Tag Archives: Congressmember Joe Crowley

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sworn in by Mayor de Blasio

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Mike DiBartolomeo

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was officially sworn into office Thursday in a star-studded political gathering.

“It’s an exciting time for me,” said Katz, in front of hundreds of supporters and a lengthy list of dignitaries. “I’m humbled and I’m honored to be the Queens Borough President.”

The 48-year-old Forest Hills mom of two was installed Jan. 9 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with the help of Congressmember Joe Crowley.

“I have to tell you that Melinda brings so much to this job,” de Blasio said. “She has a real passion for the people she serves. She loves this borough. I can tell you that because I’ve seen her stand up for Queens many times.”

The mayor said the “exemplary” and diverse borough “epitomizes the American Dream.”

“Melinda Katz gets to be the person who brings all those beautiful strengths together and makes this borough work for the people,” de Blasio said.

The newly elected borough president, dedicating the night to her parents, took her oath of office with her hand upon her father’s copy of the Old Testament.

Crowley, citing Biblical figures, said he hoped for Katz “the wisdom of Moses, the leadership of Joshua and the valor and the strength of Esther.”

“She possesses many of those qualities and more,” Crowley said. “We’re going to have the opportunity to see her grow.”

The standing-room-only ceremony at Queens College’s Lefrak Concert Hall also featured U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and dozens of Queens legislators.

Katz’s partner, Curtis Sliwa, and the couple’s two sons, Carter and Hunter, watched from the audience.

Katz, a former member of the City Council and state Assembly, was elected Nov. 5 to be the 19th borough president of Queens. She succeeds Helen Marshall, who held the seat since 2001.

Her plans for the borough include making the Rockaway ferry permanent and pushing for more primary and urgent care facilities.

“Let’s move it forward,” Katz said. “Let’s make it a place for families to have everything they need right here in the borough of Queens.”

“My only wish is I never let you down,” Katz said.



Pols introduce bill in Congress to alleviate airplane noise

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The skies over Queens and the rest of the country may soon be quieter.

Congressmember Joe Crowley gathered with state and local elected officials, advocates and community members Friday to announce the introduction of the Silent Skies Act bill that will work to alleviate airplane noise pollution in neighborhoods surrounding LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports.

The new legislation will require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement regulations by the end of 2015 demanding commercial aircrafts to go from Stage 3 noise standards to Stage 4 noise standards, reducing the sound by 10 decibels.

“Airports can never be perfect neighbors, but we can take steps to make them better neighbors,” said Crowley. “While commercial aircraft can never be truly silent, we can make sure they are less disruptive to the families who live nearby and improve the quality of life in our communities, not just here in Queens but throughout the country.”

Advocates for the reduction of airplane noise say the loud engines disrupt sleep, distract students and drown out the noise of everyday life.

Although the FAA issued regulations that required all new commercial aircraft designs to meet these new noise standards, the new introduced legislation would also have the FAA phase out older and louder aircraft.

The Silent Skies Act will now require the FAA to bring in quieter engines at a rate of 25 percent of an airline’s planes every five years, with all commercial airlines meeting the new noise standards by 2035.

“Recent changes in flight procedures have caused constant, intolerable noise in wide area of our New York/New Jersey metro area,” said Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies. “For too long, the interests of residents here were not considered when aviation procedures were planned.”

The new bill, if passed, would also encourage the research and development of quieter engine technologies through authorizing a new grant program.

“It’s time for our needs to be considered,” said McEneaney. “We remind you the skies belong to all of us, not just some of us.”

Hundreds of residents in northeast Queens have pushed for noise control after the FAA approved a new flight pattern last December that brought on a large amount of low-flying planes over their neighborhoods.

“Silent skies should not just be for first class passengers,” said Crowley.

The FAA said it does not comment on proposed legislation.

The number of people in the United States who are open to significant aircraft noise has dropped by 90 percent since 1975, according to the FAA. This decrease is due to mainly reductions in aircraft noise and phase-outs of older, noisier aircraft.




College Point mail center stays open — for now

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


While a Queens mail processing center thought its days were numbered, the once possibly doomed facility is getting a stay of execution.

The processing and distribution center, located on 20th Avenue in College Point, has over 1,000 workers and was previously expected to officially cease operations on May 14 as part of a country-wide initiative to cut costs that began in 2011.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced plans to move forward with consolidation among its network of 461 mail processing locations in phases. The first segment will lead to the closure of up to 140 locations through February of 2013. Unless the circumstances of the Postal Service change in the interim, a second and final phase, combining 89 facilities, is currently scheduled to start in February of 2014. Consolidations will mostly involve moving operations from smaller to larger facilities and no consolidating activity will occur between September and December due to the high volume of mail sent during the holiday season.

