Tag Archives: City Council

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.

 

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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.”

 

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Leadership roles go to Queens councilmembers who supported speaker


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Official NYC Council photo by William Alatriste

Several important leadership positions went to Queens representatives Wednesday who showed support for newly-elected City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last month.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer retained his position as chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, but was named majority leader.

“It has always been my goal to play a meaningful leadership role in this new, Progressive Council. The opportunity to serve in the second highest position in the Council… is one I relish and am truly humbled by,” he said.

He was rumored to be in the running for Finance Chair along with another Queens elected, Julissa Ferreras, who got the appointment. She was previously Women’s Issues Chair.

“As the first woman and first person of color to ever chair the Council’s Finance Committee, I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to further serve the people of our great city,” she said.

Van Bramer and Ferreras were two of six Queens councilmembers to back Mark-Viverito for the speaker position in December, along with Daniel Dromm, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards and Republican Eric Ulrich, in contrast to the wishes of their county’s Democratic and GOP leadership.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm, a former public school teacher, is now the Education Committee chair after previously heading the Immigration Committee.

Ulrich was appointed chair of the Veterans Committee, Miller chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee and Richards chair of the Environmental Protection Committee.

Additional chair positions went to Elizabeth Crowley, the Fire and Criminal Justice Services, Karen Koslowitz, the State and Federal Legislation Committee, Peter Koo, the Landmarks Public Siting and Maritime Uses Sub-Committee, Mark Weprin, the Zoning and Franchises Sub-Committee, Ruben Wills, the Drug Abuse Sub-Committee and Paul Vallone, the Senior Centers Sub-Committee.

 

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Van Bramer, Ferreras in running to head Council finance committee: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photos

After showing support last month for newly-elected Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Queens Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer are the top contenders to head the Council’s finance committee, according to Politicker.

A City Council source told Politicker negotiations over the finance chair appointment are underway this week and “announcements could be coming soon.”

When contacted by The Courier, both Van Bramer and Ferreras had no comment to the Politicker report.

Mark-Viverito has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Van Bramer and Ferarras were two of six Queens councilmembers to back Mark-Viverito in December, in contrast to the wishes of their county’s Democratic Party leadership.

Mark-Viverito has so far only appointed members to the Council’s rules, privileges and elections committee.

Those members include Councilmember Donovan Richards, the only Queens representative on the committee.

The remaining committees are expected to be announced at the Council’s next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

 

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Melissa Mark-Viverito elected as next City Council Speaker


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Melissa Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected as the next City Council Speaker Wednesday by the 51-member body, becoming the second most powerful politician in the city and the first Latin-American to take the spot.

“We will work together, because that is what New Yorkers expect and that is what New Yorkers deserve,” she said. “We unite for a more equal and just New York.”

The two-term East Harlem councilmember first declared victory on Dec. 19 after receiving support from 30 council colleagues — more than the 26-majority vote needed.  Reports later surfaced that city officials wanted a unified backing behind Mark-Viverito.

Shortly before the Jan. 8 vote, her opponent, Daniel Garodnick, conceded and sealed Mark-Viverito’s win with a hug in the City Council chamber, followed by cheers from their fellow councilmembers.

“In the spirit of strengthening the council, which animated my candidacy from the start, I now formally concede to the next Speaker of the City Council – my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito,” Garodnick said. “I look forward to working with [her] … She is a smart and committed public servant, and we have worked extremely well together in the past.”

Garodnick also vowed to do his part to “resolve any rifts” the process may have caused among colleagues.

Mark-Viverito is also the first Puerto Rican woman and the first member of the Black Latino and Asian Caucus to take the Speaker spot.

Several Queens councilmembers supported Mark-Viverito from her December announcement, including Daniel Dromm, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer.

They confirmed their support at the Jan. 8 vote, along with the remaining Queens delegation.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras called Mark-Viverito a “passionate advocate for reform” to “bring transparency” to city government.

“We owe it to the people to elect a strong and principled woman,” she said.

Mark-Viverito said the vision for the “new City Council” is one of “unity, independence, integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Her agenda includes fighting for affordable housing, improving the city’s education system, raising the minimum wage and uniting for the city’s first responders.

“This council will be unified,” she said.

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Paul Vallone sworn into City Council during local inauguration


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Hundreds of residents packed into a school auditorium Saturday to watch Councilmember Paul Vallone get sworn into office.

The early afternoon ceremony at P.S. 169 in Bay Terrace was attended by a lengthy list of dignitaries, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Vallone, 46, was installed by his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. He took his oath of office, swearing on the family’s Bible.

“I believe that what you’re doing today, by bringing Paul Vallone into this very diversified and complicated district … that you will be delivering to this Council district one of the best representatives in government that this country has ever produced,” Vallone Sr. said.

