Tag Archives: Congress

Mittman’s first presser focuses on health care


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Robert Mittman

An underdog in the 6th District Congressional race formally announced his candidacy — with the Democratic primary only one month away.

In front of a small group of supporters — each gripping a campaign poster and a bright, red apple that has grown to symbolize his run — Robert Mittman, a Bayside allergy doctor, said he was running to bring a “fresh, new” perspective to Congress.

“If you look at the other people running, they’re all the same thing — they’re all politicians. It’s three peas in a pod,” Mittman said. “For far too long, our elected officials have avoided the tough decisions in an effort to selfishly get re-elected. Now is the time to get the great borough of Queens back on track and get our political system working for us.”

Mittman, after taking a bite of an apple, compared the “beautiful, healthy piece of fruit” to his hopes for the economy. He compared his symbolic fruit to outgoing Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s signature carnation and said he had “the prescription for a healthy economy.”

His campaign kick-off was delayed, Mittman told The Courier a few weeks ago, because he had to defend his petitions both in Queens Supreme Court and the Board of Elections after primary opponent Assemblymember Rory Lancman challenged them. Mittman cleared the 938 signature hurdle with 1,220 valid petitions.

“The window of campaigning is very short in this election. He was able to remove 15 percent of my limited campaign time by tying me up in court. He accomplished what he wanted to,” Mittman said.

His wife, Susan — who cheered him on during the May 30 announcement — also represented him in court, saving the family as much as $25,000, Mittman said.

At his first press conference, held outside former St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst, Mittman stressed the importance of keeping health care facilities open in Queens and lambasted policy makers for “[overseeing] a substantial dismantling of our local health care system.”

Five of the borough’s hospitals have closed within eight years, including St. Joseph’s Hospital in Flushing, which shuttered in 2004; Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, which flatlined in 2008; and St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals in Jamaica, which went under one year later. Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway shut its doors this April.

“I’m running because I believe we are at a critical time in our history,” Mittman said. “To me, the American Dream equals opportunity and without a good paying job or access to quality health care, that dream can only become a nightmare.”

Mittman outlined health care initiatives he said he would propose if elected. He said he hopes to eliminate the Medicare doughnut hole and provide full drug coverage for seniors, lower drug costs by extending patents, establish a federal work study program for aspiring doctors, establish strict guides on pharmaceutical companies and ensure no more hospitals in Queens will close.

The candidate garnered support from his 17-year-old son, mother and members of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. In regards to accusations of his run for Congress being a plant, Mittman said he was “the real thing.”

“We’re marching ahead and people are going to be behind me,” he said.

[UPDATE] Congressmember Gary Ackerman endorses Assemblymember Grace Meng in 6th District


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Grace Meng

Assemblymember Grace Meng — one of six congressional hopefuls vying for the newly-drawn 6th District seat — bagged the key endorsement of retiring Representative Gary Ackerman, who said Meng was “head and shoulders above the rest” in the race.

“Grace is without question the most qualified candidate,” Ackerman said. “This is a district I’ve represented all or parts of over the past 35 years in government, and Grace is a unique, highly qualified individual who I would be most comfortable with knowing she is representing the district I represented. She is going to fight for the things that I fought for during my political career, and I know she will do it the most effectively.”

Ackerman, a 15-term congressmember since 1983, announced in March that he would not seek re-election and will be retiring at the end of the year. He said the other candidates were “all good and decent people,” but he said it was “not a close call” in deciding who to endorse, touting Meng’s “personal attitude, accomplishments, character and determination” as reasons for his decision.

“So many people were asking me who I think would be best. People wanted to know. I thought maybe I had an obligation or responsibility,” Ackerman said, adding that while he always had an opinion, he did not originally plan on publicly endorsing a candidate.

The endorsement has raised some concerns, since the consulting firm Meng’s campaign hired is part of the Queens Tribune company, which is partially owned by Ackerman. Ackerman, according to several reports, said that had nothing to do with his decision. Meng told The Courier she knew Ackerman as only her congressmember.

Ackerman cited similarities between Meng and himself, saying they were both raised in Queens by “hardworking, middle class” families. He said she represents the “voice of the quiet people, the everyday people and the hardworking people.”

