Tag Archives: City Council

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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Daneek Miller wins by a landslide, will replace Leroy Comrie


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Daneek Miller

After coming out on top of a crowded primary race, Daneek Miller easily slid past the general election and right into the District 27 council seat.

“We have a lot of uphill battles,” Miller said. “When you see how working families have been treated over the last decade, it’s imperative that we have a voice at City Hall.”

And Miller will be that voice for his to-be constituents throughout St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park, Queens Village, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens

Once election night came to an end, the Democratic candidate was declared the winner by a landslide, receiving 96.9 percent of the vote over his opponent, Independent Sondra Peeden, with 3.1 percent.

Miller was backed by longtime City Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who endorsed the union president to succeed him.

“Daneek has always been my backbone. [He] is a proven leader,” Comrie said after the primary election. “He has an ability to do the critical things that are required of a city councilmember.

Miller, a community and labor activist, has lived in the district for 35 years. He is currently the president of the Amalgamated Transportation Union (ATU) Local 1056 and was previously the union’s political director.

Through his time with the union, he has worked for members’ rights, health safety, pension reform, veteran’ rights and more, and hopes to transfer that “success” to City Hall, he said.

Rory Lancman celebrates landslide City Council victory


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Twitter photo courtesy of Dominic Panakal

Former Assemblymember Rory Lancman is headed to City Hall. 

Lancman, 44, won the open District 24 seat in a landslide victory on November 5. He also swept his opponents during the Democratic primary in September. 

“I’m feeling great,” he said. “It’s very, very gratifying and humbling to not just win but win by such a huge margin.” 

The Fresh Meadows attorney beat out Republican Alexander Blishteyn and third-party candidate Mujib Rahman with 73.7 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results. 

More than 11,850 votes went to Lancman, early tallies show. Blishteyn took in 3,205 votes and Rahman, who lost his bid for the Democratic nominee, received 1,020 votes, according to preliminary results. 

Lancman will replace term-limited Councilmember James Gennaro in a district that represents parts of northeast and central Queens. 

Lancman was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006. He pledged not to seek re-election last year while running for Congress — later losing his bid for Capitol Hill in the Democratic primary.

Close race called for incumbent Councilmember Ulrich, Simon not conceding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Votes were counted down to the bitter end before a winner was declared in City Council District 32, and Republican Councilmember Eric Ulrich has reclaimed his seat.

“This race was a real nail biter,” Ulrich said in front of family and friends on election night.

As the results trickled in, Ulrich and his Democratic opponent, Lew Simon, were nearly 50/50 on votes, according to preliminary numbers.

However, both candidates took to the mic and declared victory to their respective crowds.

“It appears that we have won,” Simon said in Rockaway.

Meanwhile, in Howard Beach, Ulrich assured his constituents that he had “the most up-to-date information” and that he had a “very strong lead.”

“Many of you have been with me since the beginning, and this is not going to end,” said the incumbent.

When Ulrich caught wind that Simon too had called the race in his own favor, he responded, “Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”

However, Simon’s camp came back and accused Ulrich of adapting the ways of the Tea Party where “losing is winning and less is more.”

Simon and his team are still “status quo,” said Doug Forand, spokesperson for Simon. The group plans to wait until all paper ballots are counted and will respond to those results.

“We defied expectations. Few people thought it would be such a tight race. And the race isn’t over yet. We want to make sure every single vote is properly counted,” Simon said. “I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support across this district, including from many Republican voters who clearly want a change in leadership.”

According to unofficial results, Ulrich came out on top with 53 percent of the vote and was declared the winner by both the New York Times and the Associated Press.

“I was re-elected by my constituents, and I have a lot of work to do,” said Ulrich, now the only Republican in the Council’s Queens delegation.

He said he will work with the newly elected administration in a bipartisan way, and looks forward to finding out what role he can play in the City Council after a new Speaker is elected.

Regarding any potential role as a Minority Leader in the City Council, Ulrich said it’s “too premature to be talking about leadership roles,” and his time in office still comes second to current Minority Leader James Oddo of Staten Island.

