to Staten Island yesterday. Read More: New York Post

MSG and Time Warner Cable reach agreement


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Is there anything Jeremy Lin can’t do?

After more than a month of millions of Knicks and Rangers fans being blacked out, Time Warner Cable and MSG have resolved their dispute, meaning fans can again watch the surging Knicks and first place Rangers.

Politicians put on the full court press, forcing the companies to reach a pact.  Council Speaker Christine Quinn recently sent a letter to the companies requesting they come to an agreement or face public hearings.  What pushed Quinn to the edge was her case, like many fellow New Yorkers, of Linsanity.

When the agreement was announced on Friday afternoon, Quinn tweeted, “I want to thank Time Warner Cable and MSG for coming to a deal that will put the Knicks and the Rangers back on TV.  Now, a million more New Yorkers will be able to go Linsane in the privacy of their own living room.”

Quinn also thanked Governor Andrew Cuomo — who assisted in talks this week — and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

“Our office has worked diligently with Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks over the last month to bring about a resolution to their dispute,” Schneiderman said. “We are pleased that both parties have reached an agreement that will finally allow Knicks, Rangers, and Sabres fans to enjoy the rest of this season’s games.”

Despite not being shown in more than one million area homes, MSG has scored season-high ratings since Lin has entered the starting lineup and Wednesday’s game was the highest rated since Carmelo Anthony’s first game nearly a year ago.

The dispute was over licensing fees that cable companies pay networks for the right to carry their channel.

The Knicks play the New Orleans Hornets tonight on MSG at 8 p.m.

Speaker Quinn delivers State of the City


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Focusing on ways to improve education and strengthen communities, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered her 2012 State of the City address at City Hall on Thursday, February 9.

In her 6th annual address, Quinn outlined proposals ranging from securing homes for families to providing quality education for children to providing job opportunities for the unemployed to bolstering the five boroughs’ economic potential.

“Now more than ever, we need to tap into the power of our communities,” she said. “We need to restore the promise that everyone can succeed in New York, no matter how humble their origins, with a bit of help and a lot of hard work.”

Quinn said it would take a lot of hard work to help the city’s education system – but to achieve real success in schools, Quinn believes the key is to start young. To that end, Quinn proposed making kindergarten mandatory for all city 5 year olds. Currently, kindergarten is not required and Quinn said that many kids are missing out on critical early education.

“Every year nearly 3,000 5-year-olds in New York City don’t enroll in kindergarten,” she said. “That means thousands of kids enter first grade every year having never set foot in a classroom. Many of them are kids who need kindergarten the most. We’re working with the State Legislature to introduce a bill allowing New York City to make kindergarten mandatory.”

Quinn also touched on the college careers of city school children, calling for the creation of a tuition-free CUNY Honors College for the city’s top students. The proposed college will have a campus, facilities and programs allowing it to compete with the nation’s top institutions.

Beyond education, Quinn spoke about the need to secure healthcare for New Yorkers, announcing an initiative to improve worker health and reduce health care costs. Quinn said the City Council will provide $100,000 in funding to launch the Freelancers Union’s flagship Brooklyn health clinic.

“This kind of creative health care model has the power to connect more New Yorkers to primary care, take some of the burden off of struggling hospitals, and strengthen our non-profit healthcare system,” she said. “That’s how we make good on the promise of New York – by ensuring that every generation has greater opportunity than the ones that came before.”

Restaurant graders get graded


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The graders are getting graded.

The city council recently surveyed restaurant owners throughout the city, reviewing the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) inspection process of eateries in the five boroughs.

“I am troubled by the wave of complaints the council has received from restaurants — even the ones that get “A’s” — about the fairness and inconsistency of the food safety inspection process,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“We are just trying to survive here,” said one Bayside restaurant owner, displaying an “A” in the front window.

He said that despite the grade, he has had to pay violations twice over the past year.

“The way they change the rules, I had to hire a guy just to make sure everything is perfect. I know they are trying to look out for the customer, but they should be more worried about places that have ‘B’ or ‘C’ ratings.”

Starting in July 2010, the DOHMH made it a requirement for restaurant owners to post the letter grade results of their sanitary inspection.

The questionnaire was open from January 10 to January 31. More than 1,000 restaurants participated in the survey, which was available in seven languages.