The freshman legislator continues the 40-year Vallone legacy in City Hall. His brother, Peter Vallone Jr., was term limited out of the City Council at the end of 2013.

Vallone, who represents District 19, was officially sworn into the City Council Dec. 10 by City Clerk Michael McSweeney.

He ended his inauguration by giving out his first proclamation to Kevin and Tina Lynch, who won ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” last month and rocketed Whitestone to national stardom.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Thursday: A mix of clouds and sun. High 41. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Cloudy. Low 36. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: New Sounds of East and West

Set in a quaint, Gothic style church, Project Hansori’s concert will present new original music centered on Asian-infused jazz. Free, donation suggested. Starts at 7 p.m at All Saints Church in Sunnyside. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Melissa Mark-Viverito says she has support to become next City Council speaker

Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito is claiming she will have enough votes in the City Council to become its next speaker. Read more: The Queens Courier 

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Millions of Target customers’ credit, debit card accounts may be hit by data breach

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Melissa Mark-Viverito says she has support to become next City Council speaker


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito is claiming she will have enough votes in the City Council to become its next speaker.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Mark-Viverito, who represents District 8, said she has the backing of 30 councilmembers and councilmembers-elect, including Queens members Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer.

“I am humbled to have the support and confidence that my colleagues have placed in me. Today is the culmination of over two decades of my work at the grassroots, in non-profit organizations, in labor and as a public servant. I know that my fellow members will work with me in the City Council to create more inclusive legislative body where every member’s voice is heard and validated,” Mark-Viverito said.

She will only need the support of 26 members, when the vote for speaker takes place on Jan. 8.

Mark-Viverito received the backing she needed when Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio convinced Brooklyn Democratic Chair Frank Seddio to support her, according to published reports.

But her remaining opponent, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, isn’t giving up, and called her statement “premature,” reported Politicker.

The Queens councilmembers issued the following statements in support of Mark-Viverito:

Daniel Dromm
“I am proud to have been one of NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s earliest supporters. Having a bright, dynamic, independent and committed progressive as the leader of the Council is truly exciting. Mark-Viverito will continue to be a voice for the voiceless. Her connection to the people is her greatest strength. I congratulate her on her victory as the next Speaker of the NYC Council. This is a great day for New York City!”

Julissa Ferreras
“I’m proud to be helping to elect the first Latina Speaker of the New York City Council. Melissa is a friend and an impressive leader. I look forward to working with her to move our community forward, improve our schools, create good jobs and improve green spaces. Today is a great day for all New Yorkers.”

Daneek Miller
“I know and am thrilled with Melissa Mark-Viverito as our speaker and lead voice. We share common interests I know the council will move forward with a progressive voice.”

Donovan Richards
“Melissa Mark-Viverito has been a staunch advocate for the families of Southeast Queens and New York City for decades,” said Council member Donovan Richards. “Whether it was fighting for progressive issues such as paid sick leave days or reforming stop & frisk, she has continuously been on the front lines for our communities. This is why I stand with her in support of her candidacy to become the speaker of the New York City Council.”

Eric Ulrich
“I want to congratulate my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito on winning a hard-fought race for Speaker of the City Council. I am happy to be part of a diverse coalition of councilmembers and look forward to working with them in a bipartisan fashion on behalf of the working and middle class families in my district and throughout the five boroughs.”

Jimmy Van Bramer
“I am enormously proud to vote for a progressive and the first Latina to lead our great body. I am equally proud to elect a woman, who as Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, a body I have stood with since day one, has dedicated her life to ending injustice in all its forms including discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. The unending struggle for a more just city continues, and working together with Mayor-Elect de Blasio, I know our best days are ahead of us.”

 

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Costa Constantinides sworn into City Council


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Costa Constantinides' Facebook

Councilmember Costa Constantinides was officially sworn into the City Council Tuesday by City Clerk Michael McSweeney. He will begin his term Jan. 1

Constantinides, who represents District 22, was joined by Councilmember James Gennaro.

The date for his inauguration ceremony in Astoria is still to be determined.

 

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Verizon heroes honored by City Council for stopping Flushing rape


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras

Three Queens-bred Verizon technicians who thwarted a rape in Flushing in October were honored by the City Council Tuesday for their gallant rescue. 

“No one should ever have to experience such an atrocious crime as rape,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who chairs the Council’s Women’s Issues Committee.

Michael Popowich, Anthony Howley and John Gilday were on the job Oct. 30, when they said they saw a man push a woman down and pull down her underwear near 150-24 Northern Blvd.

The trio chased down the attacker and sat on him until cops arrived.

“I am proud that these courageous men stepped in and prevented a potential rape from occurring,” Ferreras said. “It is my hope that their example resonates with all New Yorkers everywhere to help those who are in need.”