“They need somebody who isn’t audacious and loud but effective. She believes in the things my district believes in at the greatest extent possible,” Ackerman said.

The “game changing” endorsement from Ackerman, according to the Meng campaign, was the icing on top of the cake after the assemblymember — who is also the choice of the Queens County Democratic Organization — rolled out a major boost from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) late last week.

“It’s been a good week as we’re leading up to the home stretch,” Meng said. “It’s a great boost for our campaign, but the most important endorsements are from the voters.”

Meng said she met up with Ackerman in early April to tell him she was interested in running for his seat and to ask him for his advice and support. Once every week since then, she said she would personally call and update him on the campaign. Meng said he decided last week to officially endorse her.

“He’s been our congressman for over 30 years. He’s worked very hard. He has great name recognition and people really respect him,” Meng said of Ackerman. “I’m very excited.”

Ackerman formally announced his support on Tuesday, May 29 at the Pomonok Senior Center in the South Flushing, where Meng vowed to “carry on his extraordinary legacy and commitment to the working, middle-class as a member of the House of Representatives.”

Meng will face off against Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Bayside allergist Dr. Robert Mittman in the June 26 Democratic primary. The winner will go up against Republican runner Councilmember Dan Halloran and Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou in the November election.

Lancman also landed the support of a major public figure during the home stretch of the Democratic primary race. Mark Green, former city Consumer Affairs commissioner who is also a former elected city public advocate, endorsed Lancman at a press conference held one hour after Ackerman’s announcement. Lancman and Green called for comprehensive campaign finance reform laws at the federal level, pointing to political contributions from “Big Oil” companies as an example of the “corrosive influence” of corporate money on democracy.

“Because Rory Lancman has been a leader to take the ‘for sale’ sign off our state government, I’m endorsing him today because he’ll continue to lead that charge when he gets to Washington,” Green said. “We need a smart, strong progressive voice in Washington — Rory’s it.”

The 6th District candidates will be participating in a handful of upcoming debates hosted by local civic groups on May 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church, located at 188th Street and 73rd Avenue; on June 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Young Israel of Queens Valley, located at 155-55 77th Avenue; on June 6 at 8 p.m. at 210-10 Union Turnpike; and on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at I.S. 93, located at Forest Avenue and Madison Street in Ridgewood.

6th District candidates debate hot-button issues


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The six 6th District congressional candidates mildly duked it out for the first time during a forum in Flushing — addressing hot-button city, state and national issues, like plans to fix the flailing economy and stances on immigration reform.

The hopefuls — Green Party’s Evergreen Chou, Democratic primary runners Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Grace Meng and Dr. Robert Mittman, and Republican contender Councilmember Dan Halloran — split the roughly two-hour meeting, held at Flushing Library on May 21, to introduce themselves and explain the platforms for which they are running.

Each lauded his or her experience, with the elected officials pointing to their plans on advocating for the middle class and improving education, Social Security and the job market, while the two citizen candidates — Chou and Mittman — respectively pushed for peace and change.

The forum was hosted by the MinKwon Center for Community Action. The congressional contenders remained civil, with minor disagreements stemming mostly from the differences between Republican and Democratic philosophies on the economy.

Halloran said the key to reviving the economy and creating jobs is making sure the government “stays out of the way of businesses.” Citing that 98 percent of small businesses in New York have disappeared between 1840 and 2011, he said government should decrease the number of agencies businesses are held accountable to, re-evaluate its tax roles to make sure businesses that are job creators aren’t overtaxed and give incentives to businesses to hire more employees.

Lancman respectfully disagreed, saying deregulating government led to the Wall Street meltdown. He said Wall Street first needs to be reformed — “making it an engine of economic growth, not a potential minefield that could blow up the economy once again” — and small businesses should be provided support and access to credit.

Meng took a different approach and said she believes improving mass transit, highways, roads and bridges would help increase jobs for Queens residents. She also said maintaining “better and closer” partnerships with universities and hospitals would help make Queens a “technology hub” and would stem job growth.

