Tag Archives: City Council

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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Former City Council candidate Kevin Kim won’t run for office this year


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

Former City Council candidate Kevin Kim announced he would not run for any office this year.

The Democrat had mulled a run in the 19th District to replace Republican incumbent Councilmember Dan Halloran, who is not seeking re-election while he fights federal corruption charges.

Kim lost a 2009 election to Halloran.

“After serious consideration, I have decided not to run for City Council this year,” Kim said in a statement. “Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the outpouring of support I received from so many people in the community.”

Political insiders said Kim, who grew up in Bay Terrace, was also eyeing a try for Borough President. But he shot down rumors to The Courier, saying that is not his intention.

“I will not be running for any office this year,” he said, “but will continue to be active in advocating for causes that are important to the community as a whole.”

 

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Flushing widow pushes for hit-and-run bill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The widow of a Flushing man killed last year in a tragic hit-and-run held back tears while she pushed for a bill to protect pedestrians.

“I’m very heartbroken, very angry,” said Taysha Dominguez. “There are no words to describe the pain and the suffering that my family is currently going through at this moment.”

Her husband, Dante Dominguez, was struck by a car while crossing 41st Avenue and Union Street on foot in Flushing last November. The driver, who is still unknown, fled and left the father of three to die, officials said. He was 45.

“Even when I step on someone’s foot, I hold accountability. I say that I’m sorry to that person,” said the widow, 30. “This person continued driving, didn’t have the heart to help save that victim. To leave the scene — that’s heartless. That is what has torn me apart.”

Lawmakers and Dante’s family returned to the scene of the crime last week to urge the City Council to pass a bill which would require more police action and the installation of nearly 200 red light cameras.

“We don’t want her husband to have died in vain,” said Councilmember Peter Koo.

The legislation would require the NYPD to make annual reports to the City Council on hit-and-runs that result in death or severe injury, detailing all actions taken to determine culprits. The city’s police department would also have to collect video surveillance from cameras near the crime scene.

The bill also calls for the city to install red light cameras in more than 150 intersections and create a tax credit for property owners who install their own devices.

Sources said the bill will soon be introduced in the City Council.

“Hit-and-runs are too frequent in Queens, and we need to do everything we can to make sure the police have the resources they need to find the drivers responsible for them,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

Inspector Brian Maguire of the 109th Precinct urged anyone with information on Dante’s death to anonymously help by calling 1-800-577-TIPS.

“Getting into an accident is not a crime,” the precinct’s commanding officer said. “It’s only a crime when you flee the scene.”

Dominguez said her husband was a hardworking artist who toiled through long shifts to make ends meet. She added that their family is still reeling from the loss.

“I can’t say we’re okay when we’re really not,” said Dominguez. “We have no sense of closure. We’re hurt and we’re torn. There is not enough justice being done to find out who did this.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 77. Winds from the NW at 5 to 15 mph shifting to the SSW in the afternoon. Chance of rain 80%. Monday night: Partly cloudy with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 57. Winds from the North at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Dancing Under the Stars 

From 6 to 7:30 p.m., come for Dancing Under the Stars, twilight ballroom dancing lessons held in Forest Park. The lessons are free and are held every Monday until July 8, when the Nick Russo Latin Jazz Quintet will perform for participants.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Mayhem in the city: 25 people shot in 48 hours

Violence surged like the mercury Sunday, with three more fatalities from gun violence — and eight others wounded in shootings — bringing the total number of bullet-riddled in the city to 25 in less than 48 hours. Read more: New York Daily News

City Council offers free self-defense classes following hate crimes

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the council’s LGBT Caucus have announced they will host free self-defense classes following the recent spate of hate crimes directed at members of New York City’s gay community. Read more: NBC New York

Queens car wash workers walk off the job, say they’ve been harassed by employer after voting to unionize in April

Sixteen workers at a Queens car wash walked off the job Saturday to protest what they claim has been systematic harassment at the hands of their employers. Read more: New York Daily News

Former mayor Ed Koch remembered at St. Patrick’s mass

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s family and friends attended mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday – a favorite activity of the late Jewish mayor. Read more: ABC New York

Bradley Manning trial begins 3 years after arrest

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning goes on trial Monday more than three years after he was arrested in Iraq and charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Read more: AP

Obama to highlight mental health six months after Newtown shooting

President Barack Obama will highlight the issues faced by Americans with mental health problems at a White House conference on Monday, following his promise to start a “national conversation” on the subject after the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a school last year. Read more: Reuters

Actress Jean Stapleton, known as Edith Bunker on ‘All in the Family,’ dies

Actress Jean Stapleton, best known for her role as Archie Bunker’s wife in the groundbreaking 1970s sitcom “All in the Family,” has died, her son said Saturday. Read more: CNN

 

 

 

Halloran dropping re-election bid amid federal charges


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

DAN HALLORAN

With an uphill legal battle underway, Councilmember Dan Halloran will not to run for re-election later this year, widening an already crowded race for his seat.