Regardless, during his next term, Ulrich also hopes to revamp the Republican “brand” and work to restore the public’s faith in his party line.

As Ulrich wound down his victory speech, he raised his hands one last time.

“Go to bed tonight and know we kicked Lew Simon’s ass. Let’s have a drink.”

City Council OKs Hallets Point development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

The development that would bring thousands of residential apartments, retail space and parkland to the Astoria waterfront at Hallets Point has gotten the final thumbs up.

The City Council voted on Wednesday, October 9 to approve the plan presented by Lincoln Equities Group, the company behind the estimated $1 billion complex called the Hallets Point project.

According to Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., the City Council came to an agreement with developers to cut the “community supportive project” down to half its original size.

The new deal also includes $500,000 in city funded research to see the feasibility, engineering and design of a proposed ferry service in order to take the large number of incoming residents to and from the peninsula of Hallets Point.

“It’s going to bring development to an area that sorely needs it,” said Vallone.

The development group initially announced in 2012 it would build the seven multifamily residential towers made up of 2,200 units on the waterfront presently home to the NYCHA Astoria Houses.

Twenty percent of the apartments are expected to be affordable housing. The complex will also include retail space featuring an affordable supermarket, a bank, drugstores and restaurants.

Along with the building, the plan is expected to include a 100,000-square-foot public park, outfitted with pedestrian walkways and bike paths winding along the waterfront, giving the community better sight lines of the waterfront. The project will also create a spot for a K-8 public school.

In May, Community Board 1 voted unanimously to approve the plan. The City Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan in August and in July Borough President Helen Marshall approved the plan as well.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 or early 2015.

 

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Willets Point mega mall gets final City Council green light


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

The City Council approved a major $3 billion Willets Point project Wednesday, clearing the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies needed the council’s permission to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to build a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

It was the last hurdle the joint venture needed to jump over after Community Board 7, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and the City Planning Commission gave the project the green light this summer.

The ambitious project includes the cleanup of 23 acres of contaminated land east of Citi Field and eventual construction of housing units with commercial and retail space.

It was long stalled as Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, waited for better relocation plans for soon-to-be-displaced Willets Point business owners.

Auto shop owners who make up the Iron Triangle said they can only survive if they are moved as a whole and can continue as a one-stop shop for motorists.

The pooled $12.5 million offered in total relocation aid payouts were not enough for the approximate 100 auto shops in the first phase of the redevelopment site, advocates said.

The city agreed to spend $15.5 million on moving expenses and relocation of Willets Point business owners as part of a deal struck with the City Council, Ferreras said.

About $17 million more will be given to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance for upkeep and maintenance of the park and construction of a green rooftop farm on top of the entertainment center.

“This deal would be a win for our constituents, a win for Willets Point and a win for New York City,” Ferreras said. “This vote has always been about improving the lives of our constituents.”

Construction of 2,500 housing units — 35 percent of which will be affordable — will also be moved up from its original set 2025 date, officials said.

“It is important to note that never before has a council district seen this much affordable housing,” Ferreras said.

“For years, this area has gone without many of the resources the rest of the city has regularly received,” she continued. “Our district deserves to have the same treatment as any other area in New York City.”

About $66 million in the city budget will be set aside to put up new ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway, Ferreras said. Developers also agreed to shell out $7 million for traffic improvement and mitigations.

Written commitments by the joint venture also include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Critics of the plan still say the area needs affordable housing before a colossal shopping center.

Hundreds marched to oppose the project late last month, and at least eight auto shop owners held a hunger strike in August.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, chair of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. “We’ve heard from everyone who wanted to testify right until the end. Not everyone got everything they wanted … [but] the process works. It is great when the community voices can be heard and the members can sit and advocate on behalf of their constituents.”

Officials said the project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

“Today’s approvals mean that the historic vision for a redeveloped Willets Point is finally going to become a reality,” the joint venture said in a statement. “Thanks to today’s actions, we are going to transform a contaminated site into a new community with thousands of new jobs, affordable housing, retail and open space.”