The technicians were honored with a proclamation Dec. 10 by Ferreras, Councilmember Peter Koo and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“It was a big honor. It was very humbling,” said Gilday, 53, of Douglaston.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Sunny to partly cloudy. High 31. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low 23. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: New York Voices — Vocal Jazz Quartet — 25th Anniversary Celebration

Hear the incredible vocal jazz of this world renowned quartet — the group visited Queensborough Community College in 2012 and electrified audiences with their complex harmonies, intricate rhythms, and orchestra-like use of their voices. NY Voices was moved by their work with our vocal students here, and the music department is proud to be able to offer their musical gifts to the campus again. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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City Council passes Ozone Park rezoning


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the office of Councilmember Eric Ulrich

The City Council passed a change in Ozone Park’s zoning map Tuesday to reflect the neighborhood’s building patterns.

Now, the zoning mandates will reinforce the area’s one- and-two-family residential homes and direct new residential and mixed-use developments to more commercial locations.

“The new zoning enacted into law today will protect Ozone Park from overdevelopment and help create a more livable neighborhood,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who was born and raised in Ozone Park.

“It will also spur new modest development, especially in the commercial districts, thereby creating jobs and increasing property values,” he continued.

The rezoning is bounded by Rockaway Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue and 101st Avenue to the north; the Van Wyck Expressway and Lefferts Boulevard to the east; the Belt Parkway to the south; and the Brooklyn borough line to the west.

This marks the second largest rezoning in Queens, changing the map for roughly 530 blocks in Ozone Park. The vote was prompted by concerns from Community Boards 9 and 10 as well as local civic organizations and elected officials.

“Out of character structures and overdevelopment has become far too common in our communities,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills. “That is why it was important that we undertook these aggressive measures to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.”

 

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Attorney Munir Avery to run for State Senator Malcolm Smith’s seat


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Munir Avery

Munir Avery announced he will be the first challenger for State Senator Malcolm Smith’s seat in the 2014 election.

“I was born and raised in Queens Village, and I want to continue to serve my community. I want to bring the services to my community,” said the attorney.

Smith, who was indicted in April for allegedly trying to bribe his way onto the Republican ticket for mayor, has not publicly decided whether to run again.

Reps for the 13-year Democratic incumbent said he is not going to comment on his challenger.

In the State Senate, Smith caucused with a group of Democrats that govern with Republicans, said Avery.

“Because of that, the Democrats don’t have their chairmanship [in Albany],” he said.

If elected, Avery plans to caucus with the Democrats in order to work and fight for the party’s agenda.

“It’s cleaning up the system,” he said. “That would be the reason I felt the need to run against [Smith].”

Although this is Avery’s first run at office, he is no stranger to politics. He currently is counsel to Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, and previously worked for the Queens district attorney’s office and on City Council campaigns.

Avery hopes to address various issues surrounding schools, including funding a universal pre-kindergarten, nurturing scholar athletes, and implementing art and after-school programs.

“When I went to public school, we were able to have art, gym,” he said. “I want to see that back in the schools and I’m going to fight for that.”

He also wants to promote open government in Albany and “try to get the big money out,” of which he said Smith has failed to do.

 

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Paul Vallone sworn into City Council


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@pfvjr

Councilmember Paul Vallone was officially sworn into the City Council Tuesday by City Clerk Michael McSweeney.

The freshman legislator, who represents District 19, begins his term Jan. 1.

He will have a local inauguration ceremony Jan. 4.

 

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Mayor Bloomberg signs law to raise cigarette purchase age to 21


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Nikki Djokovich

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed a law making New York the first major U.S. city to have a minimum cigarette purchase age of 21.

Bloomberg signed the law on Tuesday, raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

The law, which Bloomberg said “will prevent young people from experimenting with tobacco when they are most likely to become addicted,”will take effect in 180 days. The mayor has previously spearheaded measures such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

“Any person operating a place of business where cigarettes, tobacco products, or electronic cigarettes are sold or offered for sale will be prohibited from selling such products to anyone under the age of twenty-one and they will be required to post a sign in a conspicuous location stating the new law,” said Bloomberg.  “Sales of these products shall be made only to an individual who demonstrates, through a driver’s license or other photographic identification card issued by a government entity or educational institution, that the individual is at least twenty-one years of age.”

The City Council voted to raise the minimum age in October. It passed by a 35-10 vote.

“…Our city is sending a powerful signal to the tobacco industry and its allies that hooking our kids on nicotine will no longer be a viable business model,” said Councilmember James Gennaro, one of the law’s sponsors, after the October 31 vote.

Eighty percent of the city’s adults who become daily smokers start smoking before reaching the age of 21, according to the City Council.

The same day, the City Council also passed legislation which attempts to limit access to illegal tobacco products and strengthens enforcement against illegal cigarette dealers.

 

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