A source close to Halloran originally confirmed the embattled legislator is withdrawing from the race.

“Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council,” Halloran said in a statement. “After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign, so I will not to pursue another term in the Council.”

Halloran has maintained his innocence on federal corruption charges alleging he helped a state legislator try to buy his way onto the Republican mayoral ballot. Halloran entered a “not guilty” plea in court last week.

Several Halloran staffers, including his chief of staff and his legislative director, resigned in the days and weeks after Halloran was arrested on April 2. Federal prosecutors accuse Halloran of taking $20,000 in bribes and arranging payouts for GOP bosses in Queens and the Bronx with the aim of getting Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith the Republican mayoral nomination.

Halloran started focusing on his re-election campaign in District 19 after losing a congressional election for the newly-drawn Congressional District 6 last year. Some political insiders viewed him as a long shot and he had trouble raising funds.

Democratic primary candidate former Assemblymember John Duane, Paul Graziano, Paul Vallone and Austin Shafran announced their candidacies for the District 19 seat prior to Halloran’s arrest last month. Chrissy Voskerichian, Halloran’s former chief of staff, filed papers with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

Several calls were placed to Voskerichian for comment.

But since then, fellow Republicans have begun to eye the seat. Dennis Saffran, a Douglaston attorney, announced his candidacy last week. The move, backed by the Queens GOP, will likely force a primary.

Since his arrest, Halloran has also come under media scrutiny for an alleged affair with a former staffer while Halloran was still married.

The New York Post subsequently reported Halloran was having an affair with a former intern. The intern was reportedly in Halloran’s home during his early morning arrest. Because Halloran has not immediately stepped down, he is still open to a misconduct investigation by the council on sexual misconduct allegations reported earlier this week.
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Leaders call for changing of the guard in Queens GOP


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photos

Former Republican Councilmember Thomas Ognibene says there needs to be a change-up in the Queens GOP after years of infighting and what he called a negative influence by former vice chair Vince Tabone.

“I’ve believed for the last three to four years that it [leadership] had to be changed,” said Ognibene, who served in the Council from 1991 to 2001 and was the minority leader.

Tabone is charged with accepting $40,000 in bribe money to sign the Wilson Pakula certificate, to greenlight State Senator Malcolm Smith as a Republican for mayor. He resigned as vice chair on Wednesday, April 3, a day after his arrest.

Phil Ragusa currently chairs the Queens GOP.

The ideal person to replace Ragusa if he were to step down, Ognibene and others have said, would be former Congressmember Bob Turner, who lost a Republican U.S. Senate primary last summer and whose congressional district was cut up thanks to redistricting.

On calls to step down, Ragusa said he does not plan on giving up his position, as he’s not linked to the charges.

“We’re just moving ahead,” he said. “One person should not be able to affect the whole Queens GOP.”

Ognibene, now practicing law on Long Island, said the allegation that Tabone frisked a cooperating witness for a microphone was proof he was up to no good.

“That’s evidence of a guilty conscious,” Ognibene said.

Ragusa and Ognibene came into a leadership battle two years ago when a sect of the party voted to elect the latter as the GOP chair. A separate pact voted for Ragusa at the same time, with a judge finally ruling that Ragusa was rightful leader of the party.

While he was saddened by the allegations against Councilmember Dan Halloran, Ognibene said the alleged actions of some shouldn’t reflect on the GOP as a whole and “the Party will go on.”

A replacement for Tabone has not yet been named, Ragusa said.

“We’re going through our process and we haven’t named anybody right now,” he said.

 

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Flushing Democrat Paul Graziano officially starts District 19 campaign


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Graziano

A Flushing urban planner officially joined District 19’s City Council race while another candidate bowed out.

