Tag Archives: Comptroller John Liu

Candidates come out to Rockaway Beach


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Benjamin Fang

BENJAMIN FANG

Political candidates recently spoke at the Friends of Rockaway Beach forum, where they affirmed their commitment to address the needs of the Rockaway community.

Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner headlined the forum for the district he once represented in Congress. Democratic mayoral candidates Comptroller John Liu, former Councilmember Sal Albanese and Republicans John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota also made their cases to the voters.

Borough President candidates Melinda Katz and State Senator Tony Avella, Councilmember Eric Ulrich and his challengers Lew Simon and William Ruiz, and Public Advocate candidates Letitia James and Cathy Guerriero also addressed the packed room.

“We’re going to ask them to tell us their plans for our beaches, our boardwalk, our play areas,” said John Cori, co-president of Friends of Rockaway Beach and the organizer of the event. “We need to hold our elected officials accountable.”

The candidates talked about greater protection for the beach, improving transportation to and from Rockaway and giving the community a greater voice in City Hall.

Weiner, recently scandalized once more for “sexting,” slammed City Hall for creating “hipster-looking concessions” on the beach rather than restoring it. He also demanded extended ferry service, which is set to end by Labor Day.

“Rockaway might be this far away place to City Hall, but it won’t be if I’m mayor,” he said.
Katz then questioned the city’s readiness and response to Sandy, a topic the audience was hoping to discuss.

“Where are the double dunes that will protect the homes?” asked Katz. “Where’s the evacuation plan?”

She also talked about investing in the Rockaways and building it “better than it was.”
Avella blasted both Katz and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., two leading candidates for Borough President, for their voting records while in the City Council.

Avella’s plan for the Rockaways includes giving the area a railroad line, getting rid of tolls and 24 hours of bus service.

Ulrich touted his record in the City Council and stressed how participatory budgeting gave way to success.

“In those four-and-a-half years, I’ve been able to secure, with your help, millions and millions of dollars in capital improvements and programming for senior centers, for schools, for libraries, to keep our firehouses open,” he said.

His challenger, Simon, gave an impassioned speech about the devastated community and the need to rebuild it.

“There’s no boardwalk. There are no benches. There’s nothing here!” said Simon. “I want to be chair of the Parks and Recreation committee. I want to make sure our boardwalk is built.”

Other candidates for mayor and public advocate also courted the Rockaway vote and spoke about focusing on the Rockaways if elected.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Weiner falls to fourth place in latest poll


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

After losing his lead in the mayoral race in one poll last week, Anthony Weiner has fallen to fourth place in another survey of voters.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday Weiner received 16 percent of the likely Democratic primary vote, down from 26 percent in a July 24 Quinnipiac survey, where he placed first.

“With six weeks to go, anything can happen, but it looks like former Congressman Anthony Weiner may have sexted himself right out of the race for New York City mayor,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Pulling ahead of Weiner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with 27 percent, followed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio with 21 percent and former Comptroller Bill Thompson with 20 percent.

Finishing behind Weiner in the poll were Democratic opponents Comptroller John Liu, who garnered 6 percent, and former Councilmember Sal Albanese who had 2 percent.

The poll also found 53 percent of Democratic primary voters believe Weiner should drop out of the race following the former Congressmember’s latest sexting scandal.

If Weiner does withdraw his bid for mayor, the poll showed Quinn would still receive the most votes in the primary, but a runoff would still be likely.

In a runoff between Weiner and Quinn, the poll found Quinn would come out on top. But if the City Council Speaker faced Thompson, then she would lose the primary.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

John Liu draws public input for budget proposal


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Comptroller John Liu is attempting to create a budget “for the people, by the people.”

Liu’s brainchild, the so-called People’s Budget, came out in April. A website went up listing several community issues and city residents voted on where they thought budget money should be allotted.

Liu’s initiative is a comprehensive four-year plan that includes revenue generation and cost saving proposals. It promotes investments in communities, schools and housing, and would also create more than 35,000 jobs, according to the comptroller.

Topics raised by residents included extending library hours, providing more adult literacy classes, increasing the minimum wage and making streets safer for pedestrians and bikers. After voting closed, adult literacy classes came out on top, right above extending library hours.

“People are not shy about making their opinions known to me. They are tired of seeing their libraries being on budget,” the comptroller said.

Liu said the results of the People’s Budget will allow him to make recommendations to the City Council and the mayor and “demonstrate that these votes represent real sentiment on the part of city residents and taxpayers.”