Chou said building more hospitals and engaging in government programs would revive the economy, while Crowley said pulling government spending on Afghanistan would give the country more money to use. Mittman backed Halloran, saying government should be limited and small business should not be overtaxed.

Questions on immigration reform and enforcement directly tied into talks about racial discrimination, when candidates addressed the efficiency of Secure Communities — a federal program that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and repeat immigration violators — and the recent controversial stop and frisk policy.

Crowley — who said she believes in comprehensive immigration reform — said there is a fine line drawn if the illegal immigrant questioned is not a threat. She said she supported a local law passed in the City Council that prevented the Department of Corrections from imposing immigration detainers “on those that were not convicted of any crime and were not doing anything that was considered a serious crime.”

However, Halloran said “being in the country illegally is a crime” itself.

“You cannot reward someone who came here illegally with citizenship, but you can give them a path to permanent residency,” he said.

According to Halloran, illegal immigrants should fill out paperwork, pay the fees and be checked up on 10 years after they are granted permanent status to see that they are paying their taxes and not engaged in criminal activity. In regards to the stop and frisk policy and concerns of racial profiling, he said there is more of a correlation between economics and socio status than race.

While Lancman agreed people who commit serious crimes should not be welcomed in the country and said he is for comprehensive immigration reform, he said Secure Communities became “a mechanism for detaining and deporting” mostly law-abiding citizens and “created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in immigrant communities.”

All six candidates opposed using local law enforcement to deal with immigration issues and said the role should lie in the federal government. They each also expressed support for pulling U.S. troops from overseas — however Halloran and Lancman raised serious concerns over whether or not doing so would gravely impact national security.

Crowley was recently endorsed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 and New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, while Meng picked up support from ATU Local No. 1056 and Lancman from the New York State Public Employees Federation.

6th District candidates start making the rounds


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three major democratic primary hopefuls — Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — recently spoke at the North East Flushing Civic Association's forum. Dr. Robert Mittman fights to remain on the ballot.

A dark horse candidate in the 6th District Congressional race was a long way from succumbing to the political slaughterhouse, but soon-to-be revealed results could mean a one-way ticket to the glue factory.

According to Dr. Robert Mittman — who is considered a longshot out of four democratic primary runners — the State Supreme Court has sent his signatures back to the Board of Elections (BOE) for a recount. A BOE representative said the board has not yet received word from the court and could not confirm.

A hearing  held by the board on May 1 determined Mittman had enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot, but the Bayside allergy specialist was taken to court by opponent Assemblymember Rory Lancman late last week.

According to Mittman, the two attorneys have been in the BOE for two days straight since May 8 going over his 1,200 signatures. Mittman said the two parties would hear results from the court on May 10, after The Courier went to press.

“It’s obvious they’re winning that war because this is a delay tactic,” Mittman said. “The purpose of this is to knock me off. This is a typical political maneuver, which is something I’m not used to. I’m a citizen who has the ideals of the community. But I accept it as it is. I don’t hold it against anybody.”

Mittman encouraged other citizens and non-career politicians to not be intimidated and consider running for office in the future.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “I think a lot of politicians have lost touch with what is really going on in the community.”

Meanwhile, the three other democratic primary hopefuls — Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — have been speaking at a series of civic meetings this week to introduce themselves and discuss local and national issues.

At a May 3 forum hosted by the North East Flushing Civic Association, Meng said she was running to address issues surrounding education and zoning, to fight for Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and to improve infrastructure.

Lancman emphasized his mission to “level the playing field for ordinary people” and said, if elected, he would be a “tough critic” on United Nations spending and would work to raise the minimum wage.

Crowley also said she would fight for Social Security and support seniors. She remained adamant on her stance on bringing U.S. troops home, even when an audience member said that ideal clashed with her views on protecting the city from terrorism threats.

A former democratic underdog, Ada Juan Sheng, was bumped off the ballot last week due to a lack of sufficient signatures and was taken to State Supreme Court by Meng. But the Briarwood television producer said she is now seeking sanctions against Meng, who she said has “dragged her reputation through the mud.”

