Tag Archives: City Council

City Council rejects Whitestone sidewalk cafe bid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The City Council unanimously struck down a controversial bid for a Whitestone sidewalk café Wednesday.

Owners of Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria wanted to wrap an outdoor sitting area around their 22-30 154th St. Italian restaurant.

But a handful of neighbors said the proposal would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

Lawmakers said the sidewalk is also not wide enough and too close to residential homes.

“The impact of this victory should ensure all future applicants make every effort to address the concerns of the community board and neighboring residents,” Councilman Paul Vallone said.

Restaurant manager Joe Lobue recently told The Courier the outdoor area would have let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

The restaurant’s lawyer, who was in court Wednesday, did not immediately reply to a call for comment.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Flushing Town Hall completes $1.2M renovation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Flushing Council on the Arts

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

The historic Flushing Town Hall has a new look.

The theatre and event space fully reopened on Friday, March 14, after a five-month, $1.2 million interior renovation.

The makeover will freshen up the venue after more than a dozen years of use. The Flushing Town Hall building is more than 150 years old, and it has been an active theatre for 35 years. Its last renovation was completed in 1999.

“After 15 years of extensive wear and tear on the building it was time to upgrade and to renovate,” said Ellen Kodadek, executive director of Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, which operates the Hall.

The money for the renovation was partly funded by former Borough President Helen Marshall, various Queens City Council members and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

The makeover includes new flooring in the hallways and the gift shop, a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) throughout the building, and new floors and chairs in the theatre, which seats 308. The theatre’s movable risers were also replaced. Just like the old risers, the new ones will allow the theatre to transform at will.

“We are capable of taking the seats and the risers out and setting the room up so that it doesn’t look at all like a theatre, but you could do a wedding or a banquet or leave room for salsa dancing,” Kodadek said. “And that’s something very special and different about our theatre. Many theatres don’t have that capability.”

Flushing Town Hall hosts about 75 performances around the year, including jazz concerts, theatre plays, educational events for children, puppetry, dance, art galleries and workshops. They’ve also rented out the space for special events, including weddings and school graduations.

On the same day it reopened, The Queens Courier donated $1,500 to Flushing Town Hall, from money that was raised at the annual Rising Stars event. The money will be used to foster educational services for underprivileged students.

 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Sunny. High 42. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday night: Clear skies. Low 31. Winds ENE at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Elton John’s The Million Dollar Piano

Showcase Cinemas is excited to bring Sir Elton John to select theaters for “The Million Dollar Piano.” Captured live from his residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, “The Million Dollar Piano” features all of Elton’s greatest hits from throughout his legendary career PLUS an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Starts at 7 p.m. at College Point Multiplex Cinemas. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Dream Act fails in New York Senate 

In a controversial vote, the New York Senate rejected a bill Monday that would have opened state tuition aid to students living in the United States illegally, dashing long-held hopes of immigration advocates. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Fatal NYC bus crashes skyrocket

Fatal city bus crashes have recently soared, according to new data. Read more: New York Post

City Council proposal would give unpaid interns right to sue for sexual harassment, discrimination

A measure under consideration by the New York City Council would give unpaid interns some of the same rights as paid workers. Read more: CBS New York

De Blasio plans to sign paid-sick leave bill this week

Mayor de Blasio said Monday he won’t delay a bill forcing businesses with as few as five workers to provide five paid-sick days a year to their employees. Read more: New York Post

GM recalls1.18 million SUVs for air bag issue

General Motors issued a new recall of 1.5 million vehicles Monday, part of an effort to assure buyers that it’s moving faster to fix safety defects in its cars and trucks. Read more: AP

 

Bill could make community boards go digital


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Follow me @liamlaguerre


It’s possible that the city’s community boards could be coming into the digital age.

Councilmember James Vacca, chair of the Committee on Technology, held a hearing for his bill recently that would require community boards to webcast their full board meetings.

At the hearing, members of the community boards and civic organizations raised questions about the complexity of implementing the law, because each board will have to learn to use the broadcast equipment. Also, funding for the equipment and the ability to webcast from various locations could be problematic for the community boards.

But Queens leaders of local civic organizations that already use the Internet to connect with residents support the bill.

“People don’t come to a meeting because they need to pay a baby sitter to watch their kids,” said Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, which doesn’t hold meetings in person, but is “cyber-civic” by utilizing Facebook. “James Vacca is on the right track. If you can’t get people, because their lives are busy, to bring that meeting on their computer is really great.”

The bill is still being reviewed in the technology committee.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

City drops suit over anti-profiling law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

As part of a series of reforms to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday the city is dropping a lawsuit that prohibits “bias-based” profiling by police officers.

The legislation, known as Local Law 71, was passed by the City Council in August after overturning a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It bans using race as well national origin, color, creed, age, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status as the “determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action.”

