Tag Archives: community

Fighting to keep L.I.C. HS open


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Long Island City High School students are teaching a lesson in devotion by refusing to “turn” their backs on their school and allow their educators to be dismissed.
L.I.C., located at 14-30 Broadway, is among 26 schools across the city the Department of Education (DOE) has designated for Turnaround – which involves closing the school at the end of the academic year, reopening under a different name in the fall and replacing up to 50 percent of the teachers.

More than 100 students, teachers and elected officials rallied on the steps of L.I.C. on April 16 – a day before a DOE public hearing at the school – to protest the city’s plan.
Amira, the L.I.C. senior class vice president and an organizer of the rally, said students “are not going to go down without a fight.”
Teachers have also expressed outrage over the DOE’s intentions, and are requesting aid from the city rather than attacks.

Senator Michael Gianaris, an alumnus of L.I.C., believes the city is playing political games with kids’ education.

L.I.C. was included on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools during both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. The school – which was initially designated for the less severe Transformation plan – was receiving Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system. By instituting the Turnaround model – a program which does not require teacher evaluations – the city will be eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state. L.I.C. would be eligible for $1.55 million in supplemental federal funding.
According to DOE records, L.I.C. ranks in the bottom 18 percent among city high schools in attendance with 81 percent and was given an overall progress report grade of C in both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

The school, given a Quality Review score of “Proficient” on its most recent evaluation, has shown significant improvement in graduating students over the last three years, with graduation rates increasing from 56 percent in 2008-2009 to 66 percent in 2010-2011.

L.I.C. currently serves 3,386 kids, and despite the overhaul, all current students and incoming ninth graders who have applied and been matched to L.I.C. will have a seat in the new school.

As part of its plans for the replacement school, the DOE intends to modify the structure of the school day schedule, strengthen small learning communities, modify curricula and add an advisory program.

“The proposal to close L.I.C. and re-open a new school in its place will allow the best teachers to stay, improve the school’s structure and quality of teaching, and potentially allow us to access millions of dollars in funding to help the school improve,” said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas.

The DOE’s proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Education Policy (PEP), a committee composed of 13 members assigned by the five borough presidents and Mayor Bloomberg, on April 26.

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis
Hundreds rallied outside Long Island City High School to protest the potential Turnaround of the school.

Teen arrested in Bronx boy’s shooting


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Teen arrested in Bronx boy’s shooting

A teen was arrested for the shooting of an 11-year-old Bronx boy, police said. Kijana Jenkins, 17, was arrested today and is awaiting arraignment, authorities said. Jenkins and an unidentified cohort fired the shots in the closed door of the Creston Avenue apartment around 11 p.m. Thursday, cops said. The gunfire struck Ryan Aguirre, 11, in the stomach. He was rushed to Jacobi Hospital, where he’s listed in stable condition. “I heard his father screaming, ‘You shot him,’ ” one of the family’s neighbors said. Ryan went to the door because his father was asleep on the couch, neighbors said. Read More: New York Post

 

Jorge Posada, Yankees catcher, set to retire, will make formal announcement in coming weeks 

Former Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, a key cog in four World Series winning teams, has decided to retire, according to two baseball sources with knowledge of his plans. The 40-year-old Posada, who .235 with 14 homers and 44 RBI last season as he transitioned to a role as a designated hitter and bench player for the Yanks, will make a formal announcement of his plans in the next few weeks, according to one of the sources. The news of Posada’s retirement was first reported by WFAN. Read More: Daily News

 

Community Members To Donate Services For Brooklyn Girl Found Dead In Mother’s Arms

The sadness was palpable in Bedford-Stuyvesant Friday night as residents visited a makeshift memorial to pay their respects to the little 2-year-old girl found dying in her mother’s arms. “My heart goes out to the family because I’m a mother also. It’s hard, very hard,” said one resident. “May her soul rest in peace,” said another. The news also stunned some business owners and community leaders. “I lost a young one earlier and to hear this—you know, there are so many people out there who want children, and to hear of a young child being lost, it just breaks your heart, and you want to do as much as you can for the family, whatever the story is,” said Andrew Sorrentino. Read More: NY1