 

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Rory Lancman wins landslide victory in District 24


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Twitter

Former Assemblymember Rory Lancman swept his Democratic primary race Tuesday and moved one step further to winning an open City Council seat.

Lancman, 44, won the District 24 Democratic primary in a landslide victory on September 10.

The Fresh Meadows attorney beat out his opponents, Andrea Veras and Mujib Rahman, with nearly 62 percent of votes, according to unofficial election results.

“It’s very satisfying that so many people who I represented when I was in the State Assembly thought I did a good enough job there to give me the chance to serve them in the City Council at a time when all of New York City government is turning over,” Lancman said.

He will face off with Republican candidate Alex Blishteyn, who is also a Fresh Meadows attorney, in the November general election.

The winner will represent parts of central Queens in City Hall. The seat is being vacated by term-limited Councilmember James Gennaro.

Lancman was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006. He pledged not to seek re-election last year while running for Congress — later losing his bid for Capitol Hill in the Democratic primary.

City Planning Commission OKs Hallets Point development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Thousands of residential apartments, retail space and parkland are one step closer to coming to the Astoria waterfront at Hallets Point, home to the NYCHA Astoria Houses.

On Wednesday, August 21 the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan presented by Lincoln Equities Group, the company behind the estimated billion-dollar complex called the Hallets Point project.

In 2012, the development group announced it would build seven multifamily residential towers consisting of 2,200 units. Twenty percent of the apartments will be affordable housing. The location will also include retail space featuring supermarkets, drugstores and restaurants.

A 100,000-square-foot public park, outfitted with pedestrian walkways and bike paths, winding along the waterfront, is also expected to be included.

Robert Schenkel, Lincoln Equities development director previously said the project would bring a positive change to Hallets Points, bringing new housing, an affordable supermarket, a spot for a K-8 public school and a landscaped waterfront path.

The plan will now go before the City Council.

If the plan is approved, construction is expected to begin in late 2014 or early 2015.

 

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Halloran district to get funding for all participatory budget items


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The district represented by indicted Councilmember Dan Halloran will receive funding for all seven participatory budget items and then some.

Nearly $3.2 million in capital and expense projects will be honored by the City Council, according to the legislative body’s Queens delegation.

“Northeast Queens is home to many of the borough’s great cultural institutions, not-for-profits and some of the best schools in the entire city,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie, the deputy majority leader and chair of the delegation.

“I was pleased to have had the opportunity to work with my colleagues in the delegation to ensure residents can continue to thrive, and the funds we provided will make sure the quality of life in these community’s remains strong,” he added.

The Council stripped Halloran of his committee assignments and funding allocations in April when the lawmaker was charged in a conspiracy and bribery scheme.

Power to distribute his district’s funds fell to Speaker Christine Quinn’s office and the borough delegation, which said they would dole out money for 23 community projects. Those include all seven the district voted on during its second annual participatory budget process.

The initiative allows residents to choose at least five physical infrastructure projects they want to see in their neighborhood.

Halloran’s constituents voted to create kayak and canoe launches, restore the Poppenhusen Institute and MacNeil Park, add special needs equipment to local playgrounds, renovate P.S. 98’s art room and secure school smart boards and NYPD security cameras throughout the district.

Comrie said other projects that made the ballot, but not the ultimate cut, will also be funded. These include upgrading the Bayside Historical Society Officers’ Club, improving Fort Totten Park sidewalks and adding a bird watching platform at Osprey Landing.

Educational youth programs like the Alley Pond Environmental Center Inc., health initiatives by Flushing Hospital Medical Center and events by business groups like the Bayside Village Business Improvement District, among many other programs, are also in the budget.

 

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Mayor: Police stop too many whites, not enough minorities


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Mayor's Office Flickr /Photo by Spencer T Tucker

Mayor Michael Bloomberg answered critics of the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy by saying the NYPD doesn’t stop enough people of color and stops too many whites.