In September, the Bloomberg administration challenged Local Law 71 in court.

De Blasio, said, in a release, that in dismissing the suit it demonstrates his commitment to unite police with the community and respect resident’s constitutional rights.

“There is absolutely no contradiction in protecting the public safety of New Yorkers and respecting their civil liberties. In fact, those two priorities must go hand-in-hand,” he said. “No New Yorker should ever face discrimination based on the color of his or her skin. We are going to be explicit in setting fair and effective standards that prevent bias in any form.”

The law allows individuals to sue to stop bias-based profiling by law enforcement, but does not permit monetary damages.

“This law protects individuals in our communities against bias-based profiling, said Zach Carter, the city’s top legal counsel. “At the same time, police officers acting within the scope of their duties and in conformance with NYPD guidelines will be represented by the law department, in accordance with the law.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

City Council passes paid sick leave expansion


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

The City Council has approved a law that would grant thousands more workers the right to paid sick leave.

It will be the first piece of legislation Mayor Bill de Blasio will sign into law.

“From waitresses and dish washers to store clerks and car wash workers, New Yorkers across the five boroughs will finally have legal protection to a basic right that so many of us take for granted each day – and employers will benefit from a stronger and healthier workforce,” de Blasio said Wednesday, following 46-5 the passage.

In January, de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the legislation, which will extend the right to paid sick leave to businesses with five or more employees.

Under the law, about 500,000 more New Yorkers, 200,000 of whom do not currently have paid sick days, would have the right to them, the mayor said last month.

The legislation expands on the New York City Earned Sick Time Act, enacted by the City Council in June.

According to the act, beginning in April, businesses with 20 or more employees would be required to give at least five paid sick days per worker each year. Starting in October 2015, businesses with 15 or more workers would have to do the same.

The new legislation would take effect for all business with five or more employees starting this April also. The law passed Wednesday also removes exemptions for the manufacturing sector, and adds grandparents, grandchildren and siblings to the definition of family members, and cut out legislative red tape that could have delayed paid sick leave.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Light snow this morning giving way to partly cloudy conditions this afternoon. High near 30. Winds WNW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 50%. Snow accumulations less than one inch. Wednesday night: Clear skies. Low around 15. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Mid-Winter Taste for City Harvest

This food tasting event at  Resorts World Casino showcases over 30 food purveyors, and all proceeds will benefit City Harvest. Entry at 7 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

NY Assembly passes Dream Act providing tuition aid

New York’s Assembly passed a bill Tuesday that would open state tuition assistance programs to students in the country illegally, and now the measure moves to an uncertain future in the Senate. Read more: AP

NYC Council follows mayor’s Lead, steps away from St. Patrick’s Parade

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the council won’t have an official presence at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade because of rules that prevent gay and lesbian groups from identifying themselves while marching. Read more: CBS New York/AP

New Yorkers favor letting cities boost local minimum wage

A new statewide poll shows a large majority of New Yorkers support giving municipalities authority to raise the minimum wage locally, something Gov. Cuomo opposes. Read more: New York Post

NY Assembly contracts for $210K outside counsel on sexual harassment policy

The state Assembly has entered into two contracts worth $210,000 for an outside counsel to handle sexual harassment policy development and investigations after a high-profile scandal. Read more: NBC New York

Snow likely every day for the next 3 days, then again on the weekend

Snow is likely to fall every day for the next three days as arctic air settles over the tri-state region, where it will stick around through the weekend. Read more: NBC New York

 

Queens lawmaker wants fire hydrants tagged with markers


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Councilmember Mark Weprin

All New York City hydrants should be tagged with high-flying flags to be spotted more easily during snowstorms, a Queens lawmaker is proposing.

Councilmember Mark Weprin is reintroducing legislation this March that would require markers be placed at least three feet above hydrants.

The bill, first introduced in 2011, would help firefighters quickly pinpoint nearest hydrants that are buried in the snow, Weprin said.

It would also help homeowners locate and dig them out faster and keep motorists from accidentally parking too close.

“Hydrants get snow plowed in. There are some you can’t even see,” Weprin said. “It seems like just a common sense change.”

Six major snowstorms have slammed the city so far this winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the last blast on Feb. 13.

In Central Park, Bridgeport and LaGuardia Airport, it is the third snowiest February on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The bill has never moved out of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, though similar laws exist in other cities like Orangetown, N.Y. and Santa Maria, Calif., Weprin said.