 

Public Advocate Calls For Ban On Food Stamp Fingerprinting

Governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t the only elected official opposed to fingerprinting food stamp recipients. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is joining a list of opponents who want the practice banned. De Blasio calls fingerprinting the less fortunate “inhumane.” He said if Mayor Michael Bloomberg does his research, he’ll see the policy doesn’t work. Read More: NY1

 

Dual debates a chance to throw Romney off stride

Republican rivals for the presidential nomination have a chance to knock front-runner Mitt Romney, who has a commanding lead in New Hampshire polls, off his perch in back-to-back weekend debates that could help define the contest. In a race largely driven by 13 previous sparring matches, Romney has emerged mostly unscathed by the six or seven opponents who have flanked his debate position on center stage. That could change with Saturday night’s debate or the one scheduled Sunday morning, as rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum seek to stop Romney’s march to the GOP nomination. In particular, Gingrich is looking to keep his candidacy afloat while Santorum hopes to capitalize on his neck-and-neck performance against Romney in Iowa’s caucuses. Read More: New York Post

Bayside Hills home granted variance, community outaged


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Despite months of rallying by local residents, politicians and Community Board 11 against a land variance request in Bayside Hills, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) unanimously voted recently in favor of what many believe to be a precedent setting matter.

Michael Feiner, Bayside Hills Civic Association president, has been uniting the opposition against land owner Rockchapel Realty, LLC who has planned on developing the lot next to 50-20 216th Street into a two-bedroom rental home since January. According to the BSA decision, disapproval was recommended by Community Board 11, Borough President Helen Marshall, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Dan Halloran, State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember David Weprin.

“In my 25 years of being involved with our Civic Association, no issue has ever come my way that looked this cut and dry; a house just doesn’t belong at that location for zillions of reasons,” said Feiner.

Those cited reasons for opposition included the site being too small to accommodate a second home and being out of context with the surrounding neighborhood. The original lot –which already has a two-story home – was divided into two lots with a vacant triangular corner to be used for the new project. A variance had to be filed since the existing R2A zoning in the area prohibits the construction of a second house due to the small size of the plot on which the house is to be built. Currently, the plot is a garden.

According to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, Rockchapel Realty took advantage of a technical zoning resolution, which “probably should be changed.”

“In certain residential communities, properties should not be allowed to be divided into tax lots which are smaller,” said Seinfeld.

With the BSA decision resulting in a 5-0 vote, there are limited options for the mass opposition.

“As for an appeal, it would be very difficult but I plan to find out how it could be done,” said Feiner. “I understand in rare cases there were successful appeals, but the cards are really stacked against us in this instance.”

Neighbors on the block had different views on the proposed development, which does not yet have a start date.

“My opinion will depend on what the house will look like once it’s built,” said Wyakeena Tse.

Raymond Porfilio had a different take:

“It’s a disgrace. The BSA basically disregarded the community’s desires and the zoning laws. This is an area where the zoning laws prohibit that kind of structure. BSA granted a waiver to a developer who has no interest in the community and doesn’t have a large enough property to put a house in there. We’re not going to give up fighting.”

Attempts to reach Rockchapel Realty, LLC or the developer’s architect Paul Bonfilio were unsuccessful.

Community complaints about Racino addressed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan Patrick Jenkins of Resorts World New York City addressed residents concerns about the Racino.

As the big debut of the city’s first casino rounds the corner, several dozens of nearby homeowners voiced their concerns at the Ozone Park Civic Association’s monthly meeting.

The civic group and more than 50 locals welcomed guest speaker Patrick Jenkins, a representative of Resorts World New York City, on Tuesday, October 18. Jenkins is also the main liaison between the company and the surrounding community.

“It’s been a long year, but it’s been a good year. The first thing I want to do is say thank you to the people who live in the shadow of Aqueduct,” Jenkins said. “You’re right next door, in the backyard and it’s been a great experience working with the community and leaders. We look forward to being a great neighbor.”

Jenkins said there may be “growing pains” in the future, but the key to thwarting potential issues is by keeping communication strong.