Democrat Paul Graziano kicked off his campaign on March 25 at Bowne Park to unseat Republican incumbent Councilmember Dan Halloran.

“My campaign is very simple. Protect your neighborhood. Do no harm,” said Graziano, a lifelong North Flushing resident. “It’s hard for me to think about theoretical and esoteric problems when we’ve got problems at hand in the community.”

The 41-year-old community activist was surrounded by family, friends and dozens of civic leaders Sunday when he announced his plans to preserve the neighborhood from overdevelopment, protect city parkland and ensure a better education system citywide.

Graziano also called for a “reconstituted” Board of Education with more borough subdivisions. He said the move would allow local school districts to operate independently and give communities a voice in the city’s decision-making process.

“It’s really important to make sure that we have an agenda that focuses on the needs of this community as well as, really, things that are crossing the entire city in importance,” Graziano said. “When we’re in a situation where I think every neighborhood feels embattled by the kinds of things that are happening, we have to stand up and do something about it.”

The Council hopeful faces a Democratic primary with former Assemblymember John Duane, Austin Shafran — the former vice president of public affairs for Empire State Development under Governor Andrew Cuomo — and attorney Paul Vallone, who is the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein dropped out of the race Sunday, citing “one of the most difficult years” of his life after his mother passed away last December.

“My mom was an amazing woman who wanted me to continue fighting for the issues I care about. However, after consulting with my friends and family, I have decided to suspend my campaign,” Silverstein said. “This campaign might be ending, but I am not going away. I will continue to advocate for the issues that are important to me.”

Silverstein had long set his sights on the seat, registering his campaign committee last May.

The Democratic primary winner will square off in November with Halloran, who was elected to the Council in 2009.

 

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Votes split on USTA expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of USTA

The votes are in on the much-debated expansions to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the results are mixed.

Half of the six voting Community Boards are in favor of the US Tennis Association (USTA) moving 0.68 acres out of its current property — so long as the organization meets certain conditions set by each board.

Board 6 voted 21-6 and Board 8 26-8 in favor on Wednesday, March 13; Communty Board 3 voted 33-1 against the next night. The six advisory decisions will now go to Borough President Helen Marshall, who has 60 days to decide on the expansions. Marshall’s decision then goes to the City Council and the City Planning Commission.

Marshall will hold a forum on the plan April 4 at Borough Hall. The Borough Board, led by Marshall, will vote on the plan April 8.

Two boards voted against the proposal last week, one of which could switch to yes if USTA meets nine regulations — similar to those set by other boards — including setting up a conservancy for the park. Community Board 7 voted yes, but with eight conditions, on March 11.

Each board has recommended USTA discount court prices for seniors and children, and invest in the park’s crumbling facilities.

“Community Board review was the first step in a multi-layered governmental review process that also includes the borough president, City Planning, City Council and State Legislature,” said Tennis Center Chief Operating Officer Danny Zausner. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue as we move through the different phases.”

Parkland advocates against the plan, however, say they’re going to continue informing residents of the downside of the plans. “I think the community boards’ vote will have no impact whatsoever on the BP’s vote or the City Council members,” said NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft. “They seem perfectly willing to give away additional parkland to this private business for concessions.”

 

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Quinn officially announces mayoral run


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Official NYC City Council photo by William Alatriste

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is officially running for mayor.

The long-term city rep kicked off her campaign Sunday, becoming the second to do so, after more than a year of speculation.

“I’m about keeping New York City a place for the middle class to live and grow,” she said in a video officially announcing her campaign. “And to help all of those hard working people get into the middle class.”

Along with protecting the middle class, Quinn’s platforming on her record fighting for New Yorkers’ civil rights and a record of passing seven balanced budgets.

The speaker will now begin a “walk-and-talk” tour, in which she’ll walk through city neighborhoods to gauge the needs of a community.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio kicked off his campaign for mayor last month. The dems can also expect former Comptroller Bill Thompson and incumbent John Lui as opponents.

 

 

 

Districting commission files final map for approval


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


The lines have been drawn and they’re staying.

New York City’s Districting Commission filed Monday, March 4 its final map to the City Clerk for approval. The final of three drafts had been submitted to the City Council on February 8, after which the legislature had three weeks to vote or the new districts would automatically be adopted.

And that’s just what happened.

The Commission will now file the map with the Department of Justice, who will have 60 days to ensure the plan is kosher with Section 5 the Voting Rights Act. Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan are all covered under this part of the law to ensure that minority voting rights are ensured and protected.

