Tag Archives: City Comptroller Scott Stringer

Juniper Valley Park has second most playground injury claims in city: report


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village has cost taxpayers at least about $300,000 over the last decade due to personal injuries claims, according to a new report.

The green space tied for second place for playground-related personal injury claims filed against the city from 2005 to 2014, which cost more than $20.6 million citywide, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said.

Stringer’s analysis also found that annual claims in the city rose 53 percent from just 45 incidents in 2005 to 69 last year.

Of the 577 park- and playground-related injury claims over the decade, 111 accidents occurred in Queens. Brooklyn led the city in playground injuries with 209 accidents occurring in the last decade.

Juniper Valley Park had six injury claims filed against the city over the decade for accidents related to missing matting, holes and defective swings. Five of those claims recorded a combined $297,500, according to Stringer’s analysis. The amount of one was not given in the report.

Local residents say Juniper has a numerous issues, including holes, defective equipment, cracks and other trip hazards, and that the Parks Department neglects to take action and fix the park, even though problems have been reported.

For example, Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, emphasized the need to fix netting at the park’s batting cages, where high school children play. The netting is used to protect balls from being hit outside the field area, but has been broken since Hurricane Sandy.

Holden has complained about it for years but still hasn’t seen a fix.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the lawsuits were with somebody getting hit with a ball,” Holden said. “Perhaps if it were their own money, like let’s say it would come out of department leaders’ paychecks, they would fix it.”

The park is receiving $2.5 million, allocated by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, for improvements to the track, but Holden said the fixes have been long overdue.

Citywide, parks have recorded injury claims for a range of problems, include protruding nails, debris, defective park equipment and improper surfacing — including cracked grounds, holes and missing matting.

In an attempt to reduce the city’s bill over the next 10 years and protect children, Stringer sent a letter to the Parks Department asking to increase efforts to make certain that parks are safe.

“With claims at their highest point in a decade, it’s clear that the Department of Parks and Recreation must find ways to improve safety in our city’s playgrounds,” Stringer said. “We owe it to our kids to adopt best practices for safety and install state-of-the-art equipment in our playgrounds that reduces the potential for injuries.”

Click here to see a full map of all the claims.

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer discusses community concerns at legislative breakfast


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The conversion of an East Elmhurst motel into a homeless shelter was one of many topics addressed by the city’s comptroller during a breakfast last week with western Queens community leaders and elected officials.

Comptroller Scott Stringer was a guest at the United Community Civic Association’s 2015 Legislative/Executive Breakfast on Feb. 6 where members voiced their concerns about air, noise and traffic pollution, unaffordable costs of residential rents, and hospital closings.

“Many of you in this room are at this meeting not just because of yourselves. You believe in New York City, and you love it like I do,” Stringer said at the breakfast. “But we’re also doing this for our children, making sure that the economy is going to fit what they have to do.”

Stringer added that the key idea is to think about the economy in 10 to 15 years and start to think about it as a high-technology economy. He also said that the economy should no longer be Manhattan-centric; instead, all the boroughs should be transformed into economic hubs.

“The government cannot just be in sound bites telling people what they want to hear,” Stringer said. “We’ve got to create a five-borough economic plan and make sure that people can access the middle class. That is how this city was built.”

Residents and community leaders at the breakfast discussed in detail the issue of dealing with the city’s Department of Homeless Services’ decision to convert the Westway Motor Inn, located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd., into a permanent homeless shelter.

Recently, the community voiced its outrage against the city’s decision to house registered sex offender James Bryant at the shelter, which is home to over 100 families with children. Bryant was removed from the shelter on Feb. 5.

Since then, the DHS has proposed changes to its policy to prevent level 2 or 3 sex offenders from being placed in shelters with families and instead referring them to shelters for single adults.

In response, Stringer said that city agencies should have a dialogue with the communities and sit down with leaders to work out issues and “respect people.”

Stringer also said he will personally go to the Westway Motor Inn, tour the facility, look at the issues brought up by community members and take suggestions on what can be done differently.

“We have to make sure the voices of our neighborhoods are heard,” Stringer added. “We will monitor, we will watch and we will speak out.”

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Former Queens Library trustee defends Tom Galante’s reported expenses


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

One of the six Queens Library trustees dismissed by the borough president has stepped out to defend the expenses by suspended library chief Tom Galante, who could potentially face being fired at a board meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.

Joseph Ficalora, CEO of NY Community Bank and past president of the Queens Library Foundation Board, told The Queens Courier that the expenses Galante made during his time as library director were not “inappropriate” and had all been approved by the board.

According to the NY Daily News, Galante had been using funds “like a personal piggy bank” before being suspended in September, based on a preliminary review of library finances by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Some of the credit card charges that Galante rang up included dinners with groups of library trustees, concert tickets and various hotel charges while the library chief was on out-of-town library business.

However, according to Ficalora, the expenses that are being reported had all been approved by the board and were consistent to those of others who held Galante’s position. He also added that six of the board members who had approved the expenses are still on the board.

“This was nothing that they didn’t know and the board members that are still sitting knew this and there was nothing about the expenses that were inappropriate,” Ficalora said.

He also said that other reports that brought up international trips Galante took were a “miscarriage of justice” because he had been traveling around the world as the ambassador of the library and also to accept awards on the library’s behalf.

“These activities were board-approved and consistent with the library having earned awards,” Ficalora said. “Tom was invited to speak at world-class events because of the world recognition and awards the Queens Library was receiving. None of those expenses were inappropriate and they were all approved by the board.”

In regards to the “fine dining,” Ficalora added that these meals have been typical for library directors for decades and they took place to discuss library business such as new programs or any problems.