The 42-question survey will cull data from restaurateur’s experiences with the inspections.  Questions ranged from “To what extent has the letter grading system had an impact on the health and safety of food establishments in New York City?” to “How might the DOHMH improve its inspection process?”  The study will provide the city council insight into how restaurants are affected by the inspection system.

The New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) supported the “important initiative,” distributing the surveys to thousands of restaurants throughout the city.

“It’s time we have an independent assessment of the city’s letter grading system because it is failing New York City restaurants in many ways,” said Andrew Rigie, executive vice president of the organization’s New York City chapter.

The grading system is intended to bolster aptitude toward being as clean as possible, but many restaurant owners believe that the frequency of inspections and number of fines received are becoming increasingly unfair.

Inspection cycles are individual to each restaurant, based on its pattern of cleanliness, according to the DOHMH. Some inspections are based on customers’ complaints or re-inspections from prior violations.

The public has overwhelmingly come out in favor of the grades — more than 90 percent approved of the program, according to a summer poll by Baruch College — but the city council said they wanted to make sure restaurants were being treated fairly.

The survey results will provide a foundation for an oversight hearing later this year, where the council will further explore the inspection process and possible areas for reform.

Additional reporting by Bob Doda

Small business owners air their concerns


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Restaurateur Herbert Duarte cannot undo the headaches, unwind the hours or take back the thousands of dollars he lost, but he can make sure the city council hears his voice.

Since Duarte opened up Saffron Restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard a little over two years ago, he said the fire department has visited him over 15 times — pinning him with a $10,000 fine for “having too many seats” back in May.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “When I decided to open my own restaurant, I didn’t realize the big headaches that the city gives you.”

Long an expert in the food industry, Duarte — who previously worked as an executive chef at Marriott Hotels for over 20 years — said he never had to deal with the hassle of city agencies when he worked for a major hotel.

But now, Duarte said he has had to hire a lawyer and cut employee work hours in order to pay for the costs. He said the fine was reduced to about $2,000, but he still had to shell out another grand for the lawyer.

“You’re barely making money as it is,” he said.

From architects and attorneys to plumbers and podiatrists, local small business owners — like Duarte — joined city officials for help with surviving being a small business owner in a struggling economy.

“We are trying our best to help people who have jobs keep their jobs, and to create more jobs for the future to make doing business in New York City just a little bit easier,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who hosted the December 15 event. “We want to make sure we keep people off the welfare roll and keep them on the payroll.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn addressed the concerns of the area’s business owners, briefing them also on recent business initiatives within the council.

“Our job in government should be to help all of you keep your neighbors working, even though sometimes you think our job in government is to put you out of business,” she said. “It’s infuriating when one agency tells you to do one thing, and when you abide by regulations from that agency, you’re violating another agency’s regulations. It makes no sense. They just seem out to get restaurants, and I just don’t get it. I just think we need to make huge changes when it comes to restaurants.”

In order to address that issue, Quinn said the council has created a regulatory review task force in order to help make the city’s enforcement process clearer and fairer to businesses.

“With this panel, we’re literally going through — and it’s painstaking — the entire administrative code to find contradictory rules, rules that don’t make sense and remove them from the books in the city,” she said.

The task force — now meeting issues in its second round of recommendations — also offers increased education and information to businesses pre-inspection to avoid violations.

During the roundtable event, other business owners expressed concerns about parking meter fees and eliminating the Cross Bay Bridge toll.

For more information on the Council’s business initiatives, visit www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness.

PEOPLE MAKING A BUZZ


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

10.25.11 FRIENDS OF FIREFIGHTERSW

LOTTO WINNERS

 

The New York Lottery has announced the names of area Lottery players who claimed a winning ticket from one of the Lottery’s live drawings between October 9 and October 15. The following winners each received a cash prize valued at $10,000 or more.

• Patricia Beneduce of Richmond Hill who won $10,000 on the Powerball drawing of October 1. Beneduce’s winning ticket was purchased at the Amar Groceries at 117-19 101st Avenue in South Richmond Hill.

• Ruth Garner of Jamaica who won $10,000 on the Mega Millions drawing of October 11. Garner’s winning ticket was purchased at the C-Town Supermarket at 142-36 Foch Boulevard in Jamaica.

• Robert Myers of Whitestone who won $33,747 on the Take Five drawing of October 10. Myers’s winning ticket was purchased at the S. Michael & Son at 82-06 Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst.