There are 35 minority districts in the city under the new plan, according to the Districting Commission, in which racial and language minorities are the dominate block in the district. This is a five district increase from the 30 of such created in 2003.

 

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State senator wants to landmark Flushing Meadows-Corona Park


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Landmark the park.

That’s what State Senator Tony Avella wants for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to block development in the area.

These include an entertainment center at Willets Point — an area that is technically parkland — along with expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.

The projects are either inside or on the edge of the park, but only the proposed soccer arena would require replacement parkland to be installed somewhere relatively close to Flushing Meadows. Normal park users, however, will not get the same access to this new park, Avella said, and Flushing Meadows would become overcrowded.

“Normally when you have some alienation, [and] you have some land coming in, you have to replace parkland of equal acreage some place everyone can agree upon. You may actually replace the amount of acreage, but the number of people who use it would be significantly less.”

Landmarking includes a review of the park for its historical and cultural value. The independent commission will look at these and decide whether or not it goes to a full vote.

“We put together what I think are very significant reasons why it should be done,” said Avella. “The historic aspect of the park in terms of two Worlds Fairs, housing the United Nations for a period of time and the fact that it is the borough park.

All three projects require a vote from the City Council, and then approval from the state because green space will be lost. Avella said should the bill go to the state level — in order to approve any removed parkland — he would push his colleagues in the chamber to vote down the expansions.

Risa Heller, spokesperson for MLS, said the league wanted to help refurbish the park and have a long working relationship with the parks department.

“MLS is deeply committed the long term health and vibrancy of FMCP which is why we will make a significant investment in the park in addition to replacing community fields,” she said. “We plan to be a long term partner for the park and plan to do everything we can to ensure it meets the needs of the surrounding communities.”

Spokespersons for USTA and the Willets project were reached for comment, but were not able to respond by press time.

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Two candidates declare victory in special election


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of YouTube/Facebook

Two councilmembers, one district. Following the City Council special election late Tuesday, February 19, candidates Donovan Richards and Pesach Osina both declared victory of the 31st District.

“While we are still uncertain of the total numbers, when every vote is counted, we will be victorious,” said Osina, an aide to Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, at his campaign headquarters.

Similarly, Richards took to Twitter and Facebook, declaring, “Happy to announce I am the councilman!”

As of midnight on election night with 97 percent reporting, a mere 26 votes separated Richards, former Councilmember James Sanders’ protégé, and Osina, according to unofficial Board of Elections (BOE) reports.

The race to fill Sanders’ vacant seat was heated, and crowded. Attorney Jacques Leandre came short of Osina and Richards, followed by community activist Michael Duncan, Selvena Brooks, Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide, Saywalah Kesselly and Allan Jennings.

Counting to determine a winner will reportedly rev back up Wednesday, February 20. There is a potentially missing memory stick from a ballot scanner, and absentee and paper ballots still need to be counted. A recount could also be in the cards, according to Politicker.

Despite the chaotic end, candidates still see a bright future for southeast Queens.

Brooks, who conceded before counting ceased, said she believes that the district will emerge stronger and better because of what the candidates had done throughout the campaign and because of the important community issues they highlighted and elevated.

There was still no winner as of press time.

 

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City Council candidate Austin Shafran gains second union endorsement


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Austin Shafran has gained the endorsement of UFCW Local 1500 in his bid for City Council.

“This is a high-priority council race for our members, and we know that Austin is the candidate who will fight the hardest to strengthen and expand the middle class,” said Bruce Both, president of the state’s grocery workers union.

Shafran, the 32-year-old former mainstay in the Cuomo administration, is in a four-way Democratic primary race to unseat incumbent Republican Dan Halloran in the 19th District. He was the vice president of public affairs for the governor’s Empire State Development until he resigned to run for office.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to have the endorsement of a union whose members and leader have done so much for working families,” Shafran said. “Retail is one of the fastest-growing sectors of our local economy, and I plan to work closely with Local 1500 to improve the quality and quantity of retail jobs that are the backbone of a strong middle-class-first economy.”

Shafran also recently gained the support of the Teamsters Joint Council 16.

He will take on Democratic State Committee Chair Matthew Silverstein, former Assemblymember John Duane and attorney Paul Vallone — the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

The district extends from College Point to the borders of Nassau County.

 

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