The China Press, Sheng said, relied on court papers and reported that she was accused of fraud. Sheng said because she can’t sue Meng for defamation for allegations made in court papers, she is asking State Supreme Court Justice Jeremy Weinstein to impose sanctions, costs and attorney fees pursuant to court rules.

“[Meng] obviously felt the need to make outrageously false allegations of criminal wrongdoing against me. Many of these allegations constitute misdemeanors and possibly felonies,” Sheng said. “Had she merely alleged that my petition did not have enough valid signatures, I would have gracefully withdrawn.”

Meng’s campaign has garnered $500,000 in just a month-and-a-half. She was recently endorsed by Akhon Samoy, a Queens weekly Bengali language newspaper, while Lancman rolled in boosts from the New American Voters Association, DC 37, DC 1707 and CSEA.

Jeffrey Gottlieb bows out of 6th District Congressional race


| brennison@queenscourier.com

JEFF GOTTLIEB PHOTOw

The hotly-contested 6th Congressional District race that has featured allegations and pot shots has its first casualty.

Jeffrey Gottlieb denied the nomination on Wednesday, April 18 and transferred the signatures he received to Stephen Green, a Rosedale resident, the Board of Elections said.

The announcement comes just days after the candidates submitted their petitions to the Board of Elections, with Gottlieb being among six Democratic candidates who collected the necessary signatures.

From the get-go, Gottlieb’s run set-off a firestorm of accusations.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman accused the Board of Elections employee of being a “sham” candidate whose entrance into the race was solely to divide the Jewish vote.

At the time Gottlieb said he was prepared to run a spirited campaign despite the attacks, but a New York Post report regarding a prior charge of arson led to him bowing out.

The Post reported last week that Gottlieb was arrested on charges of arson in 1971 for setting fire to his apartment.  The charge was plea-bargained down to fourth-degree criminal mischief, the paper reported.

A source close to Gottlieb told the New York Times that the personal strain for the public disclosure caused the candidate to quit the campaign.

Gottlieb could not be reached for comment.

The primary election will be held on June 26.

Crowded field set for 6th District Congressional race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Democratic contenders “Ada” Juan Sheng (left) and Robert Mittman (right) have collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the June 26 primary.

An already crowded Queens Congressional race now has two more runners vying for the hotly-contested 6th District seat.

According to the city’s Board of Elections, Democratic contenders Robert Mittman and “Ada” Juan Sheng have collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the June 26 primary, as did Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Grace Meng, Jeff Gottlieb, Republican candidate Councilmember Dan Halloran and Green Party runner Evergreen Chou.

Each hopeful had until Monday, April 16 by midnight to file their petitions with the city. At least 938 signatures were required, officials said.

While Board of Elections representatives could not disclose how many signatures each candidate collected, Halloran’s camp said he submitted “well over two and a half times” the statutory minimum, while Mittman said he garnered 3,000 petitions.

Mittman, an asthma and allergy specialist in Bayside, told The Courier he threw his hat in the ring over frustrations with health care in Congress.

“I consider it an honor to seek elected office in the community that I was born in, raised in, lived in, volunteered and worked in for over 40 years,” Mittman said. “I look forward to the opportunity to compete in the upcoming Democratic Primary and to debate and discuss the issues that are important to our neighborhood. In particular, as an internist and family doctor, I am eager to discuss the current crisis in our health care system which desperately needs reform.”

Sheng, said to be a producer at “The Chinese New Yorker with Ada Sheng” television program, could not be reached for comment.

All six Democratic runners will face off in the primary to fight for the seat recently vacated by retiring U.S. Congressmember Gary Ackerman. The winner is expected to go up against Halloran, the sole Republican runner, and Chou, the Green Party candidate, during the November 6 general election.

Check back with www.queenscourier.com later today for updates on this story.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley kicks off her Congressional campaign


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0005w

Surrounded by her teenage sons, Owen and Dennis, family and supporters, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley formally kicked off her Congressional campaign in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“As I stand here today, with the support of my family, with the support of my friends, I announce my candidacy for Congress,” Crowley announced at the Thursday, March 22 press conference.

The support of Crowley’s family has been the topic of speculation after the Queens Democratic Party, who is chaired by her cousin, Congressmember Joe Crowley, chose to endorse Grace Meng for the Congressional seat.

