Tag Archives: City Council District 23

District 23 candidates speak on co-op taxes, services for the elderly at Queens Courier debate


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Julie Weissman

Potential voters were in the North Shore Towers Cinema on Wednesday to watch contenders for the vacant 23rd City Council seat tackle the issues in a debate sponsored by the North Shore Towers and The Queens Courier.

Democrats Barry Grodenchik, Bob Friedrich and Rebecca Lynch will be competing in a Sept. 10 primary along with Ali Najmi, Celia Dosamantes and Satnam Singh Parhar, who were absent from the debate. Former NYPD Captain Joe Concannon, the sole Republican candidate in the race, also participated in the forum.

Questions ranged in topics such as the possible tax reclassification for co-ops and condos, the regulation of Uber drivers in NYC, increased services for the elderly and the creation of group homes for developmentally disabled persons across Queens.

Concannon made it clear that he aimed to make public safety a priority as his major platform. He took a stand against a bill passed by the City Council in 2013 to increase oversight of the NYPD and expressed support for the continuation of the “stop-and-frisk” initiative openly criticized by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also spoke out against what he dubbed as the “hug-a-thug” program to eliminate bail for low-level offenders in the city.

“The council has handcuffed and blindfolded our Police Department here across the City of New York, and we only need to look at recent newspapers to have an account of what’s going on,” Concannon said.

On how to better improve senior services, Lynch said that she would have three courses of action. Her top priority in this respect would be to improve affordable housing options.

“If we don’t have people being able to stay in their homes, it doesn’t matter if the services are here,” Lynch said.

Lynch added that accessible transportation is a must for seniors to be able to utilize important services, calling for more reliable bus services and a weekend bus along the Little Neck Parkway route. Seniors also need more funding for existing programs, such as those of the Samuel Field Y and local senior centers, she noted.

As the president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, Friedrich was eager to speak on the issue of tax reclassification for co-ops and condos as single-family homes. He highlighted his time organizing city hall rallies to fight for lower taxes for co-op owners, and said that the valuation of co-ops should be capped to prevent further tax increases.

“I could tell you what I’m going to do, but I’d rather tell you what I’ve been doing,” Friedrich said. “I’ve been the number one advocate in the City of New York fighting to protect our co-ops.”

Grodenchik was supportive of the creation of group homes in Queens for developmentally disabled people. He made a distinction between these facilities and those used to relocate convicted youth offenders, saying that the former population was among the most vulnerable in the community. He also said that in his 10 years of working in the office of former Borough President Claire Shulman, he has found that community complaints submitted after the installation of these group homes are very rare.

“This is about the most vulnerable people in our society,” Grodenchik said. “How a society is judged is how it takes care of its people who are least fit to take care of themselves.”

The candidates are looking to fill the seat that Mark Weprin vacated in June to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Concannon in the Nov. 3 general election.


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North Shore Towers to host Queens Courier District 23 debate


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of candidate campaign offices

The Queens Courier will be holding a debate on Aug. 5 for the candidates of the 23rd City Council District election at the North Shore Towers to increase public awareness of relevant issues and platforms.

“We’re delighted to partner with the North Shore Towers to bring the candidates to our readers and residents of the communities that Mark Weprin had so masterfully represented,” said Courier Publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis.

Mark Weprin vacated the 23rd District seat in June to become Governor Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

North Shore Towers Political Action Committee chair Felice Hannah is the debate’s organizer and will be hosting that night as well. She has been working with campaign managers and Courier staff to ensure that the candidates will be comfortable at the forum.

“It’s important for residents to meet the candidates in order to get the best person to represent our district,” Hannah said. “We lost a great person in Mark Weprin, and we can’t say we’ll be able to replace Mark Weprin but we at least want to get the best person.”

The debate will be held at the North Shore Towers movie theater to ensure enough space for attendees from both within and outside the North Shore Towers community, and Hannah expects at least 200 people to attend. The debate will also be captured by videographers from the North Shore Towers’ in-house television station for residents unable to attend in person.

Hannah said that North Shore Towers was an ideal place to hold a campaign event because residents of the co-op are very politically involved, and the community even has its own polling site.

“While working the polling site here, I’m able to see how people come out to vote with such vigor and interest,” Hannah said. “We have a sophisticated voting block of people living here, judges, attorneys and others who just want to make sure they’re being represented by the best person possible.”