“It’s time to stop dancing and create a budget that is of the people, by the people and for the people,” he added. “The way things are right now, the New York City dream is under attack.”

John Liu staffer among three arrested for lunch kickback scheme


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


A staffer for Comptroller John Liu was arrested in an alleged kickback scheme, reportedly pocketing over $50,000.

Veda Jamoona and two other co-conspirators were arrested on Monday, February 25 for allegedly stealing funds from a senior citizen’s lunch program, run by the nonprofit United Hindu Cultural Council (UHCC).

“By stealing from the senior center lunch program, the defendants put personal greed ahead of the basic needs of New York seniors,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

According to the indictment, Jamoona, 28, and her mother, Chan Jamoona, 66, both former UHCC executive directors, perpetrated a long-running scheme in which the owner of Sonny’s Roti Shop in Ozone Park, Steven Rajkumar, submitted falsely inflated invoices for lunches served to the seniors. The three then shared the profits.

“These defendants systematically chiseled the city’s taxpayers and shortchanged the seniors they were supposed to serve,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

The trio is charged with various counts, including a felony indictment for the Jamoona and her mother. If convicted, they all could receive 5 to 15 years in prison.

Jamoona started working for the comptroller in January of last year as a public affairs associate. After her arrest, she was immediately suspended without pay, according to a spokesperson for Liu.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese kicks off mayoral campaign


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Albanese for Mayor 2013

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, who recently announced he’s running for mayor as an independent Democrat, has high hopes for improving public safety and the city’s education system.

Albanese, who represented mostly Bay Ridge for 14 years, said he was building a campaign based on voter needs and not special interest groups.

“We’re building a grass-roots campaign around the city,” Albanese, 63, told The Courier. “I want to get to City Hall with a broad base of support.”

Albanese spent 11 years as a teacher and said he would partner with education colleges throughout the city and strengthen the student-teacher program if elected mayor.

Albanese said he would hire 3,800 new police .officers for patrols in the outer boroughs where crime might be ignored or under-reported. “If you have nobody on patrol…these things can drive people out of neighborhoods,” he said.

For Queens, Albanese said he would focus on ensuring continued development is done properly, and the borough recovers and rebuilds after Sandy.

All options and effects should be explored before officially jumping on a project such as the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. “[It] could really be a positive thing,” he said. “But we have to balance that with the parkland.”

Despite a lengthy term on the council, Albanese has not been in public office for about 15 years and is running in a primary against many Democratic incumbents. Some opponents include: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.

On the Republican front:

Less than a week after his announcement, and after a long-expected endorsement, Republican Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis picked up the backing of the Queens GOP on Friday, February 1.

“John Catsimatidis has the right experience as an independent businessman to lead New York and solve our city’s problems with common sense,” said party chair Phil Ragusa in a statement. The grocery store magnet is one of only a handful of candidates whose career hasn’t been in public service. Upon his endorsement, Catsimatidis noted his father worked as a bus boy at Riccardo’s in Astoria.

“I am very pleased to accept the Queens County Republican Party’s official endorsement,” Catsimatidis said. “My father who came over from the old country when I was just six months of age worked hard for our family and taught me the value of hard work and because he worked hard we never knew we were poor.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens celebrates Winter Pride


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Hundreds gathered at the Astoria World Manor to fete distinguished guests at the Queens Pride Committee’s 20th annual Winter Pride event.

The January 26 gala, which honored Congressmember Grace Meng, Dr. Marjorie Hill and Out Astoria, raised funds to support the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade and Multi-Cultural Festival as well as a film series and other events aimed at increasing the visibility of the LGBT community in Queens.

Public figures in attendance included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, and councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, who founded the Queens Pride Committee two decades ago.

“Twenty years of Winter Pride celebrations in Queens have helped to build a strong lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement in the borough,” said Dromm. “When I first started this celebration only one or two elected officials attended. Now it has become the most important ‘political’ non-political event.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Two Queens schools awarded Blue Ribbon


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

There is much ado about being blue at two Queens schools.

P.S. 203 in Oakland Gardens and P.S. 191 in Floral Park were named Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) this year.

The borough’s high performing schools join three others in the city — Brooklyn’s P.S. 34 Oliver H. Perry School, Bronx Charter School for Excellence and Harlem Success Academy I — and 309 more in the country, according to the DOE.

“To be named a Blue Ribbon school is to join a very special, elite group,” said Carole Nussbaum, principal of P.S. 203. “It is a real ‘wow.’ It is the highest award in education that any school can get.”