“I’m hoping we can make the case a little better now,” he said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Generally cloudy. High 34. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy early followed by cloudy skies overnight. Low 24. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Two Nice

The Creek and the Cave presents “Two Nice” during open mic night, every Tuesday through March 4. Fresh off their first place finish in the Nature Valley “Pleasant Gentleman” pageant, professional good dudes Jay Dean and Tynan DeLong bring you “Two Nice Guys.” Open mic  performers get two minutes to “Take the Choo Choo to Chuckletown!” So come out, stay loose and have fun! Juice and cookies provided by Jay’s mom, Gail. The performance starts at 6 p.m. For more information call 718-706-8783. The Creek and the Cave is located at 10-93 Jackson Avenue in LIC. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

City Council holds hearing on traffic deaths

Some New York City parents are all bound together by a common tragedy: their sons and daughters were killed by vehicles on city streets. Read more: Fox New York

Plane returned to JFK over concerns about anti-icing system

A plane had to return to John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday evening, after a cockpit indicator light showed possible problems with the anti-icing system. Read more: CBS New York

De Blasio to appear on CBS’s ‘The Good Wife’

Mayor de Blasio, fresh off Monday morning’s appearance on the “Today” show, is now ready for prime time. Read more: New York Post

Study links acetaminophen use by pregnant women to ADHD in children

A warning for pregnant women: A popular over-the-counter pain reliever may put your unborn child at risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Read more: CBS New York

Riders becoming less wasteful with MetroCards

Riders wasted tens of millions of dollars less on their MetroCards in 2013 than the year before, according to new MTA data. Read more: New York Post

 

Corona immunization clinic set to close once again


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

It’s déjà-vu for two major immunization walk-in clinics as the city renews its plans to close the sites by the end of the month, according to union leaders.

In August, the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced it would close the Corona Health Center, located at 34-33 Junction Blvd., and the Tremont Health Center in the Bronx. After community protest, the city temporarily stopped the plan and rescheduled the closing for the end of 2013.

Yet, after keeping the clinics open into the New Year with funds provided by the City Council, closures are expected for the end of February.

“The function of immunization is prevention,” said Fitz Reid, president of Local 768, a union representing health care workers. “It’s not just job protections, it’s to protect the children, protect the public.”

The closures are expected to severely limit access to free and low-cost immunizations for low-income and poor families, protecting them from diseases such as the flu, meningitis, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and others.

The DOHMH also plans on cutting the hours of its STD clinics, according to union leaders.

Public employee union District Council 37 tried to hold a meeting with the Health Department, but said it was not productive as no immunization representative attended. The group now wants to schedule a new meeting with the hope of getting their concerns heard by the department’s newly appointed commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett.

“We’re hoping that when she takes the reigns, we’ll be able to meet with her and have a productive meeting where we emphasize the importance of the clinics in the communities,” said Judith Arroyo, president of Local 436, United Federation of Nurses and Epidemiologists. “We’re just waiting for a response.”

According to Arroyo, the immunization clinics are necessary because they serve as the first step for immigrant families to learn about health care and begin immunization records for their children.

One of the major issues at hand is that every closure has been kept from the community, said leaders. Residents would then have to travel to the Fort Greene Health Center, located at 295 Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn, the city’s only walk-in immunization clinic.

“I continue to oppose the closure of the Corona immunization clinic,” Councilmember Daniel Dromm said. “The Department of Health unfortunately has decided to keep their plans for the center in the dark. Residents need to have access to these services, including school children who are required to have certain shots before attending class.”

The DOHMH did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer discusses vision for new majority leader role


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is looking forward to the next four years as majority leader.

Van Bramer was appointed on Jan. 22 by newly elected City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“It’s a great honor, not only for me, but for our district, for our team and for Queens,” Van Bramer said. “It was a very humbling experience. It took a while to sink in.”

As majority leader, his key role is working together with the 48 Democratic members of the City Council and serving as a bridge between them and Mark-Viverito.

Van Bramer has also been named co-chair of the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team.

Since his appointment, the councilmember has hit the ground running and plans to get involved in working on subjects such as paid sick leave and universal pre-kindergarten.

“We are active every single day and I am looking forward to being a very influential majority leader over the next four years,” he said.

Van Bramer hopes to work together with his fellow councilmembers to help in any way he can.

“I’m here to help them achieve their goals and to use my office and my proximity to the speaker to advance their goals, their agendas and their districts,” he said. “I hope that they will call on me anytime they need and I will go to the speaker and advocate for them in every way I can. That’s the kind of majority leader I want to be.”

The councilmember also retained his position as chair of the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee. He plans to continue working with the libraries and growing cultural community to make sure the budgets and appropriate funds work for them.

“I’m excited about the work ahead,” said Van Bramer. “It’s a great time and I feel reinvigorated. I am going to work incredibly hard in being the best majority leader that I can be and then the future will take care of itself.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Mark Weprin tapped to lead Council’s Queens delegation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Councilmember Mark Weprin was unanimously elected Wednesday to chair the City Council’s Queens delegation, he announced in a statement.

“I look forward to advocating for much-needed funding for cultural groups and non-profit organizations in communities across Queens County,” he said. “To better serve our families in all 14 Council Districts across the borough, it is vital that the delegation continue to work as a united group.”