The majority of complaints residents made were about parking problems once the Racino opens. Several residents expressed concerns that the neighborhood would turn into a “parking deluxe” for gamers looking to park on residential blocks to save a few bucks — especially after hearing news from Jenkins that there would be a charge for parking.

The amount to be charged is not yet determined, but Jenkins said the “nominal fee” would primarily prevent people from using the parking lot to take the train. He also said — but could not verify yet — that the company may reimburse parkers with player’s cards to be redeemed inside.

“We know this is New York City. People will do whatever to save on a parking fee,” said Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10. “We’re not going to see the full effects for a while. Let’s see what the patterns are going to be, then we’ll know exactly what we have to address. As problems develop, we will work on them. Just like when a new grocery store opens, we’re going to see the worst of traffic and parking problems.”

Although Jenkins said Resorts World hired 1,150 people since June, several residents complained that after being interviewed several times for jobs, they did not hear back from the company. Some accused Resorts World of not hiring from within the community as was promised.

“I’ve been here since last August and from day one, it’s been stressed by the company that we would hire from within the community,” Jenkins said. “That’s been reiterated and pounded home by every civic leader that we’ve spoken to. It’s something we talk about on a consistent basis, and the company is committed to that. I don’t know the exact statistics, but I do know that a lot of people from the area were hired.”

Jenkins said the company has received more than 40,000 job applications since June. He said they were still in the “arduous” hiring process of going through thousands of applications and said they were “no where near finished.”

The first phase of the Racino will open on October 28. Civic leaders said Jenkins and Resorts World representatives were “extremely responsive and aware” of the community’s concerns.

“This company has got to be one of the best that we’ve worked with. It has been a pleasure working with people who are actually concerned about the community,” Braton said. “Good things come to those who wait. It’s going to be a beautiful addition to our community.”

Helping Hands in Sunnyside – Sunnyside Community Services


| aasperin@queenscourier.com

Sunnyside Community Services After-School Programs

For the past 36 years, Sunnyside Community Services (SCS) has been serving Queens residents with a variety of services and programs for all ages, from after-school services for elementary school children, college readiness and job skills training programs for teens and young adults, family literacy and computer courses for families, to services for active and homebound seniors, including a vibrant center for active older adults and a multi-lingual home care staff of over 2,000 trained workers.

Located at 43-31 39th Street in Sunnyside, SCS is proud to offer what Judith Zangwill, executive director, calls “a continuum of care.”

“The agency has changed dramatically since it was founded in 1974,” said Zangwill. “It was initially started as a senior center by and for local seniors. Home care was added soon afterwards, followed by youth services. Now SCS is a multi-generational, multi-service agency that allows for seamless transition from one service to another as an individual or a family’s need change.”
This provides what Zangwill calls a “holistic approach.”

“Because of the array of services we offer,” Zangwill said, “I think of it as one-stop shopping. All of these various systems are hard to navigate, but by going through SCS, a person can take advantage of our experience and not have to go searching for access to the services they need.”
“That’s the advantage of providing a continuum of care,” said Zangwill. “Our members and clients already trust and know us, so we can help them move between services easily. We take great pride in that.”

One critical part of the continuum is their Social Adult Day Care program, according to Zangwill. The program provides access to a safe and comfortable facility, recreational and therapeutic activities, snacks, medication reminders, and more for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disabilities. This provides a vital service and respite for families that care for a loved one or family member but need help dealing with difficulties presented in caring for individuals with dementia.

“We decided Adult Day Care is an important part of our continuum, even though it is staff-intensive,” said Zangwill. “At SCS we have a ratio of one staff member to every four participants. The program is too important to give up or reduce our quality of service. Thankfully, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation believed in us, and gave us two years of support to develop a self-sustainable model.”

SCS is holding its Annual Benefit Gala on Thursday, October 20 at Studio Square, located at 35-44 37th Street in Long Island City. SCS will be honoring Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Emblem Health for their contributions to the community. For more information about the programs and services available at Sunnyside Community Services, or details on the Benefit Gala, call 718-784-6173, extension 434, or go to their web site at scsny.org.