Hannah is also in the process of planning three-hour meet-and-greet events for each candidate after the debate that will see them walk around the North Shore Towers to field questions and comments from community members.

According to Hannah, property assessment is a big political issue in North Shore community, which boasts an attached country club and its own restaurant in addition to the movie theater. Residents have been fighting to change the property assessment method from the current model which has lead to a high tax rate, and many North Shore residents are also interested in choosing a candidate who will be supportive of their campaign to get a left-turn signal installed in a nearby traffic intersection.

The Queens Courier Debate for the District 23 race will be held on Aug. 5 at the North Shore Towers Cinema at 272-40 Grand Central Pkwy. The event will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m.

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District 23 City Council seat competitors square off in Bellerose


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Candidates seeking to fill the 23rd Council District seat that Mark Weprin previously held were face to face for the first time Tuesday in a debate hosted by the New American Voters Association (NAVA) at the Bellerose Jewish Center.

Democrats Barry Grodenchik, Celia Dosamantes, Bob Friedrich and Satnam Singh Parhar will be competing in a Sept. 10 primary along with Ali Najmi and Rebecca Lynch, who were absent from the debate. Former NYPD Captain Joe Concannon is the sole Republican candidate in the race.

A previously unannounced candidate, Michael Foubister, also came forward to claim a space in the debate to the surprise of many, including the event’s organizers, who seemed not to know who he was and had not included him in the program.

Although he was allowed to participate in the NAVA debate, Foubister later admitted that he did not have all the signatures needed to petition for the ballot, and The Courier confirmed that he was not listed in Board of Elections records as of July 16, the last day to file for inclusion.

Candidates were asked to speak on a variety of topics, including their legislative agenda, the amount of funding they planned to allocate to public education and charter school alternatives, and their biggest community initiatives in issues close to home.

The candidates were united on many issues, with some even agreeing with positions held by their opponents during their own turn to speak. All five have been involved with rallies against a proposed juvenile detention center planned for a residential street in Queens Village. Most agreed to increasing public school funding, and were against increasing the number of vouchers for charter schools.

Parhar, a businessman who has operated several successful clothing stores and a construction company, said that his legislative priority would be to lower utility bills. He believed that as a self-made businessman he could relate to taxpayers’ increasing worries on the price of living in the city.

“People cannot afford their bills. People cannot afford taxes. People cannot afford sewage and water bills,” Parhar said. “Think about our street lights. Think about our potholes.”

Concannon focused on the effect that public policy has on public safety. The former NYPD member challenged former Councilman Weprin for the District 23 seat in 2013 under the Reform Party line.

“One thing I learned as a cop is, a well-educated child has very little interaction with the police department at all,” Concannon said. “So I believe well-educated kids, well-educated families, and funding libraries is a part of that.”

Bob Friedrich, a well-known civic organizer who is also president of his Glen Oaks co-op, said he wants to fight policies that do not serve the outer-borough needs of District 23 well, such as instituting tolls on free East River crossings and a 10-cent grocery bag surcharge.

“That’s another Manhattan-centric proposal where people go to the local bodega in Manhattan with one shopping bag,” Friedrich said. “In this part of Queens, often we come by car, we do a week’s worth of groceries, and that’s going to add a thousand dollars to your shopping bill every year. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Candidates expressed strong views on a controversial City Council vote that may limit drivers hired by Uber, a mobile phone application that enables users to summon a livery car and intends to add 10,000 new workers this year. Once elected, the winning candidate will take part in the decision, which was just stalled for four months while a study examines the company’s impact on the city’s traffic and environment.

Grodenchik, who has endorsements from major Democratic players such as Mark Weprin and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, supported expanding Uber as a force catering to the economy and transportation needs of northeast Queens, which he felt was often forgotten by City Hall.

“We live here in eastern Queens right on the Nassau border where we’re often forgotten. I will be a person to raise his voice to support economic opportunities for the people in this community,” Grodenchik said. “Uber is a success story and it employs thousands and thousands of people. We need to encourage those success stories.”

Dosamantes, a former deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Philip Ramos, executive assistant for Rep. Grace Meng and communications director for David Weprin, supports an Uber expansion because it could be developed into a resource within the city to employ able workers. She has previously stated that job creation is a major focus in her campaign.

“What’s most important to our district, what’s most important to our community, is job creation,” said Dosamantes, who added that increasing living costs have caused more and more New Yorkers to struggle when making ends meet. “When you take away any type of job opportunity that gives New Yorkers good paying jobs, that gives New Yorkers the opportunity to have a chance to provide for their families and take care of them, I don’t support the mayor for that.”

Mark Weprin vacated the 23rd District seat in June to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

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Retired NYPD captain to launch bid for open City Council seat as Republican


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook/ Joseph Concannon

When he first campaigned for City Council two years ago, retired NYPD Capt. Joseph Concannon ran on the Reform Party line and was trounced at the polls on Election Day by the incumbent, Councilman Mark Weprin.

Now that Weprin is out of the City Council and in with the Cuomo administration, Concannon is going for the now-vacant 23rd Council District seat again, but this time as a Republican.

Concannon is scheduled to formally announce his campaign on Monday, alongside Queens GOP leaders and supporters in front of the 105th Precinct stationhouse in Queens Village.

“Over the past few weeks and months, my close friends and family have been encouraging me to take my zeal for public service and community activism to the next level,” Concannon said in a press release issued Thursday. “Many of my friends as well as the people I meet every day express their dismay with the current leadership in the City Council, our mayor and the direction this city is headed in as a whole.”

While five Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination in the September primary, the Republicans appear to be unifying early around Concannon. Sources with the Queens GOP indicated earlier this week that he is the only Republican seeking the seat.

More evidence of GOP unity was noted in Concannon’s press release, which listed Queens GOP Chairman Bob Turner, Councilman Eric Ulrich — the lone Queens Republican in the city legislature — and Queens Conservative Party Chairman Tom Long as guests scheduled to attend the campaign launch.

In August 2013, Concannon launched a challenge to then-Councilman Weprin after the City Council passed into law the Community Safety Act, two bills bringing greater oversight to the NYPD and aiming to end “bias-based profiling.” Concannon opposed the act, claiming the regulations would impede police officers in their service, and received the support of numerous unions representing members of the NYPD.

Even so, Weprin was re-elected in November with 84 percent of the vote in the district covering all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

Since then, Concannon has remained politically active in holding rallies calling for public support of the NYPD, most recently following the murders of Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn last December, and P.O. Brian Moore in Queens Village in May.

“Not since the violence and division this city faced decades ago have people felt so disconnected from their government,” Concannon said in Thursday’s press release. “I am running to restore some respect and common sense to our local government, the kind of common sense that is embarrassingly lacking in the NYC Council.”

Concannon added that he plans “to spend the next few weeks and months earning the right to be their voice and champion.”

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Celia Dosamantes, former Meng and Weprin aide, officially seeking City Council seat


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Celia Dosamantes

A former aide to Assemblyman David Weprin will run for his brother’s vacant City Council seat.

Celia Dosamantes confirmed to The Courier that she will run in the upcoming special election for the 23rd District seat, which covers Bellerose, Glen Oaks, Queens Village, Oakland Gardens and other eastern Queens neighborhoods. Councilman Mark Weprin vacated the seat Friday to begin a new role with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Dosamantes, the youngest candidate for the seat thus far at 24 years old, grew up in Bellerose, and has lived in the district for most of her life. Because of this she believes she knows much of the problems the area faces.

“The reason why I’m running for this seat is because I grew up in this area. I love this community,” she said. “It gives me an opportunity to help grow and strengthen this community.”

Dosamantes is leaving her current role as deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Philip Ramos. Before that she served as the executive assistant for Rep. Grace Meng and, prior to that, a communications and legislator director for David Weprin. She has also served as executive director of the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group.

If elected, she intends to support senior services, transportation, job creation and increasing resources for schools. She hopes to be on the education committee as Dosamantes comes from a family with a background in education. Her mother, grandmother and aunt were all schoolteachers.

Dosamantes has already taken the lead on one key issue in the community, organizing a protest with residents against the recently announced juvenile jail in Queens Village.

She also wants to create a task force against domestic violence, and hopes to fight for another precinct in the area to share responsibilities with the 105th Precinct, which she believes is overburdened.

“An officer died in our area,” she said, referring to P.O. Brian Moore. “There is no reason why our district shouldn’t have the best policing services.”