The lawmaker replaces former Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who held the role before being appointed deputy borough president.

Weprin was a top contender in the speaker’s race before stepping back to support his colleague Dan Garodnick, the Queens Democratic Party’s pick, who was not successful in his bid.

Elected in 2010, Weprin represents District 23, which includes Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside and Queens Village.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Victims’ families, pols gather to support Vision Zero


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Many teary eyes were focused on “Vision Zero” during recent rallies in Queens.

Supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to reduce traffic fatalities to nil gathered Sunday at a candle light vigil on the corner of Wyckoff and Myrtle Avenues in Ridgewood, where 23-year-old Ella Bandes was struck and killed by a city bus a year ago.

Politicians, advocacy groups, friends and families of victims called for safer streets and more responsible drivers during the event, which paid tribute to Bandes and many others.

“What we’ve been through in the past year is such a nightmare,” said Judy Kottick, Bandes’ mother. “Losing your child is the worst thing that could happen to anyone. We just don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

There have been nearly 20 auto-accident related fatalities in the city since the start of 2014.

People at the rally wanted drivers to be more aware of pedestrians and avoid breaking traffic laws. They also asked for support for Assemblymember Dan O’Donnell’s bill, which would lower the NYC speed limit to 20 mph from 30 mph, except where the City Council determines a different speed is appropriate.

Before the candle light vigil, supporters of “Vision Zero” rallied on Grand Avenue and 69th Place in Maspeth in honor of Angela Hurtado, who was killed at the intersection when a driver with a suspended license struck her on Jan. 18.

Transportation advocacy group Make Queens Safer called for support for State Senator Michael Gianaris’s bill, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault. It would be a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

“The people we are talking about have had their licenses suspended because they’re already known to be bad drivers, and the faster and easily we could make it for law enforcement to take them off the street, the better,” Gianaris said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Federal, state and city officials: ‘Make Lunar New Year an official school holiday’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

State lawmakers have strengthened a renewed push to make Lunar New Year an official school holiday, garnering support from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Students shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between celebrating their heritage and missing a day of school,” the newly-risen speaker said.

The City Council plans to introduce two resolutions, calling for schools to close and metered parking to be suspended on one of the most important holidays of the year in Asian communities, Mark-Viverito said.

Multiple other measures have been introduced in the state and federal levels that call for a similar break for families.

A bill that would establish Lunar New Year as a school holiday for districts with an Asian-American population of at least 7.5 percent has been introduced in the State Senate and Assembly for years.

Flushing is the only neighborhood in Queens to meet the criteria, along with Chinatown in downtown Manhattan.

While it has made no movement in the past, elected officials gathered Friday in downtown Flushing to declare 2014 the year of action.

“This is the year and this is the time we believe it’s going to happen,” said Councilmember Paul Vallone, who is drafting a bill that would suspend metered parking that day.

About 14 percent of city students in the school system are Asian-American, Mark-Viverito said.

Officials have long argued absence rates in some city schools climb 80 percent on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Though observing students are “excused,” the absence is marked on their record.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who spearheaded the Assembly’s attempts during her last tenure, proposed a resolution in Congress this month, asking local education agencies that include the city’s Department of Education to close schools that day.

“One day, we’ll look back and see that we made history,” said Councilmember Karen Koslowitz.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Vallone announces new high school program, outlines big ideas for district


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Councilmember Paul Vallone wants sparks to fly during his time in office.

The freshman legislator launched idea after idea — including shooting fireworks on Bell Boulevard and hosting movie and game nights — during a two-hour interview with The Courier.

“I want to bring back that old-time feel,” he said, gazing at the boulevard out of his fifth floor Bell Plaza windows.

“You look at things from a different perspective,” he said. “As a father, I think, ‘What would my kids want to do?”

His long list of plans for the district also include having quarterly roundtables with the district’s community groups and starting up a new Student Ambassadors program in February with three local high schools.

The initiative allows about 10 juniors from Holy Cross High School, Bayside High School and World Journalism Preparatory to serve for a year as community representatives.

The teens would organize food collections and cleanups, take trips to City Hall and even draft a bill to be introduced in the City Council.

“It’s the next generation’s input,” Vallone said. “I’m not going to touch it, whatever they draft.”

As for his own bill, Vallone filed his first piece of legislation Jan. 9, calling for the city to recognize Lunar New Year as a major holiday.

It supports a law already introduced in the State Senate and Assembly that has not moved for years.

The lawmaker also plans to continue participatory budgeting, which begins in 2015 at its earliest. The city initiative gives residents the chance to develop and vote on physical infrastructure projects they want to see in their neighborhoods.

At the top of his growing list of priorities is still making sure a school is not built in the former Whitestone Jewels site.

“This is nonstop,” he said. “We’re still watching.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES