Tag Archives: City Hall

Bills introduced to City Council to help individuals with developmental disorders


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A package of bills was introduced to the City Council Friday with the hope of preventing a tragedy similar to the disappearance of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo.

The 14-year-old was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River in October, when he ran out, past school security. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

The City Council’s Mental Health and Public Safety Committee held a joint hearing Friday where the four proposals, all aimed to avoid dangers to individuals with autism and other developmental disorders, were presented.

“We’ve had several tragedies in the last couple of years in New York City, so it’s always heartwretching when we do legislation that reacts to tragedy, but on one hand it helps us to make sure these tragedies never happen again,” said Councilman Ruben Wills, who spearheaded the group of bills in the City Council together with Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.

One of the bills calls upon the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to include the use of GPS tracking devices as a covered service.

The package also includes legislation that would create a voluntary registry for people with special needs. The database, including names, addresses, phone numbers, medical conditions and more, would allow parents or guardians to register their children with the NYPD at local police precincts.

The other two bills call for the city’s silver alert program to include missing people with developmental disorders and for the U.S. Department of Justice to fund any projects that would help protect and locate missing people with autism.

“We know that [Avonte’s death] was an unspeakable tragedy and certainly we are here as a collective to prevent anything like that from occurring across our city,” Gibson said.

For Lauren Thierry, Avonte’s disappearance hit close to home because her 16-year-old autistic son, Liam, attends the New York Child Learning Institute in College Point.

The past two years, Thierry has been creating a clothing line, called Independence Day Wearable Tech, which makes clothes that include internal pockets to fit GPS devices. Customers get a free GPS device when they purchase an item.

 

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Rory Lancman details seamless move from Assembly to City Council


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

It may have been the smoothest transition in the city.

Councilmember Rory Lancman, sipping a 7-Eleven Super Big Gulp, detailed his seamless move from the State Assembly to the City Council Tuesday in a sit-down interview with The Courier.

“It’s a different ball game, when everything you deal with is the five boroughs,” he said. “But in terms of the district office and serving the community, there’s no difference at all.”

New to City Hall, but not to New York politics, Lancman, 44, won the open District 24 seat in a landslide victory Nov. 5.

He succeeds term-limited Councilmember James Gennaro in a district almost identical to the one he served in the Assembly from 2007 to 2013.

“Jim and I have known each other for a long time. He and I supported each other politically and legislatively for many years,” Lancman said. “I don’t think there could have been a more natural or productive handoff of responsibilities.”

The Fresh Meadows attorney said even during his tenure in the Assembly, nearly all constituent services were related to city issues.

Drinking Diet Pepsi, with a splash of lemon — his choice of beverage every morning — Lancman is quick with a quip.

On snow, he says he is “against it.”

“I have a longstanding policy of being against snowstorms, and I’ve been pretty consistent,” he joked, later adding the city’s first storm was well-handled by the new administration.

And in between multiple phone calls that he answers with his Bluetooth headset, Lancman is still trying to perfect his office space.

“We need a space heater in the conference room,” he tells his chief-of-staff. “Everybody is cold.”

As he slips into his next meeting, Super Big Gulp in hand, he apologizes to his guests from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“I promise next time there will be coffee and warmth,” he said.

 

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De Blasio sworn in as 109th mayor of New York City


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Official Photos by New York City Mayor's Office

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The Bloomberg era has ended and the de Blasio administration has begun.

New York City’s 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn in during a ceremony at his Park Slope, Brooklyn home just after midnight Wednesday, followed by a formal inauguration on the steps of City Hall later that day.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officiated the New Year’s Eve oath of office, which was also attended by the mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

“From the beginning, this has been our family together reaching out to the people of this city to make a change that we all needed. I want to thank you for having brought us to this moment,” de Blasio said after taking the oath in front of his home.

“To everyone this is the beginning of a road we will travel together,” he added.

Former President Bill Clinton swore in de Blasio on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

De Blasio previously served as a regional director in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and managed Hillary Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Both endorsed de Blasio for mayor in the general election.

Before administering the oath, Clinton said it had been a “great joy” for his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and him to see de Blasio’s progress “because he has served with such passion and because he represents with his family the future of our city and the future of our country.”

Telling New Yorkers “our work begins today,” in his inauguration speech de Blasio pledged to expand the pay sick leave law, require big developers to build affordable housing, stem the tide of hospital closures, reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy and ask the wealthy to pay a little more in taxes to provide universal, full-day pre-k and after-school programs for middle schoolers.

“We won’t wait, we’’ll do it now,” he said.

“Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” he added.

A thousand tickets were reserved for the general public to attend the public swearing-in ceremony, with de Blasio pledging that it would be an “inauguration for all New Yorkers.”

Several dozen New Yorkers from across the city were additionally invited to join the mayor on stage. The group included a Queens engineer who emigrated from Bangladesh, according to de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio takes the subway with his family to his City Hall inauguration.

Queens resident and the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, read an original poem at the inauguration, which she dedicated to de Blasio.

Ramana, a first generation Indian-American, grew up in the borough and recently won the New York Knicks’ Poetry scholarship to St. John’s University, where she is a first-year student, according to the mayor.

Letitia James, who is succeeding de Blasio as public advocate was also sworn in at City Hall Wednesday. The councilmember is the first woman of color to hold citywide office. Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President since 2006, was sworn in as city comptroller, replacing John Liu.

 

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Mayor Bloomberg’s official portrait unveiled


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYCMayorsOffice

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be leaving office shortly, but his image will continue to live on in City Hall.

The mayor’s official portrait was unveiled Monday and now hangs in City Hall outside of the Blue Room, along with all recent official mayoral portraits, according to Bloomberg’s office.

Painted by portrait artist Jon R. Friedman, the painting is oil on canvas and is 50 inches tall by 36 inches wide.

It was created from a photograph taken of the mayor in June of this year, where he is standing in the Bullpen at City Hall.

Though the painting was privately funded and is a gift to the city, it needed approval from the Public Design Commission, a requirement for any artwork adorning city property. Final approval was given on Dec. 9.

 

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Little Neck fifth grader becomes councilmember for a day


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos by William Alatriste/Courtesy of Karyl Jones

Her love for Queens landed her a seat in City Hall — and she’s only 11.

Katiya Jones of Little Neck became councilmember for a day after beating about 500 youngsters in an annual essay contest hosted by Councilmember Mark Weprin.

“Before I went, I thought it would be boring,” she said, “but I was proved wrong. It was a lot of fun.”

The fifth grader at P.S. 26 blew judges away with her “articulate and upbeat” essay, Weprin’s office said.

She listed her favorite locations in the borough, including the Marie Rose International Doll Museum in St. Albans and the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, peppering the essay with historical facts.

The paper also gave judges a sneak peek into Katiya’s artistic life of dance, performance and altruism. She said she helps feed the homeless at the Afrikan Poetry Theater in Jamaica during the holidays.

“Queens has many activities that I participate in,” Katiya wrote. “In the summer, I play tennis with the New York Junior Tennis League, as well as attend the YMCA day camp where I swim and take martial arts. I ride my bike in Cunningham Park and visited Rufus King Park.”

Katiya took a private tour of City Hall, attended a press conference and mock voted on real legislation in council chambers on May 22.

“It’s very busy,” she said. “You’re going all over the place. You have a lot of meetings and places you have to be.”

Still, she said the legislator’s life is not for her.

“I want to be a pediatrician, an actress, a dancer, a singer and a billionaire,” Katiya said.

She might not be so far from realizing her lofty dreams.

Katiya appeared in a “Saturday Night Live” skit in November 2010 and has landed television and radio commercials since she was six.

“She doesn’t have a shy bone in her body,” said her mother, Karyl Jones.

Once Katiya entered council chambers, she immediately took on the role of lawmaker, Karyl said.

“She was sitting there like she knew what she was doing, looking at the agenda and looking all serious,” she added. “We got a lot of out of it.”

 

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Rockaway residents take to City Hall, demand say in Sandy rebuilding


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

By day 143, Rockaway residents had had enough.

Scores traveled to the steps of City Hall on Saturday, March 23 to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city to help residents rebuild after Sandy.

Shoulder to shoulder with elected officials and candidates for mayor and borough president, resident after resident told personal stories of their prolonged recovery and demanded a say in how the peninsula is rebuilt.

“Now, as community residents of the Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel, we demand to always have our voices heard on what goes on with all future projects, and most importantly, to be part of the process when implementing them to protect our community from another Sandy, or any type of possible future disasters,” said Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100th Precinct Community Council. Ruscillo held a sign that became one of the chants during the hour-long press conference: “United we stand. Divided we drown.”

Senator Charles Schumer recently secured money to rebuild New York beaches, and take measures to prevent flooding.

 

The Army Corps of Engineers, which has been conducting surveys on protecting the beach-front community for more than a decade, recently said the study would take at least another year-and-a-half.

But residents like Margaret Wagner think that’s too long. Wagner said she took the trip to lower Manhattan while her husband was at home putting up sheetrock in their Broad Channel home.

“We want the studies to end tomorrow,” said Wagner. “Give us a plan today. Not a year-and-a-half from now.”
John Cori and Eddie Pastore, who run Friends of Rockaway Beach and organized the City Hall rally, have long campaigned to build better beach protection.

This was not the first time Rockaway residents have criticized Bloomberg and his administration for what they believed was a delayed reaction to the storm. On a visit to Breezy Point in November, Bloomberg was lambasted by a resident; spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 2 booed him when he marched.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo both said it was crucial that those who live there have the final say in how the communities are rebuilt.

“These residents have to live with what’s left behind,” Addabbo said. “Let’s get to work for these people.”

“We heard about the federal money that Senator Schumer was able to secure and we’re very grateful for that,” Ulrich said. “But the community needs to be kept in the loop as to how that money is going to be spent.”

 

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Councilmember Eric Ulrich

Post: Doe Fund founder to announce GOP mayoral run Thursday


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

George McDonald, an advocate for the homeless, is gearing up to run for mayor as a Republican, the New York Post is reporting.

McDonald, who according to The Post paid himself nearly $500,000 in 2011, is joining what is shaping out to be an unexpected Republican primary for City Hall. He is expected to make his formal announcement at Grand Central Terminal this Thursday.

Former MTA Chair Joseph Lhota is expected to make his official bid later this month, after stepping down on December 31 to explore a run for mayor. Lhota served as a budget director and deputy mayor during the Giuliani Administration. He is expected to have the full backing of “America’s Mayor.”

McDonald heads The Doe Fund, established in 1985 to help homeless men and women get back to work and on their feet.

The Daily News reported in August that McDonald was entertaining the idea of the run – but little came from the news. He’ll also join potentials like John Catsimatidis, a grocery chain store owner, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión as the best Republican candidate.

Whoever wins the race could face one of several Democrats vying for City Hall. This includes City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; Comptroller John Lui; and former Comptroller and 2009 mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

Despite an overwhelmingly Democratic City Council, the Republicans have virtually held the Mayor’s Office for 20 years. Giuliani won in 1993 and 1997; Mayor Michael Bloomberg won as a Republican in 2001 and 2005 before running as an independent in 2009.

Councilmembers don hoodies for Trayvon Martin


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of William Alatriste

Members of the city council donned hoodies and stood on the steps of City Hall recently in a show of support to the family Trayvon Martin in the wake of the teen’s death.

Around the country, residents — from lawmakers to citizens — have worn hooded sweatshirts to bring awareness to the shooting of the unarmed Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, who was released by authorities, told police he acted in self-defense.

“Trayvon Martin’s killing last month is a horrific tragedy that has yet to be adequately investigated. Trayvon’s family deserves justice, and the country needs to know the full truth of what happened on the night of February 26 as well as in any investigation that followed in the weeks since,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “We fully support the Department of Justice’s decision to investigate this case.”

The city council passed a resolution condemning the “senseless shooting” of Martin and the subsequent investigation.

The resolution said the council “expresses deep sympathy for the Martin family, and calls for a full and impartial investigation holding those responsible to account as well as an examination of “Stand Your Ground” laws nationwide and the role they play in the spread of illegal guns on New York City’s streets.”

“We feel the deepest sorrow for Trayvon’s family’s loss and want them to know they have our sympathy, prayers and full support,” Quinn said. “We also express our solidarity with all those who have voiced their shock, dismay and outrage about Trayvon’s murder.”

 

It’s cabbie VS cabbie on hail bill


| brennison@queenscourier.com

yellow cab

Opposing factions of cab drivers are trying to make their case before the new street hail legislation reaches Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The city plans on issuing 30,000 new street hail permits that will allow liveries to pick up passengers in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs if the measure passes.

Members of the Livery Base Owners recently gathered on the steps of City Hall to announce the collection of 10,000 signatures urging the governor to sign the bill. Both the State Assembly and Senate have passed the legislation.

“Today’s announcement of the first 10,000 signatures collected by livery drivers and base owners stressed the importance of this historic legislation to their livelihoods and to our communities,” stated Pedro Heredia, president of Livery Base Owners, Inc.

Heredia said he hoped to reach 100,000 signatures.

“Every day we speak with our passengers about this new law that will allow us to legally do what we have been doing for over 40 years,” said Fernando Garcia, New York Association of Independent Taxi Drivers president. He called on passengers to show their support by calling the governor to encourage him to sign the bill.

While one side requests the governor to sign the bill, representatives from five taxi and livery organizations are trying to prevent the bill’s passage.

The groups, which encompass 70 percent of livery drivers and 95 percent of yellow taxis, said the bill would put many drivers out of business.

Medallions can cost upwards of $600,000 on the open market. Under the new plan the city would sell an additional 1,500 medallions.

“The permits Mayor Bloomberg is proposing would deprive working-class, mostly immigrant, drivers of the opportunity to own an asset with re-sale value,” said David Pollack, president of the Committee for Taxi Safety. “And without that valuable asset at stake, combined with a glutted market driving down drivers’ earnings, it’s easy to see how quality service standards would spiral.”

Pollack said the medallions could lose up to 25 percent of their value if the plan passes.

“We’re counting on Governor Cuomo to step in and make sure justice is done,” said taxi driver Virginia Cedeno.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that medallion owners’ investment would be protected, since yellow cabs will still have the exclusive rights in central Manhattan and the airports, which account for 97.5 percent of hails.