“The organization has chosen to support Grace Meng. It’s not one person, it’s an organization,” the councilmember said. “They come together and they make a decision.”

“I love my cousin dearly,” Crowley told reporters on the scene.

Crowley is joined in the race for the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District’s Democratic nomination by Meng and Assemblymember Rory Lancman. Crowley said she expects a spirited debate on the issues.

The new 6th District includes much of Crowley’s council district. All three candidates entered the race after the announcement that 15-term Congressmember Gary Ackerman would not seek re-election.

“Washington needs a strong voice for Queens,” Crowley said. “In 2008, with your support I became the first female and the first Democrat elected to the city council District 30 and with your support again can become the first female from Queens since Geraldine Ferraro elected to Congress.”

The primary will be held on June 26.

 

New York’s first full gaming legislature passed


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

Full casino gaming could be in the cards for NYS, as the first round of legislation, in favor of expanding the state’s regulations, was passed by both houses.

Senator Joseph Addabbo, a member of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, released a statement following the announcement of the legislature’s passing. Although Addabbo was absent for this process on protest, he supported the passage of New York State Gaming legislation.

“It is a step closer to having our residents vote on a referendum that could bring full gaming to the state,” said Addabbo. “It is a step closer for my constituents to have thousands of additional job opportunities at Resorts World. It is a step closer for our local communities, businesses, along with city and state governments to realize a greater potential for revenue growth.”

While Addabbo applauds this move forward, he advises that future maneuvers be done cautiously, utilizing community participation.

“I am an advocate for community input on these issues and feel most people would want their voices heard before any plans are implemented,” said Addabbo. “I look forward to working for my constituents and hearing their concerns on this issue.”

Stefan Friedman, a spokesperson from Resorts World Casino, says the passing of this legislature is a “significant step” towards full commercial gaming.

According to Friedman, laws to legalize full gaming have gone through the first round of negotiations several times in the past, but were halted before completely approved. Friedman claimed that in order for it to become legalized, two separate legislatures need to be approved – the second of which will not be decided on until 2013.

Friedman said Resorts World is eager to expand its operations if enhanced gaming is allowed. He estimates the expansion will create hundreds of additional jobs and garner millions in additional revenue – funds that are currently being spent out of state in nearby spots like Atlantic City, New Jersey where table gaming is available.

According to Friedman, between $3.1 billion to $5 billion leaves the state every year for entertainment and gaming in cites outside NYS.

Congressmember Gary Ackerman won’t run for re-election


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

US House of Reprenative Gary Ackerman

Following 15 terms in the House of Representatives, Congressmember Gary Ackerman has announced he will not run for re-election – providing an unanticipated conclusion to a 34-year political career.

Ackerman decided not to seek a 16th term despite the likelihood that his seat would be spared under the Congressional redistricting process. His announcement has reportedly baffled many of his Congressional colleagues, who assumed he would seek re-election with the primary-free backing of the Democratic Party virtually assured.

The 69-year-old Democrat, who was elected to Congress in 1983, currently represents the 5th District, which encompasses the North Shore of Queens and Long Island. His term of office will end on January 2, 2013.

“The residents of Queens and Long Island have honored me with their trust and support for the past 34 years, first as a New York State Senator, and for the past 15 terms as a member of Congress,” said Ackerman. “I’ve been truly privileged to have had the opportunity to fight for the beliefs of my neighbors in both the State Capital and in the halls of Congress. During my years in Congress, it has been my pleasure to address the needs of thousands of individual constituents and to influence domestic and global policy while serving on the Financial and Foreign Affairs Committees in the House. I am most thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country and my community.”

The congressmember went on to say he expects to continue to be aggressively and passionately involved with local and global issues related to his district. He most recently made headlines for arranging the release of Queens-native Ilan Grapel, who spent months in an Egyptian jail following allegations he was an Israeli spy.

Upon learning of his decision, Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Ackerman as a fearless global ambassador.

“When Gary Ackerman and I visited Israel at the start of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, rocket alarms went off as we visited the police station in Sderot. As everyone scrambled into the bomb shelter, Gary was cool and collected, which is exactly how he went about business in Congress for more than three decades,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “The borough of Queens – and the people of Israel, Africa and so many other areas of the world – have rarely had a stronger ally in Congress, and our entire nation will miss Gary’s encyclopedic knowledge of foreign policy and so many other issues.”

Ackerman, who was first elected to public office in 1978 when he won a seat in the New York State Senate, is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as the ranking member of its Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is also a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Born in Brooklyn, Ackerman was raised in Flushing and is a graduate of Queens College.

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

DA grilling two ‘hookers’ and ‘money launderer’ in case of alleged madam

Manhattan prosecutors have secretly arrested at least three key people in Anna Gristina’s alleged escort ring — her accused money launderer and two suspected high-price call girls — and are grilling them for evidence against her, The Post has learned. Read More: New York Post

Congressman Ackerman Tells Constituents He Will Not Run For Re-Election

Congressman Gary Ackerman, who has represented parts of Queens and Long Island in the House of Representatives for 15 terms, announced to a Democratic Party gathering in Hollis Hills, Queens on Thursday that he will not run for re-election. The 69-year-old congressman informed Democratic Party leaders, his family and staff earlier Thursday of his decision to not running for a 16th term of office. Read More: NY1

Woodson ready to bury Lin, ride established stars Melo & Amar’e

Jeremy Lin may be a global phenomenon, but he is no longer a Knicks phenomenon. Linsanity was the flavor of February, but he appears not to be new interim coach Mike Woodson’s favorite dish. Woodson, calling Lin “in a learning stage,’’ said yesterday he is turning the focus of his new deliberate offense to his bread and butter — Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks’ two stars who combine to make $37 million this season. Read More: New York Post

 

Cops arrest accomplice of burglar fatally shot by Queens janitor

Cops yesterday arrested the accomplice of a burglar fatally shot by a Queens supermarket janitor, authorities said. Alpha Diaby, 22, was charged with burglary for the failed heist that left Mamadou Koureichi, 27, dead. Angel Candido, 54, was taking a nap at Met Foodmarkets on Jamaica Avenue when the two mens allegedly cut a hole in the roof and dropped down. Read More: New York Post

 

DOE Removes Eight Employees For Past Inappropriate Conduct With Children

The city’s Department of Education announced Thursday eight employees are being shown the door following a review of their work history. It comes after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to revisit records dating back to 2000 of all DOE employees who were disciplined for inappropriate conduct with students. Walcott says the eight employees were removed because they were not disciplined properly for their misconduct. Read More: NY1

Congressman Ackerman To Not Run For Re-Election


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Representative Gary L. Ackerman, a longtime member of Congress from Queens and Long Island, announced on Thursday that he would not seek re-election, an unexpected development that brings an end to a colorful political career. Mr. Ackerman, 69, arrived at his decision even though it was quite likely that his district would be spared under the Congressional redistricting process, which the state is close to completing.

Read More: New York Times

Congressmember Turner to run for Senate


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

TURNER WINS 095w

With his seat potentially KO’d, Congressmember Bob Turner has thrown his hat into a different ring.

Turner, whose district was recommended for elimination as part of Magistrate Roanne Mann’s proposed congressional maps, announced on March 13 that he plans to run for Senate. The congressmember will seek both the Republican and Conservative nominations to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“I ran for the House six months ago as a private citizen fed up with what is happening in Washington,” said Turner. “I could not sit and watch career politicians sink my nation deeper into economic crisis. Brooklyn and Queens voters, of all political parties, graciously responded by sending me to Congress. It now appears that their district has been eliminated. There is serious work to be done to get this economy back on track, and I will not walk away from that work now. I will run for the Senate, and I will run to win.”

Despite being “good friends” with Turner, State Conservative Party Chair Michael Long believes Wendy Long, a lawyer and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has already established herself as the favorite of the Republican Party.

“It is very sad that they cut up [Turner’s] district the way they did, but I think it is too late for him to enter this race. He came to the table too late,” he said. “[Wendy Long] has soaked up most of the energy and enthusiasm from the leaders up and down the state of New York, and it is going to be very hard at this late date for Bob to run.”