Nationwide consolidation efforts are projected to generate approximately $2.1 billion in annual cost reductions, and lead to total workforce reduction of up to 28,000 employees.

According to a representative from the USPS, employees will begin receiving notifications in the coming weeks about this initiative. Some will be reassigned to other centers, but others may not be so lucky.

But for now, Congressmember Joe Crowley applauded the USPS’s decision to keep the College Point mail processing center open.

“I am so glad the Queens Processing and Distribution Center will remain open and will continue to serve the Queens community,” said Crowley. “Closing this facility would have severely impacted businesses and residents in the community that rely on the center day in and day out. It also would have stripped away hundreds of jobs from Queens at a time when we need every job we can get.”

Prior to the moratorium, the USPS reviewed several facilities. Officials still have not made a final decision about which centers will close.

Visa Waiver Program may boost borough tourism

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

One Queens politician is attempting to boost tourism to the borough by opening the nation’s doors to more countries.

Congressmember Joe Crowley recently announced he will introduce a measure in the House of Representatives that would encourage the federal government to expand its Visa Waver Program to include at least three new countries – Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

The Visa Waiver Program currently allows visitors from 36 countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Countries included in the program represented 65 percent of all tourists entering the country in 2010, amounting to the largest source of inbound travel that year. Crowley believes expanding the program will be greatly beneficial to Queens.

“We need to do all we can to make Queens a destination point, and not just a gateway to Manhattan,” said the congressmember. “The history and diversity of Queens has so much to offer to travelers, and increasing travel and tourism is one of the most effective tools we have in our pocket to spur job growth and foster economic activity on the local level. It’s simple: the easier it is for international tourists to visit the U.S., the more likely they will.”

Tourism generates $46.5 billion in economic impact for the city and supports over 300,000 jobs. While Manhattan may be the premier destination in New York, 25 percent of international travelers visited the outer-boroughs in 2010, and spent $6 billion there.

“Efforts that can lead to increased tourism opportunities are most welcome,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Congressmember Crowley’s measure will be a great help to maximize tourism and hospitality efforts in our nation’s most diverse county.”

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), which recently revived the Queens Tourism Council in an effort to unite businesses towards supporting tourism to the borough, also supported Crowley’s plan.

“As the most diverse county in the country, Queens has a great deal to offer visitors,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the QEDC. “The QEDC/Queens Tourism Council is supportive of Congressman Crowley’s efforts in showcasing our borough and encouraging more people to ‘Discover Queens’.”


Will trains run in Elmhurst LIRR Station again?

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Congressmember Joe Crowley

Two local legislators are hoping Elmhurst residents will soon be “all aboard.”

Congressmember Joe Crowley and Councilmember Daniel Dromm joined MTA LIRR President Helena Williams on March 15 for a walking tour of the Elmhurst Station, which was closed and partially demolished in 1985. The officials are hoping the LIRR will consider reconstructing and reopening the station, located on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney Avenues, in order to service the consistently-growing Elmhurst population.

“Reopening the Elmhurst Station will increase residents’ access to Midtown, help create jobs in the community, and provide an economic boost to the many small businesses in the area. It will also open the door for all New Yorkers to experience the rich diversity and culture Elmhurst has to offer,” Crowley said. “I look forward to holding further discussions with my constituents, community groups, and LIRR about this issue as well as additional ways we can help Elmhurst grow and thrive.”

Williams said reopening the Elmhurst Station is a legitimate possibility, due to planned renovations of the Broadway Bridge – which is next to the old station and would ensure the structural support needed for a new center – and projects in Port Washington and Great Neck that will allow the LIRR to add more trains. She went on to say the station would include two 12-car platforms, staircase and elevator access, platform shelters, an audio-visual paging system, security cameras and ticket vending machines, and would cost at least $30 million.

Following the tour, the legislators and LIRR representatives discussed the subsequent steps in the reopening review process, including a ridership survey conducted by the MTA. Dromm and Crowley have also scheduled a town hall meeting on April 11.

The original station, which was a part of the Port Washington Branch commuter rail line, aided Elmhurst in growing by providing residents with direct access to Midtown Manhattan. It was reportedly closed due to a decrease in ridership following significant changes to train schedules.

“Restoring service to Elmhurst on the LIRR is vitally important for the development of Elmhurst and the surrounding areas here in Queens,” said Dromm. “By linking its residents to Manhattan, we are effectively spurring the job creation and economic growth necessary for communities like Elmhurst to flourish. We are encouraged by the initial talks with MTA LIRR President Helena Williams and I look forward to taking the next steps towards reopening a station that will burst open the doors for one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods.”