Less than one day after the City Council approved major legislation to change up management of the police department against the mayor’s wishes, Bloomberg made the controversial remark about the stop-and-frisk policy on his morning radio show on June 28.

“One newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying, ‘Oh it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.’ That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murders,” Bloomberg said referring to crime statistics that show the police stop much more minorities than whites.

He added, “In that case, incidentally, I think, we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. It’s exactly the reverse of what they’re saying. I don’t know where they went to school, but they certainly didn’t take a math course, or a logic course.”

Some mayoral candidates already criticized Bloomberg’s comments.

“To turn around after communities in the city of New York– black and Latino communities– that the inappropriate use, the improper use, the misuse of stop-and-frisk that has caused so much pain and so many problems and then to turn around and say ‘I’m sorry I didn’t stop enough people’– that’s the outrageous part,” said Bill Thompson, the only black candidate running for mayor. “His comments weren’t worthy of any elected official, much less the mayor of the city of New York.”

The City Council passed the Community Safety Act on Thursday. The legislation has two bills, one that creates an inspector general to oversee the police department with the commissioner, and the other which makes it easier for people to sue the police over racial profiling cases. The second bill was pushed in part because some legislators thought the police department abused the power of stop-and-frisk.

Bloomberg has vowed to veto the bills.

 

Council District 24 contender Alex Blishteyn is the ‘citizen candidate’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Alex Blishteyn

A Fresh Meadows attorney wants to breathe life back into stunted small businesses in his district.

Alex Blishteyn, a Republican candidate for City Council, said he has seen too many shops close their shutters in the 23 years he has lived in District 24.

“I remember that area when small businesses were flourishing,” he said. “You could walk up Kissena Boulevard and people would be going in and out of stores.”

Now, Blishteyn said, local stores are being “overregulated and overburdened” with city taxes and regulations.

“They’re not being allowed to operate,” he said. “That’s why we’re seeing a lot of them shut down. They’re being nickel-and-dimed to death.”

The first-time candidate has raised about $16,000 so far in his bid to replace Councilmember James Gennaro, who is stepping down after reaching his term limit. District 24 stretches from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica.

“I think that the community is not well represented,” said Blishteyn, 35. “We need a voice for the people who actually live in that area, one who actually represents the residents of the area. I haven’t found that to be the case.”

Blishteyn, who calls himself the “citizen candidate,” said education is at the top of his agenda. He added that instituting a voucher program and tax credits for private school tuition would give parents more school choices for their children.

“I’ve never been a political activist,” Blishteyn said. “I’m the regular guy who really has had enough with what’s happening with our city.”

Blishteyn is supported by past and present GOP lawmakers including Councilmember Eric Ulrich and former Congressmember Bob Turner.

Other candidates in the District 24 race include former Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who leads in fundraising, Andrea Veras and Mujib Rahman.

 

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Flushing millionaire Isaac Sasson drops out of 24th City Council District race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A lottery millionaire from Flushing has scratched himself off the City Council ticket.

Isaac Sasson, 72, has dropped his bid for the 24th District and will instead “focus his efforts on his philanthropy and his related positions in the Orthodox Jewish community,” his campaign said in a statement.

The Democrat announced in January he would gamble to replace outgoing Councilmember James Gennaro in the district that stretches from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica.

Sasson, a former organic chemistry professor at Queens College and retired cancer researcher, won a $13 million lottery jackpot in 2007. But his luck turned in 2009 when he lost his first bid for City Council and then again in 2010 for State Senate.

He is not the first to drop out of the District 24 race. Democratic District Leader Martha Taylor terminated her campaign in February due to health concerns.

The race’s front-runner, former Assemblymember Rory Lancman, was endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party and most recently by former Councilmember Morton Povman, who used to represent the district.

According to the city’s Campaign Finance Board, other candidates Alexander Blishteyn, Andrea Veras and Mujib Rahman have filed funds for the district race as of last month.

 

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