Galante was suspended in September and his duties have since been carried out by Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In July, Borough President Melinda Katz fired six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio fired two. Two others resigned. Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated. However, two weeks ago a federal judge granted the request of the former trustees to dismiss their lawsuit that challenged Katz’s decision to remove them from the board.

According to one of the lawyers representing the former trustees, the lawsuit was dismissed because the former trustees did not have the financial ability and emotional willpower to pursue the lawsuit.

A special meeting of the board of trustees will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Robert T. Groh Board Room at the Central Library, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. According to sources, the election of officers might be taking place during the meeting.

In addition, the Audit Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. and the Finance & Investments Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m.

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Stringer criticizes DHS for handling of homeless shelter placement process


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Salvatore Licata

Amid ongoing controversy over several Queens homeless shelters, the city comptroller has said the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is “failing” in the way it deals with homelessness throughout the five boroughs.

In a letter to DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, City Comptroller Scott Stringer addressed the ongoing “homelessness crisis, particularly among families” in New York City. He noted that there are different causes that contribute to the rise, however the “current playbook” in dealing with the issue needs to be changed.

“Especially concerning to my office is the emergency contracting approach that the Department of Homeless Services has employed to site new facilities in neighborhoods with minimal community consultation,” Stringer wrote in the letter on Thursday.

In one case, Glendale residents have been fighting for more than two years to stop an abandoned manufacturing plant from becoming a homeless shelter. The community complained that they were given little to no notice about the shelter.

“DHS must begin to immediately repair its relationships with local communities by creating a robust consultative process with community stakeholders for all of its currently planned sites and for those proposed in the future,” Stringer wrote. “This process should allow for meaningful input from local stakeholders, advocacy groups, and elected officials.”

In the past month, two western Queens neighborhoods have also had to deal with unannounced homeless shelters being moved into two hotels.

Hundreds of protestors spoke against the city’s initiative to house homeless families at the Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst without asking for any input from the community.

Last week, the DHS approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn on Astoria Boulevard into a shelter housing over 100 families. Residents and elected officials are outraged the agency let them know about the shelter just a day before the families began moving into it.

“If DHS continues to neglect communities until after emergency contracting decisions have been made it will neither benefit from local knowledge of the area nor engender harmonious integration with the surrounding communities,” Stringer wrote.

 

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Workers to receive nearly $400K in underpaid wages


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Office

After not being fully paid for contracted work, two workers, including an Astoria man, have been given what they were rightfully owed.

City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced an agreement with National Insulation & GC, Corp., in which the company admitted to “willfully and knowingly failing to pay two employees,” Astoria resident Angel Ribadeneira and Francisco Ayala from Brooklyn, a prevailing wage for contracted work.

Both men were hired by National Insulation to do insulation work at city public schools between December 2006 and November 2010, according to the comptroller’s office. An investigation by the comptroller’s office, prompted by a DOE referral and provided evidence, revealed allegations of under reporting hours, misclassification of workers and use of “ghost workers” on sites.

“We have found that all too often, employees are fleeced out of money to which they’re entitled by unscrupulous contractors looking to cut corners,” Stringer said. “These employees worked hard for their salaries and they deserve to get every cent that’s rightfully owed to them.”

National Insulation will pay a fine of $435,666.72, including more than $39,000 in civil penalties to the city, as a result of the settlement.

“I’m thrilled,” said Ribadeneira, who received a $102,000 payout. “I’m going to make certain my wife and I will have enough to live on comfortably and set aside money for my three sons and six grandchildren.”

Ayala is receiving $294,000.

 

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Elmhurst residents say no to homeless shelter at Pan-American Hotel


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Salvatore Licata

Updated: 6/19/2014 2:17 p.m. 

SALVATORE LICATA

Hundreds of protestors flocked to the Pan-American Hotel in Elmhurst to push back on the city’s initiative to house more homeless families in the neighborhood.

“We must step up to the plate now and stop this from going any further,” Roe Daraio, president of the nonprofit Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together Inc. (COMET) Civic Association and organizer of the Tuesday protest, said to the crowd. “We must call to attention the issue of homelessness and how the city is choosing to deal with it.”

In a plan that is supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, nonprofit Samaritan Village proposed the Pan-American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., to house 200 homeless people, including the 36 families already residing there.

This is the fourth homeless shelter in Elmhurst and for residents of the community, it is one too many.

“They did this without any input from the community,” Hilda Chu, one of the protestors, said. “We have three already and now they want to add a fourth. This is so unfair to us.”

Councilman Daniel Dromm addressed the crowd during the June 17 protest and said he was disappointed by the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) lack of communication with local officials. He was outraged that he was given no advance notice that the closed-down hotel would now house homeless families, but said protestors must act civilly in their protest and engage in a discussion to figure out the best way to combat the situation.

“Elmhurst is overburdened [with the homeless],” Dromm said. “It is bad policy to bring that many needy people into one place.”

Pan-American Hotel officials declined to comment on the subject.

The DHS will provide the families with three meals a day until the agency can move them to an alternate shelter, the agency said.

“As the number of families with children residing in temporary, emergency shelter grows, we must consider all available options to address our capacity needs and meet our legally mandated right to shelter,” the DHS said in a statement. “In the short term, DHS is using the Queens Boulevard facility to provide essential shelter and supportive services to families with children.”

Advocates previously claimed that both the mayor and City Comptroller Scott Stringer approved the plan, but Stringer’s office said he only approved payments for family shelters across the city but had not weighed in on any specific location.

“[Stringer] believes that communication and adequate community notification are critical parts of this process,”  said a Stringer spokesman.

 

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