Long, who helped Turner with his congressional election last year, continued by saying he does not believe Republican leaders will switch their support to Turner. He also said Long is considered more capable of winning the seat.

“[Wendy] makes a stronger candidate against Gillibrand,” said Long. “She’s very knowledgeable and a very good debater. She was like a rock star at the fundraiser in Albany on March 12. While the title of congressmember would be helpful [to Turner], Wendy Long has the intellect and the background that fits this position.”

Redistricting battle: Court steps in


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Inaction by lawmakers has prompted a federal judge to recommend court intervention in New York’s redistricting process.

Judge Dora Irizarry said on February 13 that federal courts should be placed in charge of ensuring the state’s election process for Senate, Assembly and Congressional districts adheres to state and federal law, and suggested a special master be appointed to redraw district lines.

Irizarry, a judge in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, cited the “current state of inaction” in redrawing the lines and the upcoming Congressional primaries — slated to begin June 26 — as grounds for her reasoning.

Judge Gary Sharpe complicated matters on January 27 by ruling that primary elections for Congressional seats be moved up from September to June in order to allow military voters sufficient time to receive absentee ballots for the general election.

Irizarry also referenced instances of court interference which have expedited the process previously.

In her ruling, the judge noted, “In 1992 and 2002, the New York State Legislature acted only after there was judicial intervention.”

Irizarry’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed on November 17 by a group of six civic leaders, calling for a special master to be given authority over the mapping.

Daniel Burstein, who represents the plaintiffs along with Richard Mancino, believes the ruling is a “giant step forward in our efforts.”

“The ruling recognized that time has run out for the New York Legislature to draw district lines in time for the primary elections and period for petitioning, which begins in March,” Burstein said. “When the Legislature fails to act in a timely manner, then it is up to the courts to protect the voters of the state.”

Due to the decision, a three judge panel, composed of Irizarry and Judges Reena Raggi and Gerard Lynch, has been appointed by the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to make a final verdict. If a majority of the panel believes in the need for a special master, one will be appointed to draw the lines — after which the map will require approval from the court.

“Given Judge Irizarry’s recommendation, we do anticipate that a special master will be appointed,” said Burstein.

The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), which drew up the current controversial lines, is holding public hearings across the state. Their maps, which would eliminate a number of incumbent senatorial Democrats, have been criticized by numerous politicians and good-government groups for being politically partisan.

Governor Andrew Cuomo also intends to veto the lines, according to spokesperson Matt Wing.

“At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the governor.”

Lancman ‘explores’ run for Congress


| smosco@queenscourier.com

LANCMAN HEAD SHOT

In a bid to reclaim a Congressional seat once held by democrat Anthony Weiner, Assemblymember Rory Lancman has formed an “exploratory committee” with the Federal Election Committee — an action that many view as the first step toward a run for office.

The seat covers Brooklyn and Queens in the ninth district and has been the subject of redistricting rumors even before Republican representative Bob Turner won it in a Special Election last year.

Turner defeated Assemblymember David Weprin for the seat when it was vacated following Weiner’s sexting scandal. Many believed that the seat would be eliminated by redistricting, but now Lancman said that he sees this as an opportunity to send the Legislator a message.

“If I have the opportunity to run, my campaign is going to be about expanding economic opportunity, restoring fairness to our financial system and leveling the playing field which has been severely tilted in recent years to benefit the well-off and well-connected,” Lancman said. “Last year, the voters had an opportunity to send Washington a message. This year, they have the opportunity to send a serious Legislator who can deliver for our community.”

Now with Lancman throwing his hat in the ring, there is a good chance the seat will remain — despite legislative bickering over where to draw Congressional lines. And with the Congressional primary only four months away, potential candidates like Lancman cannot wait for the Legislature to act.

Lancman has authored 19 laws in five years in the State Legislature, covering everything from terrorism and sex offenders to homeowner and employee rights.

“People who work for a living deserve a Congress that works, too — and works for them,” he said. “Congress should be focused on tackling high unemployment, making college affordable and fixing an unfair tax code instead of wasting our time and our patience on theatrics over the debt ceiling and political gamesmanship.”