In entering the race, Dosamantes faces a potentially crowded field that includes lawyer and activist Ali Najmi; former Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik; and Rebecca Lynch, a de Blasio administration staffer.

Dosamantes said she has a lot of support from people in the neighborhood and many volunteers. She also may have the support of the large Hindu population in the area. An example of Queens diversity, Dosamantes has an Indian mother and a Mexican father, as well as some other influences, and speaks four languages including English, Hindi, Bengali and Spanish.

Dosamantes recognizes that winning the seat will be an uphill battle as the youngest candidate, but she thinks she has a chance.

“I think it’s up for grabs,” Dosamantes said. “I am the underdog, but I also represent the people’s candidate because I come from the district.”

Mark Weprin has yet to endorse a candidate running for his seat. Reached by phone, he didn’t want to comment specifically about Dosamantes either.

“I will make an endorsement eventually,” Weprin said. “I have worked with her. But I’d rather not comment on any one candidate at this time.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to schedule a date for the special election, which by law must take place within 60 days.

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Participatory budget projects announced in districts 19 and 23


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Councilmen in northeast Queens announced the winning projects to be funded with their participatory budgeting allowances, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.

Councilman Paul Vallone announced the four winning projects from District 19 in a press conference in his Bell Boulevard office on Monday, with a crowd of community members waiting on his every word to see if their favored project would be chosen. This year 2,300 votes were cast the district.

The project that received the most votes in District 19 was to build a state-of-the-art music studio for Bayside High School for $400,000. The proposal received 1,430 votes, and will serve 350 students in the school’s “Career and Technical Education” program for music production and performance.

“Participatory budgeting was a great experience for our students and we look forward to the positive effect the new music studio will provide to our academic programming,” said John Hirata, Bayside High School assistant principal of operations.

An auditorium upgrade for P.S. 169 received the most votes after the Bayside High School music studio with a total of 1,041, and will also cost $400,000. The elementary school will receive replacements in lighting, curtains, seating and a sound system for the auditorium that students share with middle school Bell Academy.

“We are so thrilled to have this auditorium upgrade because both our schools really need it,” said Orit Foresta, a parent coordinator at P.S. 169. “We do a lot of arts, a lot of shows in our schools.”

The other two projects to be funded in District 19 are $90,000 in technology upgrades for P.S. 159 and the installation of three NYPD security cameras throughout the district for $105,000.

Photo courtesy of Mark Weprin's office

Photo courtesy of Mark Weprin’s office

Councilman Mark Weprin announced the winning participatory budget proposals for District 23 on Friday, April 24. Weprin was one of the first eight City Council members to offer participatory budgets to constituents in 2012, the initiative’s first year. Twenty-four districts have since adopted the process.

“It is my hope that next year, more of my colleagues embrace participatory budgeting,” Councilman Weprin said. “It’s a great way to get community residents involved — especially those who may not be actively involved in the political process.”

A District 23 proposal with 1,146 votes received the most support, and will see $455,000 in technology upgrades coming to nine local schools. All of the schools serve children at elementary grade levels except for one, the Queens High School of Teaching.

A entry for fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park was in second place for most votes in District 23, with a total of 1,065 voting in favor of the $450,000 project. The last proposal to be funded is a plan to use $300,000 for renovations at the physical education facilities of Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside and Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.

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Queens council district is most ethnically diverse in all five boroughs, says lawmaker


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY LUKE TABET

Newly approved lines have made City Council District 23 the most ethnically diverse in all five boroughs, a lawmaker said.

“If you were to travel with me on any given weekend, you might go to five different continents,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, who represents the district.

He said the claim is based on statistics from the 2010 census. Nearly 70 percent of the district is made up of minorities, many of them first- or second generation immigrants.

Weprin said almost 40 percent of the district is Asian, the largest single group. According to the nonprofit Asian Americans for Equality, 14 percent of the district is South Asian or Indian, 12 percent Chinese and 10 percent Korean.

The district is 14 percent Hispanic, 12 percent African-American, 15 percent Jewish and 15 percent white ethnic, a group that includes Italians, Greeks, Polish people, Irish and others.

Weprin said representing such a diverse community is a source of pride, though it comes with unique challenges.

“It is challenging in that you have to learn how to segue into a lot of different languages and cultural traditions,” he said. “We might be the most diverse [district] in the country, being that Queens is the most ethnically diverse county.”

 

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