An ocean of youngsters in blue shirts gathered at the Oakland Gardens school with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and elected officials on November 29 to celebrate earning the coveted honor, which is based on overall school excellence and progress.

They sang blue-themed songs, like “Blue Moon” and “Blue Suede Shoes,” and wowed the audience with comedic plays explaining how they won the Blue Ribbon through hard work.

“You’re role models for your community and all New Yorkers,” Walcott said. “We hope the Blue Ribbons inspire all students to cultivate a lifelong love of learning.”

Comptroller John Liu, the school’s 1979 valedictorian, said it was “no small feat” to gain national recognition.

“This is also a great day for all of our public schools in New York because it shows what our public schools here in New York City are capable of,” he said.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Overcast in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 82. Winds from the ENE at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the South in the afternoon. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 73. Winds from the South at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT of the DAY: Fashion’s Night Out

Thursday is the fourth annual Fashion’s Night Out, where clothing, shoe and accessory stores throughout the city have special events and stay open late for shoppers. In Queens, six stores are participating. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police allege woman stabbed partner to death

A 38-year-old woman is in custody after police say she stabbed her partner to death in Queens. It happened on 145th Street in South Ozone Park around 6 a.m. Wednesday. Read more: NY1

Woodhaven house of horrors puts community on edge

A grimy Woodhaven building that hosted a fatal party last year continues to be a house of horrors, neighbors said. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens native Ogletree too much for Giants to handle

Queens native Kevin Ogletree had the night of his entire life Wednesday night in the Cowboys’ shocker of a 24-17 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Read more: New York Post

Asian-American vote could be key in battle for 16th State Senate District seat

The reconfigured 16th State Senate District now represents a population in Queens that is more than half Asian.Read more: New York Daily News

Blind man narrowly escapes death on subway tracks

A blind, New York jazz musician is lucky to be alive after taking a fall onto a train track and being unable to climb back out on Wednesday morning. Read more: CBS New York

Excluded from Democratic Convention list, Liu tours Asia

Two months ago, John C. Liu, New York City’s comptroller, said he was “heartbroken” that the state’s top Democrats, skittish about a federal investigation into his campaign fund-raising, had excluded him from their delegate list to the Democratic National Convention. Read more: New York Times

Bill Clinton fires up Dems before Obama’s speech

God is back in the Democratic platform and people rooting for President Barack Obama hope the dazzle is back in him. Read more: AP

 

Comptroller says tutoring center owes city $850G


| mchan@queenscourier.com


A state-approved tutoring firm that is in contract with the Department of Education (DOE) may owe the city $850,000 after an audit uncovered questionable payments and dubious timesheets, according to the comptroller’s office.

According to City Comptroller John Liu, Champion Learning Center — which assisted over 12,000 city students last year, including 3,369 in Queens — failed to submit adequate documents that proved students were actually tutored and received payments by the DOE for services supposedly performed between midnight and 5 a.m., the comptroller said.

“Taxpayers can’t afford to write multi-million dollar blank checks for tutoring services that may not have taken place,” said Liu. “The DOE’s lack of oversight not only shows serious mismanagement, but may have also enabled fraudulent billings.”

Under the federal “No Child Left Behind Act,” eligible students enrolled in schools in need of improvement are provided free tutoring. Champion was one of 52 state-approved tutoring providers last year. It entered into a $40 million contract with the DOE to offer tutoring services, primarily in students’ homes from September 1, 2009 through August 31 this year, Liu said.

“Every education dollar wasted robs students of the education they deserve,” said Liu. “DOE should investigate these billings and recover all the money the city is owed. Doing so will send a clear message to companies that do business with the city that New Yorkers will not be taken for a ride.”

According to Liu, Champion billed the DOE and was paid $836,254 for services reportedly provided during barred hours or at odd times from 2009 to 2011. Liu said auditors also examined a random sample of 164 attendance sheet cards paid by the DOE and determined that 10 percent did not contain the tutor’s name or signature as required, and 47 percent did not have necessary signatures by supervisors.

Abraham Sultan, president of Champion, said the company took steps to improve its internal controls last year and said officials are taking additional measures to improve record keeping and billing.

“We respectfully disagree with the Comptroller’s conclusion that a payment was improper even if services were in fact rendered based upon the hour of the day when they occurred,” he said, “but [we’ll] work with the DOE to appropriately resolve those issues.”