 

 

COLLEGE GRADS

The following local students have graduated from Excelsior College:

Gung T. Lo

, a resident of Flushing, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

Nancy Muyal

, a resident of Flushing, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

Rachel Nisanov

, a resident of Flushing, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

Sylburn V. Peterkin

, a resident of Jamaica, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

Faige Rand

, a resident of Far Rockaway, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

Ruchy Schwartz

, a resident of Far Rockaway, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

Esther L. Winer

, a resident of Far Rockaway, has earned a Bachelor of Science.

 

 

HONORS & AWARDS

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley was presented with the Public Service Award for her dedication to the Fire Department of New York at the Fourth Annual Friends of Firefighters Fall Fundraiser.

As Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Chair, Crowley has worked hand-in-hand with Friends of Firefighters to ensure that our fire companies have the resources they need.

This past year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed closing 20 fire companies throughout New York City. Despite difficult budget negotiations, Crowley joined City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and FDNY supporters, like Friends of Firefighters, to fight the mayor’s decision.

Actor Steve Buscemi, former member of Engine Company 55 and an active advocate for the widows and survivors of 9/11, was inducted into the Honor Roll for his dedication to the group. President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association Steve Cassidy and President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Al Hagan were also named Friends to the Friends of Firefighters.

“In the past decade, Friends of Firefighters has provided exceptional care to hundreds of FDNY families,” said Crowley. “It was an honor to be recognized at their fundraiser.”

 

Actor Steve Buscemi and City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley.

 

CHALLENGE

Paul Halvatzis, a notable Queens-based businessman, has accepted a challenge from his children, including his autistic son, to shave his 35-year-old mustache off to benefit those living with autism.

Halvatzis, a civic leader in Astoria, has been a board member of the Astoria Civic Association for over 20 years, past president of the Astoria/L.I.C. Kiwanis Club for 25 years and a board member of the 30th Avenue Merchants Association. He also serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors of Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC).

The momentous occasion will take place at the Redken Saloon Salon located at 36-16 30th Avenue in Astoria on Friday, December 30 at 6 p.m.

The public is invited to attend, and as this is a fundraiser, people are being asked to make contributions in honor of the statement Paul Halvatzis is making by shaving his mustache. Donations can be made at the event or by going to www.qsac.com/shave.

“Paul has had his mustache longer than QSAC has been in existence,” said Gary Maffei, QSAC Executive Director. “We are thrilled to be working with him on this innovative fundraiser to bring much needed resources that will both improve and expand our services to those most in need across New York and Long Island.”

 

 

 

APPOITMENTS

Dr. Catherine Reid, a veterinarian who has done extensive research on endangered species, has been named Acting Director of LaGuardia Community College’s Veterinary Technology program.

Reid’s research, which she describes as “conservation-type medicine,” focuses on threatened species whose existence is being drastically impacted by disease or environmental or human-animal conflicts. She has been doing research on the deadly herpes virus that strikes wild Asian elephants in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, and reproductive studies on white rhinos in captivity.

The new acting director, who also works at the East Side Animal Hospital on the weekends, hopes to bring her passion for wild animal research into the classroom.

“The students already know about laboratory research in pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “I want to show them that a whole other world of research exists and where they can fit into that picture.”

Adding this new dimension to the students’ academic experience, she said, can only enrich the already comprehensive program.

“LaGuardia goes out of its way to give its students more of a four-year college experience,” said Reid. “I can guarantee that there are four-year colleges out there that do not offer the quality that I have seen here.”

And students’ results on the national exam support the acting director’s claim. Last year, 100 percent of LaGuardia’s 2010 vet tech graduates passed the exam on their first try at a time when only 70 percent of the nation’s vet tech students passed.

 

Dr. Catherine Reid, a veterinarian who has done extensive research on endangered species, has been named Acting Director of LaGuardia Community College’s Veterinary Technology program.

 

EVENTS

At The Queens Courier/Home Reporter’s “King of Kings County” event recently were Borough President Marty Markowitz; Philippa Karteron, Executive Director, Council for Airport Opportunity; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Malikka Karteron, Director of Education and Outreach, B’Above Worldwide Consortium; and Jacques Karteron, Treasurer, Guy R. Brewer United Democratic Club.