Queens hotel fire rescue


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens hotel fire rescue

Firefighters fought their way through heavy smoke and shooting flames yesterday to rescue a man with no pulse from a burning Queens motel and bring him back to life. The victim was in a third-floor room at the Conduit Motor Inn in South Ozone Park at around 4 p.m. when members of Engine 302 and Ladder 155 arrived on scene. Firefighter John Summerville crawled into the room to stay beneath the smoke. “I found him face down by the window. The situation was like an inferno,” Summerville said. After reaching the victim, described as being in his 40s, Summerville pulled him out and put him in an ambulance, where another member of Engine 302 began performing CPR and got a pulse back. Read More: New York Post

Cuomo Turns His Budget Focus To Public Pensions, Education System

Governor Andrew Cuomo is getting ready to reveal his budget proposal for the new fiscal year on Tuesday. Although the governor would not share many details of the expected $130 billion plan in advance, he touted on Monday a brighter picture looking forward. “The good work that we did last year is actually going to pay dividends this year,” said Cuomo. “So, from just a budget point of view, where we had a true crisis last year, we had a $10 billion deficit, we had chaos. We have a much better budget situation on the numbers.” “We got a good start last year, moving in a better and a new direction. Took about a 90-degree turn,” said Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco of Schenectady. Read More: NY1

Astoria Houses kids now have ‘Promise’

More than 1,600 underprivileged children have been “granted” the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Local elected officials and community leaders gathered on January 13 to announce that a $500,000 Promise Neighborhood planning grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) had been procured for the children of the Astoria Houses. Read More: Queens Courier

Druggists’ cure for anxiety: a pistol

Your friendly neighborhood pharmacist will soon be locked and loaded. Rattled druggists from Long Island to the city are increasingly applying for gun permits following a spate of fatal robberies by armed thugs desperate to score highly addictive painkillers. “I’m applying for a pistol permit because of this,’’ said Todd Svec, 48, a pharmacist and owner of the Arlo Drug store in Massapequa Park, LI. “I will feel safer if I have one.’’  Svec’s wife is also a pharmacist at the store — and his four daughters work there. He pointed out that Charlie’s Family Pharmacy in Seaford, LI, where on New Year’s Eve a pill-popping ex-con attempted a stickup that left the thug and an off-duty federal agent dead “is just two miles from here.”  Read More: New York Post

Baby born on PATH train between NJ & NYC

Next stop, maternity ward! A woman went into labor on a New York-bound PATH train yesterday, and her baby took the express track — he was born before the train even pulled in to its Manhattan terminal. When Rabita Sarkar and her husband, Aditya Saurabh, left their Harrison, NJ, home they were still planning their unborn child’s exciting future. But by the time their train rumbled into Manhattan’s 33rd Street station, they were a new family, complete with a baby boy and a train car full of honorary uncles and aunts. “He came in a very dramatic fashion,” the smiling new mom told The Post from her bed at Roosevelt Hospital. Read More: New York Post

One more time, vengeance shall be Giants’

The Giants wanted another shot at the 49ers, wanted the stakes higher than they were in November. Now they have it, and it doesn’t bother them in the least that the game is in San Francisco, because they would play this one, the one that is the Golden Gateway to Glory, on the moon. Jim Harbaugh has restored the pride to a storied franchise, and 60 minutes from the Super Bowl means the Giants will be expecting a hostile environment Sunday night — and possibly a rainy one as well — at Candlestick Park. “I can care less about how hostile it is, it’s a game,” Antrel Rolle said. “When you’re home, you want to bring ’em to their feet. When you’re away, you want to bring ’em to their knees, and that’s the way I look at it.” Read More: New York Post

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announces blackout to protest anti-piracy bills in Congress

Wikipedia will black out the English language version of its website Wednesday to protest anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress, the foundation behind the popular community-based online encyclopedia said in a statement Monday night. The website will go dark for 24 hours in an unprecedented move that brings added muscle to a growing base of critics of the legislation. Wikipedia is considered one of the Internet’s most popular websites, with millions of visitors daily. “If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States,” the Wikimedia foundation said. Read More: Daily News