Education Department spokesperson Marge Feinberg said the agency will “seek to recoup all payments for services that were not permitted or that could not be verified.”

 

6th District candidates pick up endorsements


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Candidates in the buzzing 6th Congressional District race have rolled out more boosts to their campaigns. Councilmember Dan Halloran picked up support from the Uniformed Fire Marshals Association, while Assemblymember Rory Lancman got the backing of the Communications Workers of America, District 1.

Contending for the same seat, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley got a leg up from the Captains Endowment Association — which represents the NYPD’s captains, deputy inspectors,inspectors and deputy chiefs — along with the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York and Long Island.

Assemblymember Grace Meng — the Queens County Democratic Organization’s bid — received endorsements from Latino community leaders, including former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, Senator Jose Peralta and Assemblymember Francisco Moya. She also received shared endorsements by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and public advocate Bill de Blasio.

Jeff Gottlieb — who Lancman accused of being a “sham candidate” — did not receive any endorsements as of April 18, said Jay Golub, Gottlieb’s campaign spokesperson.

 

Sports lovers cry foul after MSG blackout


| brennison@queenscourier.com


If a game is played and no one is able to watch it, did it really happen?

More than one million sports fans have faced off with this problem after MSG was dropped from the Time Warner Cable lineup on January 1.

The sports network and Time Warner are more than two weeks into their standoff leaving Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils fans in the lurch.

The dispute is over licensing fees that cable companies pay networks in order to carry their channel.  MSG wants more than Time Warner is offering and Time Warner is not willing to pay what MSG is asking.

Time Warner’s senior vice president, Mike Angus, said the two companies reached a deal last year that was agreed to by both sides — but claimed MSG reneged on the deal.

The network said that Time Warner rejected every offer made over two years — never having a deal in place.

While talks have broken off, Time Warner spokesperson Eric Mangan said the company is waiting for MSG to come back to the negotiating table.

“It’s all propaganda. Obviously in commercials Time Warner and MSG are going to say the opposite of each other. Is it really a 53 percent increase, is it not? Who knows? It’s all slanted one way or another,” said Queens resident Steven Cohen, referring to Time Warner’s claim that MSG asked for a 53 percent increase in their licensing fee.

The cable company called MSG’s demands way out of line.  “We are looking out for the interests of out customers,” a spokesperson said.

“All we have asked is for Time Warner Cable to value our programming in the same way as other TV providers — nothing more, nothing less,” MSG Media President Michael Bair said.

MSG is owned by Madison Square Garden, Inc. which is chaired by Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan.

The city’s comptroller called a foul on Time Warner for blacking out city sports fans.

“As this dispute continues, 1.3 million city residents are left without the programming they paid for,” Comptroller John Liu said.  “The least they could get is a break on their cable bill.”

Liu sent a letter to Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable, urging the company to rebate $5.95 — the price of the Time Warner Cable Sports Pass.

“I pay all that money for cable so I could watch the Knicks, and now they say I can’t,” said Knicks fan Chris Lerner as he waited for the LIRR in Bayside.  “Going to games isn’t an option because tickets are through the roof. How much money does MSG need?”

“Customers are understandably frustrated that they are forced to pay for channels they do not receive, particularly when many customers do not have access to another cable television provider,” Liu wrote in the letter.

City cashes out over 2010 blizzard


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


New York City is still settling with residents who suffered personal injuries or property damages during the blizzard of 2010 – and the costs continue to snowball.

Across the five boroughs, the city has already reached settlements on 620 claims, doling out $1,855,152.53 due to damages its agencies caused during the snow storm.

Queens has had the most claims settled with 224, and residents have received $567,780.49 in payments thus far – the second highest total behind Brooklyn. The borough has accounted for 36.1 percent of the claims and 30.6 percent of the settlement money.

The highest single claim in Queens was $45,000, paid out to Alethia Cassimy of Rochdale, who suffered multiple body injuries, including a laceration to her lip, after she was struck by a garbage truck/snow plow on December 30, 2010. A similar incident, during which a sanitation truck “backed into” Elmhurst resident Ana Herrera, cost the city $25,000. Herrera suffered a fractured arm, as well as injuries to her neck, back and knee.

According to a spokesperson from the office of City Comptroller John Liu, the totals are not finalized, as many claims have yet to be settled.

“These claims are among the highest for any storm,” said Liu. “There is still a cloud of additional claims hanging over the city, but the silver lining is that agencies have learned from last year’s blizzard and seem better prepared.”