Will LIRR roll again in Elmhurst?

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Local elected officials are hoping the LIRR rolls back into Elmhurst – allowing residents to ride the rails again after roughly three decades.

Congressmember Joe Crowley and Councilmember Daniel Dromm have called on the MTA LIRR to reopen its Elmhurst Station, located on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney Avenues, which was closed in 1985.

“Reopening the Elmhurst Station will go a long way toward revitalizing the Elmhurst community and growing Queens’ economy,” said Crowley. “This is more than an investment in improving residents’ commutes; it’s about making Elmhurst a destination for all New Yorkers and visitors. Councilmember Dromm and I are joining forces in calling on the LIRR to join us in making this idea a reality. The truth is Elmhurst residents already endure the noise and inconvenience of a train running through their neighborhood, why shouldn’t they enjoy the benefits of it becoming an integral part of the neighborhood?”

The Elmhurst Station, which was a stop on the Port Washington Branch commuter rail line, provided Elmhurst and East Elmhurst residents direct passage to Midtown Manhattan. The station was reportedly closed down due to a decrease in ridership after significant schedule changes made it unappealing to commuters.

“Restoring service to Elmhurst on the Long Island Railroad is vitally important for the development of Elmhurst and the surrounding areas here in Queens” said Dromm. “By linking its residents to Manhattan, we are effectively spurring the job creation and economic growth necessary for communities like Elmhurst to flourish. The reopening of this station is something that will be a boon to all New Yorkers as it would burst opens the doors to one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods.”

Crowley and Dromm recently co-wrote a letter to Helena Williams, the president of the LIRR, in an effort to coax the rail road to reutilize the station.

“The LIRR has been invited to meet with Congressmember Crowley and we look forward to the opportunity to discuss the growth in the Elmhurst community,” said LIRR spokesperson Salvatore Arena.

Community leaders also appear in favor of the station’s revival, echoing the elected officials’ claims of likely economic growth.

“The Elmhurst and Newtown community are eager to see the restoration of the Elmhurst LIRR station,” said Robert Valdes Clausell, director and treasurer of the Newton Civic Association. “Doing so will increase transit options for residents and help spur economic and residential development.”

Honoring the fallen at St. Michael’s

| bdoda@queenscourier.com


Equally as striking as the monument listing the names of the 343 firefighters that sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2001 are the bricks at its base with the names of the first responders from all emergency services that died as a result of working on “the pile.” As of now, the number of first responder deaths remains at 95, but there are plenty of bricks that will undoubtedly add to that number.

The memorial service and dedication at St. Michael’s Cemetery honoring fallen firefighters, police and Port Authority officers brought together elected leaders, FDNY and NYPD officials, as well as families of those lost for an afternoon of grieving and a celebration of their lives. The event, on Saturday, September 24, began with an invocation by Father Christopher Keenan who read the Gettysburg Address followed by a statement by Congressmember Joe Crowley who commented on the two dozen young firefighters dressed in bunker gear who stood during the ceremony.

“They’re taking up a job that has a legacy,” said Crowley. “Many believed that the fire department could never recover after the attack, but nothing could be more false . . . They have never forgotten those that have fallen.”

Crowley also included an anecdote about his cousin John Moran, a Battalion Chief on Randall’s Island who died at the World Trade Center.

“I’m sure each and every one of you can take out a moment about a son or daughter that you lost that day and look back and smile,” said Crowley.

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, one of the sponsors of the Zadroga Act – named for police officer James Zadroga who died of a respiratory disease attributed to toxins at Ground Zero – spoke to the long road the legislation took until enacted in January 2011. The act expands death benefits and monitored care for those who worked at the World Trade Center site.

“Who would have thought it would have taken us seven years to pass the Zadroga Act?” asked Maloney. “This bill will save lives. We will not stop until we make sure that it continues to take care of the men and women who took care of us.”

She continued to mention the beauty of the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site and urged those in attendance to take a trip downtown to see it.

Also in attendance was Comptroller John Liu who helped fund the St. Michael’s 9/11 memorial, Former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., FDNY Chief Kevin Butler, PAPD Inspector Brian Sullivan, NYPD Chief Dianna Pizzutti as well as the PAPD Pipes and Drums, among other special guests.

Former FDNY Chief Alexander Santora and his wife, Maureen who – along with Ed Horn of St. Michaels – were instrumental in erecting the memorial, spoke about the importance of remembering those, like their son, Christopher, who died on 9/11. After encouraging those in attendance to come back to see the additions to the bricks at the base of the memorial, the former chief summed up the feeling of many on hand:

“They have one hell of a